Hindu New Year- a great tribute to a civilization and her people
With the dawn on 18th march, the world will see Hindus celebrating their New year with pumas, archakas, worshiping rivers, and chanting the holy names of Shiva, Vishnu, Durga, praying for the well being and peace for every creation of the gods- humans, animals, mammals and nature.
The Hindu New Year is celebrated in accordance with the Almanac or the Panchanga, that is, the Hindu Lunar Calendar. The Hindu New Year is also known as the Vikram Samvat. The current era of Vikram Samvat is believed to have begun in the year 57 BC. Today, 18th March, marks the beginning of 2075 year of the Hindu Calendar. It is believed that today in 57BC, King Vikramditya established his kingdom and laid the foundation of Vikram Samvat.
So deep are the roots of the Hindu calendar in the psyche of the common Hindu, even today, that inspite of the Gregorian calendar system being practiced in the offices, every festival, birth ritual, death rites, marriages, new home warming time and date, children’s ‘shaving the head’ ( Mundan) ceremony , Ganga snan-(holy bath), Kumbh ( world’s biggest congregation of the Hindus-involving more than twenty million people gathering ), take place only and one according to the Hindu calendar system- called Panchanga.
On this day, the sun is found to be at the point just above the intersection of the equator and the meridians. This day also marks the beginning of the season of spring or the “Vasanta Ritu”.
According to the Brahma Purana, the New Year marks the day when Lord Brahma recreated the entire universe after the Pralaya or Great Deluge. Time, hence, was created anew on this day.
It is believed that after defeating Ravana, when Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya, his ‘Rajyaabhishek’ or crowning ceremony was done on this New Year’s day.
The exact day of the Hindu New Year changes every year, in accordance with the calculations in the lunar calendar. Each state in India celebrates the New Year in its own unique way, following customs and traditions that are exclusive to that particular region.
We now take a look at the way in which this event is celebrated in different parts of the country.
Chaitra Navratri is celebrated in the Hindu month of Chaitra that falls at the cusp of spring and summer. It is a nine-day festival dedicated to nine forms of Goddess Shakti. These nine forms are worshipped and the devotees also observe a nine-day fast. This year, Chaitra Navratri is celebrated from March 18, Sunday, to March 25, Sunday. Rama Navami, the birthday of Lord Rama, falls on the ninth day during Navratri festival. Chaitra Navratri is thus also referred as Rama Navratri. Chaitra Navratri is more popular in northern India. In Maharashtra Chaitra Navratri begins with Gudi Padwa and in Andhra Pradesh it begins with Ugadi.
The nine forms of Godess Durga which who are worshipped during Navratri are as follows:
On the first day of Navratri, Shailputri is worshipped.
On the second day Navratri, Brahmacharini is worshipped.
On the third day Navratri, Chandraghata is worshipped.
On the fourth day Navratri, Kushmanda is worshipped.
On the fifth day Navratri, Skandamata is worshipped.
On the sixth day Navratri, Katyayani is worshipped.
On the seventh day Navratri, Kaalratri is worshipped.
On the eighth day Navratri, Mahagauri is worshipped.
On the ninth day Navratri, Siddhidaatri is worshipped.
Auspicious puja during Navratri:
On Mahashtami- the eighth day of the Navratri, kanya poojan/ kanjak poojan (worshipping of girls), is performed where signifying various forms of Goddess Durga.
On Mahanavami – the ninth day of Navratri, puja is performed and nine forms of the Goddess are worshipped. Some families also perform the kanya poojan on this day.
Yugadi or Samvatsaradi as per the Telugu and Kannada Hindu calendar, is celebrated on the first day of the waxing phase of the moon in the month of Chaitra. This day is also called the Chitra Shukla Paksha Padyami – this falls in March or April, as per the Gregorian Calendar. In fact, this day is considered the New Year day for Hindus living between the Vindhya-Kaveri belt.
The name Ugadi or Yugadi is derived from the Sanskrit roots of Yuga or “age”; and Adi, which means, “beginning” – combined together, this word means “the beginning of a new age”.
The Kannada, Telugu and Konkani celebrate this event with great verve. The day begins with an elaborate oil bath ritual, followed by a visit to the nearby temple. This is followed by a feast of a certain dish including all six tastes, called the Ugadi Pacchadi in Telugu and Bevu-Bella in Kannada. This is symbolic of accepting and enjoying life in the year ahead, which is a mixture of all different tastes or experiences, including happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise.
The inclusion of neem signifies sadness, as it is bitter in taste. Jaggery and ripe bananas indicate sweet happiness. Green chili and pepper are hot and therefore, indicate anger. Salt signifies fear and the sour tamarind juice indicates the emotion of disgust. Unripened mango is also added for its tang, adding that emotion of surprise.
Gudhi Padwa or Gudi Padwa, also referred to as Samvatsar Padvo (among the Hindu Konkanis residing in Goa), is celebrated by Maharashtrians, on the day of the Chaitra Shukla Pratipada. This is also the first day of Chaitra Navratri and is known as Ghatasthapana or Kalash Sthapana. The word “Padwa” is taken from the Sanskrit word, Pratipada, the first day of the lunar month.
On this day, an ornamented Gudi is hoisted and worshipped, which is what gives the festival its name. This festival is celebrated at the very end of the Rabi season.
Erecting the Gudi
All over Maharashtra, the Gudi is prominently displayed in all households. A long bamboo stick is fixed onto the ground or a fixed surface and the tip is tied with a brightly colored brocade or zari cloth, and some gaathi (sugar crystals), neem leaves, mango leaves and a garland of red flowers is tied over it. A copper or silver pot is placed in an inverted position over the tip of this stick. This is referred to as the Gudi.
Significance of the Gudi
- Maharashtrians consider this as the symbol of victory of Chhatrapati Shivaji, as also the victory of King Shalivahana over Sakas.
- It also signifies the Brahmadhvaja or Brahma’s flag, or the Indradhvaja, or Indra’s flag.
- People believe that it also wards off evil and brings good luck in the household.
Houses in villages are swept clean and are plastered with fresh cow-dung. Women create rangoli designs on the doorstep of their homes, using vibrant colors, which are associated with the abundant colors of spring. People take an elaborate bath and wear new clothes. This is also a time for family get-togethers.
A paste of neem leaves, tamarind and sugar or jaggery is made and all family members consume the same. This is believed to be capable of strengthening the body’s immune system. Women also make Pooris, Shrikhand and Pooran Polis on this day. Konkanis make Kanangachi Kheer, which is made of sweet potato, jaggery, coconut milk, rice flour and Sanna.
Cheti Chand is an important festival for Sindhis and is also celebrated as the New Year’s Day by Sindhis hailing from both India and Pakistan. This festival is celebrated by Sindhis from around the world as well. This day for Sindhis falls on the first day of the month of Chaitra. Sindhis refer to this month as Cheti, and hence the name, Chet-i-Chand.
The Sindhi community celebrates this day to commemorate the birth of their Ishtadeva, Jhulelal, who is regarded as the Patron Saint of the Sindhis. On this day, Sindhis worship Varuna, the water god and observe a number of rituals followed by feasts and devotional music such as bhajans and aartis.
Many Sindhis take the Baharana Sahib to a nearby lake or river. The Baharana Sahib comprises a Jyot or oil lamp, Phota or cardamom, Misiri or sugar crystals, Fal or fruits and Akha. Behind all these sits the Kalash, with a coconut, covered with cloth, flowers and leaves. Sindhis also place an idol of their Pujya Jhulelal Devta and offer prayers to him.
Navreh – An invitation to Nava Durga
Navreh is celebrated as the New Year’s Day in Kashmir. This day too coincides with the first day of Chaitra Navratras. The people residing in this part of India consider this day to be as sacred and holy as the Shivartri day. In fact, this day is even mentioned in the Nilamat Purana and the Rajtarangini of Kashmir.
On the eve of Navreh, which falls on Amavasya or the last night of the dark fortnight, they keep a thali filled with rice, a cup of curds, a bread, cooked rice, some walnuts, an inkpot and a pen, a silver coin and the Panchanga of the New Year, as the first thing to be seen at the Brahma Muhurta or the wee hours.
Significance for Other Religions
- Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj on this day, in the year 1875. Hence, this is a big day for the Arya Samaj community as well.
- The first day of Chaitra is also celebrated as the birthday of the 2nd Sikh Guru, Guru Angad Dev ji.
- Even Buddhists celebrate this day as Vesakha, Vesak, Wesak or Vaisakha. It commemorates the Birth, the Awakening and the Passing Away of Gautama Buddha.
- Indonesia, Cambodia and specially Ballenes Hindus celebrate their new year as Baisakh, Vesak, Baisakhi, on same dates. The Saka calendar is also the Indian National calendar and is used alongside the Vikram Samvat calendar widely in India. Chaitra is the first month according to the calendar. Java and Bali both use this calendar too and the Nepal Samvat calendar is also evolved from the Saka calendar.
The Hindu Vikram new year beginning on 18th March would be 2075. May the new year bring happiness, joy and prosperity to all. A very Happy New Year- the year of the Indians be auspicious and blissful to every one on this Earth.