When anyone talks about New Year, invariably everyone means January 1, but for Hindus, New Year begins with the arrival of spring, which is mid-April. Folklore has it that April is the month which is considered auspicious and sacrosanct as nature blooms and comes to life. And so traditionally, this is the time when the year begins for every Hindu, regardless of the culture they belong to. Kashmiri celebrate Navreh, Tamil Brahmins in Tamil Nadu celebrate Puthandu Vazthukal, and Punjabis celebrate Baisakhi, and so on and so forth.
With the kickstart of the Hindu New Year, let’s take a look at how different cultures celebrate this pious day in their own unique way.
Navreh In Kashmir
The Hindus from Kashmir celebrate Navreh, on first day of the month Chaitra.
One of the prime highlights of the celebration is taking a holy dip in the spring of Vichar Nag in the morning followed by preparing a big Thali with rice or paddy in the evening.
This custom is quite similar to Malayalees from Kerala.
Kreel Pach, a type of herb along with fresh flowers, sprouted grass, dry fruits, pen, inkpot, wheat cake, bread, a bit of salt, gold and silver coins are placed on rice and then covered with another Thali.
The thali represents prayers for the coming year. Gold and silver coins symbolise wealth, dry fruits, bread, salt and rice symbolise food and pen and inkpot represent knowledge.
The following morning, the lid is removed from the Thali by the son/daughter and then taken to the head of the family after which, every member of the family takes a look at it.
Ugadi/Yugadi In Andhra Pradesh And Karnataka
Ugadi/Yugadi is said to be derived from the Sanskrit words – yuga which means age and adi which means a new beginning, together it means, beginning of a new age.
People from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka celebrate Ugadi/Yugadi on the first day of Chaitra month and it is believed that on this day, Lord Brahma began creating the universe.
And so, people clean their entire home with water and buy new clothes for the occasion. On the day of the festival, every house is decorated with mango leaves and rangoli put right outside the home.
In the evening, families visit temples to pray for a prosperous upcoming year and also listen to priests who read out from Panchangasravanam, the yearly calendar. The priests make predictions for the coming year too.
The day is also considered sacred for the beginning of any new endeavour.
Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra
People from Maharashtra celebrate the advent of spring on Gudi Padwa. Just like people from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Maharashtrians put colourful Rangoli designs outside their houses as well as the doorsteps.
Each member of the family wears new clothes.
In rural areas, courtyards are washed, cleaned and then plastered with fresh cow dung. Gudi refers to Lord Brahma’s flag which is also known as Brahmadhvaj.
The flag represents Lord Ram’s victory over Vali or Bali. So, a flag is literally hoisted on this day which is also one of the prime highlights of this festival.
Cheti Chand For Sindhis
Cheti Chand is celebrated on the same day as Gudi Padwa and Ugadi. It also falls on the first day of Chaitra month which is called as Cheti in Sindhi. The revered saint of Sindhis, Jhulelal’s birthday is also observed on this particular day.
Sindhi celebrate the day by worshipping the goddess of water, Varuna. People prepare a sumptuous feast of traditional delicacies and also indulge in devotional music.
Baisakhi in Punjab
One of the most vibrant and boisterous celebrations of all, Baisakhi in Punjab represents a true fusion of vividness of culture and colours.
Though a harvest festival, Baisakhi also marks the Sikh Guru Gobind Singh’s founding of Khalsa brotherhood in 1699.
Giddha and the pounding beats of the Dhol add to the festivities.
Shubho Naba Barsha in Bengal
Shubho Naba Barsha signifies the onset of the agricultural cycle in Bengal. The festival is also known as Poila Baishakh where Bengalis spend the day feasting and rejoicing in a plethora of cultural activities.
On this day, people decorate their house and offer prayers to Goddess Lakshmi for wealth and prosperity.
Businessmen and entrepreneurs preferably start any new business on this day with a ceremony called Haal Khata.
Bohaag Bihu in Assam
Assamese celebrate the onset of spring on Bohaag Bihu, the New Year.
The day is an amalgamation of traditional food, cultural activities like Bihugeets (folk song) and performing Mukoli Bihu (folk dance form), the traditional dance form.
Different types of Pitha or rice cakes which are the traditional delicacies of Assam are prepared on Bihu. Families visit and greet each other and exchange sweets and gifts.
Vishu in Kerala
Kerala’s New Year i.e. Vishu begins early in the morning when every member of the family sees the Vishukani, which translates to the first thing you see after waking up in the morning.
The Vishukani is an arrangement of auspicious articles like rice, fruits and vegetables, betel leaves, metal mirror, yellow flowers called konna (Cassia fistula), holy texts and coins. These articles which are arranged surrounding Lord Krishna symbolise prosperity.
Traditional oil lamps are lit on this day and an exclusive feast called Vishu Sadya is prepared. The feast consists of salty, sweet, sour and bitter delicacies which represent all the flavours in one’s life.
Vishupadakkam or fireworks are the special highlights of the day.
Devotees wear new clothes and visit Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple or Guruvayur Sree Krishna temple to offer prayers and seek blessings.
Elders giving money to the children is a popular tradition.
Varsha Pirappu / Puthandu Vazthukal in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Brahmins from across India celebrate Varsha Pirappu / Puthandu Vazthukal on the first day of the traditional Tamil calendar.
Everyone dons new clothes on this day and light kuthu vilakku, traditional lamp while offering prayers and chanting.
Auspicious things like gold coins, jewellery, coconut, rice etc are viewed on the morning of Varsha Pirappu to usher in wealth and prosperity.
Houses are decorated with mango leaves, rangolis or kolams (in Tamil) and Panchanga Puja is performed.
The Tamil New Year book called Panchangam is decorated with sandalwood powder, turmeric paste, vermilion powder, and is placed in the Puja room or near the deity.
Puthandu meal or New Year feast is relished which consists of items like paysam and jaggery. A visit to the neighbourhood temple is a must on this day.