The Hindu New Year is celebrated by different states of India on different days between March and April. These New Year Festivals follow the Hindu Lunar calendar and fall on different dates every year since it follows the movement of the moon.
It is known by different names such as Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Baisakhi in Punjab, Bihu in Assam, Poila Boishakh in West Bengal, Vishu in Kerela etc. All these are celebrated in mid-April ie. 13th or 14th April. But Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra and Ugadi in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are celebrated on the first day of Chaitra Navratra which falls on 21st March in 2015. It is all the first day of Navratri’s- a nine day fasting ritual.
Popular legend says that Lord Brahma created the universe on the 1st day of Chaitra which signifies the beginning of the Hindu Lunar calendar. It heralds the advent of spring. After a harsh winter, Mother Nature awakens to cover the earth with new life in the form of green leaves and plants. The nine-day Navratra ends with Ram Navami.
Ugadi is defined in the encyclopaedia as Yug and Adi, both derived from Sanskrit meaning age and beginning ie.” the beginning of a new age.”
Homes and Temples in Karnataka are decorated with Jasmine flowers. Garlands made out of tender mango and neem leaves are hung on the entrance door. People wear new clothes and prayers are offered. Articles such as umbrella, slippers, hand-held fans, cucumber, buttermilk, thandai and green moong lentil are donated to the poor and needy. The most important part of the festival is the reading and hearing of the Panchanga Shravanam by priests. In this ritual, annual forecasts are readout.
A paste called Bevu Bella made from jaggery, tamarind juice, raw mango and neem buds is prepared and tested by all members of the family. The sweet, bitter and sour tastes signify the different flavours of events in our lives that we should be prepared for and accept.
Pooran Poli is also made.
In Maharashtra, Gudi Padwa is celebrated with great pomp and show. Gudi is made out of a long bamboo stick which is draped with a new cloth. It is then decorated with Champa garland, neem leaves and shakkar(sugar) garland. On the top, an inverted round vessel(lota) is perched decorated with Kumkum and haldi. This Gudi is put up outside the main entrance of a home before sunrise and taken down before noon. Pooran Poli is offered as Naivaidya to the Gudi. Legend has it that this Gudi was made the day Lord Ram came back to Ayodhya after completing 14 years of exile.
Maharashtrian women wear bright saris, apply Kumkum haldi on their forehead and take out “Shobha Yatra” to welcome the New Year. This day is also known as “Navin Varsha” and ” Samvatsar Padwa.”
Look closely the garlands are made of coloured sugar disks, probably taken out in a mould and strung on a string to form a garland. These are edible.
The Sindhi community usher in the New Year as Chetichand on the second day of Chaitra Navratra. Hence it falls on March 22nd this year. It is celebrated to commemorate the birthday of the Sindhi Patron Saint Jhulelal also known as Ishtadev Uderolal Jhulelal, an incarnation of sea God Varun. Jhulelal is the Community Diety of Sindhis.
As per legend, there ruled a tyrant and fanatic king Mirik Shah, who would torture Hindus, force them to embrace Islam and generally ruled by the power of the sword. People prayed for relief and were assured through an ” aakashvaani ” that a saviour would be born to a couple named Ratan Rai Thakur and Devki of village Nasarpur in Sindh. The king, on hearing this, sent one of his ministers, Ahiro to the couple’s house when the child was born. What Ahiro saw stunned him. The child transformed into an old man, a tall youth, then was seen riding a blue horse and again turned into a child. This was the saviour. After being admonished by the saviour, Mirik Shah reformed himself and agreed to treat Hindus and Muslims alike.
Shortly afterwards, having accomplished his task, Jhulelal disappeared in the Sindhu river astride his horse.
Sindhis take Bahrana Sahib consisting of Jyot(oil lamp), Misri(crystal sugar), Phota(cardamom ), fruits together with water jar and coconut covered with cloth, flowers and leaves to a nearby river or lake. The river god is worshipped. The Bahrana Sahib together with a statue of Jhulelal is immersed in the water.
Various cultural programmes are organised by Sindhis like the Chetichand Mela, usually on a riverbank or a temple, processions are taken out with much pomp and gaiety. New account books are started by businessmen on this day.