New Year is celebrated with gaiety and pomp around the world wherever Hindus live. India’s ancient faith salutes New Year at the start of spring, when nature comes to life, in mid-April. New Year (Sarvadhari) comes with the onset of Chaitra (Chittirai) Masam in March/April according to Hindu Panchanga (calendar). It falls on different dates and its called different name in each region; Baisakhi, Vishu, Varusha Pirappu, Ugadi, Badi Deepavali, Gudi Padwa and Bestu Varas are just a few. Homes are lit with oil lamps and decorated with flowers to attract blessings.
We wish a Happy Hindu New Year! Since the Vedic calendar also influenced Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bali etc’s traditions and calendar, we also extend our best New Year wishes to all people of South East Asia!
Like most ancient cultures, Hindus traditionally observe the start of each new year with the arrival of spring, which occurs in mid-April. That day coincides with the Sun’s entrance into the constellation Mesha (Aries), the first sign in Hindu astrology. Following this astrological calculation, the celebration for Tamil New Year (for example) falls on April 14 in most years.
Are there other dates for New Year?
Several other dates are observed by various communities. Particularly in North India, many celebrate New Year on the day after Diwali, the September-October festival of lights, which signifies hope and new beginnings. Still, nearly everyone joins in the celebrations in mid-April.
How is the New Year celebrated?
Hindus don new clothes, exchange sweets, gifts and greetings of goodwill. They clean their homes and decorate the entrance and shrine room with beautiful, colorful patterns called kolam or rangoli, symbols of auspiciousness. They visit temples, beseeching God and the Gods for blessings for the year ahead. The Goddess Lakshmi and the elephant-headed God Ganesha are especially venerated on this day. In some communities, elders give money to youth and children as a token of good luck—making the year’s first financial act selfless and thus auspicious. Families feast together with great revelry, enjoying elaborate dishes and good company. People gather to listen to interpretations of the star’s positions and auguries of things to come, for in this culture the Hindu calendar is closely interwoven with astrology. An elder or a learned astrologer may read the family’s fortune for the next 12 months. Predictions are even given on Indian television.
What is the “first seeing” tradition?
In South Indian families, a dazzling arrangement called kani is created in the home on New Year’s Eve. It is a display of money, jewels and clothing, plants and flowers, fruits and sweets, in the center of which stands a shrine with Hindu Deities. At dawn on New Year’s Day, the matriarch wakes up the family members one by one and blind-folds them. She guides them to the shrine and there removes the blindfold, assuring that their first sight of the year is the auspicious, gleaming kani. One of the beautiful things to see is a mirror, which serves a dual purpose: it sym- bolically doubles the abundance and reflects the family with all the signs of wealth around them—an elegant catalyst to manifestation!
What part do neem leaves play?
The bitter leaves and flowers of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) are among the central items of New Year celebrations. They are used in food dishes, in decorations and on the kani display. Neem is a sacred plant, a botanical marvel with numerous medicinal uses. It is said that its bitterness, spread among the glittering opulence of the New Year’s festivities, adds a more realistic perspective on life.
Let’s share a couple of the New Year traditions.
Ugadi signifies the first day of the month of Chaitra (March-April) in Lunar Calendar. It is believed that Lord Brahma began the creation of the universe on this auspicious day – Chaitra suddha padhyami.
People celebrate Ugadi with great fanfare. The day begins with ritual showers followed by prayers, and then the eating of a special mixture called “Ugadi Pachhadi” in Telugu and “Bevu-Bella” in Kannada. It has Neem leaves for Bitterness, Jaggery for Sweetness, Raw Mango for Vagaru, Tamarind Juice for sour, green chilli for Hot, salt for salty taste symbolising the fact that life is a mixture of experiences that should be accepted with equanimity.
On the Ugadi day people decorate their houses with mango leaves and “rangoli” designs, pray for a prosperous new year and visit the temples to listen to the yearly calendar – “Panchanga-sravanam” as priests make predictions for the coming year. Ugadi is also an auspicious day to embark on any new endeavours, so let’s get started.
Ugadi celebrations are also marked by literary discussions, poetry recitations and recognition of authors of literary works through awards and cultural programmes called Kavi Sammelanam. Recitals of classical carnatic music and dance are held in the evenings in India.
- Ugadi Pachadi – Andhra Delicacy Reflecting Different Flavors Of Life
- Ugadi Special Recipes (cooking4allseasons.blogspot.com)
- Ugadi Special Recipes (desifoodbuzz.com)
- Shrikhand (enjoyindianfood.blogspot.com)
- Kova bobbatlu (plantainleaf.blogspot.com)
In Maharashtra, it is customary to erect ”Gudis” on the first day (Padwa) of the Marathi New Year. ””Gudi”” is a bamboo staff with a colored silk cloth and a garlanded goblet atop it, which symbolizes victory or achievement. The New Year is ushered in with the worship of the “Gudi” and the distribution of a specific “Prasadam” comprising tender neem leaves, gram-pulse and jaggery.
Tamil New Year
For Tamils the special day Putthanu is the 14th, and the day starts with viewing the kanni (auspicious light and sights) at dawn, so that it will bring good fortune in the new year. Auspicious sights include gold/silver jewellery, betel leaves, nuts, fruits/vegetables, flowers, raw rice and coconuts. This is followed by the ritual bath, new clothes and a visit to the temple to pray and read the Panchangam.
The ladies adorn the entrances of their houses with kolam (rangoli) using rice flour, and deck the doorway with mango leaves. A decorated lamp called a kuthuvillakku is placed in the centre of the colorful Kolam to bring light to the house.
The highlight of the observance is Manga Pachadi, made from raw mangoes, jaggery and neem flowers, which is at the same time sweet, sour and bitter, signifying all the different aspects of our life.