The month of Chitthirai has arrived and with it the Tamil New Year’s Day; April 14th – an occasion for celebration for Tamilians all over the world. Greetings of “Puthandu Vazthukal”, (Happy New Year), are exchanged with fervour on this day, which is supposedly the day when Lord Brahma (The Creator of the world, according to Hindu mythology) started creation.
The day starts with viewing the 'kanni' (the auspicious sight) at dawn, in the expectation that beginning the New Year by looking at auspicious or favourable things will bring good fortune throughout the year. The auspicious things include, gold and silver jewellery, betel leaves, nuts, fruits and vegetables, flowers, raw rice and coconuts. This is followed by the ritual bath and a visit to the temple to pray for a prosperous and happy New Year. After which, the Panchangam (almanac) is read. The ladies adorn the entrances of their houses with ‘Kolam’ (design made with rice flour) and deck the doorway with mango leaves.
The highlight of the festival is the 'Maanga Pachadi' (a dish made of raw mangoes, jaggery and neem flowers), which is at the same time sweet, sour and bitter. This signifies all the different aspects of our life.
Regional Variants of New Year
We have a host of new year festivities that are unique to the particular regions on this vast country. Characteristic of the Indian cultural mélange, Hindus in various states of India celebrate the new year in their own ways. And not all of these fall on the same day!
The Hindus of Nepal begin their new year Nava Varsha in the third week of March, and the people of Kashmir start the Kashmiri Lunar year - Navreh - in the second week of March.
It's Ugadi in Andhra & Karnataka!
The Telegu and the Kannada New Year falls on the first day of the month of Chaitra (March-April). People in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka states in the South of India believe that Lord Brahma began the creation of the universe on this auspicious day of Ugadi. People prepare for the new year by cleaning and washing their houses and buying new clothes. On the Ugadi day they decorate their houses with mango leaves and "rangoli" designs, and pray for a prosperous new year, and visit the temples to listen to the yearly calendar - "Panchangasravanam" as priests make predictions for the coming year. Ugadi is also an auspicious day to embark on any new endeavor.
Bring in the Goodies on Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra!
In Maharashtra, the new year is celebrated as Gudi Padwa - a festival that heralds the advent of spring (March-April). Early on the morning of the first day of the Chaitra month, people finish their ablutions, wear new clothes and decorate their houses with colorful "rangoli" patterns. A silk banner is raised and worshipped, and greetings and sweets are exchanged. People hang "gudis" on their windows on this day to celebrate Mother Nature's bounty. A "gudi" is a decorated pole with a brass or a silver vessel placed on it.
The Bright Baisakhi of Punjab
"Baisakhi", traditionally a harvest festival, is celebrated on the 13th of April every year, marking the Punjabi New Year. People celebrate the joyous occasion by performing Bhangra and Giddha to the pounding rhythm of the dhol and rings in the New Year. Baisakhi also marks the founding of the Khalsa brotherhood by Sikh Guru Govind Singh.
Shubho Naba Barsha on Poila Baishakh in Bengal!
The first day of the Bengali new year falls on the 13th or 14th of April every year.Called "Poila Baishakh," it's a state holiday in the eastern state of West Bengal and a national holiday in Bangladesh. To welcome the new year or "Naba Barsha", people clean and decorate their houses and invoke Goddess Lakshmi, the bestower of wealth and prosperity. All new enterprises begin on this auspicious day, as businessmen open their fresh ledgers with "Haal Khata"- a ceremomy in which Lord Ganesha is summoned and customers are invited to settle all their old dues and offered free refreshments. The people of Bengal spend the day feasting and participating in cultural activities.
The Boisterous Bohaag Bihu of Assam
The northeastern state of Assam ushers in the new year with the spring festival of Bohaag Bihu or Rongali Bihu, which marks the onset of a new agricultural cycle. Fairs are organized where people revel in gay games. The celebrations go on for days together, and it's a good time for young people to find a companion of their own choice! Young belles in traditional attire sing "Bihugeets" and dance the traditional "Mukoli Bihu". The festive food of the occasion is the "pitha" or rice cakes. People visit each other's houses, exchange gifts and sweets and, greet each other a Happy New Year!
Kerala, Wish You a Happy Vishu!
"Vishu" is the first day in the first month of Medam in Kerala, the beautiful coastal state in southern India. The people of this state - the Malayalees - begin the day early in the morning by visiting the temple and seeing any auspicious sight, which they call "Vishukani." The day is full of the elaborate traditional rituals with tokens called "Vishukaineetam", usually in form of coins, being distributed among the downtrodden. People wear new clothes - "Kodi vastram" - and celebrate the day by bursting firecrackers and enjoying a variety of delicacies at an elaborate lunch called the "sadya" with family and friends. The afternoon and evening is spent in the "Vishuwela".