As the entire world prepares to usher in yet another Happy New Year with bated breath, it is perhaps surprising that not every region of every country in the world adheres to the same new beginning. It isn’t just traditions and customs, beliefs and rituals that are unique to different celebrations of the same occasion all over the globe. The diverse land that India is, many states and people of the country have their own ways and even days to celebrate New Year. Here are 12 such Indian New Year festivals that hold a place of their own in the happy celebrations-
The Telugu New Year celebrated by Hindus in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana goes by the name of Ugadi. Observed sometime in March or April every year, Ugadi literally means the beginning of a new age and marks the first day of the bright half of the Indian month of Chaitra. Like with any other New Year’s Day, Ugadi is also marked by festivities and celebrated religiously as well as culturally by the people.
While preparation for the day begins a week in advance with houses being cleaned and new clothes being bought, the dawn of the Ugadi day is equally enthusiastic. Colorful rangolis called kolamulus are drawn on floors while mango leaf decorations called the torana deck up doors and entrances. The day begins with early showers and ritualistic prayers, even as people exchange gifts and indulge in charity and of course prep up for a sumptuous meal at hand.
A special food called pachadi dominates the feasting proceedings of Ugadi, which is indeed a unique preparation that encompasses all flavours of the sweet and the salty, the sour and the bitter. Pachadi is significant not just for the feasting however- the diverse array of taste incorporated by it is symbolic of the myriad inclusiveness that life tends to be. Tamarind paste, neem flowers, brown sugar or jaggery, salt and mangoes are used for the pachadi which explains from wherefrom the dish gets its all encompassing taste. As a festival that marks the onset of new beginnings in the exuberance of spring, Ugadi is indeed a worthy New Year’s celebration.
Gudi Padwa is the New Year day for the Hindus of Maharashtra and Konkan and is also celebrated extensively in Goa. While in the ushering in of spring and celebrating the New Year, both Gudi Padwa and Ugadi have the same festive spirit in tow, the celebrations vary somehow as per rituals and customs.
Gudi Padwa falls on the day when Lord Brahma was supposed to have created time and universe while some others believe that the festival is one that is linked to the dance of Shiva. Despite diverse religious interpretations however, the day is marked by Gudhi arrangements in every household. The Gudi or Gudhi is a bright colorful silk scarf-like cloth tied at the top of a long bamboo topped of by boughs of neem and mango leaves and a flower garland. A silver, bronze or copper pot is place inverted on the top of this Gudhi which is a familiar sight atop each household on the day of the festival.
A preparation similar to pachadi takes centerstage during the Gudi Padwa festivities while shrikhand and poori or Puran Poli are some other traditional dishes that are made to celebrate the occasion. Houses are cleaned and new clothes are worn even as gifts are exchanged and prayers are offered to ring in a New Year that would be happy and prosperous for all.
In the north eastern state of Assam, the new year celebrations are heralded in by a spring festival that is known as Rongali bihu. Celebrated mid April every year, the festivities span over a couple of days during which traditions and rituals are adhered to usher in a new year of merrymaking and abundance. A pre Bihu feast kickstarts the celebrations that see ample frenzy and food on offer. Significantly the Bihu celebrations encompass also the cows that are a very important part of the agrarian Assamese community even as people indulge in cultural and ritualistic observances while heartily celebrating the festival with all friends and family. Folk Bihu songs and dances rule the air even as the vibrancy of spring complements perfectly the festivity and the hopes heralding in a fresh new year.
The New Year celebrations of the Kashmiri Pandits are ushered in with Navreh that literally means new year. Every year on the first day of the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra, navreh is celebrated but the preparations dawn from the previous night itself. On Navreh eve which falls on a Amavasya, a thali of unhusked rice with a bread and some curd, salt, sugar candy, a few walnuts or almonds, a silver coin, a pen, a mirror, some flowers and the new panchanga or almanac is kept which is to be seen during the Brahma Muhurta or the wee hours of the next morning. The New Year of the Kashmiri Pandits is in fact a very essential celebration also of the presence of Durga, the Supreme Mother among them.
A harvest festival that marks the dawn of the solar new year, Baisakhi is the celebration by Punjabi Hindus every first day of the month of Vaisakha. An annual celebration every 13th or 14th of April, Baisakhi though is celebrated on a pan India basis by also other communities apart from the Sikhs. In Punjab, a very predominant Baisakhi tradition is the Aawat pauni where people get to harvest the wheat to the beats of drums and the singing of dohays. Melas are held and celebrations take centerstage as people rejoice and make merry by performing the folk dance Bhangra. Simple but soulful food like gur ka halwa and meethe chawal takes to the table during the festive feasting, relished together by families and friends in zest and good spirits.
Vishu is the Kerala New Year Day that is a yearly mid April affair in Kerala, Mangalore, Tulu Nadu and nearby coastal Kanyakumari regions. The most remarkable custom of Vishu is the Vishukanni during which a tray of auspicious items including rice, golden lemon, golden cucumber, coconut cut open, jack fruit, kanmashi kajal, betel leaves and areca nut, metal mirror, golden yellow Konna flowers, holy Hindu texts, money, oil lamp and an image of Lord Vishnu needs to be viewed first thing after waking up for an auspicious start to the year. Buying new clothes, gifting and charity are other indispensible customs related to Vishu.
The Vishu feast is marked by a preparation called the Sadhya that is a mix of salty, sweet, sour and bitter items as does the temple offering called bewu bella. Other offerings include special dishes like Vishu Kanji, Thoran and Vishu katta, Veppampoorasam and Mampazhappulissery exclusive to the Vishu celebrations.
The Tamil New Year falls on the first day of the Tamil month Chithirai and is known as Puthandu. Also called Chittirai Vishu in southern Tamil Nadu this yearly celebration usually on April 14 is also a religious affair as well as an occasion of merry making. On Puthandu eve, a tray arranged with mango, banana and jack fruit, betel leaves and areca nut, jewellery, coins/money, flowers and a mirror is prepared and kept to be the first thing to be seen next morning for an auspicious start to the year. This ritual is known as Kanni while Kolam designs made with colored rice powder are also another custom that Tamilites adhere to on Puthandu. Pujas are performed and new clothes are worn before entire family and friends gather for a grand vegetarian feast.
For Sindhi Hindus the New Year celebrations go by the name Cheti Chand and is celebrated sometime in late March or early April every year. The spring harvest festival falls on the second day of the Sindhi month of Chet and on this day, many Sindhis take Baharana Sahib to a nearby river or lake. Encompassing an oil lamp, crystal sugar, cardamom, fruits and akha in front of a coconut surmounted water pot covered with a cloth and some flowers and leaves, the Baharana Sahib makes its way to the water body where the akha is offered to the river God and prasad is distributed among the devotees. Sindhis wear new clothes and celebrate their new year with religious reverence and fervor.
Pohela Baisakh is the new year celebrations of West Bengal and also of the Bengali people of Tripura and parts of Assam. A harvest festival that usually falls on April 14 every year, Pohela Baisakh sees a festive fervor as people clean homes and make alpanas or rangolis, while wearing new clothes and indulging in gifting and feasting after offering their prayers to Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi.
The Gujaratis celebrate the New Year as Bestu Varas every year a day after the festival of Diwali. Bestu Varas falls on the first day of Shukla paksha of the Kartik month and is quite distinctive among the many New Year celebrations in India as it is not a spring festival. Because the Gujaratis happen to be basically money minded people, their new year celebrations are conveniently dated to embark also on a new fiscal year.
Also called Varsha-pratipada or Padwa, Bestu Varas coincides with Govardhan Puja and is therefore as much an occasion of religious significance as it is of new beginnings. A highly auspicious day during which the Chopdas or accounts are worshiped even as old accounts are closed and new ones are opened, Bestu Varas is celebrated with sweets and snacks as well as with rituals and customs and is one of the most important events for all Gujaratis.
Thapna is the Marwari New Year that is celebrated on the very day of the festival of lights, Diwali. The celebrations start with Lakshmi Pujan that pay obesisance to the Goddess of Wealth even as silver coins and items are purchased to usher in good omen and prosperity. Houses are cleaned and decorated well in advance and sweets and rich meals feature extensively on the menu. Pucca khana or food cooked in pure ghee like puri and halwa are relished traditionally during Thapna to celebrate a prosperous new year.
The Manipuri New Year of the Meiteis, Cheiraoba marks the first day of the month of Sajibu and is celebrated every year in March or April. As house are cleaned and gifts are exchanged in the days leading up to the festival, a festive spirit grips the people. On the New Year day, the Meitei deity is worshiped following which a feast of an even number of dishes is prepared usually by the male folk. It is customary to share the prepared food with neighbors before the feast begins to usher in grand observances of a Happy New Year!