Today is the start of the Vedic/Hindu new year. This festival goes by many names in different regions pan-India, however, all of them eventually celebrate the turning of the zodiac sign from Pisces to Aries and is symbolic of new beginnings.
Throughout the country, this festival represents different flavours of life such as merriment, energy, and enthusiasm. It is known as Baisakh Sankranti – the transmigration of the Sun during Chaitra (the spring season). The day also marks the start of Chaitra Navratri which will culminate with Ramnavami.
Jharkhand and Bihar, erstwhile Mithila – the birthplace of Goddess Sita – celebrates this day as Jur Sital also known as Satuain. This day has deep significances with a connection to nature. The day starts with elders of the house sprinkling water on the children as a sign of blessings, which also helps to cool down the body. Being connected to nature is very important for this festival, hence, all households put a stop to cooking stoves and hearths, making this the world’s oldest observed Earth Day! Trees are watered and new saplings are planted by families.
There is also a tradition of applying clay from the riverbeds on the walls of the houses and even on each other. This provides protection and acts as a coolant in the hot North Indian summers. Rangolis made with rice powder adorn the house entrances. People specifically either make or buy clay vessels to store water in their homes.
Tulsi plants in the courtyard, which is a distinct feature of all homes, are worshipped with the rising sun. Water bodies, such as lakes and rivers are cleaned with community involvement. Children and adults alike, fly kites to honour the colours of spring. The panchang is commenced on this day for the important dates and events for the whole year. Dishes include sweet and savoury peethas along with litti-chokha, made from sattu (gram flour). Kheer with jaggery is served as a sweet dish.
Greeting: इ बैसाख परब के शुभकामना रही
Celebrated in the Southern Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, Yugadi is derived from Yuga (Age) and Adi (Beginning) – the beginning of a new age. According to legend, Yugadi is believed to be the day when Lord Krishna’s Niryaana began in the early hours of the fortnight of Chaitra.
The preparations to welcome the new year begins at least a week in advance with decorations and food preparations. This festival has been an important and historic one for the Hindus in the region. There are various medieval texts and inscriptions found in the temples of the area which record these celebrations and significant charitable donations to Hindu temples and community centres.
On the dawn of this day, houses are cleaned, people buy new clothes, and decorate the entrance of their homes with mango leaves, called as Thorana, and also adorn the entrance with rangolis. Obbattu, Suryakal, Punugulu, and Yugadi Pachadi are prepared in every household.
The day begins with an oil bath, which is known to cool down and purify the body. Pooja is performed at the devasthana and marks the beginning of the yearly panchaangam. The first thing that is consumed is Yugadi Pachadi, followed by bevu-bella (neem-jaggery) and a sumptuous array of traditional meals. The Yugadi Pachadi has deep cultural significance – it is prepared with 6 ingredients, where each represents a flavour of life – neem for bitterness representing sadness, chilli for spicy representing anger, tamarind for sour representing disgust, salt for saltiness representing fear, raw mango for tanginess representing surprises, and jaggery for sweet representing happiness.
Greeting: ಎಲ್ಲರಿಗು ಯುಗಾದಿ ಹಬ್ಬದ ಸುಭಾಷೆಯಗಳು
Assam celebrates the onset of the new solar year with Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu, which is more a celebration of love than anything else. The sheer idea of this festival is to express joy which is spread across 7 days.
The 1st day is celebrated as Goru Bihu (goru means cattle). People apply a paste of turmeric, black gram, and oil on their cattle and take them to the nearby water sources for washing. The cattle are then lightly whipped with leaves of medicinal plants such as dighloti and makhioti. This is believed to protect the cattle from any diseases. They are then tethered with new ropes made from tora plant and fed pitha.
Day 2 onwards the celebrations are called Manuh Bihu. The day starts with turmeric and black gram paste bath, people wear new clothes, and offer prayers in the naam ghar. People visit relatives and friends and dance group called husori perform the folk dance, which is widely known as bihu dance.
People don traditional clothes – women wear mekhela chador made from Muga silk, traditional jewellery, and kopou phul (a variety of orchid) on their hair, whereas men wear dhoti kurta and tie a bihuwan/gamusa around their head and waists. Pepa, dhol, and gogona, provide the musical treats for this festivity. Various varieties of pitha, made from til and coconut are cooked in the forms of tekeli pitha, ghila pitha, and sunga pitha. The dominant theme for Bihu is nature, love, friendship, and youth, where most bihu songs are a playful expression of love by youngsters. Love confessions and courtships are an integral part of this festival.
Greeting: ভোগালী বিহুৰ শুভেচ্ছা জনালো
In Maharashtra, this festival signifies the arrival of spring and reaping of the rabi crops. Gudi means flag or emblem of Lord Brahma who, according to legends, created the universe on this day. It is considered one of the most auspicious days to start new ventures.
Gudi is a bright colourful silk, scarf-like cloth that is tied at the top of a long bamboo. Garlands of neem and mango leaves are added to it along with flowers, and finally, this entire arrangement is capped with a handi/kalash made of either silver, bronze or copper, signifying victory. The gudi is placed at the entrance of the house and is believed to ward off evil and invite prosperity and good luck.
Rangoli is drawn at the home entrances and the day is filled with delicious dishes such as a mixture of neem and jaggery, puran poli, shrikhand puri, and sweet potato kheer. Some villages have kept the traditions of veerabhadra and ghode modni alive, where the warrior clans perform victory dances.
Greeting: गुढी पाडव्याच्या हार्दिक शुभेच्छा
This day holds special historical and religious significance for Sikhs. It is the completion of the harvest time, however more importantly is it celebrated as a day the foundation for Panth Khalsa. It is said that on this day, the 10th guru of the Sikhs – Shri Guru Gobind Singh – established the Order of the Pure Ones, by baptizing Sikh warriors to defend religious freedom. Hence, it is also referred to as Khalsa Sirjana Diwas.
Shri Guru Gobind Singh formalised the concept of saint-solider by introducing the Amrit ceremony (a formal initiation) where initiates were given the title of Khalsa. Their lives and spirit this day forth belong only to One Universal Creator. The Khalsa initiates are at all times required to keep the 5 Ks with them – kesh (uncut hair), kangha (a small comb), kara (iron bracelet), kachera (special shorts), and kirpan (sword).
People visit the gurudwara and participate in processions and fair. They also perform the Sikh martial arts of Gatka.
Greeting: ਵੈਸਾਖੀ ਕਿ ਲੱਖ ਲੱਖ ਵਧਾਈਆਂ