The Hindu New Year Calendar is an extremely traditional calendar and one that has been existence for quite some time now. It has however not been a stagnant one, and has been one that has changed itself time and again. The Hindu traditional calendar is by nature a luni solar one, that is in essence follows the moon in its journey.

The date sof the traditional Hindu calendar are based on an almanac or a panjika, where the detailed positions of all astrological bodies or celestial bodies are mentioned. Therefore the reasons that the dates of the traditional Hindu calendar never match that of the existant Gregorian calendar and there is discrepancy.

The Hindu New Year celebrations are therefore celebrations of specific New Year based on that region’s traditional and cultures. It has no bearing with the universal New Year of January 1st. traditionally New Year celebrations in all parts of India begin with worshipping the deities or Gods and seeking their blessings.  Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi are the most worshipped as one grants success and the other wealth.  Thus the New Year is started by worshipping them in order to seek peace prosperity and success in all the ventures for that particular year.

Before the advent of the New Year, people clean their homes and decorate them with auspicious signs. There is a general merriment and happiness in the air. People purchase new clothes for themselves and family members and also prepare special foods for that particular day. On the auspicious days, people visit family or friends and exchange various sweet and savory items to meet and greet.

These are some generic observation and description of New Year celebrations in all parts of the country. Let us now have a detailed look at what kind of celebration is generally had on all these occasions. Most important New Year celebrations are as follows –

Punjab – Baisakhi, Assam – Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu, Bengal – Naba Barsha or Pôhela Boishakh, Tamil Nadu – Puthandu, Kerala – Vishu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka – Ugadi, Maharashtra – Gudi Padwa, Kashmir – Navreh, Orissa – Maha Vishuva Sankranti. Let us then have a look at the above mentioned festivals, their dates and a brief synopsis about their rituals.

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  • Punjab – Baisakhi/ Vaisakhi – 14th of April, Friday – In Punjab, this is known as Vaisakhi. This is the day when the happy and grateful farmers thank the almighty for giving them abundant harvest and also prays to the merciful God for future bliss and happiness.  On this day, in the year 1699, the great Guru Gobind Singh ahd called for all the Sikhs to congregate in the city of Anandpur Sahib for  laying the foundation of the Sikh community which is since then known as Khalsa. The celebrations are of merriment and happiness. The common greetings are “Jatta aayi Baisakhi” in the regional language.  This day as mentioned earlier not only celebrates the advent of the New Year, but the good harvest also.  People wear new colorful clothes, organize bonfire, sing songs and dance the traditional Bhangra. There are lots of melas or fares organized on this day. Lot of entertainments are arranged on this day lie races, fares, stalls, wrestling, bhangra etc.

  • Assam – Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu- 15th of April, Saturday – The Assamese people start celebrating the New Year from the 13th of April. This  happy and beautiful festival is known as the Bohag Bihu or the Rongili Bihu. It is generally celebrated 7 days after the vernal equinox in the month of  Baisakh. This festival signifies the time for the harvest and has seven phases, which are celebrated with much fanfare. These 7 phases are – Chot, Raati, Goru, Manuh, Kutum, Mela and Chera; all of which are celebrated on different days and signify seven different things. The word Rongili means Rong which means color. Thus the festivities are all very colorful.

  • Bengal – Naba Barsha or Pôhela Boishakh- 15th of April, Saturday-  the traditional New Year is celebrated on the first day or the poila day of the month of Baisakh. Hindu Bengalis, on this day visit the temples to seek divine blessings for the ensuing year. People buy new clothes and accessories.  There is a special puja for the Bengali business community on this day. This tradition is called halkhata. Bengalis wear traditional dresses on this auspicious day. People decorate and cleanse their homes and visit friends or relatives in the evening. An elaborate feast is also cooked up at homes with traditional fares. There are lot of traditional Hindu families which organize small pujas in their house on this auspicious day to ensure that the year is good. Businesses also have pujas on this day.

  • Tamil Nadu – Puthandu- 14th of April, Friday – The Tamil people  observe their New Year traditionally in the first month of Chitterai in an auspicious occasion called Puthendu.  This is celebrated in the month of Chitterai, which is also the first month of the Tamil Solar calendar. On the eve of Puthandu, which is actually the last evening of the aoon to become last year; all Tamilian household prepares an elaborate tray. This tray is then filled up with three kinds of fruits – mango, banana and jackfruit. Also kept on the tray are items like areca nuts and couple of betel leaves, a mirror, some cash or money , gold or silver jewelry, rice,  coconuts and flowers . This is something which according to the traditional Tamil belief is to be viewed on the first thing in the morning. This tradition of viewing this particular tray is known as the kanni, which literally means an extremely auspicious sight. This is a celebration of eradication of all that is dark and evil and symbolized by the lighting of diyas at homes. This lamp is known as Kuthuvillakku. Various colorful decorations are drawn at homes.  Ants are fed on this day in an effort to remind oneself that there is a principle of live and let live in this world.

  • Kerala – Vishu – April 14th, Friday – It occurs in the month of Madam, which according to the Gregorian calendar is the month of April. The elder of the house, the grandmother or the mother on this day will arrange the Vishu Kani and sleep in the puja room. Upon waking she will look at this first and light all the lamps and pray. After that she will show this to all the members, who will come with their eyes closed and open them to see the glorious sight of the Lord in all his resplendent glory. The Darpanam, not only signifies Bhagwati Devi but also lends a clear image of the glorious Vishu Kani. The younger family members are given gift of money and lots of blessings by the elders on this auspicious day. An elaborate special feast is also prepared on this day, where two items are must like – Mampazhapachadi which is actually a sour mango soup and Veppampoorasam which is a bitter preparation where the main ingredient is neem to remind that life is not all about sweetness and has sour and bitter ingredients too.

  • Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka – Ugadi- 29th of March, Wednesday – According to traditional beliefs, on this day, the creator of all that we survey, Lord Brahma, after a terrible flood, finally created the Earth.  The scripture Chandramana mentions, that Ugadi is celebrated in the Shukla paksha or what is known as the bright fortnight of the first season and the first ever month of the year. People on this auspicious occasion decorate their houses with green mango leaves. Cow dung, which is considered to be holy according to Hindu religious beliefs is mixed with water and sprinkled outside the houses. Rangoli is created in the houses. Ugadi Pachchadi is the symbolic and respected food item that is prepared with much fanfare for this occasion.

  • Maharashtra – Gudi Padwa- 29th of March, Wednesday- Gudhi Padva is the Sanskrit name for the Chaitra Shukla Pratipada and comes from the sanskrit word paḍḍava which signifies the first day of Shukla paksh. Gudi padwa, is considered to be the day when the Lord Brahma created this world. The Maharashtrian women, as per their long traditions wear the traditional nine yard long saree that is known as the Kashta or the Nauvari, and the men wear Kurta- Pajama on this auspicious day.  Rangoli, which are colorful intricate patterns seen at all places on the floors, are drawn on this day using vermillion, turmeric and powdered rice. It is traditionally mandatory for all the families to eat a mixture called the Bevu-Bella which is a mixture of Neem and jaggery.  The Neem and Jaggery concoction is served to provide a reminder to everyone that life is all about sweetness and bitterness put together. This day signifies the victory of valor over everything else.

  • Kashmir – Navreh- 28th of March – Tuesday – Navreh is celebrated on the first day of the shukla paksha of the month of Chaitra. It is the first day of the Chaitra Navratras and the beginning of the New Year Sapath Rishi Sambat. The traditional Hindu Kashmiri Pandits celebrate this. The mention of this can be found in Rajtarangini by Kalhan and Nilamat Purana.

  • Orissa – Maha Vishuva Sankranti-14th of April, Friday- In Odisha, the highlight of the Maha Vishuva sankranti is drinking a water mixture called Paana which is considered to be symbolic with the rain. This drink is prepared with Mishri which is sweet and water. This is offered to the Gods also.  It is customary also to have horse-gram flour, banana and curd. A tribal dance called Danda Naach is also performed on this auspicious occasion. The people in Orissa start the day by worshipping the deities and seek blessings for a great year ahead.