India is a land of diversity. The long history of India has exposed it to many cultural and political transformations and as a result, the country is now a proud conglomeration of diverse traditions.
Celebration of New Year in India is a fun event often full of food, frolic and rituals. Dance and music are integral parts of New Year celebrations in the country. Different races at the different corners of the country have their distinctive traditions to commemorate the day.
Agriculture is still the predominant vocation of the people of India and because of this, New Year celebration in India often coincides with the beginning of the agricultural season of the region. Separate calendars are followed in different parts of India and as a result, new years are observed on different dates. New Year celebration in different parts of India is known by different names. Given below are glimpses of New Year celebration in the different states of the country:
Assamese New Year: Bohag Bihu is the most famous Bihu celebration in Assam. It is commonly observed during April or May. The observation is marked with Assamese people celebrating with Bihu dances and the special dishes prepared for the occasion. The celebration lasts for three days and each of them has their special significance and traditions. Worshiping cows, cattle and plowing instruments is the most crucial part of the rituals.
Bengali New Year: The Bengalis are the residents of Eastern India which is recognized for its fertile land and culture. Hence, the New Year celebration in Bengal coincides with the beginning of the harvesting season in the area. The celebration is called ‘Poila Boisakh’ and is observed on the first day of Boisakh or the first month of the Bengali calendar. Cultural events take place across West Bengal, Tripura, Bangladesh and other parts of the world wherever Bengalis are present.
Gujarati New Year: The Gujaratis celebrate their New Year as Bestu Varas. It is a very auspicious day for the Gujaratis because of its mythological significance. The Gujarati New Year is celebrated on the next day of Diwali. On this day, the people of Gujarat also perform the Govardhan puja. Buying new goods and dresses and preparing sweets are parts of the celebration. Gifts and sweets are then distributed among friends, neighbors and relatives.
Malayalam New Year: Malayalam New Year or Vishu is the most popular celebration in Kerala. The tradition of Vishukkani is performed on this day. It means seeing the first things on the morning of Vishu. The Malayalis religiously collect items like raw rice, fresh lemon, golden cucumber, betel leaves, areca nut, metal mirror, and yellow flowers – konna. All these items are then carefully arranged in the puja room. On this day, Malayalis will take a bath in the early morning and then will see the auspicious items of Vishukkani. It is believed to bring in good luck and prosperity for the rest of the year.
Marathi New Year: The Marathis in western India celebrate their new year as Gudi Padwa. The New Year day coincides with ‘pratipada’ or the first day of the month in Hindu lunar calendar. On this day, a Gudi, or a decorated flag is erected in Marathi households. The people of Maharashtra take special care in decorating their flags with garlands and flowers. An upturned metal vessel is then placed at the top and the gudi is then hung outside the door. It is believed to ward off evil and usher good luck for the owner. According to the popular Hindu belief, Brahma created the world on the auspicious day of Gudi Padwa.
Marwari New Year: Marwari New Year is celebrated on Diwali, which also happens to be one of the greatest religious events in India. Hindus believe that on the day of Diwali, Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after his 14 years of hiatus. On this day, pujas are offered to Lord Ganesha and Goddess Laxmi. Devotees pray for prosperity and wealth. Satyanarayan arti is also an important ritual. On this day, Marwaris prepare special food which is known as Pucca Khanna.
Punjabi New Year: Punjabi New Year is full of fun and frolic. The New Year day denotes the beginning of the harvesting season in the area and therefore it is the most important festival for the farming community of the region. The loud calls of “Jatta aayi Baisakhi” mark the beginning of the celebration. The day begins with the recitation of Granthsahib in Gurudwaras – the place of worship for the Sikhs. The day is also celebrated as the commemoration of the establishment of Khalsa Panth by the Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
Sikkimese New Year: The Sikkimese New Year is celebrated in the month of December of Gregorian calendar. The traditions followed in the celebration have strong Buddhist influence and many of the rituals followed are borrowed from the Tibetan New Year celebration. In fact, the Tibetan calendar is followed in Sikkim. ‘Cham’ dance or ‘lama dance’ is the most significant part of the celebration. The Sikkimese New Year celebration attracts large number of tourists who throng the Himalayan state to witness the colorful observance.
Tamil New Year: The Tamil New Year is celebrated in Chitterai, which is the first month of Tamil calendar. Visiting temples and worshipping deities are the most important features of the New Year celebration. Thousands of devotees gather at Meenakshi Temple of Madurai to offer puja to their worshipping Goddess. Neem leaves and raw mangoes are eaten which are believed to cleanse the body. Another important part of Tamil New Year celebration is the grand car exhibition that takes place in Tiruvidaimarudur. Puthandu also marks the beginning of the agricultural season in the region and the first tilling of land is also done on the day.
Cheti Chand: The Sindhis of India celebrate New Year as Cheti Chand. The day falls on the second day of the month of Chaitra of Hindu calendar. The day commemorates the birth of Ishtadeva Uderolal. On this day, Sindhis worship the water. On this day, people will visit the bank of nearby lake and offer puja with jyot, misiri, phota, fal, akha, kalash, and nariyal. People then wish each other “Cheti Chand jyon Lakh Lakh Wadayun Athav.”
Telugu New Year: The Telugu New Year is celebrated to commemorate the beginning of spring in South India. It is a popular festival across the states of South India. The word Ugadi is said to denote Yuga which means era or epoch. A significant ritual of the New Year celebrtation is oil bath. Consuming Ugadi Pachhadi, or a mixture of six tastes, is an important part of the celebration. The six items of Ugadi Pachhadi are said to signify sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust, and surprise. People then gather for ‘Panchanga Sravanam’ to hear the general predictions for the year.
Apart from the regional new years, India also celebrates the 1st day of January as a new beginning with the rest of the world. The day is also observed as a holiday in different states of the country. Since the Gregorian calendar is regarded as the official calendar of the country, 1st January is also celebrated with unmatched pomp and show. Parties and feasts are organized in different places and people wish each other through greeting cards, personalized messages and SMS.