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Gudi Padwa: The Hindi New Year

Gudi Padwa: The Hindi New Year
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We all count our days from 1 January each year, but, if I’m not wrong, only a few segment of population know about the first day of our own Hindi calendar. In a culturally rich country like India, there is a tradition to celebrate the first day of Hindi New Year. There are many festivals with different names celebrated across the country to keep ‘Youngistan Generation’ intact with the cultures of the country.

Gudi Padwa is one among the several holy festivals which marks the beginning of the New Year as per Hindi calendar. The day is celebrated as new month and new day in the country. The day falls on Chaitra Shukla Pratipada. This year its will be celebrated on 31 March. The first day of Hindi calendar is known as Gudhi Padwa in Maharashtra, Ugadi in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In other parts of the country it is celebrated during Nau Roz in Kashmir, Baisakhi in Punjab, Cheti Chand in Sindhi, Naba Barsha in Bengal, Goru Bihu in Assam, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Vishu in Kerala.

The Brahma Purana holds that it was on a Gudi Padwa day that lord Brahma had created the world again after a devastating deluge and time began to tick from this day forth. The day marks the start of Satyug (era of truth and justice). Gudi Padwa is said to be one of the three- and-a-half days in the Indian Lunar calendar called ‘Sade-Teen Muhurt’. Every moment of this period is considered auspicious to start new ventures. The word ‘padwa’ is derived from Pratipada, the first day of a lunar month or the first day after no-moon day (Amavasya). Gudi Padwa is especially dedicated to the worship of lord Brahma. Hence, special flags known as ‘Gudi’s are erected in honour of lord Brahma. These are also called ‘Brahmadhvaj’ or ‘the flag of Brahma’. Some also refer to it as ‘the flag of Indra’ (Indradhvaj).

Gudhi Padwa is celebrated as Ugadi (or Yugadi) in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The day, begins with ritual showers (oil bath) followed by pooja to god and Panchanga Shravana. Houses are decorated with mango leaves and rangoli and everyone in the family wear new clothes and celebrate the festival by wishing each other New Year greetings.

The eating of a specific mixture called Bevu-Bella (neem and jaggery) in Kannada, symbolises the fact that life is a mixture of good and bad, happiness and sorrow. Eating Neem and sweet jaggery means one need to take both good and bad or happiness and sorrow should be accepted together and with equanimity through the New Year.

In Karnataka a special dish called obbattu or holige (puran poli), is prepared on this occasion. It consists of a filling (gram and jaggery/sugar boiled and made in to a paste) stuffed in a flat roti like bread. It is usually eaten hot/cold with ghee or milk topping or coconut milk at some places of Karnataka.

On Gudi Padwa (Samvatsararambh), the Brahmadhwaj (or the Gudi) is hoisted in every house. The Gudi, which provides benefit of the Prajapati waves in the universe, is not only a Brahmadhwaj, it is also a Vijaydhwaj - a flag symbolising victory.

The other legend has it that when God Ram had reached Ayodhya after conquering Lanka, his subjects had hoisted flags in every house symbolising victory and joy.

The other legend talk about Shaka kings. The legend has it that it was the Gudi Padwa day on which Shaka kings defeated the Huns; king Shalivahan defeated his enemies and hoisted the flag of victory.

Celebrated with great merriment, Gudi Padwa is best described as a sacred festal occasion for the people of Maharashtra. A number of legends are believed to have given the festival its origins.

For Maharashtrians, the festival marks the conquests of the Maratha forces led by the great hero Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Maharashtrians have great regard and admiration for their famous Maratha leader who fought bravely to establish a Maratha kingdom free from Mughal domination.

 According to this legend, the ‘Gudi’ is evocative of the brave Marathas returning home from their successful expeditions of war. The festival is thus, a celebration of victory and prosperity.
A popular belief is that the displaying of the Gudi wards off evil and invites prosperity and good luck into the house.
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