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Indian Festivals


Due to the vast cultural diversity of the country, New Year`s is celebrated at different times of the year, in keeping with the religious and traditional customs of the various communities. The majority of celebrations are assigned to the time of year calculated on the basis of the lunar calendar.

A comprehensive understanding of the New Year festivals of India will be facilitated by means of a region-wise discussion of the same.

New Year celebrations in North India usually usher in the spring and celebrate the new harvest. Almost all over the North, it is celebrated on Baisakhi day, which is the New Year in Punjab. It falls sometime in mid-April when the harvest ripens and its time to get reaped. On this day, people visit the temples and Gurudwaras, offer prayers, visit friends and family. Men can be seen doing the Bhangra and women the Giddha dance and the day is enjoyed with a lot of merriment, food, song and festivity.

Himachal Pradesh celebrates Chaitti and Basoa as New Year festivals. It is the first day of the year according to the Vikram Samwat of the Hindu calendar. Chaitti is celebrated on the fourteenth of April and Basoa is celebrated on the first day of the month of Baisakh. The farming folk celebrate Basoa. Three days before the festival, little cakes are made with kodra flour and wrapped up in leaves and left to ferment. These are then opened and eaten on New Year`s Day, shared with relatives and friends and accompanied by honey and sweet water. Ritual songs are also sung on this day.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir celebrates New Year with the Navreh festival. It coincides with the first day of the Chaitra Navratras. The new year is celebrated with a lot of festivity and gaiety.

New Year celebrations in South India begin during the month of Chittirai which lasts from April 14th to May 14th. On this day, people read the Ramayana and go to the temples, the Hindu places of worship. Children burst crackers, people wear new clothes and prepare special dishes and the elders of the house give out money to the children, servants and tenants. It is celebrated with great pomp and gusto among the different states of the South.

In Kerala, the festival of Lord Vishnu ushers in the New Year. It is celebrated on the first day of the Malayalee month of Medam. On this day, special offerings to the divine in the form of Vishukanni, which consists of rice, linen, cucumber, betel leaves, holy texts, coins and yellow flowers called konna. A bell metal lamp called nilavilakku is placed alongside

In Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the New Year falls on the first day of the month of Chittarai. It is believed that Lord Brahma began the creation of the universe on this auspicious day of Ugadi. This day marks the beginning of a new Hindu lunar calendar with a change in the moon`s orbit. It is a day when mantras are chanted and predictions made for the New Year. Traditionally, the panchangasravanam or listening to the yearly calendar was done at the temples. Ugadi is also an auspicious day to embark on any new endeavor.

New Year in Tamil Nadu also begins on the first day of the month of Chittarai. Known as Puthandu or Varshu pirappu, on this day, women draw patterns or kolams, lamps called kuttivalliku are lit and the Kanni ritual takes place. A car festival is held on this day at Tiruvadamarudur, near Kumbakonam.

In eastern India, New Year is celebrated on the calculations of the Hindu Solar calendar or the Surya Siddhant. The first day of this calendar is celebrated as New Year in most states in the East, including West Bengal, Assam, Orissa and Tripura. This calendar too co-incides with the advent of the harvest season, which is a great cause for celebration almost all over India.

West Bengal celebrates Nabo Borsho or Poila Baisakh on the 14th of April. It marks the beginning of a new financial year, like Diwali in the North. The celebrations include prabhat pheries, song and dance, a dip in the holy Ganga River, decorating the houses with rangoli and alpana and a whole lot of rejoicing.

The Assamese new year or Bihu falls on April 15th, 14th is the New Year`s Eve. The celebrations commence with Goru Bihu on the fourteenth, when the Goru or cows are washed, decorated and worshipped. This is followed by manuh or Human Bihu on the 15th which is New Year`s Day.

New Year in Orissa is celebrated on the fourteenth as well, and the speciality in Orissa is the Pana. It is a sweet drink made to offer to the Gods, guests, wayfarers as well as the birds and animals. This is known as the Jal or Pana Sankranti.

Western India celebrates New Year by welcoming the Vasant or the first day of spring. This is considered to be the day from which time started to tick, and every minute of this day is considered auspicious. 

Maharashtra celebrates the Gudi Padwa on this day Gudi or Brahma`s flag is hoisted in each house as a symbolic victory of Lord Rama over Ravana.

In Gujarat the Bestu Varas falls on the second day of Diwali. Gujaratis follow the Vikram Samwat of the Hindu calendar system. The day starts with heavy fireworks in the morning. Local boys sell raw salt called sabres to make the New Year prosperous. Houses are decorated with aaso palav and marigolds, rangolis are made beside the door and home made snacks are offered to the guests and neighbours who come to visit and celebrate.

The north-east too has its own unique and various ways of celebrating the New Year. The Sikkimese New Year is known as the Losoong. It is a Buddhist festival marks the end of the harvest season. Though Mela Losar is the new year of the Tibetan community, it is celebrated with great pomp by the Sikkimese society. Himalayan Buddhist communities celebrate this festival, especially at Dharamsala. They celebrate it by making offerings to the gods, both in gompas and in their domestic shrines. Ancient rituals mark the festival, stage fights between good and evil and passing through the crowds with fire torches. Archery contests are held amidst much feasting and merry making. The other states of the North-East also celebrate the New Year in a number of different and unique ways.

These then are a few of the myriad forms of New Year celebrations held in India. Though every community and even region has its own time of year marking the advent of the New Year, it must be stated here that the entire country, in keeping with the global Christian system celebrates New Year on the 1st of January. For all practical purposes, this is taken to be the start of the New Year.


Last updated on: 30/09/2019

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