Gudi Padwa : The Hindu New Year

No sooner we enter the New Year of the Gregorian calendar, we usher the New Year of the Hindus. Gudi Padwa is the Marathi name for Chaitra Shukla Pratipada. It is celebrated on the first day of the Chaitra month to mark the beginning of the New Year according to the lunisolar Hindu calendar. This day is also the first day of Chaitra Navratri and Ghatasthapana also known as Kalash Sthapana is done on this day.

The word ‘Padwa ’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘paddava’ or ‘paddavo’ which stands for the first day of the bright phase of the moon after new moon day (Amavasya) called ‘pratipada’ in Sanskrit. Gudi Padwa is also called the Varsha Pratipada, Shakera or Shalivan and marks the beginning of the New Year of the Shalivahan Era.

Every year mostly in Maharashtra poles are hung in front of the houses with a flag. It indicates the celebration of the New Year. The long pole is wrapped with a flag of cloth or silk adorned with a wreath and topped with a inverted silver or brass lota or vessel to which homage is paid. It is said the erection of the pole is in imitation of the banners of Indra unfurled in heaven in his honour.

Some of the other significances attributed to raising the ‘Gudi’ or the banner out of one which is the Maharashtrians see the Gudi as the symbol of victory associated with the conquests of the Maratha forces led by Chhatrapati Shivaji. It also symbolises the victory of King Shalivana over Sakas and the Gudi or the flag being hoisted by the people in jubilation to welcome the return of the King to Paithan.

Again, The Brahma Purana narrates about the Gudi symbolising the Brahmadhvaj (Brahma’s flag) because Lord Brahma created the Universe on this day. Moreover as per mythology Gudi symbolizes Lord Ram’s victory and return to Ayodhya after slaying Ravana. It is believed that this festival is celebrated to commemorate the coronation of Lord Rama after his return to Ayodhya after his completion of fourteen years of exile.

Another version has it that Shalivan was a son of a potter who by means of sheer struggle rises to become the chief of a powerful monarchy in Maharashtra and rules in Mungi-Paithan. He overthrows Vikramaditya, the last of the Gupta rulers of Malwa, and the year of his coronation is reckoned as the Shalivahan Era that is from A.D.78.A story in Mahabharata gives us the significance of Gudi Padwa too.

King Vasu, a descendant of Pururava, leaves his capital for hunting but, instead of returning home, goes into recluse and performs penance. Indra, the king of Gods, is pleased and bestows on him riches and virtues that make him invincible. He is said to have returned to his kingdom on the first day of Chaitra when his subjects had decorated their houses as a mark of welcoming the King.

India being a predominantly agriculture country most of the festivals are linked to the change of seasons and to the sowing and reaping of crops. This day marks the end of one agricultural harvest and the beginning of a new one. In this context, Gudi Padwa is celebrated at the end of Rabi season.

Interestingly, Gudi Padwa is supposed to be one of the ‘Saade-teen Muhurth’ viz., three and a half auspicious days in the Indian lunar calendar. The other auspicious ones are

Akshay Tritiya in the bright half of the month of Vaishaka, Vijaydashami in the bright half of Ashwin month and Balipratipada in bright half of Kartika month.

Amongst the Andhras and Chitrapur and Gaud Saraswats, the New Hindu Year is called “Ugadi” meaning the beginning of the Yuga (an age). Like Gudi Padwa it is observed on first day of Chaitra and is celebrated by eating of Neem leaves followed by sweets. Usually the bitter Neem leaves are roasted in ghee and mixed with sugar before offering to God and then eating.

Eating the bitter Neem leaves first and then having sweets later means in our lives whatever sorrows or difficulties we experience are bound to follow with joy and happiness as life is full of circle of ups and downs. This is to insure that whenever our lives meet with adversities they should be followed by bliss and peace. Likewise, the new Almanac or the ‘Panchang’ is read and the favourable and unfavourable days for starting new pursuits and fixing alliances for the whole New Year are predicted and explained.

The New Year is known by different names in various parts of vast India and the New Year festivities are unique depending on the culture and customs of the region. The New Year in Sindhi is termed as ‘Cheti Chand’, Baisakhi in Punjab, Puthandu (Tamil Nadu), Vishu (Kerala), Poila Boishak (Bengal), Bohaag Bihu (Assam), Ugadi (Telegu and Kannada), Gudi Padwa (Marathi and Konkani).

The New Year of course is observed by donning new clothes and exchanging Happy Greetings undoubtedly with sweets. On this auspicious day all new enterprises are commenced praying that the New Year ahead will bring prosperity and happiness to all.

Source: The Free Press Journal