Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hindu New Year

Just like the other races of the world, Hindus too celebrate their new years with great pomp and show. The Hindus mainly follow the lunar-solar calendar and hence, their New Year falls on a different day from the Gregorian calendar. Hindus follow the Indian National Calendar and according to that Hindu New Year is celebrated during Mid April at most parts of India, although there are few regional differences still prevailing. The Hindu New Year celebration also marks the beginning of the harvest season since agriculture is still the predominant vocation of the major population of India.

The Hindu New Year is known in different names at different parts of India and since Indian culture is the culmination of different cultures, variety can also be seen in the celebration of the New Year.

The Hindu calendar system

The Hindu calendar varies significantly from the Gregorian calendar and their calculation of dates is based upon the cyclical movements of both sun and moon. The study of the Hindu calendar system is therefore important in understanding the differences of celebrating New Year at different dates.

India is the land of cultural diversities and these differences are also prevailed in calculating days as well. Different calendars are therefore followed in different parts of India and as a result there were more than one New Year celebrations. In order to end the confusion in 1957 the Government of India introduced the common calendar that was to be followed for all the administrative works as well as for religious functions.

In 1957 the Calendar reform Committee formulated the current calendar in which the leap year coincided with that of the Gregorian calendar. According to the current calendar the New Year began at Chaitra 1, 1879 or 22nd March, 1957.

Although the Indian National Calendar is now the official calendar in India regional varieties still prevail in various parts of the country, like in Assam, Punjab, Bengal, Tamil Nadu etc the New Year falls on 14th or 15th of April, where as the Marwaris celebrate New Year during October.

Celebration of Hindu New Year
At different parts of India the New Year is celebrated with different names, like in Assam the celebration is called Bihu, in Bengal it is known as Pohela Boishakh, in Punjab it’s called Baisakhi. However, the common thing about these celebrations is that in all parts of India New Year is celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervor. Following is an account of New Year celebration at different parts of India.

Bohag Bihu - Assamese New Year: Assam is a north-eastern state of the India Union. The people of Assam celebrate New Year with great enthusiasm during mid- April. The celebration is called Bohag Bihu after the name of the first month of the Assamese calendar.

The celebration of the New Year marks the beginning of the harvest season in Assam and people of Assam celebrate the event with food, fun and dancing. It is one of the biggest non-religious celebrations of Assam.

Pohela Boishakh - Bengali New Year: The Bengalis celebrate New Year in mid April. The date for Bengali New Year may vary between 14th and 15th of April. The Bengalis New Year is also called ‘navabarsha’ since in Bengali ‘nava’ means new and ‘barsha’ means ‘year’. The New Year is the time for the Bengalis to celebrate the event with traditional dresses, songs, food and cultural events.

Fairs and processions are arranged at many places of Bengal to usher the New Year. Like the other agriculturally dominated races of India the beginning of the New Year also means the beginning of the harvesting season in Bengal.

Bestu Varas - Gujarati New Year: The celebration to usher the New Year takes the form of a grand celebration in Gujarat. The Gujarati people celebrate New Year after the day of Diwali. The celebration of the New Year is marked with traditional dresses, food, dances and songs. On this day the Gujaratis offer prayers to the Govardhan Parbat. Many religious rituals are performed through out the day and the celebration concludes with the consumption of sumptuous Gujarati meal.

Baisakhi - Punjabi New Year: On the western part of India Punjabis enjoy enormous cultural influence and hence, celebration of Punjabi New Year plays a significant role in defining the cultural nature of Northern and Western India. Baisakhi is also celebrated by the people of Haryana.

On this day the people of Punjab pay homage to their tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh. He is said to eliminate the caste system amongst the Sikhs on the day of Baisakhi and unified them under a single religion.

Just like rest of India, the New Year also marks the beginning of the harvest season in Punjab.

Diwali- Marwari New Year: The Marwari community of India celebrates their New Year on Diwali and it happens to be the greatest celebration for them. The Goddess of wealth and prosperity, Laxmi, is worshiped as a part of the celebration. Lord Ganesha is also worshipped as he is believed to offer fortitude and results.

On that day the Marwaris will decorate their houses with ‘rangolis’ and lamps. Since Diwali is celebrated on the new moon’s day it is also called the celebration of light. Elaborate meals are prepared and friends and family gather together to welcome the New Year. Bursting of firecracker is a must during the celebration of Diwali.

Gudi Padwa - Marathi New Year: The Marathi community celebrates their New Year on the first day of Chaitra and on this day they erect ornate Gudis at their homes to ward off the evil and usher wealth and prosperity. The day is also marked as Shuddha Pratipada.

Marathis will take special care in decorating their gudis. They decorate the pole of the flag with gathi or sugar crystals, neem and mango leaves and garlands of red flowers. They will then put an upturned silver ‘kalash’ on the top of their gudis.

Decorating houses, wearing new clothes and preparing elaborate Marathi meals are integral parts of the celebration.

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