Every year December brings with it a great sense of bliss and festive cheer as the month is full of celebrations. From Christmas to welcoming New Year, people rejoice during this month. Happily, New Year is the one time when people across the globe get united in celebrations. With the Gregorian calendar observed world over, 1 January is welcomed by all. The air is filled with happiness; there is dancing, music and partying.
In India too, New Year is celebrated as per the Gregorian calendar. Yet, given our cultural diversity, New Year is celebrated at different times of the year across various regions. Thus, it is a veritable New Year all year long. India's long history has exposed it to many cultural and political revolutions, which have led to an array of diverse traditions. Though Hinduism is the major religion, people from its numerous sub-sects, which can also be categorized into different states, follow independent calendars to determine the dates of various festivities, including New Year.
Besides, as agriculture is a predominant occupation of people in our country, New Year celebration often coincides with onset of agricultural season of the region. We take a quick look at various New Year celebrations in different regions across the country.
People in Tamil Nadu celebrate New Year in Chitterai, the first month of Tamil solar calendar. This generally falls on 14 April. The Tamil calendar begins on the same date as most traditional calendars ~ in Kerala, West Bengal, Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Odisha, and Punjab. However, the then DMK government in Tamil Nadu called for a "pure" Tamil calendar and legislated the "Tamil Nadu, Tamil New Year Declaration Bill" in 2008. This brought forward the official New Year from April 14 to January 14.
The DMK rejected the traditional Tamil calendar and officially adopted the Thiruvalluvar calendar, named after one of Tamil Nadu's greatest poets. Although, calling it ridiculous, the opposition AIADMK and the MDMK parties challenged the new date in court, and asked their workers to "aggressively continue to celebrate" the New Year on April 14. Moreover, the dates for the New Year are fixed as per the Shastras and time tested traditions. Therefore, technically New Year is celebrated on both 14 April and 14 January in Tamil Nadu.
"On this day, we wake up before break of dawn; shower and wear new clothes. After visiting a temple in the morning, we greet our kith and kin. The best part of the celebration is savouring freshly-made delicacies like poli, payasam, vada, sambhar and many more," explained Latha, a mother of two, living in Delhi.
Ugadi marks New Year for the people of Telugu and Kannada communities. It is observed as per the lunar calendar and falls between March and mid-April, which is the month of Chaitra or Chiterai. The date varies every year as the Hindu calendar is a luni-solar calendar (it indicates both the moon phase and the solar year's time). It is popularly celebrated in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and also in parts of Mahatrashtra and Goa. The Marathi New Year, Gudi Padwa, is also observed on the same day.
Ugadi is celebrated to commemorate the beginning of spring in South India. People wake up early and the day starts with an oil bath. Special dishes are prepared for the occasion and consuming Ugadi Pacchadi, made of new jaggery, raw mango pieces, neem flowers and new tamarind, is an important part of celebration. The combination of six different tastes supposedly denotes the various rasas, or qualities, such as anger, happiness, sorrow, fear, disgust and surprise.
In Karnataka, a special dish called Obbattu is made. It consists of roti stuffed with a filling made up of gram and jaggery. Obbattu is the same as Puran Poli made inMaharashtra. People of Telangana call it Bhakshalu.
Maharashtra celebrates Gudhi Padwa on the first day of Chaitra month as per the Hindu luni-solar calendar. It is observed on the same day as Ugadi or Yugadi in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka respectively. As per popular belief, Lord Brahma created the world on this auspicious day. A Gudhi or a decorated flag is erected in households as per tradition. The flags are adorned with garlands and flowers. An upturned metal vessel is then placed at the top. Subsequently, the gudhi is hoisted outside the house and is believed to ward off evil and invite good luck.
The ceremony is incomplete without Puran Poli.
Sindhis celebrate Cheti Chand on the second day of Chaitra month, which is a day after Ugadi or Gudhi Padwa. The Sindhi community observes New Year on this auspicious day in the honour of Jhulelal aka Ishtadeva Uderolal, the patron saint of Sindhis. The second of the month of Chaitra is called as Chet, hence the name Chet-i- Chand.
On this propitious day, Sindhis worship water and they take Baharana Sahib to a nearby lake or river. Baharana Sahib consists of oil lamp (jyot), crystal sugar (misri), cardamom (fota), fruits (phal), flowers (phool), a jar full of water (kalash) and coconut (nariyal). They offer prayers to the idol of Jhulelal called "Pujya Jhulelal Devta".
Bengali New Year or Pohela Boishakh coincides with the New Year's days of several southern Asian calendars like Tamil New Year. It is celebrated on either 14or 15 April in the states of West Bengal and Tripura by Bengali people and also by other minor communities of Bengali in some of the eastern states like Assam, Jharkhand and Odisha. It is observed during the onset of harvesting season in the region.
People celebrate New Year as per the Bengali calendar, which is a solar calendar. The day is celebrated with much pomp and gaiety. There is singing, dancing, processions and fairs. In Kolkata, this day is also considered auspicious for weddings. Young women get dressed in white saris with red borders and men wear dhoti and kurta.
Freshly-prepared Bengali delicacies are an important part of the ceremony. They include Pitha, Payesh, Rosogullas, Sandesh and other mouthwatering food. "It is that time of the year when we get to wear new clothes and relish sweets and mouthwatering authentic Bengali cuisine. Since I live in a Bengali colony here inDelhi; we celebrate Pohela Boishakh in an elaborate way. We organise Mushaira, where poets gather to perform their works and also there is dance and music. We go to a Shiva temple and offer prayer early in the morning. Then sweets are distributed among friends and family," said a resident of Chittaranjan Park in Delhi.
Bohag Bihu is the most famous Bihu celebration in Assam. It is commonly observed during April or May. The observation is marked with the Bihu dance and special dishes are prepared on the occasion. The celebration lasts for three days and each day has a special significance and tradition. Worshiping cows, cattle and plowing instruments is the most important part of the rituals.
Hijri (Islamic New Year)
"We celebrate New Year in the month of Muharram, as per the Islamic calendar. For us, Muharram is a very sacred month and the first day of this month is the beginning of a New Year for us. But as per Islamic culture and tradition, we are not allowed to have any celebrations during this month. On the 10th day of Muharram we mourn the death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Husayn Ibn Ali," said Hina Sheikh, who lives with her family in Delhi. "Muslims are also not allowed to fight during this month. The New Year usually falls in the month of September/October."
Muslims follow lunar calendar to calculate their New Year and other festivals. The Islamic New Year is celebrated on the first day of the Muharram. Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar, however, is 10-12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, which is why the New Year falls on a different date every year.
Jude Sheetal or Baisakhi (Maithili New Year)
In Bihar, people observe New Year on April 14 but sometimes it falls on either 13 or15 April, depending upon the Vikram Samvant, the traditional calendar in Bihar and Nepal. The first month, as per the calendar, is called Baisakh.
"The celebration involves feasting, exchanging gifts, and also visiting homes of friends and families on this auspicious day," said Gaurav Kumar, a resident of Delhi, who hails from Bihar. Gaurav added, "We seek blessings from our elders and begin the day by offering prayers and performing puja."
The Bihar government has officially named it Mithila Diwas and has declared a public holiday in the state on that day. Nepal has also declared a national holiday on First Baisakh of Vikram Samvant. Interestingly, Bihar's New Year coincides with other states such as Tamil Nadu, Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Punjab and Odisha.
"We, Gujaratis, celebrate all the festivals, including New Year, with much fanfare. New Year falls a day after Diwali in the month of October. It's called Bestu Varas and is a very auspicious day for us," explained Rahul Patel from Gujarat.
He said, "We visit temple in the morning and also take blessings from elders on that auspicious day. The best part of the celebrations are Gujarati sweets and dishes, especially lapasi, which is made of wheat, jiggery and ghee, and also other sweets like mohanthal and barfi."
The shopkeepers and businessmen, Rahul said, start working on that day only after offering puja. On this day, the people of Gujarat also perform the Govardhan puja. Buying new goods and dresses and preparing sweets are all part of the celebration. Gifts and sweets are then distributed among friends, neighbours and relatives.
Vishu is celebrated with much fervor in Kerala on 14 April. The tradition of Vishu kani is performed on this day. A Keralite friend explained, "On New Year's eve, mothers prepare a special tray of traditional food, fruits, flowers and gifts. It includes raw rice, jackfruit, betel leaves, fresh lemon and also a metal mirror. It is considered that seeing this tray the first thing in the morning of New Year's Day would bring in good luck and prosperity. So, children are led with their eyes closed to the tray as soon as they wake up early in the morning. This is called Vishu kani."
New Year falls in the month of Medam, which also marks the beginning of the harvest season. It usually falls in the second week of April, according to the Malayalam solar calendar.
Marwari community in India celebrates festivals with immense exuberance and charm. They celebrate New Year on the day of Diwali in the months of October or November, depending upon the Hindu calendar.
On this day, prayers are offered to Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha. Devotees pray for prosperity and wealth. Being one of the auspicious occasions in India, the celebrations on this New Year is equally splendid. Also, Satyanarayan arti is an important ritual on this day. Delicacies to fall for on this day are sweet vermicelli, halwa and Puri. Also sweet dishes like Gulab Jamun, Badam Phirni, Peda, Besan Ke Ladoo, Rasmalai, Jalebi, Karanji, Channar Payesh and many more are prepared on the eve of Marwari New Year.
Baisakhi is a very important occasion in Punjab. It marks the beginning of Punjabi New Year and is celebrated with pomp and fervor. It usually falls on 13 or 14 April. Most importantly, Baisakhi signifies 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 festival also coincides with other New Year festivals celebrated across the country such as Tamil New Year, Pohela Boishakh and Bohag Bihu.
Manpreet Singh, explained, "Baisakhi occurs on the first of the solar month of Baisakh as per the Punjabi calendar. The day begins with the recitation of Granth sahib in gurudwaras. Also, the day is celebrated as the commemoration of the establishment of Khalsa Panth by the Sikh guru Guru Gobind Singh."
He quickly added, "As you know, Bhangra is very close to our hearts, we perform this folk dance on this day. It's our way of celebration on this auspicious day. In Gurudwaras, Karah Prasad is distributed to the devotees and a delicious vegetarian meal is served."
Men and women mark the beginning of the celebration by shouting "Jatta aayi Baisakhi"
The Sikkimese New Year, Losoong, is celebrated in the month of December as per the Gregorian calendar. Many of the traditions followed in Lossong are influenced by Losar, the Tibetan New Year. Also, the rituals followed in the celebration have a strong Buddhist influence. Actually, people in Sikkim follow the Tibetan calendar. Cham dance, or "Lama dance", is the most significant part of the festivity. Cham dance is considered to ward off any evil and also, colourful flags and garlands are hung outside houses, which are also said to protect the Sikkimese people from evil and bring in good omen.
The Sikkimese New Year celebration attracts huge number of tourists from across the globe, who come to the Himalayan state to witness the colourful festivities. Special food such as Guthuk, noodle made of grains and cheese, is prepared. In one of the interesting rituals, special breads are prepared and items like sugar, chilli, salt, coal and wool are hidden inside. The item that you find inside the bread is said to foretell your nature. For instance, if one finds chilli inside the bread, the person is believed to be talkative. Besides, consumption of locally-made liquor chhaang is also an essential part of the festival.