India, known for its cultural heritage, presents a fascinating assortment of New Year’s celebrations that extend beyond the mere changing of dates. Embarking on this exploration, we delve into the essence of what makes the New Year in India truly exceptional—an occasion that’s both diverse and profound.
Imagine a land where New Year’s is not a day on the calendar; it represents a spectrum of traditions, each with its own captivating narrative. From the festivities of Hindu New Year festivals celebrations like Diwali and Ugadi, where homes come alive with decorations, to the introspective moments observed during Muharram—a time for remembrance and self-reflection in the Islamic New Year—India’s observance of the New Year encompasses a tapestry of beliefs and customs.
However, India’s celebration of the New Year extends beyond these examples. The Sikh community gathers in unity and devotion to mark their New Year’s festivities. Additionally, traditions such, as Parsi New Year and Buddhist New Year contribute their flavours to this medley.
Let’s Explore The Many Faces of the New Year in India
Bohag Bihu – Assamese New Year
Bohag Bihu, a vibrant festival in Assam, India, goes by the name Rongali Bihu as well, signifying the Assamese New Year’s inception. In mid-April, an air of joy and festivity envelops the region. This celebration spans seven days, divided into three parts: Chot Bihu, Goru Bihu, and Manuh Bihu. On Chot Bihu, cattle take the spotlight; Goru Bihu pays homage to cows on the second day, and Manuh Bihu, on the third day, is a tribute to humanity. New clothes, delectable traditional fare, and engaging cultural events colour the festivities. It’s a spirited commemoration of life, love, and boundless happiness.
Cheti Chand – Sindhi New Year
The New Year is observed as Cheti Chand, Jhulelal Jayanti (birthday), Dariyalal Jayanti, or New Year’s Day by Sindhis. The Cheti Chand festival is observed on the first day of the Chaitra month in accordance with the Hindu calendar. Jhulelal is regarded as a manifestation of the water god Lord Varun. The Sindhi community was given justice by Jhulelal, who also protected them against the Muslim King Mirik Shah. The event is observed by members of the Sindhi community through various ceremonies, fairs, feasts, social gatherings, etc.
Gudi Padwa – Marathi New Year
Gudi Padwa, the Marathi New Year, emerges with the first light of the Chaitra month in the Hindu calendar, marking the advent of spring. Amidst the blossoms and the reaping of Rabi crops, this vibrant festival ushers in a fresh year. “Gudi,” meaning flag, is a key feature—houses adorned with a bamboo staff bearing vibrant fabric, neem leaves, and garlands.
Linked to the creation of the universe by Lord Brahma, Gudi Padwa resonates with another tale—the triumphant return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after his victory over Ravana. The unfurling of the gudi symbolizes Rama’s conquest over darkness.
Maharashtra brims with fervour during Gudi Padwa. Homes gleam after a thorough clean, awash with colourful rangoli patterns and flowers. New attire adds to the festive spirit. Temples witness a stream of devotees seeking blessings for the coming year. Amidst this, special treats like Puran Poli, Shrikhand, and laddoos grace tables. Gudi Padwa is more than a celebration—it’s a vibrant tale that weaves spirituality, culture, and unity.
Pana Sankranti – Odisha New Year
Pana Sankranti, known as Maha Vishuba Sankranti too, lights up the heart of Odisha, India. This festive gem ushers in the New Year as per the solar calendar, gracing us every April 14th. The air vibrates with zeal and devotion as people make their way to temples, seeking blessings and offering prayers.
The day’s star is the special elixir, Pana, brewed from water, jaggery, fruits, and spices. It’s an offering to Lord Jagannath, shared among devotees as prasad. Culinary delights like chenna poda and dalma also grace the occasion, adding flavours to the festivities.
On this day, Odisha becomes a vibrant canvas. Cultural events, festivals, and processions colour the landscape while rangolis and torans ornament the homes. Beyond the traditions, Pana Sankranti is a celebration of life that exudes love and joy. It’s a happy time for the community to gather together and honour its history, distinctive culture, and enduring commitment to tradition.
Pohela Boishakh – Bengali New Year
Pohela Boishakh signals the commencement of the Bengali calendar, driven by the sun’s journey. It lights up either on the 14th or 15th of April, adapting to each year’s cadence. This celebration takes place at the heart of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, but its joyous rhythm resonates among Bengali communities worldwide. Pohela Boishakh symbolizes fresh beginnings and renewed aspirations.
This celebration takes place at the heart of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, but its joyous rhythm resonates among Bengali communities worldwide. Pohela Boishakh symbolizes fresh beginnings and renewed aspirations. Homes gleam from top to bottom, new garments drape figures and temples welcome believers seeking blessings. The streets burst with life during public fiestas, boasting fairs, cultural galas, and vibrant parades. The “Prabhat Pheri,” a merry morning procession, harmonizes songs and dances, painting the day even brighter.
In the tapestry of Pohela Boishakh, the “halud bati” stands tall, a brass pot adorned with rice, flowers, and tokens. Its magic touch promises a year of prosperity and fortune, underscoring the optimism that colours this joyful new beginning.
Puthandu – Tamil New Year
‘Puthandu‘ represents the Tamil New Year’s Day and it is celebrated in the Chithirai beginning, which is the first month as per the Tamil Calendar. The auspicious occasion of Puthandu is also popularly known as Varusha Pirappu or the birth of the New Year and falls on the 13th or 14th of April according to the Gregorian Calendar. People celebrate the festival full of happiness to bring new opportunities, prosperity, blessings, and good health. In Tamil puthandu, neem flowers and mango leaves have been taken and they will do some pachadi in it. This is the symbol of goodness, growth, and prosperity for the family.
Ugadi – Telugu New Year
According to the Telugu calendar, January 1 is known as Ugadi. It is observed on the first day of the Chaitra month, which on the Gregorian calendar is in March or April. The spring celebration of Ugadi heralds the start of a new year, the entrance of spring, and the rebirth of the natural world. The Sanskrit words “yuga” (age) and “adi” (beginning) are the source of the name “Ugadi.” Its literal meaning is “the beginning of a new age.”
In the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka, Ugadi is enthusiastically observed. People put on new clothing, cleaned their houses, and adorned them with flowers and rangolis. They go to temples to pray and ask for blessings for the next year. Special meals are made, including pachadi, a concoction of six distinct tastes.
Vaisakhi – Punjabi New Year
Punjabis and Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi, a spring celebration. In the Punjabi solar calendar, it symbolizes the start of the new year as well as the harvest season. Vaisakhi is especially significant in Sikhism because it commemorates the founding of the Khalsa Panth, the Sikh martial fraternity, by Guru Gobind Singh. Vaisakhi is derived from the Sanskrit word “vaisakha,” which means “bright.”
Vaisakhi is widely celebrated in Punjab and other regions of India, as well as by Sikhs and Punjabis worldwide. People clean their homes, make rangolis and flowers, and put on fresh attire. They go to Gurdwaras, or Sikh temples, to pray and seek blessings for the new year. Special meals, such as sarson ka saag and makki ki roti, are created. Vaisakhi is a time for new beginnings and new beginnings. It’s a day to rejoice in the arrival of spring and the promise of a new year.
Vishu – Malayalam New Year
Vishu is the Malayalam calendar’s New Year’s Day. It is observed on the first day of the Medam month, which occurs in April according to the Gregorian calendar. Vishu is a spring celebration that celebrates the start of the new year, the entrance of spring, and the rejuvenation of nature. Vishu is derived from the Sanskrit word “visu,” which means “equal.” The sun and moon are said to be in perfect alignment with Vishu, generating a sense of balance and harmony.
Vishu is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Kerala, Tulu Nadu, and Mahe of India. People clean their homes, decorate them with flowers and rangolis, and wear new clothes. They visit temples to offer prayers and seek blessings for the new year. Special dishes are prepared, such as Vishu Kani, which is a display of auspicious items.
Bestu Varas – Gujarati New Year
The Gujarati New Year, Bestu Varas, is celebrated the day following Diwali. In the Vikram Samvat calendar, it falls on the Pratipada Tithi of the Kartik month. Bestu Varas’ Gregorian date varies from year to year, although it generally occurs in October or November. Bestu Varas is a day for new beginnings and new beginnings. People clean their homes, make rangolis and flowers, and put on fresh attire. They go to temples to pray and receive blessings for the new year. Special foods such as undhiyu, khichdi, and laddoos are cooked.
The opening of new account books is one of the most important rituals on Bestu Varas. This is a custom followed by business owners and dealers who close their old account books on Diwali and open new ones on Bestu Varas. The new account books are adorned with auspicious symbols, and prayers for success in the following year are offered. Bestu Varas is a time when family and friends gather to celebrate the new year. It is a day to let go of the past, settle any misconceptions, and usher in fresh beginnings in a prosperous manner.
Navreh – Kashmiri New Year
According to the Kashmiri Hindu calendar, Navreh is observed on the first day of the bright half of the month of Chaitra (March-April). The word “Navreh” is derived from the Sanskrit nava Varsha, which means ‘new year’ in English. Navreh is also celebrated by Kashmiri Pandit families who migrated to the plains around 1900.
On the eve of Navreh, a platter of unhusked rice with bread, a cup of curd, a little salt, a little sugar candy, a few walnuts or almonds, a silver coin, a pen, a mirror, some flowers (rose, marigold, crocus, or jasmine), and the new panchanga or almanacks are kept and seen first thing in the morning. The rice and coins symbolize our daily food and prosperity, the pen and paper represent our search for knowledge, and the mirror signifies reflection.
Hijri – Islamic New Year
The Hijri New Year, also known as the Arabic New Year, occurs on the first day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is a lunar calendar, which means it is based on lunar cycles. Muslims all throughout the globe celebrate the Hijri New Year.
The Islamic calendar, which was founded in 622 CE, begins with the Hijri New Year. This was the year in which the Prophet Muhammad and his companions moved from Mecca to Medina. Because the Hijri calendar is based on the moon cycle, it is 11 days shorter than the solar year. In the Gregorian calendar, this indicates that the Hijri New Year advances by 11 days each year. The Hijri New Year is a time for Muslims to reflect on the previous year and set new year’s resolutions. It is also a day to commemorate the hijra, or migration, of the Prophet Muhammad to Medina.
Losar – Arunachal Pradesh New Year
Losar is the Tibetan New Year, which is celebrated by the Monpa people in Arunachal Pradesh. It is a three-day holiday commemorating the start of the new year, the entrance of spring, and the rejuvenation of nature. The name Losar is composed of two words: ‘Lo’ (year) and ‘Sar’ (new). The celebration is held to fend off evil spirits and to usher in a new year filled with pleasure and prosperity.
The first day of Losar is known as Sangsol Losar, which translates as “cleansing Losar.” People clean their homes and workplaces on this day, getting rid of everything old or undesirable. They also go to temples to pray and receive blessings for the new year. The second day of Losar is known as Tsokpa Losar, which translates to “offering Losar.” People give sacrifices to the gods and goddesses on this day and pray for good health, money, and happiness in the next year.
The third day of Losar is known as Gutor Losar, which translates as “scattering Losar.” To fend off ill luck, people burn effigies of malevolent spirits and scatter grain on this day. They also go to see friends and family to ring in the new year.
Nowruz – Persian New Year
Nowruz (Persian: pronounced [nouz]) is the Iranian New Year, which is celebrated by people from all over the world. It is a holiday based on the Iranian Solar Hijri calendar, which occurs on or around the spring equinox—March 21 on the Gregorian calendar.
Nowruz translates to “new day” in Persian. It is the season of new beginnings and fresh begins. People clean their houses, put on new clothing, and spend time with friends and family. They also eat unique foods like sabzi polo (herb rice) and haft sin (a table arrangement with seven symbolic objects). Nowruz is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As we come to the end of our cultural tour of the various faces of the New Year in India, we hope you have gotten a better understanding of the diversity and depth of Indian culture. The country’s numerous New Year’s festivities attest to the country’s varied cultural legacy, and they provide an occasion for people to gather and celebrate their traditions and customs.
We hope that this article has piqued your interest in learning more about the many New Year festivities in India and exploring the country’s diverse cultural environment. We invite you to take part in these events and enjoy the joy and happiness they provide.