India is a country of many customs, traditions and languages. Though it is one nation, various regions celebrate their own festivals in unique ways. Let’s take a look at how New Year’s Day is celebrated in various traditions in Indian culture.
Ugadi is the New Year celebration of the Telugu people in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The festival is celebrated with great pomp and joy, with special dishes, games and dances. The day usually begins with several rituals worshipping Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, and Ganapathi, the god who clears obstacles. The Ugadi festival marks the time of the year when the Northern Hemisphere receives the maximum sunlight, and a special tradition is to prepare a dish using neem flowers and neem fruits. The resulting mixture is both sweet and bitter and indicates that a person must learn to handle both the sweet and bitter occurrences in life.
Puthandu is the name given to the New Year celebrations of the Tamil people in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It can fall on either April 13 or 14, in the Tamil month known as Chittrai. This day is considered the best day to begin meditation or other spiritual practices and so it usually begins with a visit to temples, where people pray for success in life. Houses are also painted anew on this day, and ladies string fresh mango leaves above doorways. Colorful kolams, which are elaborate and intricate designs made of multi-colored powders, are also drawn outside every home’s entrance.
Gudi Padwa is celebrated in the West Indian state of Maharashtra. People have several unique customs to mark this day. A cloth is usually tied at a great height, and is termed the Gudi. This is said to represent the victory of the medieval king Shivaji, who ruled over much of Maharashtra during the 1600s. Gudi Padwa is also said to mark the day when Brahma, the creator god in the Hindu pantheon, created the universe. It is considered an auspicious day to remove one’s bad karma, which means the cause and effect nature of the universe as per Hindu philosophy.
The New Year in the state of Odisha on India’s eastern coast is celebrated as Pana Sankranti. The festival’s name comes from Odisha’s traditional sweet drink named pana. Generally served in a small earthen pot, it consists of lumps of sugar mixed with water. Horse gram flour mixed with banana and curd is also consumed. Since the Puri Jagannath temple for Vishnu is located in Odisha, the New Year’s Day is seen as an auspicious time to read quotes by Krishna from the Bhagavad Gita, one of the main Hindu scriptures.
Any of the New Year’s Days are a great time to imbibe and enjoy India’s culture. What’s more, visitors from abroad are few and far between at these times of the year, and a tourist can get some great deals with a bit of bargain-hunting.