I am a traveler/backpacker, writer/editor, amateur photographer, yoga enthusiast, and music aficionado living and working in Mumbai, India. Read about my travels in India and elsewhere at https://nomadicrhythms.wordpress.com/
Beginning of a New Lunar Calendar Year in India and Asia
It's New Year time! Hindu communities in the south and west of India as well as in Manipur in the northeast of India, and people from the Sindh region of Pakistan celebrate the beginning of a new year every year in the month of March or April. It is also celebrated as a new year in Indonesia and Mauritius. This new year is known by different names in different regions Ugadi/Yugadi (Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Konkan belt), Gudi Padwa (Maharashtra), Thapna (Rajasthan), Cheti Chand (Sindh, Pakistan), Sajibu Nongma Panba (Manipur), Nyepi (Indonesia, mainly in Bali).
These communities follow the Hindu Lunar Almanac, according to which a new month/year begins the day after a new moon. This calendar year varies from a few days to up to a month in relation to solar calendars and Gregorian calendar. There are some other Indian and Asian communities that celebrate their new year usually on the 13th or 14th of April, in a similar fashion to these above communities, but follow the solar calendar due to which their dates differ.
Each community celebrates their new year in a different way, with special food preparations, religious rituals, and cultural traditions like music and dance.
In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, one of the main rituals is the making and consuming of a special mixture on this day. It consists of Neem flowers (Indian lilac) bitter for sadness Jaggery (Traditional cane sugar) or ripe bananas sweet for happiness and joy Green chilies hot for anger
Tamarind juice sour for disgust Salt saltiness for fear Raw green mango tang for surprise
The mixture is, thus, symbolic of a blessing that you may have a balanced life in which there is a bit of everything and to accept it all as a part of life. This is followed by wishing each other for the new year saying "Yugadi Habbada/Hosa Varshada Shubhashayagalu" in Kannada or "Yugadi Shubakankshulu" in Telugu, which mean "Greetings of the Festival/New Year". Sweets like bobbatu and holige (flat breads with sweet stuffing made of cooked and ground jaggery/sugar, and lentils), and payasa (flavored and sweetened milk, like a pudding) are prepared in many households on this day. This is followed by the Panchanga (almanac) Sravanam, where an elder of the house reads out the general forecast for the coming year.
For the Sindhi community, this day is special as it marks the birth of their patron saint Ishtadeva Uderolal, commonly known as Jhulelal. It is an auspicious day where they worship water which is considered to be the elixir of life, by making offerings of sugar, fruits and flowers along with an oil lamp. They wish each other saying "Cheti Chand Jyon Lakh Lakh Wadayun Hujan", meaning "Many Greetings for the Festival".
In Manipur, where it is also known as Sajibu Cheiraoba, people decorate their houses and a huge feast is prepared which is first offered to the deity before being consumed by everyone. This is followed by climbing to the top of the Cheiraoching, which is believed to help them excel in life and rise to greater heights.
In Maharashtra and parts of the Konkan region, each house makes a Gudhi which is placed on a window sill on the right side of the main door of the house. It consists of a bamboo stick wrapped with bright yellow or green cloth and decorated with brocade. Neem and mango leaves, sugar and red flowers are then tied around this, topped with a small copper or silver pot. It signifies happiness and good luck, and is believed to ward off evil bringing success and victory. Special food preparations include shrikhand (flavored hung curd), puran poli (sweet flat breads), and a special type of kheer (flavored sweetened milk, like pudding) made from sweet potatoes.
In Bali, Indonesia, it is seen as a day of introspection, a withdrawing from the without to the within, in a bid to get closer to God. There is an almost complete shutdown of the island on this day from 6am till 6am the next day. No one, local or tourist, is allowed to be out on the streets or on the beaches, and the lone airport as well as jetties on the island are closed. No entertainment, no lights, no travel and no work-related activities are done during this day. This is done so people can concentrate on following the Catur Brata, or the four types of physical and spiritual withdrawals or refrains to be observed on this day.
This day, thus, is a mix of introspection, prayer, blessings and goodwill, along with lots and lots of mouth-watering delicacies and a general sense of well-being and celebration of life!