Most parts of India celebrate the Hindu new year in April as per the solar/lunar calendar, starting with ‘Chaitra’ month. This falls on the 13th, 14th, or 15th of April as per the Gregorian calendar and the respective regional calendars. From Kashmir to Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra to Assam, many states step up their celebrations as per their traditions. The Hindu lunar new year traditions across India and around the world enjoy a common base – celebrating a new beginning and worshipping the ‘panchang’ for the upcoming year. Prayers are offered for prosperity and well being. Here is the list of regional names given to this festival. Read on to unravel the secrets of how much we Indians have in common despite our differences.
Hindu Solar/Lunar New Year Starting With Chaitra Month – Names and States That Celebrate
Ugadi or Yugadi
The Ugadi festival is the new year for those who hail from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It usually falls towards the end of March or the beginning of April. In 2021, Ugadi falls on the 13th of April. The celebrations include wearing new clothes, offering prayers to God for a prosperous new year ahead by placing the panchang. Ugadi pachadi (bevu bella) is a chutney with six tastes that symbolise that the new year will have a mix of experiences we will have to embrace.
Gudi Padwa festival is celebrated in Maharashtra, Goa, and the Konkan regions to mark the beginning of spring and the new year’s birth. Traditionally it is observed between the end of March and the first half of April. It falls on the 13th of April in 2021. Gudi Padwa rangoli is the speciality of the festival in which a Gudhi flag made of flowers, neem and mango leaves and a copper or silver vessel at the top.
The word Navreh was traditionally the Sanskrit word ‘Nava Varsha’, meaning new year. All Kashmiri Hindus celebrate this Kashmiri new year throughout the world in March or April; it falls on the 13th of April in 2021. It is a belief that the Saptarishi era started on this day, and the first rays of the sun fell on the Chakreshwari. Goddess Sharika is the deity worshipped on this day. A large thali (plate) is offered to the goddess – rice & coins represent food and wealth; paper & pen represent knowledge; the mirror helps to reflect on oneself; wye (bitter herb), and walnuts is the symbol of acceptance to the bitterness in life.
Sindhi Hindus celebrate Cheti Chand to mark the beginning of the lunisolar calendar year. The first month of the Sindhi calendar is Chet. It is celebrated on the day the crescent appears after the New Moon day, i.e. the Amavasya. It is also the birth anniversary of Lord Jhulelal and hence is also known as the Jhulelal Jayanthi. The Sindhi community believes that Lord Jhulelal is the incarnation of Lord Varuna (God of Water). Folklore says that when Mirkhshah threatened them to change faiths or else face dire consequences, they prayed for 40 days on the Sindhu river banks. Their prayers were answered through a prophecy. It said that a divine child born to a couple in Nasarpur would be their saviour. So it happened that though Mirkhshah tried to kill the incarnation but conceded defeat in the end. Hence Cheti Chand is celebrated as the new beginning, and prayers are offered to the Lord. It is usually celebrated between the end of March and the mid of April each year. In 2021 Chet Chand is observed on the 13th of April.
The Chaitra Navratri, as the name suggests, is a Nav-Ratri means nine nights. The festival is celebrated for nine days in the months of March-April. It is also known as the Vasant Navratri, as it falls during the spring season. It also marks the first day of the Hindu calendar in the first month, i.e. Chaitra. The first day of Chaitra Navratri is celebrated as Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra and Navreh in Kashmir. It is also celebrated across other parts of North & Western India. The Chaitra Navratri starts on April 13th 2021, i.e. on the moon’s waxing phase and concludes on the Ram Navami (birthday of Lord Ram) nine days later, on the 22nd. Devotees worship Goddess Durga, the destroyer of evil, by lighting diyas (lamps) and seek her blessings.
Vaisakhi is the harvest festival of Punjab celebrated during the harvesting season of the rabi crops. Pronounced as Baisakhi, this marks the beginning of the Sikh new year. It falls either on the 13th or 14th of April. In 2021, it falls on April 13th. Celebrated extensively in Punjab, Haryana and other north Indian states, Vaisakhi is the commemoration of the Khalsa Panth of warriors under Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1699. Hence it is also a celebration of the birth of the Khalsa way of life among Sikhs. It is a vibrant festival of colours celebrated with great pomp and show with men performing the ‘Bhangra’ and women performing the ‘Gidda’. Gurudwaras hold special kirtans; Sikhs visit holy shrines after bathing in rivers or lakes. For all Indians, the Vaisakhi is also a grave reminder of the Jallinwala Bagh massacre in 1919.
The Tamil Puthandu translates into Tamil New Year. Following the lunisolar calendar, the 1st day of Chittirai is celebrated as Puthandu by Tamils worldwide. Celebrated mostly on the 13th or 14th of April, it is a public holiday in Tamil Nadu and Srilanka. In 2021, Puthandu falls on the 14th. Special rice flour kolam designs on the floor are drawn, creating positive vibes. The new year is welcomed by cleaning the house, wearing new clothes and worship. Like the Ugadi of the neighbouring states, Tamils also make the special Puthandu Mangai-Pachidi. This comprises of neem flowers (bitter), chillies (hot), mango (sour), jaggery (sweet) and salt (salty) to indicate that life is a combination of all flavours. A tray consisting of mango, jackfruit and banana – the three traditional Tamil fruits referred to as ‘mukkani’ is offered to the almighty along with betel nut leaves, areca nut and flowers. The new Tamil Panchang is also part of the worship. After worship, the young take the blessings of the elders in the house.
The Hindu Malayalis of Kerala celebrate Vishu to mark the beginning of the new year. It falls on the first day of Medam month of the Malayalam calendar, which is mostly on the 13th-14th of April. Vishu signifies prosperity for the entire year. Hence Malayalis start the day by sighting the “Vishu Kani,’’ a mix of gold and yellow (auspicious) colours. The Vishu Kani is arranged on the previous day. On the Vishu morning, the whole family is ushered into the room with closed eyes, and the first thing they see is the Vishu Kani. The items kept for the Vishu Kani includes a photo or idol of Lord Krishna, the Uruli (Brass vessel), fruits and vegetables like banana, jackfruit, split coconut, mango, cucumber (kani vellari), etc. The Kani also contains rice, salt, mirror, gold ornaments, money, sacred books, kasava mundu (new cloth), betel leaf, areca nut, kani konna (Cassia fistula flower) and lime. A lamp with five wicks is lit next to the idol of Lord Krishna. Prayers are offered for a prosperous year ahead. The traditional Sadya is served. Elders give VishuKaineettam (tradition of giving money) to the younger members of the family.
Bisu Parba is the most important festival of the farming community of the Tulus of Karnataka. It is also celebrated by people in the Kasargod, Udupi and Dakshina Kannada regions. Bisu denotes the beginning of agricultural activities and is observed according to the Sauramana Panchanga (Solar calendar) on the 13th, 14th or 15th of April each year. Bisu Parba is very similar to the Vishu celebrated by Malayalis. The Bisu Kani, which is very similar to the Vishu Kani, is arranged. The Kani consists of freshly plucked fruits and vegetables, a Kalasige (wooden pot used to measure rice), gold ornaments, money, a mirror and all things auspicious. Sighting of these items before the sun rises is believed to give an auspicious start to the New Year. It is followed by a family get together and lunch. The youngsters seek blessings by placing boiled rice at the feet of the elders and offer salutations. In return, the elders’ gift money or clothes.
Sajibu Cheiraoba is also known as Sajibu Nongma Pānba or Meitei Cheiraoba. It is the start of the Meitei new year for Sanamahism religious followers in Manipur. Sajibu means the first month, Chahi means year, Chei means stick, and loaba means declaration. The Meitei people celebrate the festival by offering uncooked food to their deity Lainingthou Sanamahi and serve an even number of sumptuous foods to all the gathered kith and kin. Traditionally, men cook, and women help in washing and cutting the ingredients.
Buisu, also known as Boisu, is the new year celebrated by the people of Tripura on the 1st of the month of Vaishak. It predominantly falls on the 14th of April and the 15th on leap years. The Tripuri term ‘bisi’ means year. The Tripuri celebrate nature and animals the most, and on Buisu, they do the same. The domestic animals are bathed, decorated and worshipped. They wear new clothes, family and relatives gather together for a grand feast.
Bwisagu and Bohag Bihu
The new year festival of the Bodo community of Assam is celebrated as Bwisagu. It’s a week-long celebration that begins on the 14th-15th of April. It is also celebrated as Bohag or Rongali Bihu in larger Assamese communities. It falls on the month of Bohag, and hence Bwisagu is the Bodo version of the Rongali Bihu. In both festivals, the cow is celebrated with special care. It is bathed, given new ties and offered fresh vegetables. They commemorate the faithful animal that helps them in their agriculture the entire year. The Bodos worship their deity ‘Bathou’, who is ‘Lord Shiva’, and they offer pigs, pigeons, chickens and ducks as a sacrifice. ‘Apong’ or Rice Beer is the drink everyone indulges in. In both Bohag Bihu and Bwisagu, the Husori (traditional dance) is performed in an open courtyard. The young ones and married couples seek the blessings of elders.
Pana Sankranti is observed as the beginning of the new year by Odiyas either on the 13th or 14th of April. This year it falls on April 14th. The astronomical significance of the sun transiting to the Mesha Rasi (Aries constellation) shining bright on the Equator known as the Visubha Rekha. Hence it is also known as the Mesha Sankranti Maha Visubha Sankranti in Orissa. People take a holy dip in the early hours of the morning and perform Homam. People offer cold sweetened water called ‘pana’ to everyone. Pana is a mix of wood apple pulp, yoghurt and coconut grating with seasoned pepper and ginger. Hence the name Pana Sankranti. Prayers are offered to the Thulasi plant, and as a symbolic gesture to provide relief from the coming summer, a water pitcher with a small hole is hung over the plant. This is refilled every day throughout summer.
Pahela Baishakh or Nabo Barsho
Also known as Poila Boishakh, the Pahela Baishakh celebration is the first day in the Bengali calendar, and this is celebrated as the new year by Bengalis around the globe. Poila means holy, and Boishakh is the name of the first month in the Bengali calendar. It is celebrated in West Bengal and parts of Assam and Tripura, no matter the religion. Pahela Baishakh is observed either on the 14th or 15th of April; in 2021, it falls on the 15th. Bhapa Chingri and Potoler Dorma are two of the Pohela Boishakh food dishes prepared for the occasion.
The Maithili New Year is celebrated as Jur Sital by people in the Mithila region that comprises certain parts of Bihar, Jharkhand and Nepal. Jur Sital falls on the 14th of April each year following the Tirhuta Panchang. Baishakh is the first month of the Maithili calendar as well. It is celebrated as Mithila Diwas by the Government of Bihar and is a declared public holiday. It is also Jayawardhan Raja Shailesh’s birthday, the popular king who rose to power from being an ordinary citizen.
Popular in the Khamti tribe in Arunachal Pradesh, Sangken is a social, religious festival that welcomes the new year. Sang-ken is derived from the Sanskrit term Sankranti. The festival falls in the month of Naun-ha of the Khamti Calendar, corresponding to the Baishakh Sankranti. The first day of the new year usually falls between the 13th-15th of April each year. The celebration is all about cleansing Lord Buddha with holy water to invoke his blessings. Hence Sangken is also referred to as the ‘Festival of Water’. Traditionally, water sprinkling on people was part of the festivities, but the modern tradition involves pouring water on each other. Sangken is also celebrated in countries like Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.
Wishing you all a Happy Lunar New Year!