Gudi Padwa, New Year’s Day for Indians, Marks the Start of Spring
by Susan Leem, associate producer
Bollywood stars took to Twitter to wish their fans Gudi Padwa, or Happy New Year. India’s vast cultural and ethnic diversity accounts for celebrations at different times and places. Grand festivals are held to celebrate the start of vasant or spring.
The people of Maharashtra observe the new year as Gudi Padwa on the first day of Chaitra, the first month of the Hindu lunar calendar (which is April 4th this year). It is also known as Ugadi (or Yugadi) in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Vishu in Kerala, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, and Navreh in Kashmir, just to name a few. The Hindu holiday literally means “the start of an era” and for some celebrates the creation of the world.
An important event of the day is the hoisting of Gudi, a victory flag, onto bamboo poles. It has a copper or brass pot on top of it and is displayed in front of homes.
Intricate rangoli (traditional decorative folk art) designs appear on doorsteps in vibrant colors.
(photo: Harini Calamur/Flickr)
(photo: Preshit Deorukhar/Flickr)
The color orange is signficant for Hindus, often used as part of religious ceremonies and celebrations.
Also families begin the festivities by eating the bittersweet leaves of the neem tree, which is said to have medicinal properties.
Neem leaves. (photo: Wendy Cutler/Flickr)
This day marks the end of one harvest and the beginning of another, which agricultural communities signify as the beginning of a new year.
Neem twigs are bundled for sale near Manek Chowk in the Old City. (photo: Meena Kadri/Flickr)
The Western (Gregorian) calendar greets the first day of spring around mid-March, nearly a quarter of the way into the new year. But doesn’t the agrarian approach feel more reliable, literal, and frankly inspiring than staring into the endless white of another January 1st snow? Here’s to letting the first green buds of spring and a new harvest signify a brand new year.