How many times in a year do you celebrate a new year? It was a new year day yesterday, yet again! I have celebrated it twice already. Yesterday was the third time. And there is one more to come.
Of course there is 1st of January that is now celebrated all over world. Most of the Hindus celebrate new year which is nearby start of the spring – Gudhi padawa and Vishu among them. While some, typically Marwaris and Gujaratis, celebrate it during mid-fall during Diwali festival (festival of lights). But then all of us wish each other a happy Diwali and a prosperous new year on this festival.
Gudhi padawa: It makes me really nostalgic. On a typical new year day, rush started early in the morning as we all got up to clean and decorate the house. Wearing new clothes, we prepared to raise a Gudhi out of our balcony. Gudhi typically consists of a bright zari (brocade) cloth tied to the tip of a long bamboo over which gaathi (sugar crystals), neem leaves, a twig of mango leaves, a flower garland are placed along with inverted copper or silver pot. Some say it was started to welcome King Rama as he reached the kingdom after victory. Some say that the tradition of Gudhi was started by Chhatrapati Shivaji as a symbol of victory. In any case it is an auspicious first day of the year as per lunar calendar (transit of moon into Aries) and symbolises victory of good over evil.
While we gathered all the material for Gudhi, mom cooked some delicious food typically involving Shrikhand and Puri. Apart from this delicious treat, tradition involves eating bitter neem leaves crushed together with jaggery that symbolizes welcoming all the experiences, sweet and bitter moments, during new year.
Vishu: Typically after a week from Gudi Padawa that is mainly celebrated in Maharastra state comes Vishu. It is typically celebrated in Kerala state in South India. It’s a first day of year as per zodiac calendar that signifies transit of Sun into Aries. The important part of celebration is Vishukkani (that is which is seen first on Vishu). Rice, fruits etc. are arranged in the prayer room (in front of idols of worshipped god) night before Vishu. Oil lamps are lit alongside it. Custom is to wake at the dawn and go to the prayer room with closed eyes and then see this sight first before anything else. It brings a prosperous year ahead full of whatever you offered to god. Of course, food is an integral part of any festival. And typical Kerala food feast prepared on this day is called Vishu Sadya (feast). It is only this year one of the Vishu delicacy is a bitter neem preparation (just like Gudhi Padwa). Is it just a coincidence? :)
While it brings a great joy to celebrate all these festivals that signify all the good things, doesn’t celebrating new year many a times also signify each day is a brand new day that can be a start of good things to come!