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Hindu Nav Varsh by Dr. Ram Vinay Pandey

There are numerous days throughout the year celebrated as Hindu Nav Varsh (New Year). Its observance is determined by the lunar, solar, lunisolar calendar or the Panchanga. The exact day of the Hindu Nav Varsh changes every year, in accordance with the calculations in the solar sidereal years. Hindus in different regions (states) in India and across the world celebrate the Nav Varsh in their own unique way, following customs and traditions that are exclusive to that particular region. It is celebrated differently in different parts of the country.


Gudi Padwa

Gudi Padwa, also called Samvatsar Padvo, is celebrated on the first day of the Chaitra month of the Hindu calendar and is also the first day of the new year for the people of Maharashtra and the Konkan region. The name Gudi Padwa is made using two words- ‘Gudi’, which means flag or emblem of Lord Brahma, and ‘Padwa’, which means the first day of the phase of the moon. Rabi crops are reaped after this festival as it also signifies the arrival of spring.

As per Hindu Vedic scriptures, it is said that on this day Lord Brahma created the universe. It is also said that Lord Brahma further created the concept of days, weeks, months, and years on the day of Gudi Padwa. The festival is called Ugadi in South India and is considered to be the first day of the creation of the universe. This is why Lord Brahma is worshiped on this day.


A Gudi is a flag made using a long bamboo shoot and a bright colourful silk scarf. The bamboo is covered with this scarf and decorated with neem leaves, mango leaves, and a garland of flowers. This bamboo shoot is then covered with an inverted vessel made of silver/copper, and this signifies the victory of good over evil. It is said that this ritual saves households from all types of evils and wards off negative energies. On the day of this festival, people start their day with an oil bath, after which they wear new clothes, and decorate their homes by making rangolis. Prepare the Gudi and then do the pooja. Once the pooja is done, the prasad is distributed to everyone. There are a number of food items that are made to celebrate the festival of Gudi Padwa.


The popular main dishes are Kothimbir Vadi, Batata Vada, Sabudana Vada, Chakli, Poori Bhaji, Batata Bhaji, and Masala Bhaat, and some delightful desserts are Puran Poli, Kaju Modak, Coconut Laddoo, Shrikhand, Kesari Bhaat, Sweet Shakarpare, Banana Sheera, and Basundi.



Ugadi, the New Year for the people living in the Deccan area, also celebrates the arrival of spring. This is the time of the year when entire nature appears to be drowned in the festive spirit and there lies the spiritual significance of Ugadi. Like the new leaves, new buds, fresh breeze and bright sunlight, the Ugadi festival also symbolizes the birth of a new era. It is celebrated on Shukla Paksha (bright fortnight) of the first month of Chaitra of the Hindu calendar, and also the first season, Vasanta –Ritu Spring. As all these elements works together, the Ugadi festival’s importance is very significant.

According to the Hindu belief, Lord Brahma, the creator, started creating the earth on this auspicious day. Yugaadi is one among the several names of Lord Sri Maha Vishnu. Lord Vishnu is addressed as Yugaadikrit, the one who is the creator of Yugas. So, this day is the most auspicious day to worship the Para Brahma, who is the creator of the Time element. According to the astrological calculations, it is considered that Lord Sri Krishna’s Nirvana commenced in the early hours of the bright fortnight of Chaitra that corresponds to 18.02.3102 BC, and this day also marks the beginning of the Kaliyug. So Ugadi is also believed to be the onset of Kaliyuga. Even the great Mathematician Bhaskaracharya professed that Ugadi historical significance as the commencement of the New Year and month.



Baisakhi is a spring harvest festival for Sikhs and Hindus. It is usually celebrated on April 13 or 14 every year. It marks the Sikh new year and commemorates the formation of Khalsa panth of warriors under Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. Vaisakhi is also an ancient festival of Hindus, marking the Solar New Year and also celebrating the spring harvest. Baisakhi was also the day when colonial British empire officials committed the Jallianwala Bagh massacre at a gathering, an event influential to the Indian movement against colonial rule.

On the festival day, for many Hindus, it's an occasion to bath in sacred rivers such as Ganges, Jhelum and Kaveri, visit temples, meet friends and party over festive food. For Sikhs, Gurdwaras are decorated and hold kirtans, Sikhs visit and bath in lakes or rivers before visiting local Gurdwaras, community fairs and nagar kirtan processions are held, and people gather to socialize and share festive foods. This festival is considered to be a very important day for the Sikhs as, in Sikhism this is the foundation day of Khalsa Panth. This day also has astrological importance and significance. Khalsa was the name of the collective body of all the initiated Sikhs, represented by the Five Beloved-Ones (or the Panj Pyare in Punjabi). It can also be called the Guru Panth, the embodiment of the Guru.

According to Vedic scripturesnav , Goddess Ganga descended to Earth on this very day. In her honor, people gather along the banks of the river Ganga (Ganges) to take their ritual bath. Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj on this day, in the year 1875. Hence, this is a big day for that community as well. Even Buddhists celebrate this day as Vesakha, Vesak, Wesak or Vaisakha. It commemorates the birth, the awakening, and the passing away of Gautama Buddha.



Putthandu, also known as Chitthirai-Tirunaal, is celebrated as the Hindu Nav Varsh day across Tamil Nadu. This day falls in mid-April and is usually celebrated around the 14th or 15th of April each year. Incidentally, this is regarded as the first day of the Tamil New Year among all Tamil people living in Singapore, Malaysia, Reunion and Mauritius. The Tamil people follow the vernal equinox or Nirayanam. According to this, the first day of the new year usually falls on 14th April, in the month of Chitthirai. On this day, people greet each other by saying, "Putthandu Vazhtthukkal" or "Iniya Tamizh Putthandu Nallvaazhtthukkal", meaning, "best wishes for a sweet (prosperous) New Year". The people of Tamil Nadu celebrate this day in a big way. In the temple city of Madurai, the Chitthirai Thiruvizha is celebrated at the Meenakshi Temple there. A massive exhibition, called Chitthirai Porutkaatchi, is also held in the premises.  In some parts of Southern Tamil Nadu, this day is also called Chitthirai Vishu. The entrances to homes are decorated with elaborate kolams or rangolis and the women of the house get busy preparing a great feast. Some households also include neem flowers and raw mangoes, which symbolize growth and prosperity.



Vishu is an important festival for residents of Kerala, as also in Mangalore and Udipi. In fact, this day is second only to Onam for Malayalis from around the world. This day also marks New Year's day according to the Kolla Varsham or the Malayalam calendar.



The most important ritual on this day is the "Vishukkani", which literally implies the "first thing seen" on the morning of Vishu. For this ritual, people arrange articles such as raw rice, fresh vegetables and fruits, coconut with betel leaves, arecanut, the sacred Konna Poo (the bright yellow Cassia fistula variety of flowers), sacred texts, gold, silver, coins and money in front of a metal mirror. A nilavilakku or lighted lamp is placed beside this arrangement.

This Vishukkani was prepared the previous night, just before going to bed. The custom is to get up from bed before dawn and proceed towards the arrangement with closed eyes, only opening them to look at it. This is done so that one sees only good and auspicious things first thing in the morning, on the day of the New Year. Malayalis take a ritual oil bath, after which they visit temples in the vicinity. Many of these temples also maintain a Vishukkazhcha for the devotees to take a look at. Later, verses from the Ramayana are read out before a gathering of family members. Then the day is celebrated with a lot of fervor with people lighting the Vishuppadakkam or firecrackers, wearing and gifting new clothes (Puthukodi) younger family members and elders giving Vishukkaineettam (giving money) to youngsters, including children; even including the domestic helpers of the household.

Family members then assemble to partake of a grand Saddhya or feast, consisting of equal quantities of salty, sweet, sour and bitter food items. The Vishu Kanji and the Thoran are the two most important items served during the Saddhya. The Kanji, which is nourishing and very tasty, is prepared with rice, coconut milk and some select spices. 

Maha Vishuva Sankranti

In Orissa or Odisha, the Nav Varsh day is referred to as the Maha Vishuva Sankranti or the Pana Sankranti. The Oriya month of Mesha starts from this day on and that is why it is also called Mesha Sankranti.

People fill a small pot with Pana or a sweet drink. There is a tiny hole at the bottom of the pot, which allows the fluid to fall from it. People first offer a mixture made of horse gram, banana and curd to the sacred Tulsi plant in their homes, before consuming the same. They then make special offerings to the Shivalinga, Shalagrama, Hanuman, the various forms of Devi Parvati and other deities as well. Many also undertake Jhaamu Yatras to major Devi temples in Odisha.

The tribals in Odisha perform a ritual called Danda Nata, Danda Nacha or Danda Jatra, which goes on for a period of 13 days. This is one of their most ancient traditional forms of welcoming in the New Year. This ritual, dedicated to Goddess Kali, is a group event, where devotees invoke Her grace and blessings. People believe that performing this ritual destroys negativity and sin and brings peace and prosperity, along with a good harvest all year round.

The end of the last day is referred to as Pana Sankranti or Meru Sankranti. People undertaking this ritual completely avoid non-vegetarian food during these 13 days, even avoiding the intake of onion and garlic.


Cheti Chand

Cheti Chand is an important festival for Sindhis and is also celebrated as the Nav Varsh day by Sindhis hailing from both India and Pakistan. This festival is celebrated by Sindhis from around the world as well. This day for Hindus falls on the second day of the month of Chaitra. Sindhis refers to this month as Chet, and hence the name, Cheti-Chand. The Sindhi community celebrates this day to commemorate the birth of their Ishtadeva, Uderolal, more popularly known as Jhulelal, who is regarded as the Patron Saint of the Sindhis. On this day, people worship water, the giver of life. Many Sindhis take the Baharana Sahib to a nearby lake or river. The Baharana Sahib comprises a Jyot or oil lamp, Phota or cardamom, Misiri or sugar crystals, Fal or fruits and Akha. Behind all these sits the Kalash, with a coconut, covered with cloth, flowers and leaves. Sindhis also place an idol of their Pujya Jhulelal Devta and offer prayers to him.


Chaliho Sahab

Devotees of Jhulelal offer their obeisance to Chaliho Sahab. Traditionally, they undertook rituals for forty whole days and nights and stood vigil on the banks of the river Sindhu. The men did not shave, use soap or detergent and did not wear new clothes either. They would just wash their clothes, leave them to dry and then wear them again. In the evenings, they would worship Lord Varuna, the God of water and rain, singing songs in his praise, praying for salvation. Even today, those who follow the traditional ritual of Chaliho, celebrate this day as a day of Thanksgiving to Jhulelal. 

Bestu Varas

Bestu Varas is the Gujarati Nav Varsh day - this day falls on the day just after Diwali. Some Gujaratis also follow Vikram Sampat. On the day of Bestu Varas, people greet each other, saying "Nutan Varsha Abhinandan" or "Saal Mubarak". This day starts by bursting with plenty of firecrackers, starting as early as 4am. Young boys gather and sell raw salt, calling it "Sabras", meaning, "all tastes". People decorate their homes with aaso palav and marigold torans or door hangings and draw colorful rangolis at their doorstep. People then take an elaborate ritual bath, wear new clothes and visit temples. Then is the time to cook up a tasty feast and partake of the same. People also visit their friends, relatives, and neighbors to wish them a happy and prosperous New Year. 

Chaitti and Basoa

Chaitti and Basoa are celebrated as part of the festivities to usher in the Nav Varsh in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Chaitti is the first day of the Chaitra month and so, it is considered to be very important and auspicious for people residing in this part of India.  Basoa, also referred to as Bishu, is celebrated on the first day of the Baisakh month. On this day, the farmers and aboriginals living in this region participate in this festival with great joy and enthusiasm. Three days prior to this festival, people start making small cakes called Kodra, and then wrap them up in leaves, leaving them to ferment. On the day of Bishu, they invite their relatives to break these cakes and eat them with honey and sweet water mixed with jaggery.


Pohela Boisakh/Juir-Sheetal

Pohela Boisakh, also called Poila Boisakh, is the Bengali Nav Varsh day, which is celebrated all over West Bengal, extending to the Bengali people in Assam and Tripura, even crossing national borders and influencing the residents of Bangladesh. This festival falls on the day after Vishuva Sankranti and is also called Choitro Sankranti in Bengali - hence, it usually falls on the 14th or the 15th of April. As seen above, this festival brings together all Bengalis, irrespective of their regional location. In Bangladesh, this day has been fixed and falls on the 14th of April each year. This day has also been declared as a national holiday in this country.



Cheiraoba is the Nav Varsh Day festival, celebrated by the people of Manipur. This elaborate and joyous festival is celebrated with a lot of verve all over the state. The name "Cheiraoba" is actually a combination of two words, namely, "Chahi" or "Year" and "Laoba", which means "Declaration". So, this festival declares or announces the New Year, also bidding goodbye to the past year.

This day falls on the same day as Gudi Padwa, and so this state too celebrates the festival along with the rest of the Indian states.



Navreh is celebrated as the Nav Varsh day in Kashmir. This day, too, coincides with the first day of Chaitra Navratras. The people residing in this part of India consider this day to be as sacred and holy as Shivartri day. In fact, this day is even mentioned in the Nilamat Purana and the Rajtarangini of Kashmir.

The people here celebrate this second Navratra (the first one is during the 9 days of the festival of Navratri, concluding with the Dusshera) in commemoration of the victory of their great King, Lalitaditya. Navreh falls on the same day as Gudhi Padwa or Ugadi.


The Maithili Nav Varsh

Juir Sheetal, which is also referred to as Baisakhi or Pahil Baisakh, is observed as the first day of the Maithili New Year. This day normally falls on the 14th of April for the Maithils residing in the Mithila region of India and Nepal. They also sometimes refer to this day as Nirayana Mesh Sankranti or Tirhuta Nav Varsh. This day is also referred to as Hanumat Dhwajadanam; the day when Hanuman’s flag, that is, Mithila’s flag, is to be flown. Incidentally, people additionally consider this as the birthday of Raja Shailesh or Salhesh, the King of the Himalayan region of Mithila, who was victorious in several battles and also conquered several regions in that area. In fact, every village in Mithila, even now, has a "Rajaji’s Gahwar", which is worshiped by all the people, especially by the Paswans. This day, hence, symbolizes community harmony as well.

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