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One Country, Many New Years

As we enter the year 2020, let us explore the unique New Year traditions across different parts of India and appreciate the strength of our diversity.

Ishmeet Nagpal 02 Jan 2020

Indian Cultures

The big 2020 is finally here, and as the world crosses this milestone, India will celebrate various New Year festivals in the months to come. Though the exact dates may vary, most of these festivals fall in March/April of the Gregorian Calendar. The regions which follow a Solar Calendar consider New Year as the ‘Sankranti’ of the first month of Solar cycle commonly known as ‘Vaisaakh’. Generally, this day falls during 14th or 15th of the month of April. Those following Lunar calendar consider the period between two ‘Purnimas’ (full moons) as one month and the month of Chaitra (corresponding to March-April) is considered the first month.Local calendars in India fall under both these categories like Nanakshahi calendar, Parsi calendar, Hindu calendar, Islamic calendar, and many more.

Most New Year days correspond with the harvest season as India has historically been an agricultural country. Vaisaakhi is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in North India to mark the New Year. For Sikhs, it holds added significance as this was the day chosen by the tenth Guru- Guru Gobind Singh Ji- to establish the ‘Khalsa Panth’. Vaisaakhi is celebrated with much aplomb, dancing, singing, wearing new colourful clothes and attending kirtan in Gurudwaras like the Golden Temple. Vaisaakhi celebrations also remind us of the sombre history of Jallianwalah Bagh massacre which happened on this day in 1919.

Maithili New Year (also known as Jude Sheetal or Pahil Boishakh) is the celebration of the first day of the Maithili new year. It is celebrated in Bihar and parts of Nepal that fall under a common region known as Mithila. This day usually falls on 14 April on Gregorian calendar and Maithils celebrate by cooking Hilsa fish and rice. This is also called Nirayana Mesh Sankranti and Tirhuta new year. The occasion is celebrated in keeping with the Maithil Panchang, a calendar used in the Mithila region. This coincides with Pohela Boishaakh celebrated in West Bengal. Colorful displays of arts and crafts, along with music shows mark the ‘Nobobarsho’ (New Year) celbrations.

The famous Bihu dance is performed to celebrate Bohag Bihu (Assamese New Year) which lasts for seven days usually beginning on 14th April. This festival also adheres to the marking of a New Year by the harvest season and coincides with Vaisaakhi. The same day is also celebrated as Vishu festival in Kerala, Mangalore and Tulu Nadu (the regions where the language Tulu is spoken) where the first month of the year is called Medam. The day is celebrated with fireworks, wearing new clothes (Puthukodi), and the eating a special meal called Sadhya which is traditional meal prepared with multiple sweet and savoury dishes, typically served on a Banana leaf.

Ugadi or Yugadi is the New Year celebration of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. It is observed in these regions on the first day of the Hindu lunisolar calendar month of Chaitra. Traditional sweets and 'Pachadi' (sweet syrup) – made with raw mangoes and neem leaves – are served with the Ugadi meal. On the same day, the Marathis celebrate the New Year asGudi Padwa by decorating Maharashtrian households with ‘Gudis’ which literally means flags erected around the household. Gudi Padwa is also associated with the arrival of spring and the harvesting of Rabi crops.

Nowruz (also known as Navroz/Navroz) is the Iranian and Persian New Year, which is celebrated worldwide by various ethno-linguistic groups. In India- Parsis, Kashmiri pandits, Zoroastrians, and some Muslim communities, celebrate Nowruz. Nowruz is the day of the vernal (spring) equinox (equinox occurs when the center of the visible Sun is directly above the equator) and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) of the Iranian calendar.It usually occurs on March 21 or the previous or following day, depending on where it is observed. On equinox, the day and night become exactly equal in terms of number of hours. On this day, families gather to observe the rituals and celebrate the coming of spring together.

The Islamic New Year (Arabic: Raʿs as-Sanah al-Hijrīyah), also called the Hijri New Year or Arabic New Year, is the day that marks the beginning of a new Hijri year, and is observed by Muslims on the first day of the month of Muharram. Since the Islamic calendar (which follows the lunar cycle) is usually 11 or 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar year, the date of Islamic New Year can vary. In 2020, the day will fall on 19th-20th August.

Sindhis mark the New Year with the celebration of Chetri Chand (also known as Cheti Chand). The festival date is based on the lunar cycle of the lunisolar Hindu calendar, it being the first day of the year and the Sindhi month of Chet (Chaitra). It typically falls on or about the same day as Gudi Padwa, Bohag Bihu, and Ugadi. The festival marks the arrival of spring and harvest, but in Sindhi community it also marks the birth of Uderolal in year 1007, after they prayed to Hindu god Varun Dev to save them from the persecution by the tyrannical ruler Mirkhshah. Uderolal (also known as Jhulelal) confronted and reprimanded Mirkhshah and became the champion of the people in Sindh, both Hindus and Muslims. Among his Sufi Muslim followers, Jhulelal is known as "Khwaja Khizir" or "Sheikh Tahit". Uday Chand, Amar Laal and Laal Sain are a few other names Jhulelal is addressed by.

There are many traditions with different names that mark the New Year for Indian people in various regions. Though the calendars, the languages, the rituals and their significance may be diverse, many festivals overlap, and so does the celebration. As we enter 2020 according to the Gregorian calendar, let us feel excited in anticipation of our very own local New Year festivals coming up in a few months and hope to celebrate together without the boundaries of caste, class and religion. Everyone deserves a ‘Happy’ New Year, let’s make it happen with compassion and love.

One Country, Many New Years

As we enter the year 2020, let us explore the unique New Year traditions across different parts of India and appreciate the strength of our diversity.

Indian Cultures

The big 2020 is finally here, and as the world crosses this milestone, India will celebrate various New Year festivals in the months to come. Though the exact dates may vary, most of these festivals fall in March/April of the Gregorian Calendar. The regions which follow a Solar Calendar consider New Year as the ‘Sankranti’ of the first month of Solar cycle commonly known as ‘Vaisaakh’. Generally, this day falls during 14th or 15th of the month of April. Those following Lunar calendar consider the period between two ‘Purnimas’ (full moons) as one month and the month of Chaitra (corresponding to March-April) is considered the first month.Local calendars in India fall under both these categories like Nanakshahi calendar, Parsi calendar, Hindu calendar, Islamic calendar, and many more.

Most New Year days correspond with the harvest season as India has historically been an agricultural country. Vaisaakhi is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in North India to mark the New Year. For Sikhs, it holds added significance as this was the day chosen by the tenth Guru- Guru Gobind Singh Ji- to establish the ‘Khalsa Panth’. Vaisaakhi is celebrated with much aplomb, dancing, singing, wearing new colourful clothes and attending kirtan in Gurudwaras like the Golden Temple. Vaisaakhi celebrations also remind us of the sombre history of Jallianwalah Bagh massacre which happened on this day in 1919.

Maithili New Year (also known as Jude Sheetal or Pahil Boishakh) is the celebration of the first day of the Maithili new year. It is celebrated in Bihar and parts of Nepal that fall under a common region known as Mithila. This day usually falls on 14 April on Gregorian calendar and Maithils celebrate by cooking Hilsa fish and rice. This is also called Nirayana Mesh Sankranti and Tirhuta new year. The occasion is celebrated in keeping with the Maithil Panchang, a calendar used in the Mithila region. This coincides with Pohela Boishaakh celebrated in West Bengal. Colorful displays of arts and crafts, along with music shows mark the ‘Nobobarsho’ (New Year) celbrations.

The famous Bihu dance is performed to celebrate Bohag Bihu (Assamese New Year) which lasts for seven days usually beginning on 14th April. This festival also adheres to the marking of a New Year by the harvest season and coincides with Vaisaakhi. The same day is also celebrated as Vishu festival in Kerala, Mangalore and Tulu Nadu (the regions where the language Tulu is spoken) where the first month of the year is called Medam. The day is celebrated with fireworks, wearing new clothes (Puthukodi), and the eating a special meal called Sadhya which is traditional meal prepared with multiple sweet and savoury dishes, typically served on a Banana leaf.

Ugadi or Yugadi is the New Year celebration of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. It is observed in these regions on the first day of the Hindu lunisolar calendar month of Chaitra. Traditional sweets and 'Pachadi' (sweet syrup) – made with raw mangoes and neem leaves – are served with the Ugadi meal. On the same day, the Marathis celebrate the New Year asGudi Padwa by decorating Maharashtrian households with ‘Gudis’ which literally means flags erected around the household. Gudi Padwa is also associated with the arrival of spring and the harvesting of Rabi crops.

Nowruz (also known as Navroz/Navroz) is the Iranian and Persian New Year, which is celebrated worldwide by various ethno-linguistic groups. In India- Parsis, Kashmiri pandits, Zoroastrians, and some Muslim communities, celebrate Nowruz. Nowruz is the day of the vernal (spring) equinox (equinox occurs when the center of the visible Sun is directly above the equator) and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) of the Iranian calendar.It usually occurs on March 21 or the previous or following day, depending on where it is observed. On equinox, the day and night become exactly equal in terms of number of hours. On this day, families gather to observe the rituals and celebrate the coming of spring together.

The Islamic New Year (Arabic: Raʿs as-Sanah al-Hijrīyah), also called the Hijri New Year or Arabic New Year, is the day that marks the beginning of a new Hijri year, and is observed by Muslims on the first day of the month of Muharram. Since the Islamic calendar (which follows the lunar cycle) is usually 11 or 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar year, the date of Islamic New Year can vary. In 2020, the day will fall on 19th-20th August.

Sindhis mark the New Year with the celebration of Chetri Chand (also known as Cheti Chand). The festival date is based on the lunar cycle of the lunisolar Hindu calendar, it being the first day of the year and the Sindhi month of Chet (Chaitra). It typically falls on or about the same day as Gudi Padwa, Bohag Bihu, and Ugadi. The festival marks the arrival of spring and harvest, but in Sindhi community it also marks the birth of Uderolal in year 1007, after they prayed to Hindu god Varun Dev to save them from the persecution by the tyrannical ruler Mirkhshah. Uderolal (also known as Jhulelal) confronted and reprimanded Mirkhshah and became the champion of the people in Sindh, both Hindus and Muslims. Among his Sufi Muslim followers, Jhulelal is known as "Khwaja Khizir" or "Sheikh Tahit". Uday Chand, Amar Laal and Laal Sain are a few other names Jhulelal is addressed by.

There are many traditions with different names that mark the New Year for Indian people in various regions. Though the calendars, the languages, the rituals and their significance may be diverse, many festivals overlap, and so does the celebration. As we enter 2020 according to the Gregorian calendar, let us feel excited in anticipation of our very own local New Year festivals coming up in a few months and hope to celebrate together without the boundaries of caste, class and religion. Everyone deserves a ‘Happy’ New Year, let’s make it happen with compassion and love.

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