Hindu New Year's Celebrations by Region

The Many Regional Celebrations

Gudi Padwa
A ritual during Gudi Padwa. Getty Images

Although the Indian National Calendar is the official calendar for the Hindus, regional variants still prevail. As a result, we have a host of new year festivities that are unique to various different regions in this vast country. Characteristic of the Indian cultural mélange, Hindus in various states of India celebrate the new year in their own ways. And not all of these fall on the same day!

The Hindus of Kashmir start their new year--Navreh--in mid-March.

At the same time, the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh begin their new year--Ugadi. The Marathas celebrate their new year with Gudi Padwa, and the Sindhis observe Cheti Chand, the coming of new year, during the same time. Usually, the Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Kashmiri and Sindhi New Year falls on the same day--the first day of the month of Chaitra, heralding the advent of spring.

New Year is Called "Ugadi" in Andhra and Karnataka

People in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka states in the south of India believe that Lord Brahma began the creation of the universe on this auspicious day of Ugadi. People prepare for the new year by cleaning and washing their houses and buying new clothes. On the Ugadi day, they decorate their houses with mango leaves and rangoli designs,  pray for a prosperous new year and visit the temples to listen to the yearly calendar--"Panchangasravanam"-- as priests make predictions for the coming year.

Ugadi is also an auspicious day to embark on any new endeavor.

In Maharashtra and Goa, the New Year Celebration is Gudhi Padwa

In Maharashtra, the new year is celebrated as Gudhi Padwa--a festival that heralds the advent of spring (March-April). Early on the morning of the first day of the Chaitra month, people finish their ablutions, wear new clothes and decorate their houses with colorful "rangoli" patterns.

A silk banner is raised and worshiped, and greetings and sweets are exchanged. People hang " gudhis" on their windows on this day to celebrate Mother Nature's bounty. (A "gudi" is a decorated pole with a brass or a silver vessel placed on it.)

Cheti Chand--the Sindhi Thanksgiving Day!

The Sindhis celebrate Cheti Chand on their New Year day, which coincides with Gudhi Padwa in Maharashtra and Ugadi in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Cheti Chand falls on on the first day of the month of Chaitra, also called Cheti in Sindhi. This day is observed as the birthday of Jhulelal, the patron saint of the Sindhis. On this day, Sindhis worship Varuna, the water god and observe a number of rituals followed by feasts and devotional music, such as bhajans and aartis.

Mid-April New Year's

In mid-April, the Bengalis usher in the new year with the Poila Baishakh celebrations, the Assamese in the northeast with Bihu festivals, and the Tamils in the South with Puthandu. Around this time, Hindus in Punjab celebrate Baisakhi, the springtime harvest festival marking the beginning of their new year, and the people of Kerala in the south of India welcome their new year--Vishu.

The Bright Baisakhi of Punjab

Baisakhi, traditionally a harvest festival, is celebrated on the 13th or 14th of April every year, marking the Punjabi New Year.

People celebrate the joyous occasion by performing Bhangra and Giddha to the pounding rhythm of the dhol and ring in the New Year. Baisakhi also marks the founding of the Khalsa brotherhood by Sikh Guru Govind Singh.

The New Year (Naba Barsha) Falls on Poila Baishakh in Bengal

The first day of the Bengali new year falls between 13th and 15th of April every year. Called Poila Baishakh, it's a state holiday in the eastern state of West Bengal and a national holiday in Bangladesh.

To welcome the new year or Naba Barsha, people clean and decorate their houses and invoke Goddess Lakshmi, the bestower of wealth and prosperity. All new enterprises begin on this auspicious day, as businessmen open their fresh ledgers with "Haal Khata--a ceremony in which Lord Ganesha is summoned and customers are invited to settle all their old dues and offered free refreshments.

The people of Bengal spend the day feasting and participating in cultural activities. 

The Boisterous Bohaag Bihu of Assam

The northeastern state of Assam ushers in the new year with the spring festival of Bohaag Bihu or Rongali Bihu, which marks the onset of a new agricultural cycle. Fairs are organized in which people revel in happy games. The celebrations go on for days, providing a good time for young people to find a companion of their own choice! Young belles in traditional attire sing "Bihugeets" and dance the traditional "Mukoli Bihu". The festive food of the occasion is the "pitha" or rice cakes. People visit each other's houses, exchange gifts and sweets and, greet each other a Happy New Year!

Kerala Wishes You a Happy Vishu!

"Vishu is the first day in the first month of Medam in Kerala, the beautiful coastal state in southern India. The people of this state--the Malayalees--begin the day early in the morning by visiting the temple and looking for any auspicious sight, which they call Vishukani. 

The day is full of the elaborate traditional rituals with tokens called Vishukaineetam, usually in form of coins, being distributed among the downtrodden. People wear new clothes--Kodi vastram--and celebrate the day by bursting firecrackers and enjoying a variety of delicacies at an elaborate lunch called the sadya with family and friends. The afternoon and evening is spent in the Vishuwela.

Tamil New Year: Varsha Pirappu/ Puthandu Vazthukal

The Tamil-speaking people across the globe celebrate Varsha Pirappu or Puthandu Vazthukal, the Tamil New Year, in mid-April. It is the first day of Chithirai, the first month in the traditional Tamil calendar. The day dawns by observing Kanni or viewing auspicious things, such as gold, silver, jewelry, new clothes, new calendar, mirror, rice, coconuts, fruits, vegetables, betel leaves and other fresh farm products. This ritual is believed to usher in good fortune.

It is followed by a ritualistic bath and almanac worship called Panchanga Puja. The Tamil Panchangam, a book on New Year predictions, is anointed with sandalwood and turmeric paste, flowers and vermilion powder and is placed before the deity.

Later, it is read or listened to either at home or at the temple.

On the eve of Puthandu, every household is thoroughly cleaned and tastefully decorated--the doorways are garlanded with mango leaves strung together and Vilakku Kolam decorative patterns adorn the floors. Donning new clothes, the family members gather and light a traditional lamp, the kuthu vilakku, and fill niraikudum, a short-necked brass bowl with water, and embellish it with mango leaves while chanting prayers. Then they visit neighboring temples to offer prayers to the deity. The traditional Puthandu meal consists of pachadi--a mixture of jaggery, chillies, salt, neem leaf or flowers, and tamarind; plus green banana and jackfruit preparation and a variety of sweet 'payasam' dessert.