What you need to know about Hindu New Year

By Joe Tinkler

The placing of the sun is said to indicate the start of spring. In the Hindu world, the period also heralds the start of the first month of the religion’s calendar called Chaitra and the beginning of the Hindu New Year.

The new start, or Gudi Padwa as it is known, is celebrated across the world by Hindus but is also an important date in other cultures such as Iran’s Nowruz.
Here are some facts about how the day is celebrated.

Oil bath

For those celebrating, the day begins with rubbing oil over one’s body, before entering a nice warm bath. It is a relaxing way to get refreshed and ready for the day ahead. After this, one usually gets into some brand new clothes.

An oil bath is a great way to get ready for the celebrations ahead
An oil bath is a great way to get ready for the Hindu celebrations ahead

Raising the Gudi

It is customary for those celebrating the day to raise what is known as a ‘Gudi’ in front of their home. The Gudi, which is made up of a bamboo stick adorned with yellow or green cloth and other embellishments like mango leaves and flowers and a copper pot is placed on top to fasten everything in place. There are a few reasons why it is raised. One of which is that it represents India’s many military victories, especially of the warrior king Shivaji Maharaj’s many battles.

This is also a symbolic nod to the Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana, and is considered to be a metaphor for good defeating evil. As such, it is believed that by hoisting a Gudi outside a house, it defends a home against evil spirits.

Lord Rama is the seventh avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu
Lord Rama is the seventh avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu

The new calendar means mangoes are in abundance

To celebrate the start of spring, mangos are eaten on this day. Before thanking God for the delicious fruit, Hindus will eat a lot of them that they have bought from a nearby market. This year, sellers in Mumbai are expected to sell as many as 50,000 boxes.

Mangos are plentiful during this time
Mangos are plentiful during this time

Prasad, shrikhand and flatbreads

Other foods are important on Gudi Padwa, none more so than Prasad. Prasad is offered to the Gods and is a mix of sweet and savoury rather than just sweetness that comprises a lot of Indian celebratory foods. It is meant to resemble the good and bad of life. This may be served with different types of flatbread like puri or puran poli. Shrikhand is more in tune with traditional Indian sweet desserts and is a yoghurt-based dish that includes saffron, bashed up almonds and cardamom.

Shirkhand topped with pistachios
Shirkhand topped with pistachios 

Flowers and art

Like other celebrations in Indian custom, flowers are also key to the proceedings. Rangoli is often scattered over the entrance of a house. They are meant to be an indicator of a fresh, new start.

A young girl lighting gas lamps to punctuate some rangoli
A young Hindu girl lighting gas lamps to punctuate some rangoli

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