Gudi Padwa is considered as an auspicious occasion to buy
ornaments, house and other new things. It is regarded as a beginning of New Year by Maharashtrians. Read on to know about its significance.
"My neighbours are Maharashtrians
and every year on Gudi Padwa they bring sweets or some kind of goodies
over to our house," says Malini Khanna. "My family has enjoyed this unquestioningly over the years, but last year my seven-year-old son asked me what that
thing was hanging out of our neighbour's window and why they gave us sweets
every year. I told him something vague about New Year, but sheepishly had
to admit that I had no idea what the gudi was."
For both parents and children, Gudi
Padwa means a day off from work or school. While they may know that this
is the day when the Maharashtrians celebrate their New Year, most of them
would be unaware of the rites, rituals and significance of this festival.
This is a pity because in India one can learn about so many religions and
cultures firsthand because there is such a multiplicity of people living
cheek by jowl.
The celebration of springtime and harvest
This is a time of the year when the
sun's rays increase in intensity, going from mellow to hot. The crops have
been harvested and the fruits of the harvest are making their way to the
marketplaces. Mangoes, the king of fruit, ripening to orange under the
sun's warmth, are in season once again. The ripe smell of jackfruit fills
the air. Shrubs and trees are bursting into flower. Everything is fresh
and new. It looks and smells like spring (or the best impersonation of
quintessential springtime that the Indian climate can do).
Gudi Padwa, also known as Ugadi,
is celebrated on the first day of the Hindu month of Chaitra, which according
to the Gregorian calendar would fall sometime at the end of March and the
beginning of April. This festival is supposed to mark the beginning of
'Vasant' or spring. According to the 'Brahma Purana', this is the day on
which Brahma created the world after the deluge and time began to tick
from this day forth.
India was, and still is to a certain
extent, a predominantly agrarian society. Thus, celebrations and festivals
were often linked to the turn of the season and to the sowing and reaping
of crops. There is a theory that the word 'padwa' might have its roots
in the Sanskrit word for crop, which is 'Pradurbhu.' The word 'padwa' as
used contemporarily means 'New Year', but this day also marks the end of
one harvest and the beginning of a new one, which for an agricultural community
would signify the beginning of a New Year. In the case of Gudi Padwa, it
is celebrated at the end of the Rabi season. The term 'padava' or 'padavo'
is also associated with Diwali, another New Year celebration that comes
at the end of the harvesting season, thus substantiating the agricultural
link to the festival.
On the festive day, courtyards in
village houses will be swept clean and plastered with fresh cowdung. Even
in the city, people take the time out to do some springcleaning. Women
and children work on intricate rangoli designs on their doorsteps, the
vibrant colours mirroring the burst of colour associated with spring. Everyone
dresses up in new clothes and it is a time for family gatherings. Specialities
like soonth panak and chana usal are eaten on this day.
Traditionally, families are supposed
to begin the festivities by eating the bittersweet leaves of the neem tree.
Sometimes, a paste of neem leaves is prepared and mixed with ajwain, gul,
tamarind and jaggery. All the members of the family consume this paste,
which is believed to purify the blood and strengthen the body's immune
system against diseases.
While the 'padwa' part has been explained,
you're probably wondering what a 'gudi' is. A 'gudi' is a pole on top of
which an upturned brass or silver pot called a kalash is placed. The gudi
is covered with a colourful silk cloth and decorated with coconuts, marigolds
and mango leaves that symbolize nature's bounty. On Gudi Padwa, you will
find gudis hanging out of windows or otherwise prominently displayed in
traditional Maharashtrian households.
Some Maharashtrians see the gudis
as a symbol of victory associated with the conquests of the Maratha forces
lead by the great hero Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Gudis are also displayed
as they are expected to ward off evil and invite prosperity and good luck
into the house.
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- The Indiaparenting Team