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The festival of Gudi Padwa is a unique affair of the Hindus, especially in Maharashtra where it is celebrated with great pomp and show. Read on to know more about Gudi Padwa festival

Gudi Padwa

Gudi Padwa or 'Samvatar Padvo' marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year. It is the first day of the Hindu calendar in the 'Chaitra' month. According to the Gregorian calendar this festival falls between March and April. It is believed that the world came into existence on this day when Lord 'Brahma' created the universe. The festival accounts for the period of harvest and marks the beginning of spring. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Pratipada' which means the first day after the new moon. This festival is mainly celebrated across Maharashtra as the 'Marathi' New Year with great pomp and show. In Karnataka, it is celebrated as 'Ugadi' and Sindhis celebrate this festival as 'Cheti Chand'. Hoisting a 'Gudi' is a key custom on this day, and it is carefully positioned on the right side of the entrance of the house facing outwards. The 'Gudi' symbolises victory.

Why Do We Celebrate Gudi Padwa - Significance?
Gudi Padwa is symbolises love and devotion. With over half the population of India sustaining its life by practising agriculture, 'Gudi Padwa' brings great joy with the abundance of grain and fruits especially mangoes. It celebrates the joy of reaping crops. Rabi crop is harvested during this period. It is also the onset of sowing new crops. Since the sun assumes the position directly in line with the equator, it marks the commencement of the 'season of life' or spring.

Gudi Padwa is one among the three and a half auspicious days called 'Muhurts'. 'Gudi Padwa', 'Akshay trutiya' and 'Dasra' (Vijayadashmi) each make up one, and the first day of the Hindu lunar month of 'Kartik' comprises half of the total three and a half auspicious days. The special feature of these days is that unlike other days when one has to choose an auspicious moment to perform a ritual, in contrast, on these auspicious days one does not need to, as every moment of these days is considered auspicious.

This day also celebrated the defeat of Bali at the hands of Rama. The Shakas too defeated the Huns on this day. This day also commemorates the start of the Shalivahan calendar after Shalivahan vanquished his enemies.

'Gudi Padwa' was celebrated when Maharashtra's Great Warrior, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, returned home after expanding his empire over most parts of western India. People worship the Gudi that flies like a flag as a symbol of victory. The tradition of raising the Gudi was initiated by Shivaji and from then on, this tradition has been followed by every Marathi household to welcome the New Year.

What is Gudi?
'Gudi' adorns the entrance of all Marathi houses. A Gudi is a stick covered in a bright red, yellow or saffron cloth decorated with brocade or zari that is covered with sugar crystals, neem leaves, twigs of mango leaves and a garland of red flowers. A new 'kalash' or pot made of silver, copper or bronze is placed over the Gudi in an inverted position.

The area where the Gudi is placed is cleaned thoroughly and the Gudi is positioned in such a way that it is visible from far and doesn't miss the eye. It indicates a sign of prosperity and keeps all evil at bay. While hoisting the Gudi, 'Shiva-Shakti' principle is accentuated. It is believed that the divine consciousness emanating during sunrise and absorbed at that time lasts longer. Thus, the Gudi should be worshipped within 5-10 minutes after sunrise

How is Gudi Padwa Celebrated � Festivities
Marathi Hindus begin their day with a holy oil bath and wear new clothes.Those who reside in the villages choose to take a dip in a sacred river next to the local temple.This ritual is meant to cleanse their bodies and souls and prepare them for a new year.

Traditionally, Maharashtrian women wear a 'kashta' or a 'nauvari' which is a nine-yard saree tucked at the back, while the men are dressed in a 'kurta pyjama' and wear a saffron or red turban.

First the worship of God as a routine ritual is done. A'mahashanti' is performed on New Year's Day. The shanti begins with the worship of Lord Brahma, as He is responsible for creating the universe on this day. He is offered 'davna' (a kind of fragrant plant) during the worship. Later a sacrificial fire is lit and offerings are made through fire or a 'havan'. Then Lord Vishnu who manifests himself in countless forms is worshipped. Worshippers chant the mantra 'I bow to Lord Vishnu who manifests in innumerable forms.' Then the Brahmans are offered money/ presents or 'dakshina' and historical and mythological texts are presented to them. It is believed, that by performing this ritual one is cleansed of all sins, no new sins are generated, and the lifespan increases. On this day, the deity of that day of the week is also worshipped.

The women wake up early in the morning and make a 'swastika rangoli' in the front yard. The rangoli is made of powdered rice, vermillion and turmeric. These days, women also use flowers and candles to beautify the rangoli. The rangoli wards off negative energy and brings good luck. Flowers are offered to Lord Brahma on this day. Unlike most Indian festivals where 'prasad' comprises of something sweet, Gudi Padwa is one of the few festivals where a bitter-sweet 'prasad' called 'Bevu-Bella' (Neem and Jaggery) is given. It carries the thought that life consists of both joy and sorrow, good and bad and one must bear these in equal proportions in the New Year. Maharashtrian families also prepare 'shrikhand' and 'PuranPoli' on this day. Konkanis make 'Kanangachi Kheer', a variety of Kheer made from sweet potato, coconut milk, jaggery, rice and flour. Even Sannas are prepared on this day. Buying gold or a new vehicle or anything new is considered to bring prosperity on this day.