In the western part of India, the people of Maharashtra will usher in the New Year on Gudi Padwa on 31 Mar 2014. This New Year celebration in Maharashtra is known as Gudi Padwa and it is one of the major festivals of this region.
The date of the celebration is decided by the Hindu calendar followed in India and according to that, the date of Gudi Padwa falls on the 1st day of the month of Chaitra, which is also known as the Chaitra Shukla Pratipada. The day also declares the onset of the spring and thus the beginning of the harvest season in the state.
According to the holy Hindu scripture, Bramha Purana, Lord Brahma created the universe on the day of Gudi Padwa and hence, the date is considered auspicious to bring in the new year. Marathis also believe that it is the day when Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after slaying the demon king of Lanka, Ravana.
On Gudi Padwa Marathis will erect a gudi or a flag on their entrances. The flag is known as ‘Brahmadhwaj’ and is believed to be the harbinger of happiness, prosperity and victory.
Gudi Padwa is a three and a half day festival when the Marathis decorate the flag with garland, sugar crystals, flowers, mango leaves and then put a kalash at the top before erecting the ‘gudi’ at the front door. The ‘gudi’ is said to ward off the evil and bring in good luck and hope for the household.
Gudi Padwa has a great cultural influence over Marathis and they take this opportunity to showcase their traditions and customs. They will take special care in decorating gudis as they are considered to be very auspicious and important.
They normally wrap the long bamboo pole in bright color clothes. Earlier a gold or silver kalash was tied to the pole but now people use kalash made of copper or other economical metals. As is the custom, the gudi is hung at the entrance at sunrise and removed before the sundown.
The celebration is marked by both rituals and festivities. Marathis offer a special puja of neem leaves, tamarind, jaggery, ajwain and gram pulses to the gudi. They would then eat the offering as they believe it can cure various blood related ailments. Cleaning the house and wearing new clothes are also the integral parts of the celebration. It is also believed that buying gold and silver on Gudi Padwa would ensure year long prosperity and as a result, long queues can be seen in front of jewelry shops across Maharashtra.
Preparing elaborate meals are considered essential and you can taste some of the best traditional dishes during this time namely puran poli, soonth pak, shrikhand, and jalebis.