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A New Dawn….

A new dawn with a new moon, in the month of March-April, heralds a fresh new year in our country. It is that time of the year when our traditional plants like neem, mango and gulmohar bloom, indicating the beginning of new cycle and time to get ready for a new beginning.

India being a country of festivals, we celebrate our traditional new year with the same fervour as the English new year. March-April is the month when  the traditional new year begins in most part of the country, known by different names. It is called Baisakhi in Punjab(Apr.13), Ugadi in AP & Karnataka(Mar.16), Bohaag Bihu in Assam(APR.15), Poila Baisakh in West Bengal(Apr.15), Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra (Mar.16), Mahabishuba Sankranti in Orissa (Apr.14), Cheti chand of sindhis (Mar.17), Navreh in Kashmir(Mar.16), Puthandu in Tamil Nadu(Apr.14), Vishu in Kerala (Apr.15), Cheiraoba in Manipur (Apr.14) and Chaitti in Himachal Pradesh(Mar.16). Everywhere the traditional hindu new year is welcomed with special prayers, colourful celebrations and feasts.

Calculation of Hindu New Year-
India has always been primarily an agrarian country. Hence our calendar depends on the movement of the earth and moon in relation to the sun which determine the seeding and harvesting cycle of crops. The harvest season comes around mid march and April, when our new year begins. The calculation of New Year starting from the month of Chaitra (March) or Baisakh (April) is based on Surya Siddhanta, an ancient Indian text on astronomy. Various scholars like Aryabhatt, Bhaskar etc. made changes in the calendar according to their astronomical changes and calculations based on them.

The Hindu calendar is based lunar calendar. Our day begins with local sunrise, unlike midnight of English calendar. Hindu month begins on the first day of new moon, the day after Amavasya (no moon). The first month of Hindu year is at the time when the sun crosses the equator and shines at it’s brightest. Initially new year began with Agrahayan (November), but due to precession ( shift of axis) of the sun, the beginning of new year is supposed to have shifted to chaitra and baisakh.

In the month of chaitra (March-April), the sun transits into the first zodiac Aries or Mesh rashi. The names of hindu calendar months also depend on which rashi (zodiac) and nakshatra (fixed stars)  the sun and moon are located at that time. For example, when the sun transits in the mesh rashi in a lunar month  and moon is in the chitra nakshatra, the month is named as chaitra; when sun transits into vrishabh rashi (Taurus) and moon is in vishakhs nakshatra, the month is named vaisakh. Similarly moon is in pushya nakshatra in paush, in the phalguni nakshatra in phalgun and so on. There are 12 rashis and 12 lunar months.

Another popular Hindu calendar is the Vikram Samvat, started by and named after King Vikramaditya of Ujjain. The New Year, according to vikram samvat, begins with deepavali. This New Year is mostly followed by the trading communities. Gujarat which has a majority of trading population, celebrates it’s new year Bestu Baras on the Deepavali day.

The name of the New Year festival may be different in different regions, but the spirit and way of celebrations are almost same every where. People visit temples and gurudwara on this special day to seek the blessings of God for a happy and prosperous new year. At home too special offerings are made to the deities and traditional special dishes are prepared for a special New Year feast. People decorate the house with rangoli and alpana and wear new dress to mark a fresh new beginning. Evenings mark community celebrations with traditional dance and music and distribution of sweets to spread joy and happiness all around and loads of good wishes for a happy new year for each and everyone in the society.


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