Gudi Padwa Rituals

Gudi Padwa marks the first day of the Marathi Calendar and is an occassion of great merriment for Maharashtrians. A number of rituals are associated with this fantastic festival. Read on to know about some of them and learn about the festival that is often called the Maharashtrian New Year's Day. If you want to share this article with your friends and loved ones, just click here and pass on this page to them. Nava varshachya hardik shubhechya to you all!
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Gudi Padwa is the New Year's Day for the people of the Indian state Maharashtra. Celebrated on the first day of the Chaitra month, Gudi Padwa falls sometime at the end of March and the beginning of April according to the Gregorian calendar. It is also the first day of Marathi Calendar. In the state of Andhra Pradesh the festival is celebrated as Ugadi, as Yugadi in Karnataka, as Poila Baisakh in West Bengal and as Bihu in Assam. The Konkanis and the Sindhis observe the occassion as Sanvsar Padvo and Cheti Chand respectively.

In the places of its observance, Gudi Padwa signifies the beginning of Vasant or the Spring season. Hence, Spring cleaning is a tradition indispensable to the festival. On the festive day, people in villages rise early in the morning and take an extensive oil bath. Then they sweep clean the courtyards in their houses and plaster them with fresh cow-dung. Women and children draw beautiful rangoli designs to meticulous detail on their doorsteps. The strikingly colourful patterns capture the mood of the spring season and brighten up the festive ambience.

Like in any other festival, people dress up in their gorgeous best on Gudi Padwa. New apparels are specially bought for the occassion as it is a time for family gatherings. Early in the morning of the festive day, people wear new clothes, adorn their houses with colorful rangolis and offer oblations to God, praying to Him for a prosperous new year.

The hoisting of the "Gudi" is the main ritual of the festival. The Gudi is a long bamboo pole to the tip of which is tied a bright green or yellow silk cloth adorned with brocade (zari). Over this is tied gathi (a type of sweet), neem leaves, coconuts, a twig of mango leaves and a garland of marigold flowers that signify a rich harvest. On this is placed an empty, inverted jug of water (tambya), made of brass, copper or silver and held up to the sky. On the festive day, the people of Maharashtra follow a tradition of erecting gudis next to the right side of the main entrance of their houses or in the localities. Then, they draw intricate rangoli designs on the floor before it. Thereupon, everyone eagerly waits to usher in the new year. The flag has a symbolic significance. Scriptures mention that it was on a Gudi Padwa day that Lord Brahma created the universe. Hence, this flag is called ‘the flag of Brahma’ (Brahmadhvaj). Some also refer to it as ‘the flag of Indra’ (Indradhvaj). After the Gudi is set up, everyone worships it and performs a prayer in honour of Lord Brahma. Then, boys and young men of the locality climb atop each other forming a pyramidal structure. One person climbs this pyramid to break the coconut kept in the gudi.

Traditionally, Maharashtrian families prepare shrikhand and Poori on this day. Many families make special dishes like Pooran poli or sweet roti, soonth panak and chana to celebrate this occassion. A unique custom related to the festival is the eating the bittersweet leaves of the neem tree. Sometimes, a paste of neem leaves is prepared and mixed with ajwain, gul/gur (jaggery), and tamarind. People can either have the neem leaves or the paste of them. The consumption of the bittersweet neem leaves is supposed to begin the festivities and believed to purify the blood and strengthen the body’s immune system against diseases. In Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, this Ugadi festiival includes preparation of an elaborate sauce known as Ugadi Pachchadi which includes neem, jaggery, raw mango and tamarind juice.

Gudi Padwa is considered to be an auspicious day to start new business and ventures. For farmers, it is the time to plough their field and distribute food to laborers. In many Maharashtrian households, housewives prepare delicious ‘puran poli’(sweet roti) and distribute it to neighbors, relatives and friends.
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