Customs of Baisakhi

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In the hill state of Himachal, Baisakhi comes on a flood tide of peach blossom, with dazzling white dog roses rushing in torrents down the hillsides and somber rhododendrons suddenly turning a flamboyant red. People flock to the temple dedicated to Goddess Jwalamukhi and take a holy dip in the neighbouring hot springs.

In the plains of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, Baisakhi is time to harvest the winter crop of wheat. Time also to celebrate. Homes are spruced up and doorways hung with chains of marigold and mango leaves. The day begins with a ceremonial bath and followed by prayers. A little later, the first ripe ears of wheat are gathered and brought home to be offered to the family deities to invoke their blessings. Evening sees a mela (fair) complete with stalls and fun and games where people enjoy the end of a year of good harvest.

Baisakhi day is observed as the Naba Barsha (New Year) in Bengal. On April 14, the people take a ritual bath in the Ganga and bedeck their houses with rangoli (floral patterns) drawn on the entrance of their homes with a paste made of rice powder.

Bihar celebrates a festival in Vaishakha (April) and Kartika (November) in honor of the Sun God, Surya, at a place called Surajpur-Baragaon. This is essentially a village where, according to an ancient practice, people bathe in the temple tank and pay obeisance to the Sun God while offering flowers and water from the sacred river Ganga.

In Kashmir, Baisakhi is marked by a ceremonial bath and general festivity. In Assam, it coincides with the Goru Bihu or cattle festival when cattle are bathed, anointed with turmeric paste and decorated with flowers, before being treated to a repast of jaggery and brinjal. In Kerala and Tamil Nadu, it’s New Year time too. The Kerala New Year is conspicuous for an exchange of gifts and for alms-giving, while in Tamil Nadu, ceremonial processions are taken out, with richly caparisoned elephants swinging along to the beat of drums.

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