Gudi Padwa marks the first day of Marathi Calendar and is celebrated primarily in the southern states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. A joyous festival, Gudi Padwa is also a sacred occassion and its origins can be traced back to various legends often embedded in Hindu religious scriptures.
The Brahma Purana holds that it was on a Gudi Padwa day that Lord Brahma created the world again after a devastating deluge and time began to tick from this day forth. The day marks the start of Satyug (era of truth and justice). Gudi Padwa is said to be one of the 3 and a half days in the Indian Lunar calendar called "Sade-Teen Muhurt". Every moment of this period is considered auspicious to start new ventures. The word ‘padwa’ is derived from Pratipada, the first day of a lunar month or the first day after no-moon day (Amavasya). Gudi Padwa is specially dedicated to the worship of Lord Brahma. Hence, special flags known as "Gudi"s are erected in honour of Lord Brahma. These are also called "Brahmadhvaj" or ‘the flag of Brahma’. 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.
As per another popular legend, hoisting the "Brahmadhvaj" commemorates the corronation of Rama after his return to Ayodhya from 14 years of exile. The setting up of the 'Gudi' before the main entrance of every house symbolizes similar arrangement by the people of Ayodhya to express their happiness over the victory of their beloved prince Rama over the demon king Ravana and his return to his own kingdom after a long gap. The 'Gudi' stood as a victory flag for the Ayodhyans. Gudi Padwa is said to mark this happy incident, an occassion of great significance for religious Hindus. It is also believed that on this day, Rama attained victory over King Bali.
For some Maharashtrians, the festival marks the conquests of the Maratha forces led by the great hero Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Maharashtrians have great regard and admiration for their famous Maratha leader who fought bravely to establish a Maratha kingdom free from Mogul domination.
According to this legend, the "Gudi" is evocative of the brave Marathas returning home from their successful expeditions of war. The festival is thus, a celebration of victory and prosperity.
A popular belief is that the displaying of the Gudi wards off evil and invites prosperity and good luck into the house.