What do you call a day that rings in a new season, where mythology and religion converge to signify everything that is new and fresh? It is called Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra and Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. The Kashmiri Pandits call it Navreh, the Konkanis know it as Samvatsar Padvo and the Sindhis celebrate it as Cheti Chand. Various names but united by the spirit of celebration.
Gudi Padwa marks the traditional new year for Hindus. It is celebrated on the first day of the Chaitra month of the Hindu calendar. The festival also signifies the arrival of spring and the beginning of the harvest season.
The festival has several interesting stories behind it. One is that it celebrates Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana and his return to Ayodhya. Another legend is that it honours his coronation. So, people celebrate the triumph of good over evil. The legend is also associated with Lord Brahma, the supreme creator. It is believed that He created the universe and all life forms on this day.
Colourful rangolis, exchange of sweets and street processions mark the occasion. Raising of the gudi outside each house is symbolic in Maharashtra. The gudi is a colourful silk cloth tied to a bamboo pole. It is garlanded with flowers and mango leaves, and capped with a copper pot. These bright and beautiful gudis make for a visual treat. The gudi is believed to ward off evil and invite prosperity into the house. Ugadi decorations include colourful rangolis and strings of mango leaves hung on the doors.
The festive food is the most popular tradition associated with the festival. Puran poli, shrikhand-poori, modak and kesar bhat are popular favourites in Maharashtra. In Karnataka, gasa gase payasa or poppy seed kheer is also prepared.
Traditional Maharashtrian families eat a paste of jaggery, crushed neem leaves, salt, pepper, chilli and mango juice. This concoction is symbolic of the different human emotions. It teaches one to savour all the good and bad experiences.