India is a country of many states, religions, communities and cultures, which translates into several occasions for everyone to enjoy! Most communities don’t follow the Gregorian calendar, instead they stick to the more traditional solar or lunar systems. Thus, there are different new year days too, one such being Gudi Padwa, the start of the traditional Maharashtrian New Year.
Gudi Padwa is associated with the lunisolar calendar followed by Maharashtrians. The day coincides with the first day of the bright phase of the moon. It also has other significant associations, one being the start of spring or time of harvest and the other being the day that Lord Brahma created the world. The festival also honors the famous Maratha monarch, Shivaji Maharaj, who started the practice of hoisting the Gudi.
The festival day, usually comes around towards the end of March or the start of April according to the Gregorian calendar. Even though we live in the cyber age, Maharashtrians around the world celebrate Gudi Padwa in true traditional style without too many modern dilutions. In case you’re wondering what to do on Gudi Padwa, here is a look at how this festival is observed in authentic Maharashtrian style.
As with any other festival, preparations for Gudi Padwa begin with shopping! New clothes are bought for the whole family, along with the articles necessary for the Gudi and colors for the rangoli. Other decorations and household articles are also bought.
Some people consider this an auspicious time for buying high value products, and hence they go ahead and buy gold, silver or other household appliances. Markets are also busy with vendors selling their wares at special prices. While many still make their own sweetmeats, some prefer ready made versions, so orders are placed at sweet shops well in advance.
Gudi Padwa signifies the start of spring, so an episode of spring cleaning is in order! The entire family gets together to declutter and clean the house inside out, thus, making it sparkle. Torans of flowers and leaves are hung indoors and outdoors, giving the entire neighborhood a festive feel. The main door or entrance is given special attention. In villages, the courtyards are swept and plastered with cow dung mixed with sand.
The day begins early, where everyone in the family takes oil baths and gets ready in their new clothes. Most people prefer wearing traditional Maharashtrian clothes on this day, to honor and celebrate their unique culture. Some women wear nine yard saris, generally in silk or brocade, also called the ‘navvari’, while others prefer the more common 5 – meter version of the sari. Men wear long shirts with dhotis and Nehru caps. Women also deck themselves out with colorful bangles and flowers in their hair.
Hoisting the Gudi
This is the main event of the Gudi Padwa celebration. The Gudi consists of a long bamboo pole, covered with a brightly colored brocade fabric, topped with an inverted copper or brass pot. In some cases, a coconut and/or mango leaves are placed under the pot. A garland of flowers is tied around this arrangement and turmeric and sandalwood pastes are applied on it. The Gudi is hoisted to the right of the main entrance of the house so that it is visible. The family then worships the Gudi, and prays for the New Year to bring prosperity, health and happiness into their homes. A rangoli is drawn on the floor in front of the Gudi, usually by the women of the household. The Gudi is indicative of a flag of victory and is also believed to ward off evil and bring good luck to all the members of the household.
On Gudi Padwa, the festive feast usually begins with a special kind of chutney or paste prepared from neem leaves and a souring agent like raw mango or tamarind along with jaggery. This mixture is believed to purify one’s blood and strengthens immunity. It is also considered the official start of the feast, which features local delicacies like the Puran Poli, which is a sweet flatbread and a famous Maharashtrian dish. The feast also includes Shrikhand, a sweet dish made of dry fruit and yogurt; Puris, deep fried flat breads and Aam Panna, a beverage made of raw mango and spices.
Besides celebrating, Maharashtrians also consider Gudi Padwa an auspicious day and thus, the perfect occasion for starting a new venture like inaugurating a shop or an office, conducting pujas or housewarmings. All in all, it is a wonderful day for the entire family to enjoy and share yummy food with their neighbors, relatives and friends!