It is a known fact that India is not just a country, but a civilization that has various multidimensional layers. Today, it is home to people of numerous castes, creeds, and ethnicities. Thus, each of these distinct human populations has a wide range of festivals and important occasions, which are celebrated sometimes regionally and at times, throughout the country due to the intermingling of various cultures. As such, India is also known as the "Land of Festivals". New Year is, indeed, an important occasion in the lives of Indians and today, as the country officially follows the Gregorian calendar, January 1 is celebrated as New Year's Day for all official purposes.
However, even today, many ethnic groups celebrate New Year as per their own auspicious religious calendars because of which celebrations of the day are carried out on different days by different groups. For instance, Diwali is the day on which majority of the Hindu population of the country celebrates New Year as per the Hindu religious calendar. Despite this, with the onset of rapid globalization, the country is going under the phase of fast paced urbanization. The large cosmopolitan cities of the country, like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai, are the front runners in celebration of the Gregorian New Year. Here, on December 31, New Year's Eve celebrations include huge live concerts. One can watch mesmerizing performances of various famous celebrities from the Indian film and music industry. These huge public celebrations see large crowds from all sections of society. Many people, who prefer a more personal see-off to the passing year, host private New Year parties for their near and dear ones.
Most people across the country wish each other Happy New Year on January 1, irrespective of their religious or cultural beliefs as this day is considered a secular event. People send each other wonderful New Year messages, greeting cards, and gifts to celebrate this joyous occasion. Various New Year events organized on New Year's Eve are broadcasted live by different prime channels across the country. Many people opt to stay at home and watch these special entertaining New Year shows with their family on the television. Besides this, the western concept of making resolutions on this day has also been adopted in urban centers, with the most common resolutions being losing weight, developing good habits, and working hard. However, this is just one side of the coin, while most of the country celebrates New Year as per their traditional religious calendars, the details of which can be read in the following lines.
Traditional Indian New Year
One of the most celebrated festivals in India, Diwali is considered to be the New Year's Day as per the Hindu lunar calendar. This "festival of lights" is celebrated with great zeal and fervor across India and signifies the triumph of good over evil. Though the basic essence of the festival remains the same, the methods of its celebrations vary from region to region. The origin of the festival is deeply imbedded in the Hindu religion. Thus, people spend the day worshipping deities, bursting firecrackers, and exchanging gifts with friends, relatives and acquaintances. In most of the North Indian belt, it is believed that the first Diwali was celebrated by the people of Ayodhya to welcome their beloved crown prince Lord Rama, who returned to his kingdom after an exile of fourteen years. The festival of Diwali is celebrated usually between the months of October and November.
Consecutive to the festival of Diwali, eastern India celebrates the festival of Durga Puja, wherein various forms of Mother Goddess are worshipped, with the festivities lasting for around two to three days. On the other hand, in South India, the New Year is celebrated in the month of Chittirai, which as per the Gregorian calendar occurs from April 14 to May 14. New Year is popularly known as "Vishu" and "Tamizh puthaandu" here and is usually celebrated on April 14. A lot of charming rituals as well as customs are associated with this day, like detailed puja ceremonies organized in most of the households and lavish traditional feasts. The gateways of homes are traditionally festooned with intricate and colorful floor art designs, known as rangolis called 'kolam'.
In the western region of the country, in the state of Maharashtra, New Year is celebrated in the form of Gudi Padwa, whereas in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the day is known as Ugadi. The celebration time of both is the same and falls in the month of Chaitra. The Kashmiris refer New Year as 'Navroh' and celebrate it on the first day of Chaitra. The Oriya people celebrate New Year as Mahabishuba Sankranti and, as per their tradition, prepare a sweet drink, known as Pana on this day. They make an offering of this drink to various deities. It is quite clear that New Year is celebrated in many distinct ways and on different dates across India, but the interesting fact is that its essence of saying goodbye to the old and welcoming the new remains the same throughout the country, despite the cultural and religious divide.
India is a unique blend of numerous cultures as well as religions and this clearly shows in different ways of New Year celebrations held here.