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Usher in the New Year

The Many Regional Celebrations

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Bihu

Bihu celebrations of Assam

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In mid-April, the Bengalis usher in the new year with the Poila Baishakh celebrations, the Assamese in the northeast with Bihu festivals, and the Tamils in the South with Puthandu. Around this time, Hindus in Punjab get agog with Baisakhi, the springtime harvest festival marking the beginning of their new year, and the people of Kerala in the south of India welcome their new year - Vishu.

The Bright Baisakhi of Punjab

"Baisakhi", traditionally a harvest festival, is celebrated on the 13th of April every year, marking the Punjabi New Year. People celebrate the joyous occasion by performing Bhangra and Giddha to the pounding rhythm of the dhol and rings in the New Year. Baisakhi also marks the founding of the Khalsa brotherhood by Sikh Guru Govind Singh.

Shubho Naba Barsha on Poila Baishakh in Bengal!

The first day of the Bengali new year falls on the 13th or 14th of April every year. Called "Poila Baishakh," it's a state holiday in the eastern state of West Bengal and a national holiday in Bangladesh. To welcome the new year or "Naba Barsha", people clean and decorate their houses and invoke Goddess Lakshmi, the bestower of wealth and prosperity. All new enterprises begin on this auspicious day, as businessmen open their fresh ledgers with "Haal Khata"- a ceremomy in which Lord Ganesha is summoned and customers are invited to settle all their old dues and offered free refreshments. The people of Bengal spend the day feasting and participating in cultural activities. Read more

The Boisterous Bohaag Bihu of Assam

The northeastern state of Assam ushers in the new year with the spring festival of Bohaag Bihu or Rongali Bihu, which marks the onset of a new agricultural cycle. Fairs are organized where people revel in gay games. The celebrations go on for days together, and it's a good time for young people to find a companion of their own choice! Young belles in traditional attire sing "Bihugeets" and dance the traditional "Mukoli Bihu". The festive food of the occasion is the "pitha" or rice cakes. People visit each other's houses, exchange gifts and sweets and, greet each other a Happy New Year!

Kerala, Wish You a Happy Vishu!

"Vishu" is the first day in the first month of Medam in Kerala, the beautiful coastal state in southern India. The people of this state - the Malayalees - begin the day early in the morning by visiting the temple and seeing any auspicious sight, which they call "Vishukani." The day is full of the elaborate traditional rituals with tokens called "Vishukaineetam", usually in form of coins, being distributed among the downtrodden. People wear new clothes - "Kodi vastram" - and celebrate the day by bursting firecrackers and enjoying a variety of delicacies at an elaborate lunch called the "sadya" with family and friends. The afternoon and evening is spent in the "Vishuwela".

Tamil New Year: Varsha Pirappu / Puthandu Vazthukal

The Tamil speaking people across the globe celebrate 'Varsha Pirappu' or 'Puthandu Vazthukal', the Tamil New Year, in mid-April. It is the first day of Chithirai, the first month in the traditional Tamil calendar. The day dawns by observing Kanni or viewing auspicious things such as gold, silver, jewelry, new clothes, new calendar, mirror, rice, coconuts, fruits, vegetables, betel leaves, and other fresh farm products. This ritual is believed to usher in good fortune. It is followed by a ritualistic bath and almanac worship called Panchanga Puja. The Tamil Panchangam, a book on New Year predictions, is anointed with sandalwood and turmeric paste, flowers and vermilion powder, and is placed before the deity. Later, it is read or listened to either at home or at the temple.

On the eve of Puthandu, every household is thoroughly cleaned and tastefully decorated - the doorways are garlanded with mango leaves strung together and Vilakku Kolam decorative patterns adorn the floors. Donning new clothes, the family members gather and light a traditional lamp, the kuthu vilakku, and fill niraikudum, a short-necked brass bowl with water and embellish it with mango leaves while chanting prayers. Then they visit neighboring temples to offer prayers to the deity. Traditional Puthandu meal consists of pachadi - a mixture of jaggery, chillies, salt, neem leaf or flowers, and tamarind; green banana and jackfruit preparation and a variety of sweet 'payasam' dessert.

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