As the sun gives light, sensibility brings compassion, and flowers give pleasant fragrance,
May the New Year be auspicious!
Gudhi Padwa is celebrated on the first day of the Chaitra maas of the Shaka Era to mark the beginning of the New Year according to the lunisolar Hindu almanac. This day also celebrates the creation of the universe by Lord Bramha, the creator, and the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after completing 14 years of exile!
Heralding new beginnings and victories, ‘Chaitra Shukla Pratipada’ is celebrated all around India. Each Household is decorated with colourful rangolis, and “Gudhis” (garlanded long bamboo sticks with flowers, mango and neem leaves, topped with upturned silver or copper vessel) are erected. There are street processions, dancing, and festive foods all around!
On a larger scale, celebrations take place in the form of a “Shobha Yatra” – a process that commemorates and relives the traditions and culture. Mumbai has its own colours, and celebrates the Shobha Yatras with much splendour! Over the year, these Shobha Yatras have become a major attraction for people all over the city. An amalgamation of all cultural practices of the Maharashtrian community is seen here.
The procession includes different groups of floats, which create awareness about different social issues. People adorned in traditional attires, with their best jewellery and take part in the procession. There are special bike rallies also held on this day, traditional Dhol Tasha is played and lezim, a dance form, is performed.
With many diverse cultures in India, each cultural unit celebrates this day differently. Maharashtra (Marathi speaking) celebrates it as ‘Gudhi Padwa’ while Karnataka, Telangana and Andra Pradesh (Telegu speaking) celebrates it as ‘Ugadi’. And it is called as ‘Samvatsar Padvo’ among the Konkanis of Goa and Kerala and ‘Navreh’ amongst Kashmiri Pandits. The Day is also termed as Yugadi as a brand new year begins. The Sindhi community celebrates this day as Cheti Chand as the New Year.
In India, each festival has a scientific significance to it and being predominantly an agrarian society, celebrations and festivals are often linked to the changing of seasons and to the sowing and the reaping of crops. Chaitra Shudha/Shukla Pratipada is to celebrate the coming of the spring season (vasant rutu) which marks the end of one agricultural harvest (Rabi) and the beginning of a new one (Kharif).
Historically speaking, the beginning of the Shalivahana Shaka or the Shaka Era is disputed. Though it is generally accepted that the Shaka Era corresponds to 78 CE or 78th year of the Julian Era, the ruler who started it remains much debated amongst the scholars.
Many believe that the ‘Shaka Era’ commemorates the victory of Satavahana King Gautamiputra Satakarni over the Western Kshatraps (Shaka). Others suggest that the “Shalivahana Shaka” Era or Shaka Era commemorates the birth or the victory of a King named Shalivahana, who is often regarded to be a Satavahana king.
The beginning of the Shaka Era is also connected to the ascension of a Western Kshatrap King Chashtana in 78 CE. A few of his inscriptions are said to have the Shaka dates. Furthermore, many early historians had associated the beginning of the Shaka era to the ascension of Kanishka I in 78 CE. However Kanishka being a Kushan King and not a Shaka (Indo-Scythian), this theory is now taking a back seat. To complicate things further, a branch of scholars also believe an Indo-Scythian or Shaka King Azes I to have started the Shaka Era!
In spite of its debated origins, Indians have celebrated the new year of this era with enthusiasm and splendour!
Further, in 1957 this calendar system was adopted as the Indian National Calendar alongside the Vikram Samvat and the Gregorian calendar. Did you know? Saka Calendar is also used by our neighbouring countries like Bali, Nepal, and Indonesia! Over time, the word “Shaka” became generic, and came to mean “an era” and this particular era thus came to be known as “Shalivahana Shaka”.
It’s the magic of the culture and traditions that let’s one forget about such academic “nitty-gritties”. Festivals are all about coming together, celebrating the culture and wishing each other prosperity and happiness.
I wish you all a very Happy Gudhi Padwa! May all your wishes attain fulfillment!
सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः,
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु मा कश्चिद् दुःख भाग्भवेत्।
ॐ शांतिः शांतिः शांतिः
(May All become Happy, May All be Free from Illness,
May All See what is Auspicious, May no one Suffer.)
© 2019 Ashwini Nawathe, Kaleidoscope of My Life
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