By Swami Harshananda
Yugādi literally means ‘beginning of an epoch’.
The arrival of the New Year is a great event that is duly celebrated by the people of all religions and cultures, all over the world. Brahmā, the Creator, is said to have created this world on this day and the reckoning of time begun from the sunrise of this day. Hence it is named as ‘yugādi’. Emperor Sālīvāhana is believed to have been crowned on this day. Consequently this era is called the Śaka Era or the Śālīvāhana Śaka.
Rites Performed on Yugādi
The usual prescribed rites being observed on Yugādi are:
- Paścāttāpa or repentance for the evil deeds committed during the past year, whether knowingly or unknowingly
- Prayers for forgiveness
- Performance of mahāśānti rites to ward off all future evils or misfortune
- Worship of the presiding deity of the year as indicated by the day of the week on which the yugādi falls
- Worship of Brahmā the Creator with all the upacāras
- Worship to other deities
- Worship to units of time and nakṣatras or asterisms
- Worship to Viṣṇu
- Honor to brāhmaṇas of learning and good character by feeding them with food and offering gifts of money, water-pot and a copy of the new pañcāṅga.
- Listening to the reading of that pañcāṅga by the family priest
Celebrations on Yugādi
- Taking bath after anointing the body with oil
- Wearing new clothes
- Decorating the house
- Eating a mixture of tender neem leaves and jaggery followed by a sumptuous feast
- Giving presents to servants and dependent
Symbolical Representation of the Celebrations
- Listening to the forecasts given in the pañcāṅga can help one to prepare himself for facing the untoward incidents or circumstances.
- Eating the mixture of the bitter neem leaves along with the sweet jaggery is supposed to be good for health and also an antidote for the illnesses common in the spring season.
- It psychologically prepares one to be equanimous under all the circumstances of life, whether bringing pain or pleasure, since the new year may not be much different from the previous one.
Significance of Cāndramāna Yugādi
The most widely accepted New Year’s Day among the people is the Cāndramāna Yugādi, the first day of the bright half of the month of Caitra. It is one of the 32 days considered to be extremely auspicious, the others being Vijayadaśamī, Balipratipadā, and Akṣayyatṛtīyā.
Celebration of Cāndramāna Yugādi
Cāndramāna Yugādi is observed widely as the New Year’s Day in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. In some parts of the country, especially in Maharashtra, a long bamboo is decorated with a silk cloth and a silver or copper vessel is put over it. A garland of sweets and neem leaves is tied at the upper end. This is called ‘guḍhi.’
This is then worshiped and hoisted on the terrace of the house. It starts after sunset and the sweets and neem leaves are distributed among all, especially the children to be consumed as prasāda or consecrated food. Because of this custom of raising the guḍhi on the paḍhvā or pratipad day, the day Yugādi itself is christened as ‘Guḍhi Paḍvā.’ According to one belief, this is actually a flag-hoisting ceremony to commemorate the killing of Vālī, the monkey chief of Kiṣkindhā, by Śrī Rāma on this day.
Yugādi is also the first day of the nine-day festival Vasantanavarātr a dedicated to the worship of the Divine Mother Durgā. Why there are two Navarātras, one in Vasanta ṛtu and the other in Saradṛtu, is a matter of conjecture. It is possible that the two festivals became popular due to the fact of the spring crops and the autumn crops being ready at these times. However, celebration of the Vasantanavarātra has almost been given up in favor of Śarannavarātra.
Vivid Celebrations of Yugādi
- The commencement of the New Year differs in some places. In Tamil Nadu and Kerala, following the solar calendar, it starts generally on the 14th April.
- In Bengal, it is ‘Pahalā Vaiśākh,’ falling mostly on the 15th of April.
- In other places like Gujarat it is on the Balipāḍyamī day.
- Yugādi literally means beginning of an era or epoch.
- He lived in circa A. D. 79
- Upacāras means items showing honor.
- Pañcāṅga means almanac.
- It is called ‘abhyajanasnāna’ or ‘oil- bath’ in English.
- Caitra means March- April.
- Vasanta Ṛtu means spring.
- Saradṛtu means autumn.
- It is the first day of the month Cittirai.
- It is in Kārttīka śukla pratipad.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore