The Hindu New year is the day on which the Hindus begin their year. The Hindu New Year is calculated on the basis of the Hindu Lunisolar calendar. Unlike the Gregorian New Year, which is observed on January 1, the Hindu New Year is observed on different days and referred to in different names in various regions and communities. However, it mostly occurs at the onset of spring. While the Kashmiri Hindu's refer their New Year as Navreh and celebrate it mid-March, in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka it is known as Ugadi and is observed on the first day of the month of Chaitra, i.e. March through April. While in Maharashtra, the day is celebrated as Gudi Padwa, the Sindhi community calls it Cheti Chand. In Punjab, it falls on April 13th or 14th and is called Baishaki. In Assam it is called Bihu; whereas Kerala observes it as Vishu.
The New Year's Day is regarded as an auspicious day to start a new venture. It is also a great moment to witness the colourful traditions and customs of various Hindu sects of India. The major festivals celebrated during the 12 months of a Hindu calender:
When: 14th January, 2016
Celebrated in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Pongal is a four-day long harvest festival which is observed in the mid of January. On this day, people offer their prayers to Lord Surya, the Sun God, thanking him for providing the energy for agriculture. Translated as “Boiling Over”, Pongal is also the name of a sweet dish which comprises rice along with lentils. The first day of the festival that is spread across four days, is called Bhogi, the second day is referred to as Perum, the third as Mattu Pongal, and the fourth is called Kanum Pongal.
When: 12th February, 2016
Observed in the month of February, Vasant Panchami is dedicated to Saraswati, the Goddess of music, knowledge, arts, science and technology. The day is also known as Shri Panchami and Saraswati Panchami. The festival highlights the onset of spring. While 'vasant' means spring, 'panchami' is the fifth day. Therefore, people observe the festival on the fifth day of the spring season. People mostly wear yellow-colored garments and consume yellow sweets, as this color is associated with the blossoming of the mustard flower. Apart from Saraswati puja, people also indulge in kite flying on this day.
When: 7th March, 2017
Celebrated in the month of March, the festival of Maha Shivratri marks the convergence of Shiva and Shakti. On this day, devotees observe fast and seek blessings of Lord Shiva. Maha Shivaratri is observed on the 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun. This festival is considered auspicious for women and the married ones pray for the well being of their husbands and sons, while those yet to get married pray to the Lord to grant them a husband like Shiva.
When: 26th March, 2016
Popularly known as the festival of colors, Holi is celebrated in the month of March. Along with Diwali, Holi is one of the most auspicious Hindu festivals. An ancient Hindu festival, Holi is spread over a period of two days. It falls in the Bikram Sambat Hindu Calendar in the month of Phalgun and begins on the Full Moon Day, i.e. Purnima. The first day of the festival is referred to as Chhoti Holi or Holika Dahan and the second day by the names of Rangwali Holi, Dhuleti, Dhulandi or Dhulivandan.
When: 28th March, 2016
Also celebrated in April, Gudi Padwa is the Marathi New Year according to the Hindu Lunisolar calendar. According to the Hindu calendar, the day is celebrated every year on the first day of the Chaitra month (February to March). This day marks the start of Samvatsara – a cycle of 60 years. It is primarily observed as a New Year Day by Maharashtrians and Hindu Konkanis. As per the Brahma Purana, on this day Lord Brahma created the world after the deluge. People start their day with oil baths and then offer prayers and hymns in praise of the Almighty.
When: 28th March, 2016
Popular with people in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka as the first day of the year, Ugadi usually falls in the month of March or April. The day starts with ritual oil-bath and eating neem leaves, followed religiously by prayers. People prepare a dish - Ugadi Pachadi. This scrumptious dish is made of ingredients such as neem, raw mango, tamarind and jaggery. It is also a day of predictions. Priests chant mantras and make predictions for the year that lies ahead.
When: 15th April, 2017
Celebrated as the birthday of Lord Rama, Ramnavami falls in the month of April. Celebrations are held around the country and Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Rama, is decked up on this day. In some places the festivities last for a whole nine days. These nine days are referred to as Shree Ram Navratra. Temples in South India wear a festive look and perform the Sitarama Kalyanam. Many followers show their devotion to Lord Rama by fasting all day long and taking food only in the evening.
When: 22nd April, 2016
Hanuman Jayanti commemorates the birth of the Vanara God, Hanuman. The festival falls on the 15th day of the Shukla Paksha, during the month of Chaitra (in April). Early in the morning, devotees gather at temples to offer their prayers to Lord Hanuman, who is known for his unflinching loyalty towards Lord Ram. Many temples on this day organize spiritual discourses.
When: 14th April, 2016
Vishu is primarily celebrated in the South Indian state of Kerala and marks the beginning of the New Year. It is celebrated in the month of April. An important festival in the state, it is celebrated with much splendor and involves the bursting of firecrackers and decoration of homes with colorful lights. Sadya, which is a special feast, is prepared on this day. The meal is prepared with the idea that all flavors should be present in it. People also indulge in charity by distributing coins among the poor.
When: 14th April, 2016
The Tamil New Year, which is known as Puthandu, is observed in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. It falls in mid-April and marks the celebration of the first day of the New Year. It is a very auspicious day, as it is believed that on this day Lord Brahma started his creations. The houses are decorated with colorful kolams in the middle of which is placed a lamp, kuthuvillakku. The significance of this lamp is that it chases away darkness.
When: 14th April, 2016
Popularly known as Nabo Barsho and Pohela Boishakh, the Bengali New Year marks the celebration of the first day of the Bengali calendar. It is celebrated across West Bengal and falls in mid-April. Some of the traditions associated with the occasion include wearing new clothes, exchanging sweets and pleasantries with family and friends and seeking the blessings of elders. People in West Bengal also celebrate the year's end by organizing fairs. Traders open their ledges on this day.
When: 14th April, 2016
Bihu is a set of three different cultural festivals and is celebrated by the people of Assam with great pomp and gaiety. The Rongali Bihu is celebrated in the month of April, Katti Bihu in October and Bhogali Bihu is celebrated in January. The Assamese community is largely involved in the business of agriculture and as such the festival of Bihu is associated with farming. A significant festival, Bihu is also celebrated by the Assamese diaspora around the world.
When: 18th August, 2016
Celebrated in the Shravana month (August) during the full-moon day, Raksha Bandhan is the day when sisters tie an auspicious thread or Rakhi on their brothers' wrist, with an unsaid commitment that the brother would take care of their sister under all circumstances. Though the festival is primarily of north Indian and western Indian origin, it has, with time, started to be observed all around the country. People usually wear new clothes on this day and the festivities are marked by sweets, celebrations and blessings.
When: 25th August, 2016
Also known as Krishnashtami, this annual Hindu festival marks the celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna – the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu. The festival is celebrated on the eighth day of Krishna Paksha in the month of Bhadrapad (August-September) as per Hindu calendar. In Mathura and Vrindavan, the ras lilas are organized which depict the Lord Krishna's younger days. The dahi-handi-breaking is an immensely popular practice of this day in Maharashtra and witnesses people forming the human tower to reach the handi, which is suspended at a convenient height.
When: 5th September, 2016
Ganesh Chaturthi is a Hindu festival celebrated in honor of the elephant-headed God, Ganesha, who is the younger son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The celebration takes place on the fourth day of the first fortnight in the month of Bhaadrapada (August-September) as per Hindu calendar. Massive Ganesh Chaturthi festivals are organized in the state of Maharashtra. Colorful pandals are set up and Lord Ganesha is worshiped for ten days. On this day, people savor Modak, which is a sweet dish prepared with rice or flour and stuffed with jaggery, dry fruits and coconut.
When: 14th September, 2016
Celebrated in the state of Kerala, Onam is the commemoration of the Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu and the homecoming of the King Mahabali. It is celebrated by native speakers of Malayalam in Chingam month of Malayalam Solar Calendar (September). The festival of Onam lasts between four and ten days. The festival has become quite popular and thousands of domestic as well as international tourists visit Kerala to be a part of the celebrations.
When: 17th September, 2016
Also known as Vishwakarma Jayanti, Vishwakarma Puja is celebrated to worship Vishwakarma, a divine architect and one of the fourteen things born of the Samundra Manthan. The puja is performed on the day after Diwali. Vishwakarma was a gifted architect and was credited with manufacturing many a spectacular weapon of the Gods: the maya sabha of the Pandavas and Krishna's Dwarka. It is mainly celebrated in industries and factories by the workers who mostly pray for success in their chosen field of work.
When: 1st to 9th October, 2016
Navaratri is dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity, Durga. During the nine nights and ten days of Navaratri, nine different forms of Devi are worshiped. Navaratri is celebrated twice a year – April and October. Navaratri is an elaborate affair in Gujarat, where celebrations include all-night-long dances and festivities. People here take part in Garbha. During Navaratri people visit the Vaishno Devi shrine in the state of Jammu.
When: 11th October, 2016
Also called Vijayadashami, Dussehra is celebrated as victory of Lord Rama over the evil demon, Ravana and the triumph of Goddess Durga over the buffalo demon, Mahishasura. The festival is celebrated in the month of October. In north India, the effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnath are set on fire. At Ramlila grounds in Delhi, stage plays on Ramayana are staged and are witnessed by thousands of people, live and on TV via live telecast. In South India, people celebrate Vijayadashami and express their gratitude for success in life.
When: 28th October, 2016
Also known as Dhantrayodashi, Dhanteras is celebrated to worship Goddess Lakshmi along with Lord Kubera, the God of wealth. It is the first day of the five-day-long Diwali festival and usually falls in the month of October or November. On Dhanteras, people buy gold, jewelery or at least one utensil. It is an auspicious day for the business and trading community who renovate or decorate their premises. People also welcome Goddess Lakshmi by making footprints all over the house and business premises.
When: 30th October, 2016
Diwali, an ancient Hindu festival, is one of the most important Hindu festivals and is popularly known as the festival of lights. Diwali signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and hope over despair. Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped on this day. The festival falls on the 15th day of Kartika (October/November) as per the Hindu calendar. Apart from bursting firecrackers, people also light their houses with various types of candles, diyas and bulbs. People begin preparations for Diwali days in advance by renovating their houses or business premises.
When: 1st November, 2016
Bhai Dooj is the day when sisters pray for the long and happy lives of their brothers by performing a Tilak ceremony. In return, brothers offer gifts to their sisters. The festival is celebrated on the last day of the five-day-long Diwali (October-November). On this day special dishes are prepared and sweets and pleasantries are often exchanged. In Nepal, the festival is known as Bhai Tika and sisters pray to Yamraj. They pray for the long life and prosperity of their brothers.