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Baisakhi, Bihu, Vishu, Poila Boishakh, Puthandu: What The New Years Of India Mean

Harvest Festival!
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Harvest Festival!

It's that time of the year again when people can catch a glimpse of India's diverse cultures. The Eastern, Northern & Southern parts of the country celebrate their first harvest festival of the year - Baisakhi, Bihu, Vishu, Poila Boishak & Puthandu - with vigour and fervour. Every year, the festivals fall on April 13 or April 14, based on the Hindu or Sikh Calendar.

Here's a look at how people celebrate their New Years...

ET Online
Baisakhi: Harvest Festival Of Punjab
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Baisakhi: Harvest Festival Of Punjab

This year, Baisakhi falls on April 14.

On this day, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of Sikhs, asked people to follow Sikhism in 1699, and the Khalsa community was formed.

The northern states of Punjab, Haryana and parts of Delhi celebrate this day with much fanfare. People get together, and perform bhangda and gidda on traditional folk songs and dhol. Men show off their gatka skills (traditional form of martial-arts of the Sikh.)

The Sikh community also observes it as the day of thanksgiving for abundant harvest, and pray for future prosperity.

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Vishu: Malayalam New Year
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Vishu: Malayalam New Year

This year, Vishu will fall on April 14.

The festival of lights and fireworks is celebrated in Kerala, and parts of Karnataka. People decorate their houses with diyas and lights, and burst firecrackers (locally called Vishupadakkam). The traditions of Vishu include the first auspicious view of the festive day (called Vishukkani Kazhcha), buying of new clothes for the occasion (called Puthukodi), giving money which is the first gift of the year (called Vishukkaineetam) and the feast consisted of food items that taste salty, sweet, sour and bitter (called Sadya).

The ritual arrangement (called Vishukkani) made on this auspicious day in the prayer room of the house includes a list of items that bring prosperity - rice, fruits, vegetables, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirror, yellow flowers (called konna), holy texts and coins. The items are arranged a night before Vishu and is the first sight of Lord Vishnu on Vishu.

Devotees throng the Sabarimala Ayyappan and the Guruvayur temples to see the 'Vishukkani Kazhcha' during the Brahma Muhurtha, around 3.30 am.

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Bihu: Harvest Festival Of Assam
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Bihu: Harvest Festival Of Assam

Observed on April 15, 2018, Bohag Bihu is the widely celebrated across Assam, and parts of Manipur and Bengal. The Assamese celebrate Bihu thrice a year, which signify the distinct cycles of farming - Bhogali/Magh Bihu (January), Bohag/Rongali Bihu (April), and Kongali Bihu (October).

On the day of Bohag Bihu, various delicacies like Mangsho, Chira and Pitha are made. Women, men and children are seen singing, feasting, exchanging gifts, seeking blessings from elders, wearing new clothes, and performing the traditional Bihu dance on this day.

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Puthandu: Tamil New Year
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Puthandu: Tamil New Year

This year, Puthandu is being celebrated on April 14 in Tamil Nadu, and Tamil-dominated countries Sri Lanka and Mauritius. According to the Tamil Calendar Varusha Pirappu, Puthandu marks the first day of the first month (Chithirai).

The celebrations of Puthandu resonate to that of Vishu. The night before the auspicious day, a tray full of fruit, betel leaves, gold ornaments, silver jewellery, money/cash/coins and flowers are put together in the prayer room for the Lord to view as the first thing.

It is believed that the first view of these auspicious things brings happiness and prosperity for the rest of the year.

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Poila Boishakh: Bengali New Year
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Poila Boishakh: Bengali New Year

This year, Poila Boishakh will be celebrated on April 15 in West Bengal, and parts of Tripura. According to the Bengali calendar, it is the first day of first month (called Baishakh), and people thank the divine forces for the harvest of the previous year and that to follow.

People decorate their houses with rangoli in their courtyards made with a paste of rice and water (called alpona).

Families get together on this auspicious day, and celebrate the new year with Bengali folk songs and dances in traditional attires. Small gatherings are held where children and adults take part in various activities like drawing/painting, dancing, poetry recitation, singing, etc.

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