The Indian (Hindu) New Year (Vikrami Samvat 2074
‘Varsha Pratipada’… नव वर्ष प्रतिपद संवत 2074
Every culture, religion and community has its own calendar that starts on a different day. Hindus, Jains, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists, all have their own calendars and a different "New Year's Day".
However, the Gregorian or commonly known as western or Christian calendar is the most acknowledged international calendar and used all over the world.
Since at one point in history, most of the world was ruled and controlled by the European and Christian rulers, the ruled countries and colonies had to use the Gregorian calendar and, for the sake of convenience, continued using it even after they gained independence.
Moreover, January 1st as the New Year's Day has been heavily commercialized by entrepreneurs and the media by selling cards and advertising parties and count down gatherings etc. Nevertheless, many people all over the world; Indians**, Chinese, Egyptians etc. still celebrate their own traditional New Year's Day also.
Whereas the New Year’s Day of Christian era (January 1st) is celebrated with eating, drinking and dancing joyfully in parties and exchanging fancy gifts, the traditional Hindu way of celebrating the New Year’s Day is quite different.
Traditionally, the tender but bitter leaves of the Neem tree mixed with sweet Jaggery ** (Gurh) are distributed as Prasaadam (gift) on this occasion.
It has a great symbolic meaning.
First, the Neem-Jaggery blend is offered to Ishwar (God) as Naivedya.
Then it is distributed among the family and friends as Prasaad (Gift).
This is one of the highest philosophical attitudes taught by the ancient Hindu spiritual masters.
The Neem, extremely bitter in taste, and Jaggery* sweet and delicious, signify the two conflicting aspects of human life —Joy and sorrow, success and failure, ecstasy and agony.
It is a reminder that the life is not always ‘Bitter’ or ‘Sweet’ all the time. It is a combination of the two and so might be the coming New Year.
Wishing "happy new year" to all friends and families is of course a very positive thinking and a wishful greeting, whereas this Indian tradition is more practical advice to the loved ones and a reminder to ourselves.
By first offering this bitter-sweet blend to God and then accepting it as Prasaad, also has a symbolic meaning; of preparing ourselves to face, and by the grace of God, accept whatever may happen in the future as 'Prasaad'*.
By exchanging the gift of this ‘bitter-sweet blend’ with friends and loved ones, we acknowledge that the relationships may also have some sweet and bitter moments that by God’s grace, can be accepted as part of life, and solved mutually.
We usually tend to disregard the old traditions as ‘out of date’ or even non-sense, but if we try to understand them, we will find that many traditions have some deep and meaningful hidden messages.
May God bless us all.
Varsha pronounced as Varsh वर्ष means year
Pratipad प्रतिपद means Tithi or Day
*Jaggery ….. गुड़ Chunks of raw sugar made from sugarcane.
Prasaad ........ Gift
Prasaad ........ Gift
** Even within India, Kashmiris, Punjabis, Gujratis, Maharashtrians, Bengalis and South Indians have their own calendars.