Lunar New Year and associated festivals
Most of us already know that the Hindu calendrical system is very complex. The years, months and days in the Hindu calendar are reckoned according to both the sun and the moon, as they travel across the backdrop of the stars. Naturally, therefore, we have both lunar and solar new year days. For historical reasons, different parts of the Hindu world observe new year either according to the lunar or solar reckoning. This write-up will be about the lunar new year.
In most regions, the lunar year begins in the spring with the waxing moon in the month of Chaitra (exceptions: the state of Gujarat in India, and the Newar region of Nepal, where the lunar year begins in the fall after Diwali). This year, the lunar new year begins on March 19 (at 02:44 GMT).
The lunar new year day is called by different names in different regions:
Nav Samvat (Chaitradi) in Northern India (Hindi and Punjabi regions)
Hari Raya Nyepi throughout Indonesia (especially Bali)
Yugadi (Chandramana) in Southern India (Kannada and Telugu regions)
Cheti Chand in Sindhi
Navreh in Kashmiri
Gudi Padva in Marathi
Samvatsar Padvo in Konkani
Sajibu Nangapanba in Manipuri (Meitei)
Other names: Chaitra Shukla Pratipada, Chaitradi, Nav Samvatsar, Chaitra Shukladi, Varsha Pratipada, etc.
Per legend, Brahmā began creation on this very day. The Kaliyuga also is said to have begun on this day in 3102 BCE, which is why it is referred to as yugadi (yuga + adi beginning). With this day, we begin the lunar year 5109 of the Kaliyuga (5108 years have thus far elapsed).
In addition, there are two other year-count systems in common usage. Both are reignal years of popular historical emperors. The first system is called the Vikram Samvat, which is popular in the north of India, and counts the years since the coronation of Emperor Vikramaditya of Ujjain in 58 BCE. According to the Vikram Samvat, it is now the year 2064. The second system is called the Shaka Samvat, which is popular in the south of India and Indonesia, and counts the years since the defeat of the Shaka invaders by Emperor Shalivahana of Pratishthana in 78 CE. According to the Shaka Samvat, it is now the year 1929.
In addition to the numbers, each year also receives a name out of a list of 60 successive names. Originally, the 60 names were associated with Jovian (Jupiter) years, but now they are linked to lunar years. According to Vikram Samvat, the present year (2064) will be called Sharvari; and in the Shaka Samvat, the present year (1929) will be called Sarvajit.
The lunar new year itself is generally a quiet observance without much external celebration. It is a day of quiet reflection, temple prayers, wearing of new clothes, dining on freshly harvested crops, and reading of the predictions for the new year in the traditional Hindu almanac (Panchanga). In Bali, this is a day of complete silence, when no action is performed and no fire is lit.
With the lunar new year day, we begin two nine-day festivals: one Shakta and the other Vaishnava. The festival of Shakti is known as Vasanta Navaratri (nine spring nights), where the Divine Mother is worshipped as Devi Durga. Devi Durga has nine forms, hence the festival lasts for nine days. The Vaishnava festival which overlaps the same days is the festival of Lord Rama. This observance also lasts nine days, involves a nine-day recitation of the Ramayana, and culminates with the birthday of Lord Rama (Rama Navami) on the ninth day.
Jai Shri Ram
Jai Mata Di,
In whom the Adityas, Rudras and Vasus are held together; in whom are set firm the worlds; that which was and that which shall be tell me of that Support who may He be? (Atharvaveda Samhita X.7.22)