Gudi Padwa is celebrated to mark the beginning of the New year according to the Hindu calendar. This day is also the first day of Navratri.
According to mythological tales, this is the day when Lord Brahma recreated the world and it is therefore celebrated as the New Year among Maharashtrians as well as Hindu Konkanis. Typically, the day, falling on April 11 this year, is marked by prayers, feasts, family gathering, songs and celebrations..
On this day, a gudhi is found sticking out of a window or otherwise prominently displayed in traditional Maharashtrian households. Bright green or yellow cloth adorned with brocade (zari) tied to the tip of a long bamboo over which gaathi (sugar crystals), neem leaves, a twig of mango leaves and a garland of red flowers is tied. A silver or copper pot is placed in the inverted position over it. Altogether, it is called as Gudhi. It is hoisted outside the house, in a window, terrace or a high place so that everybody can see it.
Some of the significances attributed to raising a Gudhi are as follows:
- Maharashtrians also see the Gudhi as a symbol of victory associated with the conquests of the Maratha forces led by Chhatrapati Shivaji. It also symbolizes the victory of King Shalivahana over Sakas and was hoisted by his people when he returned to Paithan.
- Gudhi symbolizes the Brahma’s flag as mentioned in the Brahma Purana, because Lord Brahma created the universe on this day. It may also represent the flag of Indra.
- Mythologically, the Gudhi symbolizes Lord Rama’s victory and happiness on returning to Ayodhya after slaying Ravana. Since a symbol of victory is always held high, so is the gudi (flag). It is believed that this festival is celebrated to commemorate the coronation of Rama post his return to Ayodhya after completing 14 years of exile.
- Gudhi is believed to ward off evil, invite prosperity and good luck into the house.
Traditionally, families are supposed to begin the festivities by eating the bittersweet leaves of the neem tree. Sometimes, a paste of neem leaves is prepared and mixed with dhane, jaggery and tamarind. All the members of the family consume this paste, which is believed to purify the blood and strengthen the body’s immune system against diseases.
Maharashtrian families also make shrikhand and Poori or Puran Poli on this day. Konkanis make Kanangachi Kheer, a variety of Kheer made of sweet potato, coconut milk, jaggery, rice flour, etc. and Sanna.