Gudi Padwa is one of the major festivals celebrated by the people of Maharashtra. It falls on the first day of the Hindu month of Chaitra (somewhere around March-end or April-start) and is celebrated in the state as the New Year's Day. The day on which the festival takes place coincides with the first day of Hindu National Calendar (as adopted by the Government of India). Gudhi Padwa is also celebrated in some states of South India, though the name (Ugadi) by which it is known there is different.
The Brahma Purana
Even Sindhis celebrate a festival on the same day as Gudhi Padwa and it
is known as Cheti Chand. The festival is believed to mark the
commencement of the spring season in India, known as Vasant/Basant. In
the Brahma Purana, it has been written that it was on this day only that
Lord Brahma recreated the world, after the inundation that devastated
it. Each and every moment of the day on which Gudi Padwa is celebrated
is considered to be very auspicious. This is the reason why the festival
is celebrated with such grand festivities.
The day of Gudi Padwa starts with the cleaning ritual, in which the
house is fully cleaned (in case of villages, it is then covered with
fresh cow-dung). Thereafter, women and children indulge in the drawing
as well as coloring of intricate rangoli designs on the doorsteps.
Usually, vibrant colors are chosen for the rangoli, in keeping with the
spirit of the festival. Every member of the family wears new clothes and
eats soonth panak and chana usal, the specialties of the day.
Other delicacies made on Gudhi Padwa festival include Shrikand and
Poori. In the earlier days, family members used to start the day by
eating the leaves of neem tree. However, the tradition is not as rigidly
followed these days. Usually, people consume a paste of neem leaves
(combined with ajwain, jaggery and tamarind). The leaves as well as the
paste are believed to cleanse blood and toughen the immune system.
Gudi, meaning Brahma's flag (Brahmadhvaj), is hoisted by people on the
day of Gudi Padwa, as a symbol of victory of good over evil. It is also
believed to ward off evil influences and bring prosperity and good luck
into the house. Gudi is made by tying a bright green or yellow cloth,
adorned with brocade (zari), to a long bamboo. Over the cloth, gathi (a
type of sweet), neem leaves, a twig of mango leaves and a garland of red
flowers is tied.
Thereafter, a silver or copper pot is placed over it in inverted
position. Then, the Gudi is hoisted on the window or on the gate. The
floor before Gudi is adorned with rangoli, made of a special powder of
soft, white stone. Lastly, it is worshipped, while offering obeisance to
the flag of Lord Brahma. Whatever be the state in which the festival is
celebrated and whatever be its name, its significance as well as the
scale of festivities surrounding it remains the same.