When is your New Year?

Gudi Padwa Gudi. Photo: Abhinavgarule. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike 4.0 license.

Remember asking your friend, “When is your New Year?” And waiting for a special dish to come from a neighbor who was celebrating her New Year? And then, one can remember either eating ‘mithi sev’ or ‘lagan nu custard’ or ‘gajar ka halwa’ or ‘poran poli’ or ‘sondesh’ or ‘doodhpak puri’ or ‘dhokla’ or …. Oh, the list can just go on of all the special dishes and all those New Years.

One may wonder New Year must be the same day for people of one country. But, although belonging to one India, people have different New Year Days.

In the 28 states and 8 union territories of India reside all those countless Indians, and just as diverse as it is, so are their customs and food and their New Years.


Most of the New Years are related to crops and harvest thus fall in Spring,  in March or April.

On March 22, 2023, the Parsi Indians had their Jamshedi Navroz or Parsi New Year. Maharashtrians also had their New Year, Gudi Padwa, the same day.

1) Navroz       : For Parsis, the New Year falls on the day of the Spring Equinox, which usually falls on March 21st  plus or minus one or two days, every year.

It is celebrated like other new years in India, with decorating the house with lights, making rangolis, wearing new clothes, meeting friends and relatives and having great meals together the whole day. Many also go to the agiari or the fire temple to pray. Parsis are non-vegetarians and this day, their special dishes are chicken or fish with rice and potato straws, custard or falooda ice cream, and more.

2) Gudi Padwa        – March or April: The Maharashtrian and Konkani Gudi Padwa always falls on the first day of the month of Chaitra which falls in late March or early April.

Special Gudi is prepared and placed outside the Maharashtrian houses. Gudi is a stick dressed in a saree with an inverted copper vessel on top of it. Gudi is decorated with garlands of Neem and Mango leaves, and gud or jaggery sweet garlands are placed around the Gudi. Rangolis of wet rice flour are created as decoration at the entrance of the house.

That day is also supposed to mark Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s victory over his enemies. Konkanis call it Saunsaar Padwa or Samvatsar Padwa.

This is the day when Chaitra Navratri begins for nine days, ending on Ram Navami, the tenth day. More celebrated in the northern India, many fast through the nine days, or avoid eating meat during nav ratri.

This is also the day when Jain Ayambil Oli begins for nine days. The days are meant to pray to the nav pad in the navkar mantra. These are the days when Jains do not eat oil, salt, chillies, and greens. They eat only one meal a day made of mung beans or mung flour.

A Annakoota for Besatu Varas, also called Govardhan Pooja, at Vrindavan, organized by ISKCON. Photo: Milan Madhav Das. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike 4.0 license.

3) Ugadi – March or April : Falling on the same day as Gudi Padwa, Ugadi is the Telugu New Year which is called Yugadi in Karnataka. It also falls on the first day of the month of Chaitra. It is celebrated with buying and wearing new clothes, getting together with friends and family and eating traditional meals. Some of the special dishes for this New Year are bevu bella or ‘pachadi’ made of mangoes and jaggery, pulihora or lemon rice, and bobbatlu or puran poli.

4) Cheti Chand – March or April   : The same day as Gudi Padwa in March, India’s Sindhi community celebrates the first day of the Chaitra month as their New Year, Cheti Chand. Lord Jhulelal is said to have appeared on that day, and as such, Sindhis pray to Jhulelal. Everyone wears new clothes, goes to the temple or gurudwara, gets to together with friends and family and eats a special feast which includes Sindhi dish Tahiri made of sweet rice and Sai Bhaji made of leafy greens.

5) Baisakhi – Mid April  : Baisakhi is India’s most well known harvest festival, and is celebrated every year on the first day of the month of Vaisakh. Hence its name Baisakhi.  Usually falling around April 14 or 15, it is a colorful festival celebrating harvest, and goes on the whole day with many celebrations, including prayers at the gurudwara which are specially decorated for the day. For the Sikhs of India, this day also marks the formation of Khalsa celebrated at the Golden Temple.

6) Rangali Bihu – Mid April  : Rangali Bihu, the New Year, is celebrated on the first day of the month of Vaisakh in the north eastern India, generally falling on 14th or 15th of April. This harvest festival is traditionally celebrated for three continuous days. Sweets, flower garlands, new clothes, vistis to friends and giving gifts continue for these days. A special feature of this New Year’s celebration is the Bihu folk dance with women wearing the traditional mekhela chador costume, dancing in groups to the accompaniment of traditional music instruments baani, dhol, gogona, and others.

7) Puthandu – Mid April : Puthandu, the New Year of the Tamils of India is celebrated on the first day of the Tamil lunisolar calendar, usually falling on 14th or 15th of April. The day’s celebration includes wearing new clothes and going to the temple, visiting neighbors and friends, giving each other gifts. Early in the morning, the house is cleaned and then a thali is prepared with a sweet, flowers and fruits and placed before the house altar.

This New Year is also celebrated by Tamils in Puducherry, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Malaysia and Singapore.

Vishukkani, the first thing to be seen on the Vishu day, and prepared the night before, is an ritualistic arrangement of raw rice, fresh lemon, golden cucumber, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirror, yellow flowers, and a holy text and coins, in a bell metal vessel called uruli in the puja room of the House, with a lighted bell metal lamp called nilavilakku is also placed alongside. Photo: Aroonkalandy. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution – Share Alike 4.0 International License.

8) Vishu – Mid April      : Vishu is the traditional New Year of the Malayali people in India and falls around 14th or 15th of April, on the first day of the month of Vaisakh. It is celebrated in Kerala and Karnataka. Like the Gujarati New Year, Besatu Varas, the harvest festival of Vishu is also celebrated by a feast of special dishes, decorative lights, and fireworks. This is also the day when the sun moves towards the Mesha constellation and ploughing of their farms.

9) Mathili – Mid April    : Mathili, or Jur Sital, is the New Year in Bihar and Jharkhand, and is yet a harvest and water festival, usually falling on the 14th or the 15th of April. Like Vishu, this is also the day when the sun is conjoined in the Mesha constellation. The day is celebrated with special dish made out of rice. Traditionally, water is stored in brass vessels, and is used to bathe. Traditionally, the day is spent near lakes and ponds, flying kites and eating. It is also celebrated in Nepal as New Year.

10) Pohela Boishakh – Mid April  : Pohela Boishakh is the New Year for the Bengalis of West Bengal which falls on the first day of the month of Vaisakh or on April 14th or 15th. Typical to the Bengali culture, the day is celebrated with many musical concerts, good food and shopping for new things.

11) Vesak – Mid April   : Buddha Jayanti, Budhha’s birthday or the day he achieved enlightenment is celebrated as the New Year by Buddhists in India. The day is also known as Buddha Purnia, or Vesak, and is celebrated usually in mid April or May according to the lunisolar calendar. Traditionally celebrated by the Buddhist monks and nuns to pay tribute to Buddha, the day later came to be an annual festival celebrated with prayers and acts of kindness.

12) Hijri – July       : The Islamic New Year is celebrated on the first day of the month long Muharram, which is also the first month in the Islamic lunar calendar. Muharram usually falls in July new moon. It is a period of remembrance, gratitude and self-reflection for the Muslims. Traditionally celebrated by reading the Quran and praying at the mosques, the day is also meant for family and friends.

13) Rosh Hashanah – September-October     : The Jewish New Year is celebrated by the Indian Jewish community with traditional rituals. Usually falling in late September or early October, this New Year is spent in going to the synagogue and self reflection, spending time with family and friends and eating good food together.

14) Besatu Varas – October – November      : The Gujarati New Year, is celebrated the day after Diwali every year. Diwali in the lunar Vikram Samvat calendar marks the last day of the year, and the New Year begins the next day, the first day of the month of Kartik, according to the calendar.

Falling right after Diwali which is a 5-day festival beginning on the eleventh day of the waning moon, this New Year becomes part of a week-long celebration, especially as the day after the New Year is celebrated as Bhai Beej or bhaiyya dooj, not to speak of being full with too much of good food throughout the week. Besatu Varas is meant for getting up early, wearing new clothes and going to the temple first thing in the morning. Many temples organize an Annakoota or Goverdhan Pooja on that day, made up of countless special dishes offered to the deity.

The house has already received a thorough spring cleaning and decorated five days ago and a pile of snacks and sweets have been cooked to last the week. But the New Year, which is also spent by going to each other’s house, is marked by the traditional midday meal of puran poli, two vegetable dishes, one of which is a stuffed vegetable, dal or Gujarati kadhi, bhajiya-patra-dhokla or any other farsan, lots of condiments, papads, and chutneys. Fireworks for the New Year are supposed to be more in quantity than even Diwali.

What is Navroz Feast, Then?

Navroz or the Parsi New Year is celebrated with a rich feast which lasts almost the whole day. A special feature of the meals is to prepare them and present them on the table in straw trays, decorating the table with crystals and placing sweetmeats and fruits and drinks. Holiday table setting is an important ritual to be followed.

A usual Navroz feast for Parsis in Mumbai differs from that of Parsis in Gujarat in inclusion of alcoholic drinks. According to Dr. Nilufer Bharucha who was born and brought up in Mumbai and who has witnessed the Parsi traditions all her life, the day is meant to dress up, get together with family and friends and eat good food. Bharucha is a Professor of English and the Co-Director o the Mumbai Munster Institute of Advanced Studies.

A typical Navroz feast consists of sweet sev, or vermicelli, decorated with slivers of almonds and pistachios in the morning to welcome the New Year’s Day, Bharucha said to News India Times. “Then for lunch, you could have mutton or chicken pulav with masala dal and a custard for dessert,” she said.

Instead of the pulav you could also have plain yellow toovar dal with a tadka of finely chopped garlic fried in ghee sprinkled on it, Bharucha said. This can be served with Basmati rice and fried fish or fish steamed in a banana leaf, she added. Kolmi Patiyo, or shrimp curry goes with the Mori Dar (plain dal) in addition to the fried or steamed fish. For dinner you could have chicken or mutton cutlets with tomato gravy and rotis. The dessert could be ice cream or kulfi, Bharucha said.

“You shouldn’t forget the beer which is usually served at lunch time and some whiskey or brandy at dinner time, with potato wafers as starters,” said Bharucha, adding, “At the end of the day you can barely move with all this food inside you!”

Nilufer Bharucha’s Recipe for Kolmi No Patiyo

This is a traditional dish which is made on any special occasion including birthdays and anniversaries.

This is usually served with DhanDar. Dhan is rice and dar is dal.

Dhan: The rice used for this dish is good quality Basmati rice and is cooked in the regular fashion of white rice, with some whole spices like cinnamon sticks thrown in to make them fragrant.

Dar:  Dar is traditional tuver dal. Parsis use oiled dal and not dry dal. Dar has to be soaked for an hour after washing it thoroughly. It is a must to wash it ‘tan vaar’. It can be cooked in the pressure cooker after adding water, salt and a tablespoon of oil. It can be cooked al dente or soft, according to one’s taste.

Usually, dal is cooked with a little more water in it which is drained out before stirring and used as dar-nu-pani with some salt in it to make a nutritious soup like drink.

Cooked dal is then taken into another vessel and hand whisked after adding turmeric, and then boiled again on the stove till the turmeric is cooked. A tadka of fresh garlic finely chopped, not mashed, fried in ghee, is poured over the dar before serving it.

Kolmi no Patiyo or Shrimp Curry :        The shrimp used for this dish are small to medium size shelled and deveined shrimp, cleaned of their tails.

The shrimp are cleaned at home again by washing 3 times – ‘tan vaar’ with water to which salt and white vinegar are added to take the smell off. The vinegar and salt are thoroughly washed out of the shrimp.

Then the shrimp are marinated for half an hour in dry spice powders including turmeric, kashmiri red chili powder, and a paste of fresh ginger and garlic. Salt can be added depending on one’s taste as the shrimp may already be salty from the wash in salt water.

In a non stick pan or a copper bottom kadai, two tablespoons of oil is put to make a little tadka with rai, jeera, curry leaves and green chilies whole or chopped. All is stir fried before adding  finely sliced half moons of onions which are sauted until tender and pink.

The shrimp are added to the pan with all the marinade. Then in the old fashioned Parsi style, a little sugar and a teaspoon of sugarcane vinegar are added. The sugarcane vinegar is Kolah no Sarko. This completes the Khatto Meetho Kolmi no Patiyo

To serve, place rice in the dish first, then pour dar over it and place the shrimp curry on the side.



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