Gudi Padwa is celebrated on the first day of the month of Chaitra Shukla Padyami, and is celebrated as New Year's Day by the Maharashtrians. This is also the first day of the Marathi calendar. This holiday supposedly marks the beginning of Vasant or spring. According to the Gregorian calendar this would fall towards the end of March and the beginning of April.
This is one of the days in the lunar calendar, which is considered auspicious. While the people of Maharashtra use the term Gudi Padwa for this festival, the people of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka observe the same day as Ugadi. The Sindhi festival of Cheti Chand is celebrated on the same day.
This is a season of the year when the rays of the sun increase in intensity, going from temperate to hot. The crops are sowed, while mangoes, once again fill the trees. The smell of the fruit permeates the air. The trees and shrubs bloom. Everything is fresh and new. It looks and smells like spring.
Since prehistoric times, the celebrations and festivities were usually linked to the change of seasons and to the sowing and harvesting of crops. There is a theory that the word padwa can have its roots in the Sanskrit word for cultivation, which is pradurbhav. The word padwa as used at the same time means New Year, but this day only marks the beginning of a new sowing season, which for a farming community can mean the beginning of a new year.
In the case of the Gudi Padwa, it is celebrated at the end of the Rabi season. The term padava or padavo is also associated with Diwali, another New Year celebration that comes at the end of the harvest season, thus sustaining the agricultural connection with the festival.
On the day, the courtyards of the houses are swept and covered with fresh cow dung. Even in cities, people do their spring cleaning. Women and children work with intricate rangoli designs at their thresholds, with vibrant colors imitating the irruption of colors associated with spring. Everyone dress in new clothes and it is time for family gatherings. Specialties like the sonth panak and chana are usually eaten on this day.
Traditionally, families are supposed to start festivities by eating the bitter leaves of the neem tree. Sometimes a paste of neem leaves is prepared and mixed with ajwain, gur also called jaggery and tamarind. All 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 prepare shrikhand, which is a mixture of yogurt and sugar and poori on this day. A bright green or yellow cloth adorned with brocade or zari is tied to the end of a long bamboo to which also gathi, a type of sweet, neem leaves, a twig of mango leaves and a wreath of red flowers is then hoisted by arranging a silver or copper vessel inverted on it.
A Gudi is a stick on the top of which is placed a jar of bronze, silver or mud, called Kalash. The Gudi is covered with a colorful silk scarf and decorated with coconut, marigold and mango leaves, which symbolize nature. It is smeared with sandalwood paste, turmeric and vermilion. They also symbolize prosperity and good luck in homes, and avoid bad omens. Then, boys and young men of the place form a pyramid and the person on the tops breaks the coconut that is in Kalash.
During the Gudi Padwa Festival, gudis can be found hanging from the windows or in traditional Maharashtrian homes. The Gudi's are placed outside the house before dawn and removed before sunset. The Gudi Padwa is considered one of the most promising and important days of the year, and during which many people undertake new projects or make valuable purchases such as jewelry or home. The fragrance of seasonal fruits fill the air with a sweet smell.