In the western part of India the people of Gujarat are known for their colorful ways of life and their festivals are the true reflections of their lifestyle. Gujarati New Year is a time of festivity and it is marked by rituals, grand celebrations and general merriment.
The people of Gujarat celebrate their New Year or Bestu Varas in the month of Kartik, which is the first month of their calendar. The day of the New Year is also called Varsha-pratipada or Padwa in some places. It is celebrated on the day after Diwali.
The legend behind Govardhan puja
According to a narration of Vishnu Puraan, it is believed that Lord Krishna, along with the people of Braj, worshipped Govardhan Parvat on this auspicious day and prayed to him to protect the village of Braj from the incessant rainfall caused by Lord Indra.
There was a time when the people of Braj used to worship Lord Indra, who was the God of rainfall, for good crop before the beginning of their harvest season. But the grand scale of pomp and show associated with the puja didnít please little Krishna. So, he went ahead to convince the people of Braj to stop worshipping Indra and start praying to Govardhan Parvat, which according to him was the reason behind the prosperity of the region. This enraged Indra and he caused heavy rainfall over the small village.
Krishna gathered the people of Braj to pray to Govardhan Parvat. He requested Lord Govardhan allow him to lift him on his little finger so that the people and cattle can take shelter under it. Govardhan Parvat granted his wish and Lord Krishna lifted him on his finger. He thus also came to known as Giridhari or Govardhandhari. When Lord Indra came to know about his blunder he immediately apologized to Lord Krishna and stopped the rain. Since then Govardhan puja has become an important part of Gujarati New Year celebration.
Celebrations and rituals
Bestu Varas is also synonymous to sudekam in the month of Kartik. The first day of the Gujarati calendar is often referred as Hindu Vikram Samvatsar. According to the Hindu Vikram Samvatsar calendar Diwali occurs on the final day of the year and so, the next day is regarded as the beginning of a fresh year.
Gujaratis are very true to their custom and rituals. Bestu Varas is the time for them to bid farewell to the past yearís difficulties, ill-memories and grievances and make a fresh start. Since the New Year falls on the next day of Diwali it is especially a festive time for Gujaratis. They clean their houses and put fresh cotes of paints on the walls. The houses are decorated with flowers and diyas are lit during the evening. New clothes are stitched and worn by people.
The New Year also marks the beginning of the financial year for the businessmen and hence, new ledgers are opened on this auspicious day.
On the day of Bestu Varas people visit the temple to offer puja to deities. A small hillock of mud and cow dung is made replicating Govardhan Parvat and is worshipped.
In many temples as well as in Gujarati houses Anna-Koot is offered to the God. Anna-Koot means mount of food and fifty-six or one hundred and eight dishes are prepared and offered to Lord Krishna.
The celebration is also recognized for the grand feasts. A hoard of mouthwatering Gujarati delicacies are prepared during this time and enjoyed. Bestu Varas is the time for Gujarati people to celebrate fraternity, love and unity.