गुढी पाडवा, often mispronounced as guDi padwa (because ढी sounds like डी when spoken), is the Marathi name for Chaitra Shukla Pratipada. It is celebrated on the first day of the Chaitra month to mark the beginning of the New year according to the luni-solar Hindu calendar. This day is also the first day of Chaitra Navratri and Ghatasthapana. Kalash Sthapana is done on this day. The word पाडवा or पाडवो comes from the Prakrit word पड्ड्वा/पाड्ड्वो, which stands for the first day of the bright phase of the moon called प्रतिपदा (pratipadā) in Sanskrit.
On this festival of fresh beginnings, people take time out for their families and hold dear the religious connotations and folklore associated with the day. The time of the year when the sun’s rays go intense– from mellow to hot. The crops are harvested and the fruits of the harvest make their way to the marketplaces. Mango, the king of fruits, ripens to orange under the sun’s warmth. The ripe smell of jack fruit fills the air. Shrubs and trees burst into flower. Everything is fresh and new. It looks and smells like spring (or the best impersonation of the quintessential springtime that Indian climate can do). Gudi Padwa, also known as Ugadi, is celebrated on the first day of the Hindu month of Chaitra, which according to the Gregorian calendar would fall sometime at the end of March and the beginning of April. This festival is supposed to mark the beginning of Vasant or spring. According to the Brahma Purana, this is the day on which Brahma created the world after the deluge and time began to tick forth. India is a predominantly agrarian society. Thus, celebrations and festivals are often linked to the turn of the season and to the sowing and reaping of crops.
In the case of Gudi Padwa, it is celebrated at the end of the Rabi season. The term is also associated with Diwali, another new year celebration that comes at the end of the harvesting season, thus substantiating the agricultural link to the festival. Punekars visit the legendary Sarasbaug Ganesh Temple to pray and pay tribute to their Lord Ganesha on this day. Women and children work on intricate rangoli designs at their doorsteps, the vibrant hues mirroring the burst of colour associated with spring. Everyone dresses up in new clothes and it is a time for family gatherings. Specialities like soonth panak and chana usal are eaten on this day. “Traditionally, families are supposed to begin the festivities by eating the bittersweet leaves of neem tree. Sometimes, a paste of neem leaves is prepared and mixed with ajwain, tamarind and jaggery and the mixture purifies blood and builds up a stronger immunity against various diseases of tropical climate,” explains Pratibha Gupte, a homemaker. On this day, a gudi (pole) is put up with an upturned brass or silver pot called kalash, on it. Gathis, made by moulding sugar syrup and later used as prasad, are used to decorate the gudis. The gudi is covered with a colourful silk cloth and decorated with coconuts, marigolds and mango leaves. On Gudi Padwa, you will find gudis hanging out of windows or otherwise prominently displayed in traditional Maharashtrian households. Some Maharashtrians see the gudis as a symbol of victory associated with the conquests of the Maratha forces lead by the great hero Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Gudis are also said to ward off evil and invite prosperity and good luck into the house.