In India, we have different New Year dates marked in the calendar, pertaining to different communities in the Hindu religion. Vikram Samvat Nav Varsh is officially the Hindu New Year although it is celebrated in different ways, under different names like Gudi Padwa, Ugadi, etc.
Vikram Samvat – The Hindu New Year
The Hindu New Year falls on the first day after the new moon day in the first month of the lunar calendar, Chaitra (चैत्र ). The New Year is celebrated widely in North India and East India and the rituals are observed in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, New Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkand, Himachal Pradesh, etc. Vikram Samvat Nav Varsh (विक्रम सम्वत नव वर्ष ) is celebrated as Bikram Sambat (Hindu New Year) in Nepal.
According to Bramha Purana, Lord Brahma created the universe on this day and it is considered the most auspicious day.
Emperor Vikramaditya and Vikram Samvat
Vikram Samvat is a sidereal calendar, where the dates of the calendar are indicated based on phases of moon and / or sun.
According to the legends, Vikram Samvat Nav Varsh was founded by the greatest emperor of India, Vikramaditya. Although he is considered a mythical or fictional character by many, the King Vikramaditya is still worshipped as a great warrior and a historical figure.
The era of the warrior Vikram began from the year 57 BC. It was marked as the commencement of the New Year (Vikram Samvat) by the king, as a commemoration to celebrate his victory over the Shakas, where he conquered Ujjain. Those who believed and followed him continue to celebrate the New Year as Vikram Samvat, which is 57 years ahead of the current year calculated by Gregorian calendar. Still, many argue that the King Vikramaditya is merely fictional and the tales revolve around him are fantasy.
Vikram Samvat 2073
April 8 2016 marks the beginning of Vikram Samvat 2073 (Chaitra Shukla Pratipada 2073)
In the year 2016, Vikram Samvat Nav Varsh falls on 8th April 2016.
Actually, the calendar of Vikram Samvat is 57 years ahead, when compared with the Gregorian calendar. It means the year 2016 marks the celebration of Vikram Samvat 2073. The Current Year is called ‘Soumya Samvatsar!’
How Vikram Samvat is Calculated?
Generally, lunar calendars are categorized based on the position of the Sun in different zodiac houses and position / phase of moon. The duration taken by earth to circle around the sun is calculated as one year. Similarly, it also includes the same duration taken by the Sun to return back to the same position with respect to the position of the stars. When compared with the tropical calendar, the sidereal calendar (Vikram Samvat) is 20 minutes longer.
Vikram Samvat Calendar is based on the waxing and waning of moon. Most of the states / communities in North India follow the calendar based on Amanta and Purnimanta system.
Calculated from the new moon day to next new moon day. The first day after new moon day is marked as the beginning of new month and twelve months forms a year. The first month begins from Chaitra, which falls between mid of March and mid of April.
Calculated from the full moon day to next full moon day.
Amanta system is calculated on the basis of the moon phase, which determines the auspicious and inauspicious days, festivals, etc.
The first day of the new moon phase (the New Year or the Vikram Samvat) is also celebrated as the first day of the nine-day long Navratri festival, the Chaitra Navratri festival, to be precise.
Differences between Vikram Samvat and Indian National Calendar
Indian national calendar, called as Saka Calendar is approved by the Government of India and used in addition to the Gregorian calendar.
The major difference between Saka calendar and Vikram Samvat is the day on which a new year falls.
Vikram Samvat – First day after new moon day that happens in the month of Chaitra, between March and April.
In Saka Calendar, Baishak or Vaishak is counted as the first month of the New Year and it commences on 21st April of every year and the month Chaitra is counted as the last month of the year, where every year ends on April 20. Saka Calendar is synonymous to the western lunar calendar influenced by the zodiac signs. It is typically based on the signs of the tropical zodiac and not on the sidereal zodiac normally used with other Hindu calendar.
Astronomical Importance of Vikram Samvat
Astronomically, the day celebrated as Vikram Samvat has a lot of specialties. It is the day (next day after new moon day in the month of Chaitra) when the Sun intersects at the celestial equator by crossing from southern to northern hemisphere. It means that sun moves above the southern hemisphere. This intersection is termed as Spring Equinox. Besides, it is the day when the environment receives the positive changes, which is marked by blossoming spring season.
How Vikram Samvat Nav Varsh is Celebrated?
The celebrations and rituals of lunar New Year vary in different communities across India. Since the New Year is the first day of nine day spring festival (Nav Varsh), Goddess Durga is worshipped as main deity in many places. As mentioned earlier too, it is called Chaitra Navratri.
Vikram Samvat, being one of the religious and auspicious festivals, is celebrated by family gatherings.
Since the position of the Sun changes on this day, every one wakes up before sunrise and take oil bath. As this day has special planetary positions, it is believed; taking oil bath on this day increases the calmness of the mind and energizes the body.
Elders in the family observe fasting on this day, which serves dual purpose, fasting for Lord Brahma on account of New Year and fasting for Goddess Durga, on account of celebrating Chaitra Nav Ratri.
Offerings and Pooja
Devotees wear new clothes and offer Pooja to the Lord Bramha, Lord Ganesha and Goddess Durga. Few families who worship Lord Krishna as their main deity, offer prayers to Him on Vikram Samvat.
- In olden days, priests or veteran astrologers used to narrate the general predictions of the upcoming year in temples.
- Affluent people invite priests at home and request the priests to get the astrological predictions on Vikram Samvat Nav Varsh.
- Many families perform the home Pooja by performing havan with priests.
It is believed that listening to auspicious information provided in the almanac on the New Year day brings a lot of good luck, fortune and money.
Neem and Jaggery
Although different communities in Hindu religion follow different rituals and traditions, they are united in many aspects. The Hindu New Year celebration is incomplete without offering Neem (नीम ) and Jaggery (गुड़ ) on this auspicious day as it is believed that both these elements increase self-awareness.
- Tender leaves of neem are offered with butter milk or honey.
- Similarly, pea sized jaggery is also offered.
In olden days, devotees used to abstain from eating ghee, milk and sugar on this day. It was believed that devotees should only eat fresh and natural foods like coconut, banana, wheat, jowar, rice, mango, etc.
Similarly it is believed that everyone should donate on this auspicious day of Vikram Samvat. It can be anything from providing food to the needy, offering clothes or even giving water. Donating on this day returns the favor.
Navratri- Nine Day Worship on Vikram Samvat
Goddess Durga is one of the prime Hindu deities. She, who is seated on a lion, represents victory, valor, strength and immense power. The prayers to goddess Durga is offered for nine days and nine nights during Chaitra Navratri that starts on the first day of Vikram Samvat. The ninth day of Nav Varsh is celebrated as Ram Navami, the birth of Lord Rama. Women observe fast during Nav Varsh and offer prayers to the goddess.
The same day is celebrated as ‘Gudi Padwa’ in Maharashtra, Navreh in Kashmir and ‘Ugadi’ in Andhra Pradesh.
Vikram Samvat is also celebrated in Gujarat as the Hindu New Year. However, this day in Gujarat is celebrated on the day after Diwali. Gujarati people call it Vikram Samvat but the date differs from the Vikram Samvat date of rest of the north India which starts somewhere in between mid March and mid April.