The Hindu New Year commences with the first day of the bright fortnight of the month of Kartika. This day is considered an auspicious occasion and has a historical significance as well. It commemorates the victory of the great King Vikramaditya after whom the Hindu calendar is named. Our great ancestors have considered it a dawn of a new era from where the days, months, and years have been marked as "Vikram Samvant". Today over 2000 years later we still celebrate the day with great joy and happiness.
To welcome this day, preparations are begun a couple of months in advance - houses and surroundings are tidied up, redecorated, women-folk busy themselves in the preparation of a variety of delicacies, shopping activities of women, men and children appear to be increasing with purchases of new clothes, toys, sweets and gifts for one another. Thus the town seems to be vitalised with activities: shopkeepers and businesses flourish and everywhere joy and gaiety are seen to abound. On New Year's eve, people decorate the entrance of their houses with colourful designs called "Rangoli", flowers, buntings, etc. On New Year's Day everybody wakes up early, gets ready and dresses up in his/her best, respectfully greets elders and seeks their blessings and then sets off to visit relations and friends to exchange gifts and best wishes to auger New Year. In the larger cities people gather at community social centres to meet and convey to each other New Year's greetings and dine together or exchange sweets. Thus the atmosphere is jovial and gay in anticipation of ~ year of happiness and prosperity.
There are a couple of mythological stories associated with this day. When our social order classification based on vocations came under jeopardy with interference of King Bali, he was destroyed by Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as Vaman Avtar. Though King Bali was a bad man he was a charitable person and could see virtues even in a bad person. Thus this story encourages us to develop the quality of seeing good qualities even in a most wicked person.
In the Vaishnav Temple people worship Mount Govardhan and present a display of various delicacies at the altar as "Annakutt". In Vrindavan Gops and Gopis were preparing to offer sacrificial worship to lndra for invoking his blessing for rain but Krishna stopped them and explained that rains were not due to Indra so they stopped the sacrificial worship to Indra.
lndra was very annoyed at this and started a heavy downpour to flood and sink Gokul. Krishna raised and held Mount Govardhana on his small finger and sheltered the Gops and Gopis and their livestock, cows and other animals and birds for seven days. At last Indra accepted his defeat and apologised to Krishna. From this day the worship of Govardhana was introduced and on this day "Annakut" is offered to the Deity in the temples. The prasad of Annakut is then distributed amongst the devotees.
The real celebration and significance of this day will only be realised when we purify ourselves by lighting the lamp of knowledge and driving away the darkness of ignorance.