Health is wealth. Peace of mind is happiness. Yoga shows the way.
- Swami Vishnudevananda
Greetings at the onset of a brand new year!
When does a new year begin?
When do we actually say Happy New Year?
To think about it, does New Year happen only on 1 January every year?
I took some time out to reflect on this whole idea of a new year, and came up with some thoughts. Here they are.
In the deep, dark forests of the Amazon and in the unexplored wilderness of Africa, the onset of the rains, or the first blossoms on fruit trees might herald a new season, and therefore the start of a new year. That could be at any time of the year, not specifically 1 January, of course.
If you lived in China, it can be a bit confusing, because there they follow the lunisolar calendar, and therefore the new year can creep up on you when you are least expecting it. It can and does change every year. And while some of us are still celebrating 2019 around here, the Chinese have reached 4716 already over there, according to the calendar which they follow. That is many New Year days ahead of most of us, I am afraid.
For the record, the Chinese New Year is approximately at the end of January, and running all the way to the middle of February every year. In 2019, it will fall on 5 February. Considering that between India and China we account for a lot of the people on the planet, we must take note that a large number of people send greetings for a new year at a completely different time of the year.
Closer home. If we were from Punjab, or from Kerala, or we are Marwari or Parsi, we would be saying happy New Year at some other time, and in some other ways.
Things are, outside of the buzzing cities, a little different out there. The Telegu New Year Ugadi is observed on the bright full moon day of the first month of springtime. If you are in Bengal in mid-April, you will hear people wishing each other "Shubo Nabo Barsho". This is a festival in the month of Baisakh, first month of the Bengali New Year.
In neighbouring Sri Lanka , as in the Punjab, new year arrives also in April. According to the Sinhalese tradition, in April, when the sun moves from Meena Rashiya, the house of Pisces to Mesha Rashiya, the house of Aries, it is believed that the Prince of peace descends upon earth, thereby ushering in the new year or Aluth Avurudhu as known in Sinhala. In Punjab, 13 April marks Baisakhi, which traditionally heralds the onset of a new year. It is also the first day of the Nanakshahi calendar, and which incidentally will only be (about) their 550th year of celebrating new years, unlike the Chinese, who have been at it for a very long time!
Jamshedi Navroz is the Parsi New Year. It usually falls on 21 March. The Parsi New Year was named after the legendary King of Persia, Jamshed who started the Parsi calendar. As per the Parsi mythology, the universe is recreated on this day and life with all its glory is cherished. Navroz means spring and it is believed that Mother Nature casts her spell by dressing up like a young bride. And here is something even more confusing and interesting – Parsis in India and Pakistan celebrate the Parsi New Year about 200 days after it is celebrated everywhere else!
For the Muslims, the New Year is a cultural event which they observe on the first day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar, which follows the lunar cycle. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year, Muharram and New Year migrate. The Islamic year is said to have started in 622 of the Georgian calendar, and the coming New Year, 1397, therefore arrives on 31 August in 2019.
If you came from Kerala, you would be celebrating the New Year called Aandporuppu or the beginning of a new year, sometime in July-August. This is also following the lunar calendar, as is the custom with most of India. It is therefore not surprising that Deepawali, the New Year’s Day in many parts of India (not all. In Gujarat, for example, it falls on the next day after Deepawali), arrives on different days of the Georgian (or Western) calendar.
If you were Jewish, New Year or Rosh Hashanah would be sometime in September-October. You would be commemorating the anniversary of Creation, and the words mean the “head of the year’. The Jews have celebrated 5780 new years so far.
Losoong is the New Year for the people of Sikkim. It generally, falls in the month of December and marks the end of harvesting season and is famous as Sonam Losoong (the Farmers' New Year). It falls on the 18th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan lunar calendar and dots the agricultural New Year when rice and grains are in plenty.
Similarly, all over India, and the world, regions, states, religions, cultures and communities have different days on which they say happy New Year to each other.
By the way, we also have an Indian National calendar ((I kid you not!)), as researched, created, recognized and adopted by the Government of India and set into motion on 22 March 1957. And of course, the New Year is different from 1 January!
I now take a detour.
For financial analysts and money pundits, (again, here in India), 1 April has a special significance. An old year has just ended and a new one has just begun. Similarly, children, if you are in North India, wave to their friends and to their school and studies, and their current grade, sometime in mid-May, and welcome (or should I say, reluctantly welcome) a new year, possibly on 1 July, give or take a few days.
The Indian Air Force celebrates its annual day on 6 October every year. If you belonged to this community of our Defense establishment, the day marks the end of an old year, and the beginning of a new one. For those following Gandhian philosophy, 2 October becomes a day of reflection, new vows and commitments, and new horizons. Similarly, 15 August is a very special day for all of us in India. Governments, armies, administrators, and a whole nation raises the flag, sings the anthem, celebrates a new year of independence and freedom and looks ahead.
Schools, colleges, universities, organizations and social community groups have similar ‘annual days’. They usually mark the ending of one period, and a beginning of new resolutions and a new vision for the year ahead.
Our wedding anniversaries, and individually for all of us, our own birthdays are significant and mark the ending of a whole year, and the beginning of a new one.
For someone who had a recovery from a terrible trauma or major illness, or a close shave with death, as, say, in an accident, that day will be celebrated not just as the start of a new year, but even a whole new life.
For a disciple, the birth anniversary of his guru, or the day of his initiation into a life of discipline would constitute the beginning of a new year.
As we can see, New Year’s Day is a day in the calendar. But it is also just another day, any day, one day, even today.
In fact, every day could be, and seems to be, as and when required, a New Year day.
Should we want to make it a New Year day, we can. Just put some bells, add some decorations, bake a cake, have a ceremony, call a few friends, invite a few relatives, and declare it to be the day, d-day, New Year’s Day. For us. A day of celebrations, of new beginnings, of prayers for success and prosperity, of wishes for health and happiness.
Is it not true that someone, somewhere, is celebrating a day as a new year’s day on every day of the year, even if it is only his or her birthday?
Then why can’t we all do the same? Be in celebration every day?
We can have another perspective. We do not really need any particular day to begin something special or feel great or do something unique.
And if it is a matter of health, well-being and happiness, we definitely do not need to postpone it till the first day of a new calendar year. We can and must work on it, every day.
Which brings me to the all-important subject of this long story – the divine science, art, practice and love for yoga. You may have been wondering what a new year has to do with yoga.
Practicing yoga every day gives us buoyancy, inspiration, cheerfulness, energy, connectedness, stamina, emotional balance, good health, peace of mind and supreme happiness.
Yoga helps us to sail through every day as if it is the first day of a whole year ahead. Which, of course, it is.
Yes, yoga shows the way. Every day.
Yoga helps us to be in the present, helps us to be clear, light and happy. And in a celebratory mood! All the time! Every day!
For a yogi, every day is a day when he or she can shout - Happy New Year!!!!!
Come, let us all celebrate, with yoga, for all 365 days of the New Year.
On behalf of all the yoga addicts, members and teachers of the Sivananda Yoga Centre, Gurgaon, we wish you and your family a very happy New Year 2019.
See you soon at the Centre!
Good wishes always,
Arun Pandala and Deeksha Jain Prasad