'Nutan Varsh' literally means 'dawn
of the New Year', also called 'Bestu Varsh'. The Hindu New Year's
day, of the Vikram era is Kartik sud 1.
- On Kartik sud 1, Lord Vaman asked
king Bali for 3 strides of land (ref. Devpodhi Ekadashi for
details). King Bali pleased the Lord by offering everything.
In remembrance of his devotion, Vamanji gave a boon that this
auspicious day will be famed as 'Balipratipadaa' (Skand Puran
24/10). People therefore offer Bali pujan on this day.
- The monsoon which commenced in
Ashadh will have grown new crops by the end of Aso. Therefore
the new harvest brought home is first used to cook exquisite
foods for the Lord. In Gokul it was a tradition to offer these
as thanksgiving to Lord Indra - deity of rain.
Observing these preparations, the child Krishna questioned his
father Nandbaba, of the purpose. Nandbaba replied that, 'It
has been a tradition to thank Lord Indra, who graces rain which
grows crops. That is why we live happily'.
Hearing this Shri Krishna pointed out that the cause of man's
happiness and misery are his karmas. And the supreme God bestows
the fruits of these karmas. He added, 'Since we are forest dwellers,
pujan of this Mount Govardhan, the cows and Brahmins, is greater
than Indra's puja.' He then commanded everyone, 'From now onwards,
fodder shall be offered to cows and food to Govardhan' (Shrimad
Bhagvatam 10/25). Everyone accepted his 'agna'. Through Govardhan,
the Lord then availed all the food offered. When Indra discovered
that his puja had been stopped, and instead, pujan offered to
Govardhan in Gokul, he unleashed his wrath by deluging Gokul
with rain to destroy it. However to demonstrate the Lord's power,
Shri Krishna raised Mt.Govardhan merely with his little finger,
thus sheltering the residents and cattle of Gokul underneath.
The underlying sentiment of this episode is that mundane factors
such as house, wealth, mountain, trees or earth, in themselves
do not have the power to protect us. Only the Lord Purushottam
has the power to deliver us. Relative to His powers, that of
the lesser deities pale into insignificance. Therefore it is
better to accept 'sharnagati' (refuge) of the Lord Supreme and
offer Him pujan.
Over the ages, these sentiments have been consolidated by offering
Govardhan puja. This is also known as 'Annakut', 'Anna' meaning
food and 'kut', mountain.
This auspicious day represents joy and happiness during the whole
year. The sage Ved Vyas reveals to Yudhishthir:
'O Yudhishthir, on this day of 'Padvo' (first day), the person
who remains joyous will experience happiness throughout the year.
The one who wastes it miserably, will experience misery during
By first offering sumptuous food to the Lord on this day, the
devotees thank Him. Therein they pray that through the whole year,
they avail His sanctified 'prasad'.
New Year's Day signifies starting the year afresh. By obeying
the commands of God and the Gunatit Sadhu, devotees receive a
new, edifying direction to live life contentedly and blissfully
during the New Year.
- People go to mandirs for the darshan
- People greet each other on this
day by uttering, 'Saalmubaarak'.
In all mandirs
'Annakut' is offered to the deities on this day. A vast array
of vegetarian foods is traditionally arranged in tiers or
steps, in front of the Lord. The sweets are placed nearest
to the Lord. As the tiers descend, other foods such as 'dal',
vegetables, pulses and fried savory foods are arranged. A
mound of cooked rice, symbolic of Mt. Govardhan, is placed
in the center.
In the shikharbaddh mandirs, sadhus begin to arrange the Annakut
in the morning and finish before noon. In all Swaminarayan
mandirs, sadhus and devotees then sing 'Thaal' - kirtans composed
by the poet paramhansas of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. These kirtans
list and glorify the food items in an aesthetic, rhyming and
pleasant manner, praying to the Lord to accept them. The singing
lasts for about an hour. This is followed by a grand arti.
The Annakut is left for darshan for the devotees till evening,
and then the items are taken down. The now sanctified prasad
- of sweets and dry foodstuffs are distributed as prasad.
the whole of the Swaminarayan Sampraday, Hindu Dharma and
perhaps the world, the grandest offering and display of
vegetarian cuisine every year, occurs in the Annakut at
the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, in Neasden, London. It stretches
for 85ft. in length, with 7 tiers. Every year, over 1250
different vegetarian food dishes offered in a spectacularly
devotional and aesthetic manner, a breathtaking feast for