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Diwali(Festival of Light)
Nutan Varsh - Annakut

(New Year's Day)  

'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.


  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.
  2. 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 the year.'
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 of God.
  • 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.
In 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 the eyes.

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© 1999, Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, Swaminarayan Aksharpith