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Indra dhvaj – the forebear of Gudi Padwa

Indra dhvaj – the forebear of Gudi Padwa

Gudi padva ( गुड़ी पड़वा), celebrated on the first day of Chaitra (चैत्र) month, as per the Lunisolar Hindu calendar is observed across the Indian subcontinent by various other names. On this day, Navreh (नवरेह) is the new year of Kashmiri pandits, Cheti Chand (चेटी चंद) is the new year of the Sindhi community, Ugadi / yugadi ( उगादि / युगादि) is celebrated in the South Indian states of Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh. Samsara padavo (सौसार पाडवो) is celebrated on this day by the Konkani community of Maharashtra and Goa as their new year. There are variations in regional stories and rituals associated with the celebration of this day, but they point to the common origin from Indra Dhwaj and Sakra Utsav.

According to one of the legends, it is on this day that Lord Brahma recreated the world after a massive flood washed away everything. It's still known as Yugadi by the People of Karnataka. Yugadi (Yug + Adi) means- the beginning of a new age. This day also marks the start of Satyug (सत युग)

Yet another belief says that it is on this day that Brahma initiated the concept of time in this universe. So it's a day of creation and a new beginning. Rightly so, in many parts of India, people celebrate this day as New Year's Day or an auspicious day for a new beginning.

According to another popular belief, after fourteen years of exile of Lord Ram, this is the sacred day of his coronation as the king of Ayodhya. Flags were set outside every house of Ayodhya to mark the grand celebration.

There are also stories of Gudi Padva associated with the victory of king Shalivahana and his return to Paithan. Later, it also became associated with Great Maratha Warrior Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who continued this tradition to mark the New Year.

The Flags used in various above contexts were known as Brahma Dhwaj (ब्रह्मध्वज - flag of Brahma), IndraDhwaja (इंद्र ध्वज - flag of Indira) or Gudi. The story of Indra Dhwaj finds its mention in Adi Parva (आदि पर्व) of Mahabharat, and there is a striking resemblance between celebrations and worship of Gudi with Indra Dhwaj.

In Adi Parva of Mahabharat, there is a story of the virtuous king Vasu also known as Uparichara. As an upholder of peace and justice, he was blessed by Lord Indra to win over the kingdom of Chedi and establish peace and economic prosperity in the kingdom.

After some time, king Vasu gave away the comforts of a king's life, settled in a secluded place, and got engrossed with the most challenging austerities. Moved by the intense austerities of a virtuous man, Lord Indra blessed him with a boon. Lord Indira gifted him a Crystal chariot ( स्फटिक विमान) that could fly. This led to king Vasu assuming the name of Uparachari - (one who goes or moves upward). He was also given a Garland of lotus (वैजयंती माला - Garland of victory) by Lord Indra, which would never fade and was his protector from injuries in the battle.

Lord Indra directed Vasu to rule the world of mortals and be the upholder of Dharma. Lord Indra (Sakra) gave him a bamboo pole as a symbol for upholding the Dharma, expanding his domain, guarding honesty, and maintaining peace.

Vasu planted the bamboo in the ground and started celebratory worship of Lord Indra. Subsequently, all smaller kings under his domain followed him and celebrated and worshipped Lord Indra by planting or fixing a bamboo pole, decorating it with rich golden cloth, ornaments and garlands. It is also believed that Lord Indra (Vasava) visits in the form of a swan to accept the prayer and bless everyone.

This celebration and worship of Indra Dhwaj were carried further by Vasu's five sons, Vrihadratha (also known as Maharatha), Pratyagraha, Kusamva (also known as Manivahana), Mavella and Yadu. Vasu's sons were of unfathomable power and virtue. Vasu made them Governors of all the Provinces he had, and later they established their extensive empires. This practice of worshipping IndraDhwaja and the associated celebratory festival, Sakra Utsav, spread across the Indian subcontinent. Over the years, these festivals adopted some regional variations, changing in form, but the essence remained the same.

Be it Brahma Dhwaja, IndraDhwaja or Gudi;
Raise it high for the belief that each one can be as virtuous as Vasu and contribute to upholding society's collective virtue.
Worship and celebrate it for the faith and hope that Lord Indra will visit us to accept our prayers and bless us.
Decorate it bright and colourful to celebrate the victory of good over evil.