The first day of the year according to the National Calendar of Bharat (in some parts, the Shalivahana Shaka and in the rest, the Vikrama Samvat – corresponding to the era beginning 78 A.D. and 57 B.C. respectively) is significant both for its historical import and for the advent of bountiful nature. The day falls in the beginning of spring – Vasanta Ritu – When the Goddess of Nature gets bedecked as a divine bride.
The day aptly carries the assurance to human life, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” It fills the human spirit with optimism and hope about one’s future and injects into him courage and confidence in facing the trials and tribulations of life – both individual and national.
In some parts of Bharat, the tender leaves of neem mixed with jaggery are distributed on the occasion. The neem, extremely bitter in taste, and jaggery sweet and delicious, signify the two conflicting aspects of human life – joy and sorrow, success and failure, ecstasy and agony. The neem-jaggery blend is offered to God as naivedya and then distributed as prasaada. This embodies one of the highest philosophical attitudes taught by the Hindu spiritual masters. Sri Krishna says –
Duhkheshwanudvignamanaah Sukheshu vigatasprihah |
Veetaraagabhayakrodhah sthitadheermuniruchyate ||
Veetaraagabhayakrodhah sthitadheermuniruchyate ||
Not being agitated in sorrow, and free from desire for pleasure, sensual attachments, fear and anger – such a person is called Sthitaprajna – one who has acquired equanimity.
This in fact is the essence of yoga – whatever its path – Jnaana, Bhakti Karma or the Raajayoga. The innate peace and tranquility which results from such an equanimity in the face of the extremes of life-situations holds the key to the supreme goal of self-realization of the human soul. The resolve, single-minded and indomitable, to reach hat goal is taken on this day. Thus, this day verily becomes a moment of starting a new epoch – yuga – in our life.
On the national plane, the day recalls the inspiring occasion when the invading Shakas – the barbaric tribal hordes from Central Asia descending on Bharat like locusts during the 1st century A.D. – were vanquished by the great emperors Shalivahana and Vikramaditya. A people who had become benumbed and passive in the face of the furious and inhuman onslaughts, were roused to heights of manliness and patriotic fervor by their efforts. The people who till then were given to peace and affluence and had been singularly free from devastating aggressions from outside, had to be mobilized to face the challenges of the new situation. Shalivahana was the King of Shatavahanas, with his capital at Pratishthana on the banks of Godavari (in the present-day Maharashtra). A beautiful allegory woven round the singular achievement of Shalivahana depicts how he made clay images of soldiers, breathed life into them and forged a formidable army of warriors. As another story goes, Shalivahana popularized the figure of the dark Kali in her terrible form trampling upon a Raakshasa white in color, and piercing him with her deadly Trishoola. The idol carried its own message, – the dark Kali representing the Hindu people rising to their full heroic stature and crushing the foreign aggression of the white Shakas. It also symbolized the triumph of the forces of divinity over those of wickedness.
Vikramaditya – literally, the Sun of Valour – was famous not only for the peerless prowess he displayed in liquidating the foreign aggression; he was the patron of nine gems of poetic genius – Kalidasa crowning them all. The King was also celebrated for his supreme sense of justice so much so that Vikramaditya Simhaasana (The throne of Vikramaditya) has come to mean the seat of undiluted justice. His very name has become so much a part of all that is great and glorious in Bharat’s tradition that many a king in later days even in distant parts of the country prided himself in affixing the title Vikramaditya to his name.
The founding of new Eras in the names of Vikrama and Shalivahana signifies the supreme importance accorded in the Hindu history ad tradition for safeguarding the nation’s freedom and sovereignty. As such, the continuing tradition of the two Eras has helped to keep aglow the spirit of national freedom in the nation’s mind.
As a happy and meaningful coincidence, the great founder of the Rashtreeya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, was also born on this very day of Yugaadi of (1889).
Dr. Hedgewar was born of poor parents in Nagpur in 1889. Even as a child, his flaming spirit of patriotism was transparent to one and all. As a tiny tot he asked questions which amazed his elders: “How could these handful of foreigners (the English) coming from six thousand miles away become our masters?”. Even as a school boy, he entered the arena of freedom movement and bore its brunt. He graduated from the Calcutta Medical College. But he had long back vowed to remain a bachelor and dedicate himself at the altar of the motherland. He chose to become the `Doctor of the Nation’.
At Nagpur he plunged into the various freedom struggles, as the duck takes to water. He underwent hard terms in prison. He participated in social activities as well. But in none of these he find the final means of national emancipation. After deep cogitation, the Doctor made his diagnosis: absence of national awareness, i.e., utter lack of the feeling of being the organic limbs of a single national life, and the resultant mutual selfish feuds – well, it was these which had eaten into the vitals of our nation over the last one thousand years.
The Doctor therefore concluded that a national organization to instill true national consciousness and cohesion was the one supreme need of the hour. The Doctor also formulated the actual ways and means of achieving it. As a result, in 1925 on the auspicious Vijayadashami day – the Day of Victory in our national tradition – the Rashtreeya Swayamsevak Sangh was born.
The Sangh, too, by the creation of its dedicated, disciplined and organized strength of the people, has vowed to destroy the various evils corroding our social life from within the set at naught the attacks from without as well. Verily, the RSS is justifying its epoch making role in the same tradition of our heroic ancestors like Vikrama, Shalivahana and a host of other national saviours.
Baishaakhi, which follows Yugaadi, is the first day of the Hindu Solar Year (2nd week of April). In Punjab and certain other northern parts, it is an occasion for unbounded religious fervor and mass participation in festivities.