Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Karthik Poornima – Kartik Purnima

Kartik Purnima, or Karthik Poornima, is the full moon day in the month Kartik in traditional Hindu calendar. Kartik (October – November) is the eighth month in the traditional Hindi calendar and Marathi calendar and is the first month in the Gujarati Calendar. Taking a holy dip or bath in Ganga and other holy rivers, known as Kartik Snaan, is an important religious event for Hindus on Kartik Poornima day. In 2008, the date of Kartik Purnima is November 13.

Kartik Purnima is observed as Dev Diwali. It is believed that Lord Shiva annihilated demon Tripurasura on this day. Therefore the day is also known as Tripura Purnima.

The month long Akashdeep festival in Kashi also comes to an end on this day. The month long Kartik Snaan comes to an end on this day. The Tulsi Vivah ritual is observed by some communities on the day. The four month long Chatur Maas also comes to an end on this day in many calendars.

Kartik Purnima Mela on the banks of Ganga River at Garh Mukteshwar attracts more than a million devotees. It is believed that bathing at the Garh Mukteshwar Bridge Ghat in Uttar Pradesh has been taking place for more than 5000 years. It is said that a mere darshan of River Ganga at Garh Mukteshwar will get one Moksha (salvation).

Dev Diwali for Jains

The full moon day in Kartik, the first month of the Indian calendar brings
in the festival of Dev Diwali. For the Jains, it is the day of 'Nirvana' of
Lord Mahavira, the twenty-fourth Tirthankara. To them it is the Deva Diwali
when Lord Mahavira is worshiped, Agams (Jain holy books) are read and homes and temples are illuminated. Lamps are lit under the moonlight sky and a family feast celebrates this day.

Lord Mahavira, the last of the Jain Thirthankaras, said to have attained Nirvana on this day at Pavapuri. Accoriding Jain legends the first disciple
of Mahavira, Ganadhar Gautam Swami also attained complete knowledge on this very day, thus making Diwali a really special occasion for the Jains to celebrate.

Thousands of Jain pilgrims from all over India flock to the sacred Mount
Girnar in Gujarat where special celebrations are held on this day. It is
said that the first scriptural reference to Diwali is found in the Jain
scripture Harivamsha Purana, by Acharya Jinasena. None of the principal
Hindu scriptures mention the festival in particular. This has made some
believe that , Diwali was originally a Jain festival and later adopted by
Hindus as a festival of their own.

The way Jains celebrate Diwali is different in many respect. There is a
note of asceticism in what ever the Jains do and the celebration of Diwali
is not an exception. The Jains celebrate Diwali during the month of Kartik
for three days. During this period, devoted Jains observe fasting and chant
the Uttaradhyayan Sutra which contain the final pravachans of Lord Mahavira and meditate upon him.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Regional Names of Diwali in India

The customs of celebrating Diwali, the festival of light vary from region
to region. Though the theme of Diwali is universal, ie, the triumph of Good
over Evil, the Darkness paving way for Light and Ignorance leading to
Knowledge. With warmer days turning into a mild winter, the fun-filled
Deepavali, is celebrated for five days from Krishna Chaturdashi to Kaartik
Shukla Dwiteeya. Diwali is observed by Hindus, Sikhs & Jains, each
community celebrating Diwali for different reasons.

Before Diwali

Days before Diwali, people start decorating their homes, preparing sweets,
light up their homes with colorful lights, buy new clothes & Jewelry.
But in some Indian regions the rituals of Diwali starts off two days before
Danteras, ie the first day of Diwali. Such festival are:

Agyaras: The Patels and the Vaishnavs begin their Diwali
celebrations before Dhan Teras, on the 11th day of Ashwin. The day is
devoted to preparing the choicest snacks and savories.

Wagh Baras: This day signifies the importance of women in society.
Women in the house are worshiped and they buy new clothes and jewelry.

First Day
Throughout India, the first day of Diwali is widely known as Dhanteras.
This day is celebrated to revere Dhanavantri, the physician of the gods, and
Goddess Laxmi. Dhanteras is also known by various other names such as:

Dhanatrayodashi: Dhantrayodashi
a special ritual is accomplished which is called Deepdaan. In it lamps are
lit for every individual in the family and ancestors and they are floated in
a river or pond.

Yamadeepdaan: In India, the
festival of Dhanteras is also known as Yamadeepdaan. This name is associated
with Sixteen-year old son of King Hima was doomed to die but the dedication
of his young wife made Yam, the God of Death, return back.

Dhan Teyras: On Dhan Teyras, fast is
kept and the worship is done by lighting an earthen lamp on the main
entrance of the house and offering water, vermilion, rice, jaggery and
flowers to Yamaraj.

Asweyuja Bahula Thrayodasi / Dhantheran: In few South Indian States this festival is known as Asweyuja Bahula Thrayodasi or Dhantheran. This day is marked by
buying new utensils and silver/gold items.

Second Day

In every Indian household, the second day is celebrated with the lighting
of 5-7 deep (Diyas) on the door and corners. It is Diwali on a smaller
scale, with fewer lights lit and fewer crackers burst. The various regional
names associated with the second day are:

Choti Diwali: Choti Diwali or 'Small Diwali' is Diwali on a smaller scale, with fewer lights lit and fewer crackers burst. This day is known as Choti Diwali in most North Indian States.

Narkachaturdashi: Celebrated in all South Indian states, God Yama is worshiped on this day to get over the fear of demon Narakasura. People make an effigy of Narakasura, and burn it. Later, they take bath and burst crackers.

Roop Chaturdashi: In all north
Indian States, the second day of Diwali is also known as Roop Chaturdashi.
On this day, Hindus takes a ritual bath and perform Sadhana (Meditation) for
gain of beauty and magnetism.

Kali Choudas: The day before Divali
is called Kali Chaudas and on this day, a head wash and application of kajal
in the eyes is believed to keep away the kali nazar (evil eye).

Mahanisha / Kali Puja: The festival of
Diwali is known as Mahanisha in Bengal. It is believed that Maha Kali
appeared on this day, accompanied by 64,000 yoginis.

Divvela Panduga / Divili Panduga:
Divvela Panduga, also known as Divili Panduga is one of the most significant
festival of Andhra Pradesh that include the legend of Narakaasura,
decoration of house by rangolis, oil lamps and celebration with fire

Third Day

Accompanied by the exchange of sweets and the explosion of fireworks, the
third day of Diwali as the most important and significant day. The name
Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word Deepavali. Other names that vary
according to the regions are:

Laxmi Pujan: Diwali is synonymous
with laxmi pujan. Houses are decorated, Goddess laxmi is worshiped and the
women do "aarti" to their husbands, while praying for his long

Chopda Pujan: Diwali also
represents the start of a new business year so all businesses close their
accounts and present them to Lakshmi and Ganesh during the Chopda Pujan.

Deva Divali: Among Jains, Diwali is
known as Deva Divali. It is on this day that Lord Mahavira is worshiped,
sacred scriptures are recited and homes and temples are illuminated.

Sukhsuptika: Among the Kashmiri
Pandit, the festival of lights is known as Sukhsuptika, which literally
means sleep with happiness.

Kaumudi Mahostavam: In some part of Andhra Pradesh the festival of Diwali is known as Kaumudi Mahotsavam.

Badhausar: In Gujarat, Diwali is known as Badhausar. On this day, Lakshmi is believed to visit the homes that are well lit. So, families decorate their houses with light, flowers and paper chains.

Balindra Pooja: Diwali is also
known as Balindra Pooja in many South Indian States. In the morning, a pooja
offering oil to Krishna is performed.

Karthigai Deepam: On Karthigai
Deepam, people clean their houses and draw 'Kolams' (Rangoli) in front of
the house and also place some lamps on it.

Thalai Deepavali: The first
Diwali of the newly wed in Tamil Nadu is known as Thalai Deepavali.

Sharda Pujan: To augur success,
those involved in trade and business do pujan of their new ledgers. This is
known as Sharda Pujan.

Bandi Chhor Diwas: Diwali is celebrated as Bandi Chhor Divas by Sikhs throughout India. The story of Divali for the Sikhs is a story of the Sikh struggle for freedom.

Diyari: The festival of Diwali is known as Diyari among the Sindhis. They celebrate this festival by performing puja to Goddess Lakmi.
Fourth Day

The fourth day of Diwali falls on the first day of the lunar New Year. At
this time, it is new year for most of the Hindus, while for other on this
day old business accounts are settled and new books are opened. The fourth
day is known as:

Goverdhan puja: Govardhan Puja is
an occasion to worship Lord Krishna and Govardhan Parbat or Mount Govardhan,
near Mathura.

Bestavarsh: The fourth day is
celebrated as new year and the families celebrate it by dressing in new
clothes, wearing jewelery and visiting family members.

Gudi Padava: The association of the
New Year termed as Padava or Padavo, with Diwali also substantiates the
harvest festival theory.

Varsha Pratipada/ Pratipad Padwa:

The Fourth day is also called Varsha Pratipada or Pratipad Padwa that marks
the coronation of King Vikramaditya and Vikaram-Samvat was started from this
Padwa day.

Annakoot: On the fourth day, Annakoot
is celebrated in observance of the episode in Sri Krishna's childhood, in
which He gave protection to the cowherd clan of Vrindavan from the wrath of

Bali Padyam / Bali Pratipada: In
Karnataka and other states, the fourth day is celebrated as Bali Paadyami or
Bali Pratipada, commemorating the annual visit of demon king Bali to his
subjects on Earth.

Muharat Pujan: All business
establishments and families perform muharat pujan or veneration of their

Fifth Day

The fifth day of Diwali is widely known as Bhai dooj or Bhatri Ditya, and
is dedicated to the sacred bond shared between brothers and sisters. It is a
big family day and the various regional names of this festival are:

Bhai Phota: In Bengal this event is
called 'Bhai Phota'. Two days after Kali puja, 'Bhai Phota' is celebrated.
On this day, sisters keep a fast and invite their brothers to be

Bhaubeej / Bhav-Bij: The fifth day of
Diwali is known as Bhaubeej or Bhav-Bij among the Marathi speaking

Bhai-Tika: The last day of Diwali is
known as Bhai Tika in Nepal. Also known as brother and sister day, sister
pray to Yamraja for her brother's long life and prosperity.

Yamadwitheya / Bhathru Dwithiya: As
the legend goes Yamraj, the God of Death visited his sister Yamuna on this
particular day. That is why this day of Bhayyaduj is also known by the name
of "Yama-Dwitiya" or Bhathru Dwithiya.

Gorehabba: A unique festival
celebrated by a remote village of Karnataka, Gorehabba fills joy and
enthusiasm in people's life. On this day the villagers start playing with
the cow dung and there are also a few interesting rituals that are done.

Bhatri Ditya: A festival in tune
with the Diwali celebration, Bhatri Ditya is a special occasion amongst
brothers and sisters and is observed as a symbol of love and affection.

Bhathru Dwithiya: Bhathru
Dwithiya is a significant Hindu festival that lay utmost importance to the
love shared between a brother and his sister. Various rituals and customs
are followed while celebrating Bhathru Dwithiya.

Story about diwali

In India, there are lots of tale for diwali. Each and every region there own story. Some of them, I share with you.

¤ The Mythological Story

The mythological story of Sagar Manthan or ‘churning the ocean’
may help us understand why Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, is
worshipped during Diwali. Legend has it that once all the devtas, or
demigods were under a curse that made them weak in body and mind. They
were advised by Brahma (Creator in the Hindu Holy Trinity of
Creator-Preserver-Destroyer) to drink amrit, or the elixir of life.
But amrit could only be obtained by the churning of the ocean, which,
needless to add, was no mean feat. Now the question arose as to
how to go about churning the gargantuan ocean. Lord Vishnu (the Hindu
Preserver of the Universe) came up with a solution saying that Mount
Meru could act as the churning stick, while Vasuki (the mythical
serpent) could be used as the coil around Meru. Pleased with the
suggestion, the devtas went to the asuras, or demons and sought their
help in accomplishing the formidable task. The devtas’ promise to
share the amrit with the asuras tricked the latter into consenting to
tug Vasuki from one end.

Thus ensued a phenomenal churning that, however, threatened to
destroy the three worlds (Heaven, Earth and Hell). The gods simply
could not let that happen, so Vishnu appeared in the guise of a giant
tortoise or Kurma (Vishnu's second incarnation) and stabilised the
churning by acting as a base under Mount Meru. It is said that
eventually, spectacular treasures emerged from the great ocean
including Laksmi the Goddess of Prosperity and Wealth, Sura the
Goddess of Wine, Chandra, or the moon, Apsaras, the celestial nymphs,
Kaustabha, the precious gem of Vishnu, Uchchaishravas, the divine
horse, Parijata, the wishing coral tree, Kamdhenu, the wish-fulfilling
Divine Cow, Airavata, the four-tusked white elephant, Panchajanya, or
the conch, Sharanga, the invincible bow, and Dhanvantri, Nimi and
Bharadwaj - the physicians and surgeons.

¤ Chhoti Diwali

The day before Diwali is celebrated as Chhoti Diwali (small Diwali).
This is the day when Hanuman reached Ayodhya to deliver the
long-awaited message of Lord Rama’s return. On Chhoti Diwali,
people socialise and exchange sweets and gifts. There is a puja in the
evening, and the puja sthan (most Indian homes have a special room or
corner with a little temple in which they pray) is decorated with
empty earthen lamps and newly purchased idols that are to be
worshipped in it. In Bengal, people celebrate the Kali puja on this
day. Kali is the Goddess of War and is highly revered by the Bengalis.
In South India, an oil massage followed by a bath before dawn on this
day is equated to taking a dip in the holy River Ganga. and a dip in
the Ganga (the holy river of India supposed to absolve one of all
sins) on this day is also considered to be an act of piety.

¤ Diwali myths: the end of Rama's exile

Over time, various mythological explanations were given for the celebration of Diwali. The most popular myth among these is the one linked to the ancient prince Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, returning to their kingdom, Ayodhya, after a 14-year exile, and the defeat of the king of Lanka, Ravana. To celebrate this event, people at Ayodhya are believed to have lit up their houses with lamps.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dussehra - Vijaya Dashmi

All that is good in mankind is concentrated in the deeds of the god-king
Ram, the ruler of Ayodhya. Lord Rama, the moral man with his moral way of life are the reasons for celebrating India's popular festival of Dussehra and Diwali. Diwali comes exactly 20 days after Dussehra on Amavas (new moon), during fortnight of kartik, some time in October or November.

On the day of Dussehra, Ram, killed the great demon Ravan, who had abducted Ram's wife Sita to his kingdom of Lanka. Ram, along with his brother Lakshman and devoted follower Hanuman, and an army of monkeys fought a great battle to rescue his lovely wife Sita. The war against Ravan lasted for ten days. Sita had been returned to her husband Ram and they now make their way to Ayodhya in triumph and glory. Thus, it is on the Diwali day that Lord Ram, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the Treta Yug, returned to his capital Ayodhya after the exile of fourteen years.

Consequently, to commemorate the return of Ram, Sita and Lakshman to Ayodhya, people celebrate Diwali with the bursting of crackers and by lighting up their houses with earthen diyas. This grand style of celebration have continued, year after year. To this
day, the whole of Ramayana is enacted in dramas staged in huge pandals and maidans, in cities, towns and villages, on the occasion of Dussehra and Diwali.


In a week long fair in the hill town of Kullu, is part of the Dussehra celebrations. From the little temples in the hills, deities are brought in procession to the 'maidan' in Kullu, to pay homage to the reigning deity, Raghunathji. The celebration actually begins nearly 10 days in advance as per tradition.

In Mysore, Karnataka the Mysore palace is illuminated for a whole month during Dussehra and caparisoned elephants lead a colourful procession through the gaily-decorated streets of the city. It is the most colourful celebration of Dussehra in world. The spectacular procession taken out on this day is really enjoyable.

In Tamil Nadu, the first three days are dedicated to the worship of Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth and prosperity, the next three days to Saraswati, Goddess of learning and arts and the last three days to Shakti (Durga).

In Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, families arrange dolls (Bommai Kolu) on artificially constructed steps and prepare an elaborate spread of lamps and flowers. Women traditionally exchange gifts of coconuts, clothes and sweets.


The whole set up is put on the very first day of Navaratri. Vijaya Dashamiy is an auspicious occasion for children to commence their education in classical dance and music, and to pay homage to their teachers.

In Punjab, Navaratri is taken as a period of fasting. In Gujarat, the evenings and nights are occasions for the fascinating Garba dance. The women dance around an earthen lamp while singing devotional songs accompanied by rhythmic clapping of hands.

In northern India, the festival wears the colourful garb of Ramlila wherein various incidents from Rama's life are enacted. Ramlila draws large number of people every year. The entire night of Dussehra passes in an enthusiastic and enchanting fair like ambience and people enjoy every bit of it. After Dussehra, the excitement of the Diwali grips the whole of India. (

Friday, October 3, 2008

Navaratri Mahotsav

The Navratri commences on the first day (pratipada) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashwin. The festival is celebrated for nine nights once every year during the beginning of October, although as the dates of the festival are determined according to the lunar calendar, the festival may be held for a day more or a day less.

Navaratri is celebrated in different ways throughout India. In North India, all three Navratris are celebrated with much fervor by fasting on all nine days and worshipping the Mother Goddess in her different forms. The Chaitra Navratri culmintes in Ram Navami and the Sharad Navratri culminates in Durga Puja and Dussehra. The Dussehra of Kulu in Himachal Pradesh is particularly famous in the North.

The last four days of Sharad Navratri take on a particularly dramatic form in the state of West Bengal in East India where they are celebrated as Durga Puja. This is the biggest festival of the year in this state. Exquisitely crafted and decorated life-size clay idols of the Goddess Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahisasura are set up in temples and other places. These idols are then worshipped for five days and immersed in the river on the fifth day.

In Western India, particularly in the state of Gujarat, Navratri is celebrated with the famous Garba dance. It is also popular throughout India and among Indian communities around the globe.

Navratri is divided into sets of three days to adore three different aspects of the supreme goddess or goddesses.

First three days

The goddess is invoked as a spiritual force called Durga also known as kali in order to destroy all our impurities and other things .

Second three days

The Mother is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi, who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees inexhaustible wealth. She is the goddess of wealth.

Final three days

The final set of three days is spent in worshipping the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. In order to have all-round success in life, believers seek the blessings of all three aspects of the divine femininity, hence the nine nights of worship.

In South India, Saraswathi pooja is performed on the 7th day. Eight day is traditionally Durgashtami which is big in Bengal. The 9th day is Ayudha Pooja when everyone gives their tools of the trade -- pens, machinery, books, automobiles, school work, etc. a rest and ritually worships them. They start afresh from the next day, the 10th day which is considered as 'Vijaya Dashami'. Many teachers/Schools in south India start teaching Kindergarten children from that day onwards. Students also pay homage to their respective teachers as they are considered the third god (Maathaa, Pitha, Guru, Daivam - Mother, Father, Teacher & God). On this tenth day of Navratri in October - the holiday of Dussehra or Dasara, an effigy of Ravana is burnt to celebrate the victory of good (Rama) over evil.

During Navratri, some devotees of Durga observe a fast and prayers are offered for the protection of health and prosperity. A period of introspection and purification, Navratri is traditionally an auspicious and religious time for starting new ventures.

During this vowed religious observance, a pot is installed (ghatasthapana) at a sanctified place at home. A lamp is kept lit in the pot for nine days. The pot symbolizes the universe. The uninterrupted lit lamp is the medium through which we worship the effulgent Adishakti, i.e. Sree Durgadevi. During Navratri, the principle of Sree Durgadevi is more active in the atmosphere.

Navratri is celebrated in a large number of Indian communities. The mother goddess is said to appear in 9 forms, and each one is worshipped for a day. These nine forms signify various traits that the goddess influences us with. The Devi Mahatmya and other texts invoking the Goddess who vanquished demons are cited.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated on the birthday of Lord Ganesh (Ganesha), the god of wisdom and prosperity on the fourth day of the moons bright fortnight, or period from new moon in the lunar month of Bhadrapada. The celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi continue for five, seven, or ten days. Some even stretch it to twenty one days, but ten the most popularly celebrated. In the tradition of the right hand path the first day is the most important. In the left hand path tradition the final day is most important.

Ganesha is the god of wisdom and prosperity and is invoked before the beginning of any auspicious work by the Hindus. It is believed that for the fulfillment of one's desires, his blessing is absolutely necessary. According to the mythology, he is the son of Shiva and Parvati, brother of Kartikeya - the general of the gods, Lakshmi - the goddess of wealth and Saraswati-the goddess of learning. There are numerous stories in Hindu mythology, associated with the birth of this elephant-headed god, whose vehicle is the Mooshak or rat and who loves Modaks (droplet shaped Indian sweet).

Legend has it that Parvati created Ganesha out of the sandalwood dough that she used for her bath and breathed life into him. Letting him stand guard at the door she went to have her bath. When her husband, Shiva returned, the child who had never seen him stopped him. Shiva severed the head of the child and entered his house. Parvati, learning that her son was dead, was distraught and asked Shiva to revive him. Shiva cut off the head of an elephant and fixed it on the body of Ganesha.

Another tale tells of how one day the Gods decided to choose their leader and a race was to be held between the brothers- Kartikeya and Ganesh. Whoever took three rounds of the earth first would be made the Ganaadhipati or the leader. Kartikeya seated on a peacock as his vehicle, started off for the test. Ganesh was given a rat, which moved swiftly. Ganesh realised that the test was not easy, but he would not disobey his father. He reverently paid obeisance to his parents and went around them three times and thus completed the test before Kartikeya. He said, " my parents pervade the whole universe and going around them, is more than going round the earth." Everybody was pleasantly surprised to hear Ganesha's logic and intelligence and hence he came to be known as the Ganaadhipati or leader, now referred to as Ganpati.

There is also a story behind the symbolic snake, rat and the singular tusk. During one of his birthdays, His mother, Parvati, cooked for him twenty-one types of delicious food and a lot of sweet porridge. Ganesha ate so much that even his big belly could not contain it. Mounting his little mouse, he embarked on his nightly rounds. His mouse suddenly stumbled upon seeing a huge snake. To adjust His belly, Ganesha put the snake on as a belt around his stomach. All of a sudden, he heard laughter emanating form the sky.

He looked up and saw the moon mocking him. Ganesha infuriated, broke off one of his tusks and hurled it at the moon. Parvati, seeing this, immediately cursed the moon that whoever looks at it on Ganesh Chaturthi will be accused of a wrong doing. The symbology behind the mouse and snake and Ganesha's big belly and its relationship to the moon on his birthday is highly philosophic. The whole cosmos is known to be the belly of Ganesha. Parvati is the primordial energy. The seven realms above, seven realms below and seven oceans, are inside the cosmic belly of Ganesha, held together by the cosmic energy (kundalini ) symbolized as a huge snake which Ganesha ties around Him. The mouse is nothing but our ego. Ganesha, using the mouse as a vehicle, exemplifies the need to control our ego. One who has controlled the ego has Ganesha consciousness or God-consciousness.


Pongal is the only festival of Hindu that follows
a solar calendar and is celebrated on the fourteenth of January every
year. Pongal has astronomical significance: it marks the beginning of
Uttarayana, the Sun's movement northward for a six month period.
In Hinduism, Uttarayana is considered auspicious, as opposed to
Dakshinaayana, or the southern movement of the sun. All important events
are scheduled during this period. Makara Sankranthi refers to
the event of the Sun entering the zodiac sign of Makara or Capricorn.

In Hindu temples bells, drums, clarinets and conch shells herald the
joyous occasion of Pongal. To symbolize a bountiful harvest, rice is
cooked in new pots until they boil over. Some of the rituals performed
in the temple include the preparation of rice, the chanting of prayers
and the offering of vegetables, sugar cane and spices to the gods.
Devotees then consume the offerings to exonerate themselves of past

Pongal signals the end of the traditional farming season, giving
farmers a break from their monotonous routine. Farmers also perform puja
to some crops, signaling the end of the traditional farming season. It
also sets the pace for a series of festivals to follow in a calendar
year. In fact, four festivals are celebrated in Tamil Nadu for four
consecutive days in that week. 'Bogi' is celebrated on January
13, 'Pongal' on Jan 14, 'Maattuppongal' on Jan 15, and
'Thiruvalluvar Day' on Jan 16.

The festival is celebrated for four days. On, the first day, Bhogi, the
old clothes and materials are thrown away and fired, marking the
beginning of a new life. The second day, the Pongal day, is celebrated
by boiling fresh milk early in the morning and allowing it to boil over
the vessel - a tradition that is the literal translation for Pongal.
People also prepare savories and sweets, visit each other's homes, and
exchange greetings. The third day, Mattu Pongal, is meant to offer
thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands.
On the last day, Kanum Pongal, people go out to picnic.

A festival called Jalli kathu is held in Madurai,
Tiruchirapalli and Tanjavur,all in Tamil Nadu, on this day. Bundles of
money are tied to the horns of Pongal ferocious bulls which the
villagers try to retrieve. Everyone joins in the community meal, at
which the food is made of the freshly harvested grain. This day is named
and celebrated as Tamilian Tirunal in a fitting manner through
out Tamil Nadu.

Thus, the harvest festival of Pongal symbolizes the veneration of the
first fruit. The crop is harvested only after a certain time of the
year, and cutting the crop before that time is strictly prohibited. Even
though Pongal was originally a festival for the farming community, today
it is celebrated by all. In south India, all three days of Pongal are
considered important. However, those south Indians who have settled in
the north usually celebrate only the second day. Coinciding with Makara
and Lohri of the north, it is also called Pongal

Maha Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri falls on the 13th day of Krishana Paksha
of Maagha Maasa (February-March). It is a night of fasting and prayer in
honour of Lord Shiva in His aspect of destroying sins and bad things. The
night is called Shivamaya, i.e. a night to spend with thoughts of Lord Shiva.
As the Lord of the universe He is full of compassion and only punishes out
of Love and for the good of mankind. It is on this great night that Lord
Shiva redeems the world. He swallows poisons and sins to save His devotees.
During this holy night the devotees of Lord Shiva fast, meditate, pray and
sing the glory of the Saviour. Whatever is offered to Lord Shiva with devotion
is pleasing to Him. On this night He showers blessings abudantly.

The Symbol of Lord Shiva, is the Shiva Lingam, it is a form to represent the formless and it is worshiped with great splendour during Maha Shivaratri. This Lingam is the symbol of the one who is All - Pure, All -Perfect, All - Bliss; Lord Shiva. When contemplated with adoration it becomes a mirror of the soul. It becomes a cosmic window that opens to allow the devotees to touch the All - Pure One.

The Shiva Lingam in the Ashram was found many years ago and named Sachchidanandishwara by Sri Swamiji. During Maha Shivaratri the devotees themselves can do water abishekam to this Lingam with water collected from the holy rivers of India. It is followed by Ekadasha Rudrabishekam (pouring different ingredients on the sacred Lingam: milk, honey, ghee, curds, coconut water, sugar, flowers and bay leaves). Beautiful decoration of the Lingam with flowers, vibhuti, sandalpaste, turmeric, kumkum, rudrakshas, butter etc. crown the abishekas. Everything has a deep meaning. During the ceremonies you can hear the huge crowd of devotees chanting the famous Shiva-mantra:

Om Namah Shivaya...
Om Namah Shivaya...

A memorable part of Shivaratri is Sri Swamiji's Agni Puja, the worship of the Fire God, which He has inherited from his ancestors and has been performing for many years. Sri Swamiji does Puja to the Firegod standing in the pit (Homa Kunda) unmindful of the leaping flames which surround Him. The flames are powerless before Sri Swamiji; they cannot even touch a hair on His crown. It is a case of spiritual fire conquering material fire, and it benefits the whole world!After performing Agni puja, His Holiness brings out Shivalingams and other forms of deities from the fire pit, which are the prasadam (gifts) of Lord Agni. These sacred objects provide the basis for Sri Swamiji's predictions and advice to His devotees for the coming year, as well as His long term forecasts.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Mahavir Jayanti :: Indian Festivals

The main Jain festival of the year is Mahavira Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Mahavira, the founder of Jainism. Since this faith does not lend itself to outward spectacle and gaiety, this religious event is largely observed in quiet prayer.

On Mahavir Jayanthi, Jain temples are decorated with flags. In the morning the idol of Mahavira is given a ceremonial bath called the 'abhishek'. It is then placed in a cradle and carried in a procession around the neighbourhood. The devotees will make offerings of milk, rice, fruit, incense, lamps and water to the people in procession. Some sections of the community even participate in a grand procession. Lectures are held to preach the path of virtue. People meditate and offer prayers. Donations are collected to save the cows from slaughter. Pilgrims from all parts of the country visit the ancient Jain Temples at Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat on this day.

Mahavir Jayanti is also celebrated during the 8 day holy period of Paryushan. During this period, pre-defined readings are carried out from a holi scripture - Kalpa Sutra that contains biographies of Jain Tirthankars. Biography of Mahavir Swami, particularly His birth, is read on the day of Mahavir Jayanti.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Muharram :: Indian Festivals

Muharram is not a festival in the celebratory sense as it mourns the Kerbala tragedy when Imam Husain, grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was martyred in the early days of Islamic history. Profusely decorated taziahs (bamboo and paper replicas of the martyr's tomb), embellished with gilt and mica are carried through city streets.

Mourners beat their breasts lamenting and grieving over the murder, accompanied by drum beats. Wrestlers and dancers enact scenes depicting the battle at Kerbala and at each step young men beat their breasts crying "Husain! Husain!" in collective sorrow. Some mesmerising processions can be witnessed on the occassion of Muharram in the cities of Agra, Lucknow, Delhi and Hyderabad.

Janmashtami :: Indian Festivals

Vishnu is invoked in his human incarnation as Krishna on his birth anniversary in the festival of Janmashtami. The temples of Vrindavan witness an extravagant and colourful celebration on this occasion. Raslila is performed to recreate incidents from the life of Krishna and to commemorate his love for Radha. The image of the infant Krishna is bathed at midnight and is placed in a cradle. Devotional songs and dances mark the celebration of this festive occasion all over Northern India. In Maharashtra, Janmashtami witnesses the exuberant enactment of the god's childhood endeavours to steal butter and curd from earthen pots beyond his reach. A matka or pot containing these is suspended high above the ground and groups of young men and children form human pyramids to try and reach the pot and eventually break it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Christmas :: Indian festivals

Christians in India celebrate their festivals broadly on the pattern adopted worldwide. However some influence of local Indian tradition is evident among Syrian Christians who use elephants, umbrellas and traditional music as accessories to their festivities and celebrations. Christmas is a major event in all Indian Christian households and one can see Catholic Goa come to life at this time of the year.

The Carnival, preceding the Lenten period of penance is the most important event at Goa. Similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it is an extravagantly colourful occasion. A carnival parade, full of colour and zest, it is virtually a celebration of life itself.

EID :: Indian Festivals

Besides Hinduism, India is also the home of innumerable other faiths and the religious and cultural diversity of this nation is manifested in the large number of non-Hindu festivals.

The sizeable Muslim communities have their Eids in common with Muslims across the world. Eidu'l Fitr, Eidu'l Zuha and Eid-e-Milad are the three festive occasions widely celebrated by Muslims in India.

Eid is celebrated with great enthusiasm all over the country, and one can see Muslims of all age groups and from all stratas of society attired in new clothes, visiting mosques to offer namaaz.

The tombs of many Sufi saints attract devotees of all religious persuasions, especially during the urs or death anniversaries. The best known urs are centred at tombs in towns like Ajmer, Delhi, Manakpur, Nagore and Dongri.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ramnavami :: Indian Festivals

Lord Vishnu is worshipped in his human incarnation as Rama, the divine ruler of Ayodhya, on his birth anniversary known as Ramnavami. Thousands of pilgrims converge in the temples of Ayodhya and Pondicherry, two places closely connected with the events of the Ramayana (the Epic describing the story of Rama), to participate in Ramnavami festivities. Colourful processions are held, which comprise brilliant floats of Rama, his wife Sita, Rama's loyal brother Lakshmana and Hanuman, Rama's monkey-general.

Deepawali :: Indian Festivals

Deepawali is a festival of lights symbolizing the lifting of spiritual darkness. It is a family festival which is celebrated 20 days after Dussehra. Continuing the story of Rama, this festival commemorates his return to Ayodhya after completion of his fourteen year exile and after his victory over the evil king Ravana. Twinkling oil lamps or diyas light up every home and firework displays are common all across the country. The goddess Lakshmi (consort of Vishnu) who is the symbol of wealth and prosperity is also worshipped on this day. This festive occasion also marks the beginning of the Hindu new year and Lord Ganesha, the elephant god, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshipped in most Hindu homes on the Deepawali day.

The occasion of Deepawali sees the spring-cleaning and white-washing of houses and decorative designs or rangolis are painted on floors and walls. New clothes are bought and family members and relatives gather together to offer prayers, distribute sweets and to light up their homes.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Holi :: Indian Festivals


It is spring time in India, flowers and fields are in bloom and the country goes wild with people running on the streets and smearing each other with brightly hued powders and coloured water. This is the festival of Holi, celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March every year.

Originally a festival to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land, Holi is now a symbolic commemmoration of a legend from Hindu Mythology. The story centres around an arrogant king who resents his son worshipping Lord Vishnu. He attempts to kill his son but fails each time. Finally, the king's sister Holika who is said to be immune to burning, sits with the boy in a huge fire. However, the prince Prahlad emerges unscathed, while his aunt burns to death. Holi commemorates this event from mythology, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation.

This exuberant festival is also associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha, and hence, Holi is spread over 16 days in Vrindavan as well as Mathura - the two cities with which Lord Krishna shared a deep affiliation. Apart from the usual fun with coloured powder and water, Holi is marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and a general sense of abandoned vital

Dussehra or Durga Puja :: Indian Festivals

This festival commemorates the victory of the goddess Durga (an incarnation of Parvati, consort of Shiva) over the demon Mahisasura. It is also celebrated as a remembrance of the victory of Lord Rama (an incarnation of Vishnu) over Ravana, the king of Lanka who had abducted Sita, wife of Rama.

Dussehra is celebrated at the end of Navaratri, a nine-day festival. Images of Durga are worshipped during the Navaratri festival and stories related to the goddess and to the conquest of good over evil are told. Navaratri is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Gujarat, Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Prayers, devotional songs and colourful rituals mark the occasion of Navaratri and Dussehra. Ramlila is another exciting feature of this festival where the story of Rama, the God King of Ayodhyaya is depicted in a dance-drama form on all ten days of celebration.

On the 10th day i.e. the day of Dussehra, buffaloes representing the buffalo-demon Mahisasura are sacrificed to the goddess. The evening of Dussehra sees the burning of the colorful effigies of Ravana, complete with 10 heads and curling moustaches, and those of his son and brother. This spectacle is marked by setting off of a fusillade of fire-crackers and the triumph of good over evil is commemorated once again.

A Country Of Festivals

Someone once remarked that in India, there is a festival on every day of the year. There are innumerable national, regional, local, religious, seasonal and social festivities that give credence to this statement. This is not surprising considering the innumerable gods, goddesses, saints, gurus and prophets who are worshipped in India.

Festivals of India are characterized by colour, gaiety, enthusiasm, feasts and a variety of prayers and rituals. Foreign travellers are struck by the scale and multiplicity of the festivals that have evolved in the Indian society.

Major Festivals

* Dussehra
* Holi
* Deepawali
* Ram Navami
* Eid
* Christmas
* Guru Nanak's Birthday
* Janmashtami
* Good Friday
* Buddha Purnima
* Muharram
* Mahavir Jayanti

Other Festivals

* Shivaratri
* Pongal
* Deep Diwali
* Ganesha Chaturthi
* Rath Yatra
* Raksha Bandhan
* Onam
* Baisakhi