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Festivals


Hindus observe sacred occasions by festive observances. All festivals in Hinduism are predominantly religious in character and significance. Many festivals are seasonal. Some celebrate harvest and birth of God or Heroes. Some are dedicated to important events. From Diwali the festival of lights to Holi, Bengali New Year, the festival of colors to Rakshabandhan, a special festival for brothers and sisters, Hindu festivals are colorful, fun yet with a deep social and religious significance. 'Utsava' is the Sanskrit word for Hindu festivals, meaning 'to cause to grow Upward'. A festival may be observed with acts of worship, offerings to deities, fasting, feasting, vigil, rituals, fairs, charity, celebrations, Puja, Homa, aarti, etc. They celebrate individual and community life of Hindus without distinction of caste, gender or class.

Deepavali - Uniting Hindus/India

Diwali is a festival of lights. Followers of many sects Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism observe Diwali in different regions for different reasons. Whole week is the festival week uniting different sections of India. People may celebrate Diwali on various dates because of traditional lunar calendars.
  1. Solar Tula month represents balance/Scales or Dharma. Also special for God of Justice or Dharmaraja, who gives impartial judgement. (Sun god Shamash, who was also the patron of truth and justice.) So ammavasai or new moon is famous. (அதுவும் தவிர, தீபாவளியன்று யமனுக்குத் தர்ப்பணம் பண்ண வேண்டுமென்று சொல்லியிருக்கிறது. வட தேசத்தில் தீபாவளிக்கு முதல் நாள் ‘யம தீபம்’ என்றே போடுகிறார்கள்.)
  2. Sun appears in the constellation Tula or Libra from October 31 to November 22. In sidereal astrology, from October 16 to November 15. Three brightest stars of Libra (α, β, and σ Librae) formed a constellation looking like a boat (sign to show saving people from great floods). During golden age of Guptas hindu kingdom, marks southern equinox or start of winter
  3. Solar Tula month represents balance/Scales or Dharma. Tula month new moon is start of new year for some.
  4. In each month, one river is important (equality). Tula month, Cauvery is famous, so cauvery snan is ganga snan. Ganga was used to represent all rivers initially. Ganga was called bakirathy.
  5. It is the story of a mother celebrating even the death of her wicked son along with other fellow or country folks. Later developed in to Narakasura story.
  6. Rama's return after war (victory over evil)
  7. Bali Padyami - victory over Bali. Bali Padyami day have variations from state to state.
  8. Birth of dhanvaNdhiri, Laxmi and Chandra from sea and Neelakanta saving universe from poison by consuming poison
  9. Bandi Chhorh Divas, which is the Sikh celebration.
  10. Emperor Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism around the time of Diwali. Mahavira's attainment of nirvana is Jains holy day and so on ....
According to Tilyapannatti text 15th October 527 BCE is reckoned as the earliest instance of lighting of lamps (diyas) on the Diwali day. As per historian P K Gode, the use of fireworks in Diwali celebrations must have come into existence after 1400 AD, when gunpowder came to be used in Indian warfare. Some paintings from the 16th and 17th century also suggest fireworks were part of Diwali celebrations.
Ganga snanam: After the battle with Narakasura, Lord Krishna cleansed His body splashed with blood, with an oil bath at the Ganges. Naraka was actually killed by Satyabhama, reincarnation of Bhoomadevi, mother of Naraka.
People worship Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh on this day and seek their blessings (for health, wealth and prosperity). Diwali is associated with return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya. In Bengal, on the night of Diwali, Maa Kali along with Dakini and Yogini, are worshipped. Lakshmi (with Kuber) are worshipped in western India. Govardhan and Vishwakarma in the north are worshipped during Diwali. Lord Yama is believed to have started this practice when he visited his twin sister Yami. Vatsyayana, refers to the festival of lights as “Yaksha Ratri” or the Night of the Yakshas.
Mahavira, the last of the twenty-four Tirthankara attained Nirvana at Pawapuri, near Nalanda. Jains celebrate Diwali to commemorate this event.
The Sikhs celebrate Diwali by calling it Bandi Chod Diwas - day of release from captivity of the 6th Guru, Guru Hargobind All these coincidence has resulted in Indians celebrating Diwali around this time.

Maa vilakku

Maavilakku is a traditional edible lamp prepared during festivals and auspicious occasions. Thinai Maa vilakku is one of the traditional recipe which will be done while worshipping lord muruga or lord amman. Thinai(Fox Tail Millet) is very special for Lord Murugan. People will use rice flour also for making maa vilakku.
A traditional lamp lit for Lord Balaji (Venkateswara) - Lord of the Seven Hills
Maa vilakku significance also centres around the month of Aadi, which overlaps with Aashad

Karthikai festival: Lighting

Kartika Deepam is a festival of lights that is observed mainly by Hindu (South India)

Story of Lighting and Nachiketa
Nachiketa wanted to learn the mystery of what comes after the death of the body. Nachiketa comtemplated on Death or Yama (personification of death). Looking beyond Body-Mind, he understood that one's Self is inseparable from Brahman, the supreme spirit, the vital force in the universe. The Atman, whose symbol is Om is the same as the omnipresent Brahman. Smaller than the smallest and larger than the largest, the Soul is formless and all-pervading. After death, it is the Atman that remains; the Atman is immortal. This knowledge is by experience, but not by reading of the scriptures or from teachings by experts. Experiencing or understanding is more important than reading or listening from scholars. What one digests matters than what one eats.
Ramana Maharishi, Buddha and many saints took similar approach. Death is normal and inescapable. Every death is unique or No two are exactly alike. Things may look unfair, when we hear about death of young, innocent and so on. Stop expecting logic and fairness. Death just teaches us to stop wasting time and do good or atleast do not do evil. Just be flexible and live your life in the best way possible, spreading happiness around.

May be Nachiketa's wisdom was later developed into a story over time. Nachiketa's father, Vajashravasa in a fit of anger, told Nachiketa that he will donate him to Yamaraja, God of death. Nachiketa went to Yamaraja's home. Yama was out, and so he waited for three days without any food or water. When Yama returned, he was sorry to see that Nachiketa, a guest had been waiting so long without food and water. To compensate for his mistake, Yama gave him three boons. Nachiketa wanted to learn the mystery of what comes after the death of the body. Yama was reluctant on this question. This had been a mystery even to the gods. Later Yama reveals Nachiketa the wisdom of the Brahman. Nachiketa returned as an individual who has achieved spiritual liberation.
More stories like Barani deepam story have been developed over time. When Nachiketa, returned from Yamaloga, he saw people struggling to find path to Yamaloga. He got a boon from God, that the people of the houses which are lit on Dhanur month Barani Nakshatra, will see the light to see the path to Yamaloga. If Chokkapan is lit on the day of Karthika Deepa, all the living beings will have light showing the path to go to heaven. Tiruvannamali deepam was first Chokkapan. A princess in southern India (kerala/south Tamil nadu) grew up with an elephant and grew to love him like a brother. When she married and left her kingdom, she missed the elephant very much. In memory of her elephant brother, on Karthigai Deepam day, the princess prayed for his good health. Then she lit an elephant lamp and offered pori urundai which resembled the rice balls that elephants ate. An anai vilakku is lit and women pray for the good health and prosperity of their brothers with the following chant – யானை வாழ: அரசன் வாழ: பெண் வாழ: பிறந்தகம் வாழ

Tiruvathira

Tiruvathira in the month of Dhanur is celebrated in the two states – Kerala and Tamilnadu. In Kerala Tiruvathira is essentially a women's festival, a celebration of devotion, beauty, love and dance. Women and young girls offer special prayers to Siva on this day in the hope that they, too, will have good husbands and lead happily married lives.

Ardra Darsanam, famous at Chidambaram Shiva Temple, is to celebrate the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva or Nataraja. Arudra star that symbolizes golden red flame, represents Shiva in the form of red flame dancing in every particle of the universe. The whole of the universe is said to have emanated from the sound of his damaru (dumbbell shaped drum). The special Prasad offered to Shiva on this day is called Thiruvadirai Kali.

Makara Sankranthi

Celebration starts with Bhogi, Lord Indra showers his blessings on all. The first day of THAI is Pongal or Makara Sankranthi thanking Mother Nature in general and SURYA in particular, for a bountiful harvest. Next day is Mattu (cow) Pongal. Cows and the cattle were washed and decorated. Bull fights were part of these festivities in villages.
Sisters prayed for the welfare and prosperity of their brothers on this Kanum Pongal day (similar to Rakhi festival). Offering colorful rice and Pongal balls to birds was a part of these festivities. "Kari Naal" or "Kanu Peedai". Four rices on the turmeric leaves placed above the kolam: White rice, Sarkarai pongal, Red color rice by mixing small quantity of rice with kumkum and Yellow rice by mixing small quantity of rice with turmeric powder. Also 4 pieces of sugarcane. "Kakaipidi vachen Kannupidi vachen, Kakka Kootam Kalanchalum Enga Kootam Kalayama Irukkanum"*

Mahasivaratri

Maha Shivaratri (Great night of Lord Shiva) is celebrated in several forms, in honour of the deity Shiva, on the fourteenth day of the dark half of the lunar month of Phalguna or Magha.
Reasons: Commemoration of the wedding of Shiva and Parvati; Veneration of the Tandava dance of Shiva; Manifestation of the lingam; and marks the 'beginning of consciousness'. Some associate this with fertility and family harmony.
Shivaratri is great festival of convergence of Shiva and Shakti. Each month, Chaturdashi Tithi during Krishna Paksha is known as Shivaratri. மகாசிவராத்திரி வாழ்த்துக்கள்!
ஆதியும் நீ ஜோதியும் நீ அகிலாம் ஆளும் ஈசனே
அன்பின் வடிவமே பக்தியின் உருவமே
நாட்டியம் நீ எங்களை நடத்தும் நடராஜனும் நீ
அருள் தரும் அம்மை நீ அப்பன் நீ
முதலும் நீ முடிவும் நீ மகாசிவராத்திரி தெய்வம் நீ

Holi

1. Holi is the Festival of Colours. Let our lives be colorful.
2. Holi is the Festival of Spring. Let's welcome spring and its unique beauty with open hearts!
3. Holi is the Festival of Love. Let's burn/destroy Holika the embodiment of evil, and spread love and happiness everywhere.
4. Holi Festival (Kaama dahana) - destruction of greed and victory over lust.

1. Shigmo is spring festival that is celebrated in Goa with music, song and dance.
2. Yaosang is spring festival that is celebrated in Manipur begining with the burning of 'yaoshang' (a small thatch hut/straw hut)
3. Holika female demon and the embodiment of evil, had a special cloak that would protect her from fire. So she tricked Prahlad by taking him into a fire. The cloak flew from Holika and covered Prahlad, who was safe.
4. God of Love, Kama is also known as Manmadha or Vasanth. The arrow of kAma failed to induce lust in Lord Shiva. As the Lord opened slightly the third-eye, kAma who shot the arrow was burnt down to a heap of ash. Later, on the request of Kaam Deva’s wife Rati, Lord Shiva brought him back to life. Kama is also known as Ananga (one without body). This incident of burning off kAma is called kAmadahana or Holi. Ashoka tree is said to be a symbol of love and dedicated to Kaam Dev. Kaam Dev is regarded as the God of illusion.

New Year

Varusha Pirappu, or Puthandu or Chithirai Vishu, is the Tamil New Year celebrated all around the world by Tamil people.

Masi Magam

The makam star in the Masi month usually falls on the full moon day and is considered highly auspicious in many temples across South India, taking of idols to the seashore or ponds. Therefore the festival is also referred as holy bath ceremony. Once in twelve years the Masi Magam attains even more significance and then Maha Maham is held. during the Maha Maham there is the movement of Jupiter into Leo (singha rasi.)

Rama Navami

Rama Navami is a festival to celebrates the birthday of Rama, the seventh avatar of the deity Vishnu, on the ninth day of Chaitra Month Sukla paksha.

Panguni Uthiram - Bring Harmony in Marital Life

Tamil month of Panguni (March - April) Uthiram Nakshatra (star) coincides with the full moon day and this stellar combination is considered as one of the most promising time to bring harmony in marital life. coinciding day of Poornima and Uthiram star in the month of Panguni, most of the divine weddings had taken place. Moon is a feminine planet and has the ability to stabilize the masculine Mars with love and affection. The placement of Mars in the sign of Aquarius also enhances cordial relation between partners.

Karadayan Nonbu காரடையான் or சாவித்திரி நோன்பு

Karadaiyan Nombu, or Karadayan Vritham, also known as Karadayan Savitri Vritham is a vritham dedicated to Goddess Shakti or Kamakshi. It is observed mainly in Tamil Nadu on the last day in Masi month (February- March). Married women observe the vritham for marital bliss and unmarried girls worship the Goddess to be blessed with best husband. The vrata is performed in honour of Sathi Savitri who fought with Yama and got her husbands life back.
கார்காலத்தில் விளையும் நெல்லைக் குத்தி, இனிப்பு கலந்து தயாரிப்பதே காரடை ஆகும். This is connected to story of Savitri, daughter of Asvapati, king of Madra, and Malavi. When Savitri reaches the age of marriage, young men find her too divine to marry. She sets out on a pilgrimage and finds Satyavan, the son of a blind king Dyumatsena, who had lost everything including his sight, lives in forest. As, Satyavan is destined to die one year from that day, her father wants her to choose a more suitable husband. But, Savitri insists on marrying Satyavan and after the marriage, wears the clothing of a hermit and lives with her new parents-in-law and husband. Three days before the foreseen death of Satyavan, Savitri takes a vow of fasting to perform special austerities. Savitri go with Satyavan to forest and he suddenly becomes weak and lays his head in Savitri’s lap. Yama comes to claim the soul of Satyavan and Savitri follows Yama as he carries the soul away. Yama praises Savitri's dedication & purity and offers any boon, except the life of Satyavan. She asks for sons for herself and Satyavan. This creates a dilemma for Yama, as it would indirectly grant the life of Satyavan. Yama grants life to Satyavan and blesses Savitri's life with eternal happiness. Satyavan awakens as though he has been in a deep sleep and returns to his parents along with his wife. There are many films made in India with the story.
Savithri got her husband back on the first day of Tamil month "Panguni". So, this day is celebrated as "Karadayan Nonbu" in Tamil Nadu. On this day, married women and young girls wear yellow robes and pray to Hindu goddesses for long lives for their husbands.

Hayagriva Jayanti - Upakarma - Onam - Rakshabandhan

Lord Vishnu, incarnated as Lord Hayagriva, restored the Vedas stolen by the asuras to Lord Brahma.
Vedic ritual Upakarma meaning Beginning, is practiced once a year during the month of shravana when all those who have undergone upanayanan, ritually change their sacred thread accompanied by relevant rituals.
Full Moon the month of shravana also marks the Onam festival of Kerala. Onam is a prosperous festival celebrated by Malayalis as they commemorate the homecoming of the legendary King Mahabali.
This day usually coincides with the Raksha Bandhan festival in Northern and Central India. Rakshabandhan to highlight and celebrate a brother and sister's bond. The rakhi is basically a symbol of the promise the brother makes to his sister.

Ganesh Chaturthi

The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi symbolises the birth of Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity who is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Teej

Teej is a festival is dedicated to the re-union of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Kajari Teej is celebrated on the fourth day of the dark half (Krishna Paksha) of the Shravan month. On this particular day the neem tree is worshipped and processions are taken out with beautifully decorated idols of Goddess Parvati.

Krishna Janmashtami

Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Krishna

Nag Panchami

Nag Panchami is a festival of snakes and is all about the worship of snakes. The snakes are offered milk and honey. More snake charmers than usual are out on the streets of India during the festival.

Hemis

Hemis festival is a two day festival that commemorates the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. The highlight of the festival is the Masked Dance, performed by the lamas and it illustrates good prevailing over evil.

Navratri - Dasara

Navratri, meaning 'nine nights', around harvest timewidely celebrated in many parts of India, in different ways. Gujarat, however, has a nine-night dance festival.
The nine nights are dedicated to three aspects of the Goddess-The first three days of Navratri are dedicated to Goddess Durga (Warrior Goddess) , next three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity and last three are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati (Goddess Of Knowledge).
Navratri is a time when Hindus celebrate the goddess Durga for killing the demon, Mahishasura.
9 days of Chaitra Navratri are associated with 9 goddesses is in the following order - Day 1 is Shailputri, Day 2 is Brahmcharini, Day 3 is Chandraghanta, Day 4 is Kushmanda, Day 5 is Skandamata, Day 6 is Katyayani, Day 7 is Kaalratri, Day 8 is Mahagauri, and Day 9 is Siddhidatri.
Dussehra is celebrated on the 10th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Dussehra or Vijayadashami signifies the victory of good over evil. The festival celebrates Hindu god Ram's vanquishing of the 10-headed demon king Ravan, and symbolises the triumph of good over evil.
Mysore Dasara is the Nadahabba (state festival) of the state of Karnataka in India.

Tribal Festivals

India is home to around 573 tribal groups and communities, each of which follow their own culture and tradition. Festivals are an important part of the life of these tribal groups. There are a number of tribal festivals which are celebrated by various tribes in India. Indian tribal festivals possess a distinctive quality of their own, with their costumes, their jewellery, their dancing, their singing, their language, etc...

more to come


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