Saturday, 20 August 2011

Our Festivals

by Chitragupt Pariwar (Hum Kayasth) on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 2:18pm
Makar Sankrant

[14th January]According to the Hindus, the Sun enters the sign of ‘Makara’ (Capricorn) in the middle of January. It then moves northwards after completing its six-monthly southern course. The beginning of Sun’s northern course, called "Uttarayana’, is hailed as an auspicious period. ‘Makara Sankrant’ is considered very sacred and celebrated throughout India. It is customary to eat and distribute sweets made using Sesame seeds and jaggery/sugar.

Sakat ChauthIn the month of ‘Magh’ (January) on the fourth day of Krishan Paksh, the Sankat-haran, Ganapati or Lord Ganesha is worshipped. This day is called ‘Sakat Chauth’. People fast and perform "Pooja" at night.

KurteejThis is festival is celebrated on the third day (Teej) of Shukalpaksh in the month of January. This has significance for newly wedded brides, in their first year of marriage. The bride receives gifts and sweets from her parents.

Basant PanchamiCelebrated on the 5th day of the Hindu Calendar Month of Magha in honor of the Hindu Goddess of Learning & Art: Goddess Saraswati. Books, instruments of art and music are offered to the Goddess for her blessings. Marigold flowers are used for the Pooja. Youngsters wear bright clothing to signify opulence. Kite flying is undertaken and competitions are organized. This day marks the beginning of Holi, the festival of colors.

MahashivaratriIt is said that Lord Shankar manifested himself out of "Brahma" in the form of "Rudra", at midnight on this day. When the time for "Pralay" (Doom’s day) came Lord Shiva performed ‘Tandav’ - the dance of destruction and in frenzy, using this third fiery eye, destroyed the universe.

People usually fast on this day. They visit the temple and offer chandan (Sandal wood), roli, bel leaves, flowers and raw milk lassi (milk mixed with water) to Lord Shiva. All night sessions of Kirtans and Bhajans are conducted in temples and houses. People break their fast on the following day. Once started, this fast is expected to be observed throughout life.

HoliThis is an occasion to celebrate the victory of GOOD over EVIL. Numerous stories behind the celebration of this festival have been written in the hindu scriptures, . The festival is celebrated with colors in powdered and water based liquid forms, which are smeared on friends and family.

It is a very colorful sight. Holi is also a day to forgive misdoing and attain a harmony in interpersonal relationships. It is customary for newly wedded brides to celebrate Holi with her parents.

Deviyan (Navaratri)This festival is celebrated to pay respects to the Hindu Goddess Durga for annihilating demons that had terrorized innocent citizens. This festival is celebrated twice a year, once after Holi in the month of ‘Chait’ and then before Dussera in the month of 'Kuwar'. The first day of Chait Navratri is also celebrated as ‘Gudi Padwa’ or the Hindu New Year Day. This pooja/prayer is performed in various ways, as per family traditions.

Gangaur TeejGangaur Pooja is performed on the third day of "Chait Navratri" by married women seeking the well being and long life of their husbands. It is customary for the brides parents' to gift the bride with sweets and cash on this occasion.

Bud Amavasya‘Bud’ (Banyan) tree is worshipped and a fast is observed. Married ladies assemble together and offer prayers. A fast is observed for well being of their spouses.

Bud Saten / Bud SavitriSeven days after "Bud Amavasya", the Banyan Tree is once again worshipped. Married ladies pray and wish long happy lives with their husbands.

Nirjalya EKadashiOf the t24 Ekadashis observed in a year, this "Ekadashi" is considered to be most significant. A complete fast (without drinking even a single drop of water) is observed. Alms are distributed to the poor and the learned priests (Brahmins).

Guru PoornimaJagat Guru Shri Vyas has been accoladed as the first ever teacher of the four "Vedas". He is worshipped every year on "Ashaadh Poornima". Hence, this day has come to be known as ‘Guru Poornima’. Teachers and Parents (considered to be our lifetime teachers & guides) are honored on this day. Guru's / Teachers receive gifts from their disciples.

SindhareCelebrated during the rainy season, this is another festival of significance to the newly wedded brides. During this festival, married girls visit their parents. On her first "Sindhara" after marriage, it is customary to receive clothes and ornaments from her Mother-in-law. Sweets are also offered to the bride. Young girls join up with the newly wedded bride, swing and make merry.

TeejenThe festival of ‘Teejen’ is celebrated on the day following Sindhare. It is also called’ Hariyali Teej’. The festival is celebrated with much mirth and gaiety, singing songs and swinging in the gardens or at home.Girls and married women apply ‘mehndi’ (Henna) on the hands in beautiful and intricate patterns and decorate their feet with "Alta". They wear colorful clothes specially green and red, glass bangles and ornaments.Married girls celebrate this function at their parent’s house.
Raksha Bandhan Celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Shravan (August-Sept), it is fond expression of love and respect between brothers and sisters. Sisters tie ’rakhi’ on their brothers' wrist seeking their long life. That is not all; this day has become an important symbol of helping and protecting others as well. Brothers in turn gift their sisters with presents. In case of brothers living away from home, sisters send Rakhi to their brothers with fond wishes.
Shri Krishna JanamashtamiLord Shri Krishna was born this day, at mid-night, in Mathura. Legend says that Lord Shri Krishna was reborn in different forms, always to relieve the people of misery inflicted by tyrant rulers and demons. Hailed as the annihilator of all evil, his birth is celebrated by Hindus worldwide. Beautifully designed tableaus in homes and temples herald the birth. Infant Shri Krishna is put into a cradle and is rocked into pleasant slumber. Ardent followers fast, some even without any fluid intake. The Kirtans, bhajans, dances and dramas continue till midnight, when the Lord’s birth is heralded by the ringing of bells and their blowing of conches.
Ganesh ChaturthiGanesh Chaturthi or Lord Ganesha's birthday, is celebrated on the fourth day of 'Bhadrapad' (late August or Mid September). Lord Ganesha is believed to be the ultimate redeemer. He is the God of wisdom. He is worshipped and placated before the start of any auspicious work. In Maharashtra, certain other Indian states, and even some other countries in the world, people bring home Idols of Lord Ganesha or contribute collectively to setup the idol at a cultural place. Idols are worshipped numerous times everyday {minimum - twice a day) and are immersed in water (in the sea, a river or a well), upon completion of the festivities. The duration of the festival is 11 days. However, devotees may choose to celebrate for 1½, 3, 5, 7, or 11 days as per their individual capacities. It is customary to perform pooja on the day following the immersion day.
Anant Chaturdashi (Chaudash)The 11th day following Ganesh Chaturthi is Anant Chaturdashi. A fast is usually observed on this day. A customary Pooja / Prayer is held in the morning. At the end of the day, the fast is broken with traditional sweets and wheat chapatis.
Shraadh'Shraadh' means 'Shraddha' which stands for unconditional, limitless reverence. Sons pay respectful homage to their deceased parents and grand parents. The fifteen days of "Krishna Paksh" following Ganesh Chaturthi are called ‘Pitra Paksh’ or Shraadh days. "Shraadh" is performed respectfully for the departed elders only during this period. The son or the grandson of the departed person/s performs the Shraadh.
NavratriNavratri follows Shraadh. The first day of "Navratra" is considered auspicious for sowing barley in a small pot, which grow quite long in nine days, and these are used for "Sussera pooja". Devi pooja is performed throughout the nine days.Ramayana is read. Gujarat celebrates Navaratri with "Dandiya", a popular folk dance.
DusheraDushera or "Vijaya Dashami" is one of the most popular festivals of Hindus. It is celebrated with great gusto throughout the country. In North India it is observed as "Vijaya Dashami’ celebrating the victory of "Lord Shree Ram" over ‘Ravana’, the demon king. In West Bengal, it is celebrated as ‘Durga Pooja’. In Gujarat, it is "Navaratri", the festival of nine nights.

The festivities start on the first day of the Hindu month of Ashwin (Sept-Oct). During Navrati, people in towns and villages stage "Ramlila" enacting the life story of Lord Shree Ram. Family members gather and worship their respective tools, arms, pens, ink; pencils etc. Musicians worship their instruments. Weapons are also worshipped. It is a way to acknowledge and thank God for the skills and abilities bestowed upon us.Karwa ChauthOn "Karwa Chauth" married ladies observe fast for the health, long life and well being of their husbands. It is believed that Draupadi observed this fast at Shri Krishna’s insistence resulting in Pandava’s victory over Kauravs.
Ahoee AshthamiAhoee Ashtmi is celebrated for begetting children and for their well being. Many mothers keep ‘Nirjal Vrat’ on this day.
Dhan Teras"Dhan Teras" marks the beginning of "Diwali" celebrations. It is a prevalent custom to buy some new utensils or gold/silver jewelry on this day. Such a purchase is believed to be very auspicious and promises a profitable future and good luck.
Narak ChaturdashiThis is usually the day following Dhan Teras. It is heralded as another day of "Victory of Good over Evil". It is believed that the evil demon "Narakasur" was annihilated by Lord Vishnu on this day. People also prepare to welcome Goddess Laxmi, "The Hindu Goddess of Wealth & Fortune".
Diwali Diwali, the festival of lights is the most joyous Hindu festival and is always celebrated on ‘Amavasya’, the 15th day of the Hindu month of ‘Kartik’ (Oct-Nov).

It is believed that Lord Shree Ram returned home this day, after a 14 year exile in the forest, and after conquering evil demon king 'Ravana'. In an open and boundless expression of joy, the people of Ayodhya lit "diya's" (earthen lamps filled with oil) all over the city to welcome him. The tradition continues till date.
Pooja is offered to Goddess Laxmi. Gold / Silver and other precious items adorn the pooja. This is a family affair, all members participate in the Pooja & the celebrations that follow. Houses are decorated with "diya's" to celebrate diwali and welcome the Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth. Firecrackers form an important part of the celebrations.The following day is reckoned as the first day of Vikram Samvat, a Hindu New Year’s day.Kartik EkadashiIt is believed that Lord Shri Vishnu rests in ‘Ksheer Sagar’. He sleeps through four months and wakes up on "Kartik Ekadashi". Since Lord Shri Vishnu's blessings are a must for any alliance, no auspicious events or marriages etc. are performed during this four month period. People fast all through the day. At night, Bhagwan Vishnu is coaxed to wake up with the sound of Conch shell (Shankh), Ghanta (big bells) and Ghariyal. Celebrations begin after ‘Lord Vishnu’ wakes up.

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