The sound of the nation reflects through its festivals. Indian festivals are so vast in number and variant in form, colorful and soulful that these cannot be compressed into the confines of the space limit of a calendar.
Yet the festivals briefly described below give a glimpse of the richness of these festivals-both in form and content.
1. Makar Sakrant:- (January 14) Astronomically the day denotes the entry of sun in the sign of Capricorn whence Uttrayan (Northward transit of sun) begins. It is considered to be an auspicious occasion for performing religious rites to propitiate gods in order to fulfill the desires. In fact, it is welcoming the change heralding the imminent advent of spring. Bath in Holy – river water is also considered to be beneficial.
2. Vasant Panchami:- Vasant means spring, its arrival is welcomed by the cooing of cuckoos, the blooming of flowers, blowing of pleasant breeze filling that air with fragrance, the merry singing of streams-all invigorating body and soul. Lord Vishnu is especially worshipped in order to be blessed with joy and prosperity.
3. Maha Shivratri:- It occurs on the thithi of chathurthasi, the 13th day from full moon of Falgun (February-March). It is believed to be the most auspicious day to propitiate Lord Shiva and seek his blessings to tide over the worldly hurdles as well as obtain salvation.
4. Holi (Holika Dahan):- This is the most merry and colorful festivals of India. It is backed by two legends, on being the immolation of the demoness Holika, despite her immunization from fires due to her misuse of the boon to eliminate child Prahlad the staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu and the other being Lord Krishna’s joyful play with the Gopis of Dwarika.
As a mark of burning of Holika, the demoness, a bonfire is made at night. On the ensuing day right from morning, it is merry celebration with singing, dancing, smearing & spraying of colors on and by all casting of all barriers of age, caste, and creed. The festivals falls on the day of poornima in the month of Falgun and the succeeding day.
5. Ram Navmi:- Ram Navmi is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Lord Ram. It falls on the 9th tithi from the Indian New Year day in Chaitra Shukla. Navaratri Parna is also observed this nine days period (Navaratri), when fasting and austere living are observed to invoke the blessings of goddess Durga.
Laghu anushthan during this period by chanting of Gayatri Mantra 24,000 times and performing yagya is considered to be highly beneficial. Lord Ram’s birth is looked upon as the beginning of the end of evil era.
6. Raksha Bandhan:- It falls on the full moon day in the month of Shrawan (July-August). Two festivals are observed on this day-Shravani and Raksha Bandhan. Shravani enjoins on the performer to clean his body, perform the Pooja as ordained in the scriptures in order to propitiate gods and ancestral spirits so as to be bestowed upon with all the blessings.
The preceptor begins the year’s academic session on this day. The celebration of Raksha Bandhan is much more popular. On this day, the sister ties a thread on the wrist of her brother(s) as a mark of the unbreakable love of each other and the brother’s obligation to guard the sister through out the life.
7. Janmashtami:- Janmashtami is the birthday celebration of Lord Krishna. It is celebrated on the 8th Tithi of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadrapad (August-September). In the night, songs and stories related to Krishna’s birth are sung and narrated.
As the moment of Krishna’s birth arrives, he is devotionally welcomed. His idol is then offered Pooja. There after sweets are distributed as mark of joy since the birth of Krishna denotes the advent of the annihilator of evils. Feasts are also arranged to celebrated the occasion.
8. Ganesh Chaturthi:- Lord Ganesh occupies the first place in the Pooja system of Hindus. He is believed to be the evil dispelled. Any undertaking began with the worship of Lord Ganesh is believed to get on safe and reach success. The fourth tithi of the bright fortnight in the month of Bhadrapad (August-September) is celebrated as Ganesh Chaturthi.
On this day the idol of Lord Ganesh is installed and worshipped with all the specified rituals and his blessing are sought for wisdom and prosperity and toward of all hurdles.
In north India especially in Maharashtra a ten day festivals, staring from Ganesh Chaturthi to the full moon day of the fortnight is celebrated with great gusto and splendor. Idols of Lord Ganesh dot all nooks and corners of the cities, towns and villages and a splendorous show of devotion and enthusiasm is witnessed during this ten day season.
On the full moon day the idols are taken out in procession to the accompaniment of songs, music and dance before limmersing them in lakes, rivers or seas with devotional adieu & blessing to be back again next year.
9. Navratri:- The Navratri is observed during the nine days period from, pratipada (1st tithi) to Navami (9th tithi) of the bright fortnight of the month of Ashwin (September-October). During this period Goddess Durga, the embodiment of might and maternal care, is worshipped with almost devotion.
The legend is that two demons Shumbh and Nishumbh, became so powerful that their atrocities made the gods leave their seats of power and flee for life. With no solution in sight all the gods got together and prayed to the primordial power to save them.
They continued to worship & prayer for nine days, where on the primordial power (Aadi Shakti) appeared in the form of Durga and took upon herself the combined might of all the gods and annihilated the demons.
As such it is the worship of divine force to overcome evil forces. During the nine days period, fasting and austere living is adopted. Mother goddess is worshipped with devotion. Devotees concentrate their worship on the idols or photos of Mother Gayatri as well and perform “Laghu anushthaan” as described under the chapter “Navaratri anushthaan” else where in this almanac.
On the concluding day, the Goddess is given devotional adieu, beseeching to visit again next year. It is believed that the Pooja and Anushthaan performed in this duration is highly propitious, to get over the evil forces and to sail safe through the turbulent life.
10. Vijaya Dashami:- Vijaya Dashami or Dassera is celebrated on the tenth tithi of the bright of fortnight in the month of Ashwin (September-October).
It commemorates the day of victory over Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, by Lord Ram. It denotes victory over evil and is celebrated as National Festivals.
The statues of Ravana are brunet as a mark of annihilation of evil forces. Lord Rama along with consort Sita, Laxman, his constant companion brother and the mighty devotee Hanuman who is ever at the Lord’s service, is worshipped. Joy and enthusiasm prevails all over.
11. Dhan Teras:- It is observed on the 13th tithi of the dark fortnight in the month of Kartik (October-November). God Yama is worshipped on this day to provide prosperity and well being.
12. Deepavali:- This is the most important festival in India. It is celebrated on the 15th tithi of the dark fortnight in the month of Kartik (day next to Narak Chaturdashi). Goddess Laxami who wields the power of wealth is worshipped on this day to provide prosperity round the year.
Great significance is attached to this day. The rich and poor alike celebrate it with great splendor and gusto. Homes are decorated as nicely as possible. New clothes are made for one and all in the family. The decoration of homes and surrounding with rows of lamps is the unique feature of Diwali celebration.
Crackers and fire works rend the air. People meet each other and wish welfare, prosperity & happiness. Needless to mention that delicious feasting is the central aspect of this celebration without which no joy is complete. For traders and business community Diwali marks the New Financial year. More about Deepaval