Festivals Of India

Krishna Janmastami:

The birth of Lord Krishna an incarnation of Lord Vishnu is celebrated on the eight day (Ashtami) of a lunar fortnight in August-September hence the name (Krishna + ashtami). Krishnastami is celebrated over two days. This first day is Krishnastami or Gokulastami. The second day is called Kalastami or more popularly Janmastami. 

Men and women fast and pray on the occasion of Janmashtami. As it is the worship of infant Krishna, who was fond of milk and butter, women prepare a variety of delicacies with milk products as offerings. This festival is a community celebration and people visit temples which are specially decorated for this occasion.

 

Durga Puja or Navaratri:

This nine-day festival of the Hindus is celebrated in almost all parts of India in the month of Ashvina, and is marked by fasting and praying to different aspects of Devi. Literally 'nine nights', this nine-day period from the new moon day to the ninth day of Ashvina is considered the most auspicious time of the Hindu calendar. 

It is celebrated as Durga Puja in the state of West Bengal. Durga Puja is the most important and the most eagerly awaited festival of the state. It commemorates the victory of Durga over the demon Mahishasura.  

The nine different aspects of Devi are worshipped over the nine days.

 

  • Durga: goddess beyond reach;

  • Bhadrakali: the auspicious power of time;

  • Amba or Jagdamba: mother of the world;

  • Annapurna: giver of food and plenty;

  • Sarvamangala: auspicious goddess;

  • Bhairavi: terrible, fearful, power of death;

  • Chandika or Chandi: violent, wrathful, furious;

  • Lalita: playful;

  • Bhavani: giver of existence.

The festivities culminate on the tenth day on Vijayadashmi or Dussehra.

In North India the nine-day period from the first to the ninth day in the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra is also known as Navaratri and is dedicated to the worship of nine different aspects of Devi. The ninth day in this month is also celebrated as Ramanavami.

In Gujarat, this is the time for the joyous Garba and Dandia dances and people pour out at night to participate in this community festival.
In Tamil Nadu, the first three days of the festival are dedicated to Lakshmi, the next three to Durga and the last three to Sarasvati.

 

Maha Shivaratri:

On the 14th day of the dark half of Margshirsh month the great night of Shiva is celebrated. On this day the devotees of Shiva observe fast. According to a legend once King Bhagiratha left his kingdom to meditate for the salvation of the souls of his ancestors. He prayed for the holy River Ganga from heaven to wash over his ancestor's ashes to release them from a curse and allow them to go to heaven. But Lord Shiva was the only one who could sustain the weight of her descent. So he prayed to Lord shiva and Ganga descended on Shiva's head, and after meandering through his thick matted locks, reached the earth.

This story is believed to be re-enacted by bathing the linga. The love of water, the primary element of life, is also remembered in this ritualistic action. The linga is bathed with milk, water and honey. It is then anointed with sandalwood paste. People offer wood apple or bel leaves and fruit, milk, sandalwood and jujube fruit or ber to the linga. People decorate the linga with flowers and garlands and also offer incense sticks and fruit.

 

Ramanavami:

The birth anniversary of Lord Rama is celebrated as Ramanavami in the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April). It occurs on the ninth day (navami). The festival commemorates the birth of Rama who is considered to be Maryada Purushottam or The Ideal Man. Ramrajya (the reign of Rama) has become synonymous with a period of peace and prosperity. Mahatma Gandhi also used this term to describe how, according to him, India should be after independence. Celebrations begin with a prayer to the Sun early in the morning. At midday, when Lord Rama is supposed to have been born, a special prayer is performed.


Raksha Bandhan:

This is a festival that falls on the brightest night of Shravan month.Raksha Bandhan stirs up one of the deepest and noblest emotions - the abiding and chaste bond of love between the brother and the sister. On this day sisters tie a rakhi which may be a colorful thread, a simple bracelet, or a decorative string around the wrist of their brother(s). The word "raksha" signifies protection, and "bandhan" is an association signifying an enduring bond; and so, when a woman ties a rakhi around the wrist of her brother, she signifies her loving attachment to him. He, likewise, recognizes the special bond between them, and by extending his wrist forward, he in fact extends the hand of his protection over her.

 

Yugadi:

The first day of the year according to the National Calendar of India is significant both for its historical importance and for the advent of bountiful nature. On the national plane, the day recalls the inspiring occasion when the invading Shakas - the barbaric tribal hordes from Central Asia descending on India like locusts during the 1st century A.D. - were vanquished by the great emperors Shalivahana and Vikramaditya.

The day falls in the beginning of spring - Vasanta Ritu - When the Goddess of Nature gets bedecked as a divine bride. In some parts of India, 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 prasad. This embodies one of the highest philosophical attitudes taught by the Hindu spiritual masters.

 

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