Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Akshaya Tritiya

Akshaya Tritiya, variously spelt as Akshya Thiritiya, Akshaya Trutheeya, Akshaya Tritiiya and also called Akshaya Trithi, falling on the third day of the bright half of the lunar month of Vaisakha of the traditional Hindu calendar, is one of the four most auspicious days of the year for Hindus.

The word Akshaya, a Sanskrit word, literally means one that never diminishes, and the day is believed to bring good luck and success. It is widely celebrated in all parts of India by different sections of the society irrespective of their religious faith and social grouping. The day is particularly considered auspicious for buying long term assets like gold and silver, including ornaments made of the same; diamond and other precious stones; and the real estate. The legend states that any venture initiated on the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya shall continue to grow and bring prosperity. Hence, it is normal to see many of the new ventures, like starting a business, ground breaking for construction etc.., on the Akshaya Tritiya day.
With the mass media and marketing, this day has been taken over by marketers to promote sales and bookings for Gold jewellery, houses and consumer electronics.
The day is also traditionally celebrated as the birth day of the Hindu sage Parashurama, the sixth avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu.

According to the Hindu mythology, on this day the Treta Yuga began, and the Ganges river, the most holy and sacred river of India, descended to the earth from the heaven. Akshaya Tritiya this year falls on 27th of May 2009. The sun and Moon are astrologically believed to be at their most exalted equal brightness on this day. Akshaya Tritiya, the third day of the bright-half of the lunar month of Vaisakha is considered as one of the most sacred days of the year. The word, Akshaya means one that never diminishes. Hence, starting a new activity or buying ornaments on this day is considered to certainly bring luck and success. The religious merit that is acquired by giving gifts on this day becomes inexhaustible.

Many buy new gold jewelry on this day. Most jewel stores stock in new jewelry models for this occasion. “Lakshmi-inscribed” gold coins, diamond jewellery and golden dollars with the pictures of many gods and goddesses. The day gains more importance when it falls on a Monday or under Rohini Star. A dip in the Ganges on this day is considered to be very auspicious. Needless to say, this rare occasion comes this year. Lord Kuber, considered to be the richest, is one amongst the Astadikpalakas. Lakshmi Tantram says that this Lord will himself pray to Goddess Lakshmi on this day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Holi - The festival of Colors

The colorful festival of Holi is celebrated on Phalgun Purnima which comes in February end or early March. Holi festival has an ancient origin and celebrates the triumph of 'good' over 'bad'. The colorful festival bridges the social gap and renew sweet relationships. On this day, people hug and wish each other 'Happy Holi'.

Holi celebration begins with lighting up of bonfire on the Holi eve. Numerous legends & stories associated with Holi celebration makes the festival more exuberant and vivid. People rub 'gulal' and 'abeer' on each others' faces and cheer up saying, "bura na maano Holi hai". Holi also gives a wonderful chance to send blessings and love to dear ones wrapped in a special Holi gift.

  1. Festivals of Colors: Holi is celebrated at a time of the year when everyone has had enough of the chilly winter and looks forward to the warmth of the sun. Trees get fresh new leaves that are at their glossiest best and the flowers begin to pop open to claim their share of fun in the sun. Even grandmothers abandon their knitting for the glorious sunny days. They know that it’s time to give in to good cheer, for harsh Indian summers are just around the corner.
  2. The Great Legend: Originally, Holi was a fertility festival. All festivals must have a story, and ancient lore trace the roots of this festival to the story of Prahlad (a devotee of Lord Vishnu - Preserver of the Hindu Holy Trinity of Creator-Preserver-Destroyer). His arrogant father, the demon King Hiranyakashyap demanded to be worshipped by everyone. Being Vishnu’s devotee, Prahlad refused to comply with the king’s wishes. The king was outraged by his ward’s refractory attitude and ordered him to be put to death. It is said that the king used a wide range of techniques to kill Prahlad, including throwing him off a cliff. But Prahlad escaped each time without a scratch! In the end, the disgruntled demon king ordered Holika (Hiranyakashyap’s sister who was given a boon that made her ‘fire proof’) to sit on a burning pyre holding Prahlad in her lap. Terrified of her brother’s tyranny, Holika was left with no choice but to agree. As the story goes, Prahlad remained unscathed but Holika was charred to death. But that’s not all, the story goes on.Then Vishnu, Prahlad’s saviour, appeared in the form of Narasimha (half lion and half man) to kill Hiranyakashyap at twilight in a porch. Why? Because Hiranyakashyap was blessed with a boon according to which he could neither be killed by man nor beast, neither during day nor at night, and he could not be killed indoors nor outside (phew!). Well, as is evident, this boon made him almost invincible. The operative word here is ‘almost’, and Vishnu understood this like no one else. Disguising himself as Narasimha at twilight, Vishnu chose the porch to do the honours and Hiranyakashyap became history. You know, gods find a way to get around things. Hence every year in spring, on the eve of Holi, a ritualistic bonfire is lit with much festivity and jollity to solemnise this legend.
  3. Holi- Closely Associated With The Tales of Lord Rama: Holi is also closely associated with the life and times of Krishna (the blue god famous for his sense of mischief and light-hearted revelry). Krishna played Holi with so much gusto and enthusiasm that to this day, songs sung during Holi narrate the pranks that he played on people. Krishna is perhaps the most accessible and human of all Hindu deities. Hindu mythology is replete with tales of his early years and antics. He spent his childhood in an idyllic village called Gokul in Uttar Pradesh. He grew up amidst green pastures in the company of cowherds and village children and had everyone spellbound by the way he played the flute. He was notorious for stealing butter, milk and other goodies from the village folk and for doing many other mischievous things. He got away with it all though, for he was so charming that no one could really be cross with him. He was also the Casanova of Indian mythology. He was the sweetheart of all women and it is said that he had the ability to ‘please’ all of them at the same time! An amazing number of paintings, sculptures and other art forms, especially of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries celebrate Krishna and the gopis’ (milkmaids’) passion for each other. The Rangamala miniature paintings found in Rajasthan depicting Krishna with the gopis, and especially with Radha (his favourite) constitute one such rich collection. In a nutshell, Holi aims to bring to the fore the more frolicsome avatar of Krishna. Kama (god of love), and Rati (Kama’s consort) are also worshipped on Holi to commemorate Shiva’s destruction and resurrection of Kama.Unlike Diwali, which is more of a family affair, Holi is quite inconceivable without a community. First comes Choti Holi or ‘Little Holi’. This is the night of the big bonfire, so everyone gets busy collecting firewood. Families and friends get together around the bonfire, put together mostly by the men and children. The women busy themselves as well. As every festival has its own ritualistic cuisine, so does Holi (see Cuisine). So the womenfolk do the all-important work of buying or preparing sweets, munchies and other tidbits, packets of gulal (coloured powder), pichkaris (syringe-like objects used to shower coloured water on people) water colours and other things for the festival.
  4. The Burning of Fire: The bonfire is lit amidst loud cheer and singing. Children dance around the fire with a twinkle in their eyes, eagerly awaiting the next morning, and rightly so, for thanks to Krishna, on Holi not only children but adults too are granted their share of pranks.Dawn finally paints the Indian horizon. For it is a special day for India as well as for Dawn. It is Holi, the festival of colours and Dawn understands the relation India has with colour. She sees mothers getting up hurriedly, for there is so much to be done. ‘Special’ clothes are dug out for the entire household (the kinds that won’t be missed). More toothsome sweets are prepared, and the children are woken up, with greetings of Happy Holi! For a change, children spring out of bed, as they have ‘important matters’ to attend to.
  5. The Festival Fun: Holi demands big time planning. Buckets and barrels of strongly coloured water have to be concocted and water balloons filled to greet friends and neighbours. The gala time starts in the morning itself. People go around smearing each other with gulal (coloured powder) and coloured water. Children shoot jets of water from their pichkaris, screaming gleefully. A lot of people spend the day alternating between getting drenched and coloured, and consuming thandai (a marijuana-based drink) in large quantities as the day progresses. Singing and dancing to the beat of dholaks (drums) completes the picture.The evenings are not ‘as’ exciting. A good part of what’s left of the day is spent in that special room of the house – the bathroom. Scrubbing and scrubbing, and then scrubbing some more. It is an exercise that is repeated for days as it’s a normal sight to see people with patches of pink skin, green hair, purple hands and silver nails, for days and even weeks after Holi. Even the neighbourhood cows and buffaloes get their share of colourful patches.
  6. The Grand Celebration In The Cities of India: In the cities of Barsana (a town 60km from Mathura and home of Radha) and Vrindavan (the most famous sites around Mathura and the place where Krishna played with the gopis) Holi is celebrated is a special way.Thousands of people flock to Vrindavan on this festive occasion and watch Vrindavan transform into a puffy colourful cloud of gulal from which emerge magically as it were, endless narratives on Krishna’s pranks.There is an especially interesting ritual practised by the people here. Bhabis (sisters-in-law) beat the devars (younger brothers-in-law) to pulp! What follows is a delirious scene of bhabis chasing, cornering and pounding the devars, while they exhaust every trick in their arsenal to dodge the former. But this is done in good cheer and no offence is taken. In fact the devars look forward to it as much as the bhabis do. Well, ‘almost’ as much as the bhabis.Like all of us, Dawn has a job to do, so she steals one last glance at this multi-coloured canvas, breathes a little sigh and moves on to Pakistan. and sometime in between, she keeps her annual tryst with Krishna to tell him India remembers and thanks him, above all, for being the god of things small as well.

Here is the video from YouTube:

Source: http://www.indiasite.com/, http://www.holifestival.org/

Monday, September 29, 2008

Riti Riwaz - Diwali

Five Days of Diwali Festival

The First day of Diwali: Dhateras

The First day is called Dhanteras or Dhantryaodashi, which falls on the thirteenth day of the month of Ashwin.

The Second day of Diwali: Narak Chaturdashi

It is the fourteenth lunar day (thithi) of the dark fortnight of the month of Karthik and the eve of Diwali. On this day Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasur and made the world free from fear.

The third day: Diwali

On the dark new moon night, the entrances to all homes are lit up and decorated with rangoli patterns to welcome Goddess Lakshmi, the radiant consort of Vishnu and the goddess of wealth and luster. Lakshmi Pooja is performed on this day.

Diwali is the last day of financial year in traditional Hindu business and businessmen perform Chopda Poojan on this day on the new books of accounts. Diwali is the festival when the new business year begins it is said that Diwali is the "Time to shop or start new ventures".

The fourth day: Bestavarsh or New Year Day

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

The day after the Lakshmi Pooja, most families celebrate the new year by dressing in new clothes, wearing jewellery and visiting family members and business colleagues to give them sweets, dry fruits and gifts.

On this day, Govardhan Pooja is performed. As per Vishnu-Puran, the people of Gokul used to celebrate a festival in honour of Lord Indra and worshipped him after the end of every monsoon season. But one particular year the young Krishna stopped them from offering prayers to Lord Indra who in terrific anger sent a deluge to submerge Gokul. But Krishna saved his Gokul by lifting up the Govardhan Mountain and holding it over the people as an umbrella.

This day is also observed as Annakoot and prayers are offered in the temples. In temples especially in Mathura and Nathadwara, the deities are given milkbath, dressed in shining attires with ornaments of dazzling diamonds, pearls, rubies and other precious stones.

The Fifth day of Diwali: Bhai Dooj

The name itself denotes the day of the festival i.e.Diwali falls on the absolutely dark night of Amdvasya (new moon), Dooj comes two days after Diwali.

Many years ago, in the Vedic era, Yama (Yamraj, the Lord of death) visited His sister Yamuna(Yami) and she put the auspicious tilak on his forehead, they ate talked and enjoyed together and exchanged special gifts as a token of their love for each other and Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister on this day will never be thrown.

Since then it became imperative for the brother to go to his sister's house to celebrate Bhaiyadooj. On Bhai Dooj, the teeka is applied on the brother's forehead. It is a day dedicated to sisters. We have heard about Raksha Bandhan (brothers day). Well this is sisters day.

The sister usually goes in the morning and does the pooja in the mother's house, before the brothers leave for their places of study or work.

Some Beliefs about Diwali

Why do people clean and decorate their homes for Diwali?

Diwali is considered to be the festival of the Goddess wealth and prosperity Laxmi - Goddess Laxmi visits all homes to bless the people and so to welcome the goddess, homes are cleaned & decorated.

Why do people Light up their homes with clay oil lamps?

People light up their home to welcome Goddess Laxmi. Clay lamps also indicates the victory of Light over Darkness, Good over Evil, as well as the victory of Truth over Falsehood and that man can succeed only through his virtues.

Why do people play cards on Diwali?

It is believed that goddess Parvati played dice with her husband, Lord Shiv on this day and she decreed that whosoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the ensuring year. This tradition of playing cards - flash and rummy with stakes on this particular day continues even to day.

Buddies...share your thoughts for corrections and addition & help me to improve this riwaz