Festivals and Important Days of 2017
Here you will find the most relevant dates and occasions in our calendar, celebrated by our Samaj. Browse by month:January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December
Putrada Ekadashi is a Hindu holy day, which falls on the 11th lunar day (ekadashi) of the fortnight of the waxing moon in the Hindu month of Pausha (December–January). This day is also known as Pausha Putrada Ekadashi, to differentiate it from the other Putrada Ekadashi in Shravana (July–August), which is also called Shravana Putrada Ekadashi.
Couples fast on this day and worship the god Vishnu for a good son. This day is especially observed by Vaishnavas, followers of Vishnu.
The Bhavishya Purana reveals the tale of Putrada Ekadashi as told by the god Krishna to the king Yudhishthira. Once, king of Bhadravati, Suketuman and his queen Shaibya were grieved by the absence of progeny. The couple as well as their dead ancestors were worried that without some one to offer shraddha, they will not be at peace and will become lost souls after death. Frustrated, the king left his kingdom and went to the forest unbeknownst to everyone. After wandering the forest for days, Suketuman reached the ashram of some sages on the bank of Lake Manasarovar on Putrada Ekadashi. The sages revealed that they were the ten divine Vishvadevas. They advised the king to observe the Putrada Ekadashi fast to attain a son. The king complied and returned to the kingdom. Soon, the king was blessed by a son, who grew up to become a heroic king.
Women who long a son fast and pray to Vishnu on Putrada Ekadashi. Couples also worship the deity for well-being for their children. Grains, beans, cereals, and certain vegetables and spices are avoided on this day. This Pausha Putrada Ekadashi is more popular in North India, while other states give more importance to the Shravana one.
Makar Sankranti is generally celebrated every year on January 14. It usually falls in the month of Posh or Maagh in the Hindu calendar. The transit of the earth from one Zodiac sign into another is termed sankranti. On Makar Sankranti the earth enters the sign of Makar (Capricorn) as per Indian astrology. The sun is said to be in the Uttarayan phase at this time, when the days become longer and the nights, shorter.
According to religious texts, it is important to perform charity and religious ceremonies, and recite prayers during Uttarayan.
Makar Sankranti is one of the most important festivals of India, and is celebrated all over the country although under different names and in different ways. In Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Lohri. In Uttar Pradesh, the festival is known as Khichdi. In many states, kite-flying is a popular tradition.
The ceremonies that are commonly performed on this day are aimed at protecting one against the extremes of winter, for instance, the use of til (sesame seed) which is good for protection against the cold. It is a tradition on this day to eat dishes made from til and also distribute them among loved ones. This is a popular tradition across India, the dishes differing from region to region, with til laddoos being the most common. In Maharashtra, these are known as til-gud. People also bathe in water mixed with til and it is even offered in havans (sacrificial fires). Donating til on Makar Sankranti is said to redeem one from sins committed.
Laddoos made of black and white til are given away in charity. It is believed that hundred times the amount donated on Makar Sankranti is destined for one in the next birth. Particularly, donating blankets and ghee is considered very meritorious. The poor are fed khichdi (a mix of rice and dal).
On this day, people also congregate for a dip on the banks of River Ganga.
It is said that on Makar Sankranti, Yashoda had observed a fast by virtue of which Lord Krishna was born to her.
Suhaag items (required to adorn a bride) are decoratively placed in a thali, 14 kinds of items are given in charity and the Nayghchaar songs are recited. Around 300 nayghchaar (customs) are associated with this festival, but one does whatever one can according to one’s convenience and desire.
Some of the customs are as under:
Lifting the curtains in the puja room:
In this ritual, one is required to bathe early morning, lift the curtains in the puja room, lay a thali with sweets and cash before the deity and pray. A devotional hymn is sung.
Waking up the father-in-law:
Knocks at the room of your husband’s parents early morning and awaken them. Gift them a set of clothes and cash on a thali, then bow to seek for blessings. Break open a coconut against the leg of their bed. Female Brahmans are invited to recite the songs relating to Makar Sankranti.
Sari-blouse for the mother-in-law:
This is one of the principal rituals performed on Makar Sankranti day. Help the mother-in-law into a new sari-blouse, gift her cash and take her blessings.
The mother-in-law climbs the stairs:
If there is a staircase in the house, climb the stairs with the mother-in-law. When you reach the top, gift her cash and take her blessings.
Ghayvar for the younger brothers-in-law:
Through this ritual, one displays affection for the husband’s younger brother(s). Early morning, women present a thali with ghayvar (a sweet) and some cash to the brothers-in-law.
Jalebis for the nephews:
Again, this is done to show one’s love for the sons of the jeths (elder brothers-in-law). This too is one of the important rituals of the day. Place five jalebis (a sweet) and some coins or gold guineas in a small silver bowl and curds in another bowl. Serve the sweets and curds to the nephews while singing: “Chaar jalebi, upar dahi; jeth ka beta chachi kahin.” (“Four jalebis, topped with curds; lovingly the jeth’s son will address me as aunt.”).
Treat for the sister-in-law:
Invite the married nanands (husband’s sisters) and gift her a sari-blouse, cash and jewellery in a thali while singing: “Khao chawal khunthiacheer; dikhao baiji tharo bir.” (Come, eat this sweet made from rice, let me have a glimpse of your brother nice.”) The sister-in-law replies thus: “Jima chawal khuntiacheer, dekho Bhabhi mharo bir.” (Now that I have eaten the sweet; my brother, O Bhabhi, you shall meet.”).
Gifts for the husband:
The in-laws and also the husband is pampered on this day. In this ritual, the wife slices off the top portion of a dry coconut, fills the coconut with some cash and raisins and presents it to her husband singing: “Holi bhara kishmish ka, sajna paya lakhon ka.” (“Your lap have I filled with raisins more than a few; husband mine, one in a million are you.”) In this manner, womenfolk show their love and devotion towards their husbands and the latter two express their love for their wives.
These rituals work towards familial bonds stronger and therefore earn invaluable part of life.
Bayana and Ujman
A bayana consisting of ghayvar, til, wheat flour laddoos, a sari-blouse, a suhaag pitari and some cash is presented to the mother-in-law. The ujman is done if it is one’s first Makar Sankranti since one’s wedding. On this occasion, the newly-wed girl’s parents send her laddoos, ghayvar, a sari-blouse, etc., and the girl gifts these to her mother-in-law and seeks her blessings. The men in the household send gifts of sweets and cash to married sisters and daughters if the latter reside in the same town. Coconuts are given away in charity.
Shattila Ekadashi, also known as Sattila Ekadashi or Tilda Ekadashi, is observed usually in the month of January during the waning phase of the moon. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Shattila Ekadashi is performed on the 11th day in the month of Magh, in North India and Pausha, in other regions, as per the traditional Hindu calendar. The name Sat-Tila has been derived from til which means sesame seeds which are donated to the poor and hungry. The devotees also consider it highly auspicious to bath in water mixed with sesame seeds. They also offer oblations by mixing water with sesame seeds to their dad ancestors. An interesting story lies behind the observance of the Shattila Ekadashi fasting.
Legend and Practices
A religious and devoted rich woman performed all the Ekadashi vrats unfailingly. She fed the poor and Brahmins heavily with clothes, jewelry and various other items, the exception being food and grains. Once, Lord Krishna appeared disguised as a poor mendicant wearing torn clothes begging for food on Shattila Ekadashi day. The rich woman agreed to give food but only after the mendicant mentioned his gotra. Nonetheless, the mendicant continued to beg for food. Angrily, the rich woman placed a rolled ball of clay in the begging pot of the mendicant. He blessed her and left.
To the woman’s surprise when she went indoors to have her food, all the food items that she had cooked turned into clay. Even the fruits, rice and vegetables had become clay. Hence, the woman became hungry and started turning pale over the days and years. She grew weaker and weaker. With all the wealth in her hand, she could not get food for herself. She began praying to Lord Krishna for repentance and soon, the Lord appeared in her dreams. He then brought to the knowledge of the woman that the biggest dana is Anna Dana, or feeding the hungry, which she had been ignoring.
He further informed that by performing Shattila Ekadashi, she would be relieved of her all miseries. While performing this ritual, she donated til (sesame) seeds to all the poor and hungry that arrived at her door. Eventually, all the food items turned back to their original forms. Thereafter, the woman kept her doorways open for any hungry passing by her way. Thus, since then, Shattila Ekadashi is practiced continuously on the pretext of redeeming one’s sins. While observing the Shattila Ekadashi vrat, foods made from rice and grains are avoided while the other Ekadashi fasting rules apply to this day as well. Some devotees even eat sesame seeds as part of the vrat.
Republic Day honours the date on which the Constitution of India came into force on 26 January 1950 replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of India.
The Constitution was adopted by the Indian Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949, and came into effect on 26 January 1950 with a democratic government system, completing the country's transition towards becoming an independent republic. 26 January was chosen as the Republic day because it was on this day in 1930 when the Declaration of Indian Independence (Purna Swaraj) was proclaimed by the Indian National Congress as opposed to the Dominion status offered by the British Regime.
It is one of three national holidays in India, the other two being Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti.
India achieved independence from British rule on 15 August 1947 following the Indian independence movement noted for largely peaceful non-violent resistance and civil disobedience led by Mahatma Gandhi. The independence came through the Indian Independence Act 1947, an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that partitioned British India into the two new independent Dominions of the British Commonwealth (later Commonwealth of Nations): India and Pakistan. India obtained its independence on 15 August 1947 as a constitutional monarchy with George VI as head of state and the Earl Mountbatten as governor-general. The country, though, did not yet have a permanent constitution; instead its laws were based on the modified colonial Government of India Act 1935.
On 28 August 1947, the Drafting Committee was appointed to draft a permanent constitution, with Dr B R Ambedkar as chairman. While India's Independence Day celebrates its freedom from British Rule, the Republic Day celebrates of coming into force of its constitution. A draft constitution was prepared by the committee and submitted to the Assembly on 4 November 1947. The Assembly met, in sessions open to public, for 166 days, spread over a period of 2 years, 11 months and 18 days before adopting the Constitution. After many deliberations and some modifications, the 308 members of the Assembly signed two hand-written copies of the document (one each in Hindi and English) on 24 January 1950. Two days later, it came into effect throughout the whole nation.
President Rajendra Prasad (in the horse-drawn carriage) readies to take part in the first Republic Day parade on Rajpath, New Delhi, in 1950.
The main Republic Day celebration is held in the national capital, New Delhi, at the Rajpath before the President of India. On this day, ceremonious parades take place at the Rajpath, which are performed as a tribute to India; its unity in diversity and rich cultural heritage.
In 2016, on the occasion of the 67th Republic Day, the Protocol Department of the Government of Maharashtra held its first parade on the lines of the Delhi Republic Day parade along the entire stretch of Marine Drive in Mumbai.
Delhi Republic Day Parade
Delhi Republic Day parade is held in the capital, New Delhi. Commencing from the gates of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (the President's residence), Raisina Hill on Rajpath past the India Gate, this event is the main attraction of India's Republic Day Celebrations lasting 3 days. The parade showcases India's Defence Capability, Cultural and Social Heritage.
Nine to twelve different regiments of the Indian Army in addition to the Navy, and Air Force with their bands march past in all their finery and official decorations. The President of India who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, takes the salute. Twelve contingents of various para-military forces of India and other civil forces also take part in this parade.
The Beating Retreat ceremony is held after officially denoting the end of Republic Day festivities. It is conducted on the evening of 29 January, the third day after the Republic Day. It is performed by the bands of the three wings of the military, the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force. The venue is Raisina Hill and an adjacent square, Vijay Chowk, flanked by the North and South block of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President's Palace) towards the end of Rajpath.
The Chief Guest of the function is the President of India who arrives escorted by the (PBG), a cavalry unit. When the President arrives, the PBG commander asks the unit to give the National Salute, which is followed by the playing of the Indian National Anthem, Jana Gana Mana, by the Army. The Army develops the ceremony of display by the massed bands in which Military Bands, Pipe and Drum Bands, Buglers and Trumpeters from various Army Regiments besides bands from the Navy and Air Force take part which play popular tunes like Abide With Me, Mahatma Gandhi's favourite hymn, and Saare Jahan Se Achcha at the end.
With nature in full bloom, time to celebrate Spring and banish all gloom.
It is celebrated on the panchami (fifth day) of Magh Sudi to mark the onset of spring. Nature is in its full glory around this time, with the earth bedecked in a beautiful yellow garment of lush mustard fields.
On this day, Lord Krishna is propitiated and the union of Radha and the lord is celebrated with pomp and joy.
People adorn themselves in yellow attire. Prayers are offered to Lord Vishnu, the gods Kamdev and Rati, and Goddess Saraswati. Before the Saraswati puja, Lord Surya, Lord Vishnu and Lord Mahadev (Shiva) are worshipped. Children, in particular, should pray to Goddess Saraswati so that she may bestow blessings of a good education on them.
A havan is also performed and the gods are offered halva and other eatables made with saffron and turmeric.
Farmers mix jaggery and ghee with the new harvest and pray to Agni, the god of fire as also their dead ancestors.
Jaya Ekadashi is observed during the waxing phase of the moon (Shukla Paksha) in the month of January/February. It is also observed as Bhishma Ekadashi and Bhoumi Ekadashi by various Hindu communities. It is believed that observing Jaya Ekadashi will help in getting rid of remorse attached to sins committed and it also leads to liberation (Moksha).
The legend of Jaya Ekadashi was narrated to Yudhishtira by Lord Krishna and is found in the Padma Purana and the Bhavisyothara Purana. According to the legend, the soul of Bhisma left his body and went to Heaven on Jaya Ekadashi. While he was lying on the bed of arrows, he revealed the Sahasranama Stothram or Vishnu Stothram to Pandavas.
Fasting on Jaya Ekadashi is considered highly beneficial. Some staunch Vishnu devotees also do not sleep during the night.
Vijaya Ekadashi occurs during the waning phase of the moon (Krishna Paksha) in February/March. The greatness of this Ekadashi is mentioned in the Skanda Purana. The observing of Vijaya Ekadasi helps in removing all the guilt associated with sins committed and also helps in attaining victory. It is believed that Lord Ram observed Vijaya Ekadashi to cross the ocean to reach Lanka and defeat Ravana.
The legend of Vijaya Ekadasi was narrated to Narada by Lord Brahma. Legend has it that when Lord Ram and his army – the Vanarasena – was searching for a means to cross the ocean to reach Lanka, Lakshmana mentioned a great Sage who lived nearby and said that he might perhaps provide them with a solution.
It is this sage who mentioned Vijaya Ekadashi to Lord Ram and its benefits – observing it will help in being victorious.
All the normal rules associated with Ekadashi fasting are observed during Vijaya Ekadashi. Some people do not sleep on the day. Grains and food made of rice are strictly avoided.
Maha Shivaratri is a festival celebrated annually in honour of Lord Shiva. There is a Shivaratri in every lunary month on its 13th night /14th day, but once a year in late winter (February/March) and before the arrival of spring, marks Maha Shivaratri which means "the Great Night of Shiva”.
It is believed that on this day, at the time of pradosh (after sunset) Lord Shiva performed the tandava (dance of fury) and caused the dissolution of the universe with rays emanating from his third eye. Hence, Shivaratri is also known as Kaalratri (Night of Annihilation). It is also believed that Shiva got married to the most beautiful woman in the universe, Goddess Parvati, on this day.
It is a major festival in Sanatana Dharma, but one that is solemn and marks a remembrance of "overcoming darkness and ignorance" in life and the world. It is observed by remembering Shiva and chanting prayers, fasting, doing yoga and meditating on ethics and virtues such as self-restraint, honesty, non- injury to others, forgiveness and the discovery of Shiva. The ardent devotees keep awake all night. Others visit one of the Shiva temples or go on a pilgrimage to Jyotirlingams.
Amalaka Ekadashi or Amalaki Ekadashi is a Hindu holy day, celebrated on the 11th day (Ekadashi) of the waxing moon, in the lunar month of Phalgun (February–March). It is a celebration of the amalaka or amla tree (Phyllanthus emblica), known as the Indian gooseberry.
The god Vishnu, for whom ekadashis are sacred, is believed to reside in the tree. The amla tree is ritually worshiped on this day to get the grace of the deity. The day marks the beginning of the main celebrations of the festival of Holi, the Hindu festival of colours.
Tree worship is an integral part of Hinduism, which believes the Universal Spirit or Omnipresent God resides in everything. Trees are important in agrarian societies like India.
The veneration of the amla tree in particular is due to the belief that Lord Vishnu resides in and near the tree, particularly on Amalaka Ekadashi. In some traditions, his wife Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is said to dwell in the tree. It is believed that Vishnu's avatar Krishna and his consort Radha reside near the tree.
Another reason for the worship are its medicinal qualities. Every part of the tree is useful and the fruit in particular is used in Ayurvedic medicinal preparations and is rich in Vitamin C.
The legend of a ritual fast is also called a Vrata katha (tale of the vrata religious vow).
According to the legend narrated for the occasion, King Chitrasena and his subjects observed the vrata of Amalaka Ekadashi. During one of his hunting trips, Chitrasena lost his way in the forest and was captured by the wild tribals or rakshasas (demons) who attacked him with weapons. Though he remained physically unharmed, the king fell unconscious as more tribals or demons surrounded him. A divine power in the form of a light emerged from his body and destroyed his attackers and then vanished. On regaining consciousness, Chitrasena was stunned to see all the attackers killed. A divine voice (Akasavani) announced that this was due to the observance of the Ekadashi vrata. Following this incident, the vrata became popular in the kingdom, which led to peace and harmony.
A variant of this tale is found in the Brahmanda Purana as narrated by the sage Vasishtha. King Chaitraratha of Vaidisa and his subjects were blessed with riches due to the worship of Vishnu. Once, on Amalaki Ekadashi, Chaitraratha and his subjects worshiped Vishnu and the amla tree near the Vishnu temple, on a riverbank. He also worshiped Parashurama, a sage-avatar of Vishnu. The devotees fasted and remained awake the whole night, singing bhajans (devotional songs) in praise of Vishnu. A hungry hunter joined the group and followed the Amalaka Ekadashi vrata. As a result, after his death he was reborn as King Vasurath. Vasurath is described as undergoing a similar experience to King Chitrasena from the earlier tale. The main difference is that Vasurath does not perform the vrata in this life but in his previous life. The moral of the tale is told to be that the performance of Amalaka Ekadashi vrata, without any desire and just pure devotion, results in the grace of Vishnu, in this and next lives.
The observer of the vrata should have a ritual bath in the morning. The devotee or priests ceremonially bathe and water the tree and then worship it with a puja ritual. Devotees fast on this day and gifts are offered to Brahmin priests praying for prosperity, wealth and health. Devotees also listen to the vrata katha of Amalaka Ekadashi. Offering of food and charity is prescribed on this day; the virtue is equated to the performance of a vajapeya, a somayajna sacrifice.
Though the festival of Holi begins on Vasant Panchami, it is on Amalaka Ekadashi that the main festivities begin. The day marks the beginning of the climax of Holi, culminating on four lunar days later on the full moon. From this day, people start playing with colours.
Holi is wild and raucous, a frolic of friendly playfulness. During Holi, India’s streets are overtaken by crowds awash with coloured powder. Not only clothes, but faces, arms and hair are smeared and sprayed with every colour of the rainbow. People sing, dance, play, hug each other and smile with such child-like joy that it makes one wonder where so much happiness comes from! It is a celebration of love, forgiveness, hope and just plain fun.
What is Holi
Holi is a community’s exuberant expression of joy to welcome the warmth of spring. In a reflection of nature’s abundance, Hindus celebrate with bursts of colour, camaraderie and shared abandon. It begins on Purnima, full moon day, in the Hindu month of Phalguni (February/March) and lasts for as long as 16 days.
How does the festival start?
Many communities create a central bonfire on the night before Holi, starting with kindling and logs and adding organic debris as they clean up their property. The fire symbolizes the torching of negative or troublesome experiences and memories. An effigy of Holika, a demoness personifying negativity, is consigned to the flames, and freshly harvested barley and oats are offered. The embers are collected to light sacred fires, and the ashes are used to mark the forehead as a blessing.
When does the colour fun begins?
On the day of Holi, people celebrate by playing, dancing and running in the streets. Water pistols are filled with coloured water and squirted on family, friends and strangers alike. Dye powders and water balloons are a big part of the play. The wise wear old clothes, usually white, in anticipation of the mess! Virtually anything goes, including humour, practical jokes and teasing—all excused with the saying, “Don’t mind, it’s Holi!” (Hindi: Bura na mano, Holi hai.). Men are at the playful mercy of women, who dance with them. Especially in North India, people celebrate with abandon, even splashing colour on their homes as a prelude to the more sober custom of renewing the paint with shell-based white. Deities and images of ancestors are hand-painted and placed in beautiful altars. Dramatic events feature devotional songs and the retelling of the love epic of Radha and Krishna. Bonds are renewed, particularly among in-laws and the extended family. Etiquette on Holi requires that one accept all overtures with an open heart, burying grievances to begin relationships afresh. People of all walks of life mingle and greet, applying vermillion on each other’s foreheads in an uninhibited exchange of goodwill.
What are the delicacies of this festival?
Special sweet and savoury treats including mathri, puran poli and vadai are made. Many communities make an intoxicating, cooling drink, called thandai, made of purified water, sugar, seeds of watermelon, muskmelon and lotus, along with nuts, cardamom, fennel, white pepper, saffron and rose petals.
What is the meaning behind the bonfire?
Love, positive values and goodness are celebrated on Holi. Their triumphs over divisiveness and negative forces have been reinforced in legends, such as that of Holika and her brother Hiranyakashipu. The famous king Hiranyakashipu had earned a boon that made him virtually indestructible. Blinded by this power, he thought he was God, the only being worthy of worship. His young son Prahlad was devoted to Lord Vishnu and refused to obey his father. Infuriated, the king devised the cruellest punishments. In one attempt, Prahlad’s evil aunt Holika, who possessed the power to withstand fire, tricked him into climbing a burning pyre with her. Prahlad’s love to true divinity protected him from the flames. Holika burned while Prahlad lived. The bonfire of Holi is symbolic of this victory of good over evil.
How did the frolicking with colour originate?
Legend has it that Krishna noticed one day how much lighter Radha’s complexion was than His own. His mother playfully suggested that He smear Radha’s cheek with colour to make Her look like Him, which Krishna did. The strong willed Radha gleefully retaliated, and a merry chaos ensued. Another legend has it that Krishna celebrated this festival with His friends and the gopis. They danced frolicked, filling the air with colour in a joyous welcome of spring.
Is this a romantic occasion?
The festive dancing and the camaraderie create the perfect environment for matrimonial alliances. Young people find mates, and families formally seal marital agreements during these days.
Papamochani Ekadashi falls on the ‘Ekadashi’ (11th day) of the Krishna Paksha (the waning phase of the moon) in the month of ‘Chaitra’ as per the North Indian calendar. However, in the South Indian calendar, this Ekadashi is observed in the Hindu month of ‘Phalgun’. In the Gregorian calendar, this corresponds to the months of March to April. It falls between the celebrations of Holika Dahan and Chaitra Navratri. When Papamochani Ekadashi falls on a Thursday, it holds special significance and is known as ‘Guruvar Ekadashi’.
The word ‘papa’ in Hindu means ‘misdeeds’ or ‘sins’ and ‘mochan’ signifies ‘to release’ and hence this Ekadashi gives freedom from all the committed sins. Besides this Ekadashi, observance also motivates a person to abstain from committing sins. Devotees therefore believe it is highly auspicious to observe a fast on Papamochani Ekadashi.
Rituals during Papamochani Ekadashi:
Devotees wake up at sunrise on Ekadashi and take a holy bath with Kush and sesame seeds. Most of the Vishnu followers keep a fast on this day to be blessed with their deity’s eternal mercy.
Fasting on Papamochani Ekadashi is considered to be very auspicious. It is best to observe fast by not eating anything or by just drinking water. However, as this is not possible for everyone, fasting can also be observed by only eating non-grain foods, milk, nuts and fruits. The fast is broken the next day after offering prayers to Lord Vishnu.
Even for those who are not fasting, eating pulses, rice and non-vegetarian food is strictly forbidden on Ekadashi. One must read ‘Sri Vishnu Sahasranama’ on Papamochani Ekadashi.
On this day, Lord Vishnu is worshipped by devotees with full dedication. The devotees offer Tulsi leaves (plucked a day before), flowers, fruits, and lamp and incense sticks to Lord Vishnu. Offering mogra or jasmine flowers is also believed to be highly meritorious. If possible, the observer of this vrat must also visit temples of Lord Vishnu in the evening. Special programmes are organised in the temples, such as reciting important chapters of the sacred Bhagavad Gita.
Significance of Papamochani Ekadashi:
The importance of Papamochani Ekadashi is illustrated in the ‘Bhavishyottara Purana’ and ‘Harivasara’. It was first narrated to King Mandhata by Sage Lomasa and then by Lord Krishna to King Yudhisthira, the eldest of the Pandavas. It is believed that Papamochani Ekadashi destroys all sins and also frees the observer from guilt. By observing this Ekadashi with full devotion, the person will never be influenced by demons or ghosts.
Observing Papamochani Ekadashi is more meritorious than visiting Hindu pilgrimage places or even donating one thousand cows. The observer of this propitious vrat enjoys all the worldly pleasures and ultimately finds a place in the heavenly kingdom of Lord Vishnu, the ‘Vaikunth’. The main purpose of keeping the Papamochani vrat is to control one’s body demands and spend ample time chanting, listening to and reciting Vedic mantras dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Chaitra Navratri is an auspicious Hindu festival which is solely dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga. This festival holds lots of importance for the entire Gujarati, Bengali and Maharashtrian communities. Navratri itself symbolizes victory over evil. The occasion begins with Ghatasthapana which is a traditional ritual.
The word ‘Navratri’ is derived from ‘Nav’ which means nine, and ‘Ratri’ which means night in Sanskrit, hence ‘Navratri’ means nine nights of celebration, during which nine forms of goddesses are worshiped. Chaitra Navratri falls in the month of Chaitra and so it is termed as ‘Chaitra Navratri’. According to popular legends, devotees believe that Goddess Durga demolished demon Mahishasura. Hence Goddess Durga, also known as Kali, is represented as a symbol of Shakti – the ultimate strength. It is also said that Maa Durga has eternal divine power, which can never be created nor destroyed.
Importance and Significance of Chaitra Navratri
During the first three days of Chaitra Navratri, devotees worship Goddess Durga and her various forms, including Sailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skanda Mata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Maha Gowri and Siddhidayini. Long before Chaitra Navratri actually begins, the devotees start preparing various cuisines and purchase new clothes to celebrate this auspicious festival. The entire Navratri festival is all about praying and fasting, as well as savouring delicacies, dancing and enjoying yourself for the nine days.
Chaitra Navratri symbolises the beginning of the Hindu New Year which marks the beginning of the spring season. Devotees worship the three main manifestations of Goddess Shakti, which are Durga, Saraswati and Lakshmi, to seek their divine blessings.
Rama Navami is a spring Hindu festival that celebrates the birthday of god Rama. The festival is a part of the spring Navratri, and falls on the ninth day of the bright half (Shukla Paksha) in the Hindu calendar month of Chaitra.
The day is marked by Rama Katha recitals, or the reading of Rama stories. Some Hindus visit a temple, others pray within their home, and some participate in a bhajan or kirtan with music as a part of puja and aarti. Some devotees mark the event by taking miniature statues of the infant Rama, washing it, clothing it, and then placing it in a cradle. Charitable events and community meals are also organised. The festival is an occasion for moral reflection for many Hindus. Some mark this day by vrata (fasting). Rathayatras, the chariot processions, also known as Shobha yatras of Rama, Sita, his brother Lakshmana and Hanuman, are taken out at several places. In Ayodhya, many take a dip in the sacred river Sarayu and then visit the Rama temple.
Shri Rama’s birth took place before noon. So pujas are conducted at mid-day in temples. The idol of Rama is decorated and worshipped. Grand pujas are performed to the chant of Vedic verses and mantras. Generally, these celebrations stretch for nine days and culminate on Ram Navami - the ninth day. Many people observe a fast during this period and eat only phalahar (fruits).
In northern India, an event that draws popular participation is the Rama Navami procession. The main attraction is a gaily decorated chariot carrying four persons dressed as Rama, his Brother Lakshmana, his Queen Sita and his Disciple Hanuman. The chariot is accompanied by several other persons dressed in ancient costumes as Rama’s soldiers. The procession is a joyous affair with participants shouting praises that echo the happy days of Rama’s reign.
Kamada Ekadasi is a Hindu holy day, which falls on the 11th lunar day (ekadashi) of the fortnight of the waxing moon in the Hindu month of Chaitra (March–April). It is the first ekadashi after the Hindu New Year and as its name Kamada suggests, is believed to grant all desires.
The legend about Kamada Ekadashi is narrated by the god Krishna to the Pandava King Yudhishthira in the Varaha Purana, as it was told by the sage Vasishtha to King Dilipa. Once, a young gandharva couple, Lalit and his wife Lalita, lived in the city of Ratnapura, a highly prosperous city decorated with gold and silver, which was ruled by the King Pundarika. Lalit was a famed singer, while Lalita was a renowned dancer at the royal court. One day when Lalit was singing in the royal court, his attention fluttered from the song to his wife, who was absent from the court. As a result, he missed some beats and incorrectly ended his performance. A serpent in the court complained to the king of the folly and said that Lalit considered his wife more important than his master, the king. Infuriated, the King Pundarika cursed Lalit to become a monstrous cannibal, who was sixty-four miles in height. His neck was like a mountain, arms eight miles long and mouth the size of a huge cave. This greatly distressed Lalita who wandered around the forests with her monstrous husband who dealt in sinful activities.
While wandering around the Vindhyachal Hills, Lalita came across the sage Shringi. Paying her respects to the sage, she appealed to him to provide a solution to her problem. Sage Shringi told her to observe the vrata (vow) of Kamada Ekadashi to atone for the sins of her husband. Lalita observed the ekadashi fast with great devotion and the next day again visited the sage and bowed to the god Krishna. She requested God to free her husband from the king's curse as a reward of the religious merit gained by the fast. With the blessings of Krishna, Lalit was restored to his original gandharva form. Thereafter, they were taken to heaven on a celestial flying chariot.
After taking a bath in the morning of Kamada ekadashi, the devotee observes a fast. Worship is also offered to Krishna, often in a nearby temple.
The religious merit gained from this vrata is believed to grant all desires, to cleanse even the most heinous sin one may have committed (like murder of a Brahmin), and to free the devotee or his family members from curses.
Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated on the 15th day of the Shukla Paksha, during the month of Chaitra (the Chaitra Pournimaa). This day marks the birth of Lord Sri Hanuman, who is immensely venerated throughout India and Nepal.
On this auspicious day, devotees of Lord Hanuman celebrate him and seek his protection and blessings. They flock to temples to worship him and present religious offerings. In return, the devotees receive prasad by the temple priests in the form of sweets, flowers, coconuts, tilak, sacred ash (udi) and ganga jal (holy water). People also celebrate him on this day by reciting various devotional hymns and prayers like the Hanuman Chalisa and reading Holy Scriptures like the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Hanuman Jayanti is an important festival of the Hindus. Lord Hanuman is an ardent devotee of Lord Sri Rama and is widely known for his unflinching devotion to Sri Rama. Hanuman is the symbol of strength and energy. He is said to be able to assume any form at will, wield the gada (including many celestial weapons), move mountains, dart through the air, seize the clouds, and equally rival Garuda in swiftness of flight.
Lord Hanuman is worshipped as a deity with the ability to attain victory against evil and provide protection.
Varuthini Ekadashi, also known Baruthani Ekadashi, is a Hindu holy day, which falls on the 11th lunar day (ekadashi) of the fortnight of the waning moon in the Hindu month of Chaitra (per the South Indian Amavasyant calendar, every month ends with a new moon) or Vaishakha (per the North Indian Purnimant calendar, every month ends with a full moon). By both schemes, Varuthini Ekadashi falls on the same day in April or May. Like all ekadashis, the god Vishnu, especially his fifth avatar Vamana, is worshipped.
The greatness about Varuthini Ekadashi is narrated by the god Krishna to the King Yudhishthira in the Bhavishya Purana. The ekadashi will allow a lame person to walk normally, turn an unfortunate woman into a lucky one, and allow an animal to be released from its cycle of birth and death. King Mandata was enlightened. The Ikshvaku king, Dhundhumara, was freed from a curse by the god Shiva. All human beings are assured of prosperity in this life and the next.
Like all ekadashis, the god Vishnu is to be worshipped, however on Varuthini Ekadashi particularly, his fifth avatar Vamana is worshipped. On Varuthini Ekadashi, certain rules are prescribed to be followed strictly. One should keep an all-night vigil, pray to God, and sing devotional songs and hymns in the company of family members. One should not indulge in gambling, sports, sleep, anger, robbery, lying, being narrow minded, exercise, shaving one's head, face or body, smearing oil on one's body and saying something bad about others. One should abstain from violence and any sexual activity.
One should observe a fast (upavasa) and have only one meal. One should not eat meat, black gram, red lentil, chickpea, honey, betel nut, paan (betel nut leaves) and spinach. Eating in Bell metal utensils and eating in someone else's house is prohibited. The Havishyanna food (boiled food without spices, salt and oil) offered to the yajna (fire sacrifice) on the previous day (10th lunar day - Dashami) should be consumed by the people observing this fast.
Like the name of this holy day, ‘Varuthini’ ("armoured/protected") suggests that the devotee following this day's vrata (vow) is said to be protected from all harm and evil, and gain good fortune. Following all these rules on Varuthini Ekadashi is believed to usher prosperity, name and fame to the individual in the society.
Akshaya Tritiya, also known as Akha Teej, is one of the most auspicious festivals for Hindus. It is celebrated in India on the third day of the bright phase of Vaishakh month (April-May), when the Sun and Moon are in an exalted state. It is believed that a person who does charity and sacred deeds such as homas, fasting, donation etc. on this day get very auspicious results.
The day of Akshaya Tritiya is traditionally known as the birthday of Lord Parashurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. On this day people all around the country conduct special Pujas, bathe in holy rivers, make charity, and worship Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi to get blessings in the form of overall wealth and prosperity. Akha Teej also marks the beginning of summers. It is the only time of the year when both the Sun and the Moon are simultaneously at their peak of brightness. Farmers celebrate this time of crop ripening by observing fasts and organising fairs.
The word "Akshaya" means, “undiminishing”. This is why this day is considered to be a good time to bring home goddess Lakshmi, in any form such as gold, silver or platinum. It is believed that valuable items bought on this day are considered to bring success or good fortune. Being an ultimate symbol of wealth and prosperity, gold is the most popular ornament bought on Akshaya Tritiya. Auspicious works such as weddings, the beginning of new business ventures, and long journeys are performed on this day.
The most famous legend of Akshaya Tritiya is about lord Krishna and Sudama. Sudama was lord Krishna’s poor Brahmin childhood friend. On the day of Akshaya Tritya, Sudama came over to Krishna's palace to request financial help. Before leaving the house, Sudama’s wife gave him a handful of beaten rice or 'poha' to give to Krishna as a gift from a friend, as it is not considered auspicious to visit someone’s house barehanded.
On reaching the palace of Krishna, Sudama realised the materialistic difference between him and Krishna, and was ashamed to give him the pouch of rice. But Krishna took the pouch of 'poha' from him and relished having it. Krishna followed the principle of 'Atithi Devo Bhava' or 'the guest is like God' and treated Sudama like a king. His poor friend was so overwhelmed by the warmth and hospitality shown by Krishna that he could not ask for the financial favour and came home empty handed. When he reached his place, he saw that his old small hut had transformed into a palace. He found his family dressed in royal attire and everything around was royal and expensive. Sudama understood that it was a boon from his dear friend Krishna, who blessed him with more than the wealth he actually intended to ask for. Since that day, Akshaya Tritiya has been associated with material gains and wealth acquisition.
According to another legend, during the time of the Mahabharata, Pandavas received the Akshaya Pathram (bowl) from Lord Krishna which would never go empty and would produce an unlimited supply of food on demand.
Significance of charity on Akshaya Tritya
Sacred deeds, charity, donations, austerities, a holy bath etc. have a special significance on Akshaya Tritiya. Taking a bath in holy rivers such as Ganga and Yamuna is considered very auspicious on this day.
Donating articles and things such as clothes, water, foods items etc. which can be used in summers is also considered auspicious. Goddess Parvati should be worshipped with wheat, channa, curd, milk, kheer, sugarcane, gold, clothes, water pot etc. on this day. Akshaya Tritiya is believed to be the festival for accomplishing enormous prosperity.
2nd (Tuesday) - Ganga Utpati
6th (Saturday) - Mohini Ekadashi
9th (Tuesday) - Narsimha Jayanti
10th (Wednesday) - Buddha Purnima
Of all the Ekadashi’s observed in a year, Apara Ekadashi is considered the most glorious one. Apara Ekadashi is observed on the Ekadashi of the second half of the month of Jeshtha. It is believed that a person who fasts on this day washes away all his sins and attains Moksha. With just one fast on this day, a person frees himself of all the wrong doings and short falls of the past. In Madhya Pradesh, this day is celebrated with grandeur and almost everyone tries to observe a fast. This day is given high importance and people visit temples in huge numbers to pray for forgiveness.
Observed in the month of Jyeshtha, this festival is generally observed in the month of May or June all over the country. This festival goes by many names across the nation like Achala Ekadashi, Bhadrakali Ekadashi, Vaishakh Vadi Ekadashi and Jalkrida Ekadashi. In Madhya Pradesh, it is called Apara Ekadashi a day that washes away all the sins and reserves a place in Heaven.
There are many tales associates with Achala Ekadashi. Here are a few of them:
The Tale of Lord Trivikrama:
Lord Trivikrama is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu who taught a fitting lesson to King Bali. According to the puranas, it was in Treta Yug that King Bali started acting arrogant after being conferred with the title Chakravarty Samrat. Such was his pride that he made Lord Indra to leave from Heaven after attacking it.
Indra sought asylum from King Vishnu who took the avatar of Vamana (dwarf) showing that he is Trivikrama, the Lord of Three Worlds. King Bali realized his mistake and obliged to Lord Vishnu. This auspicious day is celebrated as Apara Ekadashi. Owing to its prominence, it is also known as Jyeshtha Krishna Ekadashi, Vaishakh Vadi Ekadashi, and Achala Ekadashi.
The Story of King Yudhishthir:
King Yudhishthir, the eldest of Pandavas in Mahabharata, asked about the importance of Apara Ekadashi during one of his resting periods. According to Lord Krishna, the festival is chiefly celebrated in the dominant Hindu communities during which they seek perfect solution so that their past sins could get washed off successfully. This is the exact reason why people in large numbers maintain fast on the auspicious day. Perhaps, it is the Apara Ekadashi festival alone that helps people in realizing more benefits on an overall.
Rituals of Apara Ekadashi:
The rituals observed on this day include fasting, pujas and yagya. The rituals of this day are given very high importance and are performed with utmost sincerity. It is said that a person who observes this day honestly gets as blessed as someone who has done innumerable good acts and observed various religious acts. Madhya Pradesh is a state of diversities. Many festivals are celebrated here with grand fervour and Apara Ekadashi is one of them. It is of equal importance to every person in the state despite of their caste and the state they come from.
Nirjala Ekadashi is a Hindu holy day falling on the 11th lunar day (Ekadashi) of the waxing fortnight of the Hindu month of Jyestha (May/June). The ekadashi derives its name from the water-less (Nir-jala) fast observed on this day. It is considered as the most austere and hence, most sacred of ekadashis. If observed religiously, it is said the most rewarding and granting the virtue gained by the observance of all 24 ekadshis in the year.
Nirjala Ekadashi is also known as Pandava Bhima Ekadashi, or Pandava Nirjala Ekadashi. This name is derived from Bhima, the second and strongest of the five Pandava brothers, heroes of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Brahma Vaivarta Purana narrates the story behind the Nirjala Ekadashi vrata (vow). Bhima, a lover of food, wanted to observe all ekadashi fasts, but could not control his hunger. He approached the sage Vyasa, author of the Mahabharata and grandfather of the Pandavas for a solution. The sage advised him to observe Nirjala Ekadashi, when for one day in the year, he should observe an absolute fast. Bhima attained the virtue of all 24 ekadashis, by observing Nirjala Ekadashi.
While on other ekadashis abstinence of food is observed, on Nirjala Ekadashi, an absolute fast is observed, without partaking even water. The water-less fast is considered extremely difficult to follow as the day falls in the hot Indian summer and thus, it is deemed as very pious austerity. The fast is observed 24 hours from sunrise on Nirjala Ekadashi to sunrise the next day. Some observe it from sunrise to sunset. On the day before Nirjala Ekadashi, the devotee performs the evening prayer (Sandhyavandanam) and takes only one meal, without rice - as rice eating is prohibited. The devotee is however permitted to have a single tiny drop of water as part of the Achamana purification ritual. Water more than that equals breaking the vow.
Like other ekadashis, puja is offered to the god Vishnu, for whom ekadashis are sacred, to seek his grace. An image of Vishnu or a Saligrama stone (an iconic fossil stone in the form of Vishnu) is bathed (abhisheka) with Panchamrita, a mixture of five foods: milk, curd, ghee (clarified butter), honey and sugar. It is then washed with water and then dressed in royal finery. A hand-fan is also offered. Flowers, incense, water and arati (lamps) are also offered. Devotees meditate on the image of the god. In the evening, they worship Vishnu with durva grass in their hands. Devotees remain awake the whole night and sing praises of Vishnu or meditate on his image.
Another characteristic of ekadashis is charity to Brahmins (the priest class). Clothes, food grains, umbrellas, hand-fans, pitchers filled with water, gold etc. are prescribed to be donated on Nirjala Ekadashi.
According to the Markandeya Purana and the Vishnu Purana, the day of Ekadashi is itself a form of Vishnu. The vrata observed on this day is said to wash away all sin. One who completes the vrata of Nirjala Ekadashi is mentioned to gain the favour of Vishnu, who grants him happiness, prosperity and forgiveness for sins. The devotee is described to receive the merit gained by the observance of all 24 ekadshis in the year. It is most popular and strictly observed by the Vaishnavas, in particular.
The observer gains longevity and moksha (salvation). Usually, the messengers of the god of death Yama are described to fetch the person's soul after death. Yama then judges the person's deeds and sends him to Svarga (heaven) or Naraka (Hell). However, one who observes the Nirjala Ekadashi rituals is believed to be excused Yama's judgement and taken by messengers of Vishnu to Vaikuntha, the abode of Vishnu, after death.
Yogini Ekadashi is one of the auspicious occasions for Hindus to cleanse themselves of all past sins and to conduct their life in a more effective manner in the future. This day is crucial for people who are attracted towards materialism and need to be nurtured towards the path of spirituality. It is regarded as the most iconic day for observing fasts in the most sacred way. It usually occurs in the bright half of Jyestha month (period between May and June).
Legends of Yogini Ekadashi
King Kubera, the official treasurer for Gods, was the ruler of Alakapuri besides being a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. Hemamali was a Yaksha gardener of Kubera who was greatly attracted to his wife Swarupavati because of her beautiful eyes. One day, Hemamali ignored his daily duty of collecting flowers from Manasarovara Lake for Kubera to perform Shiv puja after getting involved deeply with the feelings of Swarupavati. After finding out about the lack of flowers for that day, Kubera sent another Yaksha to find out the exact reason for the delay.
Afterwards, when Hemamali was summoned before Kubera, the latter got enraged and cursed him with severe consequences. Eventually, he was made to suffer from leprosy and was ordered to leave the place with immediate effect. After being expelled from Alakapuri, he found himself amidst dense forests. Though he was left in disgrace, he never stopped worshiping Lord Shiva. By reaching the Himalayan range during his spiritual journeys, he came into contact with Markandeya Rishi. After coming into contact with the rishi, Hemamali explained his story on being asked about it. Deeply moved with the sad story of the leper, Markandeya Rishi advised him to observe fast on Yogini Ekadashi to cleanse his bad karma and sins.
Speaking the truth had helped the leper in an extensive way because it had made it possible for him to find the best way of conducting his life. Hemamali offered thanks to the rishi after praying at his feet with utmost gratitude. Later, he continued praying to Lord Shiva and even observed a fast on the said day by the rishi. With his sins washed off in an effective manner, Hemamali went back to Alakapuri to lead a happy married life with his wife again. Ekadashi Devi gets impressed from all those who observe fast on the day due to which their sins will be annulled and their life becomes more pious.
Importance of Yogini Ekadashi Vrat
People who observe fast on this day will be able to clear their problems in a successful manner. With their past sins cleansed, it is possible to lead a normal life without experiencing any problems again. Listening to the Yogini Ekadashi Vrat Katha in detail will lead people towards observing fast as per the rituals and traditions. Bhagwan Shri Krishna narrated the importance of the fast, along with the legend which is associated with it, to King Yudishthara.
4th (Tuesday) - Devshayani Ekadashi
9th (Sunday) - Guru Purnima
19th (Wednesday) - Kamika Ekadashi
27th (Thursday) - Naag Panchami
Shravana Putrada Ekadashi, also known as Pavitropana Ekadashi and Pavitra Ekadashi, is a Hindu holy day, which falls on the 11th lunar day (ekadashi) of the fortnight of the waxing moon in the Hindu month of Shravana which in the Gregorian calendar falls in July or August.
This day is known as Shravana Putrada Ekadashi, to differentiate it from the other Putrada Ekadashi in Pausha (December–January), which is also called Pausha Putrada Ekadashi.
On this day, 24 hours fasting is observed and worship is offered to the god Vishnu (like other ekadashis) by both husband and wife in particular, who do not have a son for a long time after marriage, to beget a male child. This day is especially observed by Vaishnavas, followers of Vishnu.
The legend about Pavitropana Ekadashi is narrated by the god Krishna to the King Yudhishthira in the Bhavishya Purana. King Mahijit was a rich and powerful ruler of Mahishmati, who had no children. He sought counsel of his council of learned men, sages (rishis) and Brahmins (priests), to find a solution to his problem. Unable to find a remedy, the council reached out to the omniscient learned sage Lomesh. Lomesh meditated and found out that Mahijit's misfortune was a result of his sins in his previous birth. The sage said that Mahijit was a merchant in his previous birth. While travelling on business, the merchant became extremely thirsty once and reached the pond. There a cow and her calf were drinking water. The merchant drove them away and himself drank the water. This sin resulted in his childlessness, while his good deeds resulted in his birth as a king of a peaceful kingdom. Lomesh advised the King and the Queen to observe Ekadashi fast in Shravana on Pavitropana Ekadashi to get rid of his sin. As advised, the royal couple as well as his citizens kept a fast and offered prayers to the god Vishnu and kept vigil throughout the night piously chanting his divine name. They also gave gifts of gold, jewels, clothes and money to the Brahmins. Their wish was fulfilled when a handsome son was born to them to subsequently become the heir to their kingdom.
Worship of Vishnu is a common rite on all Ekadashi days including the Putrada Ekadashi to get salvation and get rid of all sins, to beget children (sons in particular). On this day devotees keeping fast to beget a son, sleep in the room where god Vishnu is worshipped. On this occasion giving gifts to Brahmins in the form of money, food, clothes etc. is also an accepted practice. This Shravana Putrada Ekadashi is more popular in the South other than the North India, while the Pausha one is popular in the North.
Starting with the Pavitropanna Ekadashi, Jhulan Yatra festival, a five-day event, is observed till the Poornima (full moon day). The festivities involve decorating the jhula or swing with beautiful flowers and creepers. On the last day, worship is offered to the colourfully dressed small images of the god Krishna and his consort Radha placed in the swing.
7th (Monday) - Raksha Bandhan
13th (Sunday) - Randhan Chhath
14th (Monday) - Shitala Satam
15th (Tuesday) - Krishna Janmashtami
15th (Tuesday) - Independence Day
18th (Friday) - Aja Ekadashi
Honouring the Lord of Beginnings
During Ganesh Chaturthi, a ten-day festival in August/September, elaborate puja ceremonies are held in Hindu temples around the world honouring Ganesha, the benevolent, elephant-faced Lord of Obstacles. In millions of home shrines, worship is also offered to a clay image of Ganesha that the family makes or obtains. At the end of ten days, Hindus join in a grand parade, called visarjana in Sanskrit, to a river, temple tank, lake or seashore, where His image is ceremoniously immersed, symbolizing Ganesha’s merging into universal consciousness.
Who is Ganesha?
Perennially happy, playful, unperturbed and wise, this rotund Deity removes obstacles to go endeavours and obstructs negative ventures, thus guiding and protecting the lives of devotees. He is the patron of art and science, the God inhabiting all entryways, the gatekeeper who blesses all beginnings. When initiating anything—whether learning, business, weddings, travel, building and more—Hindus seek His grace for success. He is undoubtedly the most endearing, popular and widely worshipped of all the Hindu Deities. Ganesha Chaturthi (also called Vinayaka Chaturthi) falls on the fourth day in the waxing fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada in the sacred Hindu lunar calendar, which translates to a certain day in August-September. It is essentially a birthday celebrating Ganesha’s divine appearance.
What do people do on Ganesha Chaturthi?
Devotees often fashion or purchase a Ganesha statue out of unbaked clay. Many sculpt Him out of a special mixture of turmeric, sandalwood paste, cow dung, soil from an anthill and palm sugar. The Deity image is placed in the home shrine amongst traditional decorations. A rite of worship and prayer, called puja, is conducted daily, invoking the energies of the Deity and inviting Him to reside in the clay image. Mantras are chanted and offerings are made throughout the puja, including incense, lighted lamps, cooked food (naivedya), fruits, durva grass, tulasi and pomegranate leaves—and flowers, especially red ones. After ten days, a simple puja is performed before the statue is taken for a formal departure (visarjana). Often entire communities, from dozens to tens of thousands of devotees, gather each year for this final day of ceremony. The icons are carried on an ornate metal tray—larger images are borne on a palanquin by several strong men—to a lake, a river or the sea. There Ganesha is consigned to the water after removing non-degradable paraphernalia.
What foods are offered?
Sumptuous foods are specially prepared for Ganesha, keeping in mind His elephantine nature and prodigious appetite. People offer several varieties of fruits such as mangoes, bananas and sugarcane. Sweets are the elephant-headed Deity’s delight, so to express their love families take great pains to make special tasty treats. Each family has its recipes.
26th (Saturday) - Rishi Panchami
29th (Tuesday) - Radha Ashtmi
2nd (Saturday) - Parsva Ekadashi
6th (Wednesday) - Shraddh starts (Pitra Paksh)
16th (Saturday) - Indira Ekadashi
20th (Wednesday) - Shraddh ends (Umavasya)
28th (Thursday) - Durga Ashtami
Why Do We Celebrate It?
Navratri, culminating with Dussehra, is a cultural festival of great importance and significance for all. It is a festival that is all about the goddess. In Karnataka, Dussehra is about Chamundi, in Bengal it is about Durga. Like this, it is about various goddesses in different places, but essentially it is about the feminine goddess or the feminine divinity.
Navratri is replete with symbolism about vanquishing evil and wanton nature, and about having reverence for all aspects of life and even for the things and objects that contribute to our wellbeing. The nine days of Navratri are classified as per the three basic qualities of tamas, rajas and sattva. The first three days are tamas, where the goddess is fierce, like Durga and Kali. The next three days are Lakshmi related – gentle but materially oriented goddesses. The last three days are dedicated to Saraswati, which is sattva. It is related to knowledge and enlightenment.
Vijayadashami – The Day of Victory
Investing in these three will make your life in a certain way. If you invest in tamas, you will be powerful in one way. If you invest in rajas, you will be powerful in a different way. If you invest in sattva, you will be powerful in a completely different way. But if you go beyond all this, it is no longer about power, it is about liberation. After Navratri, the tenth and final day is Vijayadashami – that means you have conquered all these three qualities. You did not give into any of them, you saw through every one of them. You participated in every one of them, but you did not invest in any one of them. You won over them. That is Vijayadashami, the day of victory. This brings home the message of how being in reverence and gratitude towards everything that matters in our lives leads to success and victory.
Dussehra – Devotion and Reverence
Of the many things that we are in touch with, of the many things that contribute in making and creating our lives, the most important devices that we employ in making a success of our lives are our own body and mind. Being in reverence towards the very earth that you walk upon, towards the air that you breathe, the water that you drink, the food that you eat, the people that you come in touch with and everything else that you use, including your body and mind, will lead us to a different possibility as to how we can live. Being in a state of reverence and devotion towards all these aspects is a way of ensuring success in every endeavor that we partake in.
Celebrate Dussehra With Joy & Love
Traditionally, in Indian culture, Dussehra was always full of dances, where the whole community mixed, met and mingled. But because of external influences and invasions over the past two hundred years, we have lost that today. Otherwise Dussehra was always very vibrant. Even now it is still so in many places, but it is being lost in the rest of the country. We have to bring it back. The Vijayadashami or Dussehra festival is of a tremendous cultural significance for all who live in this land – irrespective of their caste, creed or religion – and should be celebrated with gaiety and love.