Ram Navami

SALUTATIONS to Lord Rama, an Incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who is measureless, who is of the nature of pure Consciousness and bliss, who is the consort of Sita, Master of Sri Hanuman, and the Lord of the three worlds, who took His birth at His own will in order to establish righteousness, destroy the wicked and protect His devotees.

Ramnavami or the birthday of Lord Rama falls on the 9th day of the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra (March-April).

Rama was the Lord Hari Himself, incarnate on earth for the destruction of Ravana. He was well accomplished, beautiful and endowed with royal marks. His glory and prowess were unlimited. He was peerless on earth. He was free from malice. He was gentle. He was the protector of all His people. He always addressed them in gentle words. He never used any harsh words even when somebody provoked Him. He held sway over the whole world.

Let Sri Rama is your ideal. Ideals are remembered and adored for the purpose of adopting them in your own life. The Ramnavami celebration or the Vasanta Navaratri every year is an opportune period for us to saturate ourselves with the spirit of Lord Rama. We love and adore our ideals because we express thereby our yearning to unite with them. In our worship of God it is implied that we should be virtuous, good and perfect even as God is. Hence the wise instruction: “One should become divine in order to be able to worship God”. One cannot be a real worshipper of Lord Rama unless one makes an honest attempt to grow in the virtues that the Lord represents. On the other hand, worship of Lord Rama is itself the surest means to develop such virtues.

One who approaches Sri Rama with love and worshipfulness becomes large-hearted, pure in spirit, good-natured and dispassionate in thought, word and deed. A true devotee of Lord Rama is His representative, with His power and His knowledge.

Lord Rama was the prince of the Ikshvakus race. He was virtuous and of manly strength. He was the Lord of the mind and the senses. Brave and valiant, He was yet gentle and modest. He was a sage in counsel, kind and sweet in speech, and most courteous and handsome in appearance. He was the master of all the divine weapons, and a great warrior. Ever devoted to the good and prosperity of His kingdom and His subjects, He was a defender of the weak and the protector of the righteous. Endowed with numerous wondrous powers of the mind, He was well versed in all sciences–in military science as well as the science of the Self.

Deep and unfathomed like the ocean, firm and steadfast like the Himalayan mountains, valiant like Lord Vishnu, He was the joy of Kaushalya. Though fierce like fire on the battlefield, He was calm like the cool breeze of the Mandara Hills, patient like Mother Earth, bounteous like the god of wealth and righteous like the lord of justice himself. In the pains and the grief of His people, His heart swiftly sympathised with the sufferers. In the festive scenes, which held them in joy, He like a father, shared their joys. By His honour and heroism, as well as by His gentleness and love for His subjects, He greatly endeared Himself to the hearts of His people. Such a great person was the Lord Rama!

Lord Rama was the best of men with a sterling character. He was the very image of love. He was an ideal son, an ideal brother, an ideal husband, an ideal friend and an ideal king. He can be taken to embody all the highest ideals of man. He led the ideal life of a householder to teach the tenets of righteousness to humanity. He ruled His people so well that it came to be known as Ram-Rajya, which meant the rule of righteousness, the rule that bestows happiness and prosperity on all.

The noblest lesson embodied in the Ramayana is the supreme importance of righteousness in the life of every human being. Righteousness is the spiritual spark of life. Cultivation of righteousness is the process of infoldment of the latent divinity in man. The glorious incarnation of the Supreme Being in the form of Lord Rama has exemplified the path of righteousness. Let mankind follow His footsteps and practise the ideals cherished by Him, for it is only thus that there can be everlasting peace, prosperity and welfare in this world.

None but the righteous can be truly happy. None but he who has the correct sense of duty and the will for its implementation can be said to live worthily. One must be imbued with a definite conviction about the supremacy of moral principles, ethical values and spiritual ideals. These ought to guide one’s day-to-day actions and serve as powerful means for the culture of the human personality. That is the purpose of life. That is the way to Self-realisation. That is the message and the mission of Lord Rama’s fife on earth.

To a devotee, Sri Rama is not simply a good and a great person, but God Himself. Rama was the son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya, but He is also the divine omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient God. The destruction of the ten-headed Ravana signifies the annihilation of the mind or the ten senses. Worship of Lord Rama is worship of the all-pervading Godhead Himself. Read the prayers offered by Mandodari and Brahma in the Yuddha Kanda of the Ramayana. They refer to Rama as the one Creator of the universe, the God of all, the Ruler of the universe.

Devotion to God is not a simple emotion. It is the result of intense dispassion and purity of heart and attitude. You should strive your utmost to possess the good qualities that are extolled in the Ramayana and exemplified in the life of Lord Rama. Otherwise, emotion may rise up in you temporarily to a kind of ecstasy, but you will not experience divine consciousness thereby. Devotion is a fruit, which ripens gradually through the processes of self-restraint and virtue. Without intense dispassion there can be no real Sadhana for Self-realisation. Only after detachment from the world of things, is it possible to attain the Supreme Godhead. Remember this.

Devotion has absolutely nothing to do with age, caste, creed, position or sex. Generally, the worldly-minded people say: “We will practise meditation and devotion when we retire from service.” This is a serious mistake. How can you do serious Sadhana after squeezing out all your energy in working? How will you be able to practise the strict Yogic discipline in your old age? Is there any certainty in life? No, the spiritual seeds of discipline and devotion must be sown in you while you are young, while your heart is tender and untainted. Then only will it strike a deep root, blossom forth and bear fruit when you become old and retire. Only then can you bravely face the god of death and meet him with a smile!

I shall tell you the means of attaining the final release from the great cycle of births and deaths. Devotion to Lord Rama is a great purifier of the heart. From devotion arises knowledge. From knowledge comes the realisation of the pure Self. Knowing this perfectly, one goes to the Supreme Abode and merges in the Supreme Self.

Without first developing devotion to Rama who is the Self, who lives in the hearts of all beings, who is all bliss and who is peerless, how can man cross the ocean of worldly life which has sorrow, pain and misery for its waves?

Do thou therefore worship Lord Rama who is Vishnu and the consort of Sita who is Lakshmi. Abandon all foolishness and enmity. Take to the service of Lord Rama.

The Lord is extremely fond of those who have surrendered themselves to Him. He has given this promise in the Ramayana: “To anyone who once takes shelter under Me and solicits ‘I am Thine’, I bestow fearlessness from all beings. This is My vow”.

Even a great sinner who is full of evil qualities and who is fond of other people’s wealth, is freed from all kinds of faults that pertain to worldly life if only he remembers the Lord always. He attains purity and goes to the supreme abode of the Lord.

The Name of Lord Rama is the greatest purifier of the heart. It wipes away all one’s sins. Not only this, but it wipes away the sinful tendencies as well. The Name is sweeter than the sweetest of objects. It is the haven of peace. It is the very life of pure souls. It is the purifier of all purifying agencies. It quenches the consuming fire of worldly desires. It awakens the knowledge of God. It bathes the aspirant in the, ocean of divine bliss. Glory to Sri Rama and His Name!

O Devotee! recite His Name, sing His glory and serve His Lotus Feet. Enthrone in your heart Lord Rama of dark hue, whose image is reflected in the heart of Lord Shiva. Blessed is the pious soul who uninterruptedly drinks the nectar of Sri Rama’s Name which has been churned out of the ocean of the Vedas, which removes the impurities of the Kali Yuga or the iron age, which lives constantly on the lips of Lord Shiva, which is a sovereign remedy or unfailing specific to cure the disease of worldly existence and which is the life of Mother Sita.

Ram-Nam burns ignorance, passion and sin. With or without knowledge, correctly or incorrectly, when the word “Rama” is pronounced it showers a rain of good upon the devotee. Sri Rama is Brahman who takes one across the ocean of worldly existence. Rama is one in across whom the Yogis sport, that is, the Self within.

Lord Shiva tells His consort Parvati: “This Ram-Nam is equal to the Lord’s thousand Names, or repetition of the Mantra a thousand times”

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Ahoyi Ashtami

Theme (Relation): Hindu
Time: October-November
Where: India and worldwide where Hindu lives
Also known as: Ahoi Ashtami, Ahoi Athen

Ahoyi (Ahoi) Ashtami or Ahoi athen as known in common tongue festival is specifically meant for mothers who have sons. Mother’s keep fast on this day and this is celebrated in the month of October- November (8th day after full moon of Ashwin Hindu month). This festival falls on a week before Diwali. Mothers keep fast all day and in the evening offer Pooja water to stars and prey for their long life of their children. Many stories are associated with this festival which relate to asking for wish and blessings for their sons.

Once upon a time, there lived a woman in a village. She had seven sons. One day she went to the forest to bring soil for the renovation and painting of her home (this was in the month of Kartik just before the Hindu festival Deepawali). She started digging soil with axe nearby a den. Suddenly the woman’s axe fell on the cub in the den and the cub died. The woman felt very sorry and sympathetic. She took soil from the forest and came back.

Few days later, all her seven sons died within a year. She was very sad. One day she narrated her woes to old ladies in her village, she was crying and told them that she didn’t commit the sin and it happened unintentionally. She narrated to the ladies that once when she was digging for the soil in the forest her axe fell on the cub and thereafter within a year all my seven sons died. The ladies appreciated for confessing her guilt and then these ladies told that by confessing the sin she has atoned her half of the sin.

They suggested the woman to pray the goddess Ashtami Bhagwati by sketching the face of the cub. By the grace of god your sin will cast off. The woman kept fast on the Kartik Krishna Ashtami and then onwards she started praying and keeping fast regularly. By the power of her prayer the God’s grace showered and she could get back her all seven son. Since then, it became a ritual to worship the goddess Ahoi Ashtami Bhagwati religiously every year.

Like mothers all over the world, the Hindu mother prays and finds comfort in prayer when she prays for her children.

Ahoyi Ashtami is one such day when a mother offers prayers and also fasts so that her children live a long, healthy and peaceful life. The abstinence from food for the whole day is symbolic of all the sacrifices a mother does for the welfare of her children.

The Ahoyi Ashtami pooja pack will help you perform this ritual and take the blessings of Ma Shakti for the well being of your children.

The mother who wants to perform this ritual should wake up early on this day and complete her morning ablutions by sunrise. Then she should lay out the ritual sketch and perform the pooja according to the description in the Ahoyi Ashtami pooja pack. She should abstain from all solid food for the whole day.

In the evening, when the stars are out, she should offer Arghya to the stars and then take her meals.

Adhik Maas

Theme (Relation): Hindu
Time: Any time in year, comes after every two years
Where: India and worldwide where Hindu lives
Also known as: The Blue Moon

Calendar “date” that we are so familiar with in our daily life is based on solar calendar. English calendar is a solar calendar. The basis for solar calendar is the rotation of the Earth around the Sun. It takes earth approximately 365 ¼ days to complete its rotation around the Sun. The English calendar that most of us use today divides the 365 days of earth’s period of rotation around the Sun in twelve months. The leap year, which occurs once every four years, accounts for ¼ day per year.

Similar to solar calendar lunar calendar is also popular and widely used in the Asian countries such as China, Pacific-rim countries, Middle East countries, and India. Lunar calendar, which is believed to have originated in India, has been around for a very long time, even long before the solar calendar.

The lunar calendar is based on the moon’s rotation around the Earth. The lunar month corresponds to one complete rotation of Moon around the Earth. Since this period of rotation of moon around the earth varies, the duration of lunar month also varies. On average, the lunar month has about 29 ½ days. In addition to moon’s rotation around the earth, the lunar year is based on earth’s rotation around the Sun. In general, the lunar year has twelve lunar months of approximately 354 days, thus making it shorter by about 11 days than the solar year. However, the lunar calendar accounts for this difference by adding an extra lunar month about once every 2½ years. This extra lunar month is known as the Adhik Maas in India (Adhik means extra and the Maas means month). The concept of placing of the extra month, meaning why and when it should be inserted between certain lunar months is as follow.

According to sidereal zodiac system Sun enters the first zodiac sign Aries (Mesh) on about April 15 of every year. And about 15th of every month Sun enters the next sidereal zodiac sign. For example, as we know, every year on Makar Sankranti the Sun enters the sidereal zodiac sign Capricorn on about January 14. While Sun remains in a zodiac sign for approximately one month, the Moon travels through all twelve-zodiac signs in about 27 ½ days. As a result, on average, once about every two and half years, the entry of the Moon in the same zodiac sign occurs twice while the Sun remains in the same sign. In other words, when the Sun is travelling through the same zodiac sign, the month during which two new moons occur, happens once about every 2-½ years. The lunar month corresponding to the period between these two new moons is treated as the extra month or the Adhik Mas. Thus, if the Adhik Maas occurs at the beginning of the lunar month Chaitra, then it’s called as Adhik Chaitra, and the following lunar month would be then the regular or Neej lunar month Chaitra.

The concept of the Adhik Maas (the extra month) is similar to the “Blue Moon” in the West, which occurs almost with the same frequency of 2 ½ years. Blue moon is the second full moon when two full moons occur in the same month. Naturally the blue moon must occur towards the end of month (some where between 29th, 30th, or 31st of the month).

Recall that the entry of Sun in a sidereal zodiac sign occurs around the middle of the calendar (solar) month (near 15th of the month), thus, sun stays in a sidereal zodiac sign from about 15th of a month to about 15th of the next month. Since for Adhik Mas to occur, two new moons must occur during when sun remains in the same zodiac sign. Consequently, those new moons must occur near 15th of the successive months. As a result, around the time of Adhik Mas, the successive full moons are very likely to occur near the beginning and the end of the same month. Indeed, the occurrence of the blue moon usually precedes the Adhik Maas.

Article by: Jagdish C. Mahshri (Boloji.com)

Maha Shivaratri

Theme (Relation): Hindu
Time: February-March
Where: India and worldwide where Hindu lives
Also known as: Night of Lord Shiva

Introduction:
This falls on the 13th (or 14th) day of the dark half of Phalgun (February-March). The name means “the night of Shiva”. The ceremonies take place chiefly at night. This is a festival observed in honour of Lord Shiva. Shiva was married to Parvati on this day.

People observe a strict fast on this day. Some devotees do not even take a drop of water. They keep vigil all night. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, etc., whilst the chanting of the Mantra Om Namah Shivaya continues. Offerings of bael leaves are made to the Lingam. Bael leaves are very sacred as, it is said, and Lakshmi resides in them.

Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva, such as the Shiva Mahimna Stotra of Pushpadanta or Ravana’s Shiva Tandava Stotra are sung with great fervour and devotion. People repeat the Panchakshara Mantra, Om Namah Shivaya. He who utters the Names of Shiva during Shivaratri, with perfect devotion and concentration, is freed from all sins. He reaches the abode of Shiva and lives there happily. He is liberated from the wheel of births and deaths. Many pilgrims flock to the places where there are Shiva temples.

The Story of King Chitrabhanu:
In the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, Bhishma, whilst resting on the bed of arrows and discoursing on Dharma, refers to the observance of Maha Shivaratri by King Chitrabhanu. The story goes as follows.

Once upon a time King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvakus dynasty, who ruled over the whole of Jambudwip, was observing a fast with his wife, it being the day of Mahashivaratri. The sage Ashtavakra came on a visit to the court of the king.

The sage asked, “O king! why are you observing a fast today?”

King Chitrabhanu explained why. He had the gift of remembering the incidents of his previous birth.

The king said to the sage: “In my past birth I was a hunter in Varanasi. My name was Suswara. My livelihood was to kill and sell birds and animals. One day I was roaming the forests in search of animals. I was overtaken by the darkness of night. Unable to return home, I climbed a tree for shelter. It happened to be a bael tree. I had shot a deer that day but I had no time to take it home. I bundled it up and tied it to a branch on the tree. As I was tormented by hunger and thirst, I kept awake throughout the night. I shed profuse tears when I thought of my poor wife and children who were starving and anxiously awaiting my return. To pass away the time that night I engaged myself in plucking the bael leaves and dropping them down onto the ground.

“The day dawned. I returned home and sold the deer. I bought some food for myself and for my family. I was about to break my fast when a stranger came to me, begging for food. I served him first and then took my food. “

At the time of death, I saw two messengers of Lord Shiva. They were sent down to conduct my soul to the abode of Lord Shiva. I learnt then for the first time of the great merit I had earned by the unconscious worship of Lord Shiva during the night of Shivaratri. They told me that there was a Lingam at the bottom of the tree. The leaves I dropped fell on the Lingam. My tears, which I had shed out of pure sorrow for my family, fell onto the Lingam and washed it. And I had fasted all day and all night. Thus did I unconsciously worship the Lord.

“I lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss for long ages. I am now reborn as Chitrabhanu.”

Spiritual Significance of the Ritual:
The Scriptures record the following dialogue between Shashtri and Atmanathan, giving the inner meaning of the above story.

Shashtri: It is an allegory. The wild animals that the hunter fought with are lust, anger, greed, infatuation, jealousy and hatred. The jungle is the fourfold mind, consisting of the subconscious mind, the intellect, the ego and the conscious mind. It is in the mind that these “wild animals” roam about freely. They must be killed. Our hunter was pursuing them because he was a Yogi. If you want to be a real Yogi you have to conquer these evil tendencies. Do you remember the name of the hunter in the story?

Atmanathan: Yes, he was called Suswara.

Shashtri: That’s right. It means “melodious”. The hunter had a pleasant melodious voice. If a person practices Yama and Niyama and is ever conquering his evil tendencies, he will develop certain external marks of a Yogi. The first marks are lightness of the body, health, steadiness, clearness of countenance and a pleasant voice. This stage has been spoken of in detail in the Swetaswatara Upanishad. The hunter or the Yogi had for many years practised Yoga and had reached the first stage. So he is given the name Suswara. Do you remember where he was born?

Atmanathan: Yes, his birthplace is Varanasi.

Shashtri: Now, the Yogis call the Ajna Chakra by the name Varanasi. This is the point midway between the eyebrows. It is regarded as the meeting place of the three nerve currents (Nadis), namely, the Ida, Pingala and the Sushumna. An aspirant is instructed to concentrate on that point. That helps him to conquer his desires and evil qualities like anger and so on. It is there that he gets a vision of the Divine Light within. Atmanathan: Very interesting! But how do you explain his climbing up the bael tree and all the other details of the worship? Shashtri: Have you ever seen a bael leaf?

Atmanathan: It has three leaves on one stalk.

Shashtri: True. The tree represents the spinal column. The leaves are threefold. They represent the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna Nadis, which are the regions for the activity of the moon, the sun and fire respectively, or which may be thought of as the three eyes of Shiva. The climbing of the tree is meant to represent the ascension of the Kundalini Shakti, the serpentine power, from the lowest nerve centre called the Mul Dhara to the Ajna Chakra. That is the work of the Yogi. Atmanathan: Yes, I have heard of the Kundalini and the various psychic centres in the body. Please go on further; I am very interested to know more.

Shashtri: Good. The Yogi was in the waking state when he began his meditation. He bundled up the birds and the animals he had slain and, tying them on a branch of the tree, he rested there. That means he had fully conquered his thoughts and rendered them inactive. He had gone through the steps of Yama, Niyama, Pratyahara, etc. On the tree he was practising concentration and meditation. When he felt sleepy, it means that he was about to lose consciousness and go into deep sleep. So he determined to keep awake.

Atmanathan: That is now clear to me; you certainly do explain it very well. But why did he weep for his wife and children?

Shashtri: His wife and children are none other than the world. One who seeks the Grace of God must become an embodiment of love. He must have an all-embracing sympathy. His shedding of tears is symbolical of his universal love. In Yoga also, one cannot have illumination without Divine Grace. Without practising universal love, one cannot win that Grace. One must perceive one’s own Self everywhere. The preliminary stage is to identify one’s own mind with the minds of all created beings. That is fellow feeling or sympathy. Then one must rise above the limitations of the mind and merge it in the Self. That happens only in the stage of Samadhi, not earlier.

Atmanathan: Why did he pluck and drop the bael leaves?

Shashtri: That is mentioned in the story only to show that he had no extraneous thoughts. He was not even conscious of what he was doing. All his activity was confined to the three Nadis. The leaves, I have said before, represent the three Nadis. He was in fact in the second state, namely, the dream state, before he passed into the deep sleep state.

Atmanathan: He kept vigil the whole night, it is said.

Shashtri: Yes, that means that he passed through the deep sleep state successfully. The dawning of day symbolises the entrance into the Fourth state called Turiya or super consciousness.

Atmanathan: It is said that he came down and saw the Lingam. What does that mean?

Shashtri: That means that in the Turiya state he saw the Shiva Lingam or the mark of Shiva in the form of the inner lights. In other words, he had the vision of the Lord. That was an indication to him that he would realise the supreme, eternal abode of Lord Shiva in course of time.

Atmanathan: So it appears from what you say that the sight of the lights is not the final stage?

Shashtri: Oh no! That is only one step, albeit a difficult one. Now think of how the story continues. He goes home and feeds a stranger. A stranger is one whom you have not seen before. The stranger is no other than the hunter himself, transformed into a new person. The food was the likes and dislikes, which he had killed the previous night. But he did not consume the whole of it. A little still remained. That was why he had to be reborn as King Chitrabhanu. Going to the world of Shiva (Salokya) is not enough to prevent this. There are other stages besides Salokya. These are Samipya, Sarupya and finally Sayujya. Have you not heard of Jaya and Vijaya returning from Vaikuntha?

Atmanathan: Yes, I have understood now.

Lord Shiva’s Assurance:
When creation had been completed, Shiva and Parvati went out to live on the top of Mount Kailash. Parvati asked, “O venerable Lord! which of the many rituals observed in Thy honour doth please Thee most?”

The Lord replied, “The 14th night of the new moon, in the dark fortnight during the month of Phalgun, is my most favourite day. It is known as Shivaratri. My devotees give me greater happiness by mere fasting than by ceremonial baths and offerings of flowers, sweets and incense.

“The devotee observes strict spiritual discipline in the day and worships Me in four different forms during each of the four successive three-hour periods of the night. The offering of a few bael leaves is more precious to Me than the precious jewels and flowers. My devotee should bathe Me in milk at the first period, in curd at the second, in clarified butter at the third, and in honey at the fourth and last. Next morning, he should feed the Brahmins first and, after performing the prescribed ceremonies, he can break his fast. O Parvati! there is no ritual which can compare with this simple routine in sanctity.”

Parvati was deeply impressed by the speech of Lord Shiva. She repeated it to Her friends who in their turn passed it on to the ruling princes on earth. Thus was the sanctity of Shivaratri broadcast all over the world.

The two great natural forces that afflict man are Rajas (the quality of passionate activity) and Tamas (that of inertia). The Shivaratri Vrata aims at the perfect control of these two. The entire day is spent at the Feet of the Lord. Continuous worship of the Lord necessitates the devotee’s constant presence in the place of worship. Motion is controlled. Evils like lust, anger, and jealousy, born of Rajas are ignored and subdued. The devotee observes vigil throughout the night and thus conquers Tamas also. Constant vigilance is imposed on the mind. Every three hours a round of worship of the Shiva Lingam is conducted. Shivaratri is a perfect Vrata.

The formal worship consists of bathing the Lord. Lord Shiva is considered to be the Form of Light (which the Shiva Lingam represents). He is burning with the fire of austerity. He is therefore best propitiated with cool bathing. While bathing the Lingam the devotee prays: “O Lord! I will bathe Thee with water, milk, etc. Do Thou kindly bathe me with the milk of wisdom. Do Thou kindly wash me of all my sins, so that the fire of worldliness which is scorching me may be put out once for all, so that I may be one with Thee-the One alone without a second.”

At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the Shivaratri festival is celebrated in the following manner.

1. All spiritual aspirants fast the whole day, many of them without taking even a single drop of water.

2. A grand haven is performed for the peace and welfare of all.

3. The whole day is spent in doing the Japa of Om Namah Shivaya and in meditation upon the Lord.

4. At night all assemble in the temple and chant Om Namah Shivaya the whole night.

5. During the four quarters of the night the Shiva Lingam is worshipped with intense devotion.

6. Sannyas Diksha is also given on this day to sincere seekers on the path.

Offer this inner worship to Lord Shiva daily: “I worship the jewel of my Self, the Shiva residing in the Lotus of my heart. I bathe Him with the water of my pure mind brought from the river of faith and devotion. I worship Him with the fragrant flowers of Samadhi-all this so that I may not be born again in this world.”

Here is another formula for the supreme worship of the Lord: “O Shiva! you are my Self. My mind is Parvati. My Pranas are your servants. My body is your house. My actions in this world are your worship. My sleep is Samadhi. My walk is circumambulation of you. My speech is your prayer. Thus do I offer all that I am to you.

Baisakhi

Baisakhi is a seasonal festival with a special accent. It is celebrated all over the State on the first of Baisakh. This is the time when harvest is gathered in and the farmer exults in the fulfilment of his year’s hard work. He joins the merry-making with full gusto and does not mind walking for miles to be able to do so. Since this fair is also an expression of prosperity, singing and dancing constitute its most enchanting features. The Punjab’s famous Bhangra and Giddha are inextricably linked with this festival.

Many fairs in the Punjab are held near the tombs and shrines of pirs. These fairs must have originated in a spirit of devotion to those saints and sages. The most famous among such fairs are the Chhapar fair, the Jarag fair, and the Roshni fair of Jagranyan.

Baisakhi marks the beginning of New Year, particularly in the northern part of India. It is among the few Indian festivals that have a fixed date. Baisakhi is always on April 13th. In Kerala, Baisakhi is called as “Vishu” and in Tamilnadu; it is celebrated as “Puthandu”.

Considered a holy day, the devout celebrate the Baisakhi with a dip in the holy rivers just around the break of dawn. It is on this day that Sun enters Aries, the first sign of Zodiac. This signifies ushering of the New Year.

In Punjab (the land of Green Revolution) particularly and in the northern belt of India in general, farmers perform their own prayers and rejoice. For on this day, they commence cutting their harvest. The fields can be seen full of nature’s bounty. Dressed in their typical folk attire, both men and women, celebrate the day with Bhangra and Giddha. Sweets are distributed, old enmities are forgiven and life is full of joy, merriment and everyone seems to belong.

The above two are the main reasons for celebrating Baisakhi.

Baisakhi, however, has had a new dimension added to it by Guru Gobind Singh. For it was on the day of Baisakhi in 1669, that he established the Khalsa Panth and gave a final impetus to the course of the earlier nine Gurus of Sikhism.

A rural festival of North India, marking the beginning of the solar year (New Year), celebrated in Punjab with great fervour. For the Sikhs the day is a collective celebration of New Year along with the commemoration of the founding of the Khalsa Panth (Sikh brotherhood) by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.

It also signifies the end of harvest of the main crop. During Baisakhi the farmers give ‘thanks’ to the Lord Almighty for their fortune and pray for a better crop the next year. Baisakhi involves a lot of socialising where friends and relatives are invited and delicious meals are served.
The holy book of the Sikhs, ‘Granth Sahib’ is taken in a procession, led by the ‘Panj Pyaras’ (five senior Sikhs) who are symbolic of the original leaders. The occasion is celebrated with great gusto at Talwandi Sabo, where Guru Gobind Singh stayed for nine months and completed the recompilation of the Guru Granth Sahib and in the Golden temple in Amritsar. On Baisakhi day, water is drawn from all the sacred rivers of India and poured in to the huge tank surrounding the golden temple.

Anant Chaturthi

Theme (Relation): Hindu
Time: August-September
Where: India
Also known as: Anant Chaturdashi, Ganesh Chaturthi, Ganesh Chaturdashi 

Introduction
Anant Chaturthi (or Anant Chaturdashi) is the last day of the “Ganesh festival” celebrated in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. It is the tenth day after Ganesh Chaturthi which falls on the 14th day of the bright Bhadrapad (the sixth month of Hindu calendar). The day follows the immersion of the idols of the beloved Lord but to be welcomed the next year with equal fervour. Some people observe a vow in honour of Lord Vishnu, which if kept for 14 years is supposed to bring wealth.
 

Story of ‘Anant’
Hindu Mythology tells that, there was a Brahmin named Sumant. From his wife Diksha he had a daughter named Sushila. After the death of Diksha, Sumant married Karkash who was not caring to Sushila. She gave a lot of trouble to her. Sushila married to Kaundinya and decided to leave the house to avoid the nuisance of her step mother. On the way, Kaundinya went to a river to take bath and Sushila joined a women group who were worshipping “Anant”. Sushila was very curious to know the reason of worshipping. The women explained her, the purpose of this vow to obtain divinity and wealth, and are kept for 14 years.
 Sushila decided to take the “Anant Vow” and slowly they became very rich. One day Kaundinya, noticed a string (Anant string) on Sushila’s left hand. This string is usually tied on the left hand by women to observe the vow. When Kaundinya heard the story of the Anant vow, he was displeased and said that they had become rich, not for Anant but for his knowledge and efforts. He then took the Anant String from Sushila’s hand and threw it into the fire. Soon after this incident, they were reduced to extreme poverty. Kaundinya realized the effect of the Anant and hence decided to undergo rigorous penance until the appearance of the God himself. He went into the forest. There, he saw tree full of mangoes but was covered with worms. He asked the tree if he had seen Anant but he got a negative reply. Then he asked lakes, cow, donkey, elephant but nobody could respond him positively. At last he prepared a rope to hang himself. But suddenly Anant appeared in the form of an old Brahmin and advised Kaundinya that if he made the 14 years vow, he would get back all his wealth and happiness. Lord Anant also explained the incidents occurred during the course of his way to meet him. 

Festival ends…
On the day of Anant Chaturdashi, the idols of Lord Ganesha installed at home and various “Mandapams” (display place) are taken to a pond, lake, river or a sea in great procession with slogan: “Ganapati bappa morya, agle baras to jaldi aa” (“father Ganapati, come again next year”). On this day, people travel to the water front with the idols, big and small, dancing and singing in large procession. The 10 day long festival comes to an end after the immersion ceremony is over.

Festival News for your Celebration!!

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