Festival of India
INDIAN FESTIVALS (Hindu Festivals)
NDIAN FESTIVALS (Hindu Festivals)
MAKAR SANKRANTI (January)
Makar Sankranti usually falls on 14th of January every year. This festival is one of the many festivals which have been celebrated since the vedic period. On this day the sun comes across the north of equator. On this very day it is believed that 'the morning' of the deities commences. This particular period, when the sun is positioned across the north of equator has been considered as an 'accomplishment giving period' by the scholars. Even Astrology endorses this fact and this period is supposed to be auspicious for the various activities like construction of the houses, performance of oblations, establishment of the deities etc. This period is considered to be so auspicious, that if a person dies during this period he is supposed to attain liberation.
The sun's position towards the north of equator signifies the arrival of spring season and the end of winter season. The day starts to prolong. On this occasion, all the pilgrimage sites & holy rivers are the thronged by the devotees.
At Ganga-Sagar an inland emerges by the grace of deity Varun, which remains for a week and ultimately gets submerged into the sea. The scriptures narrate about the greatness of taking a holy dip on the occasion of Makar Sankranti. After taking the bath it is customary to eat food articles prepared from sesame seeds and 'Kichadi' (rice and pulse cooked together). Making donation of sesame seed is also considered as very auspicious.
Makar Sankranti usually comes in the Hindu month of 'Magha'. The term 'Magha' is derived from the sanskrit word 'Magh' which means wealth i.e. gold, silver, apparels, ornaments etc. This month has been named as 'Magha' because it is considered to be the month of making donations of the above mentioned things.
In Punjab people celebrate it as 'Lohadi' a day before 'Makar-Sanskranti'. On this day the people of Punjab offer maize, 'Revadi' (prepared from sesame seeds), in the fire, amidst the singing of folk songs.
In Gujarat and Maharashtra people decorate their houses with 'Rangoli'. They eat food prepared from sesame seeds and jaggery. There is a saying in Maharashtra connected with this day which goes as follows- 'TIL GUD GHYA ANI GARUD GARUD BOLA.'
Meaning; (Take sesame and jaggery and speak sweetly.)
Women of Maharashtra attired in beautiful apparels visit the houses of their relatives and friends, where they are welcomed with 'Kheel' and 'Porridge'. The hosts honour them by applying 'Kumkum'.
The festival of Makar Sanskranti is celebrated as 'Pongal' in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. On this occasion people decorate the idols of deities. Cultural programmes are organised to mark this occasion. 'Pongal' (Khichadi) is offered to the deities and then it is taken as prasadam.
During the ancient time, the third stage of the study of the Vedas commenced on this day. People used to send their wards to the 'Gurukula' after performing the sacred thread ceremony of children. On Vasant Panchami, which falls some days later, the worship of 'Saraswati' signifies the importance of the commencement of new learning session.
In the south, people still continue with the tradition of initiating their children into the study of Vedas, on this day.
VASANT PANCHAMI (January)
On the fifth day of the Shukla Paksha (Waxing moon of fortnightly) of the Magha month, coming of spring is celebrated. This is known as Vasant Panchami.
During this flowering and blossoming season one can listen distinctly to the kooing of the Koel (bird) and the entire ambiance becomes very beautiful. On this day one should dress up in beautiful attire and worship Lord Vishnu.
On this day Brahmins should be offered food. Pitru-Tarpan (liberation of deceased ancestors) can also be performed on this day. One can also worship Goddess Saraswati.In the coming of Spring, God of Love(Kamadev) and his wife Rati are also prayed and worshipped on this auspicious occasion. It is on this day when Abeer and Gulal are played with and songs of Holi are sung till Phalgun Poornima.All rejoice while celebrating this auspicious occasion.
Holi, which falls on the full moon day, in the Hindu month of 'Falgun', is the last major festival of the year. People celebrate this festival with enthusiasm and without making any discrimination between rich and poor, high and low.
It is very difficult to state, when this festival started, but the name of 'holikotsav' had been mentioned even in the Vedas and the Puranas. So 'holikotsav' has been celebrated since the Vedic period. During the ancient time, oblation was offered to the sacred fire of the Holi, amidst the chanting of the Vedic mantra.This mantra was chanted with the specific wish of destruction of the demon. On this very day Vaishwadev oblation commenced in which offerings of wheat, gram and Oat were made to the sacrificial fire.
In Sanskrit language, the fried cereals are called 'Holka'. Holikotsav is named after it. Even today we continue with the tradition of offering wheat and oat into the Holika fire.
In due course of time, the form of this festival got transformed, due to numerous social influences and ultimately ended up in the form as we celebrate it today.
According to the Narad Puran, this day is celebrated in the memory of Prahlad's victory and the defeat of his father's-sister 'Holika'. Hiranyakashipu - the father of Prahlad has instructed his sister Holika to sit in the burning fire with Prahlad in lap. She was blessed a boon, as a result of which no fire could burn her. But the opposite happened, Prahlad survived and Holika was charred to death. Thus 'holi' is celebrated to commemorate the victory of virtue over evil.
There is also an another incident related with the celebration of 'Holi', which has been mentioned in the 'Bhavishya Puran'. During the reign of king Raghu, people were tormented by a giant named 'Dhundha'. Sage Vashishth advised them to terrorize her by burning fire at as many places as they could. Thus they got rid of the giant. Even today we see children making mischief on the day of 'holikotsav.
The mention of this festival in Jaimini Mimansa goes to prove its antiquity. A stone incription belonging to 300 BC found at Ramgarh in the province of Vindhya, had mentioned of Holikotsav on it. King Harsha has mentioned about holikotsav in his work Ratnavali that was written during the 7th century.
The famous Muslim tourist - Ulbaruni too has mentioned about holikotsav in his historical memories. Other Muslim writes of that period have mentioned, that holikotsav were not only celebrated by the Hindus but also by the Muslims.
Thus we see that the tradition of celebrating holikotsav has been continuing since Vedic period without any hindrance. This festival unites all the Indian's in a tremendous way.
Holi is the festival of the colours. But very few people are aware of the impacts the colours have on our body and on our health.
Western-Physicians and doctors believe that for a healthy body, colours too have an important place besides the other vital elements. Deficiency of a particular colour in our body causes ailment, which can be cured only after supplementing the body with that particular colour.
On Holi, people after enjoying themselves with the colours, take bath and then go to meet their relatives and friends. Discrimination is not made even with the enemy. The concept of enemy does not exist on this day. There is no difference between rich and poor on this day.
The concept of New Year (Samvatsar) varies in the different provinces of our country. In some provinces, the month commences from the 'Krishna-Paksha' on the other hand in some provinces it commences from 'Shukla-Paksha'. For the former the year ends on 'Purnima' of the month of Phalgun. The new years begins next day - Chaitra, 1st day of the Krishna Paksha. For them on this day the last year has died. For this reason in some provinces like Bihar and UP. Holika dahan is also called 'Samvatsar dahan? On this day all the bitterness and evil memories of the last year are burnt in the fire and the New Year is begun with a celebration.
RAM NAVAMI (April)
Ram Navami is celebrated in the Hindu month of Chaitra and on the ninth day of the bright lunar phase, to commemorate the birth anniversary of Sri Ram. The incarnation of Sri Ram materialized on this very day, to show the path of virtuosity and truth to the mankind, who had lost its way by establishing the high standards of moral values and ideals. Sri Ram - the founder of Ram Rajya faced al the problems of life with courage and righteousness.
Ramayan contains descriptions of all types of relation, which a man normally has in his life, like teacher-student, mother-father, Brother-sister in law, Husband-wife, friend-enemy, master-servant etc. The incidents described in Ramayan contain such high moral-value and ideals that they seems unbelievable and imaginary, but the fact remains that they are undoubtedly true.
Ram Navami is our national and cultural festival. In the present time, when there is a tendency of greed, selfishness prevalent among the common people, when the relation between family members has reached its lowest ebb, Ram Navami inspires us to reach that highest & idealistic pedestal, which was occupied by Sri Ram.
HANUMAN JAYANTI (April)
The birthday of Hanuman - the supreme devotee of Sri Ram is celebrated on full moon day of the bright lunar phase, in the Hindu month of Chaitra.
The most powerful and valiant Hanuman who was also the gem of the scholars has been an inspiration for all of us since time immemorial. Because of his phenomenal strength and power, Hanuman is revered by the wrestlers.
Hanuman's bravery is unmatched. This is the reason why government of India has named the bravery award on him i.e. Mahavir-Chakra. Being inspired by Hanuman's phenomenal valiance, the supreme warrior Arjun, had established him on the flag of his chariot.
Hanuman is not only brave but he is also an example of supreme loyality and faithfulness, which he had towards his master - Sri Ram. If a man worships Hanuman and takes his refuge, then he will be able to have darshan of Sri Ram in no time - just like Tulsidas.
When Sri Ram met Hanuman for the first time he was very impressed by his knowledge. He told Laxman-"O Laxman, it seems this person (Hanuman) has thoroughly studied the grammar. That is the reason why he did not pronounce incorrectly even a single word, during such a long conversation with me."
Hanuman's high degree of knowledge can be understood from the following incident.
Once Sri Ram asked Hanuman as to who he was. Hanuman replied by saying-
"If you consider me just as the possessor of my physical body, then I am your servant. If you consider me as a soul then I am your 'Ansha' (part). My belief is based on the fact that my existence is not different from you in any way."
On Hanuman Jayanti the various games which are based on strength and power are organised, along with the traditional worship of Hanuman. People are made to understand the phenomenal character of Hanuman - the unmatched warrior of the Indian history, so that they are able to serve the country with fearlessness and without considering their own self-interest. Hanuman's virtuosity, valiance, discipline and celibacy can prove to be an asset for any society or country.
RATH YATRA (July)
Rath yatra is observed on Aashad Shukla Dwitiya. On this day in Pushya Nakshatra a chariot of Subhadra and the Lord is paraded. This festival is celebrated in many parts of India, but the pomp and gaiety in Jagannathpuri is definitely worth watching.
JagannathPuri is one of the 4 most important religious places in India. Here we have even the Govardhan Peeth established by Shankaracarya. The main deity to be worshipped here is Lord Jagannath and this deity is the main centre of attraction. One can see a lot of crowd on this day. People from every corner of India come to see the idols of the Gods being paraded and seek their blessings.
The chariot of Lord Jagannath is 45 feet tall, 35 feet long and 36 feet bride, 16 wheel, 6 feet diameters are fixed to the chariot. The chariot of Balbhadra 44 feet tall and has 14 wheels. The chariot of Subhadra is 43 feet tall and it has 12 wheels. Every year new chariot is built. 4200 people pull the chariot and other than these others men-women devotees do pull these chariots.
The Lord stays for 3 days in Lanakpur there itself he meets Goddess Laxmi. After this the Lord return backs and is placed on his original position.
RAKSHA BANDHAN (August)
Among the Indian festivals, Raksha Bandhan is considered as a very important and historical festival. According to the Bhavishya Puran. Sachi - the wife of Indra had tied a protection -thread on the wrist of Indra, which had been purified by the mantras. This protection thread had made Indra invincible from his enemies. This very protection thread had also enabled Indra to defeat his enemies.
Since then, this great festival has been celebrated every year, on the full moon day, in the Hindu month of Shravan, reminding us of great tradition. Hindus have been progressing steadily on the path of life, by attaining neo energy, no faith and neo-strength. According to the Bhavishya Puran
SARVAROGOPSHAMANAM SARVASHUBH VINASHANAM; SAKRITKRITEBDAMEKAM YEN RAKSHA KRITA BHAVET
Meaning - The protection thread worn on this festival, destroys all the diseases and inauspiciousness. The person gets protected for the whole year.
YEN BADHDO BALI RAJA DANVENDRO MAHABALAH TEN TWAM PRATIBADHNAMI RAKSHE! MA CHAL! MA CHAL!
Meaning: The objective for which, the king of the demons - Mahabali had been tied with the protection thread, in the same way, O protection thread, I am tying you for the same objective.
(While making donation to lord Vishnu-incarnated as Vaman, king Bali was not affected the least i.e. he donated everything without any hesitation, because he had tied protection thread on his self.)
Sacred Festival of the Brothers & Sisters
During the time of foreign-rule, when the Hindu religion was passing through its darkest phase - when the double-edged darkest phase - when the double-edged swords of the Mughal were causing destruction to our civilization and culture by dishonouring our mothers and sisters, then it was only Rakshabandhan which boosted the morale of the Hindus by enthusing new inspiration.
Raksha bandhan, which is commonly known as Rakhi, was the symbol of love between the husband and wife during the ancient time. The same Rakhi turned into a symbol of love-bond between the brother and a sister in due course of time. During the Mughal period, Rajput women when threatened by the aggressors, requested for help from their Rajput brother to save their honour, by sending Rakhi to them. These brave Rajput men felt honoured and even gave up their lives to safeguard the honour of their sisters. These 'raw-threads' used to enthuse tremendous enthusiasm and power as soon as they got tied on the wrists of the brothers.
This tradition is still continuing and Rakshabandhan is celebrated with great enthusiasm by brothers and sisters.
GANESH CHATURTHI (September)
Ganesh Chaturthi is known as Bhadrapada Shukla Chaturthi. Early in the morning after completing ones ablutions one should make a beautiful platform and place the idol of Ganeshji on it. One should worship the idol in the sixteen ceremonial methods/ steps and should sing devotional songs. One should offer Laddoos to Ganeshji on this occasssion. After the worship (pooja) one should offer Brahmins Laddoos and donate gifts etc. At night after moon rise one should worship the moon god and then offer water (Arghya).
After this the Brahmins should be offered food and after this one should partake laddoos. After giving Brahmins gifts one should discharge the idol of Ganeshji in the sea.
In Maharashtra the festival of Ganeshji Chaturthi is celebrated with pomp and gaiety. Here the idol of Ganeshji is kept for 1?, 3, 5, 7 or 9 days and is worshipped according to the scriptures. One who worships the idols for many days accordingly does the Visarjan (discharge). The day of the final discharge (Visarjan) is Anant Chaturdashi.
VIJAY DASHAMI (September)
Vijayadashami is considered to be an auspicious day for the Indian householder, on which he worships, protects and preserves 'Shakti' (power). By worshipping the 'Shakti' according tot the methods as written in the scriptures, on these nine-days (Navratra) the householders attains the threefold powers i.e. physical, mental and spiritual, which helps him to progress in life without any difficulty.
Some nine lakh years ago Sri Ram had proceeded on his mission of killing Ravan, after attaining powers by the worship of goddess Shakti for nine days. The world knows that Sri Ram became victorious in this battle and Ravan was killed along with his whole clan. The victory of Sri Ram over Ravan symbolises the victory of virtuosity and morality over unrighteousness and immorality the victory of justice over injustice.
Hindus remember the great deeds of Sri Ram even today in the form of Ramleela and by burning the effigies of Ravan. By burning the effigies of Ravan the Hindus show to the world that no matter how powerful an immortal person is, it gets destroyed ultimately.
AASHVINASYA SITE PAKSHE DASHAMYAM TARKODAYE; SA KALO VIJAYO GYEYAH SARVAKARYARTHSIDHDAYE.
SHRAVANARKSHE TU PUURNAAYAM KAKUTSTHAH PRASTHITIYATAH ULLANGHAYEYUH TADDINARKSHE TATO NARAH.
Meaning: The auspicious time (Muhurta) - Vijay occurs on the tenth day of the bright half of the lunar month in the Hindu month of Ashwin. This auspicious time gives great accomplishment.
Because Sri Ram proceeded on his mission to defeat Ravan on the tenth (Purnatithi) and which combined with the constellation of 'Shravan'. This day is considered to be so auspicious that a person can even cross all the limits to achieve success in any field.
Dipavali has a special place among all the festivals of India. The enthusiasm with which this festival is celebrated is not visible in other festivals. Although Dipavali is our most ancient festival, but it's greatest characteristic is, that it is not related with any specific caste, class or province, rather it is an universal festival. Indian's celebrate this festival in all types of circumstances - during peace time, during war time, in their joyous times in their sorrowful time etc.
Though the festival of Dipavali has undergone some changes, in due course of time, yet it has continued to be celebrated since the time immemorial. Even the 'storms' of the aggressors could not extinguish the lamp of Dipavali.
People make preparation for Dipavali, weeks ahead by cleaning their households. On the last day of the dark half of a lunar month, and in the Hindu month of Kartik innumerable lamps illuminate the dark night. Women, children, youth, old people worship goddess Laxmi with devotion. They request goddess Laxmi to visit their homes. People put on new clothes. They also purchase new utensils.
The business community commences their new year on this day by worshipping Ganesh an Laxmi and maintaining new account books.
It is difficult to state that, since when the festival of Dipavali has been celebrating in its present form. In our Country whose economy is based on agriculture, this festival was believed to be started as the celebration of 'rituparva' thousands of years ago. By this time the harvest of crops were complete. As a result the people had not to worry about food for the rest of year. This joys of their reflected ion the illumination of countless lamps.
In due course of time, numerous historical incidents got connected with this festival. There are many tales in the Puranas related with this festival.
There are difference of opinions in the Skand, Padm and Bhavish Puran, regarding the origin of Dipavali. Somewhere it is described, that this festival started being celebrated in joy, become King Prithu had successfully exploited the means for extracting crops and wealth from the earth. At other places it has been described that on this day, goddess Laxmi manifested herself while the ocean was being churned by the deities and the demon. Some are of the opinion that Lord Krishna has killed the demon Narakasura on the fourteenth day of the dark half of the lunar month, and liberated 16000 princesses kept under his captive. So the next day which was the last day of the dark half of a lunar month (Amavasya), people which was the last day of the dark half of a lunar month (Amavasya), people celebrated diwali to show their joy and happiness.
According to the Mahabharat when the Pandavas returned from exile, people decorated their houses and made celebrations. According to some hearsay's, people celebrated by illuminating their houses on the occasion of Vikramaditya becoming an emperor.
So it becomes clear, that people generally worshipped Laxmi-Narayan to show their indebtedness, for being blessed with prosperity. In due of time, many historical events too got connected with it.
There is an interesting reason behind the worship of goddess Laxmi on Dipavali. According to Sanatkumar-Sanhita, once Bali - the king of demon had the whole world under his control. He put all the deities including goddess Laxmi, in the prison. In the absence of Laxmi, all the activities related with oblation came to a halt. On the request of the deities, lord Vishnu in his incarnation of Vaman, free Laxmi from Bali's captive. People expressed their joys by illuminating their houses with burning lamps. Laxmi was especially worshipped as she had been freed after a long period of captivity. This way the worship of goddess Laxmi became a tradition which is sill being continued.
BHAIYYA DOOJ (October)
The festival of brother and sister Bhaiyya Dooj is celebrated on the 2nd day of the Shukla Paksha of the Caitra Month, and the 2nd day of Shukla Paksha of the Kartik Month.
On this day before afternoon itself worship is performed. Those women who cannot move out of their homes they near the door of the house make two small idols of ruddle which indicate brother and sister in law and worship the idols with rice (parched), a mixture of lime and turmeric (roli) and offer food to the idols.
After this, the door itself is worshipped and outside just below the doorsteps, at the entrance and altar (Square shaped) of Gobar (cow dung) is made. On the altar at every cornet there is one idol of cow dung placed and in between one idol is placed, Domestic commodities such as Hearth, grind mill, the pots are made of cow dung are decorated and placed every where around.
At the doorstep the idol of brother and sister-in-law are made. Firstly parched grains, mixture of lime and turmeric, incense offerings are offered and the altar is worshipped and after that the idols kept at the doorstep one worshipped and then a story is told, After the story is over the women with the pestle say. Who ever are jealous of my brother and are with intention to do bad, I will destroy his fall with this pestle.
NAVRATRI (FESTIVAL OF NINE DAYS) (October)
The whole delusions of the world consists of nine elements - 'Panchamahabhurt' (the fine basic & fundamental elements from which the matter is made.) and four 'Antahkaran' (four types of consciousness).
According to the Sadhakas, these nine elements symbolize the nine forms of 'Shakti' or goddess Durga. This Shakti prevails in the whole world. The same Shakti is known as 'Mahakali' (which symbolises physical, strength & power), 'Mahalaxmi' (which symbolises materialistic wealth and prosperity), and 'Mahasaraswati' (which symbolises mental).
Eighteen days have been fined as the most auspicious days, for the worship of three forms of Durga. Out of these eighteen days, nine days come in the Hindu month of 'Vasant' (spring) and the remaining nine-days fall in the Hindu month of 'Sharad' (Autumn). This is the reason behind the importance of the number nine of the famous Navratras.'
KANYA PUJAN (Worship of the girl child)
During the Navratra especially on the eighth day and ninth day, worship of small girl-child is customary. The girl child is worshipped with complete devotion, after purifying them by the chanting of mantras and he is made to seat on a special pedestal. She is worshipped by offering 'akshat' (rice grains) and by burning incense sticks.
She is worshipped because, according to the philosophy of 'Striyah Samastastava Devi Bhedah', women symbolize 'Mahamaya' (The goddess Durga). Even among these a girl child is considered to be the purest, because of her innocence.
If the worshipper is desirous of acquiring knowledge then he should worship a Brahmin girl child. If he is desirous of acquiring power, then he should worship a Kshatriya-girl child. Similarly if he is desirous of acquiring wealth and prosperity, then a girl child belonging to a Vaishya family should be worshipped by him. If a person is desirous of attaining Tantrik-power, Mohan (hypnotizing), Uchchatan (causing hurdle in the path of other success), then he should worship a shudra-girl-child.
This way a devotee of mother Jagdamba, contributes his lot in the social integration, by having a provision of girl child worship of all the four castes.
The festival of Vijayadashami, nourishes all the aspects of human life including religiousness, the aspects, spiritual aspects and it also provide us with an opportunity for entertainment. No other festival has such a combination of religion and politics, art and culture, as the festival of Vijayadashmi.
When a devotee wakes up in the morning and takes a bath in a nearby river or pond, then worships goddess 'Dashahara', it helps him to destroy al the ten forms of sin.
This festival also in an occasion for family gets together. After the worship of goddess Durga, receipt of 'Prasad', strengthen the physical aspect of the devotee.
Watching the Ramleela in the evening gives mental nourishment. It also inspires us to follow the ideal path of Sri Ram. The burning of the effigy of Ravan warns us against evil conducts. Ravan - who was killed by Sri Ram, some nine lakh years ago also strengthens our belief, that no matter how powerful a sinful person becomes, he is ultimately doomed to destruction.
The scriptural command for 'Seemolanghan (not being tied down by the boundary) symbolizes progress. It inspires a man to constantly try to make progress and not get tied down by restrictions.
A provision of tree-worship is also made on Dashahara. This signifies the importance of the preservation of our forest-wealth.
TULSI VIVAHA (November)
On the fifth day of the Shukla Paksha (Waxing moon of fortnightly) of the Magha month, coming of spring is celebrated. This is only known as Vasant Panchami.
During this flowering and blossoming season one can listen distinctly to the kooing of the Koel (bird) and the entire ambiance becomes very beautiful. On this day one should dress up in beautiful attire and worship Lord Vishnu.
On this day Brahmins should be offered food. Pitru-Tarpan (liberation of deceased ancestors) can also be performed on this day. One can also see worship of Goddess Saraswati. The companion of Spring, God of Love Kamadev and his wife Rati are also prayed and worshipped on this auspicious occasion. It is on this day when Abeer and Gulal are played with and songs of Holi are sung till Phalgun Poornima. Because of the happiness and joyous it is obvious that we rejoice while celebrating this auspicious occasion.
GOKULASHTAMI - JANMASHTAMI (August-September)
Maha Vishnu took various avatars to protect the mortal world from the evildoers and sinners. One such incarnation was his birth as the child of King Vasudeva and Queen Devaki Devi. Gokul Ashtami is the birthday of Lord Krishna. It falls on the 8th day of the dark half of the month of 'Bhadrapada' (August-September) and is one of the greatest of all Hindu festivals. Lord Krishna was born at midnight.
A twenty-four hour fast is observed on this day, which is broken at midnight. The festival is called in different names as "Krishna Jayanti", "Janma Ashtami", "Krishnaashtami" , "Gokul Ashtami", and as "Sri Jayanti".
Birth of Lord Krishna The myth connected to the birth of Lord Vishnu is as follows. Vasudeva was the chief of 'Shooras' and married Devaki one of the seven daughters of Devaka. They were very happy, for none had ever seen so fine a man and a wife matched in such perfect harmony.
People treat this day as one of very great rejoicing. There is recitation of the "Bhagavatam", singing and praying everywhere. Temples are decorated for the occasion, Kirtans are sung, bells are rung, the conch is blown, and Sanskrit hymns are recited in praise of Lord Krishna. At Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, special spiritual gatherings are organised at this time. Pilgrims from all over India attend these festive gatherings.
People observe a daylong fast, which is broken only at midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. The festival is a community celebration, and people visit Krishna temples, which are specially decorated and lit for the occasion. On the occasion of 'Gokulashtami', we can find kids forming a human pyramid to reach the pot full of curds (dahi-handi) and break it.
A little before midnight, devotees pour into temples to participate in the special 'Arati' and to relive the birth of Krishna. Till midnight, devotional songs are sung in anticipation of the holy birth. Special cradles are installed at temples and a small statue of the "Balgopal" is placed in them.
SHIVARATRI (February - March)
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated throughout the country; it is particularly popular in Uttar Pradesh. Maha Shivratri falls on the I3th (or I4th) 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 and it is believed that on this day Lord Shiva was married to Parvati.
On this festival people worship 'Shiva - the Destroyer'. This night marks the night when Lord Shiva danced the 'Tandav'. In Andhra Pradesh, pilgrims throng the Sri Kalahasteshwara Temple at Kalahasti and the Bharamarambha Malikarjunaswamy Temple at Srisailam.
Shiva - the word meaning auspicious - is one of the Hindu Trinity, comprising of Lord Brahma, the creator, Lord Vishnu, the preserver and Lord Shiva or Mahesh, the Destroyer and Re-Producer of life. Shiva is known by many names like "Shankar", "Mahesh", "Bholenath", "Neelakanth", "Shambhu Kailasheshwar", "Umanath", "Nataraj" and others.
People observe a strict fast on this day. Some devotees do not even take a drop of water and 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 as Bael leaves are considered very sacred and it is said that Goddess 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 dock to the places where there are Shiva temples