Krishna Janmashtami, also known as Janmashtami is a religious and one of the most important festival commemorating the birth of Lord Krishna. Krishna Janmashtami is also known as Krishnashtami, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti and Sree Jayanthi. Krishna was born on ‘Ashtami’ or the ‘eighth day’ at midnight in the holy month of Shravana. Most of the time, Krishna Janmashtami is listed on two consecutive days. The first one is for Smarta Sampradaya and other one is for Vaishanava Sampradaya. Vaishanava Sampradaya date is the latter one. A single date for Janmashtami means that both Sampradaya would observe Janmashtami on the same date.
The reason behind this unanimity is the institution of ISKCON. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, commonly known as ISKCON is founded on the principles of Vaishnava traditions and most followers of the ISKCON are the followers of Vaishnavism. In North India most people observe Janmashtami on the day chosen by ISKCON. Many people who are not the followers of Vaishnavism don’t even understand that ISKCON traditions are different and the most appropriate day to observe Janmashtami fasting might not be same as that of ISKCON. In ISKCON tradition, Janmashtami will be celebrated on 3rd Sepetember 2018.
Raas lila, a night vigil (jagarana), fasting (upavasa) and celebrations (mahotsava) are important parts of Janmashtami. The event is particularly celebrated by ardent Vaishnavism followers because Krishna is was the eighth avatar of God Vishnu. Lord Krishna’s uncle, King Kansa, wanted to kill him. So as soon as he was born, his father Vasudeva took him across the Yamuna to Gokul where he was then taken care of by his foster parents Nanda and Yashoda. On Janmashtami, devotees honour how Krishna emerged victorious over the trials and tribulations over his birth, and later over the evil King Kansa.
Believers fast the whole day, spending the time singing devotional songs. They also maintain a vigil into the night as Krishna was born at midnight. The devotees offer ‘chappan bhog’, a list of 56 dishes, to the God on the following day known as ‘Nanda Utsav’. After the offering, the prasad is then distributed and shared among the devotees.
Al-Hijra is an annual Muslim festival marking the first day of the Islamic New Year and the month of Muharram. This day represents the journey of the Prophet Muhammed from two of the holiest sites in Islam, from Mecca to Medina, in 624CE. Hijra itself means “migration” in Arabic. Muharram itself is one of the four sacred months of the Islamic lunar calendar, of which there are 12 in total, and the second most important after Ramadan. The month moves from year-to-year as it follows the moon phases.
The names of the 12 months in the Islamic lunar Calendar are-
As in the western new year, Muslims often make resolutions on Al-Hijra, but the Islamic New Year and the wider sacred month are worshipped differently in the two predominant strands of Islam, Shiite and Sunni. For Shiites, he fact that the day coincides with the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala, which took place in the southern Iraqi city in 680, is significant. Shiites argue that only relatives of the Prophet Muhammad should succeed as caliph, which sparked the split between Shiite and Sunni after the Muhammed’s death. Mohammed’s first cousin, Ali, was murdered in 661 and at Karbala, his grandson Hussein Ibn Ali was killed by an army sent by Sunni caliph Yazid I. His defeat marked the ascendance of Sunni Islam over the Shiites, a discourse that is very much present in modern politics today, with Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran battling for influence in the Muslim world.
Shiites now mourn Hussain’s death for the first ten days of Muharram and take part in reenactments of the battle. Of particular significance is the tenth day of the month, known as Ashura, the day that Hussein was killed. Shiite Muslims fast and pray in the build-up to Ashura on what will be the Year 1438 AH, which stands for the year of “Hijra.” Millions of Shiite pilgrims travel to their holiest sites for the commemoration, located in both Iran and Iraq, particularly Karbala, which is situated 100 kilometers south of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. They mourn, beat their chests in what is called Latyma, and self-flaggelate, cutting incisions into their heads with machetes. Sunni Muslims, instead of mourning, fast on the day of Ashura to celebrate the victory of Moses over an Egyptian pharaoh on the 10th day of the sacred month.
Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi and Ganesh Chauth, is celebrated as birth anniversary of Lord Ganesh. On Ganesh Chaturthi, Lord Ganesh is worshipped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. It is believed that Lord Ganesh was born during Shukla Paksha of Bhadrapada month. Currently Ganesh Chaturthi day falls in month of August or September in English calendar according to the Hindu calendar.
Ganesha, one of the most beloved gods is known by 108 different names in our culture. He is considered to be a symbol of good fortune, wisdom, prosperity and wealth. The Ganeshotsav, the festivity of Ganesh Chaturthi, ends after 10 days on Anant Chaturdashi which is also known as Ganesh Visarjan day. On Anant Chaturdashi, devotees immerse idol of Lord Ganesh in water body after a gala street procession.
As per Hindu time-keeping, the time duration between sunrise to sunset is divided into five equal parts. These five parts are known as Pratahkala, Sangava, Madhyahna, Aparahna and Sayankal. Ganapati Sthapana and Ganapati Puja on Ganesha Chaturthi are done during Madhyahna part of the day and as per Vedic astrology it is considered the most appropriate time for Ganesha Puja.
Out of all the stories linked to the history of this festival, the most relevant one dates back to the time of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It is believed that Parvati is the creator of Ganesha. The story says that Parvati used her sandalwood paste and created Ganesha in the absence of Shiva. She gave him the work of guarding her bathroom door while she was bathing. After Shiva returned home, Ganesha and Shiva got into a tiff due to which Shiva severed the head of the child. Witnessing this site, Parvati enraged and Lord Shiva promised getting Ganesh back to life. The followers searched for a child’s head facing north, but all they could find was an elephant’s head. And that’s how our Gajanana was born.
It is believed that one should not sight the moon on Ganesh Chaturthi. Sighting moon on Ganesh Chaturthi creates Mithya Dosham or Mithya Kalank (कलंक) which means false accusation of stealing something. As per Puranic legends, Lord Krishna was falsely accused of stealing precious jewel named Syamantaka. After seeing plights of Lord Krishna, Sage Narada informed that Lord Krishna sighted moon on the day of Bhadrapada Shukla Chaturthi and because of that he has been cursed with Mithya Dosha. Sage Narada further informed Lord Krishna that God Chandra has been cursed by Lord Ganesha that anyone who sighted moon on Shukla Chaturthi during Bhadrapada month would be cursed with Mithya Dosha and would be tainted and dishonoured in the society. On the advice of sage Narada Lord Krishna observed Ganesha Chaturthi fasting to get rid of Mithya Dosha.
If anyone has mistakenly sighted moon on Ganesha Chaturthi then he should chant following Mantra to get rid of the curse –
सुकुमारक मारोदीस्तव ह्येष स्यमन्तकः॥
Sukumaraka Marodistava Hyesha Syamantakah॥
The new moon signals the beginning of the month of Muharram which refers to the first month of the Islamic lunar Calendar. The Hijri New Year is the name given to the first day of the month. It is the tenth and the most significance day of the sacred month of Muharram according to the Muslims. Shia Muslims celebrate this day to mourn the death of Husayn Ibn Ali, the Sunni Muslims observe this day to celebrate the victory of Moses over Egyptian Pharaoh.
Muharram marks the anniversary of the battle of Karbala and is widely commemorated by Shia Muslims. According to the legend popular among Shia Muslims, Husayn Ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, was beheaded during the Battle of Karbala on the tenth day of Muharram. Husayn Ibn Ali is an important figure in Muslim religion and is believed to be a member of the Muhammad’s household. During the reign of Yazid, it is believed that Husayn refused to accept the Islamic rules laid down by Yazid. Instead, Husayn decided to revolt against the ruler which led to the uprising in Karbalan. During the battle of Karbalan, Husayn was beheaded while his family was imprisoned in Damascus. However, according to Sunni Muslims, it was on this day that Moses gained victory over Egyptian Pharaohs. Moses was a religious leader and was meant to propagate religious teachings around the world.
Shia and Sunni Muslims, both the factions observe fast on this day, with the Sunni Muslims observing fast for an extra day, either before or after this day. It is believed that this extra fasting day is observed in accordance with the teachings of Muhammad Prophet. In certain cases, the Shia Muslims fast for the whole month and also flagellate themselves with sticks and rods on this day. They harm themselves to commemorate the sufferings of Husayn Ibn Ali while fighting against the oppressive regime of Yazid. Muharram is a period for self-reflection and to remember the battle of Karbala.
Onam is a Hindu festival celebrated by the people of Kerala. Onam is Malayali festival which is celebrated by native speakers of Malayalam. Onam is the National festival of Kerala and it is celebrated by the people of the State with great enthusiasm and happiness. Onam day is decided based on Solar Calendar. Onam is celebrated in Chingam month (August – September) on Malayalam Solar Calendar. Chingam month is known as Simha month in other solar calendars and Avani month in Tamil Calendar. The day when Nakshatra Thiruvonam prevails in month of Chingam is considered for Onam celebrations. Thiruvonam Nakshatra is known as Shravana in other Hindu Calendars. It is the biggest festival celebrated with joy and enthusiasm by people of all communities in Kerala, with four days of State holiday.
During the reign of mighty asura (demon) king, Mahabali, Kerala witnessed its golden era. Every body in the state was happy and prosperous and king was highly regarded by his subjects. Apart from all his virtues, Mahabali had one shortcoming. He was egoistic. This weakness in Mahabali’s character was utilized by Gods to bring an end to his reign as they felt challenged by Mahabali’s growing popularity. However, for all the good deed done by Mahabali, God granted him a boon that he could annually visit his people with whom he was so attached. The festival commemorates the appearance of Vamana avatar of Vishnu and the subsequent home coming of the legendary Emperor Mahabali. Onam celebrates the Asura King Mahabali’s annual visit from Patala (the underworld). On Thiruvonam day, Asura King Mahabali is believed to visit every Malayali home and meet his people.
The celebrations of Onam start on Atham day (the day when Atham Nakshatra prevails) and continue for 10 days till Thiruvonam day. Atham Nakshatra is known as Hasta Nakshatra in other Hindu Calendars.
Rich cultural heritage of Kerala comes out in its best form and spirit during the ten day long festival. It is indeed a treat to be a part of the grand carnival. People of Kerala make elaborate preparations to celebrate it in the best possible manner. Another enchanting feature of Onam is Vallamkali,the Snake Boat Race, held on the river Pampa. It is a colourful sight to watch the decorated boat oared by hundreds of boatmen amidst chanting of songs and cheering by spectators.
Maharaja Agrasen Jayanti is the birth anniversary celebrations of a legendary Hindu king Agrasen Maharaj, a doer (a Karmyogi) who conjured prosperity for all. He was king of Agroha, and it was from him that Agrawal and Agrahari clans originated. Agrasen Jayanti is observed on the fourth day of Ashwin month of Hindu calendar.
Maharaja Agrasen, the king of Agroha, born to king Vallabh of Pratapnagar some 5182 years back. His concepts of kingdom and the duties of the king towards his subjects have evolved him as a centurial man. Equality, Nationalism, Socialism and Non-Violence were the principles which formed the backbone of his kingship. Maharaj Agrasen established the republican state of Agroha. Agroha consisted of 18 state units. The head of each state unit was given a Gotra. All the residents of that particular state unit were identified by that Gotra. It was maintained by Maharaja Agrasen that a nupital alliance could not take place in the same Gotra. This rule enunciated by Maharaja Agrasen promoted harmony and brotherhood among all the 18 Gotra represented by state units. This facilitated promotion of unity and nationalism among the state units. He promulgated that any person coming to Agroha to settle down permanently, shall be given one rupee, one brick, by each resident of Agroha.
He adopted the ideal of Non-Violence during the 18th Yagna, wherein he realised the futility of animal sacrifices. The Yagna was being performed for the establishment of the 18th Gotra. This realisation led him to become one of the strong protagonist of ‘Non-Violence’. He banned all animal sacrifices. But, his belief in nonviolence did not mean non-resistance to oppression, rather he promoted self defence.
The UP state Government has officially declared holiday on the occasion of Agrasen Jayanti in Uttar Pradesh. In North Indian state of Haryana, there is also a public holiday on Agrasen Jayanti. This day is a gazetted holiday in the state of Punjab also.
Gandhi Jayanti is a national festival celebrated in India to mark the occasion of the birthday of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who is unofficially called the “Father of the Nation“. It is celebrated on 2nd October. It is one of the four Public Holidays in India. The United Nations General Assembly announced on 15 June 2007 that it adopted a resolution which declared that 2 October will be celebrated as the International Day of Non-Violence.
India organises cleanliness drives to promote ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan‘, a flagship mission of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to make people aware about the advantages of cleanliness as Mahatma Gandhi, in his lifetime, demonstrated, propagated and insisted for individual and community cleanliness. Following his footsteps, the Government of India, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, launched ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ on October 2, 2014 with a vision of achieving ‘Clean India’ by 2019.
Mahatma Gandhi, also known as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was born on October 2, 1869. He was a political and spiritual leader in India and played a key role in the Indian independence movement. Gandhi developed the novel technique of non-violent agitation, which he called “Satyagraha”. He is known for his non-violent civil disobedience in India and South Africa. These included the start of the non-cooperation movement in 1922 and the Salt Satyagraha or Dandi March starting on March 12, 1930. The nation mourned for him after he was assassinated on January 30, 1948.
Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated all over the country and in both government and non-government organizations. Since it’s a national holiday all schools, colleges and offices all over the country remain closed.
Mahanavami is celebrated on Ashwin Shukla Paksha Navami, the ninth and the final day of Durga Navratri or Durga Puja. On Maha Navami Goddess Durga is worshipped as Mahisasuramardini which means the Annihilator of the Buffalo Demon. It is believed that on Maha Navami day goddess Durga killed the demon Mahishasura. On this day, the goddess Durga is worshipped in the form of Aparajita also, by offering her sugarcane stalks. Matangi Dasamahavidya too, is worshipped on Mahanavami as a part of Dasamahavidya pooja in Navratri. Mukteshwari is the Goddess to be worshipped on ninth day of Navratri as part of Saptamatrika and Ashtamatrika puja. Goddess Siddhidatri puja is performed on Mahanavami day, by the Navadurga Shakteya sampradaaya people.
The precise rule is that if Ashtami and Navami merge before Sanyakal on Ashtami Tithi then Ashtami Puja and Navami Puja including Sandhi Puja are done on the same day. Navami Homa is performed on Maha Navami and it is the significant ritual during Durga Puja.
In the northern part of India, Kanya Pujan is observed on this day. Their feet are washed, kumkumis applied on the forehead and given gifts and new clothes by the worshippers. While in Gujarat, Mahanavmi is celebrated with Garba and dandiya raas as other eight days of Navratri. In the east, Navami is of great significance in Bengal as it is the last day of Durga Puja. In the southern region of India, Suhasini Puja is performed. Married women, a symbol of Maha Shakti, are offered the Shodasopachara Puja. Followers of Dus Mahavidyas worship Matangi on this day and Maa Siddhidhatri is worshipped by Navdurga Sampradaya followers.
Vijayadashami or Dussehra is celebrated as victory of Lord Rama over Demon Ravana on the tenth day of Ashvin or Ashwayuja Shukla Paksha as per the Hindu lunar calendar which falls in the Gregorian months of September or October. It is also triumph of Goddess Durga over the buffalo Demon Mahishasura. Vijayadashami is also known as Dussehra or Dasara. In Nepal Dasara is celebrated as Dashain. Apart from India, Dussehra is also celebrated in Bangladesh. Malaysia has an official holiday to mark the religious festival. It is a festival of reverence of good and its power to subdue evil.
According to Hindu mythology it was the day when Lord Rama killed Ravana, the demon King of Lanka to rescue his beloved wife Sita, after cutting ten heads of Ravana, on the tenth day of the ensuing battle. Hence, to celebrate the day, colossal effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnath, filled with crackers and surrounded by fireworks, are burnt to signify the end of evil. Besides this, play enactments of Ramayana, known as Ram Leela are also preformed across India preceding Dussehra. These plays are based on the epic Ramayana, which describes the life saga of Lord Rama. Ravan’s ten heads represents ten bad qualities of a person-
- Lust – Kam Vasana
- Anger – Krodh
- Attachment – Moh
- Greed – Lobh
- Over Pride – Mad
- Jealousy – Matsarya
- Selfishness – Swarth
- Injustice – Anyaay
- Cruelty – Amanavta
- Ego – Ahankar
The festival is celebrated in different ways in different parts of India in various ways. In Tamil Nadu, it is celebrated as Golu. The idols are set to create various settings that portray their culture and heritage. The story goes like since the goddess Durga needed tremendous power, all other gods and goddesses transferred their power to her and they all stood still as statues. Golu ends on Dusshera. In Northern parts of India like Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand and western Bihar, it is a tradition to plant barley seeds in earthen pots on the first day of Navratri. On the day of Dusshera, the sprouts are used as symbols of luck. The festival also mark the change of the agriculture crops, farmers now harvest the Kharif crops and after Diwali starts with the Rabi crop. It marks the beginning of pleasant and cooler climate after the monsoon.
Meera Bai (1498-1547 CE) was a great Hindu mystic poet and ardent devotee of Lord Krishna from her childhood. Born into a royal family of Rajasthan, she was one of the significant Sants of the Vaishnava Bhakti movement. Some 1300 poems written in passionate praise of Lord Krishna are credited to her.
Meera was a Rajput princess born about 1498 in Kudaki, Rajasthan. However, according to some accounts the place of her birth was Chaukari, not Kudki. Mira’s father Ratan Singh Rathore was the younger son of Rao Dudaji, the ruler of the kingdom. He spent most of his time away from home fighting the Mughals. According to one accounts he died at a young age while fighting in a battle. Her mother too died when Mira was around seven years old and therefore, as a child Mira got very little parental care and affection. Mira received lessons in religion, politics and government from her grandfather Rao Dudaji. She was also well educated in music and art. She was married to Bhoj Raj, the ruler of Chittor in 1516. She took no interest in her spouse as she believed herself to be married to Lord Krishna.
Married off to Prince Bhoj Raj of Chittor at a tender age she was expected to lead the life of a princess and was pressured into devoting her time to her domestic duties. Yet, young as she was, she stood firm and devoted her life in the service of her Lord. Neither riches nor danger to her life could deter her from her path. When it became impossible to live within the royal household, she chose to leave home and went to Vrindavan, where Lord Krishna had spent his boyhood days. There she led the life of a saint, devoting her time in the service of Lord Krishna. She passed her last days at Dwarika, where Lord Krishna and his clan was said to have lived after leaving their original home at Mathura. According to popular belief, she miraculously merged with the image of Krishna in circa 1547 at the age of 49.
Historians believe that Meera Bai was a disciple of Guru Ravidas and accept popular beliefs which associate her with Sant Tulsidas and her interactions with Rupa Goswami in Vrindavan. As per Hindu lunar calendar, the day of Sharad Purnima is observed as the birth anniversary of Meerabai.
Valmiki is also known as Maharishi Valmiki and considered as the Adi Kavi i.e. the first poet of Sanskrit language. As per the traditional Hindu calendar, his birth anniversary, which is also known as Valmiki Jayanti, falls on ‘Purnima’ (full moon Day) during the month of Ashwin whereas in the Gregorian calendar it corresponds to the month of September-October. He was a great sage and author of the epic Ramayana which consists of 24,000 verses and 7 cantos (Kandas) including the Uttara canto. This day is celebrated with dedication in the northern regions of India and is also referred as ‘Pragat Diwas’. Maharishi Valmiki is believed to be the contemporary of Lord Sri Rama which makes it difficult to define the exact timings of his birth as birth era of Lord Sri Rama is also a topic of much debate among modern historians.
As per Ramayana, Shri Rama met Valmiki during his period of exile and interacted with him. Later, Valmiki gave shelter to Devi Sita in his hermitage when Rama banished her. Kusha and Lava, the twin sons of Shri Rama were born in his hermitage. Valmiki taught Ramayana to both twins.
Maharishi Valmiki in his early life was a highway dacoit named Ratnakar, who used to rob people after killing them. It is believed that sage Narada Muni transformed Ratnakar into great devotee of Lord Rama. On the advice of Narada Muni, Ratnakar performed great penance by reciting great Mantra of Rama Nama. After years of meditation, a divine voice declared his penance successful and bestowed him with new name Valmiki, the one who born out of ant-hills.
India is home to several Valmiki temples but the most prominent one is located in Chennai. It is believed that sage Valmiki rested at the spot and later the temple was constructed. The temple is believed to be 1300 years old and stands on the East Coast Road named as Valmiki Nagar. On this day, people pay their respects towards Maharishi Valmiki by parading portraits of him. The procession is called Shobha Yatra.
Karwa Chauth fasting is done by married women during Krishna Paksha Chaturthi in the Hindu month of Kartik for the long life of their husband and according to Amanta calendar followed in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Southern India it is Ashwin month which is current during Karwa Chauth. It is just the name of the month which differs and in all states Karwa Chauth is observed on the same day.
Karwa Chauth coincides with Sankashti Chaturthi a fasting day observed for Lord Ganesha. The fasting of Karwa Chauth and its rituals are observed by married women for the long life of their husband. Married women worship Lord Shiva and His family including Lord Ganesha and break the fast only after sighting and making the offerings to the moon. The fasting of Karwa Chauth is strict and observed without taking any food or even a drop of water after sunrise till the sighting of the moon in the night. Also as Savitri begged the god of death, Lord Yama, for her husband’s soul, thereby the belief that keeping this taxing fast would protect their husbands from any harm and ensure long life to them.
A long time ago, there was a beautiful girl by the name of Veervati and she was the sole sister of seven brothers who became queen after marrying a king at a young age. After her marriage, she celebrated her first day long fast at her parents’ home. In the evening because of her unbearable thirst and hunger she was desperately waiting for moon to rise and break her fast. Her seven brothers who loved her unconditionally, couldn’t see her in pain as a result they decided to end her fast by deluding her. To create a delusion of moon, the brothers reflected a mirror through a Pipal tree and Veervati thinking it was moon rise, broke the fast with food. The moment the queen ate her dinner, she received the news that her husband had died. On her way to her husband’s place, she met lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Parvati told her the reason of king’s condition as she broke her fast by watching a false moon. Veervati asked for forgiveness and since it was not her fault, the goddess forgave her and her husband was. In return, she took oath that she would undertake the Karwa Chauth fast under strict rituals from then on. Also In the Mahabharata times, on advise of Lord Krishna, Draupadi kept the fast with same ritual as Goddess Parvati had sought from Lord Shiva and after that the Pandavas were able to overcome their problems.
Also as per the belief, a woman, named Karva, was bathing with her husband in a river and suddenly crocodile caught him. With the power of her deep love for his husband, she bounded the crocodile by cotton yarn and told Yamaraj to send crocodile in hell but Yamaraj refused. She frightened him by the curse of destroying him. Then Yamaraj sent crocodile to hell and blessed Karva’s husband for long life. Karwa Chauth day is also known as Karak Chaturthi. Karwa or Karak refers to the earthen pot through which water offering, known as Argha, is made to the moon. Karwa is very significant during Puja and it is also given as Dan to the Brahmin or any eligible woman.
As women prepare for the big day, with mehendi and ‘sola sringar’, devotedly praying and waiting for the moon to appear in the sky. After four days of Karwa Chauth, Ahoi Ashtami Vrat is observed for the well being of sons.