Eid al Adha or Eid ul Zuha or Bakrid is one of the most important festivals in the Muslim lunar calendar, known as the Hijri calendar. This holy day is celebrated by the Muslim community throughout the world on the 10th day of the month of Dhul Hijjah and holds a special place in the hearts of the entire community. The holy day of Bakrid is known as Id-ul-Adha in Arabic and means “Feast of the Sacrifice”.
This festival was named thus, as its origin lay in the Islamic history as per which, it was on this day that God decided to test the faith of Abraham. It so happed, that Abraham, who was one of the Prophets of God saw a dream in which, the almighty commanded him to sacrifice his son. Abraham and his son both showed willingness to perform this ultimate sacrifice and just as after slitting his son’s throat Abraham looked at the alter, where he expected to find his son’s lifeless body, he saw a dead ram instead and his son was standing hail and hearty. God delivered his son from death, as the duo had passed his test of faith. Thus, to commemorate the devotion, spirit of sacrifice and unquestioning faith in the almighty, Muslims perform animal sacrifice and offer prayers, to mark this occasion.
The celebrations of Bakrid also corresponds with another significant event that occurred in the history of Islam i.e. the completion of the holy Quran, this makes the revelry twofold.
The word ‘bakri’ means goat in Hindi, thus giving rise to the name Bakr-Id. It occurs after the Hajj pilgrimage, which is the fifth pillar of Islam, undertaken by the Muslims. It is celebrated with ritualistic fervor in Andhra Pradesh and in particular, the old city of Hyderabad.
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.
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.
The Independence Day of India is celebrated religiously throughout the Country on the 15th of August every year and it reminds every Indian about the dawn of a new beginning. It was the day when India was declared independent from British colonialism. Today, Independence Day is considered as a national festival and regardless of religion, class, race, and creed, it is celebrated and rejoiced with several events and cultural programs. It is a day of celebration when we rejoice our freedom and pay homage to those who laid down their lives winning it for us. A festival every Indian holds dearest to his heart, Independence Day commemorates the arduous journey that was undertaken by millions of brave Indians to break away from the shackles of colonial rule. Incidentally, India is not the only country to celebrate Independence Day on August 15, here are five more countries Republic of Congo, North Korea, South Korea, Bahrain and Liechtenstein celebrate their freedom on the same day.
India, world’s largest democracy, is one of the oldest civilizations in the world with a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage. As the 7th largest country in the world, India stands apart from the rest of Asia, marked off as it is by mountains and the sea, which give the country a distinct geographical entity. Our Independence struggle involved wide spectrum of political organisations of India, their philosophies, and movements which were united only for one noble cause; to end the British Colonial Authority and thrive as an independent nation.
British rule in India began in 1757 when, following the British victory at the Battle of Plassey, the English East India Company began exercising control over the country. The East India Company ruled India for 100 years, until it was replaced by the British crown in the wake of the Indian Mutiny in 1857–58. In the decades following, civic society gradually emerged across India, most notably the Indian National Congress Party, formed in 1885. During the 1930 s, reform was gradually legislated by the British; Congress won victories in the resulting elections. In February 1947, Prime Minister Clement Attlee announced that the British government would grant full self-governance to British India by June 1948 at the latest. The new viceroy, Lord Mountbatten chose the second anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, 15 August, as the date of power transfer. The British government announced on 3 June 1947 that it had accepted the idea of partitioning British India into two states, India and Pakistan.
Independence Day is marked throughout India with flag-raising ceremonies, drills, and the singing of the Indian national anthem. Additionally, various cultural programs are made available in the state capitals. After the prime minister participates in the flag-raising ceremony at the Red Fort historic monument in Old Delhi, a parade ensues with members of the armed forces and police.
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.
Raksha Bandhan is a special Hindu festival which is celebrated in India and countries like Nepal to symbolize the love between a brother and a sister. This is celebrated in Shravana month during full moon day or Purnima day of the Hindu luni-solar calendar. It typically falls in the August month of Gregorian calendar. Bhadra prevails during first half of Purnima Tithi and one should avoid tying Rakhi during Bhadra.
The festival is made up of two words, namely “Raksha” and “Bandhan.” As per the Sanskrit terminology, the occasion means “the tie or knot of protection”. Together, the festival symbolizes the eternal love of brother-sister relationship which does not mean just the blood relationships only. It is also celebrated among cousins, sister and sister-in-law (Bhabhi), fraternal aunt (Bua) and nephew (Bhatija) and other such relations. There are several stories related to the celebration of this special festival.
As per an account of Bhagavata Purana and Vishnu Purana, when Lord Vishnu won the three worlds from the demon King Bali, he asked by the demon king to stay beside him in the palace. The Lord accepted the requested and started living with the demon king. However, Goddess Lakshmi, wife of Lord Vishnu wanted to return to his native place of Vaikuntha. So, she tied the rakhi around the wrist of demon king, Bali and made him a brother. On asking about the return gift, Goddess Lakshmi asked Bali to free her husband from the vow and let him return to Vaikuntha. Bali agreed to the request and Lord Vishnu returned to his place with his wife, Goddess Lakshmi.
According to the ancient legend of Bhavishya Purana, once there was a fierce battle between Gods and demons. Lord Indra was fighting the battle on the side of Gods was having a tough resistance from the powerful demon King, Bali. The war continued for a long time and did not came on a decisive end. Seeing this, Indra’s wife Sachi went to the Lord Vishnu who gave her a holy bracelet made up of cotton thread. Sachi tied the holy thread around the wrist of her husband, Lord Indra who ultimately defeated the demons and recovered the Amaravati. Unlike, the present times, those holy threads were not limited to brother-sister relationships.
Based on an account of Mahabharat, Draupadi, wife of Pandavas tied a piece of cloth from her sari to Lord Krishna when he hurt his finger while setting off his Sudarshan Chakra to fight evil and Kunti tied the rakhi to grandson Abhimanyu before the epic war.
Another legend says that the death God, Yama did not visit his sister Yamuna for a period of 12 years who ultimately became very sad. On the advice of Ganga, Yama went to meet his sister Yamuna who has very happy and performed hospitality of her brother, Yama. This made the Yama delighted who asked Yamuna for a gift. She expressed her desire to see her brother again and again. Hearing this, Yama made his sister, Yamuna immortal so that he could see her again and again. This mythological account forms the basis of festival called “Bhaiya Dooj” which is also based on the brother-sister relationship.
The festival is celebrated in different forms in different areas and is also known by different names. The festival is mainly celebrated by the Hindus in the northern and western parts of India along with countries like Nepal, Pakistan and Mauritius. The occasion is also revered by the Jain community where Jain priests give ceremonial threads to the devotees. This festival devoted to the brother-sister love is observed by the Sikhs as “Rakhardi” or Rakhari.
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.
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॥
Id-e-Milad is an important Muslim festival celebrated on the birth anniversary of the Islamic prophet known as Muhammad on the twelfth day of Rabi-ul-Awwal. He was born in the city of Mecca in Arabia. It is celebrated in the third month of the Islamic calendar. This day is also his death anniversary. It is also referred as Mawlid an-Nabi and Milad an-Nabi in Arabic. The word “Mawlid” is an Arabic word, which literally means to give birth or bear a child. The festival of Id-e-Milad popularly known as Barah Wafat, the twelfth day is one of the important festival in the Muslim calendar.
Prophet Mohammad, son of Abdul Muttalib, of the Qureysh tribe, was born at Mecca in 570AD. From about 610 AD, he began to receive revelations sent down from Allah through angel Gabriel. He spread the word among people, and soon had a small community of followers. Later Islam became one of the most popular religions of the world. In 632 AD, Prophet Muhammed went on a pilgrimage to Mecca followed by thousands of his devotees, where he preached his farewell sermon and later left the mortal world forever. The word ‘barah’ refers to the twelve days of the Prophet’s sickness. In 632 Muhammad fell ill and suffered for several days with head pain and weakness. He succumbed on Monday, in the city of Medina. He is buried in his tomb (which previously was in his wife Aisha’s house), which is housed within Mosque of the Prophet in Medina, is the second holiest mosque in Islam.
The celebration of Prophet’s birthday is believed to have its origins on the 8th century when the Prophet Muhammad’s birth house was converted into a house of prayer by Al-Khayzuran. Al-Khayzuran was the mother of a caliph, Harun-al-Rashid. The early celebrations have been influenced by the Sufi saints in Egypt with public orations followed by a feast. In the olden days this festival was first originally celebrated only by a group of people belonging to the ruling class Muslims known as Shia’s. In the following years to come the festival was spread to other Islamic cities and the festival was adopted by the Sunni’s in time. After 1910, it declared a national holiday in many Muslim countries. The day is marked by holding religious discourses, reading the Holy book of Quran and giving alms to the poor.
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.
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.
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.