Shivaratri is great festival of convergence of Shiva and Shakti. Chaturdashi Tithi during Krishna Paksha in month of Magha is known as Maha Shivaratri according to South Indian calendar. However according to North Indian calendar Masik Shivaratri in month of Phalguna is known as Maha Shivaratri. In both calendars it is naming convention of lunar month which differs. However both, North Indians and South Indians, celebrate Maha Shivaratri on same day.
According to one story from Puranas, during the samudra manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean. This terrified the Gods and demons as the poison was capable of destroying the entire world, and they ran to Shiva for help. To protect the world from its evil effects, Shiva drank the deathly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This made his throat turn blue, and he was given the name Neelakantha, the blue-throated one. Shivaratri is the celebration of this event by which Shiva saved the world.
According to another legend in the Shiva Purana, once the other two of the triads of Hindu Gods, Brahma and Vishnu, were fighting over who was the superior of the two. Horrified at the intensity of the battle, the other gods asked Shiva to intervene. To make them realize the futility of their fight, Shiva assumed the form of a huge column of fire in between Brahma and Vishnu. Awestruck by its magnitude, they decided to find one end each to establish supremacy over the other. Brahma assumed the form of a swan and went upwards and Vishnu as Varaha went into the earth. But light has no limit and though they searched for thousands of miles, neither could find the end. On his journey upwards, Brahma came across a Ketaki flower wafting down slowly. When asked where she had come from, the Ketaki replied that she had been placed at the top of the fiery column as an offering. Unable to find the uppermost limit, Brahma decided to end his search and take the flower as a witness. At this, the angry Shiva revealed his true form. He punished Brahma for telling a lie, and cursed him that no one would ever pray to him. The Ketaki flower too was banned from being used as an offering for any worship, as she had testified falsely. Since it was on the 14th day in the dark half of the month of Phalguna that Shiva first manifested himself in the form of a Linga, the day is especially auspicious and is celebrated as Mahashivaratri. Worshipping Shiva on this day is believed to bestow one with happiness and prosperity.
At Maha Shivratri, People keep fast of whole day and night and all the Shiv temples e.g. Kashi Vishwanath temple gets congregated by the young and old devotees from the very early morning. They come to the temple to perform the puja of traditional Shivalingam and hope to get what they have prayed to the god. They take bath in the holy water of the Ganga (Symbol of the purity) early in the morning before sunrise and wear a clean clothe after the sacred bath.
Ramakrishna (1836-1886 C.E.) was a famous Saint in the 19th century in India. He was born on 18 February 1836 into a very poor but devoutly religious Brahmin family in the village of Kamarpukur, Hooghly district of West Bengal, India. He became a priest of the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, dedicated to the goddess Kali and located near Calcutta on the Ganges River. He is famously known as Ramakrishna Paramahamsa among his devotees.
Young Ramakrishna was prone to experiences of spiritual reverie and temporary loss of consciousness. His early spiritual experiences included going into a state of rapture while watching the flight of cranes, and loosing consciousness of the outer world while playing the role of the god Shiva in a school play.
At one point he became frustrated, feeling he could not live any longer without seeing Kali. He demanded that the goddess appear to him. He threatened to take his own life with a ritual dagger (normally held in the hand of the Kali statue). Ramakrishna’s behavior became more erratic as time passed and began to worry his family and employer. He would take on ritual and mythical roles identifying with figures from the Puranas (medieval Indian holy books describing the adventures of gods). The group of respected religious leaders concluded that this was a case of divine madness similar in nature to that of other famous saints such as Caitanya (a fifteenth century Bengali saint). From this point on, people began to treat Ramakrishna with more respect though his unusual behavior in worship and meditation continued. A Yogi named Totapuri then became Ramakrishna’s mentor. Ramakrishna adopted the role of renunciant and learned a nondualist form of Vedanta philosophy from him. In this system, God is understood to be the formless unmanifest energy that supports the cosmos. Ramakrishna experienced a deep form of trance (nirvikalpa samadhi) under the guidance of this teacher. This state can be described as complete absorption of the soul into the divine ocean of consciousness. Ramakrishna also appealed to those with an interest in yoga and esoteric practices by practicing a non-dual form of meditation prescribed by Totapuri which seeks samadhi.
He was married to Sarada Devi who later became his spiritual counterpart and was considered a saint in her own right to take charge of his disciples and carry on his message. Swami Vivekananda was one of his famous disciples. In honor of his Guru, Swami Vivekananda founded Ramakrishna Math which works for the welfare of others and spread the spiritual movement known as Ramakrishna Movement worldwide. Belur Math is the headquarters of Ramakrishna Math and Mission.
According to Hindu lunar calendar it was Dwitiya, Phalguna, Shukla Paksha, Vikram Samvat 1892 when Shri Ramakrishna was born. Each year the birth anniversary of Ramakrishna is celebrated as per Hindu lunar calendar across all Ramakrishna Maths.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486 – 1534 C.E.) was a great spiritual teacher and the founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. The followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are known as Gaudiya Vaishnava(s). He was born as Vishvambhar Mishra on 18 February 1486 in present-day Nadia, West Bengal, India, into a Brahmin family, to Jagannath Mishra and his wife Sachi Devi. He was their tenth child and his childhood nickname was Nimai. His mother’s father, Pandita Nilambara Chakravarti, a renowned astrologer, foretold that the child was destined for greatness in future.
He grew up to be a bright child and developed an early interest in religious pursuits. He entered the Gurukula of Gangadasa Pandita in Ganganagara when he was eight years old. A brilliant student, he excelled in his studies and became a scholar in Sanskrit grammar and rhetoric at a young age. He went to Gaya as a teenager and it was here that he met the ascetic Ishvara Puri who would become his guru. Nimai received initiation with the Gopala Krishna mantra from his guru. Upon his return to Bengal he became a prominent religious preacher and before long was considered the eminent leader of the Vaishnava group within Nadia. He soon received entrance into the sannyasa order by Keshava Bharati. After becoming a sannyasi he travelled throughout India, visiting many places, spreading the name of the Lord Krishna.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared as a devotee of Krishna in Mayapur, West Bengal, India in the late fifteenth century. He introduced sankirtan, widespread congregational chanting of the Supreme Person’s names, as the most effective means by which anyone can achieve spiritual perfection. By His influence, many of India’s leading religious scholars and their followers became devotees of Krishna themselves. In His youth, Mahaprabhu started a Sanskrit academy in Navadvipa—one of India’s top centers of learning at the time—and earned a reputation as an excellent scholar. But at age twenty-four he renounced everything to travel the subcontinent, encouraging everyone he met to chant the Hare Krishna mantra. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, ISKCON, is a continuation of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtan movement.
As per Hindu lunar calendar, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born during Phalguna Purnima in the year 1542 of Vikram Samvat. Hence, followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, observe Phalguna Purnima as Gaura Purnima and it is observed as the birth anniversary of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
As per Julian calendar, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born on February 18, 1486 C.E. At the time of his birth Gregorian calendar was not invented. In proleptic Gregorian calendar it was Saturday, February 27, 1486 C.E. when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born.
According to Hindu scriptures Holika Dahan, which is also known as Holika Deepak or Chhoti Holi, should be done during Pradosh Kaal (which starts after sunset) while Purnimasi Tithi is prevailing. Bhadra prevails during first half of Purnimasi Tithi and all good work should be avoided when Bhadra prevails.
There are many mythological, spiritual and social tales associated with Holika; the most popular of all being that of Prahlad and Hirnakashyap. Demon king Hirnakashyap was so haughty and immoral that he barred the people of his kingdom from praying to the lord. In order to become immortal, he started performing hard penance to please Lord Brahma. Brahma gave Hirnakashyap the following five boons: neither a human nor an animal would be able to kill him; neither he would be killed inside the door nor outside the door, neither he would be killed during the day nor at night, neither he would be killed by any Astra nor by any Shastra, neither he would be killed on the land nor in the water or in the air. After getting this boon, the demon thought himself to be nothing less than the almighty but the son born to this devil, Prahlad, was an advent devotee of Lord Vishnu. He became very angry and decided to kill his son. After a lot of attempts failed, he took helps from his sister, Holika. Hirnakashyap’s sister, Holika, was once blessed by Brahma that she will not be harmed by fore ever in her life. She had a shawl, which would protect her. She was asked by her brother to be seated in the flames with Prahlad but when the fire soared, the blessed shawl of Holika fluttered away to cover Prahlad. In this way, Prahlad lived and Holika burnt and died. This story contains a universal message – triumph of good over evil.
A day before Holi, lots of wooden sticks are gathered in the ground, and are worshiped. A thread is tied around a small piece of bread and placed on the fire. It is believed that even though the bread burns, the thread remains clean. This is a memorial of how the evil (the bread) is destroyed, while the thread (the soul ) is eternal.
The festival of Holi is celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March every year. Holi is a religious festival celebrated by Hindus all over the world. Holi is considered as second biggest festival on Hindu calendar after Diwali. Holi is also known as festival of Colors.
Holi was originally a festival to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land, but is now a symbolic commemoration of a legend Prahlad from Hindu Mythology.
The festival is also associated with the eternal love of Krishna and Radha, and hence, Holi is spread over 16 days in Braj region. Places related to life of Lord Krishna are known as Braj regions. Holi rituals in Braj regions – Mathura, Vrindavan, Gowardhan, Gokul, Nandagaon and Barsana – are the most famous one. The Lathmar Holi – the traditional Holi festivity in Barsana is world famous.
In most regions Holi festival is celebrated for two days. The first day is known as Jalanewali Holi – the day when Holi bonfire is done. This day is also known as Chhoti Holi and Holika Dahan. Holika Dahan is referred to Kama Dahanam in South India. The second day is known as Rangwali Holi – the day when people play with colored powder and colored water. Rangwali Holi which is main Holi day is also known as Dhulandi or Dhulendi. The other less popular pronunciations of Dhulandi are Dhuleti,Dhulheti.
On first day bonfires are lit after sunset at Right Holika Dahan Muhurta. Main Holi day when people play with colors is always next day of Holika Dahan or Holi bonfire. Next day in the morning people play Holi with dry and wet colors. People play Holi with dry colored powders which are known as Gulal. Wet color is applied on the face and is made on the spot by mixing little amount of water with dry colored powder. More enthusiastic Holi folk mix dry colored powder in full bucket of water to drench complete body in wet color. Holi is marked by colourful parades accompanied by folk songs, dances and a general sense of relaxed fun. On the occasion of Holi morning, the streets fill with people running, shouting, giggling and splashing.
Gudi Padwa is the Hindu festival which marks the beginning of New Year as per a Shalivahan Shaka. The festival is celebrated with utmost fanfare and grandeur in not only Maharashtra but also in other parts of India, particularly in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Ugadi in Andhra and Yugadi in Karnataka are the same festival but observed in different names. Gudi Padwa or Samvatsar Padvo is celebrated as the first day of the year by Maharashtrians and Konkanis. On this day new Samvatsara, which is cycle of sixty years, starts. All sixty Samvatsara are identified by unique name.
Gudi Padwa is celebrated as Ugadi by the people of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Both Gudi Padwa and Ugadi are celebrated on the same day.
The day is considered extremely auspicious as it is believed that on this very day Lord Brahma had created the universe. As the universe was created this day it marked the beginning of the Satyayug. The day also marks the beginning of Chaitra Navratri, that lead up to Ram Navami, Lord Rama’s birthday to be celebrated on the ninth day. Practically the celebrations are often linked to the change in season and to the sowing and reaping of crops. This day marks the end of one agricultural harvest and the beginning of a new one.
Gudi Padwa is Marathi New Year according to Luni-Solar calendar. Luni-Solar calendars consider the position of the Moon and the position of the Sun to divide the year into months and days. The counter-part of Luni-Solar calendar is Solar calendar which considers only position of the Sun to divide the year into months and days. Because of that Hindu New Year is celebrated twice in the year with different names and at two different times of the year. The Hindu New Year based on Solar calendar is known as Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Bihu in Assam, Vaisakhi in Punjab, Pana Sankranti in Orissa and Naba Barsha in West Bengal.
The day begins with ritual oil-bath followed by prayers. Oil bath and eating Neem leaves are must rituals suggested by scriptures. North Indians don’t celebrate Gudi Padwa but start nine days Chaitra Navratri Puja on the same day and also eat Neem with Mishri on the very first day of Navratri.
The day is also believed to be auspicious for ‘vaastu puja’ and for beginning new business ventures. On this day, several processions are also taken out.
Birth anniversary of Ishtadeva Uderolal, popularly known as Jhulelal, is celebrated as Cheti Chand on the second day of Chaitra Shukla Paksha of Hindu calendar. The exact year of the birth of Saint Jhulelal is not known but he was born during the 10thcentury in Sindh. This was the time when Sindh came under the rule of Sumras. Sumras were tolerant to all other religions. However a tyrant named Mirkshah was threatening Sindhi Hindus to either convert to Islam or face the death.
Sindhi Samaj has a very rich tradition and history of being a community with a strong religious faith. Basically Sindhis are the followers of Hindu life style of Indus Valley civilization. Along with Punjabi community Sindhis are the most affected community of partition of India in the year 1947. Many of Sindhis who didn’t migrated to India from Pakistan have converted.
Traditionally Sindhis have a very close touch with Punjabis and Sikhs hence Adi Guru Dhan Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji are the prime deity of Sindhis along with Jal Devata [Water God] “Jhulelal” . It is normal routine of many Sindhis to go Gurudwara, in Sindhis language pronounced as Darbar being looked by Jagyasi & Udasi [Sadh] families and recite the Banis from Living God Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Cheti Chand is an important festival celebrated by Sindhi people of Pakistan and India. However date of Cheti Chand is decided based on Hindu calendar. According to Hindu calendar, Cheti Chand is celebrated on the second day of Chaitra Shukla Paksha. Most of the times, it is celebrated one day after Ugadi and Gudi Padwa. It is the day when the New Moon becomes visible after no moon day. Due to the first appearance of the moon during the Cheti month, this day is known as Cheti Chand. The Sindhi community celebrates the festival of Cheti Chand to commemorate the birth anniversary of Ishtadeva Uderolal which is popularly known as Jhulelal, the patron saint of Sindhis.
Sindhis prayed to the river God to protect them from the forced conversion. It is stated that their prayers were heard after forty days of worship. River God promised them that the divine child would be born in Nasarpur to save them from the tyrant. The child was known as Saint Jhulelal.
This day is considered highly auspicious and is celebrated with much fanfare. The water which is the elixir of life is worshipped on this day.
Mahavir Jayanti is observed by Jains as birth anniversary of sage Mahavir. Mahavir, also known as Vardhamana, established core tenets of Jainism. Mahavir was the 24th and the last Jain sage. It is the main religious festival of Jain which marks the birth of last Tirthankara, Mahavir. The event usually falls during the months of March or April. During this day a sacred ceremony of bathing the statues of Mahavir is carried out, commonly known as abhisheka.
Mahavir was born on thirteenth day of the rising moon of Chaitra month (which was Trayodashi Tithi during Shukla Paksha of Chaitra month). Mahavir was born during 599 B.C. and disappeared in 527 B.C. at the age of 72. Mahavir was born at Kundalagrama which is situated under Vaishali district in Bihar. Mahavir was a prince and was given the name Vardhaman by his parents. Being son of a king, he had many worldly pleasures, comforts, and services at his command. But at the age of thirty, he left his family and royal household, gave up his worldly possessions, and become a monk in search of a solution to eliminate pain, sorrow, and sufferings. Mahavir spent the next twelve and half years in deep silence and meditation to conquer his desires, feelings, and attachments. He carefully avoided harming or annoying other living beings including animals, birds, and plants. He also went without food for long periods. He was calm and peaceful against all unbearable hardships that he was given the name Mahavir, meaning very brave and courageous. During this period, his spiritual powers fully developed and at the end he realized perfect perception, knowledge, power, and bliss. This realization is known as keval jnana or the perfect enlightenment.
Mahavir spent the next thirty years travelling on bare foot around India preaching to the people the eternal truth he realized. The ultimate objective of his teaching is how one can attain total freedom from the cycle of birth, life, pain, misery, and death, and achieve the permanent blissful state of one’s self. This is also known as liberation, nirvana, absolute freedom, or Moksha. Mahavir preached that right faith (samyak darshana), right knowledge (samyak jnana), and right conduct (samyak charitra) together is the real path to attain the liberation from karmic matter of one’s self.
At the age of 72 (527 B.C.), Lord Mahavir attained nirvan and his purified soul left his body and achieved complete liberation. He became a Siddha, a pure consciousness, a liberated soul, living forever in a state of complete bliss. On the night of his nirvan, people celebrated the Festival of Lights (Dipavali) in his honor. This is the last day of Hindu and Jain calendar year known as Dipavali Day.
Good Friday is the day on which Catholics commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Catholics are joined by almost all other Christians in solemn commemoration on this day. It is also a legal holiday around much of the world. On a dark Friday two thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. Powerful members of the religious, political, and military communities colluded to strip him naked, mock him publicly, and crucify him. Yet two millennia later, Christians, who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, celebrate that day by calling it Good Friday.
Ever since Jesus died and was raised, Christians have proclaimed the cross and resurrection of Jesus to be the decisive turning point for all creation. Paul considered it to be “of first importance” that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to life on the third day, all in accordance with what God had promised all along in the Scriptures.
The letters “INRI” are initials for the Latin title that Pontius Pilate had written over the head of Jesus Christ on the cross. Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire. The words were “Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm.” Latin uses “I” instead of the English “J”, and “V” instead of “U” (i.e., Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum). The English translation is “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”. The Early Church adopted the first letters of each word of this inscription “INRI” as a symbol. Throughout the centuries INRI has appeared in many paintings of the crucifixion.
Good Friday celebrations are marked by a sombre, sorrowful tone. People spend the day fasting, meditating and remembering Christ through their prayers. Churches hold services but bells are not rung, and churchgoers and priests wear black clothes. The altar and pulpit of the church are left bare, and candles are not lit on this day. The significance of this day lies in the Church’s commemoration of Christ’s arrest, crucifixion, death and eventual resurrection.
Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb on the third day after his cruxifixion. Easter is the fulfilled prophecy of the Messiah who would be persecuted, die for others sins, and rise on the third day.
The early Christians began remembering the Resurrection every Sunday following its occurrence. In A.D. 325, the Council of Nicaea set aside a special day just to celebrate the Resurrection. The problem with an official day was deciding whether the Resurrection should be celebrated on a weekday or always on a Sunday. Many felt that the date should continue to be based on the timing of the Resurrection during Passover. Once Jewish leaders determined the date of Passover each year, Christian leaders could set the date for Easter by figuring three days after Passover. Following this schedule would have meant that Easter would be a different day of the week each year, only falling on a Sunday once in awhile.
New clothes have long been associated with the idea of newness and a fresh beginning. The familiar custom of having new clothes for Easter probably began with early Christians wearing new white robes for baptism during Easter Vigil services. Later, the custom expanded to everyone wearing new clothes in celebration of his or her new life in Christ.
Vaisakhi or Baisakhi is an ancient harvest festival celebrated in the Punjab region by all Punjabis regardless of their religion. For people of Punjab, especially the Sikhs, Vaisakhi is a very significant day. Vaisakhi is also celebrated as Sikh New Year based on Hindu Solar calendar.
For the Sikh community, Vaisakhi is not only a harvest festival but also a religious festival. Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi as the day of the formation of the Khalsa (the pure one).
On Vaisakhi day, in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Sikh Guru, established the Khalsa. He eliminated the difference between higher and lower caste communities and declared that all human beings are equal. Later the Guru tradition in Sikhism was put to an end and Guru Granth Sahib was declared as eternal guide and Holy Book of Sikhism.
Vaisakhi is also spelled as Visakhi, Vaishakhi and Baisakhi.
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956 C.E.) popularly known as Babasaheb, was an Indian lawyer, politician and academic. As independent India’s first law minister, he was the principal architect of the Constitution of India. He was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, in 1990.
Bhimrao Ambedkar was born to Bhimabai and Ramji on 14 April 1891 in Mhow Army Cantonment, Central Provinces (Madhya Pradesh). Ambedkar’s father was a Subedar in the Indian Army and after his retirement in 1894, the family moved to Satara, also in Central Provinces. Shortly after this, Bhimrao’s mother passed away. Four years later, his father remarried and the family shifted to Bombay. In 1906, 15 year old Bhimrao married Ramabai, a 9 year old girl. His father Ramji Sakpal died in Bombay, in 1912.
He cleared his matriculation in 1908 from Elphinstone High School. In 1908, Ambedkar got the opportunity to study at the Elphinstone College and obtained his graduate degree in Economics and Political Science in the year 1912 from Bombay University. Besides clearing all the exams successfully Ambedkar also obtained a scholarship of twenty five rupees a month from the Gaekwad ruler of Baroda, Sahyaji Rao III. Ambedkar decided to use the money for higher studies in the USA. He enrolled in the Columbia University in New York City to study Economics. He completed his Master’s degree in June 1915 after successfully completing his thesis titled ‘Ancient Indian Commerce’.
After returning to India in 1924, Dr Ambedkar decided to launch an active movement against untouchability. In 1924, he founded the Bahishkrut Hitkaraini Sabha, aimed at uprooting caste system in India. The organisation ran free schools and libraries for all age groups. Dr Ambedkar took the grievances of the Dalits to court, and brought them justice. Over the following years, Dr Ambedkar organised marches demanding Dalit’s rights to drinking water from public resources, and their right to enter temples.
Post-independence, Dr Ambedkar was invited by Congress to serve as the nation’s first Law Minister, which he accepted. He was soon appointed the Chairman of the Drafting Committee formed to write India’s new Constitution. He brought the reservation law in India for the lower caste communities.
During the fifties, Dr Ambedkar drifted away from politics. His writings at this stage seem to be addressing the moral void Mahatma’s assassination had created in the Indian politics. A believer of non-violence, satyagraha, and dhamma, Dr Ambedkar was deeply moved by the ideas of Buddhism. He travelled to Sri Lanka and Rangoon to attend conferences of the World Fellowship of Buddhists. He finished his final book The Buddha and His Dhamma (1956), which was published posthumously. As promised, he converted to Buddhism after writing the book. He died in his sleep on December 6, 1956 at his home in Delhi.