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.
Dashami Tithi of Ashwin Shukla Paksha is celebrated as Sri Madhva Jayanti or Madhvacharya Jayanthi. Sri Madhvacharya (1238-1317 C.E.) was born on the auspicious day of Vijaya Dashami (which is also known as Dussehra) in 1238 C.E. at Pajaka, a tiny hamlet near Udupi.
His father, Madhyageha Bhatta, was a pious brahmin belonging to Bhagavata Sampradaya and a pauranic by profession. He was happy and proud in no ordinary degree in his son whom he christened Vasudeva as Sri Madhvacharya was born at a late period in his father’s life after constant prayer. Sri Madhvacharya took sanyasa under Achutaprekshacharya in Udipi. Achutaprekshacharya was somewhat displeased with his new disciple as the philosophy of that school, current Adwaita school of thought, did not appeal to the new Sanyasi but he was very much impressed with the earnestness, and scholarship of his disciple whom he had named as Purnaprajna. Purnaprajna thereupon began to preach his own philosophy according to which the world is real, the individual souls are different from Brahman, and Vishnu is the Highest Entity in the universe. To propagate his faith, he undertook a pilgrimage to various shrines in South India and also utilized this opportunity for spreading his views on the basic texts of Vedanta. Immediately after he returned from the pilgrimage Purnaprajna wrote the commentary on Bhagavad Gita. The Gita Bhashya (commentary on the Gita ) is the first work of the Acharya. He commenced a pilgrimage to the North where he touched Benares, Allahabad, Dwaraka, Delhi and other places and reached the famous Badrikshetra. He composed the Brahmasutra Bhashya at this place and went further North alone, all by himself, to the depths of Himalayas, where Sri Vedavyasa is said to have his abode.
After his return to Udupi, Madhvacharya began to write various works establishing the new system of philosophy which came to be called Dwaita Siddhanta. The Acharya founded the famous Sri Krishna temple at Udupi and established eight mutts.
During his second tour to the North India again, Madhvacharya met Jalaluddin Khilji at Delhi and is said to have conversed with him in Urdu. Also during his second pilgrimage to Badari he performed many miracles of various types like walking on the water of the river Ganges etc. At Udupi his stolen manuscripts by rival scholars were recovered miraculously. The various miracles attributed to him in the traditional biography (the Madhavavijaya) prove that the Acharya was a giant both physically and intellectually as also in yogic powers.
Sri Madhvacharya has written thirty-seven works like bhasyas on all Upanishads, Bhagavadgitabhasya, Brahmasutrabhasya, Dvadasastotra and more. The followers of Madhvacharya don’t document his death but his departure to Badri at the age of 79 in 1317 C.E. According to followers he felt that he had finished his work, Madhvacharya disappeared from his seat mysteriously, while teaching the Attareya Upanishad to his disciples, leaving a big heap of flowers on it. The day on which Sri Madhvacharya proceeded to Badri is celebrated as Madhva Navami which is also known as disappearance day of Madhva Acharya by his disciples.
Madhvacharya was the proponent of Dvaita Vedanta. It regards Brahman and individual souls as eternal and mutually separate entities. Hence the philosophy of Dvaita Vedanta is based on principles of dualism which is opposite to philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and Vishishta Advaita Vedanta. The philosophy of Dvaita Vedanta is also known as Tattvavada – the Philosophy of Reality. It identifies God with Brahman completely and in turns with Vishnu or his various incarnations.
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.
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.
Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, is celebrated at the end of Ashwin month with its festivities continuing till the beginning of Kartika month, based on the auspicious Hindu calendar and is one of the most widely celebrated religious occasions across the world. On the day of Diwali, people gets up early in the morning and pay tribute to their ancestors and worship family gods. Being Amavasya day, people also perform Shradh for their ancestors. Traditionally, most Puja are performed after keeping a day long fast. Hence, the devotees of Goddess Lakshmi observe a day long fast on the day of Lakshmi Puja. The fast is broken after Lakshmi Puja in the evening.
Unlike most Indian festivals, the vivacious festival of Diwali is revelry continues for five days while some part of South India celebrates Diwali as a one day festival. The first day of Diwali festivities is known as Dhanteras, on which most of the business communities in India begin their financial year. Naraka Chaturdasi marks the second day of festivities and the third day is celebrated Diwali, also known as Deepawali or Deepavali which involves the worship of Goddess Laksmi and Lord Ganesha. On the fourth day, Govardhan Puja is performed, whereas the final day is known as Bhai Dooj and celebrates the love between a brother and sister.
The most popular tradition behind Diwali dictates that it marks the day on which the Hindu deity Lord Ram returned to his home city of Ayodhya after vanquishing the demon king Ravana. According to mythology, lights were lit all across the country to celebrate his return to rule. It is widely believed that Diwali is the day on which the Hindu goddess of prosperity, Lakshmi supposedly roams the Earth and blesses people with wealth and happiness. Another belief for Jainism, India’s sixth largest religion, is that this is the day on which the last of the 24 Thirthankaras (Great Teachers), Lord Mahavira attained ‘Nirvana’. Sikhs celebrate Diwali as the occasion on which their teacher Guru Hargobind Ji was released from the captivity of Mughal ruler Jahangir in Gwalior along with several Hindu kings.
Many communities especially Gujarati businessmen do Chopda Pujan during Diwali Puja. During Chopda Puja new account books are inaugurated in presence of Goddess Lakshmi to seek Her blessing for the next financial year. Diwali Puja is also known as Deepavali Puja and Lakshmi Ganesh Pujan.
The fourteenth (Chaturdashi) day of the dark fortnight of Ashwin, when Shri krishna returned home at dawn, after slaying Narkasur, is known as ‘Narak Chaturdashi‘ or ‘Kali Puja‘. Five days Diwali festivity starts on Dhantrayodashi and lasts on Bhaiya Dooj day. Abhyang Snan has been suggested on three days i.e. on Chaturdashi, Amavasya and Pratipada days during Diwali.
According to Hindu legend, this day commemorates the victory of Goddess Kali, Goddess Satyabhama and Shri Krishna over Narakasura the demon-king. Narakasura ruled the kingdom of Pradyoshapuram. Puranas have it that Naraka, son of Bhudevi, acquired immense power from a blessing given by Lord Brahma after a severe penance. Narakasura was a demon-king who had imprisoned 16,000 women which included the daughters of the Gods. He had also defeated the king of the Gods, Lord Indra and stolen the earrings from Aditi, the mother of the Gods. Goddess Kali, Goddess Satyabhama and Lord Krishna thus fought the battle with the demon and defeated him with Krishna’s Sudarshana Chakra and Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with Naraka’s blood.
Narak Chaturdashi is celebrated in a special way in Goa, where paper-made effigies stuffed with grass and firecrackers are burst at four in the morning. Men take scented oil baths, while the women perform aarti for them. A bitter berry called the Kareeta is crushed under the feet which symbolises the killing of Narakasura, and the removal of evil and ignorance.
A thorough Pre-Diwali cleaning is done throughout the house to welcome Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The literal meaning of ‘Kali Chaudas’ is dark and fourteenth, the day when Kali Puja or Shakti Puja is done. Kali Puja is usually celebrated in the eastern part of the country, where people pray for protection against spiritual, emotional and physical adversities. Gifts are exchanged and the atmosphere is filled with a mood of celebration and festivity. Different kinds of poha and sweets are prepared, offered to the God and enjoyed with family and friends.Diwali is usually celebrated on Narak Chaturdashi in south India, while others celebrate it on new moon night.
Abhyang Snan on Chaturdashi day, which is popularly known as Narak Chaturdashi, is the most significant one. It is believed that people, who do Abhyang Snan on this day, can avoid going to Narak. Narak Chaturdashi day is also known as Choti Diwali, Roop Chaturdashi and Roop Chaudas.
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964 C.E.) was the first Prime Minister of Independent India. He was born on November 14, 1889 in Allahabad, India. His father, Motilal Nehru, was a well-known eminent lawyer who belonged to Kashmiri Pundit’s community.
Nehru family was elitist in most of their practices and English was spoken and encouraged. His father, Motilal Nehru appointed English and Scottish teachers to supervise his children’s education at home under private tutors. At the age of fifteen, he went to England and after two years at Harrow, joined Cambridge University to obtain a degree in natural sciences. After spending two years at the Inner Temple, London, he qualified as a barrister and studied subjects like literature, politics, economics, and history. He returned to India in 1912 and plunged straight into politics. In 1912, he attended the Bankipore Congress as a delegate, and became Secretary of the Home Rule League, Allahabad in 1919. In 1916 he had his first meeting with Mahatma Gandhi and felt immensely inspired by him. In 1916 Nehru married to Kamala Kaul, known as Kamla Nehru and his only daughter Indira was born a year later in 1917. He was elected as the president of the Allahabad municipal corporation in 1920. He organised the first Kisan March in Pratapgarh District of Uttar Pradesh in 1920. He was twice imprisoned in connection with the Non-Cooperation Movement of 1920-22. During the Non-Cooperation movement of 1921, Kamala played a vital role by organizing groups of women and picketing shops selling foreign cloth and liquor in Allahabad.
Pt. Nehru became the General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee in September 1923. He toured Italy, Switzerland, England, Belgium, Germany and Russia in 1926. In Belgium, he attended the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities in Brussels as an official delegate of the Indian National Congress. He also attended the tenth anniversary celebrations of the October Socialist Revolution in Moscow in 1927. While leading a procession against the Simon commission, he was lathi-charged in Lucknow in 1928. During the Guwahati Session of the Congress in 1928, Mahatma Gandhi announced that the Congress would launch a massive movement if the British did not grant dominion status to India within the next two years. It was believed that under the pressure of Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose, the deadline was reduced to one year. Jawaharlal Nehru criticized the famous “Nehru Report” prepared by his father Motilal Nehru in 1928 that favored the concept of a “dominion status for India within the British rule”. In 1929, Pt. Nehru was elected President of the Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress, where complete independence for the country was adopted as the goal. He was imprisoned several times during 1930-35 in connection with the Salt Satyagraha and other movements launched by the Congress. He completed his ‘Autobiography’ in Almora Jail on February 14, 1935. After release, he flew to Switzerland to see his ailing wife and visited London in February-March, 1936. He also visited Spain in July 1938, when the country was in the throws of Civil War. Just before the court-break of the Second World War, he visited China too.
On October 31, 1940 Pt. Nehru was arrested for offering individual Satyagraha to protest against India’s forced participation in war. He was released along with the other leaders in December 1941. On August 7, 1942 Pt. Nehru moved the historic ‘Quit India’ resolution at the A.I.C.C. session in Bombay. On August 8,1942 he was arrested along with other leaders and taken to Ahmednagar Fort. This was his longest and also his last detention. In all, he suffered imprisonment nine times. Post his release, he threw himself into a series of rigorous discussions and negotiations with the British Government that ultimately led to attainment of freedom in 1947.
On August 15, 1947, a free India was born. Nehru was elected as the first Prime Minister of independent India. He was the first PM to hoist the national flag and make his iconic speech “Tryst with Destiny” from the ramparts of the Lal Quila (Red Fort). He implemented a number of socio-economic reforms and paved the way for rapid industrialization. In the year 1949, Jawaharlal Nehru made his first visit to the United States, seeking a solution to India’s urgent food shortage. In 1951, Jawaharlal Nehru launched the country’s “First Five-Year Plan” emphasizing on the increase in the agricultural output. On October 20, 1962, the People’s Liberation Army attacked India simultaneously from two disputed fronts. They captured Rezang la in Chushul and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. A month into the armed confrontation, the Chinese declared a ceasefire on November 20, 1962 but the deep sense of mistrust strained the political relations between the two country ever since. In 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru suffered a stroke and a heart attack. On 27 May 1964, Nehru passed away. Nehru was cremated at the Shantivana on the banks of the Yamuna River, Delhi.
Pandit Nehru was adored by children who fondly called him Chacha Nehru. He had immense love for children and his birthday, November 14, is celebrated as Children’s day in India. Children’s Day is also known as Bal Divas. He paved way for India’s educational exaltation by envisioning the country’s top tier institutions like Indian Institute of Technology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and India’s first space program. Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru was a great writer and the poet. The Discovery of India and Glimpses of World History are some of his well-known books. Shyam Benegal made this television series ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’ based on Nehru’s famous book, Discovery of India.
Most of the time Govardhan Puja day falls next day after Diwali Puja in the month of Kartik and it is celebrated as the day when Lord Krishna defeated God Indra. Sometimes there might be one day gap between Diwali and Govardhan Puja. Gowardhan Puja is also known as Annakut Puja. On this day food made of cereals like wheat, rice, curry made of gram flour and leafy vegetables is cooked and offered to Lord Krishna.
The most popular legend that allude to the origin of Govardhan Puja, states that Govardhan was a small hillock that was located near Mathura at a place called Braj. According to the Vishnu Puraan, It was a common practice in Gokul to do Indra Puja year on year to please Indra who was believed to be the god of rains but Lord Krishna had to change such type of opinions of the people of Gokul. Lord Krishna told the people that it wasn’t Indra but Govardhan Parvat or Annakut hill that brought the rains and therefore the latter should be worshipped and prayed to. Govardhan Parbat (Govardhan hill) is the real God who is nurturing and saving your lives from drastic conditions by giving you food and shelter. When the people followed this ordinance, Lord Indira’s wrath on the people resulted in heavy rains. Lord Krishna then saved the people of Gokul by first praying to Govardhan Parvat and then lifting it on his little finger under which the people took shelter from the rains.
The main aspect of the puja is to install the Govardhan hill. For this, people make the image of Govardhan hill either in cow dung or mud. People also use some crafty fixtures and art work to simulate the eyes, lips and face of Lord Krishna on the Govardhan image. Fixing a peacock feather on it is the highlight. The other items used for the puja include two sugarcane sticks, fresh milk, yoghurt, batasha, peda and ladoos in addition to roll and chawal. Devotee uses a few earthen lamps, oil, wicks and gives Dakshina.
In Maharashtra the same day is celebrated as Bali Pratipada or Bali Padva. The day commemorates victory of Vamana, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, over King Bali and subsequent pushing of Bali to Patal Lok (the underworld). It is believed that due to boon given by Lord Vamana, Asura King Bali visits the Prithvi Lok from the Patala Lok on this day. It is also marks the day King Vikramaditya was coroneted and is known as the Vikram Samvat.
The fifth or the last day of Diwali‘s five day long celebration is Bhaiya Dooj, popularly known as Bhai Duj. It falls on the second day after the new moon in the month of Kartik. On Bhaiya Dooj, sisters pray for their brothers to have long and happy lives by performing Tika ceremony and brothers offer gifts to their sisters. Bhaiya Dooj is also known as Bhau Beej and Bhathru Dwithiya. It is also celebrated as “Yama Dwitiya” in the southern parts of India.
There are few Hindu mythological based stories related to the origin of this auspicious day. A legend revolves around the story of Yama, the God of Death and his sister Yamuna. Long long ago, Surya, the sun God, was married to a beautiful princess called Sanjna (also pronounced as Sangya) and they got twins. The twins were christened Yama, and Varni or Yamuna. After some time, Sanjna was unable to bear the brilliance of her husband and decided to go back to earth by leaving her shadow, Chaya (exact replica) behind so that it would appear to Surya that she was still there. Chaya turned out to be a cruel stepmother and was very unkind to the twins. She soon gave birth to her own children and convinced Surya to drive out Yama and Varni from the heavens. Varni fell to earth and became the river Yamuna, and Yama went to the underworld (hell) and became the Lord of Death. When many years passed, Varni married a handsome prince and was happy in her life but she missed her brother. Yama, too, missed his sister and decided one day to visit her. One day when Yama decided to visit her, overjoyed Varni prepared a great feast in his honor. Yama, too, was delighted by his sister’s loving welcome and they spent a pleasant evening in each other’s company, after their long period of separation. When it was time for Yama to leave, he requested his sister to ask for something but she denied. But after Yama’s insist, she asked that all brothers should remember their sisters on this day and should visit them if they could, and all sisters should pray for the happiness of their brothers. Yama proclaimed that it would be and he would grant a long and healthy life to all brothers who wwould give their sisters a loving gift on that day!
According to the another legend, Lord Krishna visited his sister, Subhadra after killing demon Narkasur. Her sister gave a warm welcome to him and made the occasion really special through flowers and sweets. Subhadra also applied the ceremonial “tilak” on the forehead of her brother, Krishna on this auspicious day of “Bhai Dooj”.
Traditionally, Bhai dooj is applicable for brothers of married women. Apart from strengthening the bond, it gives the chance for the brother to visit and check on the conditions of his sister at her husband’s place.
Chhath puja is a festival dedicated to the Sun God, Surya and Chhathi Maiya, Usha (wife of Surya). It is celebrated on the sixth day of the month of Kartik (October-November) after Diwali. Rituals span over four days and devotees go without food and water. Chhath is mainly characterized by riverside rituals in which Sun God or Surya is worshiped, giving it the name of ‘Suryasasthi‘. Chhath Puja is also known as Surya Shashti, Chhathi and Dala Chhath. The Sun God, Surya, the god of energy and of the life-force, is worshiped during the Chhath Puja to promote well-being, prosperity and progress. The festival is native to Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh and is also celebrated in Nepal.
The epic Ramayana refers that the festival being celebrated by Sita after Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya and epic Mahabharta refers for Draupadi also. It has also Vedic roots in which Goddesses Usha is mentioned and hence, several mantras are dedicated to her. It is also folk belief that puja was firstly started by Surya Putra Karn.
The first day is known as ‘Nahay khay’ or ‘Arwa Arwain’ when devotees take a dip in a river or a pond in the morning and purifies the surroundings of house with Ganga Jal or same water. Devotees have only one meal on this day i.e. Kaddu-bhat. Kaddu-bhat is cooked in the bronze or soil utensils by using mango wood fire over soil stove.
Second day is known as ‘Lohanda and Kharna’, when women observe fast for the whole day, breaking it only after worship of the sun God with Rasiao-kheer, puris and fruits at the time of sunset. After breaking fast, there begins a 36-hour long fast again, during which they are not even allowed a sip of water.
Third Day of Chhath Puja is known as ‘Sanjhiya Arghya’. The devotees offer Sanjhiya Arghya at the riverside (bank of river) and after that they wore turmeric colour saree. In the night, the devotee celebrates the vibrant event of filling Kosi, known as Kosia Bharai, by lighting clay diyas under the five sugarcane stick with folk song of Chhathi Maiya. This sugarcane stick represents the Panchatattva i.e. Earth, Air, water, fire and Space.
On the fourth and final day of Chhath Puja, devotees along with family and friends gather around the same river or pond and offer ‘Usha arghya’ (morning offerings), also known as Bihaniya Aragh, to the rising sun God. It is only after this puja that the worshippers break their fast with Chhath Puja Prasad.