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Festivals & Celebration


 

Festivals for the year 2017

 

JANUARY

Makar Sankaranti / Pongal / Lohri

Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious days for the Hindus, and is celebrated in almost all parts of the country in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion, fervor & gaiety. The festival of Makar Sankrant traditionally coincides with the beginning of the Sun’s northward journey (the Uttarayan) when it enters the sign of Makar (the Capricorn). It falls on the 14th of January every year according to the Solar Calendar. Lakhs of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar & Prayag and pray to Lord Sun.

Celebration - It is celebrated with pomp in southern parts of the country as Pongal, and in Punjab is celebrated as Lohri & Maghi. Rajasthan & Gujarati not only look reverentially up to the sun, but also offer thousands of their colorful oblations in the form of beautiful kites all over the skyline. The Festival introduces kite enthusiasts world-wide to the intriguing beauty and cultural diversity of India. Click here to learn more about Pongal

FEBRUARY

Basant Panchami

During the ancient period when Vasant Panchami was more oriented toward Kamadeva, dancing girls, dhol players, and other celebrants would come to the royal Bakshi’s palace to create an informal durbar with the royals. Specially made Vasanti clothes would be worn by the dancing girls and younger royal ladies, consisting of a skirt, blouse, and pink or saffron sari with tiny red square or circular dots. This clothing would be further embellished with gold and silver borders and brocade work. On the celebration day the dancing girls would collect flowers and mango leaves (a reference to one of the love-arrows of Kama Dev) from the garden of the Bakshi’s palace. The flowers and mangoes were arranged in brass vessels and the informal durbar would be set up. The occasion was marked by the singing of various ragas usually on the theme of love (especially songs involving Krishna and Radha or the gopies of Brij Bhoomi). At the conclusion of the celebration, the flowers would be sprinkled with red gulal and the dancing girls would apply it to their cheeks. They were then gifted a sum of money by the royal ladies. Today this is not practiced, and the festival is oriented toward Sarasvati, however Kamadeva remains an important figure as feasts are held in his honor during Vasant Panchami, and the theme of love remains an important part of the festival with this being the most popular day of the year for weddings in some areas.

The day before Vasant Panchami in Nepal, Sarasvati’s temples are filled with food so that she can join the celebrants in the traditional feasting the following morning. In temples and educational institutions, statues of Sarasvati are dressed in yellow and worshiped. Most educational institutions arrange special prayers or pujas in the morning to seek blessing of the Goddess. Poetic and musical gatherings are held and children are initiated to learn the alphabet and are often taught to write their first words. This ritual of initiating education to children is known as Akshar-Abhyasam or Vidya-Arambham/Praasana, one of the famous rituals of Vasant Panchami. Older students clean their pens and inkwells but abstain from reading or writing on this day.  In Bengal, idols of Saraswati are taken on procession and immersed in the holy Ganga.

The color yellow plays an important role in Vasant Panchami as it is related to the bloom of mustard flowers during this period. Celebrants usually wear yellow garments, Saraswati is worshiped in a yellow dress, and sweet saffron rice and yellow sweets are consumed within the families.

Maha-shivratri

Maha Shivratri is associated with the marriage of Shiva and Shakti. The legends signify that this day is the favorite of Lord Shiva and also throws light on his greatness and the supremacy of Lord Shiva over all other Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Maha Shivaratri also celebrates the night when Lord Shiva performed the ‘Tandava’, the cosmic dance.

According to another legend of Samudra manthan, Shiva saved the world from the disastrous effects of a poison that emerged as a byproduct of the churning of the sea (Samudra manthan), by consuming the whole of the poison. Shiva could arrest the poison in his throat by his Yogic powers and it didn’t go down his throat. His neck turned blue due to the effect of the poison on his throat and henceforth he is also known as Neela Kantha or The Blue Throated.

According to the Shiva Purana, the Mahashivaratri worship must incorporate six items:

  • Bathing the Shiva Linga with water, milk and honey. Wood, apple or bel leaves are added to, which represents purification of the soul;
  • Vermilion paste is applied to the Shiva Linga after bathing it. This represents virtue;
  • Offering of fruits, which is conducive to longevity and gratification of desires;
  • Burning incense, yielding wealth;
  • The lighting of the lamp which is conducive to the attainment of knowledge;
  • And betel leaves marking satisfaction with worldly pleasures.

MARCH

Holi

Holi is a spring festival also known as the festival of colors or the festival of love.  It is an ancient Hindu religious festival which has become popular with non-Hindus in many parts of South Asia, as well as people of other communities outside Asia.

It is primarily observed in India, Nepal, and other regions of the world with significant populations of Hindus or people of Indian origin. The festival has, in recent times, spread to parts of Europe and North America as a spring celebration of love, frolic, and colors.

Holi celebrations start with a Holika bonfire on the night before Holi where people gather, sing and dance. The next morning is a free-for-all carnival of colors, where participants play, chase and color each other with dry powder and colored water, with some carrying water guns and colored water-filled balloons for their water fight. Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. The frolic and fight with colors occurs in the open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings. Groups carry drums and musical instruments, go from place to place, sing and dance. People move and visit family, friends and foes, first play with colors on each other, laugh and chit-chat, then share Holi delicacies, food and drinks. Some drinks are intoxicating. For example, Bhang, an intoxicating ingredient made from cannabis leaves, is mixed into drinks and sweets and consumed by many. In the evening, after sobering up, people dress up, visit friends and family.

Holi is celebrated at the approach of vernal equinox, on the Phalguna Purnima (Full Moon). The festival date varies every year, per the Hindu calendar, and typically comes in March, sometimes February in the Gregorian calendar. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair ruptured relationships.

Ugadi

Ugadi is the New Year’s Day for the people of the Kannada and Telugu communities in India. It falls on a different day every year because the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar calendar.

Preparations for the festival begin a week ahead. Houses are given a thorough wash. Shopping for new clothes and buying other items that go with the requirements of the festival are done with a lot of excitement.

On Ugadi Day, people wake up before the break of dawn and take a head bath after which they decorate the entrance of their houses with fresh mango leaves. The significance of tying mango leaves relates to a legend. It is said that Kartik (or Subramanya or Kumara Swamy) and Ganesha, the two sons of Lord Siva and Parvathi were very fond of mangoes. As the legend goes Kartik exhorted people to tie green mango leaves to the doorway signifying a good crop and general well-being. People perform the ritualistic worship to God invoking his blessings before they start off with the new year. They pray for their health, wealth and prosperity and success in business too.Ugadi is also the most auspicious time to start new ventures.

 

APRIL

Ramanavami

Ramanavami also known as Sri Rama Navami is a Hindu festival, celebrating the birth of the god Rama to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya in Ayodhya. Rama, the 7th avatar of Vishnu, is the oldest known god having human form.  The holy day falls in the Shukla Paksha on the Navami, the ninth day of the month of Chaitra in the Hindu calendar. Thus it is also known as Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami, and marks the end of the nine-day Chaitra-Navaratri (Vasanta Navaratri) celebrations. Rama navami is one of the most important Hindu festivals.

At some places the festival lasts the whole nine days of the Navaratri, thus the period is called ‘Sri Rama Navaratra’. It is marked by continuous recitals, Akhand Paath, mostly of the Ramacharitamanas, organized several days in advance to culminate on this day, with elaborate bhajan, kirtan and distribution of prasad after the puja and aarti. Images of the infant Rama are placed on cradles and rocked by devotees. Community meals are also organized. Since Rama is believed to have been born at noon, temples and family shrines are elaborately decorated and traditional prayers are chanted together by the family in the morning. Also, at temples, special havans are organized, along with Vedic chanting of mantras and offerings of fruits and flowers. Many followers mark this day by vrata (fasting) through the day followed by feasting in the evening, or at the culmination of celebrations. In South India, in Bhadrachalam the day is also celebrated as the wedding anniversary of Rama and his consort Sita. Sitarama Kalyanam, the ceremonial wedding ceremony of the divine couple is held at temples throughout the south region, with great fanfare and accompanied by group chanting of name of Rama.

The important celebrations on this day take place at Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh) Sita Samahit Sthal (Sitamarhi) (Bihar), Bhadrachalam (Andhra Pradesh) and Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu), thronged by thousands of devotees. Rathayatras, the chariot processions, also known as Shobha yatras of Rama, Sita, his brother Lakshmana and Hanuman, are taken out at several places, including Ayodhya where thousands of people take a dip in the sacred river Sarayu

JUNE

Guru Purnima

Guru Purnima is a Hindu festival dedicated to spiritual and academic teachers. This festival traditionally celebrated by Hindus and Buddhists, to thank their teachers. It is marked by ritualistic respect to the Guru, Guru Puja. The Guru Principle is a thousand times more active on the day of Gurupournima than on any other day. The word Guru is derived from two words, ‘Gu’ and ‘Ru’. The Sanskrit root “Gu” means darkness or ignorance. “Ru” denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore one who removes darkness of our ignorance is a Guru. Gurus are believed by many to be the most necessary part of lives. On this day, disciples offer puja (worship) or pay respect to their Guru (Spiritual Guide). It falls on the day of full moon, Purnima, in the month of Ashadh (June–July) of the Shaka Samvat, Indian national calendar and Hindu calendar.

In addition to having religious importance, this festival has great importance for Indian academics and scholars. Indian academics celebrate this day by thanking their teachers as well as remembering past teachers and scholars.

Traditionally the festival is celebrated by Buddhists in honor of the lord Buddha who gave His first sermon on this day at Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India. Hindus celebrate it in honor of the great sage Vyasa, who is seen as one of the greatest gurus in ancient Hindu traditions and a symbol of the Guru-shishya tradition. Vyasa was not only believed to have been born on this day, but also to have started writing the Brahma Sutras on ashadha sudha padyami, which ends on this day. Their recitations are a dedication to him, and are organized on this day, which is also known as Vyasa Purnima. The festival is common to all spiritual traditions in Hinduism, where it is an expression of gratitude toward the teacher by his/her disciple. Hindu ascetics and wandering monks (sanyasis), observe this day by offering puja to the Guru, during the Chaturmas, a four-month period during the rainy season, when they choose seclusion and stay at one chosen place; some also give discourses to the local public. Students of Indian classical music, which also follows the Guru shishya parampara, celebrate this holy festival around the world.

Ramadan

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar; Muslims worldwide observe this as a month of fasting. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The month lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon, according to numerous biographical accounts compiled in the hadiths.

The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ramia or ar-rama,which means scorching heat or dryness.[9] Fasting is fardh (“obligatory”) for adult Muslims, except those who are suffering from an illness, travelling, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or going through menstrual bleeding. Fasting the month of Ramadan was made obligatory (wājib) during the month of Sha’aban, in the second year after the Muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina.

While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations; in some interpretations Muslims also refrain from other behavior which could be perceived as sinful such as swearing, engaging in disagreements, listening to music and procrastination. Food and drink is served daily, before sunrise and after sunset. According to Islam, the thawab (rewards) of fasting are many, but in this month they are believed to be multiplied. Fasting for Muslims during Ramadan typically includes the increased offering of salat (prayers) and recitation of the Quran.

Id-Ul-Fitir

Also called Feast of Breaking the Fast, the Sugar Feast, Bayram (Bajram), the Sweet Festival and the Lesser Eid, is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting (sawm). The religious Eid is a single day during which Muslims are not permitted to fast. The holiday celebrates the conclusion of the 29 or 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting during the entire month of Ramadan. The day of Eid, therefore, falls on the first day of the month of Shawwal. This is a day when Muslims around the world show a common goal of unity. The date for the start of any lunar Hijri month varies based on the observation of new moon by local religious authorities, so the exact day of celebration varies by locality. However, in most countries, it is generally celebrated on the same day as Saudi Arabia.

Eid al-Fitr has a particular Salat (Islamic prayer) consisting of two Rakats (units) and generally offered in an open field or large hall. It may be performed only in congregation (Jama’at) and, has an additional extra sixTakbirs (rising of the hands to the ears while saying “Allāhu Akbar”, literally “God is greatest”), three of them in the beginning of the first raka’ah and three of them just before Ruku’ in the second raka’ah in the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam. Other Sunni schools usually have twelve Takbirs, seven in the first, and five at the beginning of the second raka’ah. This Eid al-Fitr salat is, depending on which juristic opinion is followed, Fard(obligatory), Mustahabb (strongly recommended, just short of obligatory) or mandoob (preferable).

Muslims believe that they are commanded by God, as mentioned in the Quran, to continue their fast until the last day of Ramadan and pay the Zakat and fitra before offering the Eid prayers.

Nag Panchami

Nag Panchami is a traditional worship of snakes or serpents observed by Hindus throughout India and also in Nepal. The worship is offered on the fifth day of bright half of Lunar month of Shravan (July/August), according to the Hindu calendar. The abode of snakes is believed to be patal lok, (the seven realms of the universe located below the earth and lowest of them is also called Naga-loka, the region of the Nagas, as part of the creation force and their blessings are sought for the welfare of the family. Serpent deity made of silver, stone or wood or the painting of snakes on the wall are given a bath with milk and then revered.

According to Hindu puranic literature, Kashyapa, son of Lord Brahma, the creator had four consorts and the third wife was Kadroo who belonged to the Naga race of the Pitru Loka and she gave birth to the Nagas; among the other three, the first wife gave birth to Devas, the second to Garuda and the fourth to Daityas.

In the Mahabharata epic story, Astika, the Brahmin son of Jaratkarus, who stopped the Sarpa Satra of Janamejaya, king of the Kuru empire which lasted for 12 years is well documented. This yagna was performed by Janamejaya to decimate the race of all snakes, to avenge for the death of his father Parikshit due to snake bite of Takshaka, the king of snakes. The day that the yagna (fire sacrifice) was stopped, due to the intervention of the Astika, was on the Shukla Paksha Panchami day in the month of Shravan when Takshaka, the king of snakes and his remaining race at that time were saved from decimation by the Sarpa Satra yagna. Since that day, the festival is observed as Nag Panchami.

 

AUGUST

Raksha-Bandhan

Raksha Bandhan is a Hindu festival that celebrates the love and duty between brothers and sisters; the festival is also popularly used to celebrate any brother-sister like loving protective relationship between men and women who are relatives or biologically unrelated. It is called Rakhi Purnima, or simply Rakhi, in many parts of India. The festival is observed by Hindus, Jains, and many Sikhs.  Raksha Bandhan is primarily observed in India, Mauritius and parts of Nepal. It is also celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs in parts of Pakistan, and by some people of Indian origin around the world.

Raksha Bandhan is an ancient festival, and has many myths and historic legends linked to it. For example, the Rajput queens practiced the custom of sending rakhi threads to neighboring rulers as token of brotherhood. On Raksha Bandhan, sisters tie a rakhi (sacred thread) on her brother’s wrist. This symbolizes the sister’s love and prayers for her brother’s well-being, and the brother’s lifelong vow to protect her. The festival falls on the full moon day (Shravan Poornima) of the Shravan month of the Hindu lunisolar calendar.

Krishna Janmashtami

Krishna Janmashtami, also known as KrishnashtamiSaatam AathamGokulashtamiAshtami RohiniSrikrishna JayantiSree Jayanti or sometimes merely as Janmashtami, is an annual commemoration of the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. The festival is celebrated on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) of the month of Shraavana (August–September) in the Hindu calendar. Rasa lila, dramatic enactments of the life of Krishna, are a special feature in regions of Mathura and Vrindavan, and regions following Vaishnavism in Manipur. While the Rasa lila re-creates the flirtatious aspects of Krishna’s youthful days, the Dahi Handi celebrate God’s playful and mischievous side, where teams of young men form human towers to reach a high-hanging pot of butter and break it. This tradition, also known as uriadi, is a major event in Tamil Nadu on Gokulashtami. Krishna Janmashtami is followed by the festival Nandotsav, which celebrates the occasion when Nanda Baba distributed gifts to the community in honor of the birth.

Krishna was the 8th son of Devaki and Vasudeva. Based on scriptural details and astrological calculations, the date of Krishna’s birth, known as Janmashtami, is 19 July 3228 BCE and he lived until 3102 BCE. Krishna belonged to the Vrishni clan of Yadavas from Mathura, and was the eighth son born to the princess Devaki and her husband Vasudeva.

Mathura (in present day Mathura district, Uttar Pradesh) was the capital of the Yadavas, to which Krishna’s parents Vasudeva and Devaki belonged. King Kansa, Devaki’s brother, had ascended the throne by imprisoning his father, King Ugrasena. Afraid of a prophecy that predicted his death at the hands of Devaki’s eighth son, Kansa had the couple locked in a prison cell. After Kansa killed the first six children, and Devaki’s apparent miscarriage of the seventh (which was actually a secret transfer of the infant to Rohini as Balarama), Krishna was born.

Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesha Chaturthi is the Hindu festival celebrated on the birthday (rebirth) of the lord Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati.

It is believed that Lord Ganesh bestows his presence on earth for all his devotees during this festival. It is the day when Ganesha was born. Ganesha is widely worshiped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune and traditionally invoked at the beginning of any new venture or at the start of travel. The festival, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi (“festival of Ganesha”) is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). The date usually falls between 19 August and 20 September. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Anant Chaturdashi (fourteenth day of the waxing moon period).

During these 10 days, there are traditions and rituals that people perform during the Ganesh Chaturthi Hindu festival. People begin preparing months in advance by making check lists, selecting eco-friendly idols, reading up yummy recipes and thinking of innovating decoration ideas to celebrate the festival in an ostentatious manner. Hindus also follow the rituals in Bringing Home the Ganesha Idol, many of whom choose to perform the Ganesh Staphna (Installation of the Idol) by themselves including performing the Ganesh Visarjan (Immersion).

 

SEPTEMBER

Onam

Onam is a festival celebrated by the people of Kerala, India. It is also the state festival of Kerala with State holidays on 4 days starting from Onam Eve (Uthradom) to the 3rd Onam Day. Onam Festival falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam (Aug – Sep) and marks the commemoration of Vamana avatara of Vishnu and the subsequent homecoming of mythical King Mahabali. Onam is reminiscent of Kerala’s agrarian past, as it is considered to be a harvest festival. The festival falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam (Aug – Sep) and marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali who Malayalees consider as their King. In Kerala, it is the festival celebrated with most number of cultural elements such as Vallam Kali, Pulikkali, Pookkalam, Onatthappan, Thumbi Thullal, Onavillu, Kazhchakkula, Onapottan, Atthachamayam etc.

Onam is an ancient festival which still survives in modern times. Kerala’s rice harvest festival and the Festival of Rain Flowers, which fall on the month of Chingam, celebrates the Ashura King Mahabali’s annual visit fromPatala (the underworld). Onam is unique since Mahabali has been revered by the people of Kerala since prehistory. The King is so much attached to his kingdom that it is believed that he comes annually from the nether world to see his people living happily. It is in honor of King Mahabali that Onam is celebrated. The deity Vamana, also called Onatthappan, is also revered during this time by installing a clay figure next to the floral carpet (Pookalam) .The birthday of Sri Padmanabhan, the presiding Deity of Thiruvananthapuram, is on the Thiruvonam day in the month of Chingam. Mahabali’s rule is considered the golden era of Kerala.

Navaratri begins

The beginning of spring and the beginning of autumn are considered to be important junctions of climatic and solar influences. These two periods are taken as sacred opportunities for the worship of the Divine Mother Durga. The dates of the festival are determined according to the lunar calendar. Navaratri represents a celebration of the Goddess Bamba, (the Power). Navaratri or Navadurga Parva happens to be the most auspicious and unique period of devotional sadhanas and worship of Shakti (the sublime, ultimate, absolute creative energy) of the Divine conceptualized as the Mother Goddess-Durga, whose worship dates back to prehistoric times before the dawn of the Vedic age.

A whole chapter in the tenth mandal of the Rigveda addresses the devotional sadhanas of Shakti. The “Devi Sukta” and “Isha Sukta” of the Rigveda and “Ratri Sukta” of the Samveda similarly sing paeans of praise of sadhanas of Shakti. In fact, before the beginning of the legendary war between the Kauravas and Pandavas in the Mahabharata – a foundational Sanskrit epic in the Hindu tradition – Lord Krishna worshipped Durga, the Goddess of Shakti, for the victory of the Pandvas. Lord Brahma is cited in the Markandey Purana as mentioning to Rishi Markandey that the first incarnation of Shakti was as Shailputri. Further incarnations of the Divine Mother are: Brahmcharñi, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri in that order. These nine manifestations of Shakti, are worshipped as “Nava-Durga”. The fifth chapter of the Rudra Sanhita of Shiva Purana also vividly describes the various Divine Emanations of Durga. Since the Vedic Age of the Rishies, the devotional practices recommended during Navratri are primarily those of Gayatri Anushthana.

In the Vedic Age of the Indian Culture, the religious philosophy and devotional practices were focused towards true knowledge and ultimate realization of the supreme power of Gayatri (Bram Shakti). The Vedas were the basis of all streams of spirituality and science those days. Gayatri has been the source of the divine powers of the gods and non-goddesses in the heavens and their angelic manifestations and incarnations. Gayatri sadhana was also paramount in the higher level spiritual endeavors of the yogis and tapaswis. Gayatri Mantra was the core-focus of daily practice of sandhya-vandan (meditation and devotional worship) for everyone. As guided by the rishis, specific sadhanas and upasanas of the Gayatri Mantra were sincerely practiced during the festival period of Navaratri by every aspirant of spiritual enlightenment.

 

Durga Puja begins

Durga Puja “Worship of Durga”, also referred to as Durgotsavaor Sharadotsav is an annual Hindu festival in South Asia that celebrates worship of the Hindu goddess Durga. It refers to all the six days observed as MahalayaShashthiMaha SaptamiMaha AshtamiMaha Nabami and Vijayadashami. The dates of Durga Puja celebrations are set according to the traditional Hindu calendar and the fortnight corresponding to the festival is called Devi Paksha, “Fortnight of the Goddess”). Devi Paksha is preceded by Mahalaya, the last day of the previous fortnight Pitri Paksha, “Fortnight of the Forefathers”), and is ended on Kojagori Lokkhi Puja (“Worship of Goddess Lakshmi on Kojagori Full Moon Night”).

Durga Puja festival marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. Thus, Durga Puja festival epitomises the victory of Good over Evil.

Durga Puja is widely celebrated in the Indian states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur, Odisha, Tripura and West Bengal, where it is a five-day annual holiday. In West Bengal and Tripura, which has a majority of Bengali Hindus, it is the biggest festival of the year. Not only is it the biggest Hindu festival celebrated throughout the state, it is also the most significant socio-cultural event in Bengali Hindu society. Apart from eastern India, Durga Puja is also celebrated in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. Durga Puja is also celebrated as a major festival in Nepal where 91% is Hindu. It is also celebrated in Bangladesh where the 8% population is Hindu. Nowadays, many diaspora Bengali cultural organizations arrange for Durgotsab in countries such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Singapore and Kuwait, among others. In 2006, a grand Durga Puja ceremony was held in the Great Court of the British Museum.

Dusshera

Vijayadashami also known as Dasara, DashaharaDussehraDashain (in Nepal), Navratrior Durgotsav is one of the most important Hindu festivals celebrated in various forms, across Nepal, India and Bangladesh.

The name Dusshera is derived from Sanskrit Dasha-hara literally means The sun will not rise (Dasha (sun) and Hara (defeat)) referring to Lord Rama’s victory over the ten-headed demon king RavanaThe day also marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the demons Mahishasur. The name Dusshera is also derived from Sanskrit Dasha + Ahaha = Dasharahaha = Dasharaha. Ahaha means day . Example Aharnisha is derived from Ahaha+nisha. Goddess fought with evils for 9 nights and 10 days. The name Vijayadashami is also derived from the Sanskrit words “Vijaya-dashami” literally meaning the victory on the dashami (Dashami being the tenth lunar day of the Hindu calendar month). Diwali the festival of lights is celebrated twenty days after Dasara.

As the name suggests Vijayadashmi or Dusshera is celebrated on the tenth day of the month of Ashwin according to the Hindu lunisolar calendar which corresponds to September or October of the Gregorian calendar. The first nine days are celebrated as Maha Navratri or Sharada Navaratri (the most important Navaratri) and culminates on the tenth day as Dasara.

In India, the harvest season begins at this time and so the Mother Goddess is invoked to start the new harvest season and reactivate the vigor and fertility of the soil. This is done through religious performances and rituals which are thought to invoke cosmic forces that rejuvenate the soil. Many people of the Hindu faith observe through social gatherings and food offerings to the gods at home and in temples throughout India and Nepal.

 

OCTOBER

 

Karva Chauth

Women begin preparing for Karva Chauth a few days in advance, by buying cosmetics (shringar), traditional adornments or jewelry, and puja items, such as the Karva lamps, matthi, henna and the decorated puja thali (plate). Local bazaars take on a festive look as shopkeepers put their Karva Chauth related products on display. On the day of the fast, women from Punjab awake to eat and drink just before sunrise. In Uttar Pradesh, celebrants eat soot feni with milk in sugar on the eve of the festival. It is said that this helps them go without water the next day. In Punjab, sargi is an important part of this pre-dawn meal and always includes fenia. It is traditional for the sargi to be sent or given to the woman by her mother-in-law. If the mother-in-law lives with the woman, the pre-dawn meal is prepared by the mother-in-law.

The fast begins with dawn. Fasting women do not eat during the day, and some do not drink any water either. In traditional observances of the fast, the fasting woman does no housework. Women apply henna and other cosmetics to themselves and each other. The day passes in meeting friends and relatives. In some regions, it is customary to give and exchange painted clay pots filled with put bangles, ribbons, home-made candy, cosmetics and small cloth items (e.g., handkerchiefs). Since Karva Chauth follows soon after the Kharif crop harvest in the rural areas, it is a good time for community festivities and gift exchanges. Parents often send gifts to their married daughters and their children.

In the evening, a community women-only ceremony is held. Participants dress in fine clothing and wear jewellery and henna, and (in some regions) dress in the complete finery of their wedding dresses. The dresses (saris or shalwars) are frequently red, gold or orange, which are considered auspicious colors. In Uttar Pradesh, women wear saris or lehangas. The fasters sit in a circle with their puja thalis. Depending on region and community, a version of the story of Karva Chauth is narrated, with regular pauses. The storyteller is usually an older woman or a priest, if one is present. In the pauses, the Karva Chauth puja song is sung collectively the singers perform the feris (passing their thalis around in the circle).

Dhan Teras

On Dhan Teras, Lakshmi – the Goddess of wealth – is worshiped to provide prosperity and well-being. It is also the day for celebrating wealth, as the word ‘Dhan’ literally means wealth and ‘Tera’ comes from the date 13th (trayodashi in Sanskrit and Teras in Hindi). In the evening, the lamp is lit and Dhan-Lakshmi is welcomed into the house. Alpana or Rangoli designs are drawn on pathways including the goddess’ footprints to mark the arrival of Lakshmi. Aartis or devotional hymns are sung eulogizing Goddess Lakshmi and sweets and fruits are offered to her. People flock to the jewelers and buy gold or silver jewelry or utensils to venerate the occasion of Dhan Teras. Many wear new clothes and wear jewelry as they light the first lamp of Diwali while some engage in a game of gambling.

On the day of Dhan Teras, business premises are renovated and decorated. Entrances are made colorful with traditional motifs of Rangoli designs to welcome the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity. To indicate her long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. Lamps are kept burning all through the night.

Diwali

Diwali also known as the “festival of lights“, is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in autumn every year. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartik. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November.

Before Diwali night, people clean, renovate and decorate their homes.  On Diwali night, Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfits, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja typically to Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity. After puja (prayers), fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Diwali also marks a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated.

Diwali is an important festival for Hindus. The names of festive days as well as the rituals of Diwali vary significantly among Hindus, based on the region of India. In many parts of India, the festivities start with Dhan Teras, followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, Diwali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife-husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhau-beej dedicated to sister-brother bond on the fifth day. Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dusshera.

On the same night that Hindus celebrate Diwali, Jains celebrate a festival of lights to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira, and Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas.

Diwali is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji.

NOVEMBER

Kartik Poornima

Tripuri Poornima or Tripurari Poornima derives its name from Tripurari – the foe of the demon Tripurasura. In some legends of Kartik Poornima, the term is used to denote the three demon sons of Tarakasur. Tripurari is an epithet of god Shiva. Shiva in his form as Tripurantaka (“Killer of Tripurasura”) killed Tripurasura on this day. Tripurasura had conquered the whole world and defeated the gods and also created three cities in space, together called “Tripura”. The killing of the demon(s) and destruction of his/their cities with a single arrow – by Shiva overjoyed the gods and they declared the day as a festival of illuminations. This day is also called “Dev-Diwali” – the Diwali of the gods. Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights.

Kartik poornima is also the birthday of Matsya, god Vishnu’s fish-incarnation (Avatar). It is also the birthday of Vrinda, the personification of the Tulsi plant and of Kartikeya, the god of war and son of Shiva. This day also is considered special for Radha, the lover of Krishna – Vishnu’s incarnation. It is believed that Krishna and Radha danced rasa and Krishna worshipped Radha on this day. This day is also dedicated to the pitrs, dead ancestors.

 

DECEMBER

Christmas

Christmas is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ and a widely observed cultural holiday, celebrated generally on December 25 by billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it closes the Advent season and initiates the twelve days of Christmastide, which ends after the twelfth night. Christmas is a civil holiday in many of the world’s nations, is celebrated by an increasing number of non-Christians, and is an integral part of the Christmas and holiday season.

While the birth year of Jesus is estimated among modern historians to have been between 7 and 2 BC, the exact month and day of his birth are unknown. His birth is mentioned in two of the four canonical gospels. By the early-to-mid 4th century, the Western Christian Church had placed Christmas on December 25, a date later adopted in the East, although some churches celebrate on the December 25 of the older Julian calendar, which corresponds to January in the modern-day Gregorian calendar. The date of Christmas may have initially been chosen to correspond with the day exactly nine months after early Christians believed Jesus to have been conceived, or with one or more ancient polytheistic festivals that occurred near southern solstice (i.e., the Roman winter solstice); a further solar connection has been suggested because of a biblical verse[a] identifying Jesus as the “Sun of righteousness”.

The celebratory customs associated in various countries with Christmas have a mix of pagan, pre-Christian, Christian, and secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving, Christmas music and caroling, an exchange of Christmas cards, church celebrations, a special meal, and the display of various Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, Christmas lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, and holly. In addition, several closely related and often interchangeable figures, known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, and Christkind, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and have their own body of traditions and lore. Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity among both Christians and non-Christians, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas is a factor that has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.

New Year

New Year is the time at which a new calendar year begins and the calendar’s year count is incremented. In many cultures, the event is celebrated in some manner. New Year of the Gregorian calendar, today in worldwide use, falls on 1 January (New Year’s Day), as was the case with both the old Roman calendar and the Julian calendar that succeeded it. The order of months was January to December in the Old Roman calendar during the reign of King Numa Pompilius in about 700 BC, according to Plutarch and Macrobius, and has been in continuous use since that time. In many countries, such as the Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, the UK, and the United States, 1 January is a national holiday.

During the Middle Ages in western Europe, while the Julian calendar was still in use, New Year’s Day was variously moved, depending upon locale, to one of several other days, among them: 1 March, 25 March, Easter, 1 September, and 25 December.  These New Year’s Day changes were generally reversed back to January 1 before or during the various local adoptions of the Gregorian calendar, beginning in 1582. The change from March 25 – Lady Day, one of the four quarter days – to January 1 took place in Scotland in 1600, before the ascension of James VI of Scotland to the throne of England in 1603 or the formation of the United Kingdom in 1707. In England and Wales (and all British dominions, including the American colonies), 1751 began on March 25 and lasted 282 days, and 1752 began on January 1. For more information about the changeover from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar and the effect on the dating of historical events etc., see Old Style and New Style dates.

A great many other calendars have been in use historically throughout the world, some of which count years numerically, and others that do not. The expansion of Western culture during recent centuries has seen such widespread official adoption of the Gregorian calendar that its recognition and that of January 1 as the New Year has become virtually global. For example, at the New Year celebrations held in Dubai to mark the start of 2014, the world record was broken for the most fireworks set off in a single display, which lasted for six minutes and saw the use of over 500,000 fireworks.

Nevertheless, regional or local use of other calendars persists, along with the cultural and religious practices that accompany them. In many places (such as Israel, China, and India), New Year’s is also celebrated at the times determined by these other calendars. In Latin America, the observation of traditions belonging to various native cultures continues according to their own calendars, despite the domination of subsequent cultures. The most common dates of modern New Year’s celebrations are listed below, ordered and grouped by their appearance relative to the Gregorian calendar.


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