India is a land of festivals. Our days are dotted with varied celebrations for numerous reasons. Our teeming population believes celebrating each day with pomp. After all life in itself is a celebration of myriad colors of emotions.
The many festivals we celebrate has in fact been woven in our daily life. Some may vary in their name and some are observed with different rituals. But the underlying factor is breaking the monotony daily life, enjoying the moment.
Below I have jotted down a list of some of the festivals for the following months.
Shivratri- A much awaited festival by the masses. According to the Indian lunar calendar it is celebrated on the Chaturdashi during Krishna Paksha in the month of Magha. The day before the new moon or 14th day of every lunar month is known as Shivratri, but the one occurring in month of February – March is known as Maha Shivratri.As the name symbolizes, it is dedicated to Lord Shiva, first Adi guru or dicoverer of truth and bliss. He is all powerful and originator of knowledge, the Creator as well as Destroyer.
Legend behind Maha Shivratri- There are many stories behind the celebration of Maha Shivratri.The most prominent one is the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. They got married on this day and to celebrate their marriage, the ocassion is called Maha Shivratri.
The other very popular belief associated with Maha Shivratri is story of ”Neelkanth”. There was a furious battle between the Gods and Demons ( Samudra Manthan). During the churning of ocean several objects were discovered like the pot of poison. Lord Shiva drank the poison to save Earth from its ill effect. The Gods danced the whole night in order to protect Shiva and keep him awake. Finally, the poison did not harmed Shiva but turned his neck blue.
Another popular legend is that Maha Shivratri is the night when Lord Shiva performed the heavenly dance of creation, preservation, and destruction. Natraja– supreme God of dance is another form of Lord Shiva. Maha Shivratri is also marked by annual dance festivals at Hindu temples like Konark, Khajuraho, Pattadakal and Modhera.
This year Maha Shivratri was celebrated on 13th February with great pomp. Devotees of Lord Shiva all over the world observed fast and worhipped the Lord. They offered water, milk, curd, honey, dhatura, bhang and flowers to Shiva’s idol or the linga. Shiva is said to be the ideal husband and unmarried girls and women pray for husband like him.
Gangaur- A festival for the women and by the women, celebrating womanhood. Gana another name for Lord Shiva and Gaur is Lord Shiva’s wife Goddess Parvati. She symbolizes happiness in love and marital life.
Gangaur is honoring the Goddess Parvati’s parental homecoming. It begins after the festival of Holi for almost 16 to 18 days. Lord Shiva with his wife Goddess Parvati is worshipped in this festival.
The unmarried girls worship Gauri to seek her blessings for life partners. The married women do for the well being of their husband and happy married life.
Gangaur is avery colorful festival with the ladies and girls dressing up in their best attire. Colorful idols of clay or wood is made by local artisans. They are bought home and decorated with flowers in a basket.
Even today after so many years of my marriage, I feel nostalgic and excited about this festival. I sit back and remember the fun we had while worshipping Gangaur. All my friends would gather to collect flowers, garlands and sweets. We would then sing traditional Rajasthani folk songs. Our elders would bless us with gifts and new clothes. We would adorn our hands and legs with beautiful mehndi designs.
Today, as a married lady I have certain responsibilities and rituals to be performed on the last day of Gangaur. I get up early, dress in my finery and help in preparation of sweets and delicacy to be offered to the Goddess. All the ladies and girls of the house gather and worship the Goddess. Though the younger generation is not as keen cause of their other engagements. After the Puja we take Gangaur idols to a massive procession and finally its farewell or immersion time in the nearby lake or river.
Gangaur is celebrated in northern part of India mainly Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and even in West Bengal. In Jaipur, a huge procession starting from City Palace and passing through Tripolia Bazar, Gangauri Bazar Chaugan stadium and finally converging near Talkatora. Decked elephants, bullock carts, palanquins, chariots are all part of the procession.
In Udaipur, a boat procession on Lake Pichola with fireworks add to the interest. It is also celebrated in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Ahmedabad and Kolkata.
Ram Navami- An important spring festival celebrating the birth of Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He was born in Ayodhya to Queen Kausalya and King Dasharatha. According to Hindu calendar Ram Navami is celebrated on the ninth day of Shukla Paksha of Chaitra Navaratri.
The main objective of Lord Rama’s birth on Earth was to destroy the evil force specially the demons and to restore Dharma. His reign is termed as Ram Rajya. He symbolizes honesty, truth and all that is ideal. His life is an example portraying the many ideal roles the man has to play. The many important stages of his life is written in the holy books called ‘ Ramayana’ by Tulsidas.
On the morning of Ram Navami devotees get up early to pray Sun God. As according to Hindu mythology Sun God is the ancestor of Lord Rama. It is believed that Lord Ram was born around 12:00 in the afternoon. Devotional songs, bhajans, kirtans are performed at various temples and homes.
In Ayodhya the birthplace of Shri Rama devotees take a holy bath in Sarayu river. People in large number participate with great enthusiasm in chariot procession. Young children dressed like Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman are seated on the chariot. At many places Ram Lila or the life history of Lord Rama is enacted.
Ram Navami for me, as a child was reading or listening to the various hymns of Ramayana. My grandmother would make sure that all children in the household take part in reciting the Ramayana. Afternoon was time to visit the Ram Mandir and have delicious prasads. Evening was meant to take part in the procession and watch Ram Lila.
Today, as a grown up I take-up the recitation of Ramayana more seriously. Previously, I just use to gobble up with words but today I try to understand its worth in everyday life. I do visit the Ram Mandir at afternoon or late evening for blessings and Prasad. The procession and Ram Lila are followed.
Festivals are a part of our childhood. They have some memories associated with them. Do share some of your memories with me.