Holika Planting

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Title: Holika Planting
Date: 2013-02-14

The planting of Holika is done roughly about 40 days from the Hindu celebration of Phagwa, this co-incidentally is also the day of Saraswati Jayanti or the birth of Saraswati Mata. On the evening of the planting of Holika, a castor old plant is planted and dried branches draped over it, as time goes by more branches are placed over it and eventally it will grow into a huge form of dried branches that is set on fire the night before Phagwa in a ceremony called Holika Burning or the burning of Holika.

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Saraswati Jayanti – Birthday of Saraswati

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Title: Saraswati Jayanti
Date: 2013-02-14

Saraswati Jayanti is the birthday of Mata Saraswati the goddess of learning, knowledge and wisdom. Sara in Sanskrit means “essence” and Swa means “self”, so Saraswati means “the essence of the self”. Saraswati is the consort of Lord Bramha the Creator of the universe. Saraswati Jayanti  is observed on the fifth day during the Shukla Paksha (bright half) of Hindu month – January – February in the English calendar. She is dressed in white (sign of purity) and rides on a white swan. The swan is known for its peculiar characteristic of being capable to separate water from milk, indicating that we should possess discrimination in separating the bad from the good. The seat being a lotus or peacock implies that the teacher is well-established in the subjective experience of truth. When sitting on a peacock she reminds us that wisdom suppresses ego.

On Saraswati Jayanti special attention is paid to the young children and those that attend school at all levels. The children are encouraged to participate in Saraswati puja and appropriate Bhajans are sung to propriate the Goddess of learning. Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of the Basant Panchami festival which is observed as Saraswati Puja and ushers in the springtime. Young girls wear bright yellow dresses and participate in the festivities. The color yellow holds a special meaning for this celebration as it signifies the brilliance of nature and the vibrancy of life. Yellow colored clothes are worn and many offerings of yellow flowers are made in the performance of puja and gifts to each other.

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Ramnavmi

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Title: Ramnavmi
Description: Ramnauvi – Birth of Lord Rama
Date: 2013-04-20

Ram Navmi is celebrated as the birth of Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Ram Navmi falls on the nineth day (Navmi) in the bright fortnight of the Hindu calendar in the month of Chaitra (March – April ) in the English calendar. On this day, when the planets and the sun, etc. were in the first house of cancer at noon along with the lunar asterism Pushya, Ramachandra was born in Ayodhya.

Several temples of Lord Rama celebrate this festival for nine days beginning from the first day (pratipada) of Chaitra. It is celebrated by periodic readings (parayans) of the Ramayan, organising spiritual discourses (kirtans) and beautifully embellishing Lord Rama’s idol. On the ninth day, in the afternoon, a spiritual discourse on Lord Rama’s birth is held. At noon, a coconut draped in a hooded cloak is placed in a cradle and the cradle is rocked. Devotees shower a red, fragrant powder (gulal) and flowers onto it.

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Diwali

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Title: Diwali
Description: Diwali – Festivals of Lights
Date: 2012-11-13

Diwali which is also called the Festival of Lights came about from “Deepawali” is the putting together of two Sanskrit words- Deepa meaning light and Avali, meaning a row, is observed on the fifteenth day of the Hindu month  of Kartika corresponding to October – November in the English calendar and marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year.  People wear their finest clothing and houses  are adorned with candles and ornate lighting during  Diwali.

The celebration of the five-day long festival. The first day of this festival is called Dhanteras. After the Dhanteras the second day of Diwali is called Chhoti Diwali. The third day of Diwali, which is also called ‘Badi Diwali’ is the main day of celebrations of the festival of Diwali. People perform Lakshmi Puja (worship of divine Goddess Lakshmi) on this day and offer prayers to her to bless them with wealth and prosperity. The fourth day of Diwali is devoted to Govardhan Pooja (worship of Lord Govardhan Parvat). The fifth day of the Diwali is Bhai Dooj, the time to honor the brother-sister relationship.

Once the Gods and the demons were tasked to churn the ocean to get amrit (nectar) one of the many gifts of the ocean is Goddess Lakshmi who emerged from the frothy milky ocean. She was so bright and so beautiful, sparkling and full of splendour that the Gods and the demons could not take their eyes off her radiant perfection. She emerged standing on a lotus and carrying a lotus in her one hand and a golden pot in her other hand. The pot she carried had never ending continuous overflow of riches coming out of it. She wore a scintillating red saree and sparkling jewels.

The light and joy she spread all around enchanted every onlooker. They beheld the goddess of prosperity as if in a trance. Everyone wanted her. She, however, only beheld lord Vishnu in her eyes. Lord Vishnu stepped up to her and took her as his beloved wedded wife. Mother Lakshmi is the giver of both material and spiritual wealth. Together with Lord Vishnu, Lakshmi protects and preserves this world and helps us acquire all the riches and resources we need for a complete life.

Diwali also is a commemoration of the return of Lord Rama from exile, the residents of Ayodhya were so jubilant that they lit rows of divas which lit all of the city and spreading to the edge of the forest.

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Navratri

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Title: Navratri
Description: Navratri
Start Date: 2012-10-16
End Date: 2012-10-23

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Krishna Janamashtami

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Title: Krishna Janamashtami
Description: Krishna Birthday
Date: 2013-08-28

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Raksha Bhandan

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Title: Raksha Bhandan
Description: Raksha Bhandan
Date: 2013-08-20

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Hanuman Jayanti

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Title: Hanuman Jayanti
Date: 2013-04-25

Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Hanuman, the Vanara god, widely worshiped throughout India and the rest of the world where Hindus reside. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the Shukla Paksha, during the month of Chaitra – corresponding to the month of March – April in the english calendar (the Chaitra Pournimaa).

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Navratri

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Title: Navratri
Description: Nauratri
Start Date: 2012-10-16
End Date: 2012-10-24

“Nava-ratri” literally means “nine nights.” This festival   is observed twice a year. The first Navaratri is called the Chaitra Navratrai  which is celebrated in month of  March – April and the second is called Ashwin Navratri which is celebrated in the month of September – October according to the English calendar. Durga is made of Sanskrit word dur- meaning “with difficulty” and ga meaning “come”, “go”. or difficult to overrun.

Navaratri is divided into sets of three days to adore different aspects of the supreme goddess. On the first three days, the Mother is invoked as powerful force called Durga in order to destroy all our impurities, vices and defects. The next three days, the Mother is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi, who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees the inexhaustible wealth. The final set of three days is spent in worshipping the mother as the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. In order have all-round success in life, we need the blessings of all three aspects of the divine mother; hence, the worship for nine nights.

Different types of pujas and ceremonies are performed by different communities on each of the nine days. Many people observe fasting; eating only fruits, vegetables and dairy products. They do specific sadhana, prayers, practice celibacy and visit temples. Many temples, as well as people in their homes, offer special prayer programs with singing and music throughout the night, called “Jagran.” On the final day, young girls up to age nine are worshipped as goddesses and given gifts as an offering of gratitude to Mother Goddess for her blessings. It is believed that at that age the girls have pure energy like Mother Goddess.

Once upon a time there lived a demon (Asura) named Mahisha. He found great happiness in hurting people. Once, he decided to pray to lord Brahma, who he thought would give him a boon, which would make him invincible. Mahisha performed severe penances praying and fasting for months as he stood on one foot. The three worlds trembled under the strength of his penances and a pleased lord Brahma came to give him a boon. Mahisha asked for immortality, which the lord said he could not have as every creature that was born had to die. Mahisha decided that he would ask for a boon that would make him as good as immortal. He asked that no man should be able to kill and, if he had to die it should be only at the hands of only a woman. He was sure that no woman could ever fight against him however strong she may be.

Now that Mahisha was invincible, he and the other asuras went about hurting and killing everyone on earth and then went on to the heavens to fight the Gods. Even Indra’s thunderbolt could not withstand the asura attack. Mahisha drove out the Gods and took over Indra’s throne. Mahishasura started harassing all pious people who continued praying to Vishnu or Shiva. The Gods and people were depressed and decided to ask lord Shiva for help. Lord Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma concentrated hard and used their radiant energies, which were joined by the energies from Indra, and the other Gods. This godly energy took the form of a divine lady with thousand arms. In each arm she carried a weapon belonging to all Gods. This was Durga Devi.

She mounted a fiery lion and roared. It was a roar that shook mountains and created huge waves in the seas. Even Mahisha was worried for a second, but his vanity took over when he saw that the terrible form was that of a woman. Durga created a large army from her breath to fight Mahisha’s army and then fought with Mahisha who came in the form of a Buffalo. As he struggled to set himself from the Buffalo form she killed him with her sword delivering the earth and heavens of the Burden called Mahishasura.

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Phagwah

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Title: Phagwah
Description: Phagwah Festivals of Colors
Date: 2013-03-27

Holi is probably the least religious of Hindu holidays. During Holi, Hindus attend  a public bonfire, spray friends and family with colored powders and water, the morning is mostly played with water and mud and can get a bit crazy, but after noon everyone will take a bath and put on clean fresh clothes and play with “Abeer” – powered dye mixed with water of various colors but mostly red.  And “Abrak” a soft power of a variety of colors including talcum or baby power.

Holi or Phagwah is also associated with the Puranic story of Holika, the sister of demon-king   Hiranyakashipu. Sweetmeats are prepared and and various vegetarian delicacies are cooked on this day. Weeks before a huge Holika is built and on the night before Phagwah it is set ablaze to commemorate the story of Maharaja Prahalad.

Once two brothers Jaya and Vijaya were the gatekeepers of the abode of Lord Vishnu, one day a very exalted sage came with an entourage to visit Lord Vishnu but did not have an appointment to see the Lord. The brothers would not let them in and embarrassed the sage cursed the brothers that they will be borned as demons in the next three births, thinking it was unfair the brothers complained to Lord Vishnu who out of respect for the exalted sage din not reverse the curse but instead told the brothers that they will born as demons but the Lord himself will come to take their life, which ensures a tremendous amount of merits.

In one birth the brothers came as Hirynayaksha and Hiranyakasipu, one of them – Hirnayaksha attempted to sink the earth into the ocean and Lord Vishnu taking the form of a boar destroyed him. Hiranyakasipu became furious and engaged a campaign against Lord Vishnu to everyone that will listen, he then engaged into a deep penance prompting Lord Bramha to appear and ask him what are his desires for such deep penance. Hiranyakasipu asked that he should never die, Bramha explained that everything that is born must die. Hiranyakasipu then said alright then

  •  I must not meet death from any entities created by you.
  • I must not die within or outside of any residence.
  • I must not die during the daytime nor the nighttime.
  • I must not die on the ground or in the sky.
  • Not by any weapon, human being or animal.
  • Not by any entity living or non-living, demi-god or demon and finally
  • May not have any rival and to be the sole lordship over all living entities and presiding deities and to have all mystic powers and these powers cannot be lost by time.

Having heard all this Bramha said that those desires are granted. Having been duly satisfied that he is now invincible Hiranyakasipu ceased penance and went back to reclaim his Kingdom.

In the meantime when Hiranyakasipu was in penance the demi-gods ceased this opportunity to strike at the disorganized followers of Hiranyakasipu. Indra captured the wife of Hiranyakasipu and was carrying her off to kill her since the son of Hiranyakasipu was in her womb and the demi-gods feared having another tormentor being born. Narad Muni stopped him and entreated him to spare this innocent woman and as a trade off to let her stay with him in his ashram until the child is born which was agreed by Indra. While at the ashram the child (Later known as Prahalad) absorbed all the teachings and rituals that was occurring there even while he was in his mother’s womb.

With his new found powers Hiranyakasipu took his wife and son back and proclaimed as god and forbade anyone to mention the name of Vishnu the true god. While in school Prahalad would use any spare time to recite the glories of Lord Vishnu the one he heard whilst in his mothers womb in the ashram, so endearing are the stories that the other kids would beg him to tell it to them. Everytime Hiranyakasipu would ask Prahalad who is Supreme God he would reply that it is Lord Vishnu. Frustrated Hiranyakasipu tried to kill his son trying all means possible.

One such attempt was using his demon sister Holika who is immune to fire to take Prahalad into a great bonfire and sit with him. This failed by the intervention of Lord Vishnu and Holika was burned to ashes after asking Prahalad for forgiveness and Prahalad escaped unscathed, thus this event is a basis for the celebration of “HOLI”ka or Phagwah. So overjoyed were the oppressed people that they started to take the ashes and smear it on each other. Hiranyakasipu for his part was finally killed by Lord Vishnu in the incarnation as Narsingh the half man half beast not created by Lord Bramha , in the threshold at evening time on the porch by the nails of Narsingh who is neither man nor beast fully and who is half living and half stone and is neither a demi-god nor a demon.

Another story of Phagwah relates of how the in Vrindavan Radha her fellow Gopis (Milkmaids) were always trying to get back at Lord Krishna and his friends for playing pranks at them. They would fling cow dung and mud at the boys thus this aspect can be seen as a battle between male and female. Also Krishna used to ask his mother Yasoda as to why Radha is so fair and he is so dark and his mother use to tell him to smear colors on Radha’s face and see how her complexion will change this is another aspect of Phagwah.

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