Shree U.K. Luhar Gnati Mandal (London)
Hindu festivals are more than just celebrations. They are an insight into the history of rich Hindu legends. Hindus take great pride in maintaining and preserving these festivals, through
which religious values can be passed from one generation to the next. All Hindu festivals have a cultural significance and a deep spiritual meaning to them.
They can be divided into three categories:
Religious festivals include Diwali, Shivaratri and Raksha Bandhan, on these occasions vows are made and fasting may be observed. Prayers, Yajna and Puja are performed, and reading of scriptures and religious discourses are conducted, the whole day has a religious atmosphere.
Historical Festivals include Ramanavmi , Janmasthmi, Varsh Pratipada, Ganesh Chturthi, Guru Pooja, Navratri and Vijaydashmi among others.
Seasonal Festivals include Makar Sankranti and Holi among others.
The 14th day of the dark half of every month is called Shivratri. The one in the month of Magha (February – March) is christened “Maha Shivratri”, since it is the greatest of all. The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael (Bilva) leaves to the Lord Shiva, all day fasting and an all night long vigil.
Holi or Holika, also called holikotsava, is an extremely popular festival observed throughout the world. It was on this day that Holika, the sister of the demon King Hiranyankasyapu, who tried to kill the child devotee Prahlad by taking him on her lap and sitting on the pyre of wood which was set ablaze. Holika was burnt to ashes while Prahlad remained unharmed. Generally a log of wood is kept in a prominent public place. On the night of Phalguna Purnima, it is set alight in a simple ceremony with Mantras. Coconuts and coins are often thrown into this bonfire.
On the ninth day of the bright half of the month of Chaitra (Mar/Apr) falls the birthday of Sri Rama, one of the two most popular and highly revered incarnations of Lord Vishnu. As one of the highly eulogised vrata in the Hindu calendar, it can destroy one’s sins and also confer even mukti or liberation.
Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Hanuman, the monkey god widely venerated throughout India. Hanuman was an ardent devotee of Sri Rama, and is worshipped for his unflinching devotion to the God. From early morning, devotees flock to Hanuman temples to worship him.
The festival falls in the month of Shravana (August) on the day
of the full moon, It originates from ancient times when Brahmins tied multicoloured threads around the wrist of their pupil. This tradition changed over time and now involves women tying a Rakhi to their brothers, This means that it is the duty of the brother to protect his sister from troubles and danger. In this
way Rakhi has become a symbol of affection between brothers
This festival celebrates the birth of Shri Krishna and usually falls around the middle or the latter part of August. Janmashtami is celebrated with love and affection. Temples are decorated and thousands of devotees sing the glory of Shri Krishna and keep awake until midnight.
Varsh Pratipada or Yugadi
This is known as the first day of the year according to the traditional calendar of Bharat, called Vikram Samvat and Shalivan Shaka. It falls in the beginning of spring and brings hope and joy for the future to all.
Lord Ganesh was born on the 4th day of the bright fortnight of the month of ‘Magh’. Worshipping Lord Ganesh on this day is a family affair. Wet clay is fashioned into a symbolic Ganesha form, placed on the left palm and worshipped with the chanting of mantras, followed by the rituals. The idol is then immersed in a well or a pond. If the trunk of ‘Ganesh’ is curved to the right he is called ‘Sidhi Vinayaka’ and requires special worship.
Devotional worship of the “Guru” – the preceptor – is one of the most touching and elevating features of the Hindu cultural tradition. The auspicious moment of Vyaasa Poornima, chosen for observing this annual festival. The Guru in the Hindu tradition is looked upon as an embodiment of God himself. For, it is through his grace and guidance that one reaches the highest state of wisdom and bliss.
Navratri is the nine days when we are suppose to thank the female principle of nature and the goddess connected to them. The nine nights are dedicated to the three main goddesses of Hinduism – Parvati, Lakshmi and Saraswati.
The first three nights are dedicated to the goddess of action and energy. Her different manifestations are Kumari, Paravti and Kali are worshipped during these days. Lakshmi is worshipped for the next three days in her various aspects as goddess of peace, plenty and bliss. Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge.
The tenth day, Vijaydashmi, is the day of victory, representing the day of enlightenment when all vasanas are destroyed and the knowledge of the Self has dawned in the individual. The victory of Durga is the triumph of the aggressive good over evil, the destruction of vasanas/subtle impressions, desires, and the realisation of the divine Self.
This is the day when the sun begins its northward journey and usually falls in the middle of January. Makara Shankrati signifies that we should turn away from the darkness of delusion in which we live, and begin to joyously let the light within us shine brighter and brighter. Makar Sankranti is also celebrated with great enthusiasm as the Kite flying day.
Sharad Poonam (Purnima) is a harvest festival celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu lunar month of Ashwin (September-October). The rainy season is over and the brightness of the full moon brings special joy. This is a traditional celebration of the moon and is also called the Kaumudi celebration, Kaumudi meaning moonlight.
Diwali (Festival of Lights)
Diwali is the most popular Hindu festival and is unique because it has combined religious, historical and seasonal significance. It falls on the night of the new moon in the month of Kartika (Oct/Nov). The festival signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and goodness over evil. It is a celebrations of homecoming of Rama after 14 years in exile.The people of Ayodhya lit thousands of clay lamps, known as ‘deepa’,
to welcome Rama, Sita and Laxman.