Pongal is one of the major festivals for Tamils and often referred to as "thamizhar
thirunaaL". At the beginning of the tamil month "thai" it is
celebrated for three days: first day devoted to getting rid of old things (Bhogi),
second day involves main Pongal celebrations followed by Maattu Pongal on the
third day. Many extend these to a fourth day called "kannip pongal"
or "kaaNum pongal" when youngers go around and seek the blessings
of the elders. On Bhogi day, a bon fire is lit with all the agricultural and
On the Pongal day, Sun makes its moves towards north/enters Makara raasi (the
zodiac sign of Capricorn the goat) and marks the beginning of Uttaraayana punyakaalam.
Traditionally, this period is considered an auspicious time and the veteran
Bhishma of Mahabharata chose to die during this period. After he fell to the
arrows of Arjuna Bhishma used his boon to choose the time of his death. He waited
on a bed of arrows to depart from this world only during this period. It is
believed that those who die in this period have no rebirth.
To farmers Pongal marks the beginning of the harvesting season. People take
oil bath early in the morning and wear new clothes. Sweet pongal and special
sweets are prepared for the occasion. Freshly cut Sugarcane is used for decoratation
and later consumption by all.
Mattu Pongal is a celebration by the agrarian community that thankfully acknowledges
the participation of the animals mainly bulls in ploughing the fields and assisting
the farmers in raising a good crop. The animals are decorated and are included
in some races, both to entertain and to boost their endurance capacity. The
festival is known as "Jallikattu". These races include cock fights,
bull fights and ram fights. "Thiruvalluvar Day" is celebrated on this
Mattu Pongal day when Tamilnadu Govt announces awards for best tamil literary
Kartikeya, the son of Shiva and Parvati is worshipped in Tamil Nadu on Thai
Pusam. Special Poojas and festivities take place on this Poosam day in the Murugan
Temples of Palani, Thiruttani,... and also at the Vandiyur Mariamman Temple
(near Madurai). Many temples have the boat festival (theppa utsavam) on this
day when the Lord would be coming out over a float on the temple pond.
As a mark of dedication and respect, people engage in "fire walk"-
walk over a path of burning coal. They exit the path miraculously without being
scorched, signifying KartikeyaÕs everlasting protection. A webpage on
Celebrated on the Makam day in the tamil month of Maasi. On this day, the deities
are taken around in procession to the nearby rivers/tanks/sea for bath. It is
an important festival day for Lord Muruga. Once in 12 years, the Maham festival
is celebrated in a grand manner (known as Mahamaham) in Kumbakonam.
Maha Sivarathri is a festival day devoted to Lord Siva, celebrated on the amavaasai
day in the month of Maasi. Sivaratri also signifies the end of winter and the
arrival of spring. Unlike each Hindu festival which begins with the ritualistic
worship of the presiding deity followed by a feast, Sivaratri differs in that
one dedicates the entire day of twenty-four hours to the worship of Lord Siva.
In the evening people generally go to a nearby temple where in the company of
many others they listen to recitals of the legends and their meanings. They
do not sleep that night, but remain awake. The worship continues throughout
the night either by way of chanting the Rudram, singing in eulogy of Lord Siva
or/and listening to religious discourses interpreting the legends associated
with the festival. Mahasivarathri is celebrated in a grand scale in the temples
of Madurai and Rameswaram. In the rituals, leaves of a forest tree Bilva (Aegle
marmelos/wood apple) are traditionally used in the services.
Ugaadi, Telugu New Year's Day
It is believed that the creator of the Hindu pantheon Lord Brahma started creation
on this Ugadi day. Indian Mathematician Bhaskaracharya's calculations proclaimed
the Ugadi day from the sunrise on as the beginning of the new year, new month
and new day. Special dishes are prepared for the occasion: Mixed rice made with
a specially made spiced Tamarind Paste (known as Puliyotharai /pulihora/puliogure
in Tamilnadu, Andhra pradesh and Karnataka). As with the Pongal day for Tamils,
Ugadi day celebrations are marked by literary discussions, poetry recitations
(kavi sammelanam) and recognition of authors of literary works through awards.
Sri Rama Navami
Sri Rama Navami as a festival marks the birth of Lord Rama but is celebrated
and worshipped in the form of re-creating the wedding between Lord Rama and
Sita by the Hindus seeking well being of all people. Such community celebrations
are held in not only Rama temples but also in many other temples too. Usually
such ritualistic wedding celebration in homes is quite uncommon. The ritual
of Rama's wedding is concluded with prasadam of 'vada pappu' (soaked lentil)
and panakam (sherbat made of jaggery dissolved in water to which pepper powder
and cardamom powder are added).
Panguni Uthiram is celebrated as the Wedding day for the Gods/Celestial couples
in all temples of Tamilnadu. It is celebrated over a 10-day period in many Murugan
Temples. Inscriptions indicate existence of these celebrations as early as that
of the Chola King Rajaraja Chola.
Tamil New Year Day
As the name indicates, this day marks the beginning of the Tamil New Year (and
the tamil month Chithirai).
The Hindu Solar New Year Day. People bathe in rivers and go to temples to offer
puja (worship). Baisakhi is of special significance to the Sikhs. On this day
in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh organised them into the 'Khalsa', brotherhood of
man. In Punjab, farmers start harvesting on this day with great fanfare. Villagers
perform the 'Bhangra' folk-dance.
The pournami day in the tamil month of Chitrai is celebrated in a grand manner
for nearly a week ("chithirath thiruvizha") in Madurai Temples. Located
21 kms northwest of Madurai is a Vishnu temple called Azhagar Temple. Here 'Vishnu'
presides as Meenakshi's brother 'Kallazhagar'. During the Chitrai festival when
the celestial marriage of Meenakshi to Sundareswarar is celebrated, Azhagar
travels to Madurai. A gold processional icon called the Sundararajar is carried
by devotees in procession from Azhagar Kovil to Madurai for wedding ritual.
Hundreds of special Mandapas are erected all along the route to Madurai to welcome
Kallazhagar. According to the Legend, Kallazhagar arrived late for the marriage
of his sister Meenakshi. Taking note that the marriage has already taken place,
he plunges into the river Vaigai and walks through to nearby Vandiyur. Adults
and children join together in spraying water at Lord Kallazhagar as he walks
towards the river bank of Vaigai in total disappointment. The whole city of
Madurai takes on a festive mood for this whole week.
In Srivilliputhur, Chaitrotsavam festival takes place for 9 days. On the day
of chitra pournami Andal in Sesha Vahanam and Rangamannar in Kudurai Vahanam
stop near a stream on the way to Thiruvannamalai where the "Vayyali"
function takes place.
The pournami day of the tamil month Vaikasi is celebrated in grand manner in
Murugan Temples (Palani, Thiruchendoor,...) when large number of people go to
the temple carrying "Kavadi". Valli Kalyanam is celebrated in Murugan
Temples on Vaikaasi Visaakam day.
Vaikasi Visakam also marks the birthday of Alwar Saint Nammalwar and this is
celebrated in Kancheepuram Varadaraja Perumal Temple as "Garuda utcavam".
Lord Varadaraja is taken in a Garuda vahana to Nammalwar sannadhi for blessing
of the latter.
Celebrated on the 18th day of the tamil month Aadi in Kaveri River basin districts
of Tanjore and Trichi when the water level in the river rises significantly
high. Prayers are made and offerings given to Goddess Kaveri deities made out
Andal, the incarnation of Mother Earth, Bhoodevi, is one of the twelve Alwars,
great devotees of Vishnu. "Aadi Pooram" and "Aani Thirumanjanam"
are important festivals to Andal.
The birth of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu in the Dwapar Yuga, is
celebrated all over India as Krishna Janmashtami. This day is marked by religious
festivity and devotion. Lord Krishna or "He who is all-attractive",
descended on this earth to subdue the rakshasas ruthlessly and save mankind
from all evils. He is regarded as the epitome of transcendental qualities which
made him the most loved one.
The modern day festivity recreates the birth of the Lord. It is celebrated with
utmost gaiety and fervor in Mathura and Brindavan. The towns are colorfully
decorated wearing a festive look. The main temple at Mathura and Brindavan are
bedecked with flowers and Lord Krishna is clothed in jewellery. The rituals
begin ahead of time in the evening and culminate at midnight, the time of Krishna's
birth. A crawling image of Krishna is cradled amidst singing of bhajans and
chantings of Hare Rama Hare Krishna.
In South India, Janmashtami or Gokulashtami, as it is called, is celebrated
with prayers, devotional renditions and offering of fruits and special prasadams
to Lord Krishna. People usually observe fast on this day. In the houses, mango
leaves are tied to the doorways to mark the auspicious occasion. Colorful floral
designs are drawn on the front yard. Inside the house, a small woodden mandapam
is erected and decorated with flowers and plantain leaves. An icon of a crawling
Krishna in a silver cradle or leaf is placed in the mandapam. In some houses,
a typical setting of Gokulam is arranged with mud images of Devaki, Vasudeva
with little Krishna perched in a basketon his head, a cow, besides other things
related to Krishna's legends. Small foot marks produced by impressions with
rice powder mixed with water are believed to symbolically recreate the coming
of Krishna into peoples' homes.
The birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu and the author
of the Bhagavad Gita (Song Celestial), is observed all over. It is celebrated
with special eclat at Mathura and Brindavan where Lord Krishna spent his childhood.
Night-long prayers are offered and religious hymns are sung in temples. Scenes
are enacted from Lord Krishna's early life.
Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati is widely worshipped
as the munificent god of wisdom. Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival in his honour
and is celebrated in the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra
Pradesh. Ganesha (also called Ganapati /Vighneshvara or Vighnahartaa) is the
Lord of and destroyer of obstacles. People mostly worship Him asking for siddhi,
success in undertakings, and buddhi, intelligence. He is worshipped before any
venture is started. He is also the God of education, knowledge and wisdom, literature,
and the fine arts.
Throughout India the festival is celebrated with much enthusiasm and devotion,
even lasting for nearly 10 days in Maharashtra and Andhra pradesh. During long
periods of anti-British rule protests and freedom struggle of the 19th Century,
more and more people become unduly religious, particularly in Maharashtra. This
lead to development of religious events such as Ganesha Chaturthi as a major
community event. To appreciate this occasion, one must go to Mumbai where preparations
begin months in advance. Images of Ganesha are installed within homes as well
as in places of assembly. Elaborate arrangements are made for lighting and decoration
and Ganesha is fervently worshipped for about 7-10 days. On the day of the Chaturthi,
i.e. the last of the days dedicated to the elephant-headed god, thousands of
processions converge on the beaches of Mumbai to immerse the holy idols in the
sea. This immersion is accompanied by drum beats, devotional songs and dancing.
Dasara/Navarathi, Saraswathi Pooja, Vijaya Dhasami
This is among the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar and comes as the
finale of the nine-day festival, Navaraatri. this festival of victory is preceded
by worship of Saraswati the Goddess of Learning and of Durgaa the Goddess of
Strength. Grand processions of all Gods and goddesses are taken out in every
town and village on this day, signifying the victory of the forces of righteousness
over those of wickedness.
Vijaya Dashami is preceded by the Aayudha Pooja on the Mahaanavami day, when
not only the weapons are worshipped by the warriors, but the blacksmith, the
potter, the carpenter, the tailor, the mason, the typist, the musician, the
artist and every type of technical worker - worships his instruments and tools.
Buses, trucks and huge machines in factories are all decorated and worshipped
Dussehra and Durga Puja
Among the most popular of all festivals, it symbolises the triumph of good over
evil. Every region observes this 10-day festival in a special way. In the North,
'Ram Lila' recitations and music recall the life of the legendary hero, Rama.
Large fire cracker--stuffed effigies of Ravana, symbolising evil, explode to
the cheers of thousands of spectators. In Kulu against the backdrop of snow-covered
mountains, villagers dressed in their colourful best assemble to take out processions
of local deities accompanied by music on pipes and drums. In Karnataka, Dussehra
is celebrated with magnificent pomp and pageantry. In Bengal and the East, it
is called 'Durga Puja'. Images of Goddess Durga are worshipped for four days
and, on the last day, taken out in a procession and immersed in a river or the
Vijayadashmi or Dussera
Vijayadashmi or Dussera, the day of victory, after nine days of battle is celebrated
by all Hindu families. Dussera is one of the four auspicious days of the year.
On the same day, Rama, an avatar of Vishnu fought Ravana, a ten headed demon
and restored dharma (righteousness ) on earth. In rural India, children returned
to school on Vijayadashmi which is also dedicated to Saraswati. On this day
their teachers would draw the symbol of Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning on
their slates. On Vijayadashmi, people worship weapons, tools and implements
of their trade. In the second half of Ashwin, Diwali lights up the sky, the
festival of lights that celebrates the return of Rama and his coronation in
Ayodhya. People light lamps and adorn doorways with flower garlands to welcome
Rama, Sita and Lakshmana home after fourteen years of exile. Dhanteras follows
Diwali when wealth in worshipped. Narakchaturdashi is a festival that honours
the heroic Krishna who rescued 16,000 princesses from Naraka's bondage.
Deepavali, the festival of lights, comes close on the heels of Dasara. It is
a festival that marks the victory of good over evil. Deepavali means a "row
of lights", and it brings along with it glowing happiness and the touch
of sparklers all around. In India, Deepavali is synonymous with the nightly
bursting of fire- crackers and the beautiful decoration of the houses with earthenware
lamps which is a feast for the eyes.
In Sri Lanka, Deepavali celebrations begin at dawn as early as around three
in the morning. The family members are given an oil massage, followed by aarti
and then the children burst crackers to mark the joyous day. New clothes and
exchange of gifts goes without saying.
On Deepavali day, everywhere in India, at dusk when darkness unfolds itself,
you can see a spectacular illumination of tiny flickering lamps adorning in
rows - at homes, buildings and streets. And watch out as you look up to the
sky ! Hundreds of fire crackers can be seen glowing and then bursting as though
it was a battle of glows and sparks in the skies.
Deepavali is incomplete without the multi-colored and noisy fire crackers. From
simple colored sparklers, pencils, flower pots, ground chakras (wheels), Vishnu
chakras, rockets to the long ladi / garland crackers, you have a wide range
to choose from.
The festival of lights is one of the most beautiful of Indian festivals. It
comes 21 days after Dussehra and celebrates the return of Rama to Ayodhya after
his 14-year exile. Countless flickering oil lamps and lights are lit in houses
all over the country making it a night of enchantment. Worship of Lakshmi, the
goddess of wealth, and fireworks and festivities are an essential part of the
Ekaadasi, the 11th day of the lunar fortnight is auspicious to Vishnu. Vaikunta
Ekaadasi, falling in December- January, is celebrated as a special festival
when the "gates of Heaven" ceremoniously open for devotees to enter.
Full moon in the month of Phalgun (late February or early March). This is pre-eminently
the spring festival of Bharat. The trees are smiling with their sprout of tender
leaves and blooming flowers. With the harvest having been completed and the
winter also just ended, it is pre-eminently a festival of mirth and merriment.
Gulal (colored powder) is sprinkled on each other by elders and children, men
and women, rich and poor alike. All superficial social barriers are pulled down
by the all-round gaiety and laughter.
The most boisterous of all Hindu festivals, observed all over the North. It
heralds the end of winter. Men, women and children revel in throwing coloured
powder and squirting coloured water on each other. Greetings and sweets are
Kerala's most popular festival, celebrated with great enthusiasm, it is primarily
a harvest festival. The most exciting part of the festival is the snake-boat
race held at several places in the palm-fringed lagoons. Onam festivities honor
the ancient Asura king Mahabali. According to legend, the gods were jealous
of the king and sent him into exile in the nether world, permitting him to return
to his people only once each year, during Onam. An over-the-top welcome is prepared
in every town. Dances and songs proclaim the munificent reign of the king, and
elaborate carpets of flowers and colored powder are laid out on floors and streets.
Trichur pooram festival
The incomparable festival of festivals, held every year in April- May in the
cultural capital of Kerala is to be celebrated on 25th and 26th of April this
year. Spectacular pageant of fully caparisoned elephants, sonorous percussion,
ensembles like Panchavadyam and Pandimelom and scintillating fireworks are the
main features of Pooram.
The poornima or the full moon in the month of Vaishak is an auspicious day
when one of the Dasaavataras the Buddha avatar came into being. The poornima
is significant for more reasons than one in the life of the Buddha.
There are at least five reasons for this. The first concerns his birth. He was
born to serve a mission, a "Karana purusha or janma". It was a full-moon
day when Prince Siddhartha (the name means one whose purpose has been achieved)
was born under the shade of a flowering Sal tree, in the beautiful grove of
Lumbini in present-day Nepal. He was born to Suddhodana, the ruler of Kapilavastu,
on the Nepalese frontier, and his queen Mahamaya, the princess of Koliyas. Lumbini
or Rummindei, the name by which it is now known, is 100 miles north of Varanasi
and within sight of snow-capped Himalayas. The prince's family name was Gotama.
Buddhists from all over the world converge on Bodhgaya and Sarnath to commemorate
the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and death. Sarnath has a colorful fair and
procession of relics, at a temple on the site where the Buddha preached his
first sermon. Buddhists in Sri Lanka celebrate this festival.
The holy month of Ramzan is very auspicious to the Muslims the world over.
It is believed that God will shower His blessings on those who pray to God whole
heartedly, with complete devotion, surrendering themselves totally to His will.
It is believed that the holy Quran, the holy book of Muslims, came into existence
during this month. Prophet Mohammad who compiled this was an illiterate person.
But he was chosen by God to be His messenger. Whenever any problem arose, He
would get "Vahi" (inspiration from God). He would become red and would
speak out spontaneously. All these utterings were jotted down by His disciples
and during this month they were compiled in the form of the holy Quran. It is
a message from God to the mankind.
This is the holy month of Ramadan, the month of fasting. Soum (fasting) is called
Rozah in Urdu. Fast is observed for the entire month (Lunar) of Ramadan every
year by the followers of Islam. Fasting through out the month of Ramzan is compulsory
for all Muslims. But exceptions are made in the case of the sick and the travelling.
Celebrates the end of Ramzan, the Muslim month of fasting. It is an occasion
of feasting and rejoicing. The faithful gather in mosques to pray; friends and
relatives meet to exchange greetings.
Bakrid, the festival of sacrifice is an important celebration, which falls
on the last month of the Islamic Calendar. The Muslims traditionally offer the
sacrifice of goats/sheep/camels as part of the festival. Bakrid, also known
as Id-Ul-Zuha coincides with the Haj pilgrimage at Mecca. The significance of
the festival is the commemoration of the ordeals of Prophet Ibrahim. According
to popular belief, Prophet Ibrahim was put to a tough test by Allah to prove
his faith. He was asked to sacrifice his son Ismail and without any hesitation
Prophet Ibrahim blindfolded himself and made the offering on the Mount of Mina
near Mecca. When Prophet Ibrahim opened his eyes, he was astonished to find
a goat lying upon the altar and his son Ismail standing in front of him. Ever
since, faithfuls of Islam the world over offer sacrifices on the festival day.
Muharram is about the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (Raji An) and his family by
laying down their lives at Karbala (in present day Iraq) for the protection
of democracy. Their selfless sacrifice, service to humanity and protection of
their religious order resulted in their giving up their own lives. Remembering
him and following the path shown by him is the greatest tribute that humanity
can pay him. This in fact is the greatest message of Muharram.
Commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the holy Prophet
Mohammed, and observed by the Shi'ite Muslims, who take out processions of colourfully
decorated 'Tazias', which are paper and bamboo replicas of the martyr's tomb
at Karbala in Iraq. The processions are specially impressive at Lucknow. In
parts of the South, tiger dancers--men painted over with stripes and wearing
tiger masks--lead the procession.
Milad-un-nabi marks the birth of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). It is
believed that Muhammad (PBUH) was sent by God as the last messenger for the
renaissance of Islam.
Services and recitals of religious music are held in hundreds of churches all
over India and Sri Lanka.
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Christ is celebrated with enthusiasm
by the members of the community. Processions are taken out in some parts of
Born nearly two thousand years ago, Christians believe Him to be the Son of
God. Whether Jesus was really born on December 25th, no one can say for certain.
It was chosen because it already was a holiday in ancient times -a pagan feast.
But pagans did not believe in Jesus. Around the third century there was an attempt
to fix the day of His birth by tying it to a festival of the Nativity kept in
Rome in the time of Bishop Telesphorus (between A.D. 127 and 139). Some Christmas
observances of the Roman Church are said to be of Bishop Telesphorus' appointment.
There was also a story of Christians being massacred in the catacombs on the
day of the Nativity between A.D. 161 and 180 but the exact year, again is not
known. In A.D. 300, a similar event is said to have taken place at Nicomedia
in the reign of Diocletian. Neither of these stories seem reliable as a measure
of the day Christ was born.
It was believed the Nativity took place, indeed, on the 25th of the month; but
which month was uncertain and every month at one time or another has been assigned.
During the time of Clement of Alexandria (before 220) five dates in three different
months of the Egyptian year were said to be the Nativity. One of those corresponds
to the December 25th date. During the third century, it was a common belief
that Christ was born on the winter solstice based on an interpetation of some
prophetic scriptures and an idea that the Annunciation and the Crucifixion both
occured on the same day - March 25th. Another third century set of writings,
The Apostolic Constitutions, indicate the Apostles ordained that the feast be
kept on the 25th day of the ninth month which, at that time meant December.
The works of John Selden, published in 1661, suggested that in the early Christian
ages the winter solstice fell on the 8th of the Kalends of January, that is,
December 25th, though not accepted universally by modern day students who put
the day between the end of July and the end of October.
The Roman Church finally fixed December 25th as the birthday of Jesus Christ
after the great persecution that took place around A.D. 310; which connects
the visitation of the wise men from the East, being celebrated twelve days later.
Though questioned for several generations by the Eastern Church, the Roman day
became universal in the fifth century.