hinduholiday

Janmastami 

Janmastami is one of the most auspicious Hindu festivals observed all over the country. It commemorates the birth of Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, as the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. 

The most important items in the worship of Krishna on his day of incarnation are fasting, worship, keeping awake in the night, and listening to chanting hymns of praise and legends relating to the pastimes of Krishna. 

Krishna is invoked in an image. The ceremonies of the birth rites are performed symbolically. After offering prayer, night-long vigil is kept; the devotees listen to hymns glorifying Vishnu and Krishna. The next day, after the morning ablutions, the image of Krishna is worshiped and a feast is held.

- The Encyclopedia of Hinduism

Navaratri
Nine nights, a festival of the Goddess Durga. 

Navaratri denotes nine nights, and the Navaratri festival is celebrated from the first day of the bright half of Asvina (September-October) in commemoration of the victory of Goddess Durga over the asura Mahisa and his commanders Canda, Munda, Sumbha, and Nisumbha.

In this battle, the Goddess appeared from the accumulated luster of Vishnu, Sankara, Agni, andmany other gods, was given several celestial weapons, and slew the demon and his minions.

Durga is conceived as the Universal Mother. The first three days are devoted to the worship of Durga, the next three days to Lakshmi, and the last three days are devoted to Saraswati. All three are the manifestations of the Supreme Goddess. It is shakti, the Goddess in her aspect as power, that is worshiped during Navaratri.

On the last day of the festival, processions of Durga’s image are taken out and cast into water.

- The Encyclopedia of Hinduism
(Image Left: Painting of Durga in battle. Image Right: Durga icons cast into water for Navaratri.)

#Diwali (#Dipavali) the festival of lights

Diwali is a festival that symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. It is celebrated…in all parts of the country and throughout the world by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists. and some Muslims, with gaiety unmatched by any other festival.

It is observed for one, three, or five days in different parts of India and in a variety of ways. For some North Indian business communities Diwali marks the beginning of the new year, when fresh accounting ledgers are opened and prayers are offered to Goddess Lakshmi for bringing prosperity.

The avali (row) of dipa (lights) gives a festive look in the North as a symbol to lead one from darkness to light. Lamps are lit in the south during the month of Kartika.

The fall of Bali, the demon king, is one of the stories associated with Diwali. In certain parts of India, Diwali is celebrated in the form of Kali Puja, as the day of the destruction of Mahisasura. It is also associated with the triumphant return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya from Lanka after defeating the demon king Ravana and rescuing Sita. One of the most popular stories associated with Diwali is Narakasura vadha, narrated both in Bhagavata and Harivamsa Purana. This refers to the killing of Naraka, the demon king, by Lord Krishna, with the help of his consort Satyabhama. 

Diwali is an occasion to wear new clothes, set off dazzling fireworks, and exchange sweets and gifts. In North India, Bhai Duja is observed as away of affirming the bond of affection of brothers and sisters.

- The Encyclopedia of Hinduism

Makara Sankranti
a festival celebrated with great religious fervor. 
Makara Sankranti falls on the seventh waxing day of the lunar month of January. On this day starts the month of Makara, popularly called Tai in Tamil, during which all auspicious functions like marriage, thread ceremony, and other rituals prescribed for Hindus are performed. According to Hindu mythology, this marks the beginning of daytime for the gods. 

The day prior to Sankranti is observed as the Bhogi festival. On this day, all old waste and unwanted items in one’s house are scrapped and burnt. This is done before sunrise between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.

The second day, the Sankranti day, is observed with an oil bath and wearing of new clothes. 

The third day of Sankranti is observed as Mattu Pongal. Cows are colorfully decorated and driven over a burning flame in a field. Their horns are painted and capped, their bodies are covered with new clothes, and bells are tied to their tails. In some places, ox-fights and buffalo-fights are organized.

On this day, also known as Kanu Pongal, colored rice balls are offered to the Sun God.

- The Encyclopedia of Hinduism

Nagapancami / Nag Panchami

A festival dedicated to serpents, considered sacred in Hinduism.

According to a legend in the Bhavisya Purana, Kadru, the mother of serpents, had a wager with her sister Vinata about the color of the tail of Uccasrava, the horse of Indra, Lord of Heaven. Kadru asserted that though the horse was white, the tail was black. Vinata claimed that the body and tail were both white. When the serpents refused Kadru’s orders to make the tail appear black so she would win the bet, Kadru cursed them and decreed that they would be offered in fire in the serpent-yajna to be performed by King Janamejaya. However, the serpents were saved by the sage Astika. To commemorate this event and out of compassion for the innocent serpents, the Nag Panchami festival is observed by Hindus.

Golden, silver, or clay images of serpents are made and worshiped with flowers and incense. The images are bathed in milk. It is believed that in return, the serpents will ensure that the worshipers are immune from death due to snake bites. In Kerala, serpent worship is common. The temple at Mannarsala in the Kottayam district is particularly noted for the special worship of snakes.

Teej

Only three teej days are considered auspicious in the annual cycle of tithi-s (360 dates). On aksaya trtiya (akha teej), mass marriage ceremonies are held, whereas the other two teej are observed with day-long fasting and worship of the Goddess Parvati.

Sravani Teej is the most joyful and auspicious day, due to its festive nature. This tithi (date) comes in the midst of the rainy season. Women observe fast, bedeck themselves in colorful dresses and ornaments, enjoy jhula-s (swings), decorate their palms with mehendi, and sing folk songs with gaiety. 

In Gujarat, married women observe a fast called Madhusrava vrata, while in southern India, Svarna Gauri vrata marks the occasion. It is believed, according to Bhavisya Purana, that this day is sukrta trtiya and by observing a vrata (vow), the married women are blessed with good luck, prosperity, happiness, and fulfillment of all desires.

In Jaipur, a royal procession of Teej Mata becomes the attraction of thousands of spectators on this day. Teej Mata is supposed to be the prototype of the Goddess Parvati, who, by performing hard penance, won the love and hand of Shiva on this very day. The procession reminds of her victorious return to the royal palace of her father and her marriage to her fiance.

- The Encyclopedia of Hinduism