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Indian Festivals
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The year is divided into Uttarayana and Dakshinayana according to the movement of the Sun. Uttarayana occurs from 15th January to 14th July and Dakshinayana occurs between 15th of July and 14th January every year.

This was true thousands of years ago, but not anymore.
The winter solstice marks the start the Uttarayanam. This date has now shifted to Dec 21 for 2004 AD.

Similarly Dakshinayanam starts on the summer solstice day, which was June 21 this year.

Therefore Makara Sankranti should be celebrated on Dec 21 of this year, not on Jan 14 of next year.

I don't why the panditas of India continue to stick to the old dates when they know that it is wrong.
<!--QuoteBegin-k.ram+Aug 27 2004, 05:47 PM-->QUOTE(k.ram @ Aug 27 2004, 05:47 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin--> <b>Raksha Bandhan:</b>

Raksha Bandhan is celebrated in the whole north India.  It is the celebration of “brother hood”.  In olden days when the warriors go to the war field their sisters used to perform a special prayer and tie a colorful thread on their brother’s right wrist for their protection. <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Damn!! I hate the flip side of this festival.Girls come out of nowhere to tie the Rakhi. <!--emo&Tongue--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/tongue.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='tongue.gif' /><!--endemo--> <!--emo&Tongue--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/tongue.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='tongue.gif' /><!--endemo--> Worst, you even lose you money.
> Damn!! I hate the flip side of this festival.

<!--emo&Sad--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/sad.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='sad.gif' /><!--endemo--> Man you sure are a typical Sewage Inspector.

> Girls come out of nowhere to tie the Rakhi. <!--emo&Tongue--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/tongue.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='tongue.gif' /><!--endemo--> <!--emo&Tongue--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/tongue.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='tongue.gif' /><!--endemo-->
> Worst, you even lose you money.

And why so ? Who told you that one has to give money ?
Arrey yaar, they demand money.They won't let you go unless you pay.<!--emo&Tongue--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/tongue.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='tongue.gif' /><!--endemo--> Holi is much betterSmile.I love wet bods.
Following Naag Panchami, gujjus celebrate - not sure about other states.

1. Randhan Chaath - food is prepared for the next day.
2. Shitalaa Saatam - Stove is not lighted on this day. Only left overs are eaten. Shitalaa mataa is one of the deities who is visited after smallpox/measles etc. Shitalaa mataa temple is always there in every village..
3. Janamaasthami - well you all know about this.. <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo-->
Talkin about Naag Panchami, here's a small joke related to it.
some people in a Madhya Pradesh village were lookin for a snake to give serve it some milk for Naag Panchami.They didn't find one, so they served the milk to a local politician. <!--emo&Tongue--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/tongue.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='tongue.gif' /><!--endemo-->
Ganpati Bappa Moraya

Moraya re Bappa Moraya re !!! <!--emo&:rock--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/rock.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='rock.gif' /><!--endemo-->
Ganpati Bappa Moraya image
came via email

September 7 is Janmastami, 18 is Ganesh Chaturthi, 19 is Rishi

1. Janmastami -
a) Read about its Significance -
b) See pictures of Mathura / Brindavan -

2. Ganesh Chaturthi -
a) Read about its Significance -
b) See Ganesha Temples in Indonesia - by Hidayat Atjeh, Vice-Consul,
Socio-Culture & Information Indonesian Consulate General in Mumbai. Shows
pictures of Ganesha temples in Indonesia and Lord Ganesha on an
Indonesian currency note.

c) Enshrining of Sri Ganesha - this link gives you the entire ceremony
in English.
Tommorow is Vinayak Chaturti.
In families affiliated with Shri Vidya it is an important private festival, but in Maharashtra it is a public festival.

Pune or Mumbai are great places to be in during VC, but is very dangerous for the health of those who are not careful. Lots of diseases around.
Yesterday was an important day (Samvatsari) for Jainas.. On this day, according to Jaina custom one asks for forgiveness (not from gods but ones who were hurt) for one's deeds that might have hurt them. As gujarat has a sizeable Jaina population its become a pretty common practice amongst gujjus to call others (especially their Jain friends/family) to say "Michchhami Dukkadam".

So friends please accept my "Michchhami Dukkadam"

More details from google..


via email

<b>Navarathri and Navagrahas</b>

Festivals are so much a part and parcel of Chennai life. It is as if
festivals are interwoven into the life of every Chennaite. It is an
exhilarating experience to be a part of every celebration that ensues
through the year. Navarathri is a charming link that forms a central part of
this festival chain. Nava means nine, so navarathri is essentially a
festival that stretches through nine nights. Mythology has it that this
festival marks the slaying of Ravana by Lord Rama and has come to be
observed as the victory of virtue and truth. Many others believe that
Navarathri celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the vile demon
Mahishasura. Whatever be the belief, the predominant thought is that
Navarathri is a festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

Navarathri is also the time to appease the Navagrahas. Make sure you
continue reading to find out the nine new ways to placate the nine
planetary deities. Navagrahas are the nine planet deities who are said to
have a significant impact on the lives of human beings. It is a common
practice to appease these divine beings by offering grains and lentils.
So, during Navarathri sundal is offered each day in remembrance of these
brazen deities, in the hope that all good things will reign. Why not
follow the authentic-lentil line of attack and win over the hearts of the

1. Sunday - Sooriyan - Sun: Godumai (Wheat) is what pleases this
dazzling deity. It is not difficult to make wheat sundal, though the process
is labourious. Soak whole wheat the previous evening itself. In the
morning tie it in a cloth and allow it to stand till the evening.
Pressure-cook the wheat with tumeric powder and salt. Proceed, as you would
make any other sundal. If you find this task time consuming, you can try
making broken wheat payasam or broken wheat puttu.

2. Monday - Chandran - Moon: It is Arisi (Rice) that delights this
gorgeous diety. You can use rice or rice with the husk (Nel). You can make
rice puttu or rice payasam. Since it is impossible to make sundal with
rice, you will have to pacify Chandran with some mixed rice or sweet
meat made of rice!

3. Tuesday - Angarakan - Sevaai - Mars: Thuvarai (Thoovar Dhal) is what
gratifies this deity who brings triumph and success in all our
endeavours. You can make sundal with broken thuvaram parrupu or the whole
variety that is commonly found in supermarkets. Soak the thuvarai the
previous day and allow it to sprout. Pressure cook till it is done and
proceed to make sundal. Add green chillies and raw mangoes to give tang and
flavour to the dish.

4. Wednesday - Budhan - Mercury: Payar (Moong Dhal) is what interests
Budhan, the diety who makes every wish come true. Thus Wednesday is
considered auspicious to begin all good things. Payar comes with and
without husk, both broken and whole. Whatever variety you may use, be careful
not to overcook this lentil since it cooks very fast. If you are using
the whole variety with husk, you can soak it over night and allow it to
sprout before making sundal. Just before you serve the sundal try
squeezing a dash of lime for a novel taste. You can attempt making payar
sweet sundal also using jaggery and coconut.

5. Thursday - Guru - Jupiter: Everyone needs the blessings of Guru to
achieve success, so what better way to appease this diety other than
offering sundal made of kadalai (channa dhal). Both the black and white
varieties of kadalai can be used. Soak kadalai the previous day as it
takes quite sometime for it to cook. Try adding green mango and ground
chilli powder to add to the taste of this popular sundal.

6. Friday - Sukran - Venus: Mochai parrupu (white beans) is what
pleases this Guru of the Asuras. White mochai parrupu comes both as dry beans
and fresh beans, though the fresh variety is seasonal. If fresh bean
seeds are available use them. If you are planning to use the dry lentil,
make sure you soak them well before cooking. Add a dash of green
chillies, curry leaves, grated carrots and coconut to add colour and flavour
to the dish.

7. Saturday - Sani - Saturn: The tiny black Ellu seeds (Sesame seeds)
will surely win the heart of Sani, the most portent of the nine grahas.
It is assumed that anyone who does not fall in the good books of Sani
can never thrive and prosper. So make sure you mollify this diety this
navarathri. Try making ellu urundai! You could alternatively make ellu
powder that can be mixed with rice. You can make sweet ellu powder if
you are short of time. Dry roast ellu and make a coarse powder of it. Mix
it with jaggery, to make sweet ellu podi.

8. Eight day of Navarathri - Rahu: The eighth and ninth days of
navarathri are reserved for the snake deities Rahu and Ketu. Without the
approval of this couple our desires can never materialize. Kollu is what
Rahu likes. Try making Kollu sundal. Add masala powder (made of dry
roasted dhania seeds, red chillies and coconut) and lots of red chillies to
add punch to this dish. You can also make Appam and offer it with a
splattering of honey to please Rahu.

9. Ninth day of Navarathri - Ketu: Ullunthu ( Urad dhal ) is a sure way
to please Ketu. Use whole ullunthu to make sundal. Add ginger, green
chillies and ground masala powder to make this sundal tastier. You could
also make ullunthu vadai! Instead of eating sundal every day we can
have vadai for a change.

The ‘Navaraathri’ is being observed since the days or yore as an
auspicious   period for activating the spiritual energies in human life.
Literally, nine auspicious nights, the period begins just after the new
moon in the month of Ashwini (September-October). These nine days of
spiritual intensification fructifies as the Vijaya-dashami, the day of
Supreme Triumph, on the 10th day.

Triumph over what? Over the negative, anti-evolutionary trends in the
human mind that keep man in pain and thralldom.  These are personified
in the Puraana-s as various Asuras, the demoniac characters having
predominantly distorted disposition and intelligence. Of them, the
Mahishasura, the grotesque Buffalo Demon, symbolizes an extremely senseless
human mind. 

According to Hindu philosophy the phenomenal universe is a conditioned
expression of the Supreme Reality, referred to as Brahman/Shiva. The
phenomenal expression is a characteristic of Reality and this is brought
about by the supreme Power of Brahman, Paraa-Shakthi or Shakthi. As the
originator of everything, Paraa-Shakthi is Divine Mother.    The
interactions of the three modes of energy latent in Shakthi evolve the
conditioned universe. They are the three guan-s, namely satthva, rajas and
thamas. As everything else, man is also conditioned by these special
modes of energy. Yet, he is in such an evolutionary stage that he can
transcend their influence and attain spiritual liberation, the timeless and
unconditioned freedom of the Supreme Divine. (The manifestation of the
universe step by step from the subtle to the gross phases from Reality
forms a well-coordinated  and rational  knowledge presented by the
Hindu philosophy.)

All energy forms – spiritual and material – that maintain the universe
originate from the Source, Paraa-Shakthi, the Divine Mother, the
Intelligence-Energy Supreme. The Divine Mother has three major aspects, Mahaa
Kaali, Mahaa Lakshmi and Maha Saraswathi, who preside over these three
major conditioning modes of energy.  Mahaa Kaali has the control over
the thamas, the energy mode that is responsible for the gross appearance
of the universe. The predominance of thamas in the human mind causes
dullness and insensitivity. Mahaa Lakshmi exerts control over the rajas,
the mode that causes all movements and its predominance in the human
mind causes reckless activity without any higher objective, selfish
pursuits, conflicts and wars. Mahaa Saraswathi presides over the satthva
mode, which is the most refined conditioning mode and its predominance in
the human mind is expressed as harmony, compassion, happiness, sense of
beauty, etc. Even though satthva is the most refined mode and closest
the Divine, this mode is also considered responsible for keeping the
human consciousness in a stage of   bondage by the sense of duality of
good and evil. Transcendence of this guna is achievable though the
cultivation of spiritual wisdom and its practice. Maha Saraswathi is the
aspect of the Divine Mother that imparts this liberating knowledge and
wisdom. (The guna-s and their action form another well-coordinated science
in Hindu philosophy.)

The above-mentioned three major   aspects of Divine Mother are invoked
in the nine days of Navarathri – a reinforcing special occasion of the
effort to achieve Perfection by transcending the three conditioning
energy modes.

Modern biology indicates that the evolution of the life stream has been
a movement towards greater levels of physical complexity expressing
higher stages of consciousness and the movement culminated in the
phenomenon of man. The ancient seers of India discovered that man is not an end
product of evolution but a remarkable phase in the progress of the
stream of life towards greater expansion and freedom.

The flow is like that of a stream, which trickles down from some source
and while it moves towards an unforeseen goal, joins other streams and
moves on till the  awareness dawns that it has been transformed
thoroughly and is one with   the endless ocean.  It cannot but finally achieve
this goal although facing many obstacles on its  course.  Hopelessly
blind searches at last find out the way. While facing the high
obstructive mountain walls it increases itself and jumps  down to proceed towards
its goal. Likewise, the stream of life through its persevering and
obstinate search through the millennia slowly moved expressing the
faculties latent in it, increased itself and finally evolved to be the human
being.  And Nature has bestowed on him the responsibility for  the
further advance.

Man is endowed with a great freedom – the freedom to evolve himself.
Naturally the situation bestows on him the freedom to create obstacles
also on his own progress. Thus misusing the freedom, he often chooses to
allow the grossest energy mode, the thamas to increase and dominate his
mind which creates within him a grotesque demon, Mahishaasura, the
buffalo-headed monster - the demon who knows the technology to create the
most sophisticated weapons that without causing the slightest damage to
the consumer goods, furniture or buildings can successfully wipe out
all human and animal life from the earth’s surface.

The Puraana-s describe the characteristics of Mahishaasura.  He is very
clever, shrewd and diplomatic.  He is able to assume any shape. He has
sharp intelligence and can conceive many things, but his consciousness
is dull. He has immense physical prowess, but no power of
discrimination. He is neither aware of, nor has faith in the higher possibilities of
life. As he has gained much control over the physical world, he is
under the illusion that he is all-powerful. He feels he has even the might
to vanquish and possess Paraa-Shakthi, who appears before him as an
enchanting damsel!

The sages reassure man that he is really powerful. But he is a weakling
as long as he fosters in him the Mahishasura  - the boosted up ego with
all its limitations.  They advise him to destroy the Mahishaasura
within and without by invoking Divine Mother and be as powerful and free as
She is.  This effort to destroy Mahashaasura has become all the more
important today as he is ably usurping the kingdom of heaven within man,
and stifling the great possibilities latent in him.

The fertilized ovum, a single cell, divides itself to form millions and
millions of cells and expressing their possibilities emerge into the
world in the 10th month as a newborn babe. And the birth bears the
responsibility of expressing its higher possibilities, which Nature bestows
on no other being except man. It is the responsibility of man to
struggle to increase the positive qualities within and evolve to freedom. But
instead  the  human mind often facilitates the birth and growth of
Mahishaasura within.

The rosary, the Veena, the musical instrument, the book and the sword
are the weapons to destroy the Mahishaasura.  The principles symbolized
by these insignia will activate the evolutionary possibilities of human
expansion and freedom. A new dimension of the human phenomenon then
unfolds itself – the Universal Man. In place of the monstrous Mahishasura
in man there emerges the Divine. Without and within the Mahishaasura
today is on an effort to overwhelm mankind. For the destruction of
Mahishaasura both the physical and spiritual power have to be employed as
symbolized by the glorious figure of Divine Mother annihilating the
Buffalo-Demon. This is the triumph over the anti-evolutionary trends in man 
– signified by the Vijaya Dashami – in his evolution to Perfection.
Tomorrow is going to be Dhan-Teras. This day all gujju traders (everybody actually) offer prayers to their account books and pray goddess Laxmi for a great year.

The day after is Kali-Chaudas. Thats not considered auspicious. People pray to drive out evil spirits from their lives - or to keep them away from their lives for the coming year. All cross roads will have circles of water with a lemon or two. People take care not to step into these - its considered bad omen.

And the day after that is ofcourse DIWALI.. <!--emo&:guitar--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/guitar.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='guitar.gif' /><!--endemo-->
OK one more thing i just remembered about dhan-teras. Gujjus buy gold for wives on the day of dhan-teras. That is considered auspicious too.. No wonder wife was asking me if i can come home early tomorrow.. <!--emo&Rolleyes--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/rolleyes.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='rolleyes.gif' /><!--endemo-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The day after is Kali-Chaudas. Thats not considered auspicious.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
The day before Deepavali is called Naraka-chathurdasi in Southern India (esp Tamil Nadu.) It is on this day that Deepavali is celebrated and not on the amasya (new moon) day. I do not know why, but in jest, we used to say that Tamilnadu celebrates it as long as Narakasura lived, and stopped celbrations once he died..

In the North, Deepavali is the celebration of Raghuvamsa Rama's victorious return to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. In South India, Deepavali is celebrated for the following reason:

Narakasura was the son of Sri Krishna and Satyabhama (who is also Bhudevi.) He was a demon king and a delinquent one. His capital city was Pragjyotishpur (Guahati?).

Narakasura's evil deeds got out of hand to an extent that Krishna decides to finish him off. Satyabhama, who is an excellent charioteer herself, comes with Krishna. A fierce battle between Krishna and Narakasura takes place in which Ranchodrai (aka Krishna) is 'knocked unconscious'. <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo--> Unable to take it anymore, Satyabhama takes over the command and kills Narakasura.

The day Naraka died is an occasion to Celebrate, with ppl wearing new clothes, distributing sweets, and performing a ganga-snanam early in the morning. Ganga snaanam aacha is the standard greeting amongst tamils on Deepavali.(Or atleast amongst Tamils in Hyderabad.)

Along with that, there is also Yama-tharpanam which is done by the head of a clan amongst Brahmins. This is to offer libations to Yama, who was 'killed' by Shiva when he came to take away Markandeya. (This pose of Shiva is called Kalasamhara Murthy.)

So, we celebrate Deepavali on Naraka-chathurdasi, and on Deepavali Day.
Ganga snanam acha is also the same with Madras Brahmins and even the Thanjavur jilla Brahmins.

Was wondering whether South Indians really celebrate Deepavali or their celebration of Naraga-chaturdasi came to be called as Deepavali?

Again it in Tamil Nadu, Deepavail is a festival of fireworks and not a festival of lights in Tamilnadu. Karthigai Deepam is the actual festival of lights.
Diwali -The Festival of Lights

Diwali is a major festival of the Hindu religion.

Diwali word has been derived from the word Deepavali, a Sanskrit word, meaning a row of lights. During Diwali, lamps are lit everywhere.

It is celebrated on four consecutive days, as follows.

According to the Hindu Lunar Calendar

The thirteenth day (trayodashi) of the dark fortnight of the Hindu lunar calendar month of Ashvin.

Narak chaturdashi
The fourteenth day (chaturdashi) of the dark fortnight of the Hindu lunar calendar month of Ashvin.

Lakshmipujan / Diwali
The new moon day (Amavasya) of the dark fortnight of the Hindu lunar calendar month of Ashvin.

The first day (pratipada) of the bright fortnight of the Hindu lunar calendar month of Kartik.

{Some exclude the thirteenth (Dhanatrayodashi) and consider only the remaining three days as Diwali. Since Vasubaras and Bhaubij respectively precede and follow Diwali, they are included in it. However, in reality they are separate holy festivals}.

Significance and Celebration of Diwali
The thirteenth day (trayodashi) of the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwin
It is also called Dhanatrayodashi or in colloquial language, Dhanteras. The Hindu commercial year is comprised of the period between one Dhanatrayodashi and another. Businessmen worship their treasuries and begin new account books on this day.

Worship of the deity Dhanvantari: According to Ayurveda (ancient Indian medical science), it is the birthday of the deity Dhanvantari, the deity bestowing immortality. Hence, it is also called Dhanvantari jayanti. On this day, Ayurvedic doctors (vaidyas) worship Him by making a sacred offering (prasad) of small pieces of neem leaves and sugar to visitors. Besides the fact that neem leaves are very good for health (chewing five to six of them everyday helps prevent malady), they also have the highest ability to absorb prajapati frequencies.

Offering of lamps: On this day, one performs Yamadipadan, that is, an offering of lamps to Lord Yama to prevent untimely death. Thirteen lamps made of wheat flour and lit with oil should be placed outside the house, facing southwards (direction of Lord Yama), in the evening. A lamp is never kept facing southwards except on this day. Then, reciting the following mantra one should offer obeisance: "I offer these thirteen lamps to the son (Lord Yama) of the Sun deity (Surya), so that He liberates me from the clutches of death and bestows His blessings."
The fourteenth day (chaturdashi) of the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwin

Ablution with oil (abhyangasnan): According to Shrimadbhagvat Puran, on this day Lord Krishna slayed a powerful demon, Narkasur. The dying Narkasur asked Lord Krushna for a boon, "On this date (tithi) let one, who takes an auspicious bath (mangalsnan) not suffer in hell." Lord Krishna granted him that boon. Consequently, this day also came to be known as Narak (hell) chaturdashi, and on that day people started taking an auspicious bath before sunrise.
Yamatarpan and Aarti: On this day, one performs Yamatarpan, that is, offering to the deity of death (Lord Yama) after an auspicious bath (bath with an oil massage) to overcome untimely death (apamrutyu). Thereafter, the mother moves lit lamps in front of her children's faces to commemorate the celebration of Lord Krishna's victory.

The new moon day (Amavasya)of the month of Ashwin
Generally, the new moon day is considered inauspicious; however, this day is an exception to the rule. Since it is still not auspicious for all events, it is more appropriate to call it a day of happiness rather than an auspicious day.
The deities Lakshmi and Kuber are worshipped on this new moon day. Lakshmi is the deity of wealth, but Kuber is the treasurer. Some people possess the art of earning money but do not know how to save it. However, saving money and spending it appropriately is far more important than earning it. Since most people do not know how to spend money properly, their spending is unwarranted and ultimately, and they become bankrupt. Kuber is the deity Who teaches the art of saving money as He Himself is the treasurer. Therefore, in this ritual, the worship of Lakshmi and Kuber has been recommended. Though all people celebrate this festival, the business community in particular does so with great enthusiasm and splendor. The celebration of this proceeds as follows:

An auspicious bath (abhyangsnan): Bath with an oil massage is recommended on all the three days from Narak chaturdashi to Balipratipada. One should wake up early in the morning and take an oil bath. With an ordinary bath the raja and tama components decrease by 1/100,000% and the sattva component increases by the same amount for a duration of only three hours. However, with the oil bath it lasts for four to five hours. An oil bath consists of an oil massage to facilitate the absorption of oil by the skin, followed by a warm water bath. Oil should be applied to retain elasticity of the skin. Warm water is auspicious and pleasing to the body. Bathing after an oil massage retains only that amount of oiliness that the skin and hair require. Hence, an oil massage is necessary before a bath. Application of oil after a bath is inappropriate.

Lakshmipujan: On this day, one performs Lakshmipujan, that is, worship of deity Lakshmi, the deity of prosperity. After an auspicious bath at dawn, one should worship the deities. In the afternoon, a rite for the departed souls (parvanshraddha) and an offering of meals to Lord Brahma (who created the Universe) is done and in the evening, in a pandal decorated with creepers and leaves, Lakshmi, Vishnu, Kuber, and other deities are worshipped in the following manner. A statue or picture of Lakshmi should be installed on a seat on which either an octapetalled lotus or a svastik is drawn with consecrated rice (akshata). Next to Her, a statue of Kuber is placed on a pot (kalash). Then, all these deities are offered a sacrament (prasad) of a mixture of coagulated cow's milk (khava), sugar, cardamom and cloves. Then, items like coriander, jaggery, and corn from parched, uncleaned rice, sugar candies (battase), etc., are offered to Lakshmi and distributed to friends. The Puranas (Hindu spiritual texts) narrate that on this night, Lakshmi enters the ideal home, which besides being clean, is inhabited by men who are faithful, dutiful, merciful, righteous, have control over passions and are devotees of God, and women who are virtuous and chaste.

Cleaning the house: Development of virtues gains importance only if in the process, defects are overcome. Just as one makes efforts to acquire wealth (Lakshmi), poverty (alakshmi) should be destroyed. To signify that, on this day a new broom is bought. It is called Lakshmi. At midnight one should sweep the house with that broom, accumulate the garbage in a dustpan and throw it out. This is called 'driving off' of alakshmi (garbage - poverty). Sweeping the house and throwing the garbage out at night is forbidden on other days.
Decoration with lit lamps: Lamps should be lit both inside and outside the house on all the evenings of Divali. This gives the house a decorative look and generates enthusiasm and joy. Earthen lamps lit with oil are more decorative and soothing than a string of electric bulbs. This is in alignment with the Vedic teaching that one should go from darkness (spiritual ignorance) to light (spiritual knowledge.). Offering lit lamps attracts Lakshmi. Each and everyone should celebrate the religious festival of Dipavali with enthusiasm so that Lakshmi perpetually inhabits one's home and one is enlightened with spiritual knowledge. This helps to maintain happiness and prosperity in the family.

Decoration with lanterns (akashkandil): The lantern should be hung outside the house on a tall pole. The pole should be held in the ground by burying its base and the lantern should be hung on it with the help of a string. This lantern should be displayed from the eleventh day (ekadashi) of the bright fortnight of the month of Ashvin till the eleventh day of the bright fortnight of the month of Kartik. To gain prosperity, the lantern should be ritualistically installed, repeating the mantra : "I am offering this lantern along with the lamp to The Supreme Almighty Damodar. May He endow me with prosperity."

Rangoli: The word rangoli is derived from the Sanskrit word 'rangavali' (an array of colors). Thus, a design created by a pinch of hand, allowing the powder of a special soft white stone to flow freely is called rangoli. Rangoli is an art, which precedes sculpture and painting. It is both an auspicious and a preliminary necessity in any religious ritual.

The two aims of drawing rangoli are revelation of beauty and acquisition of auspiciousness. It is a practice to draw rangoli at the site of any auspicious religious ritual such as a holy festival, a religious festival, an auspicious function, ritualistic worship, a vowed religious observance, etc. When performing the act of moving lit lamps about the face for someone (aarti), rangoli is drawn around a wooden seat (pat) on which he is seated and also in front of him. At public functions also during a meal rangoli is drawn around a wooden seat and the plate or leaf on which the meal is served. During Diwali various rangoli designs are drawn at the doorstep and decorated with different colours. In the ancient times it was a practice to sweep and sprinkle every doorstep with cow-dung everyday and draw rangoli.

Rangoli is drawn with powder obtained by pounding a cleavable and lustrous mineral (shirgola). Rangoli powder is generally coarse. As a result, it is easily released with a pinch. After smearing the ground with cow-dung, one should not forget to draw at least four lines of rangoli on it. Ground smeared with cow-dung but not decorated with rangoli is said to be inauspicious. When sweeping the floor or smearing with cow-dung, subtle lines are created on it. These possess certain frequencies. Since these lines are irregular, their vibrations, too, are irregular. These are harmful to body, eyes and mind as well. To overcome these unfavorable frequencies, if cones and auspicious symbols are drawn systematically with rangoli on the smeared floor, then the ill effects of sweeping and smearing are overcome and favorable results are obtained.
The first day (pratipada) of thebright fortnight of the month of Kartik

This is the half among the three-and-a-half auspicious moments (sadhe teen muhurtas). It is called Balipratipada, as King Bali was stripped of his kingdom and sent to the netherworld, as a punishment for making offerings unto the undeserving. Hence, a picture of King Bali and his queen is drawn with rangoli on the floor, decorated with five colors and worshipped. Then for the sake of Bali's generosity, lamps and clothes are donated.

On this day, after an early morning bath with an oil massage (auspicious bath), women move lit lamps in front of their husbands' faces. In the afternoon, one feasts on a meal with delicacies. People don new attire and celebrate the whole day through. There is also a practice of worshipping the mountain Govardhan (Govardhan puja) on this day, by making a heap of cow-dung and tucking durva (a sacred grass) and flowers into it. Images of Lord Krishna, the cowherds, Lord Indra, cows and calves are arranged alongside and also worshipped. Then, all the images are taken out in a procession, to commemorate Lord Krishna's saving the cowherds and their herds from torrential rains by holding up the mountain Govardhan like an umbrella over them, with His finger.


Goddess Lakshmi
Lakshmi is the energy associated with Lord Vishnu.

Lakshmi is derived from Lakshma, which means a symbol. It is not possible to point out exactly which symbol represents Lakshmi and from which symbol She may be perceived.
A substitute for Lakshmi is the word "Shri" or "Shree", which means decoration or luster. Since the word Shri or Shree is derived from the symbol svastik, it seems quite likely that the symbol representing Lakshmi must be the svastik. One comes across both the words Shri and Lakshmi in the Rugveda. The Shrisukta, an appendix of the Rugveda, is quite famous. Deity Lakshmi is worshipped with the Shrisukta itself.' 'Shri' is the deity of fortune.
Vedic literature has described the expansive form of Shri or Lakshmi as the deity who 'enriches (shrimant)' by endowing with prosperity, wealth, health and longevity, progeny and continuation of the family tree, abundant food grain, servants, well-equipped servitors, etc.
The book in Her hand symbolizes the Vedas, that is, spiritual knowledge.

Meaning of the lotus and rising sun: 'An in depth meaning has been attached to the blossoming of the lotus with the touch of the rising sun. The sun is the representative of the dyu region [dyulok - a part of heaven (svargalok)], while the earth is his consort. The implied meaning of this is that the union of heaven and the earth gives birth to the universe as the fetus. In this way sages have associated the earth, that is, Shri, Who has the capacity to reproduce, with the lotus.'
When is Holi next year? I believe it is on March 25-26, 2005 but need a definite confirmation since my wife and I are planning to go to India. Thanks.
Holi is on Friday, March 25 - 2005. (Color)

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