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Indian Festivals
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The Shankara Jayanthi celebrations went quite well with a full-day schedule of events.

The idea of celebrating Shankara Jayanthi started in 2004 December when a friend and I came up with the idea of having a small pooja to celebrate Shankara Jayanthi as we both adore and follow Sri Shankaracharya's works.

Then I thought of broadening the pooja concept to include the local community. The idea is to involve the kids & teenagers. My observation shows that the first year is by far the toughest one, it is to get the people to buy in to the concept, but after that people themselves look forward to it, and once it becomes a well-oiled machine, there is not much of an effort in terms of participation or donations. (This time we had a 'waitlist' for people who wished to participate and present in the 7.5 hour long program.)

The idea behind Shankara Jayanthi celebration is to spread the awareness of Sri Shankaracharya's teachings to all communities, and also to get the kids and teens to learn more and more about the life and teachings of Acharya Shankara. This effort is both effective, and satisfying.

We hope to invite the Mayor / City council for the events next year. That's pretty much the gist of it.
<b>Surya Shashti (Chhath) festival </b>

Poorvanchalis - people belonging to the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Eastern UP- staying in Delhi, the Surya Shashti (Chhath) festival has become an integral part of the various celebrations in Delhi after Dussehra, Diwali and Holi.

Chhath Puja is observed with paying obeisance to the rising Sun on the 6th day from Diwali. This year it starts from the November 13 with a ritual known as Nahaye-Khaye in which the worshippers takes a meal of Lauki-Bhaat (Gourd and cooked rice) after a bath to begin with their almost three day fast. The next day - November 14 will be observed as Kharna, where on this day the family deity is worshipped and prasad of Kheer made of jaggery and poorie is distributed which marks the procedural beginning of the Chhath Puja, an important festival in Bihar and eastern UP.

On November 15 the devotees would continue with their day long fast and offer prayers to the setting Sun known as Pehla Argh in the evening at the banks of rivers, ponds or artificial water bodies made in the premises of the residence like that of high profile people in the Capital. Lakhs of worshippers throng the roads of the city to reach the river banks by singing devotional songs which continues throughout the night even as interested worshippers perform the Kosi Puja.

In the next morning the first rays of the Sun God is worshipped called as Subeh Ka Argh constituted of gram seeds, akshat (rice) and fruits. Finally the fast is broken and the favourite prasad constituted of Thekua, a traditional Bihari baked cake of maida, flour and gur, Ladoos made out of rice and fruits are served and also distributed to all and sundry. The weeklong preparation of Chhath Puja which is done for the welfare of the family, especially son comes to and end with a feast on the spicy vegetables
Dipawali -- the festival of lights

Prem Ranjan Dev
The Indian civilisation is an unending procession of festivals. When one sees Shivaratri, Holi, Teej, Gangour, Baisakhi, Janmashtami, Ramanavami, Dussehra, Dipawali, Ramalila, Durgapuja, Rathayatra, Ganesa Chaturthi, and so on, one is simply amazed not by their pageantry alone, but also by the devotion and fervent feelings of those who celebrate them with great enthusiasm in the name of divinity.

Dipawali or Diwali, one of the biggest and grandest natural festivals of Hindus, is celebrated in the month of Kartika (October-November) on the new moon night, Dipawali literally means row of lamps or as it is popularly known, the 'festival of light's that removes the darkness of night. It is an important and popular festival in one form or the other. As a matter of fact it is a five-day long festival, but the main celebration takes place on the day of Dipawali. One myth says that on this auspicious day. 'Lakshmi', the goddess of wealth and good fortune, roams about and visits the houses of people. So, people tidy up their houses, establishments and shops and decorate them lavishly with lights to welcome the goddess. On the night she is worshipped with great devotion. It also commemorates the triumph of Lord Rama over Ravana, and Rama's return to Ayodhya. It is also on this day that Lord Krishna killed the demon Norkasura. Bengali Hindus on this occasion worship goddess Kali.

The 'Skanda Purana' refers that people worshiped Bali at night. They were to draw his image on the ground with different colours and offered fruits and flowers. They were also to give presents in his honour and light lamps. King Harsha has described it as 'Dipapratipadotsava' in his 'Nagananda'. According to him, the bride and the bridegroom were presented gift on this festival. Rajasekhara in his 'Kavyamimamsa' has mentioned it as Dipamalika. The houses were white washed and oil lamps were burnt at every house, street and the marked place. It was a gay night for all. Somadeva Suri in his 'Yasastilaka Champu' says that on Dipawali, the palace and other buildings in the city were decorated with white flags and rows of lights on terraces. In the evening temples, buildings, river banks, gardens and gateways were decorated with innumerable lamps. Entertainments like dances and musical concerts were arranged.

Similar interesting details have also been provided by Merutunga in his 'Prabandhachintamani' and Hemachandra in his 'Desinamamala' and 'Divyasrayakavya'. King Bhoja of Malwa in his 'Rajamartonda' describes this festival as Sukhratri. According to him, on this occasion, Lakshmi, the goddess of plenty and prosperity, was worshiped at dusk and lamps were lit up on the trees, temples, roads, cremation grounds, river banks, hill tops , and also in the houses of both the rich and the poor. Jimutavahana in his 'Kavyaviveka' also refers to the Sukharatri-Vrata performed in the month of Kartika. Alberuni puts the celebration of the festival on the first new moon day of Kartika, when the sun reached the zodiacal sign Libra. People bathed, dressed festively, made presents to one another of betel and nuts, rode to temples to give alms and play merrily with one another till noon. At night they lighted a great number of lamps. He also states that the cause of this festival was that Lakshmi, once a year, on this day, liberated Bali, the son of Vairochana, who was also a prisoner in the seventh world and allowed him to go out.

It is not possible to describe at length about the many ancient, mediaeval and modern books on the Dipawali or Diwali, Dipawali is celebrated with equal zest by the Jainas also. According to the Jaina Harivamsa Purana, the members of the community joined the celebrations because it was the Nirvana day of Lord Mahavira, the twenty-fourth Trithankara. The festival of Diwali is also now celebrated every year in America, Europe, Africa, and many countries in Asia, by the Indian diaspora.

Dipawali is no mere occasion of congregation of men, women and children, but in fact it reflects the inherent feelings of the people of a great nation having a long historical and rich cultural background. Dipawali also marks the advent of new season and sowing of new crop-seeds. The new Vikrama era begins on this day and account books are opened. The famous king Vikramaditya, after whom the era is named, was crowned on this day. People greet each other and distribute sweets. In Bengal goddess Kali is worshipped with great fervour and devotion on this day. Swami Dayanand Saraswati the founder of the Arya Samaj attained salvation on this day. The great Swami Rama Tirtha also entered his final Jal-Samadhi on this tithi. On this occasion people ask for each other's forgiveness for the wrongs done knowingly or unknowingly and mutual relations are reestablished and strengthened.

We know that the Hindu festivals, fasts, rituals, holy baths and observance of sacred days are part and parcel of the great cultural heritage of Indian civilisation. They are great source of spiritual and moral enrichment. The Hindu festivals are more than what they appear to be. They are essentially a way of living and thinking in the course of existence. A Hindu festival is, in fact, something more than a 'festival.' It is cathartic in nature, and is a means of purification, strengthening and self-denial. They are more of an exploration of the colourful things of life, without being bound to or obsessed by them. Dynamic spirituality and beauty of Dipawali can contribute so much to life and its fulfilment.

Prem Ranjan Dev is president, Bangladesh National Hindu Council. http://www.thedailystar.net/story.php?nid=10933
Deepavali is more than a festival
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Deepavali is the Festival of Light celebrated by Indian religious traditions -- Vedic, Jain and Sikh. Multi-level mythologies and history have made the festival cherished in the memories and lives of the billion-strong Indian communities. It is the Festival of Light, and light symbolizes many things positive, including primarily freedom.

    Swami Vivekananda, the great Hindu savant, said that freedom is the first condition of life. And the light of Deepavali is also the light of freedom -- freedom from control, freedom from tyranny and freedom from all that artificially divides humanity.

    Hindu nationalists, after all, were proclaiming the unity of the human race from Himalayan peaks while Europe was besieged with racial theories and conflicts. As early as 1910 Sri Aurobindo pointed out that race is a pseudo-scientific category. Veer Savarkar declared in the 1920s that humanity is one from pole to pole and all other divisions are manmade and artificial. Why talk about race during Deepavali?

    During the expansion of European colonialism, colonial "scholars" -- who were often missionaries or administrators -- tried to present the history of the people of continents like Asia, Africa and the Americas. They derived the lineage of these people from Ham, a son of the Biblical figure Noah. Why Ham? Because Noah cursed him and his descendents with servitude to the descendants of Noah's other two sons.

    This mythology of Genesis was transformed into the history of the people whose continents the Europeans colonized. The curse of Noah justified slavery. Even after the abolition of slavery, it made Europeans feel good about the civilizing mission they were to take up among the dark-skinned races of the world.

    In India a variant of this Hamitic myth set the dark-skinned Dravidians beneath the fair- skinned Aryan invaders (who were descendants of Shem or Japheth as per the guesses of the researcher concerned). Soon the demons of Hindu mythologies became Dravidians and the Gods Aryans. Political movements which applied racial categories to social inequalities sprouted.

    For the colonial administrators these movements were blessings in disguise, and they encouraged these social divides to counter the rising tide of the anti-colonial freedom movement in India. In the process the beautiful cultural traditions of India became victims of racial interpretations. Deepavali is one such.

    In South India the Dravidian supremacist movement was run by E. V. Ramasami, a disgruntled Congressman. He declared that Narakasura -- a demon whose death we celebrate in Deepavali -- was Dravidian and that he was killed by deceit by Aryan invaders. So he declared that Deepavali should be a day of mourning for Tamils.

    It is interesting to note that even though his followers today form the ruling party and Dravidian ideology -- which is racism camouflaged as social justice -- is the ideology of the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, people have rejected this racial interpretation of the Deepavali mythology. Tamil Nadu is full of children bursting crackers and people exchanging sweets on the day of Deepavali -- virtually indistinguishable from the rest of India.

    Deepavali thus symbolizes in Tamil Nadu the victory of Tamil culture, which is part of Indian culture, against racist propaganda. To feel the significance of this cultural victory over racist narrative one has only to look at Rwanda, where a parallel racist divide of the people by Hamitic myth-turned-history resulted in genocide and massacres and wars among people of the same stock and culture who were made to believe that they were alien races.

    The mythology of Deepavali that is very prevalent in the South is the killing of Narakasura, a demon born when Vishnu rescued Earth from chaos. Narakasura, though born of divine parents, had an uncontrollable urge to conquer the entire universe. He imprisoned women. In the end he was met in battle by Vishnu, who was aided by an incarnation of Mother Earth. Ultimately he was killed not by Vishnu but by Mother Earth. As he was dying he realized his wrongs and requested that his death be celebrated as the Festival of Light.

    Are not we too children of Earth carrying the divinity within and yet an uncontrollable urge to control all nature? And have not our technologies, born out of an urge to control nature, created a serious imbalance between yin and yang and relegated the feminine into dungeons of our unconscious? Then will not Gaia -- Mother Earth -- remove our species on her onward march if we do not make our presiding paradigms sustainable? The mythology of Deepavali has layers and layers of meaning and we humans as a species would do well to ponder over it.

    Then as we celebrate Deepavali we cannot forget the kind of sacrifices associated with it. One such is that of Bhai Mani Singh of the Sikh tradition who in 1737 sacrificed his life for the right to celebrate Deepavali in the Golden Temple (Harmandir) of Punjab. He was cut limb by limb and tortured for his "offense" in organizing the Festival of Light. To this day Sikhs remember his sacrifice as they light the lamps in Gurudwaras.

    Less well known is the sacrifice indentured laborers of Indian origin underwent in Africa for their right to celebrate Deepavali. Two historians, Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed, in their book titled "Inside Indenture" revealed how indentured Indian laborers who went to Africa in the 1860s to work in the sugarcane fields relentlessly fought for their right to celebrate Deepavali -- which the colonial authorities refused. At last they won their right to celebrate the festival in 1907.

    Says Desai: "Being the 100th year of celebrations, we need to recognize and pay homage to those indentured laborers and many other Hindus who sacrificed a great deal to convince the white colonial authorities that Hinduism was a religion and that they had a right to celebrate Deepavali."

    Thus in South Africa Deepavali became a symbolic clarion call for freedom and end to discrimination that anticipated the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Note that it also gives the lie to the recent claims of Western Indologists -- high priests of a subject that has undeniable colonial roots -- that Hinduism itself is an artificial creation of colonialism. As this fight for the Festival of Light by indentured Indian laborers shows, Hinduism is not a colonial construction, but a natural and spontaneous manifestation of a collective expression of the Indian religious heritage.

    Deepavali is thus more than just a festival. It is an expression in light divine of a great civilization that emphasizes the oneness and divinity of not just humanity but of all existence, in this age of strife and terror.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Stage set for all-women's religious fest </b>
Thiruvananthapuram (PTI): Women in thousands have started pouring in to participate in Friday's 'Pongala' festival at Attukal temple, famed as 'Women's Sabarimala' for attracting one of the world's biggest female congregations.

The Attukal Bhagavati temple here had entered the Guinness Book two years back as a unique religious event that draws over a million women on a single day.

The whole city would turn into a sea of women as sun rises on Friday with the road, pavements and by-lanes about an area of six km around being occupied by devotees with the earthen pots placed on brick hearths in front of them to prepare the 'prasadam' (sweetened pudding).

The ritual consists of preparation of the prasadam of rice, jaggery, coconut and spices, to be offered to the Goddess to invoke her blessings for peace and prosperity.

According to a legend, 'pongala' is closely linked with Tamil epic Silappadikaram. It commemorates the hospitality accorded to Kannagi by women in Attukal while she was on way to Kodungallur near Thrissur after destroying the city of Madurai to avenge the injustice done to her husband Kovilan.

The Temple Trust authorities said 2.5 million devotees are expected this year and elaborate crowd-management and security arrangements had been made with the help of government agencies and voluntary outfits.
Ganesh Chaturti greetings to all

Found in HC yahoogroup
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Ganesha Pancharatnam Stotram
Ganesha Pancharatnam Stotram (youtube link)

The website has many great stotras

Ganesh Chaturthi

Sri Swami Sivananda
SALUTATIONS to Lord Ganesha who is Brahman Himself, who is the Supreme Lord, who is the energy of Lord Shiva, who is the source of all bliss, and who is the bestower of all virtuous qualities and success in all undertakings. Mushikavaahana modaka hastha,
Chaamara karna vilambitha sutra,
Vaamana rupa maheshwara putra,
Vighna vinaayaka paada namasthe MEANING: "O Lord Vinayaka! the remover of all obstacles, the son of Lord Shiva, with a form which is very short, with mouse as Thy vehicle, with sweet pudding in hand, with wide ears and long hanging trunk, I prostrate at Thy lotus-like Feet!"Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most popular of Hindu festivals. This is the birthday of Lord Ganesha. It is the day most sacred to Lord Ganesha. It falls on the 4th day of the bright fortnight of Bhadrapada (August-September) . It is observed throughout India, as well as by devoted Hindus in all parts of the world. Clay figures of the Deity are made and after being worshipped for two days, or in some cases ten days, they are thrown into water. Lord Ganesha is the elephant-headed God. He is worshipped first in any prayers. His Names are repeated first before any auspicious work is begun, before any kind of worship is begun. He is the Lord of power and wisdom. He is the eldest son of Lord Shiva and the elder brother of Skanda or Kartikeya. He is the energy of Lord Shiva and so He is called the son of Shankar and Umadevi. By worshipping Lord Ganesha mothers hope to earn for their sons the sterling virtues of Ganesha. The following story is narrated about His birth and how He came to have the head of an elephant: Once upon a time, the Goddess Gauri (consort of Lord Shiva), while bathing, created Ganesha as a pure white being out of the mud of Her Body and placed Him at the entrance of the house. She told Him not to allow anyone to enter while she went inside for a bath. Lord Shiva Himself was returning home quite thirsty and was stopped by Ganesha at the gate. Shiva became angry and cut off Ganesha's head as He thought Ganesha was an outsider. When Gauri came to know of this she was sorely grieved. To console her grief, Shiva ordered His servants to cut off and bring to Him the head of any creature that might be sleeping with its head facing north. The servants went on their mission and found only an elephant in that position. The sacrifice was thus made and the elephant's head was brought before Shiva. The Lord then joined the elephant's head onto the body of Ganesha.Lord Shiva made His son worthy of worship at the beginning of all undertakings, marriages, expeditions, studies, etc. He ordained that the annual worship of Ganesha should take place on the 4th day of the bright half of Bhadrapada. Without the Grace of Sri Ganesha and His help nothing whatsoever can be achieved. No action can be undertaken without His support, Grace or blessing. In his first lesson in the alphabet a Maharashtrian child is initiated into the Mantra of Lord Ganesha, Om Sri Ganeshaya Namah. Only then is the alphabet taught. The following are some of the common Names of Lord Ganesha: Dhoomraketu, Sumukha, Ekadantha, Gajakarnaka, Lambodara, Vignaraja, Ganadhyaksha, Phalachandra, Gajanana, Vinayaka, Vakratunda, Siddhivinayaka, Surpakarna, Heramba, Skandapurvaja, Kapila and Vigneshwara. He is also known by many as Maha-Ganapathi. His Mantra is Om Gung Ganapathaye Namah. Spiritual aspirants who worship Ganesha as their tutelary Deity repeat this Mantra or Om Sri Ganeshaya Namah. The devotees of Ganesha also do Japa of the Ganesha Gayatri Mantra. This is as follows.Tat purushaaya vidmahe
Vakratundaaya dheemahi
Tanno dhanti prachodayaat. Lord Ganesha is an embodiment of wisdom and bliss. He is the Lord of Brahmacharins. He is foremost amongst the celibates. He has as his vehicle a small mouse. He is the presiding Deity of the Muladhara Chakra, the psychic centre in the body in which the Kundalini Shakti resides. He is the Lord who removes all obstacles on the path of the spiritual aspirant, and bestows upon him worldly as well as spiritual success. Hence He is called Vigna Vinayaka. His Bija Akshara (root syllable) is Gung, pronounced to rhyme with the English word "sung". He is the Lord of harmony and peace. Lord Ganesha represents Om or the Pranava, which is the chief Mantra among the Hindus. Nothing can be done without uttering it. This explains the practice of invoking Ganesha before beginning any rite or undertaking any project. His two feet represent the power of knowledge and the power of action. The elephant head is significant in that it is the only figure in nature that has the form of the symbol for Om. The significance of riding on a mouse is the complete conquest over egoism. The holding of the ankusha represents His rulership of the world. It is the emblem of divine Royalty.Ganesha is the first God. Riding on a mouse, one of nature's smallest creatures and having the head of an elephant, the biggest of all animals, denotes that Ganesha is the creator of all creatures. Elephants are very wise animals; this indicates that Lord Ganesha is an embodiment of wisdom. It also denotes the process of evolution--the mouse gradually evolves into an elephant and finally becomes a man. This is why Ganesha has a human body, an elephant's head and a mouse as His vehicle. This is the symbolic philosophy of His form. He is the Lord of Ganas or groups, for instance groups of elements, groups of senses, etc. He is the head of the followers of Shiva or the celestial servants of Lord Shiva. The Vaishnavas also worship Lord Ganesha. They have given Him the name of Tumbikkai Alwar which means the divinity with the proboscis (the elephant's trunk). Lord Ganesha's two powers are the Kundalini and the Vallabha or power of love.He is very fond of sweet pudding or balls of rice flour with a sweet core. On one of His birthdays He was going around house to house accepting the offerings of sweet puddings.  Having eaten a good number of these, He set out moving on His mouse at night. Suddenly the mouse stumbled--it had seen a snake and became frightened-- with the result that Ganesha fell down. His stomach burst open and all the sweet puddings came out. But Ganesha stuffed them back into His stomach and, catching hold of the snake, tied it around His belly. Seeing all this, the moon in the sky had a hearty laugh. This unseemly behaviour of the moon annoyed Him immensely and so he pulled out one of His tusks and hurled it against the moon, and cursed that no one should look at the moon on the Ganesh Chaturthi day. If anyone does, he will surely earn a bad name, censure or ill-repute. However, if by mistake someone does happen to look at the moon on this day, then the only way he can be freed from the curse is by repeating or listening to the story of how Lord Krishna cleared His character regarding the Syamantaka jewel. This story is quoted in the Srimad Bhagavatam. Lord Ganesha was pleased to ordain thus. Glory to Lord Ganesha! How kind and merciful He is unto His devotees! Ganesha and His brother Lord Subramanya once had a dispute as to who was the elder of the two. The matter was referred to Lord Shiva for final decision. Shiva decided that whoever would make a tour of the whole world and come back first to the starting point had the right to be the elder. Subramanya flew off at once on his vehicle, the peacock, to make a circuit of the world. But the wise Ganesha went, in loving worshipfulness, around His divine parents and asked for the prize of His victory. Lord Shiva said, "Beloved and wise Ganesha! But how can I give you the prize; you did not go around the world?" Ganesha replied, "No, but I have gone around my parents. My parents represent the entire manifested universe!" Thus the dispute was settled in favour of Lord Ganesha, who was thereafter acknowledged as the elder of the two brothers. Mother Parvati also gave Him a fruit as a prize for this victory. In the Ganapathi Upanishad, Ganesha is identified with the Supreme Self. The legends that are connected with Lord Ganesha are recorded in the Ganesha Khanda of the Brahma Vivartha Purana. On the Ganesh Chaturthi day, meditate on the stories connected with Lord Ganesha early in the morning, during the Brahmamuhurta period. Then, after taking a bath, go to the temple and do the prayers of Lord Ganesha. Offer Him some coconut and sweet pudding.  Pray with faith and devotion that He may remove all the obstacles that you experience on the spiritual path. Worship Him at home, too. You can get the assistance of a pundit. Have an image of Lord Ganesha in your house. Feel His Presence in it. Don't forget not to look at the moon on that day; remember that it behaved unbecomingly towards the Lord. This really means avoid the company of all those who have no faith in God, and who deride God, your Guru and religion, from this very day. Take fresh spiritual resolves and pray to Lord Ganesha for inner spiritual strength to attain success in all your undertakings. May the blessings of Sri Ganesha be upon you all! May He remove all the obstacles that stand in your spiritual path! May He bestow on you all material prosperity as well as liberation!<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Usually Ganeshotsav is associated with Maharashtra but in recent years its becoming really popular in Gujarat too. In Ahmedabad there is an area called Gulbai Tekra (Gulab-bai's tekra/hill/mound). Its inhabited by decendants of one Gulab-bai, it is said. They are experts at making Ganesh murtis. Their murtis go out to many other states too. Earlier I had not followed this festival much, but this year while passing by this place I saw all kinds of Ganpatis, in all kinds of colors, attires, styles and expressions. There are Ganpatis styled as Jalaram, with bow/arrow. with 3 heads (Shivji/Parvati), baal-ganpati, as Shivaji and so on. Wish I had a camera on me..

Orchestra/music-show has already been added to all pandals. Wait till they add some garba to it and people will join in droves. <!--emo&:rocker--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/rocker.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='rocker.gif' /><!--endemo-->
RajeshG, Ganesh Utsav is associated with Maharastra because, Bal Gangadhar Tilak saw in them a way to bring about community unity under British rule. He organized mass Ganesh poojas all over the Maratha region. In REC Warangal even the Commies had to support the Ganesh pooja on campus to ensure they retained their ties and hold on the North Indian student vote.
During the 80s with rise of vote bank politics Ganesh pooja is being organized on community basis in other cities too. Hyderabad had someof the largest Ganesh statues this time per Zee News and Deccan Chronicle.
<b>The story behind the association of cows/bulls to Pongal festival : </b>
According to an ancient story,once Lord Shiva asked his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and ask the mortals to have bath every day, an oil massage and to eat once a month. Unconsciously, Basava announced that everyone should eat daily and have an oil bath once a month. This made Lord Shiva furious who then cursed Basava, exiled him to live on the earth forever. He would have to plough the fields and help people produce more food.

<b>Prasada </b>: Women prepare the sweet receipe 'Sarkarai pongal" with ingridents like new rice and jaggery which is first offered to Sun God. Sugarcane is offered as a symbolic for sweetness and happiness in life.

Wishing you and your family
a Happy Makara sankramana Punyakaala.

Relevance of this Festival

Tithi (Date)
This festival, unlike other Hindu festivals, is not dependent on the position of the moon, but on position of the sun. On this day, the sun enters the zodiac sign of Capricorn. To compensate for the difference that occurs due to the revolution around the sun, every eighty years the day of sankrant is postponed by one day. In the present period Makar-sankrant falls on 14th January.

Sankranti is considered a Deity. According to a legend Sankranti killed a demon named Sankarasur.The day followed by Makar sankrant is called Kinkrant or Karidin. On this day, the female deity (devi) slayed the demon Kinkarasur.

Information on Sankranti is available in the Panchang: The Panchang (Hindu Almanac) provides information on the form, age, clothing, direction of movement etc. of Sankranti. This information is appropriate to the changes taking place in Her according to time. He who is touched by Goddess Sankranti gets destroyed.

The northward movement of the sun begins on this day. The period from Karkasankrant (the passage of the sun into the zodiac sign of Cancer) to Makarsankrant is called the dakshinayan. A person who dies in the dakshinayan period has a greater chance of going to Yamalok (southward region), than one who dies during uttarayan (northward revolution).
Importance from the point of view of spiritual practice: On this day, from sunrise to sunset, the environment has more chaitanya (Divine conscious-ness); hence those doing spiritual practice can benefit from this chaitanya.

Methods of celebration

Applying the Kumkum between eye-brows
Benefit of highest merit acquired by a Holy dip on the day of Makarsankrant: The time from sunrise to sunset on Makar-sankrant is auspicious. A Holy dip during this period carries special significance. Those who take a Holy dip in the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krushna and Kaveri at the Holy places situated on the banks of these rivers acquire the highest merit.

Offering: Importance of making an offering during an auspicious period: The period from Makarsankrant to Rathsaptami is an auspicious period. Any donation and meritorious deeds in this period prove more fruitful.

Substances offered: An offering of new vessels, clothing, food, sesame seeds, pot of sesame seeds, jaggery, a cow, a horse, gold or land should be made depending on the capability. On this day, married women also make some offering. They take things from unmarried girls and give them sesame seeds and jaggery in return. Married women organise a ceremony of haldi-kumkum (applying vermilion and turmeric to the forehead) and gift articles to other married women.

1. Importance of a gift: Giving a gift to another woman amounts to surrendering to the Divinity in the other, through body, mind and wealth. Since the period of sankrant is favourable for spiritual practice, a gift given during this period results in bestowal of Divine grace and the jiva (embodied soul) gets the desired fruit.

2. What should be gifted?: Nowadays a wrong trend of gifting inappropriate commodities like soaps and plastic items has started. Instead, substances that are complementary to spiritual practice and are indicators of a married life, for example, incense sticks, utane (fragrant powder used during bath), religious texts, Holy texts, pictures of Deities, CDs on spiritual topics etc. should be gifted.

Small mud pots: The festival of sankrant requires small mud pots called sugad (in the Marathi language). Vermilion and turmeric powder is applied to the pots and a thread is tied to them. They are filled with carrots, jujube fruits, sugarcane pieces, pods, cotton, chickpeas, sesame seeds with jaggery, vermilion, turmeric etc. Five pots are placed on a wooden seat, rangoli is drawn around the seat and worshipped. Of these, three are gifted to married women, one is offered to the tulsi plant and one is retained.

Use of sesame seeds: Maximum use of sesame seeds is made during sankrant festival. For example, bathing with water containing sesame seeds and eating and distributing tilgul (a sweet made from sesame seeds), offering sesame to Brahmans, lighting lamps of sesame oil in a temple of Lord Shiva and performing pitrushraddh (rite for the departed ancestors) in which an offering of sesame seeds is made.

Importance of sesame seeds - Using sesame seeds eliminates sins: On this day those who apply sesame seed oil and utane to the body, bathe in water mixed with sesame seeds, drink water mixed with sesame seeds, perform a sacrificial fire, make an offering of sesame seeds and make similar use of sesame seeds, are liberated of all sins.

Importance according to Ayurved: Since sankrant falls in winter, consuming sesame seeds is beneficial.

Importance according to Spirituality:
1. Since sesame seeds have a greater ability to absorb and emit sattva frequencies, consuming tilgul helps improve spiritual practice. Distributing tilgul to one another results in an exchange of the sattva component.
2. Using sesame seeds in shraddh prevents demons from bringing obstacles during the rite.

Forbidden acts!

During the period of sankrant, brushing teeth, talking harshly, cutting trees or grass and acts provoking sexual urges should be avoided.

Do not fly kites!

Today, when the Nation and Dharma are in peril, flying kites for the sake of entertainment is akin to, 'Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burnt'. If the time spent on flying kites is used for the development of the Nation, it will make it progress faster; and if used for spiritual practice and missions related to Dharma, then society and the individual will benefit.

(Reference: Holy Festivals, Religious Festivals and Vowed Religious Observances, compiled by H.H. Dr. Jayant B. Athavale and Dr. Mrs. Kunda Athavale, published by the Sanatan Sanstha.)

Culture & Festivities

This festival is celebrated differently in different parts of the country.

Uttar Pradesh:
In Uttar Pradesh, Sankrant is called ‘Khichiri’. Taking a dip in the holy rivers on this day is regarded as most auspicious. A big one-month long ‘Magha-Mela’ fair begins at Prayag (Allahabad) on this occasion. Apart from Triveni, ritual bathing also takes place at many places like Haridvar and Garh Mukteshwar in Uttar Pradesh, and Patna in Bihar.

In Bengal every year a very big Mela is held at Ganga Sagar where the river Ganga is believed to have dived into the nether region and vivified the ashes of the sixty thousand ancestors of King Bhagirath. This mela is attended by a large number of pilgrims from all over the country.

Tamil Nadu:
In Tamil Nadu Sankrant is known by the name of ‘Pongal’, which takes its name from the surging of rice boiled in a pot of milk, and this festival has more significance than even Diwali. It is very popular particularly amongst farmers. Rice and pulses cooked together in ghee and milk is offered to the family deity after the ritual worship. In essence in the South this Sankrant is a ‘Puja’ (worship) for the Sun God.

Andhra Pradesh:
In Andhra Pradesh, it is celebrated as a three-day harvest festival Pongal. It is a big event for the people of Andhra Pradesh. The Telugus like to call it 'Pedda Panduga' meaning big festival. The whole event lasts for four days, the first day Bhogi, the second day Sankranti, the third day Kanuma and the fourth day, Mukkanuma.

In Karnataka, the festival is marked by visiting one's friends and relatives to exchange greetings, and by the preparation of a dish called Ellu (made with sesame seeds, coconuts, sugar blocks, etc). A common custom found across Karnataka is the exchange of sugarcane pieces and Ellu with one's neighbors, friends and relatives. In Karnataka, Pongal is known as 'Sankranti', and cows and bullocks are gaily decorated and fed 'Pongal'- a sweet preparation of rice. Special prayers are offered. In the evening, the cattle are led out in procession to the beat of drums and music. In the night a bonfire is lit and the animals are made to jump over the fire.

Makar Sankranti is marked by men, women and children wearing colorful clothing; visiting near and dear ones; and exchanging pieces of sugarcane, a mixture of fried til, molasses, pieces of dry coconut, peanuts and fried gram. On this auspicious day, people in Karnataka distribute Yellu and bella (Sesame seeds and Jaggery) and greet with the words " “Ellu bella thindu, Olle Maathu Aadu” (Eat sesame seeds and speak only good). The significance of this exchange is that sweetness should prevail in all the dealings.


Ornaments made of sugar balls
In Maharashtra on the Sankranti day people exchange multi-colored tilguds made from til (sesame seeds) and sugar and til-laddus made from til and jaggery. Til-polis are offered for lunch. While exchanging tilguls as tokens of goodwill people greet each other saying – ‘til-gul ghya, god god bola’ meaning ‘accept these tilguls and speak sweet words’. The under-lying thought in the exchange of tilguls is to forget the past ill-feelings and hostilities and resolve to speak sweetly and remain friends. This is a special day for the women in Maharashtra when married women are invited for a get-together called ‘Haldi-Kumkum’ and given gifts of any utensil, which the woman of the house purchases on that day. Hindus wear ornaments made of 'Halwa' on this day.

In Gujarat Sankrant is observed more or less in the same manner as in Maharashtra but with a difference that in Gujarat there is a custom of giving gifts to relatives. The elders in the family give gifts to the younger members of the family. The Gujarati Pundits on this auspicious day grant scholarships to students for higher studies in astrology and philosophy. This festival thus helps the maintenance of social relationships within the family, caste and community. Kite flying has been associated with this festival in a big way. It has become an internationally well-known event.

In Punjab where December and January are the coldest months of the year, huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Sankrant and which is celebrated as "LOHARI". Sweets, sugarcane and rice are thrown in the bonfires, around which friends and relatives gather together. The following day, which is Sankrant, is celebrated as MAGHI. The Punjabi's dance their famous Bhangra dance till they get exhausted. Then they sit down and eat the sumptuous food that is specially prepared for the occasion.

The 40 days anushthana by the devotees of Ayyappa ends on this day in Sabarimala with a big festival.

In Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh this festival of Sankrant is known by the name ‘Sakarat’ and is celebrated with great pomp & merriment accompanied by lot of sweets.

Tribals of Orissa:
Many tribals in our country start their New Year from the day of Sankrant by lighting bonfires, dancing and eating their particular dishes sitting together. The Bhuya tribals of Orissa have their Maghyatra in which small home-made articles are put for sale.

In Assam, the festival is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu.

Coastal Region:
In the coastal regions, it is a harvest festival dedicated to Indra.

The 40 days anushthana by the devotees of Ayyappa ends on this day in Sabarimala with a big festival.
A bit more on Sabarimala festival on Makarasankranti day: (from: Wiki)
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->On Makarasankranti, every year without fail, miraculous events occur. Firstly as the jewels (Thiruvaabaranam) of the Lord are transported from the Old Pandalam Palace to Sabarimala, a Krishnaparanth (holy Garuda - an eagle - the vehicle of Lord Vishnu), circles above the precious jewels (in fact guarding them), like a protector. This rare eagle is rarely seen in the midst of people for a long period of time, yet the auspicious bird follows the Thiruvaabaranam procession, finally circling above Sanithanam at Sabarimala nine times as it pays its respects to Lord Ayyappan. During this time, there is not a single star in the sky except for a special Nakshatram. As the beautiful jewels are placed on the golden body of the Lord within the temple, the several hundred thousand devotees outside, crammed into any available free space, chant "Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa". When the jewels are finally all adorned on the Lord, the Nakshatram in the sky miraculously disappears, as all the Devas and Celestial beings leave the sky to get a glimpse of the Lord in all his splendor. Within moments of the Lord being adorned with the Thiruvabaranam, an effulgence (Divya Jyoti) appears in the opposite hills of Shabarimala, appearing 3 times. This hill is called Ponnambalamedu. It is believed that the Lord himself appears in the form of that Divya Jyoti. It is firmly believed that Lord Indra himself lights the divine efflugence. The entire hillside reverberates with the chant "Swamiye Sharanam Ayyappa" as the devotees witness this auspicious Darshan, as the Devas and celestial Rishis arrive at Sabarimala to participate in birthday celebrations of Ayyappan effulgence. These auspicious sights are different forms of the Lord Himself appearing. The devotees then climb the 18 holy gold steps to arrive at the sanidhanam where they finally get a glimpse of the Lord as Himself, in all beauty, Manikanta Shri Dharmasastha, adorned with jewels. It is believed that if one witnesses these events after having undertaken 41 days of severe austerities (Vratham), one can attain Moksha.[citation needed]

This is why Ayyappan is also known as "Kaliyugavaradhan", since He can help us attain Moksha in this difficult age of Kaliyuga, the age of hypocrisy and violence.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><!--QuoteBegin-Viren+Jan 5 2004, 09:41 AM--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Viren @ Jan 5 2004, 09:41 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->
<!--QuoteBegin-Mudy+Jan 3 2004, 07:17 PM--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Mudy @ Jan 3 2004, 07:17 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin--> In different parts of India, the Sankranti is celebrated very differently. On the Western parts, the emphasis is on exchanging Til-Gu rwhich is a specialty of Konkani/Marathi women. It comprises sugar coated sesame seeds and nuts of different colors prepared by the housewives. In some other parts, exchange a mixture of teel, jaggery, fried gram, groundnuts (peanuts) which is called "Ellu Bella.". Along with sweets, flowers, bangles, dry fruits, sugarcane, sugar cadies are also exchanged.    <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Yes ! Viren TIL -GUL KHA GODD GODD BOLA is a famous Marathi line that invokes an occassion where youngsters visit their elders and Gurus and exchange pleasantry and sweets (TIL-Gul) meaning meaning a little bit of sweet and little bit of bitter as TIL-GUL comprises of jaggery - the sweet element and leaves of what locally they say "Bhevu " signifying both the good and bitter part of life and everything elseas well.They then seek the blessings of the elders and connect with the family .

I've seen in northern parts of Karnataka, kids go aross the neighborhood collecting <i>til-gul</i> - something very similar to kids in US going trick-or-treating during Halloween.

Another observation about Sankranthi. I think the day marks the beginning of the kite flying season for kids in Mumbai (others can correct me - I could be mistaken here). Also for those who make the annual trip to Sabarimala in Kerala, this Sankranti day is the most auspicious one where they do all the big-finale puja.


Yes !! In mumbai this is the kite fying season that commences from Sankranti and crosses over to the month till March.

This is very popular in Maharashtra and some parts of North Karnatka where we find kite flying competition as zealously followed as we have the Cock fighting in Telanagana on Sankranti

For Kerala it is the Day when by Dusk the sankalp and Vratha for the devotees of Ayyanpan is broken after the darshan of the " Makara Jyoti " which mysteriously come above in the celestal and disappears.The whole firmament is resounding with the bhaktas calling out " SWAMIAAAYEE AIIAAPPOO "

making gaiety, fun,delicacies, get together of families,laughters and a memorable social event to look forward to
came in email,
Happy Gudi Padwa all.

<b>Greetings of Chaitra Shukla Pratipada (Samvatsararambh) : Hindu new year

The wheel of Time that begins on Samvatsararambh day is related to the Origin of the Universe and is beneficial for mankind. The period commencing on 1st January is related to the Dissolution of the Universe and is harmful. Hence, celebrate the Samvatsararambh day as the New Year day! The first Holy festival which marks the beginning of the New Year, new month and new day for Hindus falls on Chaitra Shukla Pratipada. It is known as Gudi Padwa (in Maharashtra), Yugadi (in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh), Vishu in Kerala and many different name in various states of India.

This Hindu New Year Day is celebrated by worshiping and hoisting the 'Dharmadhwaj' (flag) immediately after sunrise. On this day, Prajapati frequencies arrive on Earth in larger proportions. The 'kalash' on the Dharmadhwaj facilitates the entry of these frequencies into the house. Neem leaves have greater ability to absorb Prajapati frequencies, hence we should take this as prasad. The 'Dharmadhwaj' should be lowered before sunset. Using the 'dhwaj-kalash' for drinking water helps us avail of these frequencies the entire year.

For more details visit link

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Also read

* Significance of Chaitra Shukla Pratipada
* Celebration of Chaitra Shukla Pratipada
* Science in the worship of the Gudi
* Position of the Gudi
* Method of raising the Gudi
* Reason for raising the Gudi during war
navasaMvatsaraH shubhamastu navachaitanyaM dadAtu cha

<!--QuoteBegin-Viren+Mar 27 2009, 10:19 PM-->QUOTE(Viren @ Mar 27 2009, 10:19 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->the beginning of the New Year, new month and <b>new day for Hindus falls on Chaitra Shukla Pratipada.</b>

One needs to add some rider here, so it is known that 1-Chaitra is a new year for some Hindu-s but not all.

for shaka saMvat, chaitra is the first month. So new year of this calendar is chaitra varSha pratipadA.

for traditional vikrama saMvat however, chaitra is the last month whereas the first month happens to be vaishAkha.

Since South India minus probably TN, goes by shaka saMvat, there the Hindu new year is celebrated on 1-Chaitra. So Hindus from mahArAShTra, karNATaka and Andhra traditions call 1-Chaitra as the Hindu New Year - yugAdi, pAhwa etc. However we must also remember that a substantial number of Hindus, actually larger number of Hindus, observe the traditional vikrama saMvat and celebrate the new year not on beginning of chaitra, but from vaishAkha, i.e. next month.

Hindus of North, West, and East, including Nepal, Bengal, Punjab, Kashmir and Assam etc., celebrate "their" Hindu New year as Vaishakhi, Poila Boisaka, Nepali New year, Bihua etc.

UP is a mixture. For reasons unknown, while UP follows vikrama saMvata and not shaka saMvata, here the Hindus have adjusted vikrama saMvat to start from chaitra month rather than vaishAkha. So UP celebrates both the Hindu New Years. In west, especially Gujarat, they begin their calendar with kArtika month! So the Gujarati Hindu New Year starts with 1-kArtika.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>happy yuga-adi!</b>
mar 27th, 2009

i guess it is kali yuga 5111. of course, in kerala the calendars no longer have kali yuga. they have saka era (i have no idea why the central government insists of using this) and the malayalam era.

Posted by nizhal yoddha at 3/27/2009 09:14:00 AM 2 comments<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Sameer said...</b>

    Thanks Rajeev,

    Wish you and every blogger here a Happy Ugadi.


    3/27/2009 10:23 AM

<b>Blogger Shahryar said...</b>

    I suspect it is so CE year numbers are higher than Saka Era year numbers - 2009CE == 1931SE ?

    Typically anti-Hindu/"secular" attitude of the GoI to mark the alleged victory of Saka over Vikramaditya of Ujjayini in the year 78CE as start of calendar!

    In the Hindu tradition in India and Nepal, the widely used ancient calendar is Vikrama Samvat or Vikrama's era. Which starts in 58BCE, so 2009CE == 2067VE.

    The Vikrama era (58 bc) is said in the Jain book Kālakācāryakathā to have been founded after a victory of King Vikramāditya over the Śaka.

    3/27/2009 2:04 PM<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Wishing a happy new vaishAkhAdi vikrama saMvat (also known as tamil new year / bengali New year / assamese New Year / punjabi new year - baisakhi) etc.
^^ also known as Vishu in Kerala.
Some wonderful photographs of Holi 2009 from all across India
<b>Upakarma </b>
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Upakarma is a highly auspicious ceremony for the Hindu Brahmin community. It is the day the sacred thread worn by Brahmins known as ‘Yagnopavitam’ is changed. There are Brahmins who are the followers of Rig Veda, Yajur Veda and Sama Veda and they have separate dates for Upakarma. The Upkarma dates in 2009 are August 5, August 6 and August 23. The ritual is also known as Avani Avittam in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

<b>Yajur Vedi Upakarma is observed on the Shravan Poornima day </b>(Full moon day in Sawan month). Brahmins who are the followers of Yajur Veda change the sacred thread on the day. In 2009, the date is August 5.

<b>Rig Vedi Upakarma is observed on the day after Shravan Poornima</b>. Brahmins who are the followers of Rig Veda change the sacred thread on the day. In 2009, the date is August 6. This day is also known as Gayatri Japam day.

<b>Sama Vedi Upakarma is observed on the day after Shravan Amavasi </b>(No moon day in Sawan month). Brahmins who are the followers of Sama Veda change the sacred thread on the day. In 2009, the date is August 23.

Legend has it that Lord Hayagriva, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, got back the Vedas stolen by the Asuras (Demons) on the Shravan Purnima day.

Upakarma means ‘the beginning.’ After a holy dip in a sacred river or pond or Tritha, male Brahmins change the sacred thread and wear a new one. Symbolically the ritual means a new beginning.

Students also begin the study of the Vedas on this day.

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