Festivals Of India
Makara Sankranti festival coincides with the beginning of the sun's northward journey, and falls on January 14 according to the solar calendar. According to legend, Bhishma, a great hero of the Mahabharata, though wounded mortally, waited for this auspicious time to give up his life. For, it is believed that, a person dying on this day reaches the Abode of Light and Eternal Bliss.
In many states, the celebration has a special offering of rice and pulses cooked together with or without jaggery and clarified butter. In many areas of India people distribute til-gud - the sesame seed and jaggery. The til brimming with fragrant and delicious oil, stands for friendship and comradeship and jaggery for the sweetness of speech and behavior.
In Tamil Nadu, Makara Sankranti is celebrated as Pongal, a three-day harvest festival. On Bhogi Pongal, the house is cleaned and the discards are burnt, while children sing and dance around the bonfire. On Surya Pongal, sweet Pongal is prepared and the Sun God is worshipped for a good yearly harvest. The last day of Pongal, Mattu Pongal, is celebrated to pay respects to the cows, the animal that is used in cultivation.
In Uttar Pradesh, it is called the Khichri Sankranti.
In Gujarat, there is a custom of making gifts to near relatives on this day.
Makara Sankranti bears a festive occasion for the people of Rajasthan. Kite Festivals are organized on Makara Sankranti. Kite flyers from all over the world participate in the festival.
Devotional worship of the Guru - the teacher - is one of the most touching and elevating aspect of the Hindu cultural tradition. The auspicious moment of Vyasa Poornima, chosen for observing this annual festival, is no less significant. It was the great sage Vyasa, son of a fisherwoman, who classified the accumulated spiritual knowledge of the Vedas under four heads - Rig, Yajur, Saama and Atharva. The Guru in the Hindu tradition is looked upon as an embodiment of God himself. For, it is through his grace and guidance that one reaches the highest state of wisdom and bliss.
Gururbrahmaa gururvishnuh gururdevo Maheswarah
Guruh-saakshaat parabrahma tasmai shrigurave namah
"My salutations to the Guru who is Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara.
The Guru is Parabrahma incarnate"
Karwa Chauth is a very significant festival for the women of North Indian. Karwa means clay pot and Chauth corresponding to the fourth. The festival is celebrated nine days before Diwali, on the fourth day of the waning moon in the Hindu month of Kartik, around October-November Traditionally the Indian woman was expected to uphold family honor and repute. The festival of Karwa Chauth is not only a day when women pray to God for the long and prosperous lives of their husbands, but is also symbolic of their unflagging loyalty towards their spouses. Married women, old and young, begin their fast on the day of Karwa Chauth well before sunrise, and eventually partake of food and water only after spotting the moon. But this is not a solemn day rather a good measure of festivity, rituals and merriment complement its more serious aspects.
Literally 'the fifth day of spring', Vasanta Panchami is celebrated on the fifth day of the bright fortnight in the month of Magha. The festival itself dates to antiquity. It is reminiscent of the festival of Vasantotsava of the ancient times, which was one of the most important celebrations as it marked the beginning of the agricultural season. Vasanta Panchami heralds the spring season. It is hence celebrated with gaiety and festivity to mark the end of the winter, which can be quite severe in northern India. The festive color yellow, symbolic of spring, plays an important part of this day. People wear yellow clothes, offer yellow flowers in worship and put a yellow, turmeric tilak on their forehead. They visit temples and offer prayers to various gods.
It is also known as Sirapanchami in Bihar and
Orissa, when the ploughs are worshipped and the land is furrowed
after the winter months. In Bengal, the day is celebrated as
Saraswati Puja and is marked by the worship of Saraswati.
This is a major Sikh festival - a religious festival, harvest festival and New Year’s Day all rolled into one.
In April, this day marks the beginning of the Hindu solar New Year. In fact this day is celebrated all over the country as New Year day under different names. It is also the time when the harvest is ready to cut and store or sell. For the Sikh community Baisakhi has a very special meaning. It was on this day that the last Guru Gobind Singh organized the Sikhs into Khalsa or the pure ones. By doing so, he eliminated the differences of high and low and established that all human beings were equal.
Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Hanuman, the monkey god widely venerated throughout India. It is celebrated during Chaitra and is especially important to Brahmacharis, wrestlers and bodybuilders. Hanuman was an ardent devotee of Rama, and is worshipped for his unflinching devotion to the god. From the early morning, devotees flock Hanuman temples to worship him. The officiating priest bathes the idol and offers special prayers to the gods. Then the entire body is smeared with sindoor and oil, a symbol of life and strength. According to a popular belief, once when Sita was applying sindoor to her hair, Hanuman asked her the reason for doing so. She replied that by applying sindoor, she ensured a long life for her husband Shri Ram. The more sindoor she applied, the longer Rama's life would be. The devoted Hanuman then smeared his entire body with sindoor, in an effort to ensure Rama's immortality. Hence Hanuman's idol is always daubed with sindoor.