Deepavali or Diwali is celebrated with much gusto here in India. Fireworks (or firecrackers as they are known here) are set off everywhere by everyone. I imagine it’s what a battlefield would sound like. The booms and bangs are loud and relentless as people celebrate. Businesses are also booming at this time of year.
When is it?
Deepavali falls on the darkest moonless night of Amavasya on the fifteenth day of the month of Kartik. In 2017 this is 19th October. Deepavali begins from the the thirteenth day of Kartik, known as Dhanteras. In south India the fourteenth day is celebrated as Narka Chaturdashi. It’s called Choti Diwali by children.
What is it?
In Hindi Deepavali means ‘row of lamps’ and it is for this reason that the festival is known as the festival of light. It is celebrated by Hindus the world over and markets the beginning of the new year in North India.
. How is it celebrated?
There are a LOT of fireworks! There are also oil lamps, candles and tea lights placed at the entrance of houses and also inside. Coloured lights decorate homes and streets. There are lots of sweets and chocolates, big feasts and much celebrating. Gifts and cards are exchanged and more money is supposed to come to people. (It is traditional for every worker to receive a months salary as a bonus at Deepavali). In fact the celebrations are very similar to Christian Christmas celebrations but here people also buy new utensils, metal objects and ‘holy’ items during this period. The belief is that these things will wards off ill health and evil for a whole year.
It is a festival that celebrates the conquer of good over evil. In north India it is celebrated as ‘Navratri’and is observed in the nine days preceding Dussehra. It is also known as Durga Pooja, Vijayadashmi and Dasahara.
In Karnataka it means the start of 2 weeks of celebrations in Mysore ending with a great elephant parade.
When is it?
It is on the 10th day in the bright half (Shukla Paksha) in the month of Ashwin. Ashwin is the seventh month in the Hindu calendar starting on 17th September and ending on 16th October. (Ashwin means ‘light’ in Hindi and the Sanskrit translates as ‘possessor of horse’ or ‘horse tamer’.)
In 2017, Dusserha falls on Saturday 30th September. The start of Dassara festival in Bangalore is marked by a government holiday on Monday 18th September.
History and legend
Dussehra is celebrated as the victory of the lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of lord Vishnu. His birth was to overpower the powerful ruler of Lanka, the ten-headed demon king Ravana. The story is that Lakshmana, the brother of lord Rama, cut off Surpanakha’s nose, the beloved sister of Ravana. Full of revenge, Ravana, disguised as a sage, kidnapped Sita. Later lord Rama declared a war against Ravana and brought Sita back.
Mythology states that goddess Durga killed demon Mahishasura after a long period of cruelty and oppression. Another story involves gold coins. The lord Kuber rained coins on the city of Ayodhya following Kautsa asking King Raghu for 140 million coins to give to his guru in exchange for knowledge. After giving 140 million coins to his guru, Kautsa distributed the rest to the people of Ayodhya.
How is it celebrated?
It is believed that the celebration of Dussehra commenced in the 17th century when the King of Mysore ordered a celebration of the day on a grand scale. The celebrations at Mysore Palace attracts thousands of visitors each year – it’s a real crush. Children are lifted on to shoulders of parents to see the great parade of elephants at the palace. The Karnataka State government arranges 10 days of festival celebrations with a program of music and arts. Major buildings are decorated with lights and colour across the city of Mysore.
Episodes from Rama’s life are staged in the form of ‘Ram Leela’. In the evening of Dussehra big effigies filled with crackers (fireworks) are installed in grounds. The figures are the embodiment of Ravana, his brother Kumbkarna, and son Megahnatha, which are burnt later in the evening.
People visit the Pooja Pandals wearing new clothes, prepare traditional food at home and celebrate the festival with their friends and families.
The day also coincides with the immersion of the idol of goddess Durga.
The Dussehra celebrations spread the message of victory of good over evil. It is also start of the festival season with Deepavali / Diwali next month and national holidays to mark Anniversary of Gandhi.
There are lots of adverts appering at this time of year as it is the start of the festival season. Here are a selection from the newspapers.
St. Mary’s Feast celebrates the birth of Mother Mary is the most important festival celebrated in St Mary’s basilica and is attended by thousands of people.
St. Mary’s Basilica is a basilica located in the Archdiocese of Bangalore. It is among the oldest churches in Bangalore and is the only church in the state that has been elevated to the status of a minor basilica. It really is a beautiful piece of architecture and is busy with visitors all day.
. When is it?
The festivities go on for 10 days beginning on Tuesday 29th August and end on Friday 8th September; the day on which the Mother Mary was born. The first mass began at 5:30am with masses every 30 minutes in three different languages. At 6:30am the Archbishop offered a thanksgiving mass.
How is it celebrated?
The festivities begin with the masses. In the evening of the first day, the first novena flag is blessed and hoisted (it’s a traditional flag). The flag with the image of “Our Lady” was blessed by Archbishop Bernard Moras and was hoisted by Sri KJ George (a former Home Minister for Karnataka state).
A Novena ( a form of worship in the Roman Catholic Church consisting of special prayers or services on nine successive days) is held on the first nine days from Tuesday 29th August to Thursday 7th September.
On Friday 8th September, the day on which Mother Mary was born, a Holy feast is celebrated. Holy Mass is offered in different languages and mass marriages are conducted for those in need. A thanksgiving mass is also organized for couples who have completed 50 years of marriage. Eucharistic celebrations (mass with bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus Christ) are held on the day of the feast. The day culminates with a grand chariot procession with a decorated chariot with the image of Mother Mary drawn by devotees along the various streets of Bangalore.
Afterwards food is distributed to the thousand of people who have joined in the celebrations. This throng of people consists of all religions with Hindus joining Christians in the celebrations. It is a great time of enjoyment and feasting together.
Id-ul-Zuha (Bakr-Id), which is also known as Eid al-Adha or Id-ul-Adha, is an important festival that many Muslims celebrate with special prayers, greetings and gifts. Eid al-Adha is called “Bakr-Id” in India due to the tradition of sacrificing a goat or “bakri”.
When is it?
It begins on the evening of Friday 1st September and ends in the evening of Saturday 2nd September. Saturday 2nd September is the holiday. The date changes every year according to the Gregorian calendar but is the same date every year in the Islamic calendar. It is usually in September, October or November. Some references state it is a four day festival. It is a gazetted holiday* in India and is also referred to as the festival of sacrifice. It is also at the end of the month of fasting during Ramadan and begins after the culmination of the holy pilgrimage ‘Hajj’ at Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
How is it celebrated?
Id-ul-Zuha is a festival that is celebrated with traditional fervor and gaiety in India and the world. Many Muslims wear new clothes and attend an open-air prayer meeting during Id-ul-Zuha. They may sacrifice a sheep or goat and share the meat with family members, neighbours and the poor. Many Muslims feel that they have a duty to ensure that all Muslims can enjoy a meat based meal during this holiday. Large scale prayer meetings take place in areas of India with predominantly Muslim population.
National, state and local government offices, post offices and banks are closed on Eid al-Adha. Islamic stores, businesses and other organizations may be closed or have reduced opening hours. public transport operates on reduced timetables (although I’m not sure how a timetable works in Bangalore, and I have never seen one!).
Background and History
Muslims around the world believe that Allah (God) commanded Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Ibrahim followed God’s orders, but his son was replaced by a sheep at the last moment. Muslims celebrate this at Eid al-Adha. Eid al-Adha is called Id-ul-Adha in Arabic and Bakr-Id in the Indian subcontinent, because of the tradition of sacrificing a goat or “bakri” in Urdu. The word “id” derived from the Arabic “iwd” means “festival” and “zuha” comes from “uzhaiyya” which translates to “sacrifice”.
*Note: During a gazetted holiday, government offices and most businesses are closed so people have a day off work.
Bonalu is a folk festival celebrated in the Telangana region, Andhra Pradesh. This century-old tradition is observed with gaiety and devotional fervour.
When is it?
It is during the month of Asadh. This is Sunday 25th June to Sunday 16th July in 2017.
How is it celebrated?
This month long festival is marked by devotional singing and ritualistic worship of the village deities. The ‘Ghatams’ or decorated pots, filled with flowers, are the main attraction of the festival. The flower pots are carried on the heads of women in a procession. Similarly cooked rice is also carried by women on their heads to the local goddess accompanied by male drummers. Every Sunday from the end of June throughout July there are colourful celebrations ongoing.
Bonalu is celebrated chiefly in the cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad ( where we happen to be on holiday at the moment). Saree Jagadambika Temple located on the top of the Golconda Fort attracts the most devotees from the region. The state government also performs puja officially on behalf of the people. Temples are decorated.
In Hyderabad the newspapers reported low attendance at work from female employees who were celebrating Bonalu. Some employers are allowing female staff to leave early to visit temples for puja. Office are reported to be in a festive atmosphere as ladies distribute sweets to colleagues dressed for the occasion.
It is an unusual festival in the memory of an eighty plus year old event and takes place in the month of Ashada (rainy season in Odisha usually falling in June or July) this celebration takes place in the state of Orissa.
The three dieties of Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra can be seen for the first time after a gap of a fortnight over which they remain secluded in the ‘anasara ghaa’ or retiring room of the 12th century temple.
Rath Yatra means ‘chariot ride’ which is preserved as the gateway to the heavens by devotees.The ritual is observed in the Jagannath temple in the city of Puri in Orissa. The Jagannath temple is a trinity abode or dham dedicated to lord Krishna, his elder brother Balarama and their sister Subhadra. The images are made of new wood and adorned in splendour.
Ratha -Yatra (Puri) in the state of Odisha, India is still the oldest, biggest and most visited Rath Yatra in the world. It attracts a “large crowd” (thousands of people!).
How is it celebrated?
On the full mooon day of ashada, the images are taken out with the accompaniment of huge chariots to the streets. They are brought out onto the Bada Danda (Main Street of Puri) and travel 3km to the Shri Gundicha Temple. This allows the public to have darsana – a Holy view. Once the chariots come on the road, the continuous movement of the participants do not allow the procession to come to a halt. This ride is usually covered uphill and downhill track. The procession takes almost ten hours to reach its destination.
The English word juggernaut was originated from Jagannath that is replayed to the massive and unstoppable “Ratha” carrying Jaggannath.
The chariots, which are built new every year, are pulled by devotees. The chariots are 45 feet high, 35 feet square and take about 2 months to construct. The artists and painters of Puri decorate cars and paint flower petals and other designs on the wheels, the wood carved charioteer and horses and the inverted lotuses on the wall behind the throne.
The three chariots are being draped in multi coloured cloth for two days before Rath Yatra this year.
The term Yugadi is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘beginning of a new yuga or a new era’ or the beginning of a new age. The festival of Ugadi is a change in the lunar orbit and the beginning of the Hindu lunar calendar i.e New Years Day.
In 2017 it falls on Wednesday 29th March and is a public holiday. It falls on a different day every year because the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar calendar.
It is the beginning of spring, a season associated with joy and prosperity in India.
How is it celebrated?
It is celebrated with gatherings of the extended family with lots of food and feasting. Preparations begin a week before the festival with houses given a thorough wash, shopping for new clothes and buying other festival items.
On the morning of Ugadi people wake up before dawn and take a ceremonial bath with oil and Bengal gram flour which is believed to purify the body and soul to perform the rituals. New clothes and jewellery are then worn.
The house door / entrance is decorated with fresh mango leaves to signify good crops and general well being. As they also give out oxygen it will bring freshness into the home (and good health). Neem leaves are also used (which act as a disinfectant). People draw colourful floral designs (rangoli) at the entrance to their homes to signify they are ready to welcome guests.
People perform the ritual worship to god invoking his blessings before they start off the new year. They pray for health, wealth and prosperity and success in business -it’s a good time to start new businesses. Mantras are chanted and puja performed. The most important ritual of the day is the panchanga sravana which is an informal function where elderly and respected person reads out the almanac and predictions are made for the new year. This ritual used to be performed by priests in temple and focussed on the rain forecast for the year.
There is a symbolic eating of a dish (a paste) with six tastes called ‘Bevu-Bella’ which is only served during this festival. It symbolises that life is a different mix of different experiences and human emotions: sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise. These experiences should all be accepted equally throughout the new year. The six tastes are: sour (tamarind juice), sweet (jaggery), salt, bitter (Neem buds), astringent (unripened mango) and spicy hot (green chilli) or pungent and are called Ugadi Pachhadi. Eating this dish is believed to subdue the Arishadvargas, the six passions of the mind, desire or emotions attributed to living beings. These are: kama (desire or lust), krodha (anger), lobh or lobha (greed), moha (attachment), mada or ahankar (ego, pride) and matsarya (jealousy). These negative charactersistics are believed to prevent man achieving moksha or salvation. A harmonious blend of ingredients in the pachadi is considered to eventually help to win over self and gain eternal bliss. As a consequence great care and skill is displayed in the preparation of these dishes.
The fragrance of intense sticks waft through the warm air and in homes the aroma of puliogure (tamarind rice) and holige (a sweet dish) fill the air. These dishes are believed to bring peace and prosperity when offered to the goddess Parvathi.
In Karnataka there is a special dish called Obbattu (or Holige) which is a filling of jaggery and boiled sugar to make a paste which is stuffed inside a roti. It is eaten with ghee, milk or coconut milk and can be eaten hot or cold.
Celebrations by our friends
We bought sarees for three of our friends celebrating Ugadi. They were delighted. They are all going to t heir villages to celebrate with their families for a few days.
Yugadi Habbada Shubhashayagalu! (Kannada for “Greetings for the festival of Ugadi”)