Festival

The Day of the Snake God NAG PANCHAMI

One of India’s most unique festivals is Nag Panchami which is the traditional worship of snakes or serpents as observed by Hindus throughout India, Nepal and other countries where Hindus live. The worship is offered on the fifth day of bright half of Lunar month of Shravana, according to the Hindu calendar…Read on to know more…

WORDS BY- SANGEETA S

THE festival of Nag Panchmi is celebrated all across the country but most significantly in Maharashtra where it originated to honour of Hindu snake God, Shesha Nag. The festival is celebrated with lot of faith and devotion each year wherein people seek blessings from the snake God. It is believed that by worshipping snakes, you protect your family from being bitten by serpents and snakes.
It is also believed that offering milk to snakes on this auspicious day relieves you from all the calamities. Many perform this ritual of offering milk to snakes in order to negate their Kal Sarpa Dosh which is an astrological imbalance in the position of their planets.

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The origin of this festival has many stories. According to Hindu mythology, snakes have been associated with many Hindu Gods. Sheshnaga (the snake with six hoods) is the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. It is believed that the earth rests on the head of Shesha Nag. There is a belief that snakes are very powerful due to their association with Hindu Gods.
According to another story, a snake – Kalia – was poisoning the river Yamuna and therefore people were unable to drink water from it. Krishna defeated the snake and made him drink back all the poison. Lord Krishna then blessed Kalia saying that whoever will offer milk to snakes on the auspicious day of Nag Panchami will be blessed and relieved of troubles.
The festival falls in the holy month of shravan. This month is dedicated to Lord Shiva and since snakes hold special place in Lord Shiva’s life, this day becomes very auspicious for all Shiva devotees. The devotees offer milk, rice and flowers to snake and seek blessings.
On the day of Nag puja on Nag Panchami, many people observe fast and this fast is broken after offering milk to the snake God. The festival is celebrated by wearing traditional clothes. Women in Maharashtra generally wear the ‘Nauvaari’ – the traditional nine yard saree. Coconut sweets and sesame ladoos are also prepared to be offered to the snake God. The sweets prepared are later distributed as prasad. People avoid cutting or digging in the fields on this day so as to avoid the chances of harming snakes.

As part of the ritual, people make snake idols of clay and worship the idol by offering milk, flowers, kumkum etc. The devotees also keep milk near the holes where snakes live. Many people worship live snakes and even fairs are held in some places. It is said that if the snake being worshipped drinks the milk, it is considered very auspicious.

Different states celebrate the festival in different ways. In South India, siblings meet to celebrate the well being of family. In some places, married young women visit their premarital homes to celebrate this festival with her family.

Though the origin of this festival can be traced from ancient times, these days, snakes are often mistreated during this festival. Snake charmers often capture snakes some months before the festival and defang them. They sometimes even keep their mouth sealed and do not feed them till Nag Panchami so that they are thirsty and easily gulp milk offered by devotees. This allows them to make a handsome sum of money. Animal rights activists have raised concern over this cruelty meted to the snakes and such activities are rare.

Nag Panchami: August 5, 2019

The Pushkar Mela

The Pushkar Mela held in the city of Pushkar is the world’s largest camel fair that attracts large tourists both national and international.

WORDS BY- SANGEETA S

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THE Pushkar Mela is the largest camel fair in the country that is held in Pushkar, Rajasthan each year. Spread over seven days, the fair sees around 50,000 camels assemble at one place. The Mela is celebrated on the occasion of Kartik Purnima which could be anytime between the months of October and November every year.
The Mela also marks huge business value as hundreds of camels are bought, sold and exhibited in this fair. Though the main purpose of this fair is livestock trading, the fair has many other dimensions too. Since lot of tourists from India and across the world come to witness this fair, many Rajasthani and Gujarati traders use this platform to showcase their handicrafts and art like traditional paintings, jewellery, clothes etc. The traders with their local costumes made more colour to the fair with colourful vibrancy and life. Today, the Mela includes several exhibitions, competitions, interesting events, and much more.
The location of the Mela also holds religious value as many visit this place for religious purposes too. As per the mythology, once a swan was released by deities from the heavens with a flower in its beak. Lord Brahma performed a yagna where the swan dropped the flower and the place came to be known as Pushkar. The place became a sacred place for Hindus and during the fair, the devotees take a dip in the Pushkar Lake. The fair serves a dual purpose where people enjoy the festivities, pay homage to the religious city and also experience the uniqueness of this fair.

There are about 400 temples in the town of Pushkar.
The fair has a global appeal with tourists from all over the world coming to experience this unique fair which is one of its kind. Tourists love the local costumes and many even wear the local costumes to get the complete local feel of the place. The city of Pushkar starts getting ready for the fair at least 10 days before the fair begins. Traders can be seen in the city setting up their tents or arranging for a place to stay. They even make their camels ‘sale ready’ by painting them with vibrant colours and beautifying them so that they can attract the best buyers. The Mela starts with a camel race which is worth witnessing. The fair ends with a ceremony called Deepdan where several clay lamps are lit.


Other Highlights of the Pushkar Mela

HARMONY HALF MARATHON – The run starts from Dargah Ajmer Sharif and ends at the Pushkar Stadium Ground
HANDICRAFTS – You can buy an array of good quality local handicrafts and arts
HOT AIR BALLOONING – Enjoy hot air ballooning over the Mela GLAMPING – At Pushkar, the glamping experience is unique
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Prepared to Get Hit at the Bani or the Stick Festival of Karnataka

India is indeed the land of many unique festivals. Our festivals are based on our strong belief system and faith, and sometimes include exceptional traditions that make them so unique. Read on as we talk about the Bani Festival which is one such festival that is celebrated during Dussehra.

WORDS BY- SANGEETA S

THE Bani festival is celebrated every year during Dussehra in the Devaragattu Temple at Kurnool, in the state of Karnataka. The festival is also called the Stick Festival as people hit each other’s head with sticks during this festival. It is believed that on this day that the demon was killed by Mala-Malleshwara who is believed to be a reincarnation of Lord Shiva.
The festival starts on Vijayadasami when the idol of Shri Malleshwar and Devi Parvathi are carried in a procession and mock stick fight is performed. The lathi-hitting ceremony continues till dawn. There is a strong belief that if this ‘stick fight’ is not accrued out, Lord Malleshwar will get angry and bad luck will descend upon the land.

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It is also believed that participation in ‘stick fight’ will bring them good health and prosperity.The tradition of stick hitting is some 100 years old and, earlier axes and spears were used which later got replaced by lathis (wooden sticks). The ceremony starts in the evening when men hit each other’s head.

The faith is so strong that even with blood oozing out of their head, men do not stop with the hitting. They continue dancing and hitting with the belief that they are sacrificing their evil blood to the Lord.

It is believed that this custom of sacrificing blood will make them pure. Often major injuries also happen in the ceremony and medical help and police are deployed so that any emergencies can be handled.
The festival is not only about the stick fight but it has other cultural aspects too. A lot of cultural events takes place during this festival. Dance and music programs are organized to please Lord Malleshwar and Maa Parvathi.

The performances are full of devotion and display the strong bond between the devotee and the Lord. The whole idea is to cleanse one’s mind and become a good human being once again. It is also about the victory of good over evil.

DUSSEHRA FESTIVAL
Dussehra is all about the victory of good over evil. The essence being the same, the festival is celebrated in different ways by different communities. Some of the interesting ones are listed below:

Beggars Dussehra - The devotees dress up as monkeys, demons, Kings etc. and they beg on the streets for the whole day. The money is then deposited in the temple fund. This happens in Mutharamman Temple in Kulasekharapatnam, Tamil Nadu.

Bloody Dusshera – This is the Bani festival where the devotees hit each other with sticks to commemorate the killing of a demon by Mala-Malleshwara.

Flameless Dusshera – Here Ravan is not burnt but worshipped. There is a belief that Ravan meditated here for many years. This ceremony takes place in the Baijnath Temple, in Himachal Pradesh.

Floral Dusshera – Here floral decoration is done by the women in Andhra Pradesh. The decoration is offered to Maha Gauri Devi. It is an effort to make the Goddess alive.

Mandore Dussehra – Mandore is the birth place of Ravan’s wife Mandodari. So as Ravan becomes the son-in-law of the city, people here perform his shraddh on this day.

Thaipuisam Festival

A Hindu festival celebrated primarily by the Tamil community where the devotees show gratitude to Lord Murugan.

WORDS BY- SANGEETA S

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An important festival of the Tamil Community Thaipuisam is celebrated not only in India but across the globe in countries where ever there is strong Tamil presence. Countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, South Africa, Canada etc. also celebrate this festival with full fervor and enthusiasm. Many countries have even declared this as national holiday.
The festival is celebrated in the Tamil month of ‘Thai’ on full moon day and is dedicated to Lord Murugan. ‘Thai’ Tamil month falls during January or February. During this festival a particular star called ‘Pusam’ is at its highest point. And so the name of the festival comes from the combination of month (Thai) and star (Pusam); Thai and pusam combined makes it Thaipusam. It is believed that it is the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel so he could conquer the demon Soorapadman.
Murgun, son of Shiva is showered with gifts and gratitude during this festival. Yellow is Lord’s favourite colour and therefore fruits and flowers of yellow colour are offered and even yellow clothes are worn by the devotees. Fruits, milk and flowers are carried as tribute to the lord. Bodies are pierced and even Kavadis are carried.

The faith is such that people go to extreme lengths to please Lord Murugan. People pierce their bodies and faces with hooks, swords and skewers. It is a unique phenomenon where you can see that in spite of tongues, cheeks and faces pierced with sharp objects, people don’t bleed much. They don’t even complain of pain. In fact even the wounds heal fast without leaving any scars. People even pull heavy chariots with metal hooks pierced in the back. The faith is amazing and worth watching though people with weak hearts may find the scene unnerving.
Kavadis are also attached to the bodies with sharp skewers which are carried all through the procession till they reach the worship area. Thousand of devotees join the procession with loud chants and drum all through the way. People carry fruits, honey, milk etc. to various Murugan temples to offer.
The passion and faith is such that people even walk on burning coals which are laid out for people to walk over.

The miracle of faith is quiet evident here when people walk on these burning coals bare foot and come out unharmed.
However, before getting pierced the devotee gets into trance and only when the devotee is fully entranced that the piercing is done. Also, lot of preparation has to be done before anybody gets this piercing done.
Some even fast for 48 days and follow a code of conduct so that they get prepared mentally as well as physically. After piercing the devotee is helped by others to complete the procession.
The rituals are done if a wish has been fulfilled. It is not necessary that pain should be a part of the vow you take to do if your prayers get answered. But often devotees make such promises which involve giving pain to themselves.
Lot of festivities take place after the procession reaches its destination. The feasting continues till late in the night.

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Tributes to Ancestors & Fun, Frolic Mark Mizoram’s Mim Kut Fest

The Mim Kut is a spiritual festival held in Mizoram each year and is celebrated with wonderful enthusiasm and eagerness. The festival has wide recognition from across the state and tourism department.

The Mim Kut is a religious festival held in Mizoram, in the North-Eastern State of India, celebrated after the harvest of maize during the months of August and September. It is celebrated for two-days in the entire state by the local residents, with a lot of enthusiasm and joy. This festival is not only about the harvesting of maize; it is also dedicated to the souls of one’s dead ancestors. People remember their dead ancestors, especially the ones who passed away in the previous year and pay homage to them through special prayers and offerings. There is a belief that during this time, the souls of the dead ancestors visit the homes of their descendants. Special offerings are made for the departed souls in the form of fresh vegetables, maize, bread, and necklaces. A part of harvest and even clothes are offered to the departed souls.

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Preparations are made much before the onset of the festival. People clean and decorate their homes to welcome the departed souls. Some even place the favourite possessions or food liked their ancestors as a mark of respect to them. Tributes are paid to the souls by following certain rituals and traditions. The first day of the festival is totally devoted to the departed souls, as people try to pray and please them with the religious rituals.

The real celebrations start on the second day when grand festivities begin; people drink, sing, dance and feast. Grand meals are prepared, people get together and enjoy good food; traditional fare is made mostly from bread. Furthermore, several dance and song performances are organized and people enjoy and have fun. There is enough scope of entertainment that is offered by these festivals. One can even enjoy the local cuisine during this time which is especially prepared during this festival.

Mizoram – Festivals
In Mizoram, the word ‘kut’ is used for festivals. There are in all three ‘kuts’ in Mizoram, all dedicated to agriculture. The kuts are celebrated with great enthusiasm; traditional dances and songs are part of all celebrations.
The three kuts are –
The Chapchar Kut – The Chapchar Kut Carnival is held during spring time that falls around March every year. It is one of the grand carnivals held in the state which is visited by people from all across the country. Traditional dances are performed accompanied with conventional songs; the dances performed during this festival have gained international recognition.
Pawl Kut – The Pawl Kut festival is celebrated in December, before the advent of spring which brings in more colours to the carnival. It is celebrated after the crop’s harvest and is a sort of ‘harvest thanksgiving festival.’ It is a colourful harvest festival that is accompanied with ballets, songs and fun. Meat and egg form a customary part of the feast for the festival.
Mim Kut – The Mim Kut is usually celebrated during the months of August and September, after the harvest of maize, amidst extensive fanfare and merrymaking.

THE FUN AND FROLIC OF MADAI FESTIVAL

Madai is a popular, dynamic religious festival from Chhattisgarh which celebrates the ancient culture of the local tribes. Known for being an inclusive ‘moving festival’, each year scores of locals throng together to celebrate this festival together and make merry whilst worshipping the Goddess…

WORDS BY- SANGEETA S

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Each year, the Madai Festival is celebrated by the tribes of Gond community in Chhattisgarh with a lot of pomp and enthusiasm. This popular festival reflects the rich culture and tradition of the people of this State. For this festival that is typically celebrated between the months of December to March each year, locals gather together on a large ground and then start a procession from one location to another, giving everyone an opportunity to enjoy and participate in this festival.

The movement of the festival from one location to another is a unique feature of this festival, which allows every tribe and other human groups of Chhattisgarh to enjoy this amazing festival. It can be also called a festival that travels. During the festival, the locals sacrifice a goat in honor of the tribal Gods and a special ritual is conducted.

Large numbers of believers of the deity and public gather to witness and perform in these rituals. At the end of the procession, the head priest worships the Goddess, people offer their prayers and then the procession starts.

Various cultural events are also organized during the festival which reflects the rich culture and tradition of the people and the state. The festival originated from the ancient tribal traditions and customs of Chhattisgarh. The dances and the exquisite costumes are worth watching.

People enjoy this festival with their families and a huge fair is held wherein shops selling seasonal specialties, food and drink and of course, entertainment is organised. Local artisans also get an opportunity to display their art and sell their products during this time.

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Greetings are exchanged and there is a happy environment all around. Festivities continue throughout the night where people eat, drink, and enjoy. On the whole, the festival reflects the unique culture of the state which is still practiced and maintained by the tribals.

Chhattisgarh is a vibrant state that is known for its forests, natural beauty and a large number of tribal folk that inhabit here. These locals have a fulfilling lifestyle which includes enjoying life to the fullest; food, drink, music, dances, and festivals which form an integral part of their simple lives. The tribal women love to adorn themselves in ethnic jewelry.

Some of the tribes include – Gonds, Abhuj Maria, Bison Horn Maria, Muria, Halbaa, Dhurvaa and Dorla. The other communities who celebrate this festival include most of the tribes of Bastar and Kanker districts. People of Narayanpur, Kondagaon, Bhanupratappur, Antagarh and Pakhanjore also celebrate Madai.