Festival

The Festival of Procession and Beliefs: RATHYATRA IN ORISSA

Also known as the Chariot Festival, the Rath Yatra is dedicated to Lord Jagannath when the huge idols of deities of Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra are taken for a religious procession on the garland clad chariots to the Jagannath temple for a week.

WORDS BY- AABHA TIWARI

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‘Lord of the world’ leads us to the meaning from the name Jagannath – a form of the Hindi God Vishnu who is worshipped with an immense dedicated in the eastern state of Odisha.

The state is also known for its famous and massive sacred Jagannath Temple in Puri. Dedicated to Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna), his sister Goddess Subhadra and his elder brother Lord Balabhadra.

This festival is also known as Gundicha Yatra, Chariot Festival, Dasavatara and Navadina Yatra.

FESTIVAL STORY AND PROCESSION ITINERARY
On the second day of the ‘Shukla Paksha’ of Ashadh month (as per the traditional Oriya calendar), the festival is celebrated for nine days, the commencement is called as ‘Rath Yatra’ and the return journey on a ninth day is called as ‘Bahuda Jatra’ (where the chariot of Lord Jagannath stops at Mausi Maa temple and the deity is offered ‘Poda Pitha’), with that, the younger sister Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra are moved from their holy abode for a procession up to Gundicha Temple.

It takes one day to travel to Gundicha temple, where the deities stay for the next seven days, and, proceed to return home.

Three chariots are built, and the construction of the chariots starts with ‘Chandan Yatra’, carpenters are called as ‘Maharanas’. Lord Jagannath’s chariot is called as ‘Nandighosa’ (45.6 feet high with 18 wheels), Lord Balabhadra’s chariot is called as ‘Taladhwaja’ (45 feet high with 16 wheels) and Devi Subhadra’s chariot is called ‘Dwarapadalan’ (44.6 feet high with 14 wheels).

All the three chariots are pulled by the devotees with the help of ropes up to Gundicha Temple (2km away from Jagannath Temple). This festival showcases the art and culture of Puri as well as of the state. Many cultural activities are organized as a part of this festival.

THE UNIQUENESS OF JAGANNATH TEMPLE

Lord Jagannath is worshipped with his siblings and not with a spouse.

The idols are uniquely malformed with no hands or feet and the heads are disproportionately large.

The idols are made up of cloth and resin instead of metal or stone, therefore it should be replaced from time to time, leading to the rituals in which the shrines fall sick, die and are reborn.

The story dates back where the images of the deities were being carved and the artisans asked the king not to open the door until the work on the idols was complete, but the impatient king opened the door and the idols were left incomplete. During the festival, the deities were decorated with over 200kg gold to get the sense of completeness in the formation.

INTERESTING HIGHLIGHTS OF THE FESTIVAL
 As per folktales, due to the peak of summers, the deity and his siblings bathe in public and gets ill. After recovering, their appetite returns and wish to eat the food cooked by their aunty Gundicha.

 Since Lord Krishna embarks this epic journey with his siblings to relive his childhood and not wife Lakshmi (who is left behind in the main temple), much to her irritation (enacted by the temple dancers and priests) that even the great Jagannath has marital problems.

 The kitchen of Puri Temple is famous for its kitchen and the mahaprasad is cooked with wood fire and steam. The interesting part is that the one who prepares the food is fed first, before giving to Lord Jagannath to avoid any feeling of gluttony when the mahaprasad is offered.

An ode to the health and well-being of children – Jivitputrika Festival

Jivitputrika is observed on Krishna Paksha Ashtami in the month of Ashwin, performed with austerity by the mothers for their children. The Jivitputrika Vrat is celebrated from the Saptami to the Navami of the Krishna Paksha of Ashwin month and reflects love and affection of mothers towards their children …

WORDS BY- AABHA TIWARI

Observed by the mothers for the wellbeing of their children, Jeevitputrika is a festival observed by mothers who fast ‘nirjala’ (without water) throughout day and night for the well-being and health of their children. This three-day-long festival is celebrated from the seventh to ninth lunar day of Krishna Paksha in Ashwin (falls on 21st September in 2019) month of Bikram Sambat. It is observed in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, also celebrated mainly in the Nepalese state of Mithila and Tharuhat part of Nepal’s province.

About the fast:
This three-day long fast is celebrated on the lunar day of Krishna Paksha of Ashwin month, the first day- the day before Jivitputrika is known as ‘Nahai-Khai’. It means, mothers who are observing fast are allowed to take food only after having their bath. On the day of Jivitputrika, a strict fast, called ‘Khur Jitiya’ is observed without water. On the third day (when the fast ends), it is completed with ‘Paaran’- taking the first food of the day. As per tradition, women observing this fast start from night after taking the tradition of ‘Sargi’. In this, the vegetable of Satupatiya has special significance.

When a ‘Sargi’ (a special dish consumed before the fast is observed), a token is extracted in the name of ancestors, holy cow or dog.

It is believed, that a ‘sargi’ must contain a sweet dish, as it is believed to bring good luck.

After the fast ends (‘Paaran’), in the north-eastern Bihar, a variety of food is prepared including a special festival delicacies such as Jhor Bhaat (curry and white rice), Noni ka Saag are prepared. In the Bhojpuri region of western Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and Nepal, women end their fast with ‘Noni ka Saag’ (summer purslane), vegetable stew of zucchini and Maruwa ki roti (Roti made up of Raagi flour).

The myth and legend behind the Jeevitputrika Festival:

The folktale dates back to the ancient story, where once an eagle and a female fox were friends, living near the Narmada river.

Both the animals saw some women performing the rituals of the pooja and fasting process and they wished to do this fast by themselves. During the fast, fox found it difficult to lead on as he was overwhelmed with hunger and became unconscious and opted for cheating, whereas eagle completed the fast with dedication and devotion. With this, all the children born to the fox didn’t live long after birth and the eagle’s offspring were blessed with a long life.

Jimutavahana
King Jimutavahana was the wise king of Gadharva but he was not happy leading a king’s life. Hence, he gave up his power to his brothers and went to the jungle. One day, he found an old woman weeping and when he asked her the reason for her plight, she told him that she belongs to a family of snakes and had only one son. As an oath, a snake was offered to the King of birds – ‘Garuda’ (an eagle), every day as a feed and tomorrow, it was her son’s chance to become his food. Jimutavahana consoled her and promised to bring her son back to her, alive. Jimutvahana lay down on the bed of rocks and presented himself to the Garuda as feed. Garuda arrived and held Jimutvahana in his beak to feast on him but to his surprise, he felt that his prey was cold and unresponsive. He knew something was amiss. He then put Jimutvahana down who narrated the entire scene to ‘Pakshiraj Garuda’. As an ode to his bravery and benevolence, Garuda departed and promised not to take any more sacrifices from the snakes. Due to the bravery of Jimutvahana, the race of the snakes were saved and since then, the fasts for the children’s welfare and long life were observed.

Watching Elephants & Revelry at THRISSUR POORAM

This spectacular festival from Kerala is also the state’s biggest and most colourful celebrated with an excellent show of caparisoned elephants, astonishing parasols, and percussion music…

WORDS BY- SANGEETA S

THRISSUR Pooram is a Hindu festival held every year in the Southern Indian state of Kerala at the Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur. Started by Sakthan Thampuran, the erstwhile ruler of Kochi, this festival is almost 200 years old and still going strong. Thrissur Pooram is held on the Pooram day that is the day when the moon rises with the Pooram star in the Malayalam Calendar month of Medam.

The main attraction of the festival is the presentation of elephants. Two groups representing the geographic divisions of Paramekkavu Bhagavati Temple and

Thriuvambadi Srikrishna Temple compete with each other as they present richly caparisoned elephants. Each group comprises of five temples each, so altogether 10 temples send their pooram (complete procession) accompanied by elephants carrying deities.
Caparisoned elephants, dazzling parasols, and percussion music are the main highlights of this festival. One can experience the merging of spiritual and cultural essence of Kerala. Dazzling fireworks in the early morning hours add to the glory of the festival.

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During this festival it seems as if the whole of Kerala has come to life. Enthusiastic crowd with decorated streets gives the state vibrant and colourful look. The traditions and rituals are unique and are followed religiously by the people of Kerela. You need to experience this to appreciate the beauty of this festival.

The vibrantly decked up elephants and the Kudamattom ceremony is spectacular event and worth watching. People sitting on top of elephants display colorful umbrellas. Kudamattom ceremony involves swift and rhythmic changing of brightly coloured and sequined parasols which is very keenly watched. The ornamental umbrellas atop the elephants standing face to face are exchanged which people love to watch. Beautiful designs and colourful umbrellas can be seen when both the sides try to display better umbrellas while competing.

The temples parade about 100 captive elephants owned by individuals and religious institutions. The next highlight of the festival is the ilanjithara melam, a performance of traditional instruments which lifts the thousands gathered to a state of euphoria and bliss. The performance happens in front of Ilanji tree where thousands gather to enjoy. The traditional orchestra led by around 250 chenda artistes takes the crowd to frenzy. The spirit of spectators who wave their hands in accordance with the rhythm is amazing. The traditional instruments used are chenda, kurumkuzhal, kombu and elathalam. One needs to experience how the sudden change in the pace of drumbeats from more than dozens drums resonate the whole atmosphere.

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.