Festival

Parasurama Jayanti

Known as cleanser of the earth and the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Parasurama is believed to be immortal.

WORDS: MADHURI. Y

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IT is said that the earth was ruled by kings who neglected their true duties and who were destructive and sinful.
It is also said that Lord Vishnu came down to earth as Parasurama, his sixth incarnation, to eliminate these kings and lighten the earth’s burden.

PARASURAMA, SON OF SAGE JAMADAGNI
Born to sage Jamadagni, one of the saptarishis, and Renuka, the daughter of king Prasenjit, Parasurama was a warrior sage. He is said to have been born in the Haihaya kingdom, which was ruled by Kartaviryarjuna from his capital Mahishmati on the banks of the river Narmada.
His name was Rama, and the name Parasurama comes from his battle axe, which is known in Sanskrit as ‘parasu.’ Parasurama was a devotee of Lord Shiva and it is Shiva who gives him the axe.
One day, his mother Renuka, who goes to the river to collect water, is distracted when she sees a Gandharva. She has a fleeting attraction towards him. Filled with remorse and unable to return to the sage, she remains at the river bank.
Jamadagni comes to know of this through his powers. He is furious and asks each of his five sons to kill their mother.

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When the first four refuse to do so, he turns them to stone. Parasurama, his fifth son, kills Renuka. A pleased Jamadagni grants him two boons.
As the first boon, Parasurama asks for his mother to be brought back to life, showing his dedication to both parents. For the second boon, he asks his father to bring his brothers back to human form. A pleased Jamadagni does so.

JAMADAGNI’S DEATH AND THE KSHATRIYA MASSACRE
Once, Kartaviryarjuna, the Haihaya king, visits Jamadagni. Because of his divine cow, Kamadhenu, the sage is able to serve a feast to the king. An impressed Kartaviryarjuna asks the sage to give him Kamadhenu.
When Jamadagni refuses to do so, the king forcibly takes Kamadhenu with him. When Parasurama comes to know of this, he goes to battle with the king, kills his army and brings Kamadhenu back.
The king’s three sons become enraged and they in turn stab Jamadagni 21 times before they cut his head off and take it with them.
Parasurama kills the three brothers, brings his father’s head back and performs the last rites. His fury unabated, he kills 21 generations of kshatriyas for the 21 times that his father was stabbed.
It is said that Parasurama performed his destiny of ridding the earth of sinful rulers in this manner.

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PARASURAMA JAYANTI
This Jayanti falls on the Shukla Paksha Tritiya, (third day of the bright half of the moon) during the month of Vaishakha.
Parasurama was born during pradoshakaal (one and a half hours before sunset to half an hour after sunset). Hence, Parasurama Jayanti is celebrated on the tritiya during pradoshkaal. This year it occurs on April 18.
On the day of ParasuramaJayanti, devotees undertake a fast and worship Lord Vishnu. Many stay awake through the night and recite the Vishnu Sahasranama. They donate food to brahmins. The day is considered auspicious and work undertaken on the day is believed to give good results.
PARASURAMA IN PURANAS
It is said that Parasurama is immortal and continues to live on earth. The bow in Sita’s swayamvar was given by Parasurama and when Ram tries to string the bow, it breaks in half. Parasurama is said to have heard the great sound all the way at the hills of Mahendra where he was meditating.
He then stops Rama and Sita’s journey to Ayodhya after their marriage and challenges Rama. Rama wins the challenge but tells Parasurama that since he is a brahmin and related to Vishwamitra maharshi, he will not kill him. He simply destroys the merit that Parasurama has earned through penance. Parasurama then returns to the hills of Mahendra.
Parasuramais also the martial guru of Bhishma, Dronacharya, and Karna, the first three chiefs of the Kaurava army in the Kurukshetra battle. When Amba asks him to interveneto make Bhishma marry her, he fights Bhishma, but it is the latter who has the upper hand.
Meanwhile, the spirits of Parasurama’s ancestors tell him to make this battle his last and that he does not need to fight to protect brahmins any longer.
To be taken as his disciple, Karna tells Parasurama that he is a brahmin. One day, when Parasurama is asleep on Karna’s lap, a scorpion bites Karna. Karna bears the pain so that his guru’s sleep is not disturbed. But, the flow of blood from the wound wakes Parasurama.
Realising that Karna, who could bear the pain of the scorpion sting, was not a Brahmin, Parasurama curses him that when he most needs his divine weapons, he will forget how to use them, which takes place in the Kurukshetra war.
Kalki Purana states that Parasurama will be the martial guru of Kalki, Lord Vishnu’s 10th avatar.
LEGENDS AND TEMPLES OF PARASURAMA
Parasurama is believed to have lived on the west coast, in the Konkan, Karnataka and Kerala regions. He is said to have reclaimed Kerala from the sea and settled a community in the region.
Parasuramais depicted with the matted locks of a sage and sometimes, with two arms, with an axe in one. At other times, he is depicted with four arms, carrying an axe, a bow, an arrow, and a sword.
THIRUVALLAM
This 2000-year old temple near Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, is on the banks of the river Karamana at the sangam of the rivers Karamana, Killi and Parvathiputhanar. It remains closed during the solar and lunar eclipses. Parasurama is said to be the founder of northern Kalaripayattu, the martial art that uses weapons.
AIHOLE
After killing kshatriyas, Parasurama washes his axe in the river Malaprabha, turning it red with the blood of those that he had killed. The location is Aihole in present-day Badami taluka in Karnataka.
PARASURAMKUND
Built on the lower regions of the Lohit river in Arunachal Pradesh, it is said to have been established by Parasurama himself.

Different Ways Of celebrating Holi around india

The month of March marks the celebration of the two- day spring festival of Holi. Let’s have a look at how we celebrate this fun festival in full favor..

WORDS: SHIFA MEYAJI

INDIA takes pride in being the perfect example of Unity in Diversity wherein it welcomes various cultures, ethnicities and their festivals and traditions. There are an incredulous variety of festivals celebrated in the country, all of which have their own ancient history and significance.
Holi, one of the main festivals of Hindus, is also popularly known as the festival of colours. It is celebrated throughout the country in a variety of entertaining ways. The oldest and most popular legends about the reason for celebrating Holi is that of Prahlad, the son of Hiranyakasipu, and how he was saved by Lord Vishnu to signify the victory of good over evil and selfish motives of his own father.
Read on to see how there are several unconventional and unknown ways in which the states of India celebrate Holi.

In Uttar Pradesh, the people of Barsana celebrate ‘Lathmaar Holi’ which is a very fun and notorious event. The women beat the men, generally their husbands, with sticks after the men steal their attention by singing songs, and the men defend themselves with shields. It is a treat to look at and the people enjoy themselves by also throwing colours and coloured water at each other.
While Goa celebrates its famous ‘Shigmo Festival’ along

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with traditional dances and processions with utmost fervor and excitement, the people of Assam celebrate ‘Phagwah’ which is their name for Holi. They burn clay huts on the first day to signify ‘Holika Dahan’ while their second day is filled with celebration with colours.
The communities of West Bengal celebrate ‘Dhol Jatra’ in which the people, dressed in beautiful brocades of saffron colour, take out a procession with idols of Krishna and Radha on the streets and spray colours on each other.

The people from Southern India also participate in Holi celebrations but they do have their own distinct names and rituals for it. Some worship God Kaamdev and spend the day meeting people and exchanging sweets. In Kerala however, Holi is known as ‘Manjal Kuli’ and is celebrated in the Konkani Temple of Gosripiram Thirumala.
Holi is most amazingly played in Bihar. It is known as ‘Phaguwa’ in their local Bhojpuri dialect and has the usual colour and water spraying along with the local popular folk songs with a touch of the famous Bhaang.

The lighting of the Holika pyre is a must before playing Holi.
Manipuris celebrate ‘Yaosang Festival’ which has been celebrated there for ages. It’s a six-day festival of which the popular dance, Thabal Chongba plays an important role and is performed in various places.
‘Hola Mohalla’ is celebrated a day before Holi in Punjab in which the Sikhs sing popular songs, perform stunts and martial arts. It is generally performed by the Nihang Sikhs.

Skanda Shashti

Skanda Shashti, dedicated to Lord Kartikeya, the celestial general, marks his victory over the asuras.

WORDS: MADHURI. Y

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Skanda Shashti, or Kanda Shashti is observed in prayer to Kartikeya, son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Kartikeya is the celestial general and the day marks the victory of good over evil through his intervention.

It occurs on the sixth day (shashti tithi) of the waxing moon (shukla paksha) every month. In February this year, it occurs on the 21st. The main Skanda Shashti of the year, also called Sura Samharam, signifies the slaying of asuras by Kartikeya, and falls in November, during the month of Kartika.

Observing Skanda Shashti

The day after the new moon each month, devotees observe the Skanda Shashti vrat with a full or partial six-day fast, which ends on the day of shashti. They chant the Skanda Shashti kavacham. Some chant ‘Om Sharavana Bhava’ 108 times in honour of Skanda. Pooja is performed when panchami tithi (fifth day) ends and shashti tithi starts between sunrise and sunrest.

On the Kartika shashti day, devotees sing bhajans and kirtans. They read and narrate stories of Kartikeya. In temples, his battle with the asuras is enacted. Devotees carry a kavadi (sling with weights on either end), signifying the burdens they carry, in the belief that Kartikeya will lighten them. The person carrying the kavadi performs ritual ceremonies before picking up the burden and after offering it to Kartikeya.

The Arupadaiveedu, the six temples of Murugan, in Tamil Nadu, as well as the Kukke Subrahmanya temple in Karnataka, and other temples of Kartikeya, and Lord Shiva temples celebrate the festival.

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Kartikeya Comes to Swamimalai Temple
Once when Lord Brahma visited Mount Kailash, he did not give respect to Kartikeya.
Kartikeya who was a child, said with anger, ‘O Brahma! How do you create living beings?’
‘With the help of the Vedas,’ said Brahma.
‘Then recite the Vedas,’ said Kartikeya.
Brahma began the recitation with, ‘Om.’
Om being the Pranava Mantra on which the Vedas rest, Kartikeya said, ‘Tell me the meaning of the Pranava Mantra.’
Brahma could not give the answer. At this, Kartikeya imprisoned Brahma, and began performing the duties of the creator. The devas came to know of this and approached Vishnu for help.
Since Vishnu could not help, Shiva came to Kartikeya.
‘Son, release Brahma,’ he requested.
‘No father,’ said Kartikeya. ‘Brahma does not know the meaning of Om.’
‘Why don’t you explain the meaning,’ said Shiva.
While Kartikeya explained, Shiva, although he is the adi yogi, and the father of Kartikeya, listened with respect, giving rise to another name of Kartikeya—Swaminatha Swami.
Since then, the temple atop the Swamimalai hill has belonged to Kartikeya, with Shiva’s temple at the foot of the hill.
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Form of Skanda
Skanda holds a spear and a trident. He rides a peacock, symbolizing his victory over the ego. The cobra beneath his feet indicates his fearlessness, immortality and wisdom.
Sometimes, he stands only with the spear, indicating his freedom from maya, or illusion. He is also seen with six heads, which represent wisdom, dispassionate view, strength, fame, wealth and divine powers.
Skanda’s Birth
Once Tarakasura, with asuras, Simhamukha and Surapadma troubles the gods and humans. Indra, the king of gods goes to Lord Brahma for help.
But, destroying Taraka isn’t simple since he has a boon from Lord Shiva, that he can be killed only by Shiva’s son. Trouble was, Lord Shiva did not have a son, and he was in samadhi. The gods were not sure how to awaken Shiva.
On Lord Brahma’s advice, Indra asks Parvati and Kamadeva for help. Kamadeva goes to Mount Kailash, and shoots his arrows towards Shiva while Parvati stands nearby.
A distracted Shiva opens his eyes and seeing Kamadeva, he opens his third eye and burns him to ashes.
It is then that Shiva sees the need for a son of his own to destroy Taraka. Shiva’s seed is cast into agni, the fire god. Unable to hold its heat, agni throws it into the Ganga. Ganga too is unable to bear the heat and throws the seed into a forest of reeds where Skanda is born, for which he is known as Saravanabhava (born in a reed forest).
He divides himself into six forms to be nursed by the six mothers of the constellation Krittika, taking the name Kartikeya after them. When Parvathi comes to take him, she turns him back into one baby with six faces, giving rise to the name Shanmukha.
Kartikeya destroys the armies of Tarakasura, Simhamukha and Surapadma in a six-day battle. The day the asuras are killed is celebrated as Sura Samharam.
How Kartikeya Came to Palani
Once, when the sages and gods sat with Lord Shiva, the earth tilted in one direction. Shiva asked sage Agastya to correct the tilt.
Agastya asked Idumban, an asura disciple to carry the Sivagiri and Saktigiri hills to his home in the south. Idumban, who had survived the battle between Kartikeya and the asuras, had repented his actions, and had become a Kartikeya devotee.
He placed the hills in a kavadi (long stick with the weights hanging from either end) slung over his shoulders and went south.
Meanwhile, Kartikeya had lost to Ganesha in a competition and withdrew to Palani, seeking wisdom.
At Palani, a tired Idumban set the kavadi down. When he was ready to continue, he found that he was unable to lift one of the hills. Looking up, he found Kartikeya standing atop the hill and asked him to move.
Kartikeya refused and a battle began between the two. When sage Agastya intervened, Kartikeya cooled down. Realising his mistake, Idumban asked Kartikeya for forgiveness.
He also made a request, ‘Lord, please grant me the privilege of standing guard at the hill entrance.’
Kartikeya agreed and the result is an Idumban temple mid-way up the hill.
Idumban had one more request, ‘Whoever carries a kavadi to the temple, bless them my lord.’
To this too, Kartikeya agreed and the practice of devotees carrying kavadis to the temple began.
On Palani hill, Kartikeya is in a form of renunciation.

NEW YEARS AROUND THE WORLD

New year days differ across the world, but what is common to all of them is fresh hope, and the desire for a new beginning.

WORDS: MADHURI. Y

New year days around the world have been based on the solar calendar, lunar calendar, vernal equinox, arrival of spring, or the end of the harvest season. From ancient societies to the modern world, new year has been a time for renewal, renewed vows and new beginnings, giving new hope.

AKITU OF THE MESOPOTAMIANS
The earliest known new year celebration was the Babylonian Akitu. Celebrated after the vernal equinox, it dates back to about 2000 BC and was celebrated over 12 days. The priest of god Marduk’s house recited sad prayers and asked for Marduk’s forgiveness, indicating fear of the unknown. On the fifth day, the Babylonian king would enter the temple in which the priest, representing Marduk, stripped the king of his jewellery, and slapped him hard. If the king’s tears flowed, it meant that he had submitted to Marduk, and had shown respect. The priest returned the king’s crown, symbolically renewing the king’s power by Marduk.

WEPET RENPET OF EGYPT
The Egyptian new year coincided with river Nile’s annual flood. During mid-July, Sirius the brightest star would become visible after a 70-day absence. The Nile would overflow soon after, turning the farmlands fertile once again. Wepet Renpet was marked by rituals and feasts.
Coptic Egyptians of North Africa celebrated the Neyrouz and Ethiopians celebrated Enkutatash both of which fall on 11th or 12th September, following the legacy of Wepet Renpet. In Ethiopia though, it marks the end of the rainy season.

NOWRUZ OF PERSIA
Nowruz, the Persian new year was a 13-day festival and falls on the vernal equinox in March. It is part of Zoroastrianism and has been celebrated since at least the 6th century Achaemenid Empire. Despite Alexander’s conquest of Persia and the rise of Islam, the festival continues to be celebrated. It is marked by feasts, exchanging presents, lighting bonfires, colouring eggs and sprinkling water.

JEWISH NEW YEAR
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year falls in September or October. Some say that it is based on the creation of Adam and Eve. According to others, it marks the beginning of the agricultural cycle. It is celebrated over two days. Candles are lit in the evenings, festive meals are made, and prayer services are conducted. It is a time of judgement, penitence and forgiveness.

CHINA
During the reign of the Shang dynasty over 3000 years ago, the Chinese new year was introduced to celebrate the spring planting. It is based on the lunar calendar and is celebrated on the second new moon after the winter solstice, hence it falls in January-February.
Myths are a part of the festival. Nian, which also means year, was a bloodthirsty creature which preys on villages. To frighten the hungry Nian, villagers decorate their houses with red trimmings, burn bamboo, and make loud noises. During the 15-day festival, people clean their houses, repay old debts, decorate their doors with paper scrolls, and have a feast with relatives.

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OTHER ASIAN NEW YEARS
Tet, the Vietnamese new year falls between 20 January and 20 February. It is based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar and marks the arrival of spring. Seollal, the Korean new year is celebrated on the first day of their lunar calendar and falls on the day of the second new moon after winter solstice. The Cambodian Khmer new year is a three-day festival with the new year falling on 13 or 14 April and marks the end of the harvest season.
Songkran, the Thai new year falls on 13 April. Songkran originates from the Sanskrit word Sankranti and coincides with the entry of Sun into Aries.
Although most Nepalese celebrate the new year on Baisakhi, ethnic Newari celebrate it on the fourth day of Diwali.

ISLAM
The Islamic new year, also known as the Arabic or Hijri new year, falls on the first day of Muharram. The first Islamic year began in 622 AD with the Hijra of Prophet Muhammed, which marks his emigration from Mecca to Medina and follows the lunar calendar.

ROME
The Romans originally celebrated their new year on the vernal equinox. They worked part of the day since remaining idle on the day was viewed as bad omen. In 46 BC, Julius Ceasar introduced the Julian calendar and declared 1st January as the new year.

NEW YEARS OF INDIA
While Christians and the general public celebrate 1st January as the new year, the other religions celebrate the new year based on the lunar calendar.
People of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka celebrate Ugadi, their new year on the first day of the Chaitra month of the Hindu lunisolar calendar, which falls in March or April. Maharashtra, Goa and Konkan regions celebrate Gudi Padwa on this day, in Kashmir it is Navreh, for Sindhis it is Cheti Chand, and for Manipuris, it is Cheiroba.
Vishu is celebrated by the people of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, marking the completion of the spring equinox, and falls in the middle of April. Punjab celebrates it as Baisakhi, which is a harvest festival. Assam celebrates it as Rongali Bihu, Bengal as Poila Baisakh, and Odisha as Bihuva Sankranti.
Gujarat celebrates its new year on the first day of Shukla Paksha (waxing moon) of the month of Kartik, which falls on the day after Diwali. Marwaris celebrate theirs on Diwali, which is the last day of Krishna Paksha (waning moon) of the month of Ashwin.
In Sikkim, Losoong or Sonam Losar is celebrated in December, marking the end of harvest and the beginning of a new year.
Despite the many new years that are celebrated around the world, 1st January continues to be celebrated widely, in addition to the local new years.

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1ST JANUARY

The Council of Tours of the Church considered new year celebrations pagan and replaced 1st January with Easter, which fell on the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon on or immediately after 21st March.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the reformed Gregorian calendar which was named after him and restored 1st January as the new year. A 0.002 percent correction was made to the Julian calendar year to stop the calendar from drifting with respect to the equinoxes and solstices. This was particularly relevant to the northern vernal equinox which sets the date for Easter.
Catholic nations adopted it first, followed by Protestants and Eastern Orthodox Slavic nations and Greece. Until 1752, Britain and its colonies continued to celebrate the new year in March. Greece was the last European nation to adopt the new calendar in 1923.

LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST

Jesus Christ preached for a little over two years before he was crucified. Yet, today, every third person on earth is a Christian. And, Christian or not, many around the world celebrate Christmas on 25th December.

WORDS: MADHURI. Y

Herod the Great’s rule was nearing its end. It was sometime between 6-4 BC. A Jewish king and a Roman vassal, Herod had been ruling Judea since 37 BC. Far away in Nazareth of Galilee, Mary, wife of Joseph, the carpenter, was pregnant.
Ceaser Augustus, the Roman Emperor couldn’t have chosen a worse time to decree that all the Roman land must be taxed. Trouble was, people were taxed not where they lived, but where they were born. Joseph had no choice but to make the journey to Bethlehem with Mary. And in Bethlehem, Jesus was born.

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When the three wise men came from the east of Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the King of Jews who is born?” King Herod was worried.
He asked the wise men to return with word of the child.
Following the star that appeared in the sky, they reached the manger in Bethlehem where baby Jesus was. After wishing the child and gifting treasures, they heeded the warning that came in a dream and left without informing King Herod. The furious King ordered all children below the age of two years to be killed.
Fearing for his child, Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and Jesus, returning to Nazareth only when King Herod was dead.

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JESUS IS BAPTISED
When Jesus was 30 years old, he travelled from Nazareth to Capernaum, a village on the north corner of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was also the home town of his apostles Peter, James, Andrew, John and Mathew.
This was the year when John the Baptist baptised Jesus. It is said that Jesus was now full of the Holy Ghost, and he returned to Jordan. He then spent 40 days in the Desert of Judea, resisting the Devil’s temptations.

When the king imprisoned John the Baptist, Jesus returned to Nazareth. Here, he proclaimed in a synagogue that he is the bread of life which comes down from heaven. The offended citizens threw him out of the city for, how could a mere carpenter utter these words!

JESUS BEGINS TO PREACH
After the king had John the Baptist beheaded, Jesus began to preach, saying, “The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

Jesus moved to Capernaum in 29 AD. For the next two years, he travelled, preaching in the synagogues of Galilee. He performed miracles, turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee; he walked on the sea and he saved his disciples on the ship when a great storm rose. He healed people, giving sight to a blind man and healing a man suffering from leprosy.By now, people followed him from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and from beyond Jordan. On Galilee’s hillside in Capernaum, he selected his 12 disciples. Standing in their company, he spoke to the great numbers of people who came to hear him speak.

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“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgement you judge, you shall be judged; and with what measure you give, it shall be measured to you again.”

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HE THAT IS WITHOUT SIN
When Jesus was teaching at the temple, the people brought a woman to him and asked, “This woman committed adultery. Moses has commanded that such a person should be stoned. What do you say?”
Jesus said, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.”

THE LAST DAYS
Meanwhile, Jesus was making enemies of the priests. In January, 30 AD, he raised Lazarus from the dead in the town of Bethany to which Mary Magdalene belonged. Lazarus had been dead for four days and was laid in a cave with a stone on it.
Hearing of this miracle, the chief priests worried, “What do we do, for this mad man does many miracles. If we let him alone, all men will believe in him and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” They plotted his death during the Jewish Passover which was soon to come.
While he travelled in Galilee, Jesus made the prophecy about his last days. He left Galilee for the last time. In March 30 AD, he passed in Jericho and on the Sunday before Passover, he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (the messiah, according to Jewish tradition) where the people welcomed him. The temple priests notice this excitement.

With his disciples, he went into the Mount of Olives and came to Gethsemane. There he prayed and they slept. It is here that Judas betrayed him, coming with men and officers who bound Jesus and took him away.
The priests led Jesus into the hall of judgement and handed him over to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor. Pilate found no fault with him, but the people wouldn’t back down from their demand for crucifixion. It was the preparation of the Passover and the sixth hour.
Seeing that he could not prevail upon them, Pilate gave the sentence. The Governor’s soldiers led Jesus to the common hall, stripped him and crowned him with a crown of thorns. They placed a timber cross on his shoulders and Jesus carried it to Calvary with his mother Mary, watching him with the crowd.
The soldiers laid him on the cross, tied him to it, nailed his hands and feet and crucified him. It was the third hour on Friday, 15th April 30 AD.
People said, “You who were to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself. If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
To which, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
His mother, her sister, Mary Magdalene and John stood at the cross.
At the ninth hour, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When he was thirsty, a sponge was filled from a vessel full of vinegar, put on a reed and given to him. Jesus said, “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit. It is finished.” He bowed his head and gave up the ghost.

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Kalabhairav Jayanti

God of Time and the fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva, Kala Bhairava kills the ego and takes one towards liberation

WORDS: MADHURI. Y

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Kala Bhairava is the fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva and is the wandering form of Lord Shiva. His birth is celebrated on the day of Kalabhairav Jayanti.
Also known as Mahakala Bhairavashtami and Kalabhairav Ashtami, Kalabhairav Jayanti is observed on the eighth day of Krishna Paksha (waning moon phase) during the month of Kartik. This year, it falls on 10th November. It is considered more auspicious when the day occurs on a Tuesday or Sunday, the days dedicated to Kala Bhairav.
He is also known as Dandapani, since he holds a rod to punish sinners, and as Swaswa which refers to his mount being a dog. Yet another name for him is Maha Swarna Kala Bhairava and his consort is Bhairavi, the fierce Goddess associated with the ten Mahavidyas.
Kala Bhairava rules the 64 Bhairavas who are grouped under the eight Ashtanga Bhairavas, guarding the eight directions. Each Ashtanga Bhairava heads a group of seven Bhairavas, totaling 64 Bhairavas.

According to the Sringeri Sharada Pitham, the Ashtanga Bhairavas are as follows:Kala Bhairava
Asitanga Bhairava
Samhara Bhairava
Ruru Bhairava
Krodha Bhairava
Kapala Bhairava
Rudra Bhairava
Unmatta Bhairava
Kala Bhairava is known to destroy fear and protect devotees from greed, lust and anger, allowing devotees to seek God within themselves. He is also believed offer protection from enemies and to pilgrims and travellers. It is also believed that worshipping Kala Bhairava nullifies ‘Rahu’ and ‘Shani’ doshas. Kala Bhairava is said to be the Guru of Shani.

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Kala Bhairava is known to destroy fear and protect devotees from greed, lust and anger, allowing devotees to seek God within themselves. He is also believed offer protection from enemies and to pilgrims and travellers. It is also believed that worshipping Kala Bhairava nullifies ‘Rahu’ and ‘Shani’ doshas. Kala Bhairava is said to be the Guru of Shani.

Birth of Kala Bhairava
According to the Shiva Mahapuranam, Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva once have a discussion during which Vishnu asks Brahma who the supreme creator of the universe is. Brahma answers that it is himself, and that he, Brahma should be worshipped. He takes pride in his five heads and begins to interfere in Shiva’s work, infuriating the latter.
Kala Bhairava emerges from Shiva’s forehead and cuts off one of Brahma’s heads, leaving him with just four heads. The head remains stuck to Kala Bhairava’s left palm since he had committed the sin of killing Brahma. To make reparations for the sin, Kala Bhairava wanders the world without clothes, seeking alms with the skull as his begging bowl. Finally, his sin is expiated in Varanasi. Kala Bhairava Mandir in Varanasi is the most famous of Bhairava temples.
According to another story, Kala Bhairava is Virabhadra who cut Daksha Prajapati’s head when the latter insulted Lord Shiva. Daksha was the father of Sati Devi who was Lord Shiva’s wife. Unable to bear the insult to Shiva, Sati leaves her mortal body. When grief-filled Shiva carries her body and does the tandav, his dance of destruction, Vishnu cuts her body into 52 parts. The places on earth where these parts fell are the Shakti Peethas. A Kala Bhairava temple or idol exists at each Shakti Peetha.
It is believed that Kala Bhairava is Lord Shiva’s form that controls time. Kala Bhairava is also considered the guardian of Lord Shiva’s temples. In this role, he is known as Kshetra Palaka. Once the temple priest locks the doors of Lord Shiva’s temple, he ceremonially places the keys at Kala Bhairava’s feet and in the morning, receives the keys from him.

The Ritual
On the day of Kalabhairav Jayanti, devotees worship Kala Bhairava, Lord Shiva and Parvati with flowers, fruits and sweets.

Ceremonies in Temples

In temples, Shodashopachar Pujas are performed. In temples of Lord Shiva, puja begins with worshipping Surya and ends with the worship of Bhairava. Bhairava’s worship includes bathing the idol with ghee, lighting a lamp in ghee, and offering red flowers, coconut, honey and boiled food.
At the Bhairav Prasad temple in Vaishno Devi, an image of Kala Bhairava made of gold or silver is immersed in water in a brass pot. The image is worshipped with prayers. Devotees offer gifts to the priest who conducts the puja.
There are eight temples in Varanasi, each dedicated to one aspect of Kala Bhairava. For eight days, each Bhairava is visited which ends with Bhairava Ashtami. On the eighth day, Kala Bhairava is worshipped in his temple. Kala Bhairava is considered Varanasi’s guardian deity. The cloth that covers Kala Bhairava throughout the year, leaving only his face open, is removed on this day and devotees can catch a glimpse of his entire image. A garland of silver skulls adorns the image on the day.

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Mantras for Kala Bhairava
”Hrim vatukaya apadudharanaya kuru kuru batukaya hrim.”
“Om hreem vam vatukaaya Aapaduddharanaya vatukaaya hreem”
“Om Hraam Hreem Hroom Hrime Hroum Ksham Kshetrapaalaaya Kaala Bhairavaaya Namaha”

After the puja, they recite the Kala Bhairav Katha. They also perform pujas for their dead ancestors.
Devotees stay up the whole night, narrating stories of Kala Bhairava, Lord Shiva and Parvati.

They chant mantras specific to Kala Bhairava and perform a midnight aarti with drums, bells and conches. Since Kala Bhairava rides on a dog, some feed milk and sweets to dogs.
It is believed that those who undertake a fast on the day will get rid of obstacles in life and gain health and success. Devotees seek forgiveness for their sins. It is believed that one loses the fear of death by worshipping Kala Bhairava on this day. It is also believed that problems within families and with enemies are resolved.

Significance of Kala Bhairava
Signifying the march of time, Kala Bhairava is seen as the destroyer of time. Worshipping Kala Bhairava helps one understand the transitory nature of existence. He is said to be the deity who helps one understand the highest truth of life and how one relates to time.
Kala Bhairava Ashtakam composed by Adi Shankaracharya describes him as the source of knowledge and liberation. He is the deity who destroys greed, attachment, depression, anger and enables one to move towards the lord’s feet.