Light the Lamp Within You

Karthigai Deepam in Tamil and Karthika Deepam in Telugu, this festival of lights signifies lighting the lamp within. This post details the story behind this festival and the also the inner meaning conveyed

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Festivals of India

India is a land of many religions, languages, culture, traditions, etc.  It is also a land of festivals.  Some of the festivals are celebrated throughout the country while others have specific regional associations. Some festivals are celebrated to welcome the seasons of the year, the harvest, like Pongal, Baisakhi, etc., others are celebrated on religious occasions, the birthdays of God, Saints, Gurus or the advent of New Year.

Some of the common Hindu festivals celebrated are :

 NAVARATRI

 navaratri

 Navaratri is celebrated through the first nine days of the Hindu month of Ashwin.

It is the celebration of the end of the darkness of ignorance and evil and it is said to bring knowledge, goodness and bliss, thus spiritually enlightening the human mind.

The first 3 days is dedicated to Mata Durga, the destroyer of Mahishasura the buffalo headed demon.  The next 3 days are dedicated to Mother Lakshmi. By invoking her grace we are not only blessed with virtuous qualities but also by Daivi Sampatti  and by gaining victory or self control over the mind. The last 3 days are dedicated to Mother Saraswathi who is the bestower of light of Knowledge.

The tenth day is celebrated as Vijayadashami.  It is among the most auspicious day in the Hindu calendar.  It signifies the victory of the good over the evil.  This day marks the victory of Mahishasuramardini and the defeat of evils.  It also depicts Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana.  On this same day the Pandavas too, took out their weapons which they had kept in the Shami tree and they revealed their identity after one-year of incognito.  This marked their preparation for the war of Kurukshetra.

In West Bengal, the festival is called Durga Pooja. The festivities last for ten days, of which nine nights are spent in worship, and on the tenth day, the idols are carried out in procession for immersion in a river or pond.

In Gujarat, the exuberant Navaratri celebrations include dancing the lively and fascinating Garba dance. The men and women dance around an earthen lamp while singing devotional songs accompanied by rhythmic clapping of hands and wooden sticks.

In Himachal Pradesh, a week -long fair is held in the hill town of Kullu, From the little temples in the hills, deities are brought in elaborate processions to the main ground in Kullu, to pay homage to the reigning deity, Raghunathji or Lord Rama.

Vijayadashami is an auspicious occasion for children to commence their education in classical dance and music, and to pay homage to their teachers.

 DIWALI

diwali

 It is a five day Hindu festival.  Diwali means a “row of lighted lamps” or the Festival of Lights.  According to the legends, it is the day when Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana returned to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile.  Another story is that it is the day Lord Krishna killed Narakasura – the demon of sorrow and hell.

In different parts of India, Diwali is celebrated differently.  Generally the festival begins with Dhanteras, a day set aside to worship Lakshmi.  On the second day, Naraka Chaturdashi – Kali, the Goddess of Strength is worshipped.  On the third day, Diwali, lamps are lit, gifts exchanged and crackers burst.  On the fourth day the business accounts are settled and new books are opened.  On the final day (Balipratipada) of the festival, Bali, an ancient Indian King is recalled.  He had destroyed centuries old philosophies of the society.  However, he is remembered for being a generous person.  Thus the focus of this day is to see the good in others, even in our enemies.

 HOLI

 holi

Holi is celebrated in early spring on the full moon of Phalgun.  Holi means “The festival of colors’.  It signifies the power of the virtuous in encountering and over-coming the evil.  It celebrates the joy of the end of evil.  It also signifies the acceptance of all the colors, that life brings.  A huge bonfire called the Holi Fire is burnt every year to commemorate the success of Prahlad’s devotion and the tragic end of the evil demoness Holika.  The next day of Holi, a festival of colours i.e. Rang Panchami or ‘Dhulivandan’ is played.  People throw colours at each other, thus spreading colourfulness into the lives of everyone.  On this day people forget the bitterness and enmity and forge friendship with one another.

 GANESH CHATURTHI

 ganapathi

 It falls on the fourth day in the month of Bhadrapada.  The birthday of Lord Ganesha is celebrated in great fanfare.  This festival is the most colourful and happy event in the religious, social and cultural life of India. This festival is celebrated for 10 days with great pomp and festivity.  The day before the festival, idols of Ganapati which are varying in sizes, designs and shapes are purchased and brought home.  On the next day the Lord is welcomed and worhsipped.  On the 3rd, 5th, 7th or 10th day after performing Puja the idol is taken out in a grand procession to immerse it in the nearby tank, lake or ocean. The immersion of Ganesha only points out that a seeker after purifying oneself through study and worship, transcends the form and realizes the Lord as the formless.

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