Tag Archives: Festivals

Shubha Yugadi (2017)

Happy-Ugadi-2017

From all of us at ICP, Shubha Yugadi, Shubh Chaitra Shukla Pratipada, Happy Ugadi, Shubh Thepna, Cheti Chand ki Shubhkamnayein, Gudi Padwa Shubheccha, Happy Sajibu Nongmapanba, Shubh Navreh, and finally Ugadi Subhashayagalu and Subhakaankashalu!

Ugadi comes from the Sanskrit term Yuga Adi, or new era. Continuing our convention this year of showcasing the various fonts of India, this year’s Yugadi greeting is in Telugu and Telugu Script.

In Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh & Telangana, Karnataka, and Goa it is celebrated as part of the sidereal (luni-stellar) calendar. In the land of Shivaji it is called Gudi padwa.

In Rajasthan, some communities notably celebrated Thepna to mark the same. In Kashmir, Hindus celebrate Navreh. Most of North India and Nepal mark it as Chaitra Shukla Pratipada.

Sindhis celebrated Cheti Chand as their New Year due to the importance of their Rashtra deva Jhulelal.

If we missed any, let us know in the comments!

While the Gujarati calendar celebrates New Year on/around Deepavali, and the Solar Tamil Calendar usually a few weeks after us, the Telugu/Kannada/Marathi New Year is based on the sidereal calendar (combination of Lunar, Solar and Stellar positions), and begins on this day.

Ugadi-2017-Pictures

In Andhra, it is traditional to have Ugadi Pacchadi (Yugadi Chutney). It consists of the Shadruchis or 6 different flavours (Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty, Spicy, & Pungent). Here is Andhra Cultural Portal’s Post explaining the Pacchadi and the Utsav in more detail.

Normally Ugadi coincides with Gudi Padwa, Chaitra Shukla Pratipada, etc, but due to astronomical reasons, the cultural exemplars of Andhra advised the following day.

In any event, we wish you all a happy Hevilambi Samvatsara!

gudi-padwa-marathi-wishes-greetings

Holi ki Shubh Kamnaye (2017)

Happy-Holi-2017

From all of us at ICP, Holi ki hardik Shubhkamnaye! Happy Holi!

The Festival of Colours is here! Water should be used wisely throughout the year, not just on a single day because some silly celebrity says.

So celebrate this ancient festival with gusto, whether you grew up with the tradition or embraced it after. Modern Holi is part of Ancient Vasant Utsav, which celebrates spring and nature, the way we were meant to.

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It is also possible to be safe in the use of gulal. Here is a video with some safer, eco-friendly, natural ways to make colours for Holi.

Holi Hai!

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Vasant Utsav

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Sabhi ko Holi ki Shubhkamnayein! A very Happy Holi to all our readers celebrating day 1 of this exciting festival today.

Holi’s roots are in fact very ancient in origin. Though today it is primarily celebrated in Northern India, it was once part of an all India, vast, virtual month of Festivities known as Vasanta Maha Utsava.

Vasanta Mahotsava

Spring has a definitive place in the minds of most people and most cultures. It not only signifies the end of winter, and the end of the previous year, but also a time of renewal, rejuvenation, rebirth, and revelry. It is truly a celebration of life, youth and the young-at-heart alike.

Vasanta Mahotsava, Vasantha Utsava, or Vasant Utsav or Basant, is the ancient Spring Festival of Indic Civilization. It is mentioned in many old works from the Kathasaritasagara to the Kamasutra. Vatsyayana refers to it as Suva-santaka. Kalidasa’s Malavikaagnimitra and Sriharsa’s Ratnavali both include this festival, and the latter, in fact celebrates it in the opening act. [1, 353]

Vasanta Mahotsava was, therefore, a seasonal festival celebrated at the approach of the vernal equinox. [1, 353]

“The new year begins with Spring around the vernal equinox. But the poem begins with Summer so as to end with Spring; and auspicious ending, for Spring is renewal. The old year is dead and the advent of Spring is welcomed with song and dance and religious ceremonies. In ancient India this was known as the Spring Festival or the Festival of Love and it was celebrated with uninhibited revelry in a carnival atmosphere. New plays were written and staged as part of the festivities. The prologue to Kalidasa’s first play Maalavikaa and Agnimitra mentions it as the new play presented at the Spring festival.”[2,18]

But while the modern North excels in celebration and festivity, it is important to note that Vasant was once an all-India festival. Here is an account of its celebration in the Reddi Kingdom of Andhra :

Beautiful descriptions of this spring festival are furnished by the Telugu works Simhaasanadvaatrimsika, Bheemesvara Puraanam and Kaaseekhandam produced in this age. These works give us a clear idea of the celebration of the festival and the different ceremonies practiced on this occasion. As the authors of these works lived in this age when the spring festival was at its zenith of popularity, we may be certain that, much influenced by the realistic grandeur of this carnival, they introduced it into their works, and provided us a good picture of the festival, as it was in vogue” [1,355]

There was a great carnival and the King would go to a park specially decorated for Vasant. There would be a pandal for Kama & Rati, Vishnu &Lakshmi, Siva & Sakti, and Sachi & Indra. Perfumes such as camphor, musk, civet, saffron, sandal were used, rosewater was freely sprinkled on people along with water mixed with turmeric. A bamboo water soaker was used (like the pichkari in holi). People mixed freely and the Reddi kings gave it royal grandeur. The king and queen were sprinkled with saffron-water by passersby. [1, 357]

The Reddi King Kumaragiri himself so came to embody this celebration that he received the title Vasantaraya (Emperor of Spring).

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Hazara Rama Temple,Women playing Kollatam (dandiya) during Utsav

The Rayas of Vijayanagara were Emperors in their own right, and Vasant is famously featured in temple sculptures of this Empire in Karnataka.

 “The festival of Holi also finds a reference in the sculptures on walls of old temples. A 16th century panel sculpted in a temple at Hampi, capital of Vijayanagar, shows a joyous scene of Holi. The painting depicts a Prince and his Princess standing amidst maids waiting with syringes or pichkaris to drench the Royal couple in coloured water” [3]

It is likely that what is being referred to as Holi above was in fact the grand festival of Vasantha Utsava, as listed elsewhere:

 “Vasantotsavam was celebrated in this mandapa [Mahanavami Dibba] during Tirumala-raya’s period.” [2,11]

mahanavamidibba

There are of course attempt to digest and appropriate Vasant Utsav as “Basant” by Sufis. But the Vasant Utsav itself is far more ancient, and in contrast with Sufism (a velvet glove for an iron fist), our Utsav is far more in line with the Indic Dharmic view of balanced relations between the genders anyway. Recent sufi attempts to digest Holi are even more risible and show the importance of understanding authentic Indic culture, rather than obsessing over the colonising syncretic.

Further, in the name of being “modern/post-modern”, many of our traditions are being digested by corporations and similar business efforts. The Color Run is one such example of Holi’s tradition of throwing colours being used as part of a marathon. While cultural exchange is good, cultural appropriation and de-sacralisating of our traditions is not. What usually starts as harmless participation, becomes appropriation, and when the Hindu/Indic roots are denied (as is being done with Yoga), finally becomes digestion (as explained by Rajiv Malhotra).

As such, it is far better to understand the significance, sanctity, and symbolism behind our traditions and culture, rather than merely exulting in “being recognised by global!“.

In any event, Vasanta Maha Utsava is the traditional two-week long Spring Extravaganza in Bharatavarsha. Here are the components and the significance in detail.

Festival Significance

Vasant Utsav is not merely 1 or even 2 days, but in fact extends over several weeks. While there are references tracing it back to Vedic times, it is almost certain that its celebration was documented in mid-first millenium BCE.

Traditionally, there are four navratras, the most famous being in Sharad. The Chaitra Navratri, true to its name, is also celebrated over nine days, and honours the Goddess Durga. Here is a description of it and the other components of Vasanta Mahotsav.

Holi

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As most know the famous story, Holi signifies the evil Holika’s defeat by the devout  Prahalad, a great Vishnu Bhakta. Holika was the sister of Hiranyakashipu, the rakshasa king who had grown powerful and full of arrogance, demanding all worship him instead of Vishnu. His son Prahalad was obedient, but refused this command, saying despite his father’s accomplishment, Vishnu was Supreme, and thus, should be worshipped. Hiranyakashipu’s ahankar was wounded, and thus commanded Prahalada to sit on Holika’s lap in a fire, to demonstrate whether Vishnu would save him. While the evil Holika (who was also a cannibal) had a saree that could protect her from fire, Prahalad had no such defence, and only his devotion to Vishnu. Nevertheless, he was saved and escaped unharmed from the fire.

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Elsewhere, it is said that Lord Krishna killed Poothana (another killer of infants) on this day. Thus, Holi has acquired its importance and grandeur on account of these successive defeats of evil. It is thus traditionally divided over two days, starting with Choti Holi (on Chaturdashi) and ending on Phalgun Phurnima (full moon).

Choti Holi/Holika Dahan

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Holika Dahan at Udaipur

This is the day that the bonfire is prepared. This is called Holika dahan, and articles from the past year are also burnt, signifying a fresh start for the upcoming year.

Interestingly, parts of the South celebrate this Holika Dahan as Kamuni Dahamu, signifying the burning away of all wrong passions and impulses and baggage of the previous year, and renewing ourselves in the New Year.

Holi Hai!

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This day needs no introduction in most of the world. From the colours (gulal) to the pichkaris (bamboo water soakers) to the dance and revelry, this is quite possibly the most fun festival in the entire world.

People from all classes and backgrounds freely mix and spread cheer and song in the name of Spring and the triumph of good over evil. More traditionally, one can find some additional rituals, especially in the villages of Northern India, which further underscore the mixture of the sacred with the festive.

Some women in the village offer special puja during Holi. Small twigs of the ‘Kamal’ tree are painted in red and yellow and then laid out in little bamboo baskets (khartoo) along with thread, kumkum, jaggery and roasted grams. The women carry this basket and little pots of coloured water in their hands and go for the Puja”. After it is offered, Holi is then played. [4,226]

Yugadi

Despite the calendrical variations, the two main divisions in the Hindu Luni-solar calendar celebrate New Year on the same day. Most of North India uses the Purnimanta Calendar. This Calendar ends every month with the full moon. The Amanta or Amavasyat Calendar starts every month with the new moon. Due to this discrepancy, Holi, which would normally align with the two-week long Vasant Mahotsav now has a month-long gap.

Restoring the Amanta calendar in the rest of India would restore the two week-long celebration. Interestingly, because the Purnimanta calendar starts with Krishna paksha, the Chaitra Sukla Pratipada (first day of the Bright half of the moon) is on the same day in both calendars. That is the reason why Ugadi/Gudi Padwa and Nava Varsha/Navreh are all celebrated on the same day, by both calendars.

Chaitra Navratas

ChaitraNavratri

When we say Navratri, most people think of the 9 days leading up to Dasara. But this is in fact just 1 of 4 (some say 5) Navratris, other than the famous Sharad Navratri. There is also the Magha, Ashvin, and relevant for Vasant utsav, the Chaitra Navratri. All of these celebrate the glory of Shakti.

Chaitra Navratri, in particular, is significant as it ends with the Sri Rama Navami. This is all the more symbolic as the original reason for this Navratri involved Ayodhya. Prince Sudarshana, one of Rama’s ancestors, was driven from his rightful throne. Through worship of the Devi, and her bija mantra, he was able to get married and become king. Bhagavan Rama too worshipped Shakti, and the timing of his defeat of Ravana is on Dasara (the tenth day of Durga’s Victory). As such, Chaitra Navratri ending with Sri Rama Navami is highly significant.

Sri Rama Navami

RamLalla

The Mahotsav appropriately closes with one of our most Sacred Days, Sri Rama Navami. This is the day of Lord Rama’s birth in Ayodhya. As he renewed our Dharma in the previous Treta Age, Spring renews our commitment to Dharma in the present one.

The overarching vision of Vasant Utsav, however, contrary to sepoys (LW and RW), is not unrestrained license or debauchery. Rather, it is a celebration of life in a tasteful yet enthusiastic manner. The full spectrum of all things, rather than mere obsession with the lower chakras. It is about celebrating all aspects of creation, whether personal or cosmic.

Celebration

HoliHai

In ancient times, this was arguably the most exciting of Indian festivals, with a large part of the subcontinent featuring a carnival atmosphere, of music, dance, food, socialising, and general celebration. With so many days of significance, from Holi to Yugadi to Sri Rama Navami, it is only natural that this Utsav would become a Mahotsav.

Holi, of course, needs no explanation on how to celebrate. The only suggestion is to play safe and to use safe organic gulal. There are plenty of healthy natural colour-based options that individuals can draw from. They are not only “eco-friendly” but are also made by people who actually care about the festival and passing on our traditions.

Vasant Utsav in general is celebrated in many ways. Beyond Holi and its famous festivities (an article in and of itself), there are many spring sports, with music, theatre, and dance.

After the termination of the sports, the king with his queens went to a lotus pond nearby and sported in the water for a while. Re-turning from the lotus tank he gave audience to the public and rewarded poets and artists according to merit. Dramas were put on boards; dance recitals were given; musicians, showed their skill in music, both vocal and instrumental; and magicians and others proficient in other kalaas or vidyas, came there in search of patronage, and displayed their feats of strength, skill and sleight of hand. It was a grand occasion for patronising Arts and Letters.” [1, 358]

Dandiya Raas (from the Sanskrit Dandaraasakam) is played , especially during the nine nights of Navratri. Puja is also done, especially for Devi, via the Ghatasthapana Muhurta, which has to be done at a specific time during the day. Doing so will activate the positive energy of Shakti via the kalasa (sacred pot).

Finally, Vasant Utsav is often associated with Kama Deva, the God of Love, whose friend and ally is literally the personification of the month of Spring, Vasanta. Kalidasa himself famously celebrated this month in his Rtusamhara.

Above all, however, Vasant Utsav was a great coming together of all sections of society, in fun and frolic. Spring is a time for renewal, not only of relationships and spirits, but of values and societies. And it should be once again.

Vasantamahotsava was the major festival of those days, which exercised great influence on the people culturally and socially. It was occasions like this that advanced the knowledge and culture of the common people. [1, 358]

References:
  1. M.Somasekhara Sarma. History of the Reddi Kingdoms.Delhi:Facsimile Publ. 2015
  2. Rao, V. Kameswara.Temples in and Around Tirupati.1986.p.11
  3. http://www.saibabaofindia.com/spiritual_meanings_for_holi.htm
  4. Gajrani, S. History, Religion, and Culture of India (Vol.5).Delhi: Isha Books.2004
  5. http://www.speakingtree.in/blog/gupt-navratri-the-secret-lesser-known-navratri-begins
  6. http://zeenews.india.com/entertainment/and-more/chaitra-navratri-the-legend-behind-it_1873820.html
  7. http://www.speakingtree.in/allslides/chaitra-navratri-2017-why-its-auspicious

Shubha Sankranthi (2017)

makar-sankranti-odia

Shubha Makara Sankranthi to all our readers!

Whether you call it Makara Sankranthi, Lohri, Magh Bihu, Ghughuti, Pongal, Sakraat, Khicheri, Saaji, Suggi, Tirmoori, Uttarayan or “the transition of the sun into the constellation capricorn“, we wish you all a very Happy Harvest Festival!

Part of celebrating what unites us is understanding the beauty of the variety. Sanskrit is the language that unites us and Devanagari the most accessible to us, yet greetings come in many languages and many scripts. This year’s is written in the superfun script of the Odias of Odisha (ancient Kalinga, Utkala, & Oddra). To know how they celebrate today, here is a must follow handle or two for all things Odia, including ICP’s own @Itssitu, who was featured last year with her article on Odisha Fashion.

Pongal-greetings-tamilFrom Odisha we go to Tamil Nadu and a particularly emotive Pongal, where the great tradition of Jallikattu is presently prohibited. One need not participate or even be a fan of a tradition that is important to a different socio-economic group (in this case rural), but it’s important to respect all traditions, particularly when the animal is not harmed and is in fact treated as part of the family. Jallikattu is neither Spanish Bullfighting nor Cowboy Rodeo. The animal is safe, well-treated, and it is the unarmed players who are taking the risk given the powerful bull horns and hooves. It may be more martial than most may handle, but when the animal is treated well, it’s yet another part of festival fun.

JALLIKKATTU - PONGAL FESTIVAL'S SPECIAL BRAVE ART EVENT OF TAMIL PEOPLE - Art by Anikartick,Chennai,TamilNadu,India
Art by Anikartick

For some, Makara Sankranthi is about flying kites, for others it is about drawing Kolam(Rangoli) or playing Jallikattu, and for still others, it is a brilliant bonfire, symbolising a fresh start and personal cleansing.

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Punjab’s  Lohri (like Bhogi in Andhra’s 4 day Sankranthi) is a great utsav of aag. It is celebrated by Punjabis the world over, and symbolises that spirit in a different way. And yet, the same voices who show no concern for say trees on Christmas, suddenly do when it comes to Lohri (leave aside New Years Eve vs Crackerless Diwali).

Do what you can to preserve the tradition and petition and protest peaceably. Use facts, logic, and calm patience to make the case and point out double standards. Some connect to their culture through intellectual endeavours, others through philosophical inquiry, but most through their traditions and festivals (and the delicious cuisine that goes with them).

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Makara Sankranthi is not just a Pan-Indian, but a Pan-Indic festival, and is celebrated with great gusto by our brothers in Nepal.

So whether you say Sankranthi Shubhkamnayein, Shubheccha, or Shubhakaankshaalu, from all of us at ICP, we wish you the very best!

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Shubha Dasara (2016)

Bijaya-Dashami-Nepali-Dashain

Happy Vijaya Dasami, Happy Durga Pujo, and Shubh Dussehra! On this Tenth Day of Victory, Durga Mata defeated Mahishasura and Bhagvan Ram defeated Ravana.

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Satyameva Jayate

Whether in Kathmandu or Kanyakumari, whether it through Raas-Garba or Bhajans, hope you all enjoyed the Nine days of Navaratri. May this Tenth Day usher in victory for good over evil. From all of us at ICP, Happy Dasara!

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Shubha Krishna Janmashtami (2016)

krishnashtami2016From all of us at ICP, Happy Sri Krishna Janmashtami! Shubha Janmashtami! Janmashtami shubhkamnaye!

For those of us who know he was no mere myth, but left this Earth in 3102 BCE, this day is especially sacred, as a reminder of the validity of the Mahabharata’s message.

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Struggles against Adharma are there now more than ever. Even our traditions stemming from Krishna’s life are not being spared. What do the people do?

Dahi_Handi

It is why the time has come for people to not just sing “Hare Krishna”, but to take a page out of the Karma yogi’s book and do their karma. Between aggressive and passive is assertive. Learn from Sri Krishna and understand how to work together to effectively and legally preserve your interests, traditions, culture, and above all, preserve Dharma.

And remember, whatever the odds against you, Yatho Krishna tatho Dharma. Yatho Dharma, tatho Jayaha! Jai Shri Krishna!

 

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Shubha Raksha Bandhana

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From all of us at ICP, Shubha Raksha Bandhana, Raksha Bandhan Shubhkamnayein, and Happy Rakhi!

Not all cultures celebrate the bond between brother and sister as colourfully and joyously as Bharatavarsha’s.  Rather than viewing relations between female and male through only 1 or 2 prisms, our ancestors recognised that the most holistic societies are the ones that also hold as dear the relations between siblings, cousins, friends, and fellow citizens.

To women, men are more than just fathers or husbands or sons, but also brothers and cousin-brothers. To men, women are more than just mothers or wives or daughters, but also sisters and cousin-sisters.

This wonderful festival celebrates what all other women or men beyond the top 3 should be to men or women: sisters or brothers. Rakshabandhan celebrates this bond and raises it to festival heights with a joyous utsav where brothers and sisters honour each other.

The loneliest societies are the most selfish ones. Unselfishness and protection of brother by sister & sister by brother is what makes ours the civilization of Subhadra & Sri Krishna.

Rakshabandhan Shubhkamnayein!

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Shubha Sri Rama Navami

Ram-Navami-Jai

Happy Rama Navami! Shri Rama Navami Shubhkamnayein! Jai Shri Ram!

It’s been quite the back to back celebration of holidays, but none is more beloved than the day of the birth of our most beloved figure.

Born on the 9th day (Navami) of the Month of Chaitra per the Hindu Lunar Calendar, he is the Seventh Avatara of Lord Vishnu in this Manvantara. He is the ideal man, the ideal husband, the ideal brother, the ideal father, and the ideal king.

Ignorant revisionists criticize his actions, but forget that for a king, his subjects come even before his own family. As Rama was the polar opposite of individualism and selfishness, the small, self-interested person of the Kali era has difficulty understanding the concept of tyag, self-sacrifice, that he and his wife, brothers, and sisters-in-law all represent.

Strength with Gentility, Valour with Compassion, Knowledge with Wisdom, Power with Restraint, Wealth with Charity, Victory with Magnanimity, Achievement with Humility,  Obedience with Conscience, Authority with Love, Companionship with Responsibility, he is the very embodiment of Virtue and Grace.

May his qualities ever inspire us.

Happy Sri Rama Navami. May this blessed day of Bhagavan Rama’s Birth and Marriage bring tidings of happiness, prosperity, and blessedness. Let the message of Maryada Purushottam, the Shiromani of the Raghus, the Best of Bharatas, resound throughout the ages:

Dharma Protects those who Protect it.

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Puthandu Vazthukkal & Vishu Ashamsakal

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From all of us at ICP, Vishu Ashamsakal! Puthandu Vazthukkal! Happy New Year to Malayalis and Tamils alike.

At last, we complete the cycle of Indic New Years (the exception of course being our Gujarati friends). The Solar Calendar New Years are celebrated today. From Yugadi to Vaisakhi to Vishu/Puthandu, we see just how closely all these calendars (varshapada) coincide.

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Best wishes to all of you, and Happy New Year!

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