July 18, 2013
Balaram jayanti (बलराम) is appearance day of Lord Balaram. It is celebrated on the full moon day of Shravan month, Shravan poornima. According to Gregorian calendar, the day generally falls in the months of August or September. Balaram jayanti is celebrated exactly eight days before Janamastami, the appearance day of Lord Krishna. In 2013 the date for Balaram jayanti is on 21st August.
Who is Lord Balaram?
Lord Balaram is celebrated as the elder brother of Lord Krishna. He was the seventh child of Devaki and Vasudev. The demon king Kamsa confined the couple to a prison and killed six of their children. The seventh child was transferred from Devaki’s womb to Rohini’s womb. Thus he was born as son of Rohini who stayed in house of Nanda Maharaj. Nanda and Yashoda became foster parents of Lord Krishna.
Balaram is known by several names. He is known as Sankarshana which refers to the transfer of the child from one womb to another. He is also known as an incarnation of Ananta, the divine snake on which Lord Vishnu sleeps. The child was named ‘Rama’ but seeing his extraordinary strength (bala), he was called Balarama. He is also known as Baladeva or Balabhadra. He is considered as the Lord of agriculture and hence called ‘Haldhari’.
Balaram spent his childhood with Lord Krishna and cowherd boys of Vrindaban. During his pastimes with Krishna He killed many demons like Dhenakasura and Mushtika. Philosophically, Lord Balaram symbolizes strength in devotion. He is the bestower of physical strength and a healthy life for His devotees.
Celebrations of Balarama Jayanti
Vaishnavas celebrate Balarama jayanti with great joy and happiness. On this day, devotees fast till noon. All temples dedicated to Lord Krishna are decorated with leaves and flowers. The deities of Krishna and Balarama are given holy bath with panchamrita. Discourses are given on Balaram’s appearance and activities. Devotees cook special dishes on this day and share them with great happiness. Devotees dance and sing the Holy names of Krishna and Balaram. Devotees feel a special strength in devotion upon celebrating Balarama jayanti.
July 14, 2013
Shidoor Khela(সিঁদুর খেলা) is a famous Bengali ritual observed during the last day of Dassera namely Doshomi.This article tries to cherish the spirit of Shidoor Khela. In 2013 date for Shidoor Khela is on 14th October.
It is mostly played by married Bengali women.However,the young,unmarried Bengali ladies also enjoy the game.The newly wed women are taught the rituals by their seniors.It starts with viewing the feet of Maa Durga in a bowl filled with water and a mirror.Sweets and Vermilion is offered to Maa Durga and her blessings are seeked.
Then the game is played which involves spilling of vermilion on each other.Women offer sweets to each other which is known as the Misti Mukh.They make a mark of vermilion on each other’s bangels called the Shakha Pola.The Shakha Pola are the famous indicators of a women being Bengali and married.The ritual of marking the Shakha Pola signifies well wishing the long life of each other’s spouses.There are exchange of gifts too.
The younger ones seek the permission of the elders to mark the Shakha Pola with vermilion.Then they bow down to the feet of the elders and seek blessings followed by mutual embracing with cheers.It is followed by social gathering filled fun,music and laughter called the Adda.
The atmosphere by this time is of mixed feelings because Shidoor Khela also marks the end of one of the most awaited event in a Bengali’s life,The Sharodiyo Durga Puja.
Balo Dugra Mai ki …. Jai….. Asche Bochor ……. Aabar hobe !!!
July 6, 2013
Kumar Shasti is the 6th day of the Shukla paksha of Ashada month (June-July). It is the festival dedicated to Lord Kumara, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi. It was on this day Lord Kumara took birth to defeat the demons. In 2013, Kumara shasthi date is on 14th July.
The Legend of Lord Kumara
Lord Kumara is the second son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Paravti. He is known by many names: Kartikeya, Sanmukha, Shadanana, Skanda, Murugam, Guha and Subramanyam. In south India Kartikeya and Murugam. The deity of Kumara shows him to have 6 heads and riding on a peacock. There are many versions of his birth legend. One of the popular legend says Lord Kumara was born to destroy the demon Tarakasura.
Once the demon Taraksura was troubling demigods. Mother Parvati performed severe penances to get a son who would have extraordinary strength and skills. Kartikeya was born in a forest of arrows. He was fed by 6 mothers who were constellation of Krittika, thus was called Kartikeya. He had 6 faces and hence known as Shanmukha.
When Kartikeya grew up, he was stated as the head of the devas’s army and was called as their senapati. Under him the demons Banasura, Tarakasura and Pralambasura were defeated. He was cheif in protecting yagna performed by Narada. He is considered as eternal young and hence called Kumara.
Celebrations of Kumara Shasthi
Kumara shasthi is observed as a significant festival in South India and in some parts of Nepal. In Tamilnadu and other states in south India, the birth appearance is observed in May or June. There are so many temples dedicated to Lord Kumara throughout south India.
People observe this festival in utmost devotion. They go to temples and perform poojas and aarthis. Some fast this day as a mark of respect to Lord Kumara. They pray to Kumara to slay demonic qualities in them so that they remain healthy spiritually and mentally.
July 5, 2013
Karthigai Deepam is an ancient and famous festival of Tamilnadu. It is observed on the full moon day of Karthikai month (November-December) of Tamil Hindu calendar.
In the year of 2013 the date for Karthigai Deepam is on November 17th
Karthigai Deepam is considered as the extension of Diwali as it is celebrated by lightning of traditional oil lamps in the evening after sunset. Special celebrations are held in Thiruvannamalai town of Tamilnadu where it is also known as Annamalai Deepam. A special torch is lighted on the top of the Annamalai hill called Lord Shiva’s Jyothi. It is believed that witnessing the Jyothi bestows the divine vision and blessings of Lord Shiva.
Karthigai Deepam is associated with a very interesting story. Once Lord Brahma had a doubt about his supremacy over Lord Vishnu and began to debate on this. Lord Shiva appeared at the spot and transformed himself in the form of a huge pillar of fire. He asked both of them to find out the top and bottom of the pillar.
Brahma took the form of swan and started moving upwards to find out the top and Lord Vishnu took the form of a boar and started digging the earth to find out the bottom of the pillar. The search went on for several years but neither of them could find the ends of the pillar. Finally they gave up the search and regretted their quarrel.
After that Lord Shiva transformed himself as a hill, called Arunachala Hill, at Tiruvannamalai. It is said that this hill is emanates Jyothi or light and hence called ‘Arunachala’ or ‘Tiruvannamalai’. There is huge temple on the Arunachala hill where the Shivalinga is known as ‘Agni Linga’. Thousands of devotees flock here to lit tiny lamps which are meant as miniature replicas of the fire linga. The lamps are lit with the same spirit in houses with ardent belief in Lord Shiva.
On the day of Karthigai Deepam people clean their houses. Front portion of the house is decorated with Kolams (rangoli). They lit lamps and place them everywhere in a decorative manner. Eloborate pooja or Deeparathana is done in the evening. All them wear don new dresses and decorate the locality with lamps. Children and young people burn crackers. Some celebrate this for three days or five days or nine days. In this way, the people of Tamilnadu celebrate the festival with great enthusiasm.
Special celebrations are held at the site of Arunachala Hill where thousands of devotees flock to see the huge lamp ‘Tiruvannamalai Bharani Deepam.’ This deepam comprises of a huge, colossal circular metal vessel that holds about 2,000 liters of ghee. The wick of the lamp is made up of 30 meters and about 2 kilos of camphor is burnt to lit the lamp. It is claimed that on the evening of the festival the lamp can be seen upto the 35 km radius around the hill.
July 4, 2013
Shattila ekadasi (षटतिला एकादशी) is a special ekadashi observed by Hindus during the Krishnapaksh, waning phase of the moon, in Paush (January). It is also known as Tilda ekadashi. In 2014, Shat tile ekadashi date falls on 27th of January. It is known for donating Til also know as Sesame seeds on this auspicious day. This article gives legends, importance and celebrations of the day.
Legend of Shattila Ekadashi: Once upon a time there was a Brahmin woman who observed severe penances to please Lord Vishnu. Upon seeing her, Lord Vishnu came in guise of mendicant and begged alms. Outraged by the disturbance she put a handful of sand in the begging bowl and continued her austerities.
When she died she was taken to heaven and was welcomed in luxury abodes bedecked with gold and sapphire. But there are nothing for her to eat. She was disappointed and asked Lord Vishnu for food. Seeing her tears Lord Vishnu revealed her past. She was appalled and begged for atonement. Lord recommended her to observe shat tile ekadasi with handful of sesame seeds.
Importance: The legend signifies that by observing this ekadasi one can expiate for unknown offenses done during observing austerites. By donating til (sesame seeds) on this one can liberate for the past sins of previous lives.
Celebrations: On this day all the rules of ekadasi are applied on this day, i.e fasting on milk, fruits and nuts. The devotee gets up in the morning and has bath with water that is mixed with sesame seeds and offered to dead ancestors. Black cow and sesame seeds are donated to priests and Brahmins. Whole day fast is observed. In evening cookeries made with sesame seeds are offered to Lord Vishnu. The legend is recited by women and Lord Vishnu is glorified. In the night prasadam is served. On the next morning the fast is broken by taking food made of grains.