Saturday, 2 November 2013

Joy of the Festival Week . . .

- Pallavi Prakash

Welcome fall of the year and with lights in our heart and warm souls we welcome string of festivities and celebrations. Festivals are a reflection of beautiful amalgation of our old values and new ones. We can take what we know, what we learn and what resonates with us to carry on and create our own meaningful ways of celebrating them The month of Kartik (Hindu Calendar) marks five day long celebrations with Deepawali being the king of them.. However, in order to celebrate and pass on new and old customs, it is pertinent to know the roots and reasons of the festivals before we can determine integrating them into our lives. Diwali is one of the most well known festivals celebrated by Hindus all over the world and  the holiday lasts five days usually with each day highlighting a different auspicious event.

 According to the Hindu calendar, Diwali, begins on the thirteenth day of the month Kartik. This time of year is festive time because it is the season of harvest in which crops are in abundance and even businesses use the abundance as a time to mark the beginning of a new stock and calendar. As a result of this custom, Diwali is known as the New Year!

Let us have a quick review of 5 day long deepawali celebrations. Interpretations are subjective and reflective- one may find their own meaning depending on their cultural heritage, experience and needs. However the feeling of elation and joy is common for one and all.

Day 1: Dhan Teras-

(1st Nov’2013, Friday)

“Dhan” stands for the name “Danavantari” and Teras means “Thirteen”, referring to the 13th day of the half month of Kartik.

The myth aspect:

There is a Myth attached and story goes that the ocean was churned by the Devas (the righteous ones) and Datyas (the unrighteous ones) in order to attain the nectar of immortality which was hidden in the depths of the ocean. Upon churning, the nectar rose to the surface along with 13 other gems (not actual jewels, but things of value). Danavantari-is the ‘Heavenly Physician’ who holds all of the medicine for a happy, healthy life in one hand and a pot holding the nectar of immortality in the other. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is also worshipped by some on this day, as one of the gems that surfaced and also as a representation of wealth in all aspects in our lives.

Meaning:

Many of the Hindu texts and mythologies are written metaphorically. In the instance of Samudra Manthan, the “ocean” represents our mind-  its infinite energy freely and forcefully flowing. Churning the ocean means exploring this vast mind, going into its depths to uncover whatever lies below. If this is done with patience, diligence and calmness, eventually we uncover incredible gems within ourselves and nature- immortality as it is used in this story being intended as enlightenment.

Traditions:

On this day, people buy a new pot to symbolize the pot of nectar and buy jewels and precious items to mark entry of wealth in our lives.

 

Day 2: Narak Chaudas (Choti Diwali)

(2nd Nov’2013, Saturday)

 

Narak is short for “Narkasur” and Chaudas means “Fourteen”, referring to the 14th day of the half month of Kartik.

The myth aspect:

“Narak” (hell) and “Asur” (demon) means Demon from Hell .This title was given to a very evil king who tortured and hurt people in his kingdom. Narak Chaudas celebrates the day Krishna destroyed Narakasur and brought peace and joy to the kingdom- it is a celebration of triumph of good over evil. The day is also called Choti (small) Diwali, due to the similarity of the prevailing good over evil in the Ramayana.

Meaning:

Developing the qualities within ourselves that characterize Krishna and which will defeat the ignorance inside us.

Traditions:

This is also the day that it is said Hanuman, the monkey god, was born and it is often celebrated by honoring Hanuman and Krishna.

Day 3: Diwali

(3rd Nov’2013, Sunday)

The name Diwali comes from a larger word, Deepawali. ‘Deep’ means lamp or light and ‘Awali’ means rows. Together they become “Rows of lights”.

The myth aspect:

The phrase Deepawali or Diwali is a reference to the Ramayana, and is the day upon which beloved Prince “Rama” returns from the jungle after 14 years of banishment due to a promise his father had made to one of his spiteful wives. During his time in the jungle, Rama braved many obstacles and defeated the antagonizing King “Ravana”. The night of the Prince’s return, there was no moon, so the people of his Kingdom lit all of their lamps and candles in order for Ram to be able to find his way home.

Meaning:

At face value, we are taught that Rama is compassionate, upholds incredible focus and integrity and is the embodiment of truth- but what we do not stop to consider is what made him that way? We understand with the assumption that this is just the way he was. However, though he might have been born with those qualities, it was only through facing the unknown of the jungle that he was able to test and develop them within himself…and once he did he returned to the lights of home. It is a tale of triumph over the Self-created fears, our ignorance and desires while also accepting the nature of the Self.

Traditions:

Typically this day is the largest celebration of the 5 days, with puja, sweets, lots of food, large gatherings, fireworks and all the rest. The tradition specifically for this day is the lighting of lanterns, lamps and candles. It also symbolizes re-union of all relationships and essence of building stronger ties!  

Day 4: Annakuta or Govardhan puja

(4th Nov’2013, Monday)

This occurs on the first day of the second half of the month Kartik. “Anna” refers to grains or food and “kuta” means mountain or heap, together making” a mountain of food”. “Go” means cow and “Vardhan” means growth or increase in productivity, “Govardhan” means that which increases the growth and productivity of cows that is grains and food. Both of these words indicate the same thing – an abundance of food.

The myth aspect:

In the time of Krishna, there was a large mountain range known as Govardhan, it produced an abundance of food for cows, which in turn helped work the land and also provide sustenance for the people. During the harvest, people would worship the god of Rain for nurturing the crops. Included in this display of appreciation, people would offer huge quantities of food to the god, which would then be wasted. Krishna decided this waste must stop and that people must see that the food is not a gift from the god of rain, but that of the land they live on and the mountain Govardhan. He asked them to honour the mountain instead. The god of rain became angry and rain poured down for days, flooding the land. Krishna asked everyone to go on the mountain where they and the crops remained safe from the floods. Afterwards, everyone celebrated with the food from the harvest.

Traditions:

Puja for Krishna and a large feast is planned. One should plant a flower, herb or even vegetable in order to symbolize our connection with earth to symbolize this festival 

Day 5: Bhai Dooj

(5th Nov’2013, Tuesday)


In Hindu traditions, this is a prominent festival symbolizing love and ties between brothers and sisters.  Bhai Dooj on second day after Diwali (also known as ‘Yama Dwitiya’) is considered to be the most auspicious.

The myth aspect:

Yama (the lord of Death) and Yamuna (the spirit of the river) were twin brother and sister, born of the sun and consciousness. Yama, being the lord of Death was always very hesitant to visit his sister, because nobody wants a visit from Death. However, the love between them was so strong that Yamuna made Yama to promise that he will visit her. Bhai Dooj is the day Yama visited his sister, Yamuna, and they both were overjoyed and happy at being together after so long. Yama was so happy that he proclaimed any brother who visits his sister on this day will have no fear of death.

Traditions:

On this day, brothers visit their sisters and bring her a gift! It marks strong blood tie between them.

Let us keep alive the real meaning of these festivals to sustain love, joy and universal feeling of brotherhood. Enjoy the week long festivals and Enjoy Life!!!