Hindu Festivals

PONGAL FESTIVAL (Thanksgiving, harvesting festival)

Every year, on the first day of the Tamil month ‘Thai’ (falls between January and February of the Gregorian months), Thai Pongal festival is celebrated by Tamil people all over the world. The first day of the Tamil month ‘Thai’ usually falls on the 14th day of January every year (On some rare occasions, it would be 15th).

The month ” Thai” is considered an auspicious month by all Tamil speaking people.

‘When the month ‘Thai is born, the path to solutions to pressing issues will also become visible’, is a popular proverb among Tamil community. (‘Thai Piranthal Wazhai Pirakkum’)

Some people treat this day as the first day of the Tamil New Year ( Puthu varusham ) even though, according to Tamil almanacs, the first day of the Tamil month ‘Siththirai’ ( April – May ) is treated as the actual Tamil New Year day all over the world.

On the Pongal day, the farmers who cultivated the paddy crops cook a delicious food item called ‘Pongal’ with the newly harvested rice and worship the Sun god to thank him for providing the energy in the form of sunlight which is vital for all living beings on the earth. The Sun god resembles Lord Brahma (giver of life) in the mornings, Lord Shiva (angry destroyer ) in the afternoons and Lord Vishnu (peaceful, life saver) in the evenings. Hence, it is best suited to treat the Sun god as the visible form of the Trimurtis and worship him.

Thai Pongal festival is celebrated for a period of four days.

First day – Pogi festival:

The previous day to the Pongal day is celebrated as the Pogi festival. This festival is treated as a cleaning day. Early morning on this day, Tamil people gather all useless and unusable items in their homes, heap them in front of their houses and set fire to the unwanted rubbish, thus destroying them. This festival is significant to demolishing all the wasteful (sinful ) thoughts and deeds of yesteryear from our minds and fill them up with fresh, useful thoughts and deeds.

Second day – Thai Pongal day:

The Thai Pongal day is significant to Sun god worship. On the Pogi day, houses and surroundings were cleansed, demolishing and burning all wasteful items.  On the Thai Pongal day, all in the family wake up early in the morning and after bathing and cleansing themselves and wearing new clothes,  gather in front of the houses to prepare sweet Pongal rice. This is prepared by cooking fresh raw rice in milk and jaggery. This sweet food is offered first to the Sun god as a token of thanksgiving. Then, the sweet rice is distributed to all in the family and neighbors.

Third day – Oxen Pongal day:

Ploughing the field

Since ancient times, oxen have been utilized in farming and cultivation works. Therefore, this third day is celebrated by farmers to thank them. On this day, the oxen are bathed and decorated. Then they are fed with delicious food.
Decorated Oxen for the festival

On this day, in some parts of Tamilnadu in India, the oxen game which is called ” Jallikattu” or ” Manchu virattu” is performed.

Fourth day – The Sightseeing Pongal day:

The fourth and final day of the Pongal festival is spent on visiting relatives, friends and distant temples, etc.

By doing so, the relationship gets closer and the growing children get used to behaving well with other relatives and family friends.



Diwali is the most popular Hindu festival celebrated throughout the world. It is celebrated by Hindus all over the world in spite of their variations in languages, regional culture, etc.

Poor as well as rich welcome and celebrate this festival joyfully with open hearts.

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In North India, it is called’ Diwali’ whereas in South India and in Sri Lanka, the festival is called ‘Deepavali’ and the meaning of it is “festival of lights”. The Diwali festival is celebrated every year, as per Hindu calendar, on a day between the end of October and the beginning of November.

In North India, during Diwali, people decorate their houses with lots of small lights made of clay. While In South India and in Sri Lanka, this custom of lighting with small clay lamps is done during Karthigai festival in November.

For many Diwali festival is considered to be a holy pooja day to Luxmi Devi, Hindu Goddesses and, for Wealth and Prosperity. Merchants and trade agents begin their new accounts on that auspicious day. New ventures start out from that day too.

Naraka was a very strong demon but was very wicked too. When he became too much of an annoyance, Lord Shri Krishna Baghavan decided to destroy him in order to save the people of the earth. However, he did not want to accomplish it himself. He preferred that the demon Naraka must be eradicated by Sathiyabama, the wife of Lord Krishna.

With this plan, he took her to the battlefield as the driver of his chariot. Sathiyabama was controlling the chariot while Shri Krishna was battling the demon and his warriors.

All of a sudden, Shri Krishna pretended to tumble down, exhausted. In order to save her husband, Sathiyabama picked up Lord Krishna’s bow and arrows and began to attack the demon and killed him.

In fact, you may wonder why the Lord wanted this to be carried out by Sathiyabama. You can read the magnificent story behind this in details in our series of ‘Lord Krishna’ stories which will follow soon.

On deathbed, devil Naraka became enlightened and worshipped Lord Krishna and Devi Sathiyabama. He requested that the day of his death to be celebrated by all with lights as well as sweets. Lord Krishna granted his wish and made that day as Diwali festival day. Since then, individuals celebrate Shri Krishna’s triumph over the evil force as Diwali festival and celebrate it joyously with lights, sweets, and crackers.

Therefore, the significant of the Diwali festival is the destruction of dark evil and the rise of the goodness and the rightness.

There is another reason too as per great epic Ramayana, in that Lord Rama, after rescuing his abducted wife from the demon Ravana and destroying him, returned back to Ayothi. Since he was returning after 14 years of exile and as jubilant he was welcomed by his subjects with lights everywhere, homes, path, trees, and the palace, etc.

That day later became a celebration day known as Diwali.


(‘Nava’ means Nine and ‘Ratri’ means Nighttime, thus The Nine divine nights )

Navarathri is also a very popular Hindu festival which is celebrated to signify the victory of Godly rightness over the evil. The Navarathri festival is celebrated to glorify and worship the Devi Sakthi in three different forms, Saraswathi Devi, Lakshmi Devi, and Durga Devi.

There are four kinds of Navarathri festivals celebrated in four relevant periods.

1. Nine days coming after the new moon day in the month of June – July. This is called ‘Ashada Navarathri’.

2. Nine days coming after the new moon day in the months of September – October. This is called ‘Saratha Navaratri’.

3. Nine days coming after the new moon day in the months of January – February. This is called ‘Maha Navarathri’.

4. Nine days coming after the new moon day in the months March – April. This is called ‘Vasantha Navarathri’.

However, the ‘Saratha Navarathri’ of the months of September – October is very special and it is widely celebrated by Hindus living all over the world and so Navaratri always refers this particular one.

(Note that Hindu calendar month starts around the middle of the Gregorian Calendar month and thus involves two Gregorian months as indicated above)

Let’s now see the background to this.

Once, there lived a wicked demon called Mahisha who had performed extremely tough penance for many years and obtained the boon that he might be killed only by a virgin.

Because of that powerful boon, no one in the three worlds could battle against him.

So, he conquered all the three worlds and harassed Devas and Humans. In order to eradicate him and save all, the divine mother Devi Sakthi born on the ‘Krishna paksha Sathurthasi’ ({refers to an auspicious time) in the month of September – October and performed tough penance for nine days and nine nights.

Thus, she empowered as Devi Durga and destroyed the demon on a ninth day. On the tenth day, devas and all humans on the earth rejoiced her victory over the demon and celebrated that day as ‘Vijayadasami’.

The tenth day which is significant to Devi Durga’s victory over the terrific demon is celebrated as ‘Vijaya-Dashami day’. The nine days prior to the Vijaya Dashami are celebrated as Navarathri festival of nine divine nights.

Throughout these nine days of Navarathri festival, the first three days are dedicated to Devi Durga, next three days to Devi Lakshmi and the last three days to Devi Saraswathi. This way three forms of Devi Sakthi are being worshipped.

For a successful and prosperous life, one needs to have the blessing with good education, wealth and bravery. All are important and time and time again it was shown that one without the other is unsustainable. For example, one requires wealth(money) to acquire education and in turn, education is needed to acquire serious wealth and also a coward cannot look after earned wealth.

For that reason, we pray to the three Devis for their blessings on all aspects.

Throughout Navarathri, nine girls below the age of ten 10 years get selected in the neighborhood. Every day a girl would be chosen and bathed, dressed up like a particular Devi and worshipped. Hence three girls would represent one of the three Devis. At the end of the pooja, girls would be treated with sweet food items and prasadam.

It is a custom to decorate with ‘Golu’ in homes during the Navarathri celebration. The ‘Kolu’ has nine steps and each step is decorated with various kinds of beautiful clay dolls depicting Gods, Goddesses, humans, animals, birds, etc.

A Navaratri ‘Golu’ decorations

Every night during the Navarathri days, friends, family members and neighbors, take a turn to gather together in one home. They sit in front of the Kolu and sing devotional songs in praise of the Devis.

They place the picture of the Devi as per the day of the Navaratri, at the center of the Kolu and worship her.

On the tenth day of Navarathri celebration, which is called ‘Vijayadasami’ (‘Akshara abhyasam’).

This day, which is called ‘Vidyarambam’ (start-off of education and learning processes) is an important day in the life of the children. The children at the age of three will start writing up the first letter using the index finger on the white rice spread on a tray. A priest or an educated relative in the family would keep the child in their lap and holding their fingers in their hand and write the very first letter and also make them say the letter three times. Hindu children start their nursery or school after this religious function.


Whenever we begin a new task, at first instance, we worship Lord Ganesha and pray for his blessings for succeeding in the new task. The reason for this is, Lord Ganesha is the Lord of all beings. He is called ‘ Vighneswara’, which means that Lord Ganesha ( = Vighneswara ) removes all obstacles and helps us overcome all challenges of life. It is believed that no undertaking will meet failure if the Grace of Lord Vighneswara is invoked at the beginning itself.

The Ganesha Chaturthi festival is celebrated on the fourth day – Shukla Paksha Chaturthi – after the new moon day of Aavani ( August – September ) month. In north India, especially in Maharashtra, this festival is called ‘ Ganesha Chaturthi ‘ whereas in Tamilnadu and among other Tamil spoken areas all over the world, it is called ‘ Vinayaga Chaturthi’.

All Hindu people celebrate this festival whether they belong to Saivism or Vaishnavism. Because Lord Ganesha is dear to all.

On the Ganesha Chaturthi day, devotees wake up early in the morning and purify themselves by bathing. They cleanse their houses, surroundings, and vehicles and decorate them with flowers and mango leaves. Women draw beautiful ‘kolams’ in front of their houses with colored rice powder.

Ganesha Chaturthi is a festival joyously welcomed by all children as they get lots and lots of sweet items to eat on that day.

Early on the Ganesha Chaturthi day, the market place gets crowded with people who gather there to buy freshly made Ganesha statues of clay, decorative items such as flowers ( especially, garlands made of Erukkam flowers ), mango leaves, decorative umbrellas made of many colored papers, etc. The freshly made Ganesha statues are available for sale at a price from ten rupees to three hundred rupees. The statues are made in many different shapes and colors.

It is believed that worshipping freshly made clay statues of Lord Ganesha is more beneficial.

Devotees draw a beautiful kolam on a piece of wooden plank and place the freshly made Ganesha statue on that plank. The family joins together to decorate the Lord Ganesha statue with flowers, ornaments, and garlands. The decorative paper umbrella is placed over the head of Lord Ganesha.

Then the family offers sweet laddus, mothaks and other such sweet food items to Lord Ganesha. Roasted rice, crushed rice, jaggery, peas, fruits, and coconuts are some other offerings much liked by Lord Ganesha. For Pooja, Arugam grass and Erukkam flowers are used.

Parents and children stand in front of the new statue and worship Lord Ganesha. They sing sweet, devotional songs in praise of Lord Ganesha. They perform ‘Thoppukkaranam’ and ‘Namaskar’ in front of Lord Ganesha.

Life-sized Lord Ganesha statues, made in different shapes and colors are placed in front of Hindu temples and main streets where people throng to view them and worship Lord Ganesha. Artists make different models of Lord Ganesha statues in different positions. ( Rocket Ganesha statue is one among them ).

From the ancient times, the people worship ‘Fire’ as a God which is one of the five natural powers (Five Nature’s Gods or ‘Pancha Poothas’: The Soil, Water, Sky, Wind and the Fire). The purpose of this festival is to please and honor the ‘Fire’.

Our Puranas describe beautifully about the reasons for these festivals and they also advise us to worship, Lord Shiva, Maha Vishnu, and Lord Muruga as the deities related to this festival.

‘Karthikai Deepa’ is one of the important function among Hindus. Tamils in South India, Sri Lanka and all over the world celebrate this with much enthusiasm. This is celebrated on a full moon night of the month of ‘Karthiakai’ (November – December).

In order to quell an argument developed between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu as to who was the greatest between the two, Lord Shiva appeared as a huge torch (jothy) like a pillar of fire and informed who find the top or the bottom of the Jothy first, would be the greatest. However, when they returned unable to find any, Lord Shiva told them that the greatest is not us but the ‘Paramporul’ or the supreme one only and the other two agreed.

The day when Lord Shiva appeared as the Jothy (deepa) is celebrated as the ‘Karthikai Deepa’ day.

Lord Shiva who gave ‘darshan’ as the Jothy also gave ‘darshan’ as ‘Arthanaareeswar’ by giving half of his body to his consort Barvadi Devi on a ‘Karthikai Deepa’ day too.

The six sparkles that emanated from the third wisdom eye of Lord Shiva, became six babies and they joined together and became a six-headed baby, ‘Arumugam’ (Lord Muruga or Skanda).

The baby was nursed and looked after by women of ‘Karthika’ clan and as a result, Lord Muruga was also known as ‘Karthikeyan’.

To remember those women who raised Lord Muruga, we worship him on full moon day of the month of ‘Karthikai’ and in the light of small oil lamp. So that we are worshipping Lord Muruga too on this day and thereby we are receiving the blessing of the Lord Muruga.

Once, Lord Brahma was conducting a yagna (yaga) ritual without his concert Saraswathi Devi knowing it (you would learn why later). When Saraswathi Devi came to know of this, she had sent a demon Mayanalan to disturb it. Mayanalan blocked the sun rays reaching the earth and thereby made the whole world plunged into darkness. When this disturbed the yaga rituals, Lord Brahma asked the help of Lord Vishnu who appeared as a huge jothi (torch) and with that light, the rituals were completed.

The Vaishnavas are worshipping the Lord Vishnu on this day who appeared as a Jothy deepa .

The ‘Karthikai deepa’ festival at the Tiruvannamalai temple in Tamilnadu, South India is a very popular one. On this day, at the top of the hill, a huge ‘ghee deepa’ would be lighted. Millions of devotees thronged to see this and worship. Seeing the Jothi in full moon night is a wonderful experience for many.

How to celebrate and worship on this day? 

The festival begins, on the full moon day (Karthika Pournami) of the month of Karthikai (November). It goes on for three days with a day for Shiva, a day for Vishnu (Perumal) and a day to burn all rubbishes (like that of the bonfire night).

We should get up in the early hours of the Tirukkarttikai day and wash and clean the house and decorate it using mango leaves.


Decorated patterns (Rangoli) will be made using rice flour, just in front of the house. Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Karthikeya (Muruga) who appeared as Jothi should all be worshipped.

On this day the importance should be given to ‘deepa’ lamps. Since it is the evening that is suitable for lighting any lamps, the deepa lamps should be lighted in the evening at dusk.

The small deepa lamps should all be lighted off the ‘holy lamp’ of the shrine room and placed in all rooms and doorways and steps.

The deepa light will now be filled in our house and it should be considered as the image of the God and worshipped (Some turn off the normal lights for these purposes). At least 21 small deepa lamps should be lighted and placed.

In a head portion of a banana leaf, we should place a yellow Ganesha (made off turmeric powder mixed with water), fruits, flowers and snacks such as mothakam, rice puffs and also a small lamp. First, we start off worshipping Lord Ganesh and all other deities.

It is better to sing ‘deepa mangala namo, nama’ and pray.

Maha Sivarathri
The word “Sivam” is significant to the bliss of the transcendental reality. Thus, the word ” Sivarathri” denotes the meaning of ” a great night of divine bliss”. Saivism describes ” Sivarathri” as the great night when the whole world wound up into Lord Shiva himself during the great floods.
Every year, Sivarathri is celebrated in the month of Masi ( February – March ) prior to the new moon day on Krishna paksha Sathurthasi thithi.
Hindu religious books describe of five kinds of Sivarathri festival and fastings.
1.  Nithya Sivarathri:   To perform Siva pooja on every Sathurthasi and thus performing 24 Siva poojas in a year.
2.  Paksha Sivarathri:  To perform Siva pooja on the Sathurthasi after doing fasting for continuous 13 days with only one meal a day, beginning from the Krishna pirathimai day in January – February month.
3.  Monthly Sivarathri :  Monthly Sivarathri fastings are performed on the following days in relevance to each month : Krishna sathurthasi in February – March month; First Thiruthiyai in March – April month; Krishna Ashtami in April – May month; First Ashtami in May – June month ; Shukla Sathurthi in June – July month ; Krishna pakshami in July – August month ; Shukla Ashtami in August – September month; First Thirayothasi in September – October month; Shukla Thuvathasi in October – November month; First Saptami and Ashtami in November – December month; Bi paksha sathurthasis in December – January month; Shukla Thiruthiyai in January – February month.
4.  Yoga Sivarathri: If there is a new moon period for sixty ( 60 ) nazhikai on Soma Waram, it is called Yoga Sivarathri.
5.  Maha Sivarathri: Krishna paksha sathurthasi night in February – March month is called the Holy Maha Sivarathri period. The last 14 nazhikais ( 5 hours and 36 minutes in total ) on that night is called ‘the period of Lingothpava’.
And we are discussing this Maha Sivarathri here.
Origin of Maha Sivarathri:
Once, in the adobe of Lord Shiva known as Shiva loga, his consort Uma Devi decided to perform a play with Lord Shiva. She went behind Lord Shiva and hid both of his eyes with her hands. Lord Shiva’s two eyes are the Sun and the Moon. As both of them were hidden, the whole universe plunged into total darkness.
That great darkness or great night became to be known as ‘Maha Sivarathri’
All living beings prayed to Lord Shiva for light. As both of his eyes were hidden, Lord Shiva opened his third eye on his forehead. (It is called the eye of wisdom).
A heavenly, bright light with unbearable heat emerged from the third eye. Devi and the whole universe trembled in that heat.  Seeing that, Lord Shiva made his glare cool and saved all the worlds.
When we light ghee lights on this great holy night and worship Lord Shiva, we will certainly be ridden of all our sins and sorrows.
Once, a hunter was walking through a dense forest. A fierce tiger chased him to kill him. Not knowing what to do, the hunter climbed up a Bilva tree. The tiger followed him and unable to climb up the tree, it laid down in waiting at the foot of the tree. The hunter felt sleepy and hungry.  So, to be awakeful, the hunter plucked Bilva leaves one by one and put them down. There was a Siva Linga at the foot of that tree. all those Bilva leaves fell upon the Sivalinga and became a Siva pooja. As that was a Maha Sivarathri night, Lord Shiva blessed him and the hunter got all his sins ridden and achieved Shiva mukti.
On Sivarathri day, we must wake up early in the morning and after purifying ourselves by bathing, we must wear Holy Ash and meditate about the greatness of Lord Shiva. Then, we must go to the Shiva temple and worship him and Devi Sakthy.
We must take Bilva leaves when we visit the temple of Lord Shiva and perform Archana with those leaves.
On the Sivarathri night, at the temple of Lord Shiva, poojas are performed in four parts. They are called first yamam, second yamam, third yamam and the fourth yamam.
Lord Brahma, Maha Vishnu, Devi Sakthi, Seshan, and Devi Saraswathi have performed Sivarathri poojas.
The holy Puranas describe that performing one Sivarathri fasting is equal to performing one hundred Ekathasi fastings.
So, let all of us praise Lord Shiva on this holy Sivarathri night and receive his blessings ever.

Sri Krishna Jayanthi

When the Dharma (just) is tilted it head in the earth and the Adharma (unjust) raises its head, then to rescue the Dharma and to re-establish it, the great God of the evil destroyer, the merciful, almighty, the Lord Maha Vishnu will take a new avatar to come down to earth.

Accordingly, in the Dwaraka yuga, at midnight in the month of ‘Aavani’, Sri Krishna born to Vasudeva and Devaki in a prison. In order not to be killed by Kamsa, the wicked demon, he was smuggled out to Kokula where he was reared by Nandakopar and Yasoda.

The day he born as Sri Krishna in this world is celebrated as Sri Krishna Jayanti and Kokulatchami.

Sri Krishna’s nickname in Kokula was ‘Kannan’. Kannan was the hero of the four Vedas. Born as black, he appears as the bright torch of wisdom to the three worlds.

By celebrating Sri Krishna Jayanti, we glorify the birth of Krishna, worship him, sang his greatness and also welcome the little Kannan and his blessing to our homes.

The little Kannan was very naughty and he was very fond of ghee (liquid butter). Once emptying the ghee pot in his house, he would enter the houses in the neighborhood to steal ghee from the pot hook.

When the neighbors return they will discover about the little theft by his tiny footprints registered with the spilled ghee on the floor. Since he was a pet of each and everyone, the theft was a matter of delight for the residents of the Kokula.

In ancient times, on Krishna Jayanthi day, people were in the habit of drawing small footprints with ghee in the floors of their houses.

In modern times, on Kokuladchami holy day, we too clean our houses and to invite the little Kannan and his blessing by drawing small footprints with rice flour from the front door entrance to the shrine room entrance. 

Having an idol of Sri Krishna and decorate it with a flower garland, we pray him offering yogurt, puffed rice, and fruits. Most importantly ghee, as he is fond of it and also snacks made using ghee such as laddu, jilabi etc, can also be offered in the pooja. Since he was born midnight, the pooja will be conducted and prayers are offered throughout the night.

The devotees will celebrate the birthday of Kannan with enthusiasm. In the villages, the games such as ‘climbing of greased pole’ (to grab the price pot at the top), ‘pothook’ blind shooting (with both eyes covered to hit the pot with a stick and to claim the prize) will be played with lots of fun.

Many will dance and sing to celebrate and some would go to temples to listen to preaching and also the story of Kannan’s childhood and life from the epic ‘Srimath Bagavatham’.

Since it is better to worship Krishna by uttering ‘Sri Krishna Astakam’, many say that when praying.

Thinking of the little Krishna throughout the whole day of Kokulastami, and fasting, uttering the words ‘Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare’ is equivalent to thousands of fasting on Ekadasi day.

Sri Krishna Jayanthi is a special day for children. In some families, they dress up the little kids like little Krishna and offer them sweets and snacks and make them happy.


Shri Rama Navami Festival

The birth of Shri Rama is celebrated on the auspicious day when Punar Pusya star and Shukla Paksha Navami thithi get together in the month of Pankuni ( March – April ). This auspicious and holy day is celebrated as ” Shri Rama Navami ” by Hindus all over the world.

Cruel king Ravana oppressed all devas and human beings. Deva prayed to Lord Maha Vishnu for his help. maha Vishnu assured to help and told them, ” Do not worry. I will be born as the eldest son to King Dasaratha of Ayodhya. In that human avatar, I will destroy cruel king Ravana and his army of demons and save you all.”

As a result of King Dasaratha’s ‘Puthra kameshdi Yagna’ performed in his palace by sage Rishyashrunkar, he got four sons. The eldest of the four was Shri Rama. Day of his human avatar on this earth is celebrated as ” Shri Rama Navami.”

In North India, Rama Navami festival is celebrated continuously for eight days.

In South India, devotees celebrate this festival for ten days. During the nine days prior to the Rama Navami day, elders in the family read chapters from ‘Shri Ramayana’ to the family members. On the tenth day, they complete the reading and go on to celebrate the birthday ceremony of Shri Rama.

( Shri Ramayana is a great Hindu religious epic. It contains the sweet and divine story of Shri Rama along with a lot of moral ideas for growing children. This great epic is being serialised for children on our website. See ” Ramayana for Children ” in the menu for details. )

On the Rama Navami day, devotees wake up very early and purify themselves by bathing. Then they cleanse the pooja room and decorate it. They decorate the picture or statue depicting the crowning of Shri Rama ( “Shri Rama Pattaabishekam “) with flowers and offer sweets and food items. The family then join together in chanting, praying and singing devotional songs in praise of Shri Rama. When we chant Shri Rama’s holy name without any interruption on that holy Rama Navami day, it is true that Shri Rama’s blessings will be upon our homes and the house will prosper with good deeds and wealth.

Buttermilk is the most preferred offering on Rama Navami.

While he was staying with Sage Vishvamithra in the forest and while he was living in the forest for 14 years, Shri Rama drank buttermilk to quench his thirst. Significant to this event, buttermilk is offered on Rama Navami day as offering and prasad.

Along with buttermilk, dhal rice ( Rice Pongal ) and dhal vadai are also offered to Shri Rama.

Wherever Shri Rama Navami festival is celebrated with true love and devotion, Shri Hanuman attends that place and sit among the devotees to join in the chanting of Shri Rama’s sweet name. Therefore, on that holy day, it is best to worship Shri Rama, Shri Hanuman and furthermore worship our elders too to receive their blessings.

      ” Shri Rama Rame Ramethi Rame Rame Manorame
         Sahashra Rame thathulyam Rama nama varaanane”

Durga Pooja

Durga Pooja festival is significant for the victory of goodness over evil. People living in the state of Bengal in India celebrate this festival with great joy and devotion. Today, not only in Kolkatta, all over the world, wherever Bengalis live, they join together to celebrate Durga pooja.

Durga is a very powerful and beautiful form of Devi. She is gorgeous in beauty and courageous in bravery. She has one thousand mighty hands. And in each powerful hand, she holds one indestructible weapon. ( But, as to visualize Devi’s form with one thousand hands and one thousand weapons is an impossible task, divine artists illustrate her form with ten or more hands.) All her weapons are used to destruct cruel evil. At her beautiful feet lies dead one ugly buffalo. It is the fiendish form of the demon Mahisha. The trident, Devi Durga’s most powerful weapon seems to be piercing the chest of the demon Mahisha. On the head of Devi Durga, the face of Lord Shiva, her husband is seen out of her hair. Her loving four children sit at her sides. Who are these children? Devi Saraswati, the Goddess of wisdom; Devi Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity; Lord Ganesh, destroyer of obstacles ( Lord Vigneshwara ) and Lord Skanda ( Muruga ) who brings victory at battlefields are these four children.

During Durga pooja festival, artists make Devi’s forms ( statues ) according to the descriptions in Devi Puranas and decorate them with colorful silk clothes and ornaments. Then they place the beautiful statues on higher platforms to enable the devotees to worship Devi Durga.

Demon Mahisha was very cruel and merciless. He conquered all the worlds and made all human beings and Devas his slaves. He chased Lord Indra away from his Indra Loka and sat on his throne to rule all the worlds. ( Indra = King of Devas ). No one could challenge him. So, all Devas and humans went to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu and cried for deliverance from the demon’s hands.

When they heard of all the cruel deeds of the demon Mahisha, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu became very angry. Their anger was boundless. That anger spread all over the universe like a bright light with the brightness of one billion Suns. Then, from that powerful light emerged a beautiful Devi. She was Devi Durga. She was the daughter of light. Devas offered to that beautiful Devi beautiful silk clothes and ornaments. Himavan, the Lord of the Himalayas offered a brave lion to the Devi to be used as her vehicle.

Devi Durga held one thousand weapons in her one thousand hands and challenged Mahisha and called him to war. A terrific war began. Mahisha, who was an expert in cunning magic, took many magical forms and fought against Devi. At last, he took the form of an enormous buffalo and tried to kill her. But, in no time, Devi Durga’s sword killed the demon and her valiant trident pierced his chest. The devilish demon fell at her feet and died. Evil was destroyed. At that victorious moment, all good people and Devas celebrated devi’s victory. They praised the glory of Devi Durga and sang songs praising her grace.

This is the origin of Durga Pooja festival.

Durga Pooja festival is celebrated for ten days during the month of September – October. Devotees gather to decorate the beautiful statues of Devi Durga with fine silk clothes and jewels. They prepare delicious sweet food items in big vessels and distribute to the devotees. They wear new clothes and donate new clothes to the poor. Artistes perform plays and dance dramas relating the valiant deeds of Devi Durga.

After celebrating Devi’s glory for the nine days, the devotees celebrate the tenth day as her victorious day and perform special poojas. When these special poojas and celebrations are over, the statues of the Devi are taken to the sea or rivers and dissolved in water.

Naga Panjami and Garuda Panjami

Naga Panjami and Garuda Panjami are ancient festivals of India. People of India have been celebrating these two fasting festivals from very ancient times.

These two festivals are celebrated one week prior to Varalakshmi fasting ( nonpu ). Both of these festivals are celebrated during the month of August – September.

People who wish to observe and celebrate these festivals in the proper way should begin their worship on the Shukla Panjami day in July – August with fastings.

On the Chathurthi day, the devotee must perform pooja ( = worship with songs and slogans ) to the Naga gods ( Naga thevatha ) and offer milk to their dwelling place, ie, anthills of the snakes. ( Nagas = snake gods ). While pouring milk into the anthill, the devotee must chant the names of the nine important Naga gods namely, Ananda, Vasuki, Kishakalan, Abjan, Makari Abjan, Kangubalan, Karkkodan, Kulijan and Padman.

Sage Kashyap was the son of Lord Brahma. Naga gods were born as the result of the marriage between Sage Kashyap and Kathru devi. ( Sage Kashyap was an interesting person and there are many sweet stories told about him in the Puranas. You can read all about him in later issues ). As the snake children were disobedient, their mother Kathru devi cursed them that they should be killed by fire. Because of that cruel curse, when King Janamejayan performed a Sarpa Yagna, most of the snakes got attracted and pulled towards the Yagna fire, fell into the fire and died. Sage Ashtheegar saw the pitiful state and got pity on the snakes. He obstructed the powers of the Yagna by his powers and saved the remaining snakes. On that day, the remaining snakes ( = Nagas ) got the curse on them withdrawn by the powers of the sage. Naga Panjami festival is celebrated in remembrance of that joyous occasion.

Devotees who observe this Naga Panjami festival along with proper fasting will be blessed with a lot of children. When parents perform this pooja, their children will have a long and healthy life.

Devotees who wish to observe Naga Panjami fasting must obtain ( or make ) an image of the snake made of gold, brass or any other pure metal, place it inside a small pot and perform pooja.

Sage Kashyap had many wives. The sisters Kathru and Suparnee were among them.

Kathru devi became mother of the Nagas ( snakes ) and Suparnee became the mother of Aruna ( He has no legs and he is the driver to the Sun god ) and the glorious, gold feathered Garuda. ( The occasion of their birth is also an interesting sweet story. But, you will have to wait some more to read it later. ) Even though Kathru and Suparnee were sisters, they envied and hated one another. The enmity grew and one day they made a bet. The loser must become a slave to the winner. At the end of the bet, Suparnee lost the bet and she became a slave to her own sister. Her children Aruna and Garuda too became slaves.

Garuda became a vehicle to Kathru and her children ( snakes ). The mother and children hated Garuda and insulted him many times. So, Garuda grew hating the snakes and their mother. ( That is why, even today, snakes fear Garuda – the bird, eagle and eagles always hunt down snakes ). Garuda often worried about their slavery and determined to make his mother and brother free.

Kathru asked Garuda to bring the heavenly nectar ( amudham ) from the world of Lord Indra ( = King of Devas ) in order to obtain freedom from her. With much pleasure, Garuda flew to the heaven of Lord Indra and began a fierce battle with Indra and his warriors. At the end of the battle, Garuda won and received the golden urn ( = a small pot made of gold ) containing heavenly nectar which gives long life and gave it to Kathru.

Thus, after a long battle, Garuda made his mother, brother and himself free from slavery. ( Then Garuda became the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. But, dear children, that is another sweet little story and you wil read it later on this website. ) The birthday of Garuda is celebrated as Garuda Panjami day.

Dear children, you too can bring health and prosperity to your family by observing these two important festivals.

Holi Festival

Holi is a festival of love, friendship & happiness. It is joyously celebrated in North India and in all countries wherever North Indian people live. Holi festival helps people forget their old enmities and develop friendship and love.

Holi festival is celebrated for two days during the month of February – March.

A few days prior to the Holi festival, people begin to make arrangements for the festival at their homes. They whitewash and paint their houses and decorate them. They draw beautiful rangoli kolam designs in front of their houses.

In North Indian villages, the villagers celebrate Holi festival elegantly according to their ancient customs and culture. The villagers select one common ground in the centre of the village and cleanse it. Then they place big vessels at the centre of that ground and fill them with coloured powders named ” Kulal “. Village elders gather there. Young men and women sing beautiful songs and dance to the music. They dance in procession along the village roads and call all villagers to the function. When all the villagers have gathered at that Holi ground, the young women in the village begin to dance elegantly striking sticks and thus making fine music. ( = This dance form is called ‘ Kolaattam’ ) The young men play musical instruments and sing sweet songs suitably. Then they sprinkle coloured powders and coloured water on one another joyously laughing and shouting ” Holi, Holi”.

In the evening, they place divine statues of Shri Ram, Shri Krishna, Lord Shiva, Devi, Lord Ganesh, and Lord Hanuman and decorate them with silk clothes and ornaments. Then they join to sing sweet, devotional songs and worship the Gods and Goddesses. Around 10 pm, they make an artificial tree with easily burning items such as leaves, sticks, etc and place it at the centre of the Holi ground. Then they set fire to the ‘tree’. This is called ‘ Burning Sokkappanai ‘.

In urban cities, people celebrate Holi festival purely as a festival of love and friendship. There are no spaces to set up a Holi ground in cities. Therefore, young men and women sprinkle coloured powders and water on one another shouting ” Holi, Holi “. On the Holy days, anyone could sprinkle coloured water and powders on anyone else. No one would become angry. Because, Holi is a joyous festival significant to love, friendship and happiness.

Holi festival is considered to be a feast day of Lord Krishna. In Brindavan, little Lord Krishna played with Radha and other Gopika girls, sprinkling coloured water on them. On Holi feast day, young men and women do the same in remembrance of Lord Krishna’s playful deeds.

There is another wonderful story being told as the origin of Holi festival. You all know about Lord Vishnu’s little devotee boy, Prahalad. Little Prahalad’s father was a cruel demon king called Hiranya. He hated Lord Vishnu and wanted to kill him. Therefore, he commanded that none of his subjects should worship Lord Vishnu or praise him. The offenders should be punished with death. But, his son, the little boy Prahalad was very fond of Lord Vishnu and he was an ardent devotee of the Lord, named Shri Narayana ( = another name of Lord Vishnu ). He chanted Lord Narayana’s name ” Om, Namo Narayanaya ” day and night. Hiranya became very angry with his son and he wanted to kill his own son. He tried many methods to kill him, but, failed as Lord Vishnu himself saved the little boy every time. Prahalad escaped from all his evil schemes by the grace of Lord Vishnu.

Demon king Hiranya was looking for a person who was capable of killing his son without fail.

Hiranya had a demon sister. She was called Holika. She was very cunning and had many talents in sorcery and magic. The fire couldn’t harm her. Hiranya called his sister and asked her to jump into the fierce fire embracing Prahalad. He thought that the fire wouldn’t harm his sister but, certainly burn his son to ashes. She obeyed her brother and jumped into the fire, embracing the little boy Prahalad very tightly in her hands.

But, the unexpected happened there. Yes, by the grace of Lord Vishnu, the blazes burnt Holika to ashes and the little devotee boy emerged unharmed from the fire, singing devotional songs on Lord Vishnu.

When the demoness Holika was burning in the fire, the blazes showed many different colours. Significant to that occoccasion to celebrate the colourful death of Holika and the glory of Shri Narayana ( = Lord Vishnu ), Hindu devotees shout ” Holi, Holi ” while they celebrate Holi festival.

Shri Hanuman Jayanthi festival is celebrated to glorify the birth of Shri Hanuman with pomp and ceremony on the new moon day in December – January ( Markazhi ) month every year.

Shri Hanuman is the form of pure love and devotion. He ardently worshipped Shri Rama and Sita devi in his heart.

Birth of Shri Hanuman

Once in heavens, Vayu deva ( The Lord of the wind ) worshipped Lord Maha Vishnu and requested thus, ” Oh Lord, I have no form of my own. All people feel my presence and movement by their bodies, but, they are unable to see my real form. So, dear Lord, bless me with a son who will represent me, my beauty, power, and strength to the three worlds.”

Lord Vishnu replied, ” Oh Vayu deva, you will have a magnificent son to popularize your fame and name. He will also bear my significent features and get worshipped all over the earth.”

On those days, there was a Kantharva girl ( = beautiful girl belonging to the Kantharva world ) named Punchikasthalai. Because of a curse, she was reborn as a monkey girl in a forest. She was named Anjana devi. She was married to another monkey called Kesari.

Anjana devi had the power to shed her monkey form whenever she wished so and to take her former, beautiful, Kantharva form. Thus, one day, while she was loitering in the forest in her real and beautiful form, Vayu deva saw her and fell in love with her. Anjana devi too loved him and as the result of their relationship, she gave birth to a beautiful son. As he was the son of Anjana devi, he was named Aanjaneyan.

Aanjaneyan was born in December – January ( Markazhi) month, new moon day. Hanuman is his another name.

Worshipping Hanuman:

After the victory of famed Rama – Ravana war, Shri Rama asked hanuman to stay at Sethu which place is at the southern part of India. Shri Hanuman obeyed and sat there meditating the holy name of Shri Rama.

As he is an ardent devotee of Shri Rama, Aanjaneyan ( = Hanuman ) is present wherever Shri Rama’s name is chanted. Wherever Shri rama Navami festival is celebrated in praise of Shri Rama, Shri Hanuman visits that place and sits among the devotees to participate in the prayer and chanting. During those moments, he blesses all devotees with health, wealth and prosperity.

During the Rama – Ravana war, Hanuman crushed the enemy demons like vadais. In significence of this, devotees decorate him with garlands made of vadais.

Vadai, betel leaves and butter are some offerings much liked by Lord Hanuman. So, devotees of Lord Hanuman offer him the above items and get his blessings.

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