Hindu temple and cultural society of southern illinois (HTCSSI)

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Diwali - The Grand Festival Of Lights

Diwali is the most prominent of hindu festivals of india. It is celebrated with a lot of pomp and show — and fireworks. It is the festival of lights, with houses decorated with clay lamps, candles and fancy lights.

Originally, the festival marked the return of lord rama, along with his wife sita and brother lakshmana, after a long exile of 14 years.

Diwali is celebrated on the darkest new moon night of the kartik month of the hindu lunisolar calendar, which corresponds to mid-october – mid-november as per the gregorian calendar

Diwali 2019 : 27th October (Sunday)

Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesh Chaturthi is a widely celebrated hindu festival in september. It honors the birth of lord ganesha. Life-size lord ganesha idols are crafted, and aarti and puja are performed. Ganesh chaturthi celebrations, concentrated largely in maharashtra, gujarat and andhra pradesh, also involve cultural functions, live shows, health camps, fairs and theater performances.

The grand life-size idols of lord ganesha are worshiped for 10 days. On the last day, the idols are immersed into rivers or lakes.

2019 Date : 2nd September (Monday)

Pongal

Pongal is one of the important festivals in south india that marks the beginning of “utharayana” auspicious period, that is the movement of the sun towards north and to mark the time for harvest. It is a four-day long festival starting as bhogi (lodhi), makara sankranthi, kanuma and mukkanuma.  On the pongal day, people harvest the crops as rice, cereals, sugar cane and turmeric that they sow throughout the year.

The entrances to each house are beautified by colorful kolam designs.

On bhogi, people discard old and derelict things and concentrate on new things causing change or transformation. At dawn,

People light a bonfire with logs of wood, other solid-fuels and wooden furniture at home that are no longer useful. The disposal of derelict things is where all old habits, vices, attachment to relations and material things are sacrificed in the sacrificial fire of the knowledge of rudra, known as the “Rudra gita jnana yajna”. It represents realization, transformation and purification of the soul by imbibing and inculcating various divine virtues. The traditional dish of pongal I.E. Boiling rice with sago and milk, is prepared at every home. As the pot of milk boils over, signifying prosperity, a shout of pongalo pongal fills the air.

The second day is makara sankranti. People wear new clothes, pray to god, and make offerings of traditional food to ancestors who have died. They also make beautiful and ornate drawings and patterns on the ground with chalk or flour, called “Rangoli” or “Muggu” in telugu, in front of their homes. These drawings are decorated with flowers, colors and small, hand-pressed piles of cow dung, called “Gobbemma”

On the third day, kanuma is celebrated. Kanuma is very intimate to the hearts of farmers because it is the day for praying and showcasing their cattle with honor. Cattle are the symbolic indication of prosperity. On the day after makara sankranti, the animal kingdom is remembered and, in particular, cows. Girls feed the animals, birds and fish as a symbol of sharing.

The fourth day is called mukkanuma, which is popular among the non-vegetarians of the society. On this day, farmers offer prayers to the elements (like soil, rain, fire for helping the harvest) and the (village) goddesses with their gifts which sometimes (and these days mainly) include animals. People in andhra and telangana do not eat any meat (or fish) during the first three days of the festival and do so only on the day of mukkanuma. Mukkanuma call for celebrations with union of families, friends, relatives. People play with kites and the sky is filled with beautiful kites.

Being one of the major festivals of india, pongal is celebrated all over india. At different regions, it is known by different names. It is known as lohri in punjab, makar sankranti in the north indian states, hadaga in maharashtra and bihu in assam.

Onam

Onam is a major annual event for Malayali people in and outside Kerala. It is one of the harvest festivals celebrated in the state of Kerala by all the religions.

According to Hindu mythology this festival is celebrated to commemorate King Mahabali’s visit to his kingdom during this time of the year. King Mahabali a descendant of Parshurama, Hiranykashaypu and Prahlada, in spite of being an Asura was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu. He was a very powerful king and with his valor had conquered the entire world and even swarg lok. Fearful Gods then went to Lord Vishnu to kill Mahabali. Since Mahabali was Lord Vishnu’s disciple and also a very good king to his praja, Vishnu did not want to kill Mahabali instead he took the avatar of Vamana (dwarf Bramhin) and went to attend the Yagnya organized by Mahabali to celebrate his victory over swarg lok. Mahabali has announced that he would grant anyone any request during the Yagnya. Wamana went ahead and asked Mahabali only three paces of land. Mahabali graciously agreed in spite of being warned by his guru (Sukhracharya) who was suspicious of Wamana. After that Wamana transformed into a huge avatar and put his first pace on swarg lok second on the earth and thus covered everything that King Mahabali was ruling and asked where I put my third place.  Seeing that there was nothing left Mahabali who was true to his word bowed down and asked Wamana to put his third place on his head. Vishnu then pushed him in Patal lok. But Vishnu was heavily impressed by his righteousness and his devotion granted Mahabali a boon, by which Mahabali could visit again, once every year, the lands and people he previously ruled. This revisit marks the festival of Onam, as a reminder of the virtuous rule and his humility in keeping his promise before Vishnu. The last day of Mahabali’s stay is remembered with a nine-course vegetarian Onamsadya feast.  Onam is celebrated to commemorate this visit which falls on the harvest season.

Onam is celebrated over 10 ten days also mark the Malayalam new year.  The first and last day are considered the most important days. Different activities and festivities are held during these 10 days celebration  to name few as  Pookalam –  decorations made with the flowers, Vallamkalli-  famous boat races held in Kerala, Pulikalli- people  paint themselves as tigers and dance on the streets , Onathappan- structure or effigies representing Wamana and Mahabali , Onam sadhya – Feast Food consisting of variety of traditional vegetarian dishes served on the banana leaf, Thiruvadira kalli – traditional folk dance form also part of the celebrations is doing charity and donations to represent and relish the act of King Mahabali .