Chhath in Indian mythology

Chhath Puja

Chhath, the most important festival from Bihar finds its mention in ancient texts also. There are incidents in ancient texts which make us believe that Chhath has been observed in ancient India.

Karna observed Chhath

It is believed that Surya Putra Karna who was the first to start this puja. According to the legends, Karna, Son of Surya & Ruler of Anga-Desh (Now Bhagalpur in Bihar) observed Chhath Puja or Surya Shashti with sheer devotion. It is said that Karna had gained supreme powers by performing Chhath rituals. This had made Karna grow into a powerful and valiant warrior.

Chhath Puja
Chhath Puja

Draupadi observed Chhath

It is believed that Draupadi was an ardent devotee of Lord Surya (the Sun god). Due to her devotion toward Surya, she was gifted with the unique power to cure even the most deadliest diseases. This power & energy of Draupadi helped Pandavas to survive & win the Battle of Kurukshtera and eventually regain their lost kingdom.

Another such legend associated with Draupadi is that, Once during the long exile from their kingdom, 88 thousand wandering hermits visited their hut. Being devout Hindus, the Pandavas were obliged to feed the monks. But as exiles, the Pandavas were not in a position to offer food to so many hungry hermits. Seeking a quick solution, Draupadi approached Saint Dhaumya, who advised her to worship Surya and observe the rituals of the Chhath for prosperity and abundance. Through her worship of the Sun God, Draupadi was not only able to solve her immediate problems, but also helped the Pandavas later regain their lost kingdom.

Legend of Lord Rama

Another history behind celebrating the Chhath puja is the story of Lord Rama. It is considered that Lord Rama and Mata Sita had kept fast and offer puja to the Lord Sun in the month of Kartik in Shukla Paksh during their coronation after returning to the Ayodhya after 14 years of exile.

 

Govardhan Puja (festival)

Govardhan Puja

Read about 21 unknown facts of Lord Krishna

Legend behind Govardhan Puja

‘Govardhan’ is a small hillock situated at ‘Braj’, near Mathura. As per  Vishnu Purana,  people of Gokul used to worship and offer prayer to Lord Indra for the rains because they believed that it was he who sent rains for their welfare.  Shri Krishna told them that it was Mount Govardhan (Govardhan Parvat) and not Lord Indra who caused rains. So they should offer the prayers to the mountain.

This made Lord Indra so furious that the people of Gokul had to face very heavy rains as a result of his anger. Then Lord Krishna came forward to ensure their security and after performing worship and offering prayers to Mount Govardhan lifted it as an umbrella on the little finger of his left hand so that everyone could take shelter under it.  This is how Lord Indra was defeated and  after this event Lord Krishna was also known as Giridhari or Govardhandhari.

Shri Krishna lifting goverdhan
Shri Krishna lifting govardhan

 

Govardhan Puja and Bali Pratipada

Most of the time Govardhan Puja day falls next day after Diwali and it is celebrated as the day when Lord Krishna defeated God Indra. Sometimes there may be a day’s gap between Diwali and Govardhan Puja.

In religious texts, Govardhan Puja celebrations are suggested during Pratipada Tithi of Kartik month. Depending on starting time of Pratipada, Govardhan Puja day might fall one day before on Amavasya day on Hindu calendar.

Govardhan Puja is also known as Annakut Puja. On this day food made of cereals like wheat, rice, curry made of gram flour and leafy vegetables is cooked and offered to Lord Krishna.

In Maharashtra the same day is celebrated as Bali Pratipada or Bali Padva. The day commemorates victory of Vamana, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, over King Bali and subsequent pushing of Bali to Patal Lok (the underworld). It is believed that due to boon given by Lord Vamana, Asura King Bali visits the Prithvi Lok from the Patala Lok on this day.

Note: Thanks to Mr R Ramanathan for correctly pointing out an error in this article. That has been now rectified – Webmaster

The festival of Kartik Poornima (Kartik Purnima)

The festival of Kartik Poornima (Purnima)

Though Kartik Poornima is not treated as a full-fledged festival, there are enough mythological stories which suggest that this is a very important day in hindu religion.
Both moon days of the month Kartik, (full moon and no moon) are auspicious. Many will not comprehend Kartik Amavasya, as it is better known as Diwali. Kartik Poornima has even more importance as it is called Dev Diwali ( the diwali of gods). This is the day when gods celebrate the victory of good over evil.
This festival underlines the importance of Lord Shiva. This festival is second only to Mahashivratri. Shiva relieved the earth by killing Tripurasuras.
Tripasura are the three sons of  TarakasuraVidyunmali, Tarakaksha and Viryavana. Due to a boon from Lord Brahma, they were virtually immortal. They were living comfortably in the city of Tripura. Gods pleaded Shiva to destroy them which Shiva denied. Then they pleaded Vishnu and he found a solution to their problem. Vishnu created a person to propagate an alternate form of religion. This religion was slowly accepted by the three sons of Tarakasura. They stopped following the teachings of Veda and worshipping Shiva. Lord Shiva then destroyed the city of Tripura with Pashupata astra. The chariot was created by Vishwakarma.

Shiva killing Tripusura

For this reason, Lord Shiva is also called Tripurari.

Kartik Poornina is also associated with following important occasions:
1. Birth of Kartikeya, son of Lord Shiva.
2. Birth of Matasya (Matsya) avatar, an incarnation of Vishnu.
3. Birth of Vrinda, the personifield form of Tulsi.

The festival is more significant when this is in the Krittika nakshatra. It is then called Maha Kartik. If the nakshatra is Bharani, the results are stated to be special. In Rohini nakshatra, then the fruitful results are even much more.
A ritual bath at a tirtha (a sacred water body like a lake or river) at a pilgrimage centre is prescribed on Kartik Poornima. This holy bath is known as “Kartik snana”. An holy bath at Pushkar or in the Ganges river, especially at Varanasi is deemed as most auspicious. Kartik Poornima is the most popular day for bathing in the Ganges at Varanasi.

Devotees taking bath in Pushkar lake on Kartik Poornima (purnima)

This auspicious day is also celebrated in others religions – Sikh (Guru Nanak Jayanti) and Jain (Shri Shantrunjay Teerth Yatra).

Festival of Chhath

The Chhath festival

Chhath Puja
Chhath Puja

Chhath is a festival of reverence to the solar deity, the only festival in the world where devotees offer salutations to the setting and rising Sun. The word Chhath denotes the number six and thus the name itself serves as a reminder of this auspicious day on the festival calendar.

 The festival of Chhath is widely observed in eastern India. This is a festival where worship of God Sun is performed. It may be noted that Sun’s worship is not done at many places. This festival is one of the most difficult to observe and is done to thank Surya or Sun for sustaining life on earth.

Chhath in Indian mythology

There are some incidents where it is believed that Chhath was observed by Lord Rama, Draupadi and Karna.

In Indian mythology, the worship of Sun god is believed to be beneficial and capable of curing diseases. The process of observing this festival is very rigorous. This festival is spanned across four days. Almost immediately after the merriment of Diwali subsides, the solemnity of Chhath takes over. Women of the household make various preparations puja. While the younger women and children take over the everyday household chores. These women begin with a thorough spring-cleaning of all the things that would be used to prepare the prasad or food offerings to Sun god. Everything, from the kitchen chulha to the ladles, cooking utensils, and frying pan, is purified.

It is the bounty of the harvest, which is deemed a fit offering to Sun god. Newly pounded rice is soaked and made into a paste. Dry fruits, nuts and slivers of coconut are used as flavoring and the cooked lump is then rolled in the palms and then they are fried.
Chhath is a festival of prayer and purity observed with somberness and strict discipline, a festival that should not be missed. It is held in high esteem and regard.

The four days of Chhath are:

Nahay Khay

On the day before the actual worship, devotees take a cleansing dip, preferably in the Ganges, and bring back some holy water to prepare the offerings. A fast is observed for the whole day and late in the evening, the devotees, after performing worship at home, break their fast. The offerings – typically a rice porridge, Sohari/puris (deep fried puffs of wheat flour) and bananas – are shared among family and visiting friends and relatives.

offering to God

Kharna

Fast or Upvaas (fasting) begins on the second day and this is referred as Kharna. On Panchami, the day before Chhath, the Vrati observes fast for the whole day, which ends in the evening a little late after sunset. Just after the worship the offerings of Rasiao-kheer (rice delicacy), Sohari/puris (deep-fried puffs of wheat flour) and bananas are offered to deities and then the whole family shares the Prasad.

Shaam ki Arghya

Offerings are made to the setting Sun. Chhath is the only festival when the setting sun is worshipped. This signifies Indian culture where Sun is respected despite on decline.

Paran

The devotees reach the riverbank again just before the sunrise, and offer prayers to the rising Sun. Once the prayers are done, the devotees break their fast with the Prasad or the offerings. This culminates this festival.

Worship of morning’s Sun

The devotee follows very strict rituals during this festival and the whole family supports the observer, also called as Parvaiti or Parvaitin. This festival is  observed most elaborately in Bihar, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and the Terai regions of Nepal in modern times, and is more prevalent in areas where migrants from those areas have a presence, it is celebrated in all regions and major urban centers in India. The festival is celebrated in the regions including but not exclusive to the northeast region of India, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Delhi, Mumbai and Mauritius.

The Legend

It is believed that Chhath was started by Karna, the son of Surya Putra. Karna, who ruled over the Anga Desh (present day Munger district of Bihar) during the Mahabharat Age. He was a great warrior and danveer and fought against the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra War.

The ancient Sanskrit epic Mahabharat has references to Draupadi, worshipping Sun. In the epic, Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, rulers of Hastinapur (modern Delhi) had performed the Chhatha-Vrata, seeing the Pandavas in deep trouble and on advice of noble sage Dhaumya. Through her worship of Sun god, Draupadi was not only able to solve her immediate problem but also helped the Pandavas later regain their lost kingdom.

Banks of Ganga with devotees

21 known and unknown facts about Christmas and Christmas tree

Known and Unknown facts about Christmas and Christmas tree

Christmas is the grandest festival and it is celebrated across the world on 25th December. Second day is called Boxing day, which falls on 26th December. Christmas tree is an integral part of Christmas celebrations. All over the world, people decorate this tree with lights, coloured balls, etc. Gifts are also kept below the tree. There are several legends as how the tradition of decorating Christmas tree started.  We are presenting the popular legends and myths related to Christmas and Christmas tree. The most popular being the legend related Christmas tree is related to Martin Luther King.

1. Martin Luther King and Christmas tree

One day, Martin Luther,  while walking in the woods one Christmas was awed by the beauty of moonlight and stars glistening upon the fir trees. He found that words could not recreate the scene. To communicate the wonder of it to his family, he cut down a small fir tree, brought it home, and decorated it with candles. This is the most popular legend of the Christmas Tree, and if it occurred, it happened in the 1500’s.Though many attempts have been made to substantiate it, no real proof exists.

christmas tree
christmas tree

2. When world war was stopped for celebrating Christmas

Stopping the World War I for a day: Five months into the first World War, troops along the Western front took a Christmas Eve break from fighting to sing carols to one another across the battlefield. The following morning, German soldiers emerged from the trenches and began to approach Allied troops while calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. Luckily, it wasn’t a trick; dozens of British fighters came out to greet them and shake hands, some even exchanging cigarettes as gifts. Later dubbed the Christmas Truce of 1914, it was one of the last examples of wartime chivalry.

3. The story of Santa Claus

St. Nicholas, the real person on whom Santa Claus is based, lived in the 4th century AD in the province of Lycia on the southwest coast of Asia Minor. Cartoonist Thomas Nast is credited with creating the current image of Santa Claus based on his illustrations that began appearing in Harpers Weekly in 1863. Father Christmas is based on St. Nicholas, a 4th century Turkish monk who gave gifts to the poor. In the mid 19th century, a magazine published pictures of him wearing a red and white robe, and with a white beard.

santa claus st nicholas christmas
santa claus st nicholas christmas

4-6. Fir tree and birth of Jesus and other facts

At the moment of the birth of Christ, one myth says that every tree bore perfect fruit to bear tribute and honor to the Lord except the lowly fir tree. This tree was ashamed of his stature until the Lord approached him and caused him to sparkle with light. The word Christmas is derived from the Old English phrase Cristes maesse (Christ’s mass). The tradition of substituting X-mas for Christmas has its origins in the early Christian church. The first letter of Jesus Christ’s name is X in the Greek language.

7. The story of St. Boniface

Another story says that St. Boniface of Crediton (a village in Devon, UK) left England and travelled to Germany to preach to the pagan German tribes and convert them to Christianity. He is said to have come across a group of pagans about to sacrifice a young boy while worshipping an oak tree. In anger, and to stop the sacrifice, St. Boniface is said to have cut down the oak tree and, to his amazement, a young fir tree sprang up from the roots of the oak tree. St. Boniface took this as a sign of the Christian faith and his followers decorated the tree with candles so that St. Boniface could preach to the pagans at night.

8-9. Christmas tree and Germany

In Germany, the first Christmas Trees were decorated with edible things, such as gingerbread and gold covered apples. Then glass makers made special small ornaments similar to some of the decorations used today. In 1605, an unknown German wrote: “At Christmas they set up fir trees in the parlours of Strasbourg and hang thereon roses cut out of many-coloured paper, apples, wafers, gold foil, sweets, etc.” The first printed reference to a Christmas tree was in 1531, which is also found  in Germany.

10. Birth of Jesus Christ

1. Contrary to popular belief, there is no specific date for Jesus’ birth. In fact, most historians believe he was probably born in the spring, hence the Bible’s description of shepherds herding animals. But in the 4th century (336 AD),  it is said the Catholic Church (Pope Julius I) chose December  25 to coincide with the Roman and pagan celebrations of Saturnalia, an ancient winter festival that involved decorating evergreens and gift giving. when the Catholic Church decided to recognize Jesus’ birth as an official holiday, Pope Julius I chose December 25 for the Feast of the Nativity. This date coincides with the pagan festival known as Saturnalia.

11. Russia and Ukraine do not celebrate Christmas on 25th December

In Russia, Christmas is celebrated on 7th January and not on 25th January, because they follow the old Julian calendar. How orthodox!

12-13. Traditions of Czechs and ritual of Venezuela

In a, ladies throw their shoes to find out whether they would be married next year or not. In Venezuela, the roads are closed, and people use roller skates to attend the mass.

14-15. Electric lighting and Artificial Christmas trees

Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees in 1882. Christmas tree lights were first mass-produced in 1890. Artificial Christmas trees were developed in Germany during the 19th century and later became popular in the United States. These “trees” were made using goose feathers that were dyed green and attached to wire branches. The wire branches were then wrapped around a central dowel rod that acted as the trunk.

16-18. Christmas tree in white house and America

7. In 1856 Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States, was the first President to place a Christmas tree in the White House. 9. In USA, 98 percent of all Christmas trees are grown on farms, while only 2% are cut from the wild. To ensure enough trees for harvest, growers plant one to three seedlings for every tree harvested. In 2012, 46 million Christmas tree seedlings were planted by U.S. growers. 10. According to the Guinness world records, the tallest Christmas tree ever cut was a 221-foot Douglas fir that was displayed in 1950 at the Northgate Shopping Center in Seattle, Washington.

19-21. England , Christmas pudding and gift from Norway

Christmas puddings originated in old England, when hunters carried the filling mixture on long journeys. In the 1700s, the rich cake was only eaten on special occasions. Over time it became a Christmas food.

The first Christmas card was printed in London in 1843, although medieval wood prints with seasonal themes were produced in the Middle Ages. Nearly 2 billion cards are sent in the UK each year.

Norway has given Britain the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square every year since 1947 as a gift for the help received from Britain during World War 2. The tree can be 20 metres tall.

The festival of colours – Holi

Colours of Holi

Holi – The colour festival

Holi, the festival of colors, is one of the important festivals of India, including Navaratri, Diwali and Eid.

People celebrating Holi
People celebrating Holi
Holi is a very popular festival of colours of Hindus. It is celebrated on the last full moon day of lunar month Phalguna. This festival marks the onset of hindi new year.
This is a festival of colour, joy and love. Entire country wears a festive look during holi celebrations. Holi also coincides with end of harvesting season and this is reason for cheer for farmers. It also marks the arrival of spring.
Colours of Holi
Colours of Holi
 
On the roadside one can find stalls selling gulal, abir and pichkaris. Food preparations also begin many days in advance with assemblage of gujia, papad, kanji and various other snacks like malpua, mathri, dahi bondas,and puran poli which are served to the guests.
Though the festival begins many days in advance with Holi milan and musical soirees where songs related to holi is sung some classical one like aaj biraj mein holi re rasiye” is popular from generations. 
Holika dahan
Holika dahan
 
A day before holi, ‘Holika dahan’ or Chhoti holi is celebrated. In this bone fire is lit on the street corner. This is celebrated in the memory of miraculous escape of Prahlad when Holika carried him in to the fire. In South India, this day celebrated as Kama Dahnam.
The next day is celebrated as Dhulendi or Dhulheti or Parva. On this day people get crazy and wacky, they throw colour and coloured water on each other. After fun filled exciting day evening is spend in sobriety where people meet friends and relatives and exchange sweets and festive greetings.

Legends associated with this festival

One of the most popular legend is of Prahlad. There was a cruel demon Hiranyakashyap. He wanted to conquer the world and wanted to be worshiped by every one. His son Prahlad was devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap did not like this but Prahlad was unmoved in his devotion. So Hiranyakashyap decided to kill Prahlad. He tried to get snake to crush Prahlad but, Prahlad prayed to lord Vishnu and was saved. Then Hiranyakashyap tried to throw him from a cliff but again Prahlad escaped. Finally Hiranyakashyap called his sister Holika to kill Prahlad. Holika was granted a boon that fire would not destroy her. She decided to take Prahlad in lap and sit on a burning pyre.

As the flame engulfed them Prahlad called aloud for Lord Vishnu’s help. To every body’s surprise, the fire slowly consumed Holika and she was burned to death. Prahlad emerged safe and sound.
Holika and Prahalad
Holika and Prahalad
Hiranyakashyap was later killed by Narsingh avatar of lord Vishnu, one of the dashavatara.

The myth of Kamadeva

 
There is another story from South India. There people worship Kamadeva as God of love and passion. According to this legend Kamdev shot his powerful love arrow on Lord Shiv to revoke his interest in worldly affair in the interest of earth. Lord Shiv was enraged as he was in deep meditation and opened his third eye which reduces Kamadeva into ashes . Though later on the request of Rati Kamdev’s wife Shiv was pleased to restore him back.

The legend of Radha-Shri Krishna

Holi is also celebrated in memory of the immortal love of Shri Krishna and Radha. Krishna, in his childhood, would complain to his mother Yashoda about why Radha was so fair and he so dark (There is a popular song from hindi movies on this – Yashomati maiyaa se bole nandlala, sung by Lata Mangeshkar). Yashoda advised him to apply colour on Radha’s face and see how her complexion would change. One of the Shri Krishna’s prank was to throw colored powder all over the gopis. So at Holi, images of Krishna and his consort Radha are often carried through the streets. Holi is celebrated with eclat in the villages around Mathura, the birth-place of Krishna.

This festival marks the hindu new year.