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Festival

Festival of Chhath

The Chhath festival

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
Categories
Festival Indian Mythology The Ramayana

Diwali festival

The festival of Diwali

Diwali or Deepawali is one of the most celebrated and important festivals of Hindus. This festival is celebrated across india on the day of Amavasya (no moon). Series of festivals are celebrated during diwali. The festival starts with Dhanteras on which most business communities begin their financial year. The second day of the festival is called the Naraka Chaturdasi.  Amavasya, the third day of Diwali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The fourth day of Diwali is known as Kartika Shudda Padyami. The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya, and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes. This is also known as Bhai Dooj.

Each day has its own tale, legend and myth to tell. The first day of the festival Naraka Chaturdasi marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. Amavasya, the second day of Deepawali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees.

Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the tyrant Bali, and banished him to hell. Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year, to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance, and spread the radiance of love and wisdom. It is on the third day of Deepawali — Kartika Shudda Padyami that Bali steps out of hell and rules the earth according to the boon given by Lord Vishnu. The fourth day is referred to as Yama Dwitiya (also called Bhai Dooj) and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes.

Diwali marks the end of the harvest season in most of India. Farmers give thanks for the bounty of the year gone by, and pray for a good harvest for the year to come. Traditionally this marked the closing of accounts for businesses dependent on the agrarian cycle, and is the last major celebration before winter. Lakshmi symbolises wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead.

Legends behind worship of Goddess Lakshmi

There are two legends that associate the worship of Lakshmi on this day. According to the first legend, on this day, Lakshmi emerged from Kshira Sagar, the Ocean of Milk, during the great churning of the oceans, which is also known as  Samudra manthan.

Devi Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu

The second legend (more popular in western India) relates to the Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu, the incarnation he assumed to neutralise the king Bali. On this day, Vishnu came back to his abode the Vaikuntha; so those who worship Lakshmi receive the benefit of her benevolent mood, and are blessed with mental, physical and material well-being.

Story from Ramayana behind the Diwali festival

The Ramayana is one of the two most important epics in Indian Mythology, other being The Mahabharat. There are various stories behind the festival of Diwali, but the most popular and the one which we have grown up listening to, is the story of Ram, Sita and Ravana.
Rama and Ravana

Ram, the king of Ayodhya, was living in exile for fourteen years. This was because Manthara, a royal maid, plotted against him. Ram was accompanied by his brother, Laxman during the exile. Demon king Ravana took her away to lanka. Ravana was the king of lanka.

Ram defeated Ravana on the day of dusshera. He was helped by his friends, Sugriva and Hanuman. Hanuman was the true disciple of Lord Ram and he served Ram, Laxman and Sita with full devotion. Hanuman saved Laxman’s life during the battle between Ram and Ravana. After defeating Ravana, Vibheeshana was made the king of lanka.

After that, they returned to Ayodhya in the chariot named Pushpak Vimana. This chariot was owned by Ravana. It took them to reach twenty days to Ayodhya, and this day was observed by people of Ayodhya as Diwali. In this day diyas are lit, people wear new clothes. This day falls exactly after twenty days of Dusshera. Diwali represents the victory of good over evil, light over darkness. This day is observed on Amavyasya. This night is enveloped by darkness. But this darkness is dispelled by the Diyas and other lighting which we light to steer away the darkness.

In world mythology, many fascinating stories are available, but Mahabharat and The Ramayana are the epics from Indian mythology, can be included anywhere. Such is the diversity and range of these epics. The Ramayana is written by the sage valmiki, who was a thief. Tulsidas has also written Ramcharitramans in recent times, which is written in a different language than The Ramayana written by Sage Valmiki.

Further Reading: The Navratri Festival

Categories
Navratri

108 names of Goddess Durga

Here are 108 names of Goddess durga with its meaning

Deity Durga is the supreme force who came to fight Mahisasura. Mahisasura had conquered the devas and even Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva could not defeat him. Unable to tolerate his tyranny the gods plead with Vishnu to annihilate the demon. The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara (Shiva) come together to create a powerful female form with ten arms – Goddess Durga or ‘Mahamaya’. Then they armed the devi with individual blessings and weapons. Thus armed with powers of gods, the devi has defeated Mahisasura. Hindu’s celebrate this festival as Navratri which culminates on Vijaydashmi.

 

 

  1. Durga —The Inaccessible
  2. Devi— The Diety
  3. Tribhuvaneshwari —Goddess of The Three Worlds
  4. Yashodagarba —Sambhoota Emerging From Yashoda’s Womb
  5. Narayanavarapriya —Fond of Narayana’s Boons
  6. Nandagopakulajata —Daughter Of The Nandagopa Race
  7. Mangalya —Auspicious
  8. Kulavardhini —Developer Of The Race
  9. Kamsavidravanakari— Threatened Kamsa
  10. Asurakshayamkari— Reducer Of The Number Of Demons
  11. Shilathata Vinikshibda —At Birth,Slammed By Kamsa
  12. Akashagamini —Flew In The Sky
  13. Vasudevabhagini —Sister Of Vasudeva
  14. Divamalya Vibhooshita— Adorned With Beautiful Garlands
  15. Divyambaradhara —Beautifully Robed
  16. Khadgaketaka Dharini —Holder Of Sword And Shield
  17. Shiva —Auspicious
  18. Papadharini —Bearer Of Others’ Sins
  19. Varada— Granter Of Boons
  20. Krishna —Sister Of Krishna
  21. Kumari —Young Girl
  22. Brahmacharini— Seeker Of Brahman
  23. Balarkasadrushakara— Like The Rising Sun
  24. Purnachandra Nibhanana— Beautiful Like The Full Moon
  25. Chaturbhuja—- Four-Armed
  26. Chaturvakttra—- Four-Faced
  27. Peenashroni Payodhara —-Large Bosomed
  28. Mayoora Pichhavalaya—- Wearer Of Peacock-Feathered Bangles
  29. Keyurangadadharini —-Bejewelled With Armlets And Bracelets
  30. Krishnachhavisama—- Like Krishna’s Radiance
  31. Krishna—- Dark-Complexioned
  32. Sankarshanasamanana —-Equal To Sankarshana
  33. Indradhwaja Samabahudharini —-With Shoulders Like Indra’s Flag
  34. Patradharini —-Vessel-Holder
  35. Pankajadharini—-Lotus-Holder
  36. Kanttadhara—- Holder of Shiva’s Neck
  37. Pashadharini —-Holder Of Rope
  38. Dhanurdharini—- Holder Of Bow
  39. Mahachakradharini —-Holder Of Chakra
  40. Vividayudhadhara —-Bearer Of Various Weapons
  41. Kundalapurnakarna Vibhooshita—- Wearer Of Earrings Covering The Ears
  42. Chandravispardimukha —-Beautiful Like The Moon
  43. Mukutavirajita —-Shining With Crown Adorned
  44. Shikhipichhadwaja Virajita —-Having Peacock-Feathered Flag
  45. Kaumaravratadhara—- Observer Of Fasts Like Young Girls Do
  46. Tridivabhavayirtri —-Goddess Of The Three Worlds
  47. Tridashapujita —-The Goddess Of The Celestials
  48. Trailokyarakshini—- Protector Of The Three Worlds
  49. Mahishasuranashini—- Destroyer Of Mahisha
  50. Prasanna—- Cheerful
  51. Surashreshtta —-Supreme Among The Celestials
  52. Shiva —-Shiva’s Half
  53. Jaya —-Victorious
  54. Vijaya—- Conqueror
  55. Sangramajayaprada—- Granter Of Victory In The War
  56. Varada —-Bestower
  57. Vindhyavasini`—- Resident Of The Vindhyas
  58. Kali —-Dark-Complexioned
  59. Kali —-Goddess Of Death
  60. Mahakali —-Wife Of Mahakala
  61. Seedupriya —-Fond Of Drinks
  62. Mamsapriya—- Fond Of Flesh
  63. Pashupriya —-Fond Of All Beings
  64. Bhootanushruta —-Well-Wisher Of Bhootaganas
  65. Varada —-Bestower
  66. Kamacharini —-Acting On One’s Own Accord
  67. Papaharini —-Destroyer Of Sins
  68. Kirti —-Famed
  69. Shree —-Auspicious
  70. Dhruti —-Valiant
  71. Siddhi —-Successful
  72. Hri—- Holy Chant Of Hymns
  73. Vidhya—- Wisdom
  74. Santati —-Granter Of Issues
  75. Mati —-Wise
  76. Sandhya—- Twilight
  77. Ratri —-Night
  78. Prabha —-Dawn
  79. Nitya —-Eternal
  80. Jyotsana —-Radiant Like Flames
  81. Kantha —-Radiant
  82. Khama —-Embodiment Of Forgiveness
  83. Daya —-Compassionate
  84. Bandhananashini—- Detacher Of Attachments
  85. Mohanashini —-Destroyer Of Desires
  86. Putrapamrityunashini —-Sustainer Of Son’s Untimely Death
  87. Dhanakshayanashini —-Controller Of Wealth Decrease
  88. Vyadhinashini —-Vanquisher Of Ailments
  89. Mruthyunashini —-Destroyer Of Death
  90. Bhayanashini —-Remover Of Fear
  91. Padmapatrakshi—- Eyes Like The Lotus Leaf
  92. Durga —-Remover Of Distress
  93. Sharanya —-Granter Of Refuge
  94. Bhaktavatsala—- Lover Of Devotees
  95. Saukhyada —-Bestower Of Well-Being
  96. Arogyada —-Granter Of Good Health
  97. Rajyada—- Bestower Of Kingdom
  98. Ayurda —-Granter Of Longevity
  99. Vapurda —-Granter Of Beautiful Appearance
  100. Sutada —-Granter Of Issues
  101. Pravasarakshika —-Protector Of Travellers
  102. Nagararakshika —-Protector Of Land
  103. Sangramarakshika —-Protector Of Wars
  104. Shatrusankata Rakshika —-Protector From Distress Caused By Foes
  105. Ataviduhkhandhara Rakshika—- Protector From Ignorance And Distress
  106. Sagaragirirakshika —-Protector Of Seas And Hills
  107. Sarvakaryasiddhi Pradayika —-Granter Of Success In All Attempts
  108. Durga —-Deity Durga
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Festival Navratri

The story of Navratri festival

Navratri – worship of Maa Durga

Navratri is nine days of worship done to thank Goddess Durga. Whole of Iindia celebrates this festival. The festival of Navratri is celebrated twice in India.  Once in the Hindi month of Chaitra which is the month of March-April. Secondly, in the month of Ashwin  i.e.  September-October.  It is a nine days long festival in which the Goddess Durga is worshipped in nine different forms. People all over the country celebrate this festival with immense joy and enthusiasm. Devotees of Maa Durga observe a rigorous fast of nine days during this festival.

Durga – worshipped during Navratri

 

Maa Durga
In different parts of India, different legends describe the history of Navratri festival.

North India

The legend in North India goes that Mahishasura, the mighty demon, worshipped Lord Brahma and obtained the power of eternity. Soon, he started killing and harassing innocent people. He set out to win all the three lokas. The gods in swargaloka appealed to Lord Shiva, to find a way to get rid of the demon. To protect the world from the atrocities of Mahishasura, the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva united their powers and created a divine female warrior, known as Goddess Durga. Mahishasura, when he saw the divine beauty of Goddess Durga, got mesmerized. So fascinated was Mahishasura by Goddess Durga’s beauty that he approached her with the intention of marriage. The goddess agreed to marry him, but put forth a condition.
Mahishasura would have to win over her in a battle. Mahishasura, agreed immediately! The battle continued for 9 nights. At the end of the ninth night, Goddess Durga beheaded Mahishasura. The nine nights came to be known as Navratri, while the tenth day was called Vijayadashmi. This was the day that brought the triumph of good over evil.

Eastern belief

As per the legend prevalent in East India, Daksha was the king of the Himalayas. He had a beautiful and virtuous daughter called Uma. She wished to marry Lord Shiva, since her childhood. In order to win over the Lord, she worshipped him and pleased Shiva. When Shiva finally came to marry her, the tiger-skin clad groom displeased Daksha and he broke off all the relationships with his daughter and son-in-law. One fine day, Daksha organized a yagna, but did not invite Lord Shiva for the same. Uma got so angry at her father’s rude behavior, towards her husband, that she decided to end her life by jumping into the agnikund of the yagna, where she was united with eternity (since then, she came to be known as Sati). However, she took re-birth and again won Shiva as her groom and peace was restored. It is believed that since then, Uma comes every year with Ganesh, Kartik, Saraswati and Laxmi and two of her best friends or ‘sakhis‘, called Jaya and Bijaya, to visit her parent’s home during Navratri.

The legend of Rama and Ravana

Yet another legend of Navratri festival relates to the Hindu epic The Ramayana. It goes that Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga in nine aspects, for nine days, in order to gather the strength and power to kill Ravana. He wanted to release Sita from the clutches of powerful demon king Ravana, who had abducted her. Those nine nights became to be known as Navratri and the tenth day, on which Lord Rama killed Ravana, came to be called Vijayadashmi or Dusshera, signifying Rama’s (good) triumph over Ravana (evil).
Ravana killed by Rama

Nine days of Navaratri