Tuesday October 24, 2017

New Year celebrations in India: Another example of rich diversity

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Photo: www.vikrmn.com

By Nithin Sridhar

January first is widely celebrated across the world as the beginning of the New Year. This date for the New Year is according to the Gregorian (or English) calendar instituted by Pope Gregory in 1582 CE. Thus, this Gregorian New Year is a Christian observation, which though has been widely adopted in many countries, yet many non-Christian nations and cultures follow their own New Year dates as well.

Chinese celebrate their new year (called as Nian) according to their own Lunar Calendar and it usually falls in February of the English Calendar. The Iranians celebrate Nowruz, according to the ancient Persian calendar, which usually falls on March 20/21. Similarly, the Islamic countries observe Hijri New Year according to Islamic Calendars and Israel observes Rosh Hashanah, both of which fall in the first week of October.

But, perhaps it is in India alone, one can find the largest diversity in the dates observed as the beginning of a New Year as well as the manner in which they are celebrated. Apart from celebrating January 1, Indians celebrate at least six other dates as New Year. These dates are calculated according to different astronomical considerations based on different regional calendars.

The reformulated Saka Calendar, which was adopted as the Indian National Calendar after India’s independence, observes March 22 of the English Calendar as the first day of the year. This calendar is based on the coronation of Shalivahana king in the 78 CE and though it has been adopted as an official civil calendar, it is not used by the people in the observation of their festivals, etc. Instead, people in South India largely use traditional Shalivahana Calendar (which also starts with 78 CE) where the beginning of the year is calculated using astronomical calculations.

Apart from this, different regions have different Calendars. Thus, Odias follow Odia Calendar, Bengalis follow Bengali Calendar, Gujarati’s follow Gujarati Calendar, and people from Tamil Nadu and Kerala follow Tamil and Malayalam calendars. Just as traditional Shalivahana Calendar is widespread in South India, Vikram Samvat Calendar is widespread in North India. This calendar was established by King Vikramaditya in 56 BC after his victory over the Sakas.

The Gujarati New Year, which is observed on the Sukla Pratipada (1st day in the bright fortnight) in the month of Kartika, is according to the beginning of the year in Vikrama Samvat Calendar. The Vikrama Calendar begins in Kartika month that falls in October/November as against traditional Salivahana Calendar or the Indian National Calendar where the year starts in the Chaitra month (i.e. March/April). Thus, the Gujarati New Year is celebrated a day after Diwali and in 2016, it will fall on October 31.

But, in the Kutch region of Gujarat, the New Year is celebrated on the second day of the bright fortnight in the month of Ashada, which in 2016 will fall on July 6.

Apart from Gujarat, most other regions celebrate the first day of the year during the beginning of the month of Chaitra (that falls in March/April), which marks the beginning of spring season. Though, the beginning of Chaitra has been fixed as March 22 in the Indian National Calendar, it is not used for religious purposes. Instead, the beginning of the Chaitra month is calculated based on either traditional Shalivahana Calendar, which is a Luni-Solar calendar, or based on regional Solar calendars.

The Solar Calendar’s rely only on the movements of the Sun for their calculations. On the other hand, Luni-Solar calendars take into account the movements of the Moon along with that of Sun. Thus, there two different dates arrive for the beginning of the month of Chaitra that forms the New Year according to these calendars. In 2016, for example, the Luni-solar New Year begins on April 8 and Solar New Year begins on April 13/14.

Thus, Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, Telangana, and Maharashtra, which follow Luni-Solar calendars celebrate New Year on April 8. The festival associated with the day is called as ‘Ugadi’ in Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, and Telangana, and as ‘Gudi-Padwa’ in Maharashtra. The Sindhis celebrate ‘Cheti Chand’, Rajasthani Marwaris celebrate ‘Thapna’ and Kashmiris observe ‘Navreh’ on the same day as well.

On the other hand, the Tamil ‘Puthandu’ and the Bengali ‘Naba Barsha’ have fallen on April 14; and the Odia ‘Pana Sankranti’ and Punjabi New Year ‘Baisaki’ have fallen on April 13. Kerala celebrates New Year on two days. The traditional New Year according to the Malayalam calendar starts with the month of Chingam, which will fall on August 17. However, many Keralites, especially in Malabar area, observe ‘Vishu’ which falls on April 14 this year as the New Year.

Thus, the presence of a large number of Solar, Lunar, and Luni-Solar calendars and their deep connection with the religious festivals and practices, has resulted in Indians of different regions celebrating New Year on different days. This diversity, along with the diversity in the way various festivals associated with the New Year are celebrated, demonstrates a rich culture and heritage of this nation.

(Photo: www.vikrmn.com)

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BBC Plans to Showcase Documentaries on Hinduism, will Explore Faith and Ethical Issues

BBC will project Hinduism in these films accurately and which will be based on the ancient Hinduism scriptures and not reimagine Hinduism concepts and traditions to fit its programs

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Hinduism
Incense stick in Hinduism. Pixabay

August 08, 2017: A new documentary strand of five films a year will be showcased on BBC One will explore faith and ethical issues in all the major religions in exciting and contemporary new ways, including Hinduism.

Hindus called the step in the positive direction and welcomed BBC for the idea of producing films on Hinduism.

BBC will project Hinduism in these films accurately and it will be based on the ancient Hinduism scriptures and not reimagine Hinduism concepts and traditions to fit its programs.

As per the 2016 report in The Sunday Times, “The BBC is too Christian in its religious output, according to an internal review, and should increase its Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh programming”.

Hinduism, the third largest religion in the world has about 1.1 billion adherents and moksha… Click To Tweet

As per the sources, Hinduism was highly underserved at BBC. Multiculturalism had been growing fast in the UK  because of which it was now a diverse society formed of various religions and denominations and non-believers, however, BBC had not kept pace with it.

It was time for the superfluous religious production at BBC to end, giving way to uniformly distributed time among various religions/denominations/non-believers.

Adequate coverage of Diwali, Holi, Krishna Janmashtami, Maha Shivaratri, Ram Navami, Ganesha Chaturthi, Navaratri, Duserra, Hanuman Jayanti, Makar Sankranti, Yugadi and other Hindu festivals, must also be covered by BBC.

Hymns from ancient Sanskrit scriptures, contemporary bhajans, and Hindu lessons should constantly form part of BBC One’s 54 years old “Songs of Praise”, one of the world’s longest-running religious television series.

Hindu hymns, songs, and faith stories were highly stimulating, warm and engaging. Moreover, God liked all songs-of-praise, notwithstanding the religion these came from.

ALSO READ: More Than Just a Sign: Decoding Hinduism With These 5 Major Symbols 

The intervention of The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is a must in this multi-faith issue. Its priorities included people, communities, and nations learning to live together with diversity in a spirit of love and respect.

\BBC, whose ‘values’ included “celebrate our diversity” and “great things happen when we work together” and whose ‘purposes’ included “reflect, represent and serve the diverse communities”, should show some development on this issue.

BBC should take religion more seriously, and help us build interconnections and create harmony Click To Tweet

BBC labeled “yoga” as “fad” in 2013 and Hindu festival of Holi as “filthy festival” in 2012 to which it apologized later. BBC has been accused of racism, imperialist stance, Indophobic bias, anti-Hindu bigotry, anti-American bias, etc in the past.

Launched in October 1922, headquartered in London, and established by a Royal Charter, BBC claims to be the “world’s leading public service broadcaster”. Every UK viewer needs to have a TV License, which costs £147.


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

 

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July 27 is Nag Panchami : Here’s Why Summoning the Serpent God is of Significance in this Hindu Festival

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Women shower flowers, rice and turmeric powder over snake deities in reverence of the gods. Wikimedia
  • Rich mythological background of Hindu culture believes there exist seven realms of universe below the earth
  • Snakes have a momentous part in holy Hindu scriptures
  • Nag Panchami is celebrated to seek defense against serpent gods

New Delhi, July 26, 2017: 

In the land of snake charmers, man has always lived to strike harmony with the environment. Keeping this in view, Nag Panchami is celebrated to appease the serpent gods throughout India, Nepal, and places with Hindu populations. This year, July 27, marks Nag Panchami and is celebrated with zeal and fervour.

Snakes comprise a significant space in Hindu mythology as they are considered the residents of the Patal Lok or Nag Lok. Thus, they are worshiped seeking protection of the family and the community in totality.

Nag Panchami is one of the lesser known Hindu festivals.
Nag Panchami is popularly celebrated with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm. Wikimedia

Date and Day 

Nag Panchami is observed on the fifth day of Shukla Paksha (the waxing moon) during the month of Shravana (Sawan) according to the traditional Hindu calendar. Normally, Nag Panchami falls two days after Hariyali Teej.

The festival is celebrated during the monsoon months because that is when snakes are most apparent after their underground homes are filled with water.

India Celebrates Nag Panchami Click To Tweet

The Story Behind the Festival

The ancient literature says Kashyapa, son of Great Lord Brahma, the creator of the dynasty had four consorts. The Third wife of Brahma was Kadru who belonged to the Naga race of the Pitru Loka. She gave birth to the Nagas among the other three, the remaining the three gave birth to Devas, Garuda, Daityas.

The Third wife of Brahma was Kadru who belonged to the Naga race of the Pitru Loka. She gave birth to the Nagas among the other three, the remaining three gave birth to Devas, Garuda, and Daityas. The Epic Story of Mahabharata mentions, Astika, the Brahmin son of Jaratkarus, who spotted the Sarpa Satra of Janamejaya, king of the Kuru Empire, that lasted for 12 long years.

Yagna was performed by Janamejaya to decimate the race of all snakes, to avenge the death of his father Parikshit due to snake bite off of Takshaka, the King of snakes. The day fire sacrifice was stopped, due to the intervention of Astika was on the Shukla Paksha Panchami day in the month of Shravan when Takshaka and his remaining races at that time were saved from decimation by the shape Satra Yana. From that day, the festival of Nag Panchami is celebrated in all over India and Nepal.

Rituals 

The Puja on Nag Panchami is conducted either at home, or at temples where women bathe deities of the serpent gods with water and milk, and decorate them with flowers and turmeric. Mansa Devi, the snake goddess is especially offered prayers on this day.

Snake charmers are often seen roaming around the city with their pet defanged snakes, playing local tunes on flutes, praising the serpent gods. Women often shower these snakes with flowers, rice, and turmeric powder, and give them sweetened milk as an offering to the gods. At places where snakes are uncommon, milk bowls are placed outside, hoping for the reptiles to visit and accept the offering.

In some places, it is a common practice to draw images of the Navnag with turmeric or red sandalwood, which is then worshiped. The Navnag comprises of nine snakes –

  1. Ananta
  2. Vasuki
  3. Shesha
  4. Padmanabha
  5. Kambala
  6. Shankhapala
  7. Dhritarashtra
  8. Takshaka
  9. Kalia

Nag Chaturthi – In some regions, fasting is observed a day before Nag Panchami. In Andhra Pradesh, it is observed just after Diwali. In Gujarat, it is called Nag Pancham and is usually observed three days before Krishna Janmashtami.

Nag Panchami Puja Muhurat – 07:01 to 08:25
Panchami Tithi Begins – 07:01 on July 27, 2017
Panchami Tithi Ends – 06:38 on July 28, 2017
(24-hour clock with local time of Delhi and DST)

 

– by Soha Kala for NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.
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Kamika Ekadashi 2017: Here’s all you need to know about the Hindu Festival!

This year the lesser known Hindu festival Kamika Ekadashi falls on 19th July, Wednesday

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Hindu festival, Kamika Ekadashi
Hindu festival Kamika Ekadashi. Wikimedia
  • Very little is known about the Hindu festival Kamika Ekadashi
  • The festivities start with Parana, that means breaking the fast
  • Pratahkal is the most preferred time to break the fast

Kolkata, July 18, 2017:

Kamika Ekadashi is one of the lesser known Hindu festivals in India. There is a possibility that very few of us may have heard about it. This year, Kamika Ekadashi is on July 19 and is celebrated by many, particularly who believe in Hinduism.

The festivities start with Parana, that means breaking the fast. Ekadashi Parana should be done after sunrise on next day of Ekadashi fast. Parana needs to be done within Dwadashi Tithi unless Dwadashi is over before sunrise. Not doing Parana within Dwadashi is treated similarly to an offense.

Parana is not supposed to be done during Hari Vasra. One needs to wait for Hari Vasara to get over before breaking the Ekadashi fast. The first one-fourth duration of Dwadashi Tithi is Hari Vasara.

Pratahkal is the most preferred time to break the fast. However, breaking the fast during Madhyahna should be avoided. Only if due to some reasons one is not able to break the fast during Pratahkal then one is allowed to do it after Madhyahna.

ALSO READEkadasi: Why Ekadashi is celebrated in Hinduism? – by Dr Bharti Raizada

Sometimes Ekadashi fasting is suggested on two consecutive days but it is advised that Smartha with family should observe fasting on the first day only. The alternate Ekadashi fasting, which is the second one, is suggested for sanyasis, widows and for those who intend to achieve Moksha. If alternate Ekadashi fasting is suggested for Smartha it may coincide with Vaishnava Ekadashi fasting day.

Ekadashi fasting on both days is suggested for only those staunch devotees of Lord Vishnu who seek love and affection from their respected deity.

This year the Kamika Ekadashi falls on 19th July, Wednesday. On 20th, Parana time is from 13:02 to 15:40. On Parana Day the Hari Vasara end moment is 9:38. Here is the list of the other important timings for Kamika Ekadashi this year:

Alternate Kamika Ekadashi = 20/07/2017
On 21st, Parana Time for Alternate Ekadashi = 05:07 to 07:45
On Parana Day Dwadashi would be over before Sunrise
Ekadashi Tithi Begins = 07:25 on 19/Jul/2017
Ekadashi Tithi Ends = 04:27 on 20/Jul/2017

– by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter @dubumerang