Wednesday November 20, 2019

Halloween origins in Hinduism

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Halloween tends to fall bang in the middle of the line of Indian festivals in Autumn such as Durga Puja and Dussehra and often coincides with Diwali or Kali Puja. While the amalgamation of these two festivals where one celebrates life and the other celebrates darkness might seem strange, the true origin of Halloween derives quite a few beliefs from Hinduism among other religions and regional traditions as well.

It was in AD 835, that Pope Gregory IV designated November 1 as All Saints Day or All Hallow’s Day (‘Hallow’ refers to saints), a day for the remembrance of saints and martyred saints. The previous day was called the Hallows evening, later termed ‘Halloween’.

Halloween originated from a celebration by the ancient Druids- the priestly class of the Celtic religion. The Celts were the first Aryans who came from India to settle in Europe. As stated in the Encyclopedia Britannica, “the Celtic religion, presided over by the Druids (the priestly order) presents beliefs in various nature deities and certain ceremonies and practices that are similar to those in Indian religion. The insular Celts and the people of India also shared certain similarities of language and cul­ture, thus indicating a common heritage.”

The Hindu god Siva Pasupati, ‘lord of the animals’, is similar to the Celtic god Cernunnos, a horned god who ap­pears in the yoga position. Savitr, the Hindu ‘god of the sun’ also holds similarities with Celtic god Lug or Lugus, who was perhaps originally a sun god.

The Druids also believed in reincarnation, a belief in Hindu spirituality, and specifically in the transmigration of the soul, which states that people may be reborn as animals.

The Celts, who settled in northern France and the British Isles, engaged in occult arts, worshiped nature. Certain trees or plants, such as oak and mistletoe, were given great spiritual significance. They worshipped the Sun God (Belenus) especially on Beltane, May 1, as their summer festival, and worshiped the Lord of the Dead, on ‘Samhain’, October 31, as their winter festival.

The particular name of the Celtic God of Death for whom the Samhain celebrations are carried out is not known. There was a Celtic hero named Samain or Sawan who supposedly owned a magical cow. However, the similarity in the names of certain other gods to ‘Samhain’ might have contributed to the confusion: Samana (‘the leveler’) is the name of an Aryan God of Death (aka Yama, Sradhadeva, Antaka, or Kritanta) according to the ancient Veda scriptures of Hinduism, and Shamash was the Sun God of the Assyrians and Babylonians.

The Celtic New Year started from November 1 and they believed that on the last night of the year, on October 31, the Lord of Death gathered the souls of the evil dead condemned to enter the bodies of animals. He then decided what animal form they would take for the next year. The souls of the good dead were reincar­nated as humans.

Halloween is a cross-quarter date, approximately midway between an equinox and a solstice. There are four cross-quarter dates throughout the year, where each is a minor holiday: Groundhog Day (Feb 2nd), May Day (May 1st), Lammas Day (Aug 1st), and Halloween (Oct 31st).

It was believed that those who had died in the preceding year were allowed to return to their early homes for a few hours on this day to associate with their families. “Halloween marked the transition between summer and winter, light and dark — and life and death. On that one night, according to folklore, those who had died during the previous year returned for a final visit to their former homes. People set out food and lit fires to aid them on their journey — but remained on guard for mischief the spirits might do.” (Spooky Astronomy. http://spaceweather.com/ present 10/31/07).

The veil between the living and the dead is believed to be the thinnest on the night of  October 31 and bonfires are lit on hilltops to honour the sun god Belenus, and keep away the evil spirits. The donning of masks and costumes came about as a means of pretending that people were being pursued by evil spirits.

The Druids believed that the shapes of various fruits and vegetables could help divine the future. Human sacrifice victims were also used for the same purpose. When Britain was conquered by the Romans, their customs intermingled with the Celtic traditions to create a new celebration where certain Celtic aspects such as human sacrifice, were banned.

Several festivals worldwide celebrate a time when the dead return to mingle with the living. A feast of the dead is celebrated by the Iroquois Native Americans every 12 years, when all those who have died during the preceding 12 years are honored with prayers. The Mexican All Souls’ Day falls on November 2 and is celebrated for several days. The souls of the dead return to the living and doors are decorated with flowers to welcome the souls of children called angelitos.

The Ullambana Sutra speaks of the story of Mahamaudgalyayana, a disciple of Buddha, whose mother had been reborn into a lower realm. Buddha’s instructions to his student are similar to the modern day Halloween practices, which is to offer food and pray for the souls of both living and dead relatives.

Thus Halloween definitely doesn’t originate from a Western or Christian culture. Ruth Hutchison and Ruth Adams, in Every Day’s A Holiday rightly says that the Halloween celebration “probably combines more folk customs the world around than will ever be sorted out, catalogued and traced to their sources.”

 

Next Story

Fireworks Might Extinguish the Flame of Laxmi Puja

We can have various kind of festival enjoyments on Festivals but without ever causing problem to others and the environment

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There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. Pixabay

BY SALIL GEWALI

If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong. There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. To disturb others’ tranquility falls under the heading of vices. Preserving the sanctity of the environment, and more importantly, inner purity of mind and heart is the “prime doctrine” of SANATAN DHARMA which is popularly known as Hinduism. This Hindu culture now seemingly run the risk of having been defined by other communities with what is not very pleasant to hear.

Fireworks
It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so.  We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment without Using Fireworks.

I’ve overheard many toxic comments against this blatant desecration of auspicious “puja celebrations”. During Holi festival, many people fear to move out of their homes, particularly in certain the plane areas in India. You might be blasted with a bucketful of dirty water by pranksters from the 5th floor of the building. Is this sadism the part of the puja and holi celebration? One is afraid, with each passing year, this festival of color of joy, though having strong spiritual significance, has only painted the very face of Hindu culture with vulgarity and depravity.

Fireworks
If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers, Fireworks and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong.

Matter of fact, peace in one’s life and his efforts to help bring peace in others’ lives is essentially the fundamental basis of Hindu culture and festivals. Practically speaking, there is no devotion to God without “peace”.  Therefore, “Shanti” (peace) is one of the most paramount peace mantras in Sanskrit, not “Ashanti” which, of late, is the hallmark of such Hindu puja celebrations. The profound objective behind this peace mantra, as propounded in Upanishads, inspired even one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century – TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land. That poem finally ends with the same peace mantra — Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Fireworks
TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land.

It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so.  We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment. There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna LilaRam Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”. Ancient sages in their meditation conceived and authored a number of treatises in which we find the elaborate approaches and procedures to evolve oneself spiritually through fun-filled dances and music. There are “ragas and layas” (musical modes and rhythm), which are meant to “recharge” the mind for the meditative concentrationThe objective behind being to climb up the ladders of realization of oneness and universal uniformity.

Fireworks
There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna Lila, Ram Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation and not Fireworks. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”.

However, there is absolutely no scope or prescription for deriving pleasure or fun by causing pain and anxieties to others? How come bursting high decibel fireworks at 2 AM or 3 AM or 4 AM is puja? In fact, it is called “adharma” or irreligion leading to self-degeneration.

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Therefore, it is DIYA, as per Vedas, which symbolizes the LIGHT to dispel the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of vices, and bring forth the light of knowledge to awake the “inherent” divinity. Goddess Laxmi is the “flame” of feminine ENERGY in the infinite cosmic creation. So, indulging in earsplitting fireworks and causing continuous problem to HER creatures, and HER environment, is totally against the fundamental principle of the devotion in Hinduism. Very sadly, with the blasting of the fireworks in the name of Goddess Laxmi we have invariably set off the tank of vices alone.

Salil Gewali is a well-Known Writer and Author of ‘Great Minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali