Payer (puja) plate
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While most festivals in India are regional, the following festivals are celebrated across India with great fanfare.

 

Dusshera fesival in India

DUSSHERA

Time: October-November

Duration: One Day

Description:

Dussehra is the most popular festival in India. It is a Hindu festival, which is celebrated all over India to mark the defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama. Dussehra also symbolizes the triumph of warrior Goddess Durga over the buffalo demon, Mahishasura.The 'Ramlila' - an enactment of the life of Lord Rama, is held during the nine days preceding Dussehra. On the tenth day (Dussehra or Vijay Dasami), actors dressed as Rama shoot flaming arrows at effigies of Ravana, his son and brother -Meghnadh and Kumbhakarna,stuffed with firecrackers. In burning the effigies the people are asked to burn the evil within them, and thus follow the path of truth and goodness.

Dusshera Puja in India varies from place to place. It differs region to region and it is influenced by local myth and religious beliefs.According to the great Hindu scripture, the Ramayana, Lord Rama performed chandi-puja (holy prayer). This was carried out in order to invoke the blessings of Durga Maa for killing Ravana, the ten-headed demon king of Sri Lanka who had abducted Sita, wife of Lord Rama. Durga Maa divulged the secret to Rama on how he could slay the great Ravana. Hence upon vanquishing the demon Ravana, Lord Rama with Sita and younger brother Laxmana, returned victorious to his kingdom of Ayodhya on the day which is called 'Diwali'.The war against Ravan lasted for ten days.

Dusshera day is considered a most auspicious day. It is a time-honored belief that if any new venture is started on this day, it is bound to be successful. Hence, all the undertakings be it laying-in of foundation of a new building, opening of a new commercial establishment or even initiating a child into the world of learning- are started on this day. Also on this day implements of agriculture, manufacturer's machines, the intellectuals pens, the household articles, the children's school books are placed before the idol of Durga and worshiped.

Diwali in India

DIWALI

Time: October-November

Duration: Five days

Description:

Diwali, 'Festival of Lights', is celebrated with great fervor and gaiety. Diwali comes exactly 20 days after Dussehra on Amavas (new moon), during fortnight of kartik, some time in October or November. It is on the Diwali day that Lord Ram, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the Treta Yug, returned to his capital Ayodhya after the exile of fourteen years. To commemorate the return of Ram, Sita and Lakshman to Ayodhya, people celebrate Diwali with the bursting of crackers and by lighting up their houses with earthen diyas. During the Festival of Lights, 'deeps', or oil lamps, are burned throughout the day and into the night to ward off darkness and evil. Diwali is incomplete without fireworks. Old and young alike love the splendor and sparkle of fireworks. The country looks resplendent on Diwali as people light up diyas and candles to mark the 'Festival of Lights'.

First Day of Diwali: Dhanteras

The first day of Diwali is called Dhanvantari Triodasi or Dhanwantari Triodasi also called Dhan Theras. It is in fact the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksh, the dark forthnight of the month of Kartik. On this day, Lord Dhanwantari came out of the ocean with Ayurvedic for mankind. This day marks the beginning of Deepawali celebrations and comes two days before Diwali. The word "Dhan" means wealth. Yama Raj, the Lord of Death is worshipped for protection from untimely death. On this day, entrances are made colorful with lovely traditional motifs of Rangoli designs to welcome the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. To indicate her long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. Lamps are kept burning all through the nights. Believing this day to be auspicious women purchase some gold or silver or at least one or two new utensils.

Second day of Diwali: Choti Diwali

The day before Diwali is celebrated as Choti Diwali / Narak Chaturdasi or 'small Diwali'.On this day Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasur and made the world free from fear. It is Diwali on a smaller scale, with fewer lights lit and fewer crackers burst. The morning after Choti Diwali, the women of the house make beautiful, colored rangoli in the doorway and courtyard. Tiny footprints made out of rice paste are a special feature of the rangolis made for Diwali. In Hindu homes, Choti Diwali celebrations involve a ritual puja to Lakshmi and also to Rama in the evening. Songs in honor of the god are sung and aarti is performed."Laxmi-Puja" is performed in the evenings when tiny Diyas of clay are lighted to drive away the shadows of evil spirits. "Bhajans"-devotional songs- in praise of Goddess Laxmi are sung.

Third Day of Diwali-Lakshmi Puja

The third day of the festival of Diwali is the most important day of Lakshmi-puja and is entirely devoted to the propitiation of Goddess Lakshmi. On this very day sun enters his second course and passes Libra which is represented by the balance or scale. Despite the fact that this day falls on an amavasya day it is regarded as the most auspicious.

Fourth Day of Diwali- Padwa & Govardhan Puja

Govardhan-Puja is performed in the North on this day. Govardhan is a small hillock and on this day of Diwalu people of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar build cowdung, hillocks, decorate them with flowers and then worship them. This festival is in commemoration of the lifting of Mount Govardhan by Krishna.

This day is also observed as Annakoot meaning mountain of food. Pious people keep awake the whole night and cook fifty-six or 108 different types of food for the bhog (the offering of food) to Krishna. After the prayers and traditional worship innumerable varieties of delicious sweets are ceremoniously raised in the form of a mountain before the deities as "Bhog" and then the devotees approach the Mountain of Food and take Prasad from it.

Fifth Day of Diwali- Bhai Dooj

The fifth day of Deepavali or Diwali is celebrated as Bhaiya Dooj, popularly know as Bhai Dooj. It falls on Dooj, the second day after the new moon. Bhai Dooj falls two days after Diwali. This day Yamaraj went to his sister's house who put an auspicious mark on his forehead for his welfare. Thus, on this day sisters perform puja for their brothers safety and well being. Brothers in return give gifts to their sisters as a token of love. Bhai dooj has its own importance in continuing to maintain the love between brothers and sisters for it is the day of food-sharing, gift-giving and reaching out to the inner most depths of the hearts.

Eid in India

ID-UL-FITR

Time: Ninth month of Ramzan, Islamic Calender

Duration: One Day

Description:

Id-ul-Fitr means"festival of breaking the fast". This festival marks the end of the month of fasting that characterizes the ninth month of Ramzan in the Islamic calendar. During this month it is obligatory for all believers to fast from dawn to dusk, which means they cannot even drink water. Id is celebrated on the first day of the new moon in Shawwal, which is the month following Ramzan. Every man must go to the mosque on Id for a special prayer service or namaz. Women generally offer namaz at home. Childrem gets gifts on occasion known as Idi. New or clean clothes (usually white as it symbolizes purity and simplicity) are worn and everybody greats one another. It is also the time to forget past grievances. Id is celebrated to thank the Almighty for having revealed the Quean in the month of Ramzan for the guidance of mankind.

Id is also a time for giving. A special contribution called zakat is made for the less fortunate, whether relatives or other. The zakat is certain percentage of the value of the giver's wealth. Id is celebrated across India and the Islamic world with great enthusiasm. Id cuisine is enjoyed and loved by people of all communities. The kababs,biryani (specially flavored rice cooked with meat),malpuya,seaiyan(vermicelli) are only amongst a few of the delicacies that fill the streets during the entire month of Ramzan and Id.

Apart from Id-ul-Fitr, Id-ul-Zuhat, also known as Bakr-Id in India, is widely celebrated. The word 'bakri' means goat and the festival gets its name from ritual sacrifice of the goat. Prayer meetings and Id milans are part of the celebration as well.

Christmas in India

CHRISTMAS

Time: December

Duration: One Day

Description:

Christmas is the biggest and most-hyped festival of Indian Christians. The festivities for Christmas continue for ten days from December 24 th to January 1, the New Year day. Prayers, plays, parties, carols and fun filled get togethers are a part of Christmas festivities. Also, associated with the celebrations are cakes, Christmas trees, gifts and Santa Claus. Christians and even the non-Christian community participate with great enthusiasm in the various festivities associated with it. People decorate their homes with mango or banana trees instead of traditional pine trees at Christmas time. Candles, small oil-burning lamps made of clay known as 'diyas' that are placed on the tops of walls that give an ethereal feel and look quite beautiful.

Churches often have an Evening Service on Christmas and are fabulously decorated with poinsettias and candles. X-mas trees can be seen in the urban trees adorned with familiar stars and tinsels, toys and colorful streamers. Nativity plays in schools and churches on Christmas mornings showcase the Jesus's birth and the scenes from Jesus's lives that usually end with singing hymns and carols and the visit of Santa to distribute candies to kids. In the metros, one can see Santa entertaining the children at departmental stores with a familiar plump belly, a big smile and small toys as gifts. Caroling processions on streets and thoroughfares can also be seen during Christmas.

Janamasthmi festival in India

JANAMASHTAMI

Time: July-August

Duration: One Day

Description:

Janamashtami, the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu is celebrated with great fervour all over India especially at Mathura and Brindavan where Lord Krishna spent his childhood. Temples and homes are beautifully decorated and lit. Night long prayers are offered and religious hymns are sung in temples. Janmashtami is observed in the month of (July-August). The idol of the infant Krishna is bathed at midnight and is placed in a cradle. Devotional songs and dances mark the celebration of this festive occasion all over Northern India.On this day, in some parts of India, especially Maharashtra, youths celebrate it by breaking clay pots called 'Dahi-Handi', filled with curd and butter suspended high above the ground, young men and children form human pyramid to reach the pot and break it. This custom follows the habit of Lord Krishna who used to steal butter in this manner from villagers along with his friends.

On Janamashtmi, devotees keep daylong fasts and keep themselves awake while chanting holy songs, until midnight follows. Midnight is the moment when Lord Krishna was born. The prayer ceremony is a simple affair. The priests chant holy mantras and bathe the idol of Lord Krishna placed on a swing with charanamrit or ganga-jal (water from the holy Ganges River), milk, ghee (clarified butter), oil, and honey from a conch shell. Midnight prayers amidst the sound of hymns and religious songs extol the greatness of Lord Krishna. Devotees break their day-long fast and chant - "Radhe Krishna, Hare Krishna, Radhe Radhe."