Holy Hindu Festival of Colors

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Holy Hindu Festival of Colors

Post by swamidada_1 »


Hindu festival of colors

According to Bhagavat Purana, a king named Hiranyakashipu who, like many demons and Asuras, had the intense desire to be immortal. To fulfill this desire, he performed the required Tapas or penances until he was granted a boon by Brahma. Since the Gods rarely granted immortality, he used his guile and cunning to get a boon which he thought made him immortal. The boon gave Hiranyakashyapu five special powers: he could be killed by neither a human being nor an animal, neither indoors nor outdoors, neither at day nor at night, neither by astra (projectile weapons) nor by any shastra (handheld weapons), and neither on land nor in water or air. As this wish was granted, Hiranyakashyapu felt invincible, which made him arrogant. Hiranyakashyapu decreed that only he be worshiped as a God, punishing and killing all who defied him. His son, Prahlad, disagreed with his father, and refused to worship his father as a god, continuing instead to worship Vishnu.
This made Hiranyakashipu very angry and he made various attempts to kill Prahlad. During a particular attempt on Prahlad's life, King Hiranyakashyapu called upon his sister Holika for help. Holika had a special cloak that protected her from being harmed by fire. Hiranyakashyapu asked her to sit on a bonfire with Prahlad, by tricking the boy to sit on her lap and she herself took her seat in flames. The legend has it that Holika had to pay the price of her sinister desire by her life: she was unaware that the boon worked only when she entered a fire alone. Prahlad, who kept chanting the name of Vishnu all this while, came out unscathed as Vishnu blessed him for his extreme devotion.
Vishnu appeared in the form of NARASIMHA, half human and half lion, at dusk (when it was neither day nor night), took Hiranyakashyapu at a doorstep (which was neither indoors nor outdoors), placed him on his lap (which was neither land, water nor air), and then eviscerated and killed the king with his lion claws (which were neither a handheld weapon nor a launched weapon). In this form, the boon of five special powers granted to Hiranyakashyapu were no longer useful. Prahlad and the kingdom of human beings were thus free from the compulsion and fear of Hiranyakashyapu, showing the victory of good over evil.
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Post by swamidada_1 »

The Holi festival commemorates the victory of good over evil, particularly the burning and destruction of a demoness named Holika. This was made possible with the help of Hindu god of preservation, Lord Vishnu.

Holi got its name as the "Festival of Colors" from the childhood antics of Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colors.

In parts of India, Holi is also celebrated as a spring festival, to provide thanksgiving for an abundant harvest season.

When is Holi Celebrated?

The day after the full moon in March each year. In 2019, Holi is on March 21, with Holika Dahan on March 20. The festival takes place a day earlier in West Bengal and Odisha. In addition, in some parts of India (such as Mathura and Vrindavan) festivities commence a week or so earlier.

Where is Holi Celebrated?
Traditional Holi celebrations are the biggest at Mathura and Vrindavan, about four hours from Delhi, where Lord Krishna is believed to have grown up. However, safety issues are a concern for women there, due to the rowdy behavior of many local men. So, it's best to travel as part of a guided group tour.

Rajasthan is a popular Holi destination for foreign tourists, particularly places such as Pushkar and Jaipur. Many backpacker hostels organize Holi parties for guests there. Rajasthan Tourism also holds a special Holi festival in Jaipur.

How is Holi Celebrated?
People spend the day smearing colored powder all over each other's faces, throwing colored water at each other, having parties, and dancing under water sprinklers. Bhang (a paste made from cannabis plants) is also traditionally consumed as part of the celebrations.

Special Holi events with music, rain dances, and colors are organized in large cities across India—particularly in Delhi and Mumbai. It's possible to celebrate Holi with a local Indian family in Delhi and in Jaipur.

What Rituals are Performed?
The emphasis of Holi rituals is on the burning of demoness Holika. On the eve of Holi, large bonfires are lit to mark occasion. This is known as Holika Dahan. As well as conducting a special puja (worship ritual), people sing and dance around the fire, and walk around it three times. In some parts of India, people even walk across the hot coals of the fire! Such fire walking is considered to be sacred. One place where it happens is Saras village near Surat in Gujarat.

The destruction of Holika is mentioned in the Hindu text, the Narada Purana. Holika's brother, the demon King Hiranyakashyap, apparently wanted her to burn his son, Prahlad, because he followed Lord Vishnu and didn't worship him.

Holika sat with Prahlad in her lap, in the burning fire, because it was thought that no fire could harm her. However, Prahlad survived because his devotion to Lord Vishnu protected him. Holika was instead charred to death.

A priest in Falen village, near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, says his village is where the mythological tale of Holika actually took place. Apparently, local priests have been walking through the raging fire unscathed there for hundreds of years. Since they don't get hurt, they're considered to be an incarnation of Prahlad and blessed by him. The priest admitted that he undertakes a lengthy period of meditation and preparation before the remarkable feat though.

Unlike most other festivals in India, there aren't any religious rituals to be performed on the main day of Holi. It's simply a day for having fun!

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Post by swamidada_1 »

What a coincidence
Full Moon
On same day
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Post by swamidada_2 »


Wednesday, Oct 09, 2019

Navratri 2019: On this day, Goddess Durga’s ninth form, Maa Siddhidatri is worshipped.

Goddess Siddhidatri takes away ignorance from her devotees and grants them knowledge.

The ninth day of Navratri is known as Navami and is auspicious for a variety of reasons. For Bengalis, Navami signals the end of the celebrations of Maa Durga. It was Goddess Durga who had slain the demon Mahishasur on this day.

Goddess Durga’s ninth form, Maa Siddhidatri is worshipped on this day. Her name means the one who gives us power. After worshipping her nine forms, on the 10th day Vijayadashami or Dussehra is celebrated. Maa Siddhidatri is depicted as being seated on a lotus and riding a lion. She has four arms and in her right hand she holds a mace and sudarshan chakra while in her left hand she holds a lotus and a shankh. She is surrounded by Gandharvas, Yakshas, Siddhas and Asura, all of whom are worshipping her.

Goddess Siddhidatri takes away ignorance from her devotees and grants them knowledge. It is believed that she is the one who blesses all her devotees with all types of siddhis.

Puja Vidhi

Navami is a very auspicious occasion and many households start the day by offering food to nine girl children. Goddess Durga is worshipped in the form of these young girls, who are known as kanjaks. They all sit in one line. A holy dhaaga is tied on their hands, their feet are cleaned and a holy tilak is put on their foreheads.

They are also offered prasad which has been cooked for them, comprising puri, halva and black grams. Ideally, the Mahanavami starts with a mahasnan, after which there is a Shodashopachar Puja. When the Ashtami tithi finishes and Ram Navami tithi begins, a special puja takes place, which is called Sandhi Puja. It is said that Goddess Durga is offered 108 flowers and bilva leaves.
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Post by swamidada »

What to Know About Diwali, and How It's Celebrated
Monica Chon
Wed, August 11, 2021, 3:29 PM

Every year in October or November, millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains all across the world celebrate Diwali, a five-day festival that marks one of the biggest and most important holidays of the year in India. The religious celebration, which is also referred to as the Festival of Lights, is an auspicious occasion that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and hope over despair.

During this time, Sri Maha Lakshmi—the goddess of wealth, abundance, and well-being—is the main deity worshipped, so across India, many people light lamps and candles (known as diyas) to entice Lakshmi to visit their homes. Additionally, many Hindus will perform offering rituals called pujas, or poojas, to pray to the goddess.

While some of the Diwali festivities take place in large community gatherings (for example, families will dress in new clothes and go to the Temple for worship services), many of traditions and celebrations take place at home, according to Asha Shipman, the Hindu Chaplain at Yale University. In addition to lighting lamps, "People visit with neighbors, relatives, and friends, bringing platters of sweets and other foods. The night sky glitters and rumbles from firecrackers. It is a time of prayer, fellowship, and feasting."

While the dates vary annually based on the Hindu lunar calendar, Diwali usually occurs in October or November. This year, the biggest day of festivities (Lakshmi Puja) will take place on November 4, 2021. So before you send your friends and neighbors "Happy Diwali" wishes, learn about the five-day celebration, including the meaning behind the lights, the sweets, and rituals that make Diwali such a joyous occasion.

Diwali is a 5-day festival, but the main day of celebration is day 3—also known as Lakshmi Puja.
The five days of Diwali are as follows:

Dhanteras: On the first day of Diwali, people will perform rituals called puja or pooja, place tea lights around the balconies or entryways of their homes, and purchase kitchen utensils, which are believed to bring good fortune.

Narak Chaturdashi: Different regions celebrate this day in various ways, but many people will spend time at home and exchange sweets with friends or family. They may also decorate the floors of their home with rangolis—intricate patterns made from colored powder, rice, and flowers.

Lakshmi Puja: The main celebration is believed to be the most auspicious day to worship the goddess Lakshmi. Families will dress up and gather for a prayer to honor her, which is usually followed by a delicious feast, spectacular fireworks displays, and more festivities.

Govardhan Puja: This day is associated with Lord Krishna and the Gujarati new year. A mountain of food offerings are prepared for Puja.

Bhaiya Dooj: The last day is dedicated to celebrating the sibling bond. Traditionally, brothers will visit and bring gifts to their sisters, who honor them with special rituals and sweets.

Although the exact date of Lakshmi Puja changes every year, it is always held on the night of the new moon preceding the Hindu month of Kartika, according to Shipman, and on this day, Hindus will dress in new clothes and host worship services to Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha. This puja often involves preparing a clean and sacred space, offering prayers to invoke the deity, plus meditative prayers, offerings like sweets, songs, and more

The holiday's celebrations involve a lot of lights—including tea lights, sparklers, and even fireworks.
The presence of lights in many different forms is crucial to celebrating this five-day festival. "Diwali derives its name from the clay oil lamp called a diya. Diyas are hand-crafted little cups with flattened rims painted in bright colors and filled with oil. A cotton wick is placed half in the oil and half on a small shelf on the rim of the diya," explains Shipman, who notes that in modern times, many people now use tea lights instead.

"Across India, families place rows of oil lamps along the foundations, entry paths and balconies of their dwellings," Shipman continues. "And that gives forth another name for the celebration: Deepavali. Deep, another name for the oil lamp, and avali which means 'rows or clusters of lamps.'" These rows of diyas (or tea lights) are intended to dispel the darkness, fear, and ignorance, as well as entice Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and well-being into the home.

In addition to these lights and decorations, on Lakshmi Puja day, people will set off sparklers and fireworks to celebrate. (Though, in recent years, these activities have been scaled back due to concerns about pollution and air quality.) But it's not just all for show. According to Shipman, "the firecrackers symbolize a way to let things go," and to help release negative emotions.

Other Diwali traditions include dressing up, creating rangolis, and sharing sweets.
According to Shipman, many families will dress up in new clothes on the main day of Diwali before hosting religious worship rituals or going to temple. In addition to looking sharp, sharing delicious desserts with friends and family is important. "Sweets are very, very important in our Diwali celebrations," notes Shipman, who says she gets treats like mysore pak, a crumbly chickpea flour based sweet, and barfi from the Indian grocery store to share with her students at Yale. "The sweets signify forgetting any bitterness between us and letting bygones be bygones."

Visual decorations like rangolis (an art form using colored sand, flowers, or other materials) are also popular ways to celebrate Diwali. According to Shipman these designs are often placed near the entrance of the family home and contain "motifs favored by Lakshmi, including lotuses, elephants, conches, om, and footprints."

Diwali is India's biggest holiday, but it's also celebrated around the world—including at the White House.
Today, Diwali is celebrated by millions of people across the globe—from Melbourne, Australia, to San Antonio, Texas. In fact, it's even celebrated at the White House. In 2009, former President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to observe Diwali, and in 2016, he marked the holiday by lighting a diya in the Oval Office.

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Post by swamidada »

Onam festival is celebrated to honor the kind-hearted and much-beloved demon King Mahabali, who is believed to return to Kerala during this festival.

Onam, a harvest festival that falls in the months of August/September annually, is celebrated across India and the world, and is main festival among Keralites. According to the Malayali calendar month of Chingam, the festival falls on the 22nd Nakshatra Thiruvonam, and marks the beginning of the Malayalam year, called Kolla Varsham.

The festival begins on the day known as Atham, and ends on the tenth day, known as Thiru Onam or Thiruvonam, also the most auspicious day during the festival of Onam. This year, the celebrations leading up to Onam will begin Saturday, August 22 onwards and Thiruvonam will be celebrated on August 31.

Onam festival is celebrated to honour the kind-hearted and much-beloved demon King Mahabali, who is believed to return to Kerala during this festival.

Significance of Onam celebrations

According to Vaishnava mythology, King Mahabali defeated the Gods and began ruling over all three worlds. King Mahabali was a demon king who belonged to the Asura tribe. The kind-hearted king was much-loved by the people. The Gods got insecure of King Mahabali’s popularity and Lord Vishnu to step in and help contain Mahabali.

Lord Vishnu took on his fifth avatar, in the form of the Brahmin dwarf Vamana, and paid a visit to King Mahabali. King Mahabali asked Vamana what he wished for, to which Vamana responded, “three pieces of land”. When Vamana was granted his wish, he grew in size and in his first and second pace respectively, he covered the sky, and then the netherworld.

When Lord Vishnu was about to take his third pace, King Mahabali offered his own head to the God. This act impressed Lord Vishnu so much that he granted Mahabali the right to visit his kingdom and people every year during Onam festivities.

Rituals of Onam

During the ten-day festivities, devotees bathe, offer prayers, wear traditional clothes -- women of the household wear a white and gold saree called the Kasavu saree - participate in dance performances, draw flower rangolis called pookkalam and cook traditional feasts called sadya. Sadya is served on banana leaves during Onam.

The 10-day festivities also see people participating in boat races called Vallam Kali, Tiger dances called Pulikali, worship the God or Onathappan, Tug of War, Thumbi Thullal or women’s dance ritual, Mask dance or Kummattikali, Onathallu or martial arts, Onavillu/music, Onapottan (costumes), folk songs among other fun activities.

The traditional feast

The traditional Onam sadya (feast) is a 9-course meal that consists of 26 dishes. It includes Kalan (a sweet potato and yam coconut curry dish), Olan (white gourd prepared in coconut curry), Avial (seasonal vegetables in coconut curry), Kootu curry (a dish made of chickpeas), rasam (a soup-like dish made with a base of tomato and pepper, eaten with rice and other preparations) and the much-loved dessert, Parippu payasam (a rice kheer preparation).

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Re: Holy Hindu Festival of Colors

Post by swamidada »

Holi Is A Holiday Characterized By Vibrant Colors, Foods, And Traditions
Felicia LaLomia, Alexis Morillo
Mon, February 28, 2022, 2:43 PM

Also known as the Festival of Colors, Holi is a popular Hindu holiday with a rich history, celebrated most commonly in India. It celebrates the triumph of good over evil and the changing of the seasons from winter to spring. This year, it falls on March 18.

Holi has been observed for centuries and has evolved aplenty in that time, but its origin story traces back to a king named Hiranyakashipu who thought he was immortal and deserved to be treated as a god. The king's good son Prahlad, however, was devoted to Vishnu and refused to treat his father like a diety. Ultimately, Hiranyakashipu was killed by Vishnu, who performed the deed in the form of a a half-lion, half-man. This is why Holi celebrates triumph of good over evil.
Across India, Holi celebrations differ from region to region. Common rituals, however, include praying around a bonfire after sunset, singing, dancing, and, of course, throwing vibrant "colors," which are generally powdered starches zinged up with eye-popping food dyes. Different colors each have their own symbolism: Blue is for Krishna, a Hindu god usually portrayed with bright blue skin. Green is for rebirth and new beginnings, while red symbolizes marriage or fertility. Yellow is linked with India's third caste, Vaisyas, or merchants.

Holi is also characterized by a traditional foods like gujiya, a sweet fried dumpling stuffed with dried fruits and thickened milk. Other savory Holi dishes include kanji vada, a dish of lentil fritters swimming in fermented mustard water. With outsized flavors and aromas, these dishes ensure that Holi is as delicious as it is colorful.

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Re: Holy Hindu Festival of Colors

Post by swamidada »

The Bergen Record
Diwali is not the only Hindu festival this fall. Meet the goddess Durga
Mary Ann Koruth, NorthJersey.com
Sat, October 8, 2022 at 3:07 PM
If you’ve watched the hit Netflix show “Never Have I Ever,” you’re already familiar with the avenging goddess of Hindu mythology, Durga.

The show’s lead Indian American character, Devi Vishwakumar, gets her name — and her hot fuse — from the goddess Durga.

Durga — associated with motherhood, protection, strength, destruction and war, and often portrayed riding a tiger, her 10 arms bearing weapons, each pointed at a demon — is revered for ridding the world of evil by defeating the demon Mahishasura.

Possessing the combined energy (shakti) of her creators — the male gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva — she is more powerful than any of them, made so by them so she could destroy the indestructible and save the planet.

In other words, she is a true badass.

Durga — referred to with the honorific "devi," which means goddess — is celebrated for nine nights in September and October during Navratri (“Nav” means 9, “ratri” means night), and in India’s rich diversity of regions and communities, each festival bears the imprint of its unique style.

It is one of many fall festivals that Hindus celebrate, including Ganesh Puja, when devotees worship the god of prosperity, and Dussehra, which marks the destruction of an evil king. The season culminates in the best-known celebration outside India: Diwali, the festival of lights.

In India, where religious practices have long suppressed women, surely her veneration has validated — however subtly — women and girls’ ideas of who they can be and how they express themselves in a patriarchal society.

And as womens’ rights are at the top of the news lately — protests in Iran around a young woman’s death at the hands of the country’s “morality police,” the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion — Durga’s mythological, rage-filled attack and eventual victory over oppression can inspire women in India and beyond.

Navratri’s theme — of good triumphing over evil — is observed across India, but most famously during Durga Puja, (puja means worship) in the eastern state of Bengal.

As an Indian transplant, the Hindu festive season always takes me by surprise in New Jersey. Without fail, I am overcome every year by nostalgia for the exuberant celebrations I left behind. I have lukewarm religious convictions, but my deep cultural connection to my birth country has me rushing to seek out festivities organized in the state’s Indian American enclaves, and gives me a reason to flaunt sarees and outfits that would otherwise never see the outside of a suitcase. My family obliges, making for a fun ride.

This year, a friend invited me to join her for Durga Puja. An archetype of womanhood rarely seen or elevated in Western cultures, the goddess stands out.

Depictions of her in temples and in art do not attempt to make her pretty or womanly in the traditional sense. She’s powerful. A warrior. But also, when she’s portrayed as Shakti, the wife of the god Shiva, she is genteel and protective.

Like human beings, Hindu gods and goddesses have many sides, and they can manifest in different forms, also called “avatar,” a Sanskrit word familiar to anyone who’s ever played a video game.

When taking the form of Kali, a less mainstream side tied to ancient traditions of goddess worship that predate Hinduism, she is at her most ferocious, full of rage and bloodlust. Legend says she took that form to summon the power to destroy evil demons that were spawned as droplets of blood from Mahishasura, the original demon, hit the ground.

Depending on the region of India, Durga is celebrated in different ways.

During October in the eastern state of Bengal where she is most venerated, her idols are everywhere, as people flock to celebrate her. They welcome the goddess into their homes, marking her journey from her husband’s home to visit her parents with her children, until the last day of the festival when clay statues of Durga are immersed in the river Ganges to disintegrate in the water, signifying her returning to the Himalayas with her family.

Indians in the western state of Gujarat celebrate Navratri with a dance called the “garba,” where people gather on streets and on park grounds to dance in unison, swaying and swirling through the night in traditional attire, to the changing beat of the “dhol” or drum.

Hindus in the southern part of India create a nativity-like display, with statuettes and dolls of Durga and other deities overlooking, in blessing, scenes that celebrate the joys of daily living – nearly anything goes, from a miniature game of cricket to a village market.

In New Jersey, you can get a taste of this sub-continent spanning a panoply of traditions simply by being an Indian immigrant — or knowing one.
I tagged along with a friend for an early morning visit to a Bengali temple in Somerset where classically trained singers sang hauntingly, and I joined other friends a week later for a night of “garba” dancing on the streets of Jersey City between Tonnele Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard — replete with a stage, singers and drummers.

Another celebration was at a friend’s house in Chatham, where the display of deities ended with a homemade meal and much political debating. Durga, or Durga “ma” — the mother — was at the center all the events.

What Durga means to women (and girls)
I like her. Durga matters to me. She is unselfconscious, primeval and bold. Social norms have not subdued her, and most of all, I see myself in her.

When she takes the form of Kali, there is no holding back. Her black hair streams loose, her mouth is open and bloody, her tongue falling out, head held high and her gaze searing. She wears a necklace of decapitated demon heads and holds one in her hand. She stands on her husband’s chest — the Hindu god Shiva who lies prostrate on the ground.

You may ask why her mouth is open and her tongue out and red? Another legend says Shiva lay down to catch his wife’s attention and calm her in her path of fury after killing Mahishasura. He was hoping this would give her pause, but she stopped only after stepping on his chest. Mortified, she gasped, and bit her tongue, making it bleed.

I tried to explain the myth and magic of Durga to my 15-year-old daughter as we gazed at the display of deities in our friends’ home in Chatham. Our host joined us, pointing out a colorful DIY temple model she made from a YouTube video, following the practice of adding a new icon to the display every year.

As guests trooped in with their Indian American teens in tow, awkward introductions were aplenty; the parents wanted to socialize and eat, so the kids were forced to hang out and watch football.

Dressed in her formal Indian salwar-kameez, my daughter whispered to me that this was her own “Never-Have-I-Ever" moment.

Ha! I said, pointing out a scene in episode one when Devi Vishwakumar begs the gods for three near-universal teenage boons, to snag a boyfriend, an invitation to a drunken party and to lose her arm hair.

Did you notice, I asked, making the most of my teachable moment, that when she asks, the camera zooms in on a figurine of the many-armed goddess on her mother’s altar?

“OK, mom,” she said, with the mildest eyeroll — a priceless expression I’ve never seen on any goddess.

Then she went back to watching football.

Someday — maybe next Durga Puja — she'll remember.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Diwali is not the only Hindu festival this fall. Meet Durga.

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Re: Holy Hindu Festival of Colors

Post by swamidada »

Navratri 2023 Day 9: Who is Maa Siddhidatri? Maha Navami Puja vidhi, aarti, significance, shubh muhurat, mantra, bhog

Krishna Priya Pallavi Delhi
Oct 23, 2023 06:39 AM IST

Navratri Maha Navami falls on October 23. Find out who is Maa Siddhidatri and Navami Puja vidhi, aarti, significance, shubh muhurat, mantra, bhog, and colour.
Maa Durga's devotees celebrate the ninth day of Navratri as Maha Navami. It is one of the most important days of the auspicious festival. This year, Navami falls on October 23. It marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon buffalo Mahishasura. Bengalis celebrate Navami on the fourth day of Durga Puja. While the nine forms of Maa Durga - Navdurga - are worshipped during the nine days of Navratri, devotees pray to Maa Siddhidatri on the ninth day.

Maa Siddhidatri is worshipped on the ninth day of Navratri. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Rudra worshipped Adi-Parashakti, the supreme Goddess of Power, when the universe began. Since she had no form, Adi-Parashakti appeared in the form of Goddess Siddhidatri from the left half of Lord Shiva. When this happened, Lord Shiva came to be known as Ardha-Narishwar.

She is the Goddess who possesses and bestows all types of Siddhis (accomplishments) to her devotees. She has eight types of Siddhi - Anima, Mahima, Prapti, Prakamya, Garima, Laghima, Ishitva and Vashitva. She also takes away ignorance from her devotees and grants them knowledge. Even Lord Shiva got all his Siddhis by the grace of Goddess Siddhidatri.

The color for the ninth day of Navratri or Maha Navami is peacock green and it represents uniqueness and individuality. One gets the benefits of the qualities of prosperity and newness by wearing this colour on Navami.

While Maha Navami is on October 23, the Ashwin Navratri Parana tithi is on October 24. The Navami Tithi begin on October 22 at 7:58 pm and ends on October 23 at 5:44 pm.

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Re: Holy Hindu Festival of Colors

Post by swamidada »

The many stories of Diwali share a common theme of triumph of justice
Natasha Mikles, Texas State University
Mon, November 6, 2023 at 9:03 AM

Diwali is the most important festival for the South Asian community.

The festival, which is observed by Hindus, and Jains, lasts five days in its entirety. Traditionally the third day is considered the most important. During this day, families gather to light candles, eat sweets and place lit lamps in their public-facing windows.

As a scholar of Asian religion and popular narratives, I’m interested in Diwali because it demonstrates how ancient tales in epics become part of religious practice.

Popular stories from Hinduism
There are many stories around what exactly Diwali commemorates and why it is celebrated.

Among Hindu families, many claim the festival celebrates the defeat of the evil demon king Ravana by Rama – an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu and the hero of India’s Ramayana epic. In the most famous part of this epic tale, Rama’s wife is abducted by the demon Ravana, and Rama must journey to the land of Lanka to save her with the assistance of his brother.

A different tradition states that the festival commemorates the defeat of the demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna. Like Rama, Krishna is an incarnation of the god Vishnu, who has come to assist humanity in its time of need.

Stories tell of Krishna’s efforts to rid the world of demons. In this particular story, the King Naraka gains extraordinary abilities through a deal with a demon and becomes intoxicated with power.

Narakasura, as he is now called, destroys the kingdoms around him and eventually plans to assault even the heavens. Krishna appears and uses his divine powers to neutralize Narakasura’s weapons, eventually beheading him with a multi-pronged discus.

Other traditions associate the festival with the birth of the goddess Lakshmi and her marriage to Vishnu. In the Hindu tradition, Lakshmi is worshipped as the goddess of wealth, while Vishnu is seen as the preserver of humanity.

While there are many stories of her birth, the most prevalent is that Lakshmi appeared during the churning of the divine ocean of milk from which the nectar of immortality comes during a fight between the gods and demons. After appearing, she chooses to marry Vishnu and to assist him in working for the benefit of humanity.

In southern India, Hindu families commemorate the defeat of the demon Hiranyakshipu by Narasimha, the lion-headed incarnation of Vishnu. Like many Indian stories, Hiranyakshipu is a demi-god who believes he is immortal after receiving a divine blessing from the Hindu creator-god Brahma that lists the conditions for his death.

According to the boon, he cannot be killed at day or at night, inside or outside, by human or by animal, by projectile weapons or by hand weapons, and neither on the ground nor in the sky.

In response to Hiranyakshipu’s terrorizing of the heavens and Earth, Vishnu then incarnates as the lion-headed god Narasimha to kill the demon. He kills him at dusk, on the step of his house, as a chimeric lion with his claws as he lies on Narasimha’s lap – all conditions that satisfy the elements of the boon.

Stories from other religions
The Diwali tradition is celebrated by Jains as well, who have their own interpretations of the festival. For Jains, Diwali celebrates the nirvana, or enlightenment, of Mahavira, the 24th spiritual teacher of the Jain path and the contemporary tradition’s founder.

But this does not mean that narrative may be inconsequential. It is important to think what these multiple narratives about Diwali’s origins may be able to tell us about the Indian culture.

Asian religions scholar Robert Ford Campany suggests that narratives entail a subtle form of argument that “reveal, argue, or assume something significant about the world, about spirits, about relations between humans and other beings, or about the afterlife and the dead.”

Perhaps these diverse origin stories of Diwali point to a shared argument that Indian culture is making about the world: that good – whether as one of the many avatars of Lord Vishnu, an enlightened Jain prince, or an imprisoned guru – will necessarily triumph over the evils of demons, injustice and ignorance.

Certainly that’s an argument worth celebrating, especially in the chaotic times we live in today.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.
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