Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bhadrapadam-the sixth month of the Hindu lunar calendar (August 30-September27)

Bhadrapada maasam is named after the poorvabhadra star falls on that pournami day. It is called shunya (null or void) maasam and people devote this time for prayers. This month is considered inauspicious to conduct any auspicious functions. The festival of Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated in the fourth day after no moon. The fortnight after the new moon is the reserved for the dead ancestors by paying homage to the ancestors, especially by food offerings. 
September 1
Vinayaka Chavitha or Ganesha Chaturthi is the festival of Lord Ganesha observed on chaturthi the fourth day of waxing moon in bhadrapada maasam. Lord Ganesha is the son of the divine couple of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi. He is worshipped before initiating any puja or ritual. All energies are dedicated mainly to Vinayaka, HE is the one with full of wisdom.  Lord Ganesha is the one who can guide us to be successful by predicting the forthcoming obstacles and destroying the evil forces. The festival is widely celebrated in all Hindu communities around the world, an exuberant event in the state of Maharastra and southern India. The present kind of celebrations of Ganesha Chaturthi came into fashion in 1893. Lokmanya Tilak, an Indian freedom fighter and social reformer reshaped the annual Ganesh festival from a private family celebration into a community event.  The festival is celebrated for nine or eleven days in the local communities along within the homes and temples. Later, on the eleventh day the idol is immersed in the water body with huge processions. Vinayaka brings auspiciousness, hope, success and happiness to all homes. During his brief stay HE removes all obstacles. While returning HE takes with him all problems and unhappiness.  If you are aware of the complete puja procedure you can as well do it, if not pray or chant the Lord’s name with devotion on this day. Early in the morning take head bath, wear new or washed clothes, light a lamp or incense stick, offer flowers and leaves (yes, leaves. Ganesha enjoys if puja performed with leaves, especially Durva grass), offer fruits or sweets to Ganesha. Pray, chant any slokas you know or at least the Lord’s name, with devotion; the least you can do, for Vinayaka to fulfill all your wishes with no obstacles on the way to your success.
May the Lord Vinayaka remove all obstacles and shower you with success in all your endeavors. Happy Vinayaka Chavithi!
September 2
Rushi Panchami is observed on the fifth day after the new moon in the Bhadrapada month that is the day after Ganesh Chaturthi. This is a vratha or puja to be performed by women. Women believe that by this pooja they get rid of the reactions of offenses committed during their menstrual period. On the Rushi Panchami day women dedicate the worship to the Sapta Rishis – the seven sages – Kashyapa, Atri, Bharadhwaja, Vishwamitra, Gauthama, Jamadagni and Vashishta. Last year, my aunt performed this vratha. This generation, we see few people observing this vratha in south India but more prevailing in northern India and Nepal.
September 9
Vamana Jayanthi is the day of the appearance of the fifth avatar and as the first total human incarnation of Lord Vishnu. This falls on the twelfth day after the new moon in the bhadrapada maasam. Lord Vamana, a dwarf Brahmin, appeared as the son of Aditi and the sage Kashyapa. The aim of the incarnation was to help Devas (Demi gods) who had lost their power to King Mahabali, a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Vamana approached King Bali. King Mahabali generously offered to give three steps of land what Vamana asks for. Not knowing that Vamana was Lord Vishnu and came to take away his wealth and kingdom, Mahabali agrees to give three footsteps of land. Taking this opportunity Vamana expanded into gigantic form covered the cosmos with one step, earth with second step and the third step on Mahabali’s head and pushed him into netherworld (pathalaloka). The Onam festival (especially in Kerala), the day of Vamana Jayanthi, celebrates the annual visit of King Mahabali, a boon given by Lord Vishnu. This story of Vamana avatar from Srimad Bhagavatam is recited with great love and devotion during important ceremonies also.
September 14 - 27
During mahalaya paksham, rituals are performed by relatives for the departed souls of dead ancestors, parents and relatives. These are from the day after new moon(pournami) to the no moon day(amavasya). Mahalaya Amavasya (September 27) is most important day of performing shradha (food offerings) or tarpan(water offerings). Ancestors are said to descend on earth, with great expectations, to receive the food (pindam) and tilothakam (water and sesame seed mixture) offered by their family. Shradha is performed on the birth tidhi of the dead person during the mahalaya paksham.
The person who performs the Shradha should realize that for his birth, body, knowledge, wealth and sanskar he is indebted to the ancestors. All the assets, name and fame a person and his family have was given by the ancestors. So the ritual performed is a sort of thanksgiving to our ancestors.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Indian Independence Day!

Let me first wish you all a Happy Indian Independence Day! 
Red Fort, Delhi
“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…..” the words delivered in the famous speech on “Tryst with Destiny” of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, while unfolding the Indian flag on the barricades of the Red Fort in Delhi on 15th August 1947. It is the time when India gained independence from the mighty British rule. Since then Indian Independence day is celebrated in great zeal and fervor. The day symbolizes the victory of Indian patriotism; people pay their respect to the thousands of martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the country. Men, women, and children all walks of life celebrate with pomp and gaiety across India. Though it is a national holiday all the employees, staff gather for the flag-hoisting ceremonies. In spite of holiday, it is not different in schools and colleges. I still remember, we all the students and the staff members our school principal would be present to celebrate the day. I think this the only day even on a holiday we all would wake up early and would like to be in the school to be a part of the celebrations. All the students were trained weeks before the day for the march-past, and special drill exercises to be presented on Independence Day. 
Around 7:00 in the morning, well dressed in our school uniform we used to come prepared with our props to display special drill exercises in front of the hoisted flag and the special distinguished guest of the day. As the flag is hoisted by the special guest, we all sing national anthem and pay respect to the flag by saluting. After the distinguished speaker’s speech, we used to disburse off to our class to get some sweets distributed by our teachers. Early in the evening all the children and the parents would gather for a sort of cultural programs based on patriotism. I was fortunate to have participated in the cultural events couple of times in my middle school days. 
 On the national level, Prime Minister delivers a speech addressing the nation at the Red Fort in Delhi after flag hoisting. I happened to hear it on the radio along with all the patriotic songs that were played that day. Once television set entered our living room, I had the opportunity to watch the live coverage of the Prime Minister’s speech at the Red Fort. Nowadays most television channels telecast cultural programs, movies related to independence, apart from the patriotic songs that regenerate the hidden patriotism in people.
As a whole, it can be said that Independence Day is a holiday much awaited by many people in India, every year.
The unconquerable courage of tiger
The serenely beautiful heart of lotus
The colorful soul of peacock
That is what is there in India and in an Indian. 
Jai Hind!

Please enjoy this video.

“One individual may die for an idea; but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in a thousand lives. That is how the wheel of evolution moves on and the ideas and dreams of one nation are bequeathed to the next”
- Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Childhood summer travel memories

Summer, school is out and is travel time to most of us. As a child, every year I used to wait for summer so that our family could travel by train and visit my grand mother, relatives and the most wanted cousins to play with. The things we did during summer in my childhood, I still remember till today. Even before we complete our exams we used to start our summer plan with our dad and make arrangements to buy train tickets. Since that day we used to feel as if our journey has started, in our thoughts and words. We used to buy dresses and gifts for our cousins. We would be excited to get our report card from school and hop into the train.
Once the packing is done we say goodbyes to our friends and off to the train station by hiring a horse-pulled cart. My dad used to hire a porter to get our suitcases which we packed for our almost-one-month stay. Once into the train, my two brothers and I used to pretty much fight for the window seat, and eventually take turns or squeeze in a single seat to get the view through the window. Within a short time it would be dinner time we all would have some tasty food, pulihora (tamarind rice), which my mom used to carry for us from home. We used to read some comic books or chat for some time and then again the preferences for the berth distribution. Each one of us wanted the top level berths and usually the older one get the top and youngest one always the middle or lower one. The moment we laid our back on the berth, we start dreaming what we would do as soon as we visit our village. Even before we knew we slowly fell asleep, we would be awakened by the noise on the platform and porters to help carry the luggage. We had to take a local bus bumping and jerking on our village roads to reach grandma's place (of course, today’s travel modes have completely changed). 
Once we are home with grandma we would forget all the troubles we had on the way. We immediately jump into the backyard and look around the house and try to find any changes, since our last visit. My grandma’s house has cattle, hay stack, and small lakes around. My best part was playing in the hay stack. We could not wait to go to the lakes for a swim, play in the hay stack and play around the cattle. All our uncles’ aunt and cousins would come in. Playing and being around cousins is a unique experience, unlike friends, which I cherish till today. During my 5th grade summer, I went to lake with my cousins and somehow could not get my breath while swimming my eldest cousin noticed, unknowingly I was moving away from the group, and he swam through his breath and caught hold of me. I still remember the day but did not stop going back to the lake. We feel we just landed there, even before we know the return journey would fast approach. With heavy hearts we say goodbyes to our cousins and take blessings from all the elders. Usually our return journey would be partly day journey; day journey by train would be the best part of the travel. We come across so many families, make friends with the children and start playing. Meanwhile some food items would be brought by the sellers and we would insist on buying them, my mom would tell us some stories that they are not good for health and she would give some snacks which my aunt has given. We would sit near the window get an illusion of the trees going behind the train and sometimes wave my hands to the people out in the fields. Intermittent halts in most stations would be a break to buy some stuff on the platforms. My travel post would not complete if I would not mention about sitting near the window feel the air onto our face. 
Usually our last segment back home would be in coupe, means a cabin just for our family. That is when we would miss all our cousins for which we had to wait until next summer. My parents would start talking about back to school. The fun part is here my dad used to think enjoying the entire summer with cousins, we forgot our alphabets, basic math and used to ask us the basic questions. On this lighter mood we all adjust back into our seats, try to see the darkness outside the window for a brighter morning to meet our friends and start another school year.

"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind." 
"And that's the wonderful thing about family travel: it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind."  -Dave Barry