Aswayuja maasam is the 7th month of the traditional Hindu lunar calendar. Aswini nakshatra (star) falls on the pournami day of this month, hence Aswayuja maasam. There are many important festivals in this month. Lord Venkateswara Swamy Brahmotsavam coincides with Navarathri which starts from the first day of the month (the day after amavasya) for nine days and on the tenth day Vijaya Dasami or Dussera (October 6) is celebrated. Atla tadiya (October 14), a local festival of Andhra Pradesh. Most awaited festival of lights, Deepavali (October 26), is also celebrated in this month.
Sarannavarathri, popularly known as Navarathri.
'Nav' means 'nine' and 'rathri' means 'night'. Many legends are attached to the conception of Navrathri like all Indian festivals. All of them are related to Goddess Shakti (Hindu Mother Goddess) and her various forms. The first three days of Navrathri are dedicated to Goddess Durga (Warrior Goddess) dressed in red and mounted on a lion. Her various incarnations - Kumari, Parvati and Kali - are worshiped during these days. They represent the three different classes of womanhood that include the child, the young girl and the mature woman. Next three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity), dressed in gold and mounted on an owl and finally, last three are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge), dressed in milky white and mounted on a pure white swan. In South Indian states especially on Maha navami the ninth day “Ayudha Pooja” (tools and instruments) and “Vahana Pooja” (vehicles) is performed. Navrathri is celebrated to commemorate Goddess Durga victory over the demon Mahishasura, which symbolizes the victory of the good over the evil. In Hindus this festival is given immense importance and treated as a festival of eternal enlightenment.
Dasara, the tenth day of navarathri, is also observed as Vijaya Dasami (victorious tenth day) in many regions in India. The most colorful and popular Dasara festival takes place in Vijayawada-the home of the famous Kanakadurga temple. Here the Goddess blesses each day in different form of decoration. Each day special naivedyam (food offering) is offered to the Goddess. Festivities in Mysore, Karnataka and in North India are celebrated in grandeur. Navrathri is purely religious, although it involves many fun filled activities like scintillating dance performances of Garba and Dandiya. Vijayadasami is the victory of good over evil – Goddess Durga annihilating demon Mahishasura and Lord Ram defeating Ravana. Symbolically, these wars are the prolonged struggle against the ego and ignorance in each human being. After the struggle there is the day of new beginning – Vijaya Dasami. Vijaya Dasami is the best and auspicious time to start any new adventure or business.
Brahmotsavam is a nine-day festival in Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam. Brahmotsavam to Lord Venkateswara Swamy coincides with navrathri. Each day, Lord Venkateswara Swamy is decorated in a different form and is taken out in procession on a specially decorated vehicle on the roads circling the holy shrine. Thousands of people from all over the world visit during this special event. It is a special feeling to see the Lord in the procession. Garuda seva is visited by lakhs of devotees and is the most auspicious among all the decorated vehicles, for the reason, Garuda is the kshetra palaka (care taker of the temple) and the vehicle of Lord Vishnu.
Atla Tadiya is regional festival of Andhra Pradesh. Unmarried girls dream about their future husband and marital life. They observe many pujas and vratams to pray to God that they get a good husband and will have a prosperous life. Atla Tadiya is one of such festival celebrated on the third day after pournami. It is believed that if married women celebrate this day with devotion will have a blissful marital life. Unmarried women will get good husbands. One day before the festival, gorintaku (henna) is applied to the hands of the women and girls. The more their palms get red color the more love they will get from their husband, it is believed. On the day of the festival, they get up early in the morning and eat the rice that was cooked the previous night. Gongura pachadi, sesame seeds powder, and curd are had with the rice. They swing on swings. In the evening Goddess Gauri Devi is worshipped. After the moon is visible women break their fast by having the atlu (dosa). These are specially made and offered to the Goddess and later are given as vaayanam to the married women. 10 atlu along with lamp made of rice flour and ghee are given to them considering them to be the Goddess Gowri. Atla tadiya is purely a women’s festival. This festival is similar to Karva Chauth observed by North Indian women. The practice of fasting and breaking the fasting after watching the moon can also be seen in other religions. This clearly shows that though religions are different, the spirit of celebrations is same.
Deepavali literally means an array of lamps. We all know that is the most celebrated festival in Hindu communities not only in India but also in USA, UK, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia etc. In North India, the festival starts on Dhanteras (the thirteenth day after pournami). It is celebrated in the honor of Dhanvantari, the physician of the Gods. He is believed to have emerged from the ocean on this day during samudra manthan.
Naraka chaturdasi (fourteenth day after pournami or the day before deepavali)- festival starts this day in South India. It is the day on which Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama killed the demon Narakasura. Observing abhyanga snana (ritual head bath) early in the morning is highly meritorious. It makes devotees free from all his sins and keeps him away from narakaloka after his death. In the evening a row of lamps are lit and placed in the front yard or adjacent to the main entrance.
Deepavali day Lakshmi puja is performed; Goddess Lakshmi blesses the performer with wealth, health, property and prosperity. In the evening an array of lamps are placed in the front yard of the house. Fun-time starts now; the waiting for the young ones begin with offering prayers to the lighted lamps and start cracking fireworks. Playing with fireworks goes past midnight and following days too. The tradition of exchanging gifts and shopping is also very popular during this festival. The basic motto of gifts exchange during deepavali is to accelerate the feeling of bonding, love, appreciation, wishes and blessings of near and dear ones! Exchange of gifts, not just limited within family and friends but also is an integral part of any business organization.
May the divine light of lights enlighten our understanding.Wishing you a sparkling Deepavali!