Thursday, October 04, 2007

Random Thoughts and Religious goings on

During the months of September through November here in India one needs a flow chart and a list of players to keep track of all the,Political and Religious leaders birthday's, Gods real or Deity.

Starting on the 4th of September Janmashtami is the joyful celebration of Lord Krishna's birth. Major celebrations of Krishna Janmashtami takes place at midnight as Krishna is said to have made his divine appearance in that hour. Fasting, bhajans, pujas and many other rituals mark Janmashtami celebrations in India.

Janmashtami Pooja Process
The festival of Janmashtami is considered a very pious day by Hindus. Lot of bhajan singing, hymn chanting and poojas are performed this day. Devotees queue all the major Krishna temples to seek his blessings. People perform elaborate poojas during the festival. They keep day long fast. Functions and prayer meetings are organised to share the glory of their favourite God.The general pooja process begins early in the morning with devotees giving a bath or abhishek to Bal Gopal's idol with gangajal, ghee, water, honey and curd. The idol is then adorned with new clothes (preferably in yellow colour), stone or other precious jewellery.Next, the idol of lord is offered bhog, the contents of bhog may vary. Fruits, kheer, pedha, milk, and milk products are made. There are devotees who offer chappan bhog(56 dishes) to Bal Gopal. Thereafter, special Krishna pooja is performed. The cradle containing the divine infant's idol is rocked, conch is blown. Devotees sing Krishna arti, some people read out 108 names of lord. They get totally immersed in the name and praise of Gopal. After the entire pooja is over, devotees break their fast by having panchamrit. The time of breaking the fast may vary, this is so, because the time of performing pooja also differs from place to place. While some devotees choose to perform pooja at midnight and break fast, others perform pooja in the evening and have food.
There are several items needed for pooja which are but not limited to the following:
There are certain special items required for Krishnashtami pooja. Important pooja items are listed below:
Lord Krishna's idol with cradle and conch
New clothes, flute and ornaments for Lord Krishna
Pooja thali containing a bell, diya, rice, elaichi(cardamom), supari, paan leaves, roli, small container filled with water, sindoor, incense sticks, flowers and ghee.
For Panchamrit -milk, curd, gangajal, honey and ghee.
A book containing shri Krishna's arti.
Devotees welcome and celebrate the birth of their favourite god with lot of fervor.

If that is not enough this is followed with the celebration of the birth of Ganesha:
Ganesha — the elephant-deity riding a mouse — has become one of the commonest mnemonics for anything associated with Hinduism. This not only suggests the importance of Ganesha, but also shows how popular and pervasive this deity is in the minds of the masses. The proper way to worship this diety is:
A life-like clay model of Lord Ganesha is made 2-3 months prior to the day of Ganesh Chaturthi. The size of this idol may vary from 3/4th of an inch to over 25 feet.
On the day of the festival, it is placed on raised platforms in homes or in elaborately decorated outdoor tents for people to view and pay their homage. The priest, usually clad in red silk dhoti and shawl, then invokes life into the idol amidst the chanting of mantras. This ritual is the pranapratishhtha. After this the shhodashopachara (16 ways of paying tribute) follows. Coconut, jaggery, 21 modakas (rice flour preparation), 21 durva (trefoil) blades and red flowers are offered. The idol is anointed with red unguent (rakta chandan). Throughout the ceremony, Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda and Ganapati Atharva Shirsha Upanishad, and Ganesha stotra from the Narada Purana are chanted.
For 10 days, from Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi to the Ananta Chaturdashi, Ganesha is worshipped.
On the 11th day, the image is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing, to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual see-off of the Lord in his journey towards his abode in Kailash while taking away with him the misfortunes of all man. All join in this final procession shouting "Ganapathi Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukariya" (O father Ganesha, come again early next year). After the final offering of coconuts, flowers and camphor is made, people carry the idol to the river to immerse it.
The whole community comes to worship Ganesha in beautifully done tents. These also serve as the venue for free medical checkup, blood donation camps, charity for the poor, dramatic performances, films, devotional songs, etc. during the days of the festival.

Then, Whew, after that Pooja Hoilday starts which takes the children out of the classroom and into the living room for 14 daysURGH!! This is presumably to prepare for the upcomng Festival of Lights better know as Divali, which is and inspiring time and brings families, friends and communities together. What is Davali:
The festival of Divali has existed from time immemorial, ever since man became aware of truth and untruth, darkness and light, death and immortality. Divali (or alternatively Deepawali, Deepavali or Diwali) is the Festival Of Light. Hindus celebrate it all over the world. In Trinidad and Tobago, particularly for our Hindu nationals, it has not lost any of its significance nor is it celebrated with any less fervor.
The true meaning of Divali can be expressed as being to bring light where darkness prevails, truth where untruth prevails, to bring life where death prevails, to brighten our surroundings, to illumine our minds.
Deepavali in Sanskrit means "row of lighted lamps", is one of the most important Hindu festivals. It falls on the Amavasya of the month of Kartik every year in the Hindu calendar. By the English or Western Calendar this festival generally occurs over a period that covers the last week of October to the first half of the month of November.
The Festival signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, justice over injustice and intelligence over ignorance. The goddess worshipped at Divali is Mother Lakshmi or Lakshmi Mata. Lakshmi Mata is the goddess of light, wealth and beauty and is also associated with prosperity, luck, riches, abundance, financial well being, and generosity.
In statues and artwork, Lakshmi Mata is portrayed wearing gold and lotus flowers either sitting on a lotus, standing on one, wearing lotus blossoms in her hair and on her gown, or holding a lotus blossom which to many Hindus symbolises fertility, spiritual power, and purity.
At Divali it is not surprising to see elaborate preparations being made to welcome the goddess into the homes of devotees. Though it is titled as being a festival, it is one with a difference since at the heart of the festival is a very significant religious observance as Lakshmi Mata is honoured and worshipped in the form of pujas, singing bhajans and with the chanting of mantras.
It is a very busy time however being here and seeing these things for the second time one learns to apprecciate their deep rooted meanings and one is also quite impressed with the commitment of the Indian people.
Being a non-Hindu I appoligize for any of these facts that may be not quite right.