Browsing articles in "Bhadra (Aug-Sep)"

Indra Jatra

aakash bhairav, Indra Jatra

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The festival of Indra Jatra (also known as Yanya Punhi) is celebrated by both Hindus and Buddhists with great enthusiasm. Known as the festival of classical dances, on this day one is able to observe numerous varieties of traditional dances. The festival is named after Lord Indra who is known as the god of rain and also as the king of heaven.

The festival of Indra Jatra continues for eight days with much rejoicing, singing, dancing and feasting. People from all over Nepal, mostly those who live within the Kathmandu Valley, gather at the Hanuman Dhoka in Kathmandu. The first day of the festival is viewed by a large number of people. On that day, a long wooden pole is erected in front of the ancient Royal Palace at Hanuman Dhoka, in order to propitiate Lord Indra, the “god of rain”. Classical dancers also assemble at the spot, wearing different kinds of traditional masks and costumes and dancing around the courtyard of Hanuman Dhoka to celebrate Indra’s visit.

On the third day of the festival of Indra Jatra, the living goddess Kumari is taken out in a procession in a chariot. Kumari, the “living goddess”, is considered to be an incarnation of the goddess “Taleju”. Chariots of Kumari, Ganesha and Bhairav are taken around the city for three days. According to Hindu beliefs Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Parvati who has a head of an elephant and Bhairav is another form of Lord Shiva himself.
The king of Nepal, the only Hindu king in the world, also pays homage to the Kumari during this period. The festival’s many interesting dances, including the Procession of Living Goddess-Mahakali, Mahalaxmi and Dasha Avatara masked dances are staged in Kathmandu Durbar Square, near the Kumari Temple. The “Dasha Avatara” refers to the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu who is one of the Hindu’s Holy trinity. The excitement of the festival of Indra Jatra comes to an end on the last evening of the festival when the long wooden pole erected on the first day is lowered with religious ceremonies, animal sacrifices and ritual gestures.

Teej

Overview of Pashupatinath temple, near Kathman...

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Teej is an annual fasting festival celebrated by women in Nepal. It falls on the month of August or early September. Married women observe the Teej fast to honor Lord Shiva and for long and healthy life of their husband. Unmarried girls also observe fast on this day for a good husband. Teej celebrations lasts for three pious days. Traditional dances and songs form an important feature of Teej celebrations. Red color is considered auspicious for women observing Teej fast and so most of them dress up in red or bridal clothes.

Preparations for the festival begin well in advance. Fabric stores, sarees and suit outlets are stocked with the bridal red color fabric. Teej festival celebrations are carried further with sumptuous feasts and traditional performances. On this day, women dress up beautifully. They clad themselves in red colored apparels, wear glass bangles, heavy ornaments and apply henna. Teej gives women an opportunity to dress like the newly wed. They worship the epitome of divine marriage – Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, for longevity and prosperity for their husband and family.

Three Days of Teej
Teej is a three-day-long festival in Nepal and each day has its own significance.

Dar Khane Din: the day to make merry
The first day of Teej in Nepal is called the ‘Dar Khane Din’. On this day, the womenfolk dressed in the finest clothed gather at one place and perform traditional dance and sing devotional songs. A special food called ‘dar’ is eaten. Celebrations continue till midnight after which the 24-hour-long fast begins.

Fasting Day
The second or the fasting day of the Teej festival is dedicated to pujas and prayers. The holy Pashupatinath temple is thronged by women in red sarees to offer prayers to Lord Shiva. Women gather in the temple around the beautifully decorated idols of Shiva and Parvati and offer fruits and flowers to seek blessings of the divine spirits. Lighting of an oil lamp is very important part of the puja ceremony. It is said that the oil lamp should be kept lit all night to avoid bad omen.

Rishi Panchami
The third day of the Teej Festival is called Rishi Panchami. On this day, the seven sages of the Hindu pantheon are worshiped by women in a belief that it will cleanse all sins of the previous year. Womenfolk take a holy bath with red mud found on the roots of the sacred Datiwan bush, along with its leaves. After three hours of rigorous cleansing, they come out purified and absolved from all sins. After this they sit in a semicircle while a priest sitting in the middle chants devotional prayers.

Kushe Aunsi

Kushe Aunsi or Fathers’ Day falls in the month of Bhadra on a new moon day. Matatirtha Aunsi celebrates mothers while Kushe Aunsi is for fathers. As per Hindu mythology, father should be respected as a God. So on this day people pay respect to their fathers by giving Dhog (bending the forehead on their father’s feet). After Dhog, they offer sweets, fruits and clothes as a sign of respect. Holy scriptures say, “There’s no God above our parent”.

People whose fathers have passed away go to offer Pinda (a round ball of cooked rice) at Gokarna temple in Kathmandu, where Gokarneshwor Mahadev’s temple is located. After the completion of the religious rite there, they donate money and cereals to the Brahmin priests and the poor in the name of their deceased fathers for salvation and virtue. On this day people crop Kush grass, which is believed to be the feature of Lord Vishnu by taking a holy bath early in the morning. The Kush grass is an indispensable item to conduct any kind of Hindu religious rites. This Kush grass can be used throughout the year for any kind of religious rites and if this day has fallen on Monday then this grass can be kept to use until the next twelve years for any kind of religious functions. Some people also make a mat out of this grass and keep it safely to sit on it and use while conducting the sacred religious functions which is called the “Kushashan”. Because of believed as a feature of Lord Vishnu this grass has been respected as a pious item in the Hindu mythology.

Krishnastami

Vasudeva Carrying Krishna over the Yamuna River.

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The birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, believed to be the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu falls sometime in August/September. All the devotees assemble in Krishna Mandir, the ancient Krishna Temple in Patan Durbar Square and other temples with the idol of Lord Krishna and offer prayers, flowers, food, sweets and chant hymns too. This festival is also known as Krishna Jayanti or Janmashtami.

Mathura was the capital of a kingdom in North India. Ugrasen was the king of Mathura. He had a son, Kansa and a daughter, Devki. During the lavish wedding of Devki to Vasudev, Kansa heard a celestial voice announce, “O Kansa, Thy death is written at the hand of the eighth son born to this union.” Through the ensuing years the demon king put to death six children born to Devki in the dungeons of the Palace. On the day that Sri Krishna was born it was raining and dark. At midnight a bright light appeared in the room of Devki. Then the child was born. Vasudev, terrified for the bay’s safety, carried it in a basket through the opened gates of the dungeon. On account of the heavy rain the river Yamuna was swollen. But as he stepped out of the prison the rain stopped and the dim light of the moon showed the way. A huge snake taking the shape of an umbrella protected the child. As he reached the river the waters were divided leaving a dry path for Vasudev to cross. Vasudev went to the home of his friend Nanda. He exchanged the baby boy with a baby girl and went back. The following day, when Kansa tried to kill the baby girl she slipped from his hands and the image of Devi appeared. She spoke to Kansa, “The one who is destined to kill you has already taken birth elsewhere.” Sri Krishna flourished under Nanda’s and Yashodha’s care and later on slayed Kansa.

On Krishna Janmashtami numerous devotees flock to the ancient Krishna temple in old Patan Durbar Square to keep vigil through the glorious night of his birth. Some sing ancient hymns, others clap their hands, while some pray. Crowds of men and women edge their way slowly up narrow steps through the seated devotees to the temple’s dark interior to where the main idol stands. There they offer flowers, coins and food and wait for a glimpse of Krishna Janmastami festival at Krishna Mandir the idol. After the temple priest gives them ‘prasad’ they make their way down to join the multitude of devotees in the streets.

Gai Jatra

Gai Jatra festival in Bhaktapur, Nepal

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Gai Jatra literally translates to the procession of cows. The festival of cows is one of the most popular festivals of Nepal. Gai Jatra festival has its roots in the ancient age when people feared and worshiped Yamaraj, the “God of Death”. However, the ironical sessions synonymous with the Gai Jatra festival came into tradition in the medieval period of Nepal during the reign of Malla Kings. Hence, the present form of Gai Jatra is a happy blending of antiquity and medievalism.

According to the traditions since times immemorial, every family who has lost one relative during the past year must participate in a procession through the streets of Kathmandu leading a cow. If a cow is unavailable then a young boy dressed as a cow is considered a fair substitute. In Hinduism, a cow is regarded as the most venerated among all the domestic animals. It is believed that the cow, revered as a holy animal by Hindus, will help the deceased relative’s journey to heaven.

In terms of historical evidences, once when King Pratap Malla lost his son, his wife, the queen remained dumbstruck. The king was very sad to see the condition of his beloved queen. The king, in spite of his several efforts, could not lessen the grief of his wife. By all means he wanted to see little smile on the lips of his sweetheart. He announced that someone who ever made the queen laugh would be rewarded adequately.

During the festival of Gai Jatra, the cow procession was brought before the griefstricken queen. Then the participants began ridiculing and befooling the important people of the society. Finally when the social injustice and other evils were highlighted and attacked mercilessly, the queen could not stop smiling. The queen laughed, and Pratap Malla, the king ensued a tradition of including jokes, satires,mockery and lampoon in the Gai Jatra days.

After the procession is over, in the afternoon, nearly everyone takes part in another age-old tradition in which the participants dress up and wear masks. The occassion is filled with songs, jokes, mockery and humour of every kind become the order of the day until late evening. Hence, Gai Jatra is a healthy festival which enables the people to accept the reality of death and to prepare oneself for the life after death. According to Hinduism, “whatever a man does in his life is a preparation to lead a good life, after death”.

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