Monthly Archives: August 2017

HINDUISM | Ganesh Charurthi

25 August – 05 September

Also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, this ten-day festival takes place during the Hindu month of Bhadra and is a celebration of the birth of the elephant-headed God, Ganesha. Lord Ganesha is worshipped as the God of beginnings, the Lord of arts and sciences and the deva (god) of wisdom. He is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati

There are two different legends about Ganesha’s birth. In the first, the devas asked Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati to create a child to be a vighnakartaa (obstacle-creator) and a vighnahartaa (obstacle-averter) against impending demonic forces. In the second legend, Parvati sculpted a son from the dirt on her body when she took a bath, naming her new child Ganesha. When Lord Shiva returned to the house he found Ganesha standing guard at the bathroom door while Parvati finished her bath. Not recognising Ganesha as his son, Lord Shiva challenged him and cut of his head. When she found out, Parvati was distraught and to appease her, Lord Shiva promised to bring their son back to life. When the devas returned from their search for a new head, they presented Lord Shiva and Parvati with the head of an elephant. Lord Shiva fixed the head onto the body of Ganesha and brought him back to life.

In preparation for the celebrations, life-like clay models of Lord Ganesha are prepared. These can vary in size from a petite 2cm to over 7 metres. On the first day of the festival, the statues are placed on raised platforms inside homes or in ceremonial tents outside. In a ritual called pranapratishhtha, holy mantras are chanted as priests invoke life into the idols. This is then followed by special tributes, which include offerings of coconut, jiggery (palm sugar), modakas (rice flour preparations), durva (trefoil) blades and red flowers, as well as the anointing of the idols with red unguent or sandal paste. The ceremonies are accompanied by the singing of Vedic hymns and Ganesha stotra. On the final day of festivities, communities join together in song and dance as they process through the streets, carrying the Ganesha idols to nearby rivers. Here, after final offerings of coconuts, camphor and flowers, the idols are immersed into the water where they soften, liquefy and return to the river bed.

For more information about Ganesh Charurthi please click here

HINDUISM | Ganesh Charurthi 2017-09-12T10:34:32+00:00

JAINISM | Paryushan Parva

18 – 25 August

Meaning literally ‘abiding’ or ‘coming together’, Paryushan is the most important festival in the Jain calendar. It is a time of reflection, purification and confession for Jains, who take on temporary vows of study and food restriction, as well as practising daily meditation and prayer. Celebrations conclude with Jains confessing for any transgression of the five great vows, asking for forgiveness from all living beings and giving their own in return.

Many Jains take time off from work during Paryushan and impose further restrictions to their already vegetarian diets. Now they also chose to eliminate vegetables like potatoes, onions and garlic, which require the whole plant to be killed rather than just the taking of its fruit. Some Jains choose to fast for the duration of Paryushan Parva, breaking their fast at the end of the festival with a special meal in which they do not touch their food but are instead fed by friends and family in respect of their feat.

Jains are divided into two major sects – the Digambara (sky clad sect) and the Svetambara (white clad sect). For Digambaras, Paryushan lasts for ten days, whilst for Svetambaras, the festival lasts for eight days – there are a few differences in the Paryushan traditions of the two sects.

For more information about Paryushan Parva please click here

JAINISM | Paryushan Parva 2017-09-12T10:34:44+00:00

CHRISTIANITY | Feast of the Assumption

15 August

Alternatively known as the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, this day is a celebration of the Virgin Mary’s assumption into Heaven by God. Christians believe that when the Virgin Mary died, her body did not undergo physical decay but was instead received into Heaven to be reunited with her soul.

In many European countries, such as France and Italy, the day is a public holiday and people take to the streets to watch processions and firework displays. In Sicily and rural areas outside Rome, a special bowing ceremony takes place in which a statue of the Virgin Mary is carried through the streets to the parish church. Here, a statue of Christ is held aloft under a ceremonial arch of flowers. The two statues are made to ‘bow’ to each other three times before the Virgin Mary follows her son into the church for a special benediction.

For more information about the Feast of the Assumption please click here

CHRISTIANITY | Feast of the Assumption 2017-09-12T10:34:50+00:00

HINDUISM | Janmashtami

14 to 15 August

Janmashtami is a lively and colourful celebration of the birth of Krishna (born c. 3228 BC), one of the most popular Hindu deities. The festival takes place in the Hindu month of Sravana – usually August or September in the Gregorian calendar. Janmashtami lasts for two days, with many Hindus choosing to fast on the day and night of the first day. Their fasts are broken at midnight, when Krishna is believed to have been born, and Janmashtami celebrations become an altogether more joyous affair. Song, dance and drama are crucial to Janmashtami celebrations, with bhajans (traditional songs) sung, dances performed and plays about Krishna’s early life re-enacted.

In Hindu temples, bells are rung, the shankh (conch shell) is blown and holy mantras are chanted as images of Krishna are bathed and placed in cradles. Food has a central role in Janmashtami festivities. As Krishna was fond of milk, buttermilk and curds, celebratory foods are prepared based on these ingredients. Buttermilk also features in an unusual tradition in which a young boy carrying a handi (clay pot) filled buttermilk is lifted to the top of a human pyramid, where he smashes the pot and spills the contents.

For more information about Janmashtami please click here

HINDUISM | Janmashtami 2017-09-12T10:34:57+00:00