Monthly Archives: October 2017

BAHÁ’Í | Birth of Bahá’u’lláh

22 October

The year 2017 is the Bicentennial of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh. In 1844, a young merchant from the Iranian City of Shiraz prophesied the coming of a new messenger from God. The prophecy was realised several years late when Bahá’u’lláh, a follower of The Báb, was recognised as the Manifestation of God.

Meaning ‘Glory of God’ in Arabic, Bahá’u’lláh was born Mirza Husayn Ali in Persia in 1817. Despite not studying the Qur’an or the Arabic language in his early years, Bahá’u’lláh grew to become exceptionally knowledgeable about Islam and other faiths. This was a fact that, much later in his life, he would use to argue his claim as the Manifestation of God.

At the age of 27, Bahá’u’lláh became an active follower and correspondent of The Báb after reading his declaration. After The Báb’s death, the Persian authorities sought to diminish Bahá’u’lláh’s growing influence and incarcerated him in the Siyáh-Chál (Black Pit) prison in Tihran. He was later released and banished from the state.

Moving first to Baghdad, then to Adrianople (now Edirne), and Akka (in Syria), it seemed that wherever Bahá’u’lláh went his religious views and growing influence and support caused the consternation of the Islamic authorities. His life was one of constant exile and captivity. Bahá’u’lláh died in Bahji in 1892 and was succeeded by Abdu’l-Bahá, his eldest son. Abdu’l-Bahá was recognised as the first to believe in Bahá’u’lláh’s mission, and the only authoritative interpreter of Bahá’í teachings.

For more information about the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh please click here

BAHÁ’Í | Birth of Bahá’u’lláh 2017-09-12T10:32:36+00:00

BAHÁ’Í | Birth of The Báb

21 October

Seen as the prophet of the Bahá’í faith, The Báb called on the people of his native Persia (now Iran) to purify themselves for the coming of the messenger of God. Bahá’u’lláh, the messenger in question, was a follower of The Báb and it is through him that the Bahá’í faith was founded. Celebrations on The Báb’s birthday are simple yet joyous, beginning with prayers and devotional readings, and ending with festive social gatherings. The Birth of The Báb is one of nine Bahá’í Holy Days on which work is not permitted.

Little is known of The Báb’s early life beyond that he was born Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad on 20 October 1819 in Shiraz, Persia (now Iran). Son to two descendants of the Prophet Muhammad – a mercer and his wife -The Báb lost his father when very young and care of him was transferred to his uncle. In recent years, the administrative head of the Bahá’í faith has issued instructions for Bahá’í communities to rely on the Badi calendar for the dates of all Bahá’í Holy Days. As a result, the Birth of The Báb and the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh are celebrated on two consecutive dates between mid-October and mid-November.

For more information about the Birth of The Báb please click here

BAHÁ’Í | Birth of The Báb 2017-09-12T10:32:42+00:00

SIKHISM | Gur Gadi Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

20 October

Gur gadi is a Punjabi word meaning ‘Guru’s throne’, and it is used in reference to the accession of successive Sikh Gurus as the Head of the Sikh faith. The final, eternal Sikh Guru is not a person but the Sikh Holy Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. The Gur gadi of Guru Granth Sahib is therefore the most celebrated in the Sikh calendar. Celebrations begin two days in advance, with the commencement of the Arambh Path – an unbroken recitation of Guru Granth Sahib that takes forty-eight hours to complete. On the day itself, celebrations include a nagar kirtan (procession), kirtan (devotional hymns), langar (sacred free food) and various sporting events.

Guru Granth Sahib was compiled in 1604 by the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev. He collated and edited the prayers and hymns of the four previous Gurus together with his own and those of Hindu and Muslim saints where he felt the sentiments echoed those of Sikhism. The result was a new Sikh Holy Scripture which was installed in Sri Harimandir Sahib (The Golden Temple) in Amritsar on 01 September 1604, and conferred the title of ‘Guru’ on 20 October that same year.

Sikhs show the same respect to Guru Granth Sahib as was shown to the human Gurus that were its predecessors. In gurdwaras (Sikh temples), the Holy Scripture rests in its own bed each night and it is ceremoniously fanned when recited from. It is not permitted to place Guru Granth Sahib on the ground, nor for any Sikh to turn their back to it. Most Sikhs do not have a copy in their own homes because it is so difficult to show it the respect it commands.

For more information about  Gur Gadi Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji please click here

SIKHISM | Gur Gadi Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji 2017-09-12T10:32:55+00:00

HINDUISM | Diwali

19 October

Diwali is the Hindu New Year festival. It is the most important event in the Hindu calendar, beginning on the 15th day of the Hindu month, Kartika, and lasting for five days. The festival is an official holiday in many countries, including India, Fiji, Malaysia, Mauritius, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Singapore. Diwali is often known as the ‘Festival of Lights’ because at night, Hindus light up temples and homes with hundreds of diyas (lamps) to welcome Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity. Hindus believe that praying to Lakshmi will bring them good fortune in the coming year. Hindu’s also decorate their homes with colourful Rangoli patterns on the ground, in the hope that these will encourage Lakshmi to visit their homes. Traditionally these designs are painted onto the ground with a mixture of rice flour and water, or drawn with coloured powders.

The Story of Diwali            Prince Rama had a beautiful wife called Sita. One day Sita was kidnapped by Ravana, a demon king with twenty arms and ten heads. As Sita was carried away in Ravana’s chariot, she left a trail of glittering jewellery for Prince Rama to follow in the hope that he would find her and rescue her. Prince Rama followed the trail until he met Hanuman, the Monkey King. Hanuman agreed to help find Sita and sent messages to all the monkeys in the world, who in turn asked for the help of the bears. An army of monkeys and bears set out in search of Sita, who they found imprisoned on an island. As there was no bridge to the island they had to build one themselves. When the other animals heard what happened, they rushed to help. Once the bridge was built, all the animals of the world marched across to fight a fierce battle against the evil Ravana. The battle ended when Prince Rama killed King Ravana with a magic arrow. The world rejoiced and, as Prince Rama and Sita began their long journey back to their land, people lit oil lamps to guide them on their way and welcome them back. From this time forth, Hindu people have lit lamps during Diwali to remind them that light triumphs over dark and good over evil.

For more information about Diwali please click here

HINDUISM | Diwali 2017-09-12T10:33:05+00:00

SIKHISM | Bandi Chhorh Divas

19 October

Although Diwali (the festival of lights) is widely considered solely to be a Hindu festival, it is actually celebrated by Sikhs too, albeit for different reasons. Sikhs celebrate Diwali as Bandi Chhorh Divas (Prisoner Release Day) in respect of Guru Hargobind Ji’s release from Gwalior Fort prison on this day in 1619 AD. When, after several months of imprisonment, Guru Hargobind ji was granted release he was would not embrace his own fortune and refused to leave the fort until all fifty-two of the other Sikh prisoners were freed. Guru Hargobind Ji was given the name Bandhi Chhorh because the bandi (imprisoned ones) were chhorh (released) by Him.

When Guru Hargobind and the other prisoners reached the city of Amritsar, they arrived during Diwali. Overjoyed at seeing their Guru again, the people illuminated Amritsar and Sri Harimandir Sahib (the Golden Temple) with lamps and candles. They sang gurbani kirtan (devotional hymns) in his honour and recited prayers in veneration of his willingness to sacrifice his own freedom for the sake of other innocent lives.

Today the tradition lives on in Amritsar. Every year, the Golden Temple is filled with thousands of candles and floating lamps and its domes covered with strings of light. Sikhs in other communities around the world celebrate Bandi Chhorh Divas at gurdwaras (Sikh temples), which are illuminated with hundreds of candles at night. Shabad (devotional hymns) are sung in praise of Guru Hargobind, and festive meals are prepared in the Guru ka Langar (a community dining room providing sacred free meals).

For more information about Bandi Chhorh Divas please click here

SIKHISM | Bandi Chhorh Divas 2017-09-12T10:33:12+00:00

JUDAISM | Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah

11 to 13 October

Taking place immediately after Sukkot is another jubilant festival, lasting for two days (or one day, in Israel). No work is permitted during the period, and the focus of celebrations is the conclusion and resumption of the Torah-reading cycle. On the evenings preceding each of the two days, Jewish females light candles and recite blessings, and families gather together for festive meals.

On the first day, called Shemini Atzeret, prayers are made for rain as the festival marks the onset of the rainy season. In remembrance the souls of the departed, the Yizkor prayer is also recited. On the second day, called Simchat Torah or ‘The Joy of the Torah’, Jews take part in hakafot (circle) dances morning and night, marching and dancing around the synagogue reading table with Torah scrolls in their arms. Jewish men and children receive an aliyah (the honour of being called upon to read from the Torah) during the service. The service ends with the recommencement of the Torah reading, from the very beginning, on a second Torah scroll.

For more information about Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah please click here

JUDAISM | Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah 2017-09-12T10:33:20+00:00

JUDAISM | Sukkot

4 to 11 October

Beginning on the fifth day after Yom Kippur, the Festival of Sukkot is a joyful celebration of both historical and agricultural significance. Sukkot takes place over seven days, with no work permitted on the first and second days. On the remaining five days, known as Chol Ha-Mo’ed, work recommences. Also known as ‘The Season of our Rejoicing’ or ‘The Time of Our Joy’, Sukkot is a time when the nights are filled with music, song and dance as communities join together for nightly water-drawing celebrations. For Jews, this is both a contrast and a delight after the deeply sombre Yom Kippur festival a few days before.

Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period that the children of Israel spent wandering the Sinai Desert, living in sukkah (rudimentary huts), before reaching the Holy Land. To reaffirm their trust in God’s providence during Sukkot, Jews build temporary sukkot (plural: sukkah) to live in during the festival.

Agriculturally, Sukkot is a harvest festival and is often called ‘The Festival of Ingathering’. A tradition unique to Sukkot is the Taking of the Four Kinds: an etrog (citron), a lulav (palm frond), three hadassim (myrtle branches) and two aravot (willow branches). These represent the four types and personalities that make up the community of Israel, the intrinsic unity of which Jews show their respect for during Sukkot. The Four Kinds are also an integral part of the daily morning services which take place during Sukkot.

For more information about Sukkot please click here

JUDAISM | Sukkot 2017-09-12T10:33:26+00:00

ISLAM | Ashura

01 October

Literally meaning ‘ten’, Ashura takes place on the tenth day of the month of Muharram. It is the most significant day of Muharram, as it is the day that Muslims mourn the death of Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and son of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first Shi’ite Imam. On the tenth day of Muharram 61 AH (680 AD) Hussein ibn Ali was brutally massacred along with his family and other followers during the Battle of Karbala. Hussein and his supporters are regarded as martyrs by all Islamic denominations but, while for Shi’a Muslims the massacre has a crucial role in their history, traditions and theology, for Sunni Muslims it does not influence tradition or theology and is mainly viewed as an historical tragedy.

Ashura observances differ between Shi’a and Sunni Muslim communities. For Shi’a Muslims, rituals and observances consist largely of public expressions of mourning and grief. Many communities organise matam (remembrance parades) with men gathering in the streets to take part in ceremonial chest beating. In Iraq, some Shi’a Muslims make a pilgrimage to the Imam Husayn Shrine to see the grave of Husayn ibn Ali, while in a number of countries, including Iran, the Battle of Karbala is re-enacted in special Condolence Theatre performances. Sunni Muslims often observe fasting on the ninth and tenth days of Muharram. Although not compulsory, Muslims who fast on the day of Ashura are believed to be rewarded with ten-thousand martyrs and ten-thousand people performing Hajj and Umrah (pilgramages to Mecca) on their behalf. Sunni Muslims also perform Nafl Salaat prayers, give charity to others, bathe, cut nails and apply surma (kohl eyeliner) to their own and others’ eyes.

For more information about Ashura please click here

ISLAM | Ashura 2017-09-12T10:33:38+00:00