Sacred Days and Festivals
OBSERVANCES AND BENEFICIAL EFFECTS
every major world religion. Hinduism has proclaimed certain days of the week
as sacred. The Jews observe the Sabbath. Muslims observe Friday as their day
of special prayer and the Hindus follow the lunar calendar, which is based on
the waxing and waning of the moon.
month is divided into two; the fortnight following the full moon day is called
krishnapaksha and the fortnight succeeding the new moon day shuklapaksha. The
full moon day is termed Purnima and
the new moon day is termed Amavasi.
these days are sacred to the Hindus and they are enjoined by the scriptures to
observe fast, or at any rate take only light food in the night.
scriptures proclaim that the Cosmos is reflected in man. It is a scientific
fact that man is essentially made of the same elements as the surface of the
earth and in the same proportion. Since man is composed of 80% liquid and 20%
solid as the surface of the earth, the gravitational pull of the moon on human
beings is at its highest on full moon day, just as the gravitational pull of the
moon is at its highest on the ocean-high tide and low tide in scientific terms.
This gravitational pull of the moon on human beings affects the composition of
the body elements, particularly the Water content. This leads to emotional
imbalances in human beings, making them tense, irritable and violent. Hence the
term lunatic which is derived from the word luna’ meaning moon in Latin.
ancients obviously recognised the effect of the moon on human behavior as it
waxed and waned. It Is well-known that the mentally unstable are susceptible to
violence during the full moon and new moon days - to wit: New York’s ‘Son
of Sam” committed murder on eight nights, five of them during the new or full
wise men that they were, our ancients sought a way to combat the evil effects on
human behaviour during the full moon and new moon days. They found that light
food on these days would lower the acidic content in our system, which helps
human beings to retain their mental balance. By fasting or taking light food the
whole system is given a rest. By praying man would not allow his emotions to run
wild. When the system is at rest psychologically also there is rest in man. He
feels comfortable physically and psychologically and will not be prone to
irritation and outburst of temper. Hindus also observe fasting on Ekadashi,
the eleventh day of the fortnight and also on Saturdays. This is intended to
give a rest to the digestive system In the human body, so that the stomach
muscles can easily throw out the toxic contents of the food without strain.
is a sort of-Self discipline. When we keep fasts for a purpose, we act on the
faith that our prayers will be answered. Faith is positive thinking: so the
chances are that what you wish for will come to pass.
the Hindu, each day of the week is governed by a planet. Sunday by the sun:
Monday by the moon: Tuesday by mars: Wednesday by Mercury: Thursday by Jupiter:
Friday by Venus: Saturday by Saturn. This shows that the ancients were fully
aware about the planets, with the sun in the centre.
ancients prescribed worship of these planets as they were aware of their
gravitational influences on the subconscious of man. By worshipping them, man is
attuned to their influences, thereby helping him to get a control over his
the general run of men are normally not adequately mentally developed to grasp
the inner significance of the scientific and hygienic reasons of these
observances, our ancients prescribed them as part of their religious duties.
Thus, even though the masses may not be aware of the “why” of them, still
they derive benefits from the observances. For the same reason, our ancients
abjured eating of flesh and recommended vegetarian diet. Eating Vegetarian food
was recommended for physiological reasons as well as moral ones.
moral viewpoint of the vegetarians’ belief is based on the theories of Ahimsa and Karma. Ahimsa
believes In non-aggression and non-violence on any living creature and the law
of karma proclaims that we are the
builders of our own destiny and that from good deeds joy shall come and from
evil deeds, suffering.
meat-eating would necessitate the slaughter of animals which is a violation of
the ahimsa theory, vegetarians do not
indulge in non-vegetarian food as they do not want to increase their karmic
debts by partaking of flesh.
physiological reason is that meat increases the acidic content in our blood,
which results in the lowering of the amount of carbon dioxide.
vegetables has the opposite effect: the acidity is reduced and carbon dioxide
pressure in the lungs is increased, thereby reducing the amount of oxygen going
to the brain.
yogis claim that a vegetarian diet is conducive to meditation, may be because
the five senses (sight, hearing, sound, smell & touch) are less active due
to less oxygen reaching the brain and the stilling of the mind is a very
important prerequisite for a person who wants to maintain equanimity of mind.
new biological discoveries tend to show that flesh eating is not essential for good
some biologists are even of the opinion that flesh eaters are more susceptible
to illness than vegetarians.
ancient Hindus were however not fanatic about whether to eat meat or abstain
from it but looked more Into the practical aspect.
Certain sect of Hindus. the Sindhis, are told to eat fish only on the day of the
mentioned earlier, the moon has an effect on the tides of the ocean, hence on
the fishing. There are certain kinds of fish that tend to come to the surface
during that time. The catch of the fish is easier. Fish, being a perishable
commodity, is better consumed as soon as possible. So if you are not a
vegetarian, would it not make more sense if you eat fish on new moon day when
fish would probably be cheaper and fresher? Of course, I am talking of the time
when this custom started when cold storage, as we know it, did not exist.
sections of modern English-speaking Hindus believe that one should not eat fish
during the months that have no ‘R’ in it i.e. May. June. July.
August. Note that the months coincide with rainy months in India during which
fishing is a problem.
a matter of fact many Hindus observe the “Chaumasa”. During these months,
when they are vegetarians and have their fast and prayers.
of the rainy season, vegetables are plentiful and fresh. Besides most of our
important Indian festivals fall during these months namely Ramzan, Nagapanchami,
Dussera, Nariel purnima, Janmastami, etc.
The number of festival days in the
Hindu calendar is legion. But each festival serves a purpose.
& Folk-lore are the means by which our ancient tried to impart spirituality
to the masses.
of the most Important festival days of Hindus are: Deepavali, Ramanavami,
Shivarathri, Krlshnajanmastami and Vinayakachaturthi. Just as national days
are observed to remind the people of the great men who helped free the country
from foreign yoke and who underwent untold hardships and even made the supreme
sacrifice to serve as inspiration to later generations so also the festival days
are observed so that we may be reminded of the exemplary lives of the “Avatars”
(Godlike men) and their exploits.
is a day on which Sri
Ramachandra was born. Endowed as he was with all the thirty-two lakshanas (the
thirty two virtues which characterise the perfect man), even today after many
millennia he serves as an inspiration to countless number of Hindus. Valmiki’s
Rama was an ideal son, ideal husband, ideal brother and ideal king. Walter
Whitman sang: “The lives of great men all remind us how to make our lives sublime”.
we worship Sri Rama on Ramanavami day we believe that we shall be able to
fulfill our duties to the members of our family and society as well as he was
is the festival of lights. The word “Deepavali” is a Sanskrit compound made
up of two simple words. “Deepa” means light and “AvaIi” means a row.
Hence the word means a row of lights. The festival is associated with many
legends and beliefs. One is to commemorate the kllling of Narakasura, a
notorious demon, by lord Krishna.
however, because of his previous store of virtue, had been granted a boon at the
moment of his death. He asked that his death might ever be commemorated as a
day of feasting.
Deepavali is known as “Naraka Chaturdasi”.
fireworks that are burst during Deepavali symbolise the use of fiery weapons
used during the war that Krishna waged against the demon, It is day of rejoicing
as the people were saved from atrocities of the demon.
among the North Indians it is believed that Deepavali is the day on which Sri
Rama returned from his 14 years of exile in the forest, after having got rid of
various demons who made life hell for the sages and common people.
symbolises the victory of good over evil since it symbolises the triumphant
return of Rama to his kingdom. It is celebrated with lamps and lights to welcome
him back to his throne.
Deepavali day the member of the mercantile community open and worship new
account books and ledgers. This is because during Deepavali the Sun enters its
second course and passes Libra, which is represented by the balance or scale.
Deepavali, spring cleaning is done as it is believed that the Goddess of wealth
Lakshmi would enter a clean, bright and cheerful house.
the Goddess Lakshmi come to the house or not, the fact remains that a lot of
lost items are found during the cleaning up of nooks and corners and lot of dirt
is removed from the house, the breeding ground of infectious germs.
is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna is a deity
with whom one feels easier to identify with, He is so endearingly human and
lovable, and yet is deep enough to expound the Immortal Bhagvad
Gtta - a philosophy which is true to life In every respect, ever fresh every
time one reads it and always a guide In every circumstance.
is the festival of colour: it heralds the advent of spring and symbolises the
spirit, young at heart. During Holi, people let themselves go in sheer abandon
and sprinkle ‘gulal’ (coloured powder) on one another.
a society where decorum is so much observed and rules are strictly laid down as
to how one ought to behave with elders and relatives, the above festival is
essential as it affords an opportunity to give free play to one’s pent-up
of decorum is excused on that day and enemies become friends once more.
commemorates the death of Holika, a demoness, again denoting the victory of
benign forces over evil ones.
burning of dead wood and rubbish, while reminding us of the legendary fact that
Holika was consumed by flames, has the practical purpose of outdoor spring
smearing of colour on one another has the symbolic meaning that we ought to
start with a new resolution. We ought to put a new dye on our personality. We
ought to change intolerance and hostility into feelings of love, friendship and
is celebrated to commemorate the marriage of Lord Shiva with Parvati. The
whole night is spent in prayers & singing devotional songs. One should
remember that it is not enough to be awake physically during the night but also
endeavour to awaken from the sleep of ignorance in which we seem to be seeped so
is the festival of Ganesh.
The idol of Ganapati who is considered the “Remover of obstacles” is brought
home and deeply revered by family and friends. After days of devotional songs
and prayers, it is immersed in to the water. This festival induces camaraderie
and brings together the community into a mood of spiritual festivity and cheer.
being a vast, colourful country has innumerable other festivals. Some
celebrate the victory of good over evil: others are based upon instances in the
life of several deities in the Hindu pantheon: still others are connected with
spring, the season of love plentiful ness in nature. But all promote
togetherness in the hearts of people and induce them to put aside their petty
differences for a while and join together in brotherhood and love.