Festivals

Tamil New Year Gokulashtami Or Krishna Jayanthi
Ugaadi (Telugu New Year) Navarathiri
Sri Rama Navami Deepavalli
Chithra Pournami Skandha Shashti
Vasantha Navarathiri Thirukarthigai
Vaigasi Visagam Vinayagar Vratam
Aani Dharisanam Thirupalli Ezhuchi
Aadi Puram Arudhra Dharisanam
Asdi Perukku Vaikunta Egadhasi
Asdi Amavasai Bogi
Aadi Velli & Varalakshmi Vratam Pongal
Vinayagar Chathurthi Maasi Magam
Aavani Moolam Sivarathiri
Gajalakshmi Vratam Panguni Uthiram
Onam  
 
TAMIL NEW YEAR

April: The 13th or 14th is the beginning of the first month Chittirai of the Tamil year, it is celebrated as the New Year, which is also known as Chittirai Vishu.
Early in the morning on this day, the entrance is decorated with Kolam (Rangoli). The doorways are adorned with mango leaves to mark the auspiciousness of the occasion. (If mango leaves are not available, flowers can be used). After an early bath, the whole family prays together, after which the children are supposed to take the blessings of their parents. No specific mantra is recited.
Since this festival marks the beginning of the New Year, food prepared is very special, with particular emphasis on pulses and cereals.

 

UGAADI (Telugu New Year's Day)

It is believed that the creator of the Hindu pantheon Lord Brahma started creation on this Ugadi day. Indian Mathematician Bhaskaracharya's calculations proclaimed the Ugadi day from the sunrise on as the beginning of the New Year, new month and new day. Special dishes are prepared for the occasion: Mixed rice made with a specially made spiced Tamarind Paste (known as Puliyotharai /pulihora/puliogure in Tamilnadu, Andhra pradesh and Karnataka). As with the Pongal day for Tamils, Ugadi day celebrations are marked by literary discussions, poetry recitations (kavi sammelanam) and recognition of authors of literary works through awards.

 

SRI RAMA NAVAMI

This signifies the birthday of Lord Rama, in the month of April. The house is decorated with Kolam and entrances with mango leaves. After an early bath, prayers are recited.
Once the prayers are completed, kumkum mixed with water is placed on a brass plate and a lamp is lit in the middle, after which aarti is performed.
Significant foods include a salad of soaked moong dal, raw mangoes and carrots. Thinned buttermilk with asafetida, salt, curry leaves and mustard and jaggery water with a tinge of ginger are the typical Rama Navami drinks.

 

CHITRA POURNAMI

This occassion falls on the full moon day on the Chithirai Natchathiram. The full moon day of Chaitra month, that is, the Purnima during the ascendency of the Chitra star is particularly sacred to the Chitra Guptas, the recording angels of the Hindu pantheon. A special worship is offered to these celestial representatives of the god of death, and an offering of spiced rice is prepared and later distributed as prasad or holy sacrament. A fire worship is done at the close of the ritualistic worship. By the performance of this religious observance annually, these angels of the other world are greatly pleased and judge man's actions with more sympathy.

The term Chitra Gupta means "hidden picture". A true picture of all our good and evil actions is preserved in the ethereal records. The Hindu personifies it for the sake of worship. The real significance of the worship of the Chitra Guptas is beautifully brought out in the following story connected with it.

The psychological effect of this worship, done on the very first full moon day of every year (Chaitra is the first of the twelve months), is to vividly remind us of the higher power that maintains a constant watch over every act of ours on this earth-plane. This memory serves as an invisible check on one's conduct. The conception of the Chitra Guptas as located within each shoulder is a powerful inducement to keep oneself engaged in constantly doing good actions only.

A special day and special festival. Poornima is a day dear to the Mother. Both full moon and new moon days are good for propitiating forefathers. In astrology, moon is matru karaka. Austerities on this day please the spirit of one's mother. It is on this day that the Umamaheswara vratam is observed. Ancients believed that austerities on poornima in the months Chittirai and Aippasi keep the souls of ancestors resting in peace.

 

VASANTA NAVARATRI

THE DIVINE MOTHER or Devi is worshipped during the Vasanta Navaratri.

 

VAIGASI VISAGAM

This occassion falls on the Visagam Natchathiram which is Lord Murugan's Natchathiram. It is a full moon day. On this day (in May-June) Lord Muruga was born with the mission of saving earth from demons like Soorapadman. Vaikasi Visaka, when Visaka and poornima meet, is particularly auspicious for worship of Subrahmanya.

 

AANI DHARISANAMA

An abishegam is performed for Lord Natarajan in the morning on Aani Uthram. It is believed that Lord Nataraja gives darshan in the months Ani and Margazhi. One of these is Ani Thirumanjanam, the pradosha abhishekam on the evening of the day of Uthiram star in the month Ani (June-July). This is the best time for worshipping Lord Shiva. Scriptures say it was on Ani Uthiram, under a kurundai tree, that the Lord offered upadesa to Sage Manikavasagar. Legends have it that during the abhishekam to the Lord, as everyone watched, the sage merged in the Lord as a brilliant flame.

 

ADIPANDIGAI

It is believed that the 'Surya Bhagawan' (the Sun God), changes the direction of his chariot from north to south, so this changeover is celebrated as a festival. This falls sometime between July 15th and August 15th, the beginning of the fourth month Aadi of the Tamil calendar. The house is adorned with fresh mango leaves and kolam. Milk extracted from coconuts is considered special in these days.


This festival is celebrated for the birth of the Tamil month of aadi. A lot of festivals are celebrated in the month of aadi. This is the beginning of all the festivals during the festival season. Once aadi festival starts all other festivals follow one by one. During the month of thai and aadi the sun changes directions so it is celebrated in that way.
Aadi festival is special for various ammans. It is celebrated in a special way in temples like mangadu, kamakshi temple etc. All sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays of this month are auspicious.

Every Friday is celebrated as "Aadi Velli". On the first Friday we make kozhukkattai for Lord Ganesha.

We make coconut milk payasam on fridays.
The new moon day of this month is celebrated as "Aadi Amavasai" which is to remeber our ancestors who have reached God. That day donations will be made.
The pooram star of this month is celebrated as "aadi pooram" as the birthday of Aandal. It is celebrated in all temples in a grand manner.

The 18th day of this month is celebrated as "Aadi perukku" or "Pathinettam perukku". Since rain flows in this month, the rivers are filled with water. Water is also given from dams to agriculturists. On this day, we prepare all varieties of rice and vadams etc. taking all to nearby river or beach with friends and give them manjal kunkum, vetrilai pakku, clothes etc This done to praise Goddeess Cauveri (Cauvery river). It is to thank all the rivers because they provide water.
On this day we take head bath and go to temples. We listen to Amman songs.

 

AADI PURAM

A Laksha Archanai is performed for Goddess Durgai. This celebration lasts for three days. . Adi Pooram is said to be the day when the Mother gave darshan to deities like Sri Devi and Andal, and the day Uma attained womanhood. Hence the celebration of Adi Pooram as a grand festival for the Mother in temples. It is said that dakshinayana is ideal for worship of Shakti and utharayana for worship of Shiva. The offering of pulse sprouts on Adi Pooram day symbolizes Shakti's engaging in creation on this day. Andal, the only woman among the 12 vaishnavite saints who composed Divya Prabhandham, is said to have been born on this day. Perur Puranam stresses that worship of the Mother on this day yields immense benefit. Indeed, all four Fridays in Adi are ideal for worship of the Mother. There is special puja on these days in temples.

 

ADI PERRUKKU

This festival when the river is worshipped as the embodiment of woman falls on the 18th day of Adi (July-August). At embankments on rivers, in olden days when dams were unknown, women from farming families prayed to the river to flow perennially to enable them raise three crops in the year. River mother, they prayed, on you depends our livelihood! Wearing new clothes and carrying chitranna - sweet pongal, tamarind rice, coconut rice, lemon rice, and a variety of side dishes including pappad, vadagam, chutney, and buttermilk - they went to riverbanks and worshipped the river waters with traditional offerings like coconut, plantain, betel leaf and areca nut. Hailing the flowing river as Mother Kaveri, they adorned her with ear ring and black beads. Newly weds are on this day offered special reception by the bride's parents. Let us pray to Mother Kaveri that water flows perennially, rendering the earth fertile .

ADI AMAVASAI

On the darkest night of the month of Adi (July - August) called Adi Amavasai a fast is undertaken in remembrance of departed fathers. It is a day of worship and of abstinence from meat and fish.

 

ADI VELLI & VARALAKSHMI VRATAM

LORD SHIVA describes the glory of this Vrata in the Skanda Purana. It is performed by a woman whose husband is still living. Maha Lakshmi is the abode of all auspiciousness and prosperity. This worship of Maha Lakshmi is done to obtain good progeny, and for the health and long life of the husband.

The Vrata is observed on the Friday immediately preceding the full moon day of the month of Sravan (August-September). After a purificatory bath, the lady should put on a clean, fresh cloth and make a mandala with the drawing of a lotus upon it. A kalasha filled with rice and topped with fresh mango leaves, a coconut and cloth are placed on the mandala and Lakshmi is invoked therein. Fresh grains are used in the worship as they convey the idea of growth and prosperity.

After the worship of the kalasha, follows the worship of Ganesha, then the worship of the raksha or the sacred thread. Now the main worship of Vara Lakshmi begins and the raksha is worshipped a second time. It is then tied to the right hand of the lady. After the worship various auspicious articles are given as charity to some deserving lady whose husband is alive. This lady is also fed with dainties.

Lakshmi not only bestows wealth and all sorts of material prosperity, but also imparts divine wisdom to all Her devotees. She is Vidya Shakti. She introduces Her devotees to Her Lord. She recommends them to Her Lord for their salvation.

 

VINAYAKA CHATURTI

The birthday of Lord Ganesh, the son of Shiva and Parvati, is celebrated with great vigor in the month of Aavani (August-September).
His birth was in sukla paksha chaturthi on a soma vasara (Monday) with Visaka star and simha lagna. It is this day each year we celebrate as Vinayaka Chaturthi. From its chandra mana calculation the festival is referred to as Bhadrapada Sukla Chaturthi. Like the chaturthi in moon's waxing phase, the chaturthi in the waning phase is celebrated as Sankataharana Chaturthi

Early in the morning, the head of the family makes a form of Ganesh from a paste of turmeric and water, approximately one inch in diameter and one and a half inch in height.

The turmeric Ganesh is placed on a brass plate and archana (showering of flowers) is performed. Kozhukattai (sweet momos with sweet or salt fillings) is the main offering. On the next day, the form of Ganesh is immersed in water.

 

AVANI MOOLAM

The Avani Moolam festival celebrated in Madurai on the Moolam constellation day in the month of Avani, depicts of the legendary sports of Lord Shiva at Madurai. It is a picturesque festival with distinctive local colour, the eating of pittu, is a part of the day's engagement for the devotees.

 

ONAM

It is the festival, which the keralites celebrates unitedly without the differecnce of caste and religion.
Onam is a celebration of Ten days. It comes in the month of "Chingam" according to Malayalam calender. People put flower mats in front of their houses, to welcome the King. There will be competition for the laying of flower mats; Keralites all over the world will be celebrating this ten days will pomp and gaiety. They will wear new dresses, will be visiting almost all temples which they can, they will be performing lot of dances like Thiruvathira kali Thumbi Tullal etc. to name a few and the most important thing is the grant lunch they will be having on the Thiuruvonam day. Which is also called the Fourth Onam. Whatever may happen they will not miss the Grant lunch. There is a saying in Malayalam that "Kanam Vittu Onam Unnanam" which means "We should have the Thiruonam lunch even if we have to sell all our properties". They give that much importance to the lunch on the Thiruonam day.

GOKULASHTAMI OR KRISHNA JAYANTI

The birthday of Lord Krishna, the son of Vasudeva, is celebrated in the month of Aavani (August-September). On this occasion, kolam is made out of rice batter. For this, rice is soaked in water overnight and ground into a fine paste. Then water is added to it to make a finer paste; this paste is used to draw designs on the floor). Apart from the usual designs, the significant symbol is a pair of small feet drawn from the entrance of the house to the puja room, signifying the entry of baby Krishna into each home.
Snacks and food items believed to be the favorite of Lord Krishna are prepared with great care.
The most important of these are:
1. Seedai (a small round savory made of rice and flour, and fried in oil)
2. Sweet seedai (made of rice flour and jaggery)
3. Verkadalai urundai (groundnut and jaggery balls)
This festival is celebrated in the evening, when pooja is performed after sunset. Dinner is special as most people fast during the day and eat only after the pooja.

 

NAVARATHRI
Celebrated over a period of ten days (including Vijaya Dasami), this festival includes an exhibition of dolls called kolu, depicting the various avatars or forms of gods and goddesses. This festival begins on the new moon day and lasts for 10 days. . This is the popular autumnal festival Sharada Navaratri when Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped. There is a belief that the first three days are for worship of Durga and the breeding of courage and valor in the world; the next three for worship of Lakshmi for universal prosperity; and the last three for worship of Saraswati for growth of learning.

The dolls are arranged in a series of steps (made of wood or metal); usually, three or five steps are constructed, and a white cloth is spread over them before the dolls are displayed on the day of Mahalaya Amavasya (usually in October).

The host invites friends and relatives to come and accept thambolam (patal leaf, haldi, kumkum and fruits). On each of the ten days of festivities, prasad (called sundal) is cooked and distributed among the guests. Different types of sundal are made of pulses like moong dal, chana dal, chole and rajma.

The host may also gift the guests other things like blouse pieces or saris, depending on the financial status of the family.

(a) Saraswati Pooja
On the most important ninth day of the Navrathri, the Mahanavami is celebrated as Saraswati pooja, where books, musical instruments and other signs of learning and the arts are arranged in front of the kolu. Shlokas are uttered and archana done. After this, aarti is performed. The books and instruments placed before the goddess are not distributed until the next day.

(b) Vijay Dasami
On the day following Saraswati pooja, archana is performed. Again, books are read and musical instruments played. This is the most auspicious day for the Vidyarambham.

 

DEEPAVALI

Deepawali is celebrated to proclaim the victory of Lord Krishna over Narakasura the demon, symbolizing the victory of good over evil (October-November).

There are various alleged origins attributed to this festival. Some hold that they celebrate the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. In Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Kali. It also commemorates that blessed day on which the triumphant Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana.
Celebrations begin about 4 a.m. in the morning, and Deepalakshmi pooja is performed even before taking a bath. A lamp with five wicks is lit and new clothes are kept on a wooden or brass tray along with crackers and sweets. Flowers, betel leaves, and yellow bananas are also placed on a brass plate.

Immediately after the pooja, the youngsters of the house burst some crackers and come back to have an oil bath. Sesame seed oil is slightly heated along with some jeera and pepper and is applied on to the family members by the eldest woman, accompanied with songs.

After the bath, the blessings of God and parents are sought. New clothes are gifted to the children by the parents, after which crackers are burst. Deepawali is also a day for meeting friends and relatives.

 

SKANDHA SASTHI

This starts the day after Deepavali and lasts for six days. Each evening on the first five days a Skandha Sashti Archanai is performed. On the sixth day an Archanai is performed for Lord Murugan in the morning and Skandha Sashti is finished by the afternoon.

On this day, Lord Muruga vanquished the demon Surapadman. This is celebrated with great eclat in temples, especially in the six places sacred to Muruga (aaru padai veedu, in Tamil) - Tiruchendur, Tirupparankunram, Pazhamudir solai, Palani, Swamimalai, and Tiruttani

For six days from that day, one worships Muruga, limiting meals to one each day and eating just a little of what is offered to the Lord. Those unable to do so can take some milk and fruits at other times. In the six holy places identified with Lord Muruga, thousands of the devout fast on all six days, taking but the holy water spooned out in the shrine. One can also observe the austerity by taking milk and fruits on the first five days and fasting completely on the sixth, Sashti. On the seventh day, one has to offer curd rice to the Lord; then break the fast, eating prasad along with others.

In addition to the Skanda Sashti, devotees of Lord Subramanya observe weekly and monthly days in His honour. Every Friday, or the Kartigai Nakshatram day every month, or the sixth day of the bright fortnight,-all these are sacred days for His devotees. The sixth day of the month of Tulam (October-November) is the most auspicious of them all. This is the Skanda Sashti day.

 

THIRUKARTHIGAI

Occurring in the month of Karthigai (November-December), this is the festival of lights. Women of the family bathe in the morning and a festive lunch is prepared. In the evening, brass and clay lamps are lit after a pooja.
After the pooja, lamps are lit at various places inside and outside the house.

 

VINAYAGAR VIRTAM

Markazhippillaiyar is a festival in honour of Pillaiyar celebrated in December-January. In the mornings, a figure or representation of this deity is fashioned out of cowdung, placed in the middle of an open space and worshipped. In the evenings, the figure is brought into the house and kept in a vessel. At the end of the festival, all the figures are burnt and the ashes are used as viputi by the members of the family.

 

THIRUPALLI EZHUCHI

Every morning is performed before 5:00 a.m. Margazhi Dharsanam - This occassion is celebrated on the Thiruvadharai Natchathiram. An abishegam is performed for Lord Siva at 6:00 a.m.

 

ARUDRA DARISANAM (Thiruvadirai)

Falling on the day of Thiruvadirai star in Marghazhi (November-December), is a festival of great importance. The sweet dish offering on this day, Thiruvadirai kali, is something with which everyone is familiar. Arudra star is one of two stars that have the prefix "Thiru." The other is Thiruvonam, favored for worship of Maha Vishnu. Thiruvadirai is favored for Shiva. this day is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Saint Thiru Gnana Sambandar and the day when that saint, while a baby, was breastfed by Parvati. In Thirupperundurai, the day is observed as the birthday of Saint Manickavachakar. Karanagama says we should worship the Divine Dancer on Thiruvadirai in exquisite Marghazhi.

 

VAIKUNTA EKADASI

Falling in moon's waxing phase sukla paksha in Marghazhi (December-January). There are two ekadasis each month, but this one in Marghazhi is considered special. The import of the ekadasi vrata is, that one can conquer rajas and tamas through fasting and go on to a better life. There are two ekadasis each month, but the year as a whole has one more, making for 25 in all. The Dhanur month sukla paksha ekadasi is Vaikunta Ekadasi . Elders have laid down that Lakshmi will bless those who observe all 25 ekadasi vratas and worship the Lord with tulasi

 

BOGI

This is the last day of Margazhi and the day before Pongal. It usually falls on the 13th or 14th of January. On this day, lunch is elaborate, made of avial, pongal (rice and dal), vada, payasam (kheer) and papad.

In the evening, old and unused things like straw mats, brooms, old clothes etc. are burnt on a bonfire (accompanied by drum beats produced by children), signifying the death of the old and the birth of the new. Houses are cleaned and whitewashed.


PONGAL (Makara Sankranti)

Pongal marks the birth of the new month thai, a very auspicious month. In the morning, milk is boiled and pongal is cooked. Sometimes this is done out in the open to indicate respect for the Sun God. Lunch is elaborate and is cooked with freshly harvested cereals and rice. Pongal is also known as the harvest festival. New ventures and marriages await the birth of thai. Pongal is also a day of distributing gifts.

The day following Pongal is called Mattu Pongal, which, translated literally, means cow's Pongal. On this day, cows and bullocks are bathed and dressed up for the occasion. They are then taken all over the city or village. In villages, this is a cause of major excitement, since bull fighting or jallikattu takes place.

Thai Poosam - This occassion falls on the Poosam Natchathiram on the full moon day. A festival occurring in Thai (January-February), on the day of the star Poosam either on Pournami or around that time. In the morning of the day before Thai Poosam, Punar Poosam, the ratham is taken from the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple to the Pillayar Temple. In the evening it is brought back. On the day of Thai Poosam many devoties take Kavadii and Paal Kudam. The day on which Parvati's curse on Subrahmanya was lifted was a Thai Poosam. It is thus a special day for worship of Lord Subrahmanya, taking kavadis loaded with milk pots for offering to him for eradication of ills afflicting us

 

MAASI MAHAM

Celebrated on the Makam day in the tamil month of Maasi. On this day, the deities are taken around in procession to the nearby rivers/tanks/sea for bath. It is an important festival day for Lord Muruga. Once in 12 years, the Maham festival is celebrated in a grand manner (known as Mahamaham) in Kumbakonam.

 

SIVA RATHRI

One of the prehistoric festivals of India is Sivaratri, or night of Siva. Siva is an ancient deity. Literally 'the great night of Shiva', celebrated on the moonless night of the month of Phalguna, which is fourteenth day in the dark half, this festival is specially dedicated to Shiva, the destroyer.

Sivaratri signifies the end of winter and the arrival of spring as well.
People get up earlier than usual, take a bath preferably in a river, lake or at home. Then they go to a temple nearby or set up a small linga at home.
They commence the rituals (pooja) in the usual manner of sprinkling water, offering flowers, leaves, incense , wave bits of burning camphor on a plate (aarati), etc while listening or repeating the mantras.

This is an important day for the devotees of Shiva, who stay awake throughout the night, praying to him. In all major centers of Shoveling worship, Shivaratri, also called Mahashivaratri, is a grand occasion. From the very early morning, Shiva temples are flocked by devotees, mostly women, who come to perform the traditional Shoveling worship and hence hope for favors from the god. All through the day, devotees abstain from eating food and break their fast only the next morning, after the nightlong worship.The day is considered to be specially auspicious for women. According to one myth, Parvati performed tapas, and prayed and meditated on this day to ward off any evil that may befall her husband on the Moonless night. Since then, Mahashivaratri is also believed to bean auspicious occasion for women to pray for the well-being of their husbands and sons. An unmarried woman prays for a husband like Shiva, who is considered to be the ideal husband.

Devotees bathe at sunrise, preferably in the Ganga, or any other holy water source (like the Shiva Sagartank at Khajuraho). They offer prayers to the sun, Vishnu and Shiva. This is a purificatory rite, an important part of all Hindu festivals. Wearing a clean piece of clothing after the holy bath, worshippers carry pots of water to the temple to bathe the Shoveling. The temple reverberates with the sound of bells and shouts of Shankerji ki Jai or'Hail Shiva'. Devotees circumambulate the linga, three or seven times, and then pour water over it. Some also pour milk.

There is another possible reason for the origin of the all-night worship. Being a moonless night, people worshipped the god who wears the crescent moon as an adornment in his hair, Shiva. This was probably to ensure that the moon rose the next night.

The linga is bathed with milk, water and honey. It is then an nointed with sandalwood paste. People offer wood apple or bel leaves and fruit, milk, sandalwood and jujube fruit or ber to the linga. Shiva is believed to be very hot tempered, and hence things, which have a cooling effect, are offered to him. People decorate the linga with flowers and garlands and also offer incense sticks and fruit. In bigger temples, there is almost a stampede as devotees seek favors from the beloved god. Many also employ the services of a priest to perform special prayers.


PANGUNI UTHIRAM

Falls in the month Panguni (March-April). This month is special because of the star Uthiram and pournami occurring together. Besides, it is on Panguni pournami Uthiram that the marriage of Parvati and Parameswara, Muruga and Devasena, and Andal (also known as Kothai) and Rangamannar took place. On Panguni Uthiram, in all places where Lord Subrahmanya has a temple, his devotees carry in a kavadi the requisites for puja for him, in fulfilment of vows. Such vow fulfilment by devotees carrying kavadis is a special feature of Subrahmanya temples wherever they happen to be.