GSBs follow Hindu Lunar calendar or Panchang and the festivals and vritams are interwoven with the lunar days. A lunar month (New Moon to next New Moon) have two fortnights (Shukla paksha and Krishna Paksha) with full moon or purnima in between and No moon at end. Each fortnight has days named 1. Pratipada, 2. Dwitiya, 3. Tritiya, 4. Chaturthi, 5. Panchami, 6. Shashti, 7. Saptami, 8. Ashtami, 9. Navami, 10. Dasami, 11. Ekadasi, 12. Dwadasi, 13. Trayodashi, 14. Chaturdashi. Know more about the lunar calendar
1. Chaitra masa (March-April)
Ugadi or Samsar Padava is the new year day of Hindu lunar calendar (last week of March). Ugadi is derived from the words Yuga Aadi (Yuga + Aadi meaning "Beginning of New era"). According to Bramha Purana, Lord Brahma started creation on this day - Chaitra shuddha padhyami or the Ugadi day. It also commemorate the victory of Rama over Vali, a South Indian King. While it is called Ugadi in A.P. and Karnataka, in Maharashtra it is known as "Gudipadava" and as Samsar Padava by Kerala GSBs. With this day begins the new season, the spring.
In temples the New Panchang or
almanac is ceremoniously released and the Samvatsara Phala or the
predictions for the whole year are read out. New clothes are put on. In
some families there is a system of kappad vadap which means dedication of
saris and dhotis to the memory of the departed souls with an offering of food or
sweet beaten rice and an arti. The head of the family does it without the assistance of a
priest and after food, the dhoti will be put on by him and sari, his wife.
Shri Rama Navami Lord Ramas birthday is celebrated as Ramanavami. It falls on the 9th day (navami) of the Shukla Paksha. Ramnavami occurs in the month of March. Celebrations begin with a prayer to the Sun early in the morning. At mid day, when Lord Rama is supposed to have been born, a special prayer is performed. On this day, people observe a fast. In some parts of India, it is a nine-day festival known as Vasanta Navratri. Many devotees fast for nine days.
Shri Hanuman Jayanti This marks the birthday of Lord Hanuman and is celebrated on the full-moon day (poornima) of chaitra exactly at sunrise. The idol of Hanuman is smeared with oil and sindoor.
Shukla 3rd day: Akshaya tritiya-Shri Parashurama Jayanti.
Watasavitri vritam or Wata Pournima
1. Shukla Ekadasi Prathama Ekadashi or Ashadi : Fast and prayers.
5. Shravan masa (July-Aug)
Panchami Celebrated on the 5th day of the bright fortnight in the
month of Shravan. Milk is offered to naga idols with arti and prayers to nagas. The
festival falls during the rainy months and is believed to counter the increased
possibility of a snake bite during this time. People visit Naga temples worship them.
Shiva temples are also favoured places for veneration as snakes are considered dear to
him. In South India, people craft images of snakes using cow dung on either side of the
entrance to the house to welcome the snake god. The practice of worshipping the snake on
this day is related to many legends. Nag Panchami is believed as the victory day of
Krishna over the Kaliya snake.
The festival falls during the rainy months and is believed to counter the increased possibility of a snake bite during this time. People visit Naga temples worship them. Shiva temples are also favoured places for veneration as snakes are considered dear to him. In South India, people craft images of snakes using cow dung on either side of the entrance to the house to welcome the snake god. The practice of worshipping the snake on this day is related to many legends. Nag Panchami is believed as the victory day of Krishna over the Kaliya snake.
As most rivers in India are in spate during the month of Shravan, snakes
come out of their subterranean abodes and creep about in plenty all over the place.
Because of fear, nagas might have been elevated to a divine status by the Hindus. This day
is also considered as the thanks giving occasion. Since in early days in the agrarian
life, snakes used to help the crops by killing rats etc. the people wanted to protect and
Sutta Punnav or Upakarma or Aavani Avittam
This is Largely celebrated in the southern parts of India. In the north this is traditionally celebrated as Raksha Bandhan. This falls on the Poornima or 15th Day of the First Phase of the Shravana Month (Shravaana Shukla Poornima). Upakarma, as sutta punnav is more popularly known is celebrated by the renewal of the Sacred Thread or janwa. The married will have two janwas and the unmarried will have one with three threads. The three threads indicate Brahma,Vishnu and Maheshwara. The Gayatri mantra is chanted 1008 times during the Homa which is performed at the Wee hours of the morning.
The Konkanies make special cooking and dishes such as khotto
or Ittu, pathrado, chone ghashi, anvas-ambe saasama.
Govardhan sravana or Govatsa puja
Fall on Shravan Krishna (dark) fourth day when cows and their calves are worshipped. Mainly women offer food to the cows and smear their foreheads with vermillion. Cow's footprints are drawn and worshipped by women.
Gokulashtami or Sri Krishna Jayanti This marks the celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna. He was born on the 'Rohini' nakshatram (star) on Ashtami day (the 8th day of Krishna Pakshaor dark half). This festival is also known as Sri Krishna Janmashtami. The actual day of celebration can be on two different days as the star 'Rohini' and Ashtami may not be on the same day.
6. Bhadrapada masa (Aug-Sep)
Shri Vinayaka Chaturthi Vinayaka Chaturti is a festival celebrated in honor of Ganesha on the 4th day of Shukla Paksha.
Shri garuda panchami is a festival celebrated in honor of Garuda on the 5th day of Shukla Paksha.
Shri Anant Chaturdashi The celebrations of Vinayaka comes to an end on Anant Chaturdashi - The 14th day of the Shukla Paksha (bright half) of Bhadrapad month which is celebrated as Anant Chaturdashi. This day is the day of the immersion of Ganpati in sea. The word Anant means endless or infinite and referes to Vishnu. On this day some people observe a vow in honour of Vishnu or Anant. A fast is observed and the worship is carried out in mid day. A hooded snake (Sheh Nag) made of "darbha" (sacred grass) is put in a bamboo basket and worshipped with scented flowers, oil lamp and incense sticks. Food is offered to the snake and a silk string is kept before the god, and then tied to the wrist. This string is called "anant", it has 14 knots, and is coloured with "Kumkum". Women tie the "anant" on their left hand and men on their right. The purpose of this vow is to obtain divinity and wealth, and is kept for 14 years.
The entire Krishna Paksha, thereafter is called Mahalaya with Amavasya at the end called Mahalaya Amavasya (Mahlu). This fortnight is dedicated to our departed forefathers who are supposed to visit us during this period. Tarpans and shradhas are offered in memory of them.
7. Ashwin masa (Sep-Oct)
Navaratri Navaratri literally means nine nights (Nav = nine ; Ratri = nights). The first 9 days of the Ashwin Shukla Paksha constitute Navaratri with the worship of Mother Goddess. On the first three days, the Mother is invoked as powerful force called Durga in order to destroy all our impurities, vices and defects. The next three days, the Mother is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi, who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees the inexhaustible wealth. The final set of three days is spent in worshipping the mother as the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati.
In West Bengal, Navratri is celebrated as Durga pooja. It lasts for nine days in honour of the nine manifestations of Durga. This commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over the Asura Mahishasur. The battle between Goddess Durga and the Asura lasted for 9 days and 9 nights. Finally, on the tenth day, Goddess Durga killed Mahisha asura. This day is known as Vijayadasami meaning the 10th day of victory. Idols of Goddess Durga are worshipped for nine days and on the tenth day,the immersion of idols in sea is performed. The nine different manifestations of Durga worshipped over the nine days are - Durga, Bhadrakali, Amba or Jagdamba, Annapurna, Sarvamangala, Bhairavi, Chandika or handi, Lalita and Bhavani.
During the transition between the eighth (ashtami) and the ninth (navami) days of Navratri, the female deity starts manifesting its energy. Hence, a special ritualistic worship called sandhipuja of Chamunda one of the forms of Durga is performed on this day called Durgashtami.
Maha Navami Mahanavami is on the 9th day of Navaratri and preceedes Vijayadashami. Aayudha Pooja, worshipping of weapons by workmen and books by students, is performed on the Maha Navami day. Saraswati pooja is done on this day.
Vijayadashami or Dussera or Vidhya
In southern parts of India, Children are intoduced to Vidhya - writng their first letters on this day (Vidya Arambh or vidya starting).
Days of Deepavali
Diwali or Deepavali means row of lights. It is celebrated on the New Moon day of the month of Kartik. Deepavali is spread over 5 days starting with the 13th day of Krishna Paksha or second or dark fortnight of the month and is connected with many episodes from the Hindu holy books.
Day 1- Dhana-trayodahsi
Naraka Chaturdashi is on
the Krishna Paksha (second fortnight) 14th day of the month. This day prior to Deepavali
is called Naraka chaturdashi. This is in commemoration of Lord Krishna along with
Satyabhama killing a wicked Asura by name Narakasura on the eve of Diwali.
In some parts of India, the day prior to Diwali is celebrated as Choti
Diwali and celebrated by lighting Fire crackers. This is to commemorate Hanuman coming to
Ayodhya with the news of the arrival of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshman from Lanka. In West
Bengal, Diwali is celebrated as Kali Puja or Kali Choudas worshipping Goddess Kali.
The Deepawali Day is believed to be the day on which Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshman returned to Ayodhya from Lanka. Being dark night (Amavasya or No moon day), the night before new moon day) they were greeted by lighting hundreds of clay lamps. This gives the festival the name of Deepawali. On the main Diwali day, a morning bath is very essential. In South India to bath before Sunrise, after a good oil massage, is considered very auspicious. Children finish this and start firing crackers in the early dark minutes before the Sunrise.
Laxmi Puja is also celebrated on this and reflects the fact that this is a time of harvest. Traditionally, the time of harvest is a time of prosperity. According to myth, Laxmi Puja is performed on the day when Goddess Laxmi emerged from Kshira Sagara while the churning of Amrutha Madhanam.
Day 4 - Govardhan Puja or Bhau-bij or Yamadwititya
The day after Deepawali is celebrated as Govardhana
Puja. The sacred hill of Govardhan, near Mathura and Kamadhenu (the cosmic cow) which
are connected with Lord Krishna are worshipped. Krishna lifted up the Govardhan mountain
and held it like an umbrella, under which people and animals took shelter from the
relentless rain. Once the rain subdued, the people gathered around the hill and had a
great feast. This festival is especially popular among the devotees of Bala Krishna.
8. Kartik masa (Oct-Nov)
Kartik Ekadashi or Haribodhini or Prabodhini:
This is the 11th day of kartik bright fortnight or the Kartik Ekadashi and is regarded as the day of Lord Hari or Vishnu. This day also coincides with the end of Vishnu's four months sleep, known as Prabodidhiny ekadasi (Awaking Eleventh). Devotees are said to observe fasts and rigorous penances to seek knowledge. All meritorious actions done on this day are said to return with thousand fold credits. Perhaps this has the link with Sun's movement to the southern hemisphere and the Winter.
Tulsi Pooja or Tulsi Vivah
This is celebrated on the 12th day of the first half or Shukla Paksha of the month of Kartik to commemorate the marriage of Vishnu and Tulsi. Tulsi is one of the most sacred plants of the Hindus and is believed to be the incarnation of Vrinda, the virtuous wife of Jalandhar. Vrinda, the daughter of the Asura Kalanemi, was married to Jalandhar who, according to legend, was born out of the sweat which Shiva had thrown from his brow into the ocean when he perspired at being insulted by Lord Indra. As he was born in water or Jala, he was named Jalandhar. Due to this he claimed regime of the Ocean and demanded back all the fourteen treasures churned out of the ocean during Amruthmanthan. But Indra, the king of the Gods refuted to oblige. To avenge Indra, Jalandhar worshipped Brahma and did severe penance. Brahma being pleased granted him freedom from death as long as his wife Vrinda remained virtuous. Jalandhar waged a war on Indra and invaded Amaravati, the capital of Swarga, compelling all he Gods to flee. Jalandhar had become invincible in the three worlds because of Vrinda. Then, Vishnu constructed a plan. The Gods deceived Vrinda with the false news that her husband has been killed in battle. The severed head and body of two monkeys were put in front of her, and she believing it to be her husbands dead body was plunged in grief. A sadhu came along and by reciting some mantras he joined again the head and the body, and Vishnu looking exactly like Jalandhar stood in front of her. Thinking in her excitement that it was her resuscitated, she embraced him. But then realizing her mistake, she lost her virtue for having touched the body of another man. After Vrinda had lost her holiness Jalandhar got killed. When Vrinda discovered she was deceived, she cursed Vishnu, Your wife will be taken away from you and you will have to ask help from monkeys to recover her (This curse was literally realized when Vishnu took avatar as Rama) and then she prepared a pyre and jumped into the fire. But Vishnu admiring her chastity and sorry for the wrong done to her, was inconsolable till the Gods planted a Tulsi shrub and summoned her spirit into it. Since then she is believed to come into the shrub every evening leaving it in the morning. This is the reason why the Tulsi leaves are not plucked after sunset. The place where Tulsi is kept is called Tulsi Vrindavan.
Even though by mistake, Vrinda had for an instant believed Vishnu to be her husband. Therefore when Vishnu took avatar as Krishna, Vrinda took avatar as Rukmini, and on the 12th day of the bright half of Kartik they got married. On this day the Tulsi Vrindavan at houses is smeared with cow dung. Sugarcane is buried in it, and avale (fruits of the avali tree) and wet chinch (fruits of the tamarind tree) are put on it.
This is celebrated on the 14th day of the first
fortnight. This day glorifies the relationship between Shiva and Vishnu. This is also the
day Vishnu got his Chakra from Shiva.
Kartik or Tripura Purnima or Deepa dan: This falls on the 15th of the full moon day of Kartik, alluding to Shiva's destruction of the demon Tripura and signifies the subjugation of evil and fostering goodness. Fireworks and illuminations of houses make the God's celebration of their victory. It is therefore also called the Dev-Didiwali or Diwali of the Gods.
Vysa Puja: On Kartik Full Moon day, Veda Vyasa, the compiler of the Vedas is worshipped. A similar day is Ashada Full Moon, known as Guru Puja when every student worships his own Guru.
Subramanya Shashthi or Skandha Sashti
The sixth day (Sashti) of the waxing moon ( sukhla) in the month is celebrated as Skandha Sashti. Skanda Sashti commemorates the destruction of evil by the Supreme General Kartikeya known as Kumara or Subramanya, son of Shiva. The Story of Skanda Shasti is the story of the birth of Skanda or Kumara and the fulfillment of the purpose of His divine incarnation. Tarakasura was creating havoc in the world. Upon Brahma's suggestion, Gods sought the help of Parvathi and Kamadev (the god of love) to arouse Shiva from the deep state of meditation and samadhi. Kamadev shot his arrows of love at Shiva who was eventually disturbed and the fire of anger from his third eye burnt Kamadev into ashes. None could bear the sparks of His fiery seed. It fell into the mouth of Agni, and afterwards received by Ganges, who in turn threw it into Sara Vana ( forest of arrow like grass). Thus Saravanabava was born. He was also Skanda - Shiva's power of chastity preserved through penance. He was made the General (Deva Senapathi) of the God's army. Skanda received from his mother Parasakthi an all powerful Vel (lance). He engaged the armies of Simhamukha, Surapadman and Tarakasura on a six day battle and vanquished all of them on the sixth day. The Asuras were annihilated and the Devas were liberated.
Corresponding to the six days of the war over the evil forces,
devotees undertake fasts, prayers and devotional singing to Lord Muruga. Most of the
devotees stay in the temples during these six days. This festival is more popular in Tamil
Vaikunta or Swargavathil Ekadashi
This is on the 11th day of the first fortnight. It was on this day that during the Sagara Mathana (churning of the ocean), Amrit (nectar) emerged out of the ocean and was distributed to the Gods. The Hindus consider this day very auspicious and it is believed that those who die on this day are freed from the rounds of birth and death; they directly reach Vaikunta, the abode of Lord Vishnu. It is for this reason that the Great King Bhishma waited long on his bed of arrows, to leave his last breath. On Vaikunta Ekadashi day devotees fast the whole day, observe vigil the whole night and do 'Japa' (meditation) and 'Hari Kirtan' (devotional songs).
Fasting is prescribed on all Ekadashis, that is, the 11th day of the lunar fortnight, twice a month. No rice should be taken on Ekadashi days. It is said that the sweat that fell down from the head of Brahma assumed the form of a demon and he asked the Lord to provide him an abode to dwell. Brahma said to the demon to go and dwell in the rice particles eaten by people on Ekadashi day and become worms in their stomach. For this reason rice is prohibited on Ekadashi. Once there was a demon, 'Mura', who oppressed the gods. The gods approached Lord Hari for protection. Hari sent Yoga Maya to kill the demon. Yoga Maya carried out the behests of the Lord successfully. The Lord said to Yoga Maya that those who will observe Ekadashi will be freed from all sins, and Yoga Maya will be caned by the name Ekadashi.
The importance of ekasahi vritam is glorified by the story of King Ambarisha.
was a great votary of Lord Hari. He practised the Ekadashi vritam for a year. Ambarisha
obtained His Grace. On one occasion he fasted for three consecutive days. He was about to
break the fast when Rishi Durvasa appeared as his guest. The king received him with due
respect and requested him to take his meals. The Rishi agreed and went to bathe in the
river. The king waited patiently for a long time, but the Rishi did not return. Time was
running out; if the king did not eat anything before the day ended his vritam would not
bear fruit and if he ate, he would be showing disregard to the Rishi. As a compromise the
king took a little water to serve both the conditions.
This holy day marks the commencement of the Sun's northern course in the Heavens - the Uttaraayana patha. This turn in the Sun's course takes place at the point of time when it enters the sign of Makara or Capricorn. From this day the day-duration increases and the night decreases. It is the harbinger of more light and sunshine in life and lessening of its darker aspects
This is the day when the
sun begins its northward journey. It usually falls in the middle of January and is based
on Solar Calendar. For the people of the northern hemisphere, the northward path of the
sun marks the period when the sun is getting closer and closer to them, when the days are
getting longer, and it is becoming warmer and warmer.
Vasant Panchami or Saraswati Day
the Festival of Kites, falls on Panchami or 5th day of the Sukhla Paksh (Waxing moon)
towards the close of winter in the month of Jan-Feb and marks the first day of spring or
vasant season. All get up in the early morning, take bath and worship the sun, Mother
Ganga and the earth. all wear yellow clothes on this day. The yellow colour is a sign of
auspiciousness and spirituality. It represents the ripening of the spring crops. The
Bengalis call this festival Saraswathi Puja. They worship the Goddess Saraswathi on this
day. The image of the Goddess is taken in procession and immersed in the holy Ganges. It
is believed that this day is Saraswatis birthday.
Ratha Saptami is observed on the seveth day of the shukhla or bright fortnight in the month of Magha. It is corresponding to the English month of Jan-Feb when the Sun is in Makara. The Sun rules the planets and they in their turn rule the destinies of mankind. Therefore, the worship of the Sun on this occasion is supposed to please the planets also for getting beneficial results. On this occasion people place a layer of the leaves Erukka on their heads and take bath. These leaves consider to possess miraculous properties and also symbolises the washing away of all sins. Ratha Saptami is considered more auspicious if it falls on Sunday benefetting the worshippers free from any ailments and immunity from premature death.
On Ratha-Saptami, a low platform is placed
next to the Tulsi plant. Seven horses are drawn using red sandal paste (representing the
seven horses of the Sun-god's chariot). Everything is used, in fact, red in colour on this
occasion, as a symbol of the Sun God Surya, including flowers, kumkum etc. In the
courtyard of the house, milk is heated in an earthen pot placed on dung-cakes. When the
milk boils, it is allowed to spill over the edge of the pot.
This falls on the 9th day of Shukla paksha and commemorates the birthday of Sri Madhvacharya, who founded the dwaita philosophy.
Maha Sivaratri is celebrated on the 14th night of the dark half or Krishna Paksha in the month of Magha. This is the night before the new-moon day in February-March. According to 'Shiva Purana' no festival other than Maha Shivaratri observed by devotees gives Shiva so much pleasure and satisfaction. According to a legend, it signifies the day on which Lord Shiva swallowed the deadly poison that emanated from the churning of the ocean of milk, which would have killed the Gods. Not knowing that it would not cause any harm to Him, all the Gods and Goddesses kept vigil throughout the night praying for His life. The prayer that was offered to Him that night is repeated since then on Shiva Ratri. The devotees observe strict religious discipline by abstaining from food for the day and keep themselves awake the whole night. 'Shiva Linga' is worshipped with 'vilwa' leaves throughout the night with chanting of the 'Panchakshyara Mantra' - "Om Namah Shivay" and Shiva's 1,008 names. The next morning, they take their bath and after worshipping Shiva again break their fasts.
The 14th day of the dark half of every month- Krishna Chaturdasi- is called 'Sivaratri'. There are five Shiva ratris celebrated every year in different months - Maha Sivaratri, Nitya Sivaratri, Paksha Sivaratri, Maasa Sivaratri and Yoga Sivaratri.
12. Phalguna (Feb-March)
No specific festivals this month
Hindu Lunar Calendar
In the case of Lunar calendar, which follows the course of the moon, the lunar month has 30 days(tithi) and each day starts from the sunrise. Going by the waxing and waning of the moon, the lunar month is divided into two fortnights called Shukla Paksha or Shuddha (Bright Fortnight) and Krishna Paksha (Dark fortnight). The Bright Half consists of waxing of the moon whereas the Dark Half, waning of the moon.
The Lunar Month is 29 or 30 days based on the phases of the Moon (divided into 30 parts or lunar days or tithis) and starts from the first day of waxing and each tithi for 14 days is literally called First day, Second day, Third day etc and on the 15th day it will be Poornima or the Full Moon Day.From the 16th day, the First day of the Dark Half starts again with the same name of the tithi or day and ends up with Amavasya, the night long darkness. Thus each month begins with punav (purnima or full moon) and proceeds through amaas (amaavasya or new moon).
A Tithi is the span of time the Moon will cover in 1/30th of a lunar month (New Moon to next New Moon). The days are called 1. Pratipada, 2. Dwitiya, 3. Tritiya, 4. Chaturthi, 5. Panchami, 6. Shashti, 7. Saptami, 8. Ashtami, 9. Navami, 10. Dasami, 11. Ekadasi, 12. Dwadasi, 13. Trayodashi, 14. Chaturdashi, 15. Purnima (full Moon). A lunar year is about 11 days shorter than a solar year.
Lunar calendar too has twelve months. They bear the name of the constellation of the stars with which the moon rises on the full moon day. For example, in the first month of Chaitra, the moon will rise with the Chitra star and Vaishaka, with Vishakha star. These twelve months make a year or Samvatsara. The twelve lunar months are as follows:
The New Year The lunar Shaka New Year begins with the First day of Chaitra month called Yugadi or Gudipadva. It is believed that it is the first day of creation of this universe by Lord Brahma.
For a detailed description of calendars click http://webexhibits.org/calendars/calendar.html