Makara Sankranthi is celebrated when the sun leaves Dhanu Rasi and enters Makara Rasi. It is one of the ancient of all human celebrations. Sankranthi literally means movement, It is the beginning of the northern transition of the sun from the southern most position. This transition is also known as “Uttarayana”. This is the day when the day light starts increasing.
Sankranthi is celebrated all over India under different names. It Gujarat, it is called Uttarayana. In Tamil Nadu, it is celebrated as Thai Pongal. Whereas in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, it is celebrated as Maghi.
This day is also called Pongal, which literally means rising towards enlightenment. The celebration generally lasts four days During these four days we learn that our real wealth is the good will and friendship of those around us, the land where our food grows and the animals that make our work lighter. This is one festival that always falls on January 14th.
Vaikunta Ekadashi is the Shukla Paksha Ekadashi that occurs during the Dhanurmasa month either in late December or early January. This day generally falls on the 11th day of every lunar forth night. Significance of Vaikunta Ekadashi is mentioned in Padma purana.
Fasting on ekadashi is considered holy. Fasting on Vaikunta Ekadashi is apparently equivalent to fasting on the remaining 23 ekadashis. When observed strictly, it bestows the liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Vaishnavism culture believes that Vaikunta Dwaram or the gate to the Lord’s inner sanctum is opened on this day. Anyone who is fortunate enough to go through this door will attain Moksha.
Mahā Shivarātri is one of the most important festivals in the Hindu calendar of festivals, celebrated with extreme devotion along the length and breadth of India. It is said that aside from the Shaivites, even the Vaiṣhṇavaites should worship Shiva on this auspicious time event (Parva).Otherwise, all the fruits of worship will perish if he sits out the Mahā Shivarātri worship.
The 14th day of the waning moon period every month – Krishna Chaturdashi – is called Shivarātri; but the Krishna Chaturdashi of the month of Māgha, being most auspicious, is called the Mahā Shivarātri. Though night times are not auspicious for worship, the worship of Shiva during the entire night is prescribed on this day, justifying the event as Mahā Shivarātri. On this day, Shiva is worshipped in all time segments (yāma) of the night. Worshipping Rudra on this night, observing fasting all day (upavāsa) and being awake all night (Jāgaraṇa), the Lord will grace the devotee with prosperity and liberation, according to Garuḍa Purāṇa.
Observance of Upavāsa and Jāgaraṇa on this night and worshipping Shiva with Bilva leaves at all four time segments of the night liberates the person to the state of Shiva. The persons who sit out worshipping Shiva on this night are indeed spiritually poor and wander aimlessly in the cycle of birth and death. Men and women of all denominations can and should worship Lord Shiva on this night. People desiring prosperity and liberation, must necessarily worship Lord Shiva on this night.
This is the celebrated day when creator Brahmā and Viṣhṇu worshipped Mahādeva at Aruṇāchala. Shiva Himself is reported to have called this night very dear to Him and called it the ‘Shivarātri.” Skanda Purāṇa upholds this view. “In Kaliyuga, I will move around in Bhuloka on this Chaturdashi night and enter all the moving and stationary Lingas. I will relieve them of their sins committed throughout the year (Shiva Himself has declared of His absence in the daytime).”
The Trayodashi (13th day) is manifestation of energy; the Chaturdashi (14th day) is manifestation of auspiciousness. Therefore the night at the confluence of 13th and 14th day is very auspicious for the worship of Shiva, who Himself is a manifestation of auspiciousness.
How to worship Shiva on this night?
Needless to say, that the Shivarātri worship pleases Lord Shiva. Mental worship of the Lord is the supreme observation; however, in preparation for the mental worship, external worship (worship of Shiva Linga) in the traditional Ṣhoḍashopachāra pūja is as much effective. Among the services of the external worship, the Shāstra proclaims that Abhiṣheka (celebratory bath) is most loved by Shiva. And He is so much more pleased when this Abhiṣheka is performed through a Go-ṣhṛunga (cow’s horn). Pūjā, Upavāsa (fasting) and Jāgaraṇa (waking through the night) are three means to make the Shivarātri auspicious. These can be observed in accordance with the abilities of the devotee. If all three are difficult or impossible, one or two of them would have similar benefits. The Jagaraṇa on Shivarātri night means “being awake in the pūjā and meditation of Shiva” and not being awake in some worldly pursuits.
Shiva Purāṇa and Skanda Purāṇa highlight the value of worshipping Shiva on this Shivarātri night through a story in which a hunter inadvertently, and without his knowledge, pours water and drops Bilva leaves on a Shiva Linga, which he was not even aware of. This became an act of worship and he reached Shivaloka along with his wife. Acharya Shankara Bhagavatpāda has described the waves of devotion, exemplifying this story in the hymn Shivānanda Lahari.
The hunter’s name is Gurudruha – a very cruel and wicked hunter. Being unsuccessful in hunting on a Shivarātri day, he was forced to be fasting. That night he camps on a Bilva tree with some water in a dry squash crown, waiting for a prey. When a female deer arrives, he was about to deliver the arrow; in the process, the water in the crown accidentally spills over Bilva leaves and over a Shiva Linga at the foot of the tree. Thus without his knowledge, he did Shiva Abhiṣheka in the first time segment. He was relieved of his sins; as a result, kindness and compassion took over him and he let go the deer without killing it. His wife, at home also was forced to be fasting without her husband bringing home any prey. Next morning, she collects some food to feed her husband, which was eaten by a dog. She was about to kill the dog, when her husband intervened and stopped her from hurting the dog and let go the dog. His inadvertent Abhiṣheka on the previous Mahā Shivarātri night transformed him, filling compassion in him. It was Shiva’s grace that transformed him and he reaches Kailasa, along with his wife the morning after Shivarātri.
It is not necessary to debate the historical truth of the story; the value is in recognizing the benefit of Shiva’s worship on this night – even if inadvertent worship could relieve a person of his sins, what to speak of worshipping Shiva with faith and devotion on this Shivarātri night engaged in fasting and jāgaraṇa!
Masi Magham – This is an annual important festival in the tamil speaking world. It may also be referred as Masi Makam. This festival falls in the tamil month of Masi which could be either in late February or March. Magam is one among the 27 stars in the astrological system. This is the brightest star in the Leo constalation. Generally this falls on a full moon day and considered highly auspecious. Once in 12 years Masi Magam attains more importance and the festival is celebrated on a grand scale at the Adi Kumbeswaran temple in Kumbakonam and is called Maha Maham.
Holi Poornima – This is a hindu spring festival also known as festival of colours. The arrival of spring celebrations start on the night before with a HOLIKA BONFIRE, which is supposed to indicate the victory of good over evil and destruction of all evil feelings.There is legendary connections of this festival to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva..
Ugadi – This is a New Year’s Day for the people of Kannada and Telugu communities. This is one of the most auspecious days for these communities. The name Ugadi is derived from the sanskrit words, Yuga (age) and Adi (beginning). Ugadi specifically refers to the start of Kaliyuga. This falls on a different day every year as our hindu calendar is a Lunisolar calendar. This calendar begins in the month of Chaitra and Ugadi marks the first day of the the new year and Chaitra is the first month of panchanga.
It is customary to taste a dish made of various ingredients to signify different emotional status in life. In telugu, it is called Ugadi Patchhadi and in kannada, it is called Bevu Bella. The ingredients are, neem flowers which represents bitterness or sadness, jaggery for sweetness or happiness, green chilly for anger, salt for fear and tamarind for sourness or disgust. The idea behind this whole concoction is that it symbolizes the fact that life is a mixture of various experiences which should be accepted altogether with equanimity through the whole year. .
Ramanavami – All across India Ramanavami festival is celebrated as a birthday of Lord Rama who is one of the most beloved deities in the Hindu pantheon. Lord Rama is known as the 7th incarnation of Maha Vishnu and was born to King Dasharatha and his wife Kousalya of Ayodhya. He was born to Surya vamsha in the month of Chaitra. The main reason for his birth as a man, was to kill the terrorising and demonising asura by the name “Ravana”. Ravana had a boon by Lord Brahma that he could killed only by a human being.
Rama, the epitome of dharma is praised as the perfect son. a perfect husband, a perfect king, brother, perfect friend and a magnanimous victor.
Chitra Poornima – This is a festival celebrated mostly by tamilians in the month of Chitra which generally falls in the month of April or May, Chitra is the most shining star in the libra constallation. This day is also meant to respect “Chitragupta” who is the assistant of Lord Yama. He is the record keeper who makes a list of bad and good things that people do prior to their death. Special poojas are performed on this day in several temples, Lot of charitable deeds are done on this day including donation of books and providing food. Main temple of Chitragupta is in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Ugadi – also called Tamil New Year or Puthandu. This is in keeping with the solar calendar when the sun enters Mesha Rashi. Keralites also celebrate the New Year’s day on this day.
Shankara Jayanthi and Ramanuja Jayanthi
Shankara Jayanthi and Ramanuja Jayanthi – Adi Shankara was a philosopher and a theologian. He consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta. He is credited with unifying and establishing the main currents of thought in Hinduism. He is reputed to have founded four mathas (monastaries), which helped the historical development, revival and spread of advaita vedanta. Adi Shankara was born in the Kerala state and is believed to have died at the age of 32 at Kedarnath in the northern state of Uttara khand.
Sri. Ramanuja was also a hindu theologian and philosopher. He was one of the most important exponents of Sri Vaishnavism tradition with Hinduism. He was the chief proponent of vishistadvaitha which has competed with dvaitha and advaitha philosophies. Ramanuja was born in Sri Perambadur in Tamil Nadu to a Brahmin family, He is believed to have died at the age of 120.
Vaishaka Poornima is a full moon day in Vaishaka month which generally comes in May. It is also celebrated as KURMA Jayanthi, Kurma is the second incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He was half human and half tortoise. Lord Vishnu , in the form of Kurma avatar helped keeping the mount Mandara afloat as the ocean of milk was being churned to obtain a bowl of nectar (Amrutha). Kurma Jayanthi is considered as an auspicious day for initiating construction work owing to the popular belief that Yogmaya resides with Lord Kurma. Tortoise is a symbol of stability and firmness.
On this day Narasimha Jayanthi is also celebrated. Narasimha is the fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He appeared as a man-lion and killed the demon HIranya Kashipu.
Hanuman Jayanthi is celebrated on the 15th day of shukla paksha. This day marks the birth of Lord Hanuman. This day is celebrated by people by reciting various devotional hymns, like Hanuman Chalisa. Hanuman is also considered as the son of Vayu, also as the 11th Rudra avatar of Lord Shiva. Sri Hanuman worshiped with a garland made out of beetle leaves and a garland made out of 108 ‘vadas’. He was the ardent devotee of Lord Rama and was inseparable from him.