Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Festivals of East India

The eastern part of India has five states namely the West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Sikkim and the newly formed state of Jharkhand. The cultures and traditions of these four states have intermingled although Orissa has traces of Andhra and Sikkim of Nepal. The vast Bay of Bengal lies on the eastern coast and the impeccable Himalayas in the north. The eastern side of India is full of surprises and abundant with beauty.

The state of West Bengal which was earlier a big state of Bengal has been split into two after the Independence of India, in 1947. Adorned with Nobel Laureates like Rabindranath Tagore and Mother Teresa, West Bengal, has some or the other festival going throughout the year. People are seen buying sweets and flowers for the festivity. The culturally forward Bengalis, primarily, are the worshippers of Shakti, Goddess Parvati in all her forms. Late February the festival dedicated to the Goddess of learning, Saraswati Puja or Vasant Panchami is celebrated. Students, teachers and artists worship the Goddess of learning and music. As the time is advent of spring, the day is also known as Vasant Panchami. People wear bright yellow and orange colour clothes to welcome the season. A huge celebration takes place in Shantiniketan during this time. Dances and songs are performed and wishes are exchanged. The Dol Purnima popularly known as Holi all around India is celebrated with equal fervor. The New Year of the Bengalis, Noboborsho, falls around mid –April. Bengali delicacies are cooked and people wearing new clothes wish and gift each other. 17th September is the Vishwakarma Puja, God of creation. People working with tools and machines worship their machinery and tools. Businessmen also keep the shops closed to worship the Vishwakarma. 

The next festival is the biggest of all the festivals of West Bengal and celebrated with great enthusiasm in October is, Durga Puja. When the whole country celebrates Navaratri, the last four days are celebrated in West Bengal as Durga Puja. Beautiful Clay models of the Goddess killing the demon Mahishasura are made and installed in huge pandals. Durga’s four children Ganesh, Kartikeya, Lakshmi and Sarawati are installed beside her. For all the four days the Goddess is worshipped with all the rituals. Legend says that Mahishasura, the demon received a boon form Brahma of immortality. No one but a woman could kill him. The Gods then created Durga bestowing upon her their divine powers; she ultimately killed the demon and saved the land. The four days celebrated in West Bengal are the days of the war between the Goddess and the demon, in which ultimately good triumphs over evil. The pandals are greatly decorated and people throng to see the decoration in the night. Cultural programmes are organized and the festive spirit continues till the immersion of the idols. It is the season for gifts. New clothes are purchased. Shops overflow with the latest goods. The Grand finale is on the last day, which is called as the Bijoya Dashami. The married women give a tearful send off to the Goddess by smearing sindoor on her. Huge processions with bands of dhakis are taken out and the idols are immersed.

Five days after, on the full moon night comes the Lakshmi Puja. Idols of Lakshmi are installed and worshipped for a day. Offerings mainly of fruits and sweets are made to the Goddess.

Within fifteen days of Durga Puja comes Diwali celebrated all over India and known as Kali Puja in West Bengal. Once again idols of Goddess Kali are made and installed and worshipped. People enjoy eating goodies and burning crackers.The Christians and the Anglo Indians of Calcutta, celebrate Christmas and New Year, with great frevour.

Another prominent state in the eastern part of India is Orissa. Famous for its ancient connections with the Maurya dynasty, Kalinga as it was known then is today known as pilgrim of the east. The major eastern festivals of Durga and Kali Puja along with other common festivals are celebrated here. Magha Sapatami is the most popular and colourful festival of the temple city of Konark.  This is an occasion for a grand congregating of Indian pilgrims who take holy dips in the Chandrabhaga Tirtha near the sea and welcome the rising Sun with prayers. This festival falls around end of February.

Jaggannath Puri is one of the four sacred pilgrimages of India. The Rath Yatra that takes place here every June –July is the most famous religious occasion. The three deities Lord Jaggannath, Balbhadra, his brother and Subhadra, his sister are taken in a chariot procession to their summer temple for a week. Prior to this, the three deities have a ritual boat ride after a refreshing bath in fragrant sandalwood scented water. This is followed by Snana Yatra, literally the festival of bathing in which the main images are bathed ceremoniously. The deities then retire to their garden home and after eight days, they return to the main temple riding their magnificent chariots, drawn by devotees. Hundreds of thousands gather from all over the country to witness this festival. New chariots are made each year. During the festival Puri turns into a sea of People. The idols made of wood are buried in the temple complex and new ones are made every twelve years. All can participate in this festival and actually touch the deity to take the blessings.

Jharkhand, the newly formed state was earlier part of the bigger state of Bihar. Primarily inhabited by tribes, this state is rich in Mines and Minerals, Industries, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Forests. Sarhul is the most famous festival among the tribes. Chaul is another festival celebrated.

The ancient state of Bihar was the main ruling point of the ancient dynasties of India. Places like the Pataliputra, now Patna and Nalanda have been mentioned in the epics and ancient scriptures. One of the most prominent sites of the Buddhist pilgrimage, Bodhgaya, rests in Bihar. Huge celebrations take place in Bodhgaya during Buddha Purnima. The Buddhists believe that Lord Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and also attained nirvana on the same day. Buddhist rituals for celebrating the three-in-one occasion are naturally elaborate. The day falls in the month of May. Bihar is also the birth place of the 24th tirthankar who preached the Jain religion, Lord Mahavir. Mahavir Jayanti is the most pious occasion for the Jain community. On this auspicious day grand chariot procession with the image of Mahavir are taken out, rich ceremonies are held in the temples, fasts and charities are observed, Jain scriptures are read, and at some places grand fairs are set up.

Other Hindu festivals are celebrated with equal vigour and pomp and show. The most famous festivals of all is the Chhath. Chhath falls on the sixth day in the month of Kartik, which is around November just after Diwali. The festival is dedicated to Sun God. Women keep fast and worship the Sun God during sun rise and sun set. The prayers are primarily for the well being of their children. They also take out a procession to honor the Sun God offer Fresh paddy, sweets & fruits. Chhath is a very joyous and colorful festival.

The small state of Sikkim on the foothills of the Himalayas is a beautiful unexplored religious state. Majority of the population here is Buddhist and although Hindu population is also present. Festivity all over India means songs and dance along with gifts and delicacies. But Sikkim’s dances are extraordinary and very much different from rest of India. The Losoong or the Sonam Losar is celebrated as the New Year around February. People rejoice and celebrate their harvest. Youth all over Sikkim have archery competitions and lama dances are held in some of the important monasteries two days prior to Losoong. These dances symbolically exorcize the evil spirits of the past year and welcome the good spirits of the coming year. Pang Lhabsol, celebrated in August is a unique Sikkim festival. The people of Sikkim worship and pray their guardian deity, the mountain of Khangchendzonga. Lamas portray the deity with fiery-red facemasks with a crown of five skulls, riding a snow lion. Tashiding Bumchu is another typically Sikkim festival. The Bumchu is a sacred vessel whose water level foretells the luck of the year ahead. It occurs around January – February and continuous for three days when devotees from different parts of Himalayas come for blessings and celebrations at Tashiding monastery.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Festivals of North - East India

The mystic region of North East India comprises of seven states, popularly known as the seven sisters, which are Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Manipur and Meghalaya. These North East Indian states have always been abundant in nature. The tropical forests are full of vast species of Flora and Fauna. Scarcely populated and mainly full of tribal population, these states always are on a celebration spree.
Assam - A land nestled in myths and mysteries, lore’s and legends. Assam is almost another world, the gateway to the eastern states, the coloured wonderland of India. The most important festival of Assam is the Bihu, the Assamese New Year Celebrations. This major festival of Assam is celebrated in three forms, the Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu in April, Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu in January and Kati Bihu or Kongali Bihu in October/ November. The most colourful is the Spring-Festival, Rongali Bihu, celebrated in mid- April. Essentially a festival mar king the beginning of an agricultural season, the people of Assam enjoy it with dancing and singing. Bhogali Bihu, the harvesting festival is celebrated in mid- January by community feasts.

Arunachal Pradesh is one of the most sparsely populated States on the eastern tip of India, sharing its borders with China, Bhutan and Myanmar. Known as the land of rising Sun of India, it is a fertile land with five rivers flowing through the State. Mainly inhabited by various tribes, the festivals here are based on nature and agriculture and dance is the soul of all these festivals.

Mizoram is on the southern tip of the North eastern region clamped between Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Mizo community is mostly follower of Christianity. Among other festivals, Chapchar Kut or Spring Festival is the most popular festival, celebrated after completion of the most arduous t ask of jungle clearing for jhum operations. On this day, people of all ages, young and old, men and women dressed in their respective colourful costumes and head-gears, assemble and perform various folk dances, sing traditional songs, accompanied by the beating sound of drums, gongs and cymbals.

The predominantly tribal state of Nagaland is blessed with high mountains, deep valleys and rich flora and fauna. Nagaland being inhabited by as many as 16-odd tribes, it is the land of festivals. Some tribe or the other has a celebration throughout the y ear. Every tribe has its own festival. Several festivals are connected with agricultural activities such as reaping, sowing and harvesting. Moastu festival is performed by Ao Naga in the month of May, after the sowing. People worship the deity sacrifice animals and sing, dance and make merry during the festival.

Tripura is one of the tiniest states in the Indian subcontinent. Although there are many tribes settling in this tiny state the dominance of Hinduism is quite prominent. More so because of the immense Bengali population in this state. Many festivals are celebrated in Tripura out of which the Kharchi Puja, worshipping the 14 Gods, near Agartala is its specialty. Held every year in the month of July, it attracts people from all over India. 15 days after the Kharchi Puja is the Ker Puja. A unique festival performed for the welfare of the state and its people. It is performed within a specific boundary and no one is allowed to enter or exit that boundary till the rituals get over. Song and dance is very much essential part of these festivals.

Well known as the Paradise of eastern India, Manipur is where Mother Nature has bestowed her bounty extra generously. All that can fascinate a tourist is what Manipur is all about. The world famous Manipuri Dance has originated from the temples of this exotic state in the North east of India. Celebrated for five days commencing from the full moon day February - March, Yaoshang is the premier festival of Manipur. The Thabal Chongba - a kind of Manipuri folk dance is particularly associated with this festival. Cheiraoba - Manipur New Year is celebrated in the month of April. People clean and decorate their houses and prepare special festive dishes, which are first offered to various deities. A part of the ritual entails villagers climbing the nearest hill tops in belief that it will enable them to rise to greater heights in their worldly life.  This festival is celebrated by all irrespective of any religion. Other Hindu festivals such as the Durga Puja in October and the Jagannath Yatra in July also take place.

Meghalaya means the abode of the clouds and as the name suggests, Meghalaya gets torrents of rain. It is a region of great scenic beauty. The three important tribes of Garos, Khasis and the Jaintias have their own festivals, basically related to agriculture. Among the Garos, the most important festival is the Wangala or the Hundred-drum Festival held from November to December. This is a harvest festival celebrated in honour the Sun God. Nongkrem Dance is held annually for five days by the Khasis. It is a religious festival for thanksgiving to God Almighty for good harvest and to pray for peace and prosperity in the community. It is celebrated in the month of November. Behdienkhlam is the most important dance festival of the Jaintias and is celebrated after the sowing period is over. At Jowai town, this festival is celebrated in July.

Keep reading for more...

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Festivals of South India

The southern region of India comprises of four states namely Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and the union territory of Pondicherry. The weather in these regions is mainly hot and pleasant during winters. The coastal areas are pleasant throughout the year with heavy rainfall during the monsoons. South India follows the Dravidian tradition and has different ways to celebrate their own festivals.

Karnataka celebrates all the national festivals and other religious festivals. But the most famous of them all is its special Dushera, popularly known as the Mysore Dushera. The Kannadigas celebrate this festival with pomp and glamour and dedicate the festival to Goddess Chamundeshwari. It is a 10-day long festival which falls in the month of October. On the last day of Vijaya Dashami, a colourful procession of caparisoned elephants carrying the idol of goddess Chamundi is taken through the gaily-decorated streets of the city. The festival was started by the Maharaja of Mysore and is being continued till date. The palace is illuminated every night and on the last day the former Maharaja leads one of India's most colorful processions.  People from all around the world gather to watch the pomp and show exhibited in Mysore. The festival is celebrated in a grand style with scores of cultural performances in the great Durbar Hall of the Maharaja's Palace. Indeed a unique celebration of the common festival of Dushera.

Another unique festival of Karnataka is the Karaga which is celebrated in Bangalore in the honour of the queen of Pandavas, Draupadi. Karaga is celebrated on the full moon day of April, the first month of the Kannada calendar.

Yugadi is the New Year celebration in Karnataka. This falls on the day after the new moon day in April, the month of Chaitra. The formation of the Karnataka State is celebrated on the 1st of November and is a state festival.

The state of Andhra Pradesh lies on the south eastern side of India. The Telgus, as the people of Andhra are called, are religious and celebrate the festivals with great enthusiasm. Hyderabad being the capital of this state, which was ruled by the Nizam, has seen the state celebrating the Id festivals with great fervour. Biryani and Haleem preparations are the specialty of Telgu Muslims during Ramzan.

The festival of Makar Sankranti holds special place in Andhra community. This harvest festival is celebrated for 3 days in Mid January. The first day is Bhogi that is spent with gaiety. The second day is Sakranti. Many families arrange a doll show and invite their friends and give alms to the poor. The third day is Kanuma when they acknowledge their gratitude to the part taking of the animals. They decorate and worship their cattle.
The New Year falling in the month of April is called the Ugadi and celebrated with new clothes and sweets. The birthday of Lord Ganesh, Vinayak Chaturthi, falling in September is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Huge idols are installed and worshipped and on the last day they are immersed in the water.

Kerala, famous as God’s own country, is famous for its back waters and boat races. This small state has nearly equal population of Hindus, Muslims and Christians staying and celebrating their festivals in harmony. Vishu is the New Year of the Malayali people, which falls every year on 14th of April. The Keralites believe that they should see the best things when they wake up in the morning. Huge flower decorations and other goodies are kept in front of the deities and worshipped. Sweet meats are prepared out of jaggery, rice and coconut.
Another important festival is the Onam. Onam falls in August – September. This day is celebrated in the honour of the King Mahabali who once ruled Kerala. His period is believed a have been the golden age in the history of Kerala. He was a threat to the Gods and so they got him killed. But since he had proved to be a good king he was allowed to return to his country once a year. Onam is that day of the year and the people of Kerala rejoice the homecoming of their King. Elaborate flower motifs are made in front of their houses to welcome him and a fully vegetarian feast is cooked to satisfy the Kings palate. The Malayalis wear their traditional dresses, laden with gold ornaments and exchange gifts.

Trichur Pooram is celebrated in the sweltering heat of the summer season at the Vadakkunathan Temple in Trichur. It is believed that on this day the respective deities of other temples visit Vadakkunathan temple. Nine Deities from the neighbouring temples pay homage to Lord Shiva at the Temple. Processions of beautifully caparisoned elephants provide a magnificent spectacle. The festival is rounded off at night by dazzling firework displays. It is only on the day of Trichur Pooram that the non-Hindus are allowed to enter the ancient temple of Vadakkunathan.

The southern most state on the eastern coast of India is Tamil Nadu. This southern state is popularly known as the temple state of India. The main local festival celebrated here is the Pongal. Pongal is the harvest festival celebrated for three days in Tamil Nadu. Bhogi is celebrated on January 13, Pongal on January 14 and Mattu Pongal on January 15 every year. During this time people wear new clothes and draw beautiful motifs in front of their houses with rice flour. The cattle too is decorated and rested during this time. Sweet made of the first rice is cooked, which is known as the Pongal.

Commonly known as the Float Festival, this magnificent festival is celebrated in Madurai. On the night of the full moon in January, ornamented icons of goddess Meenakshi and her consort are taken out in a colourful procession to the huge Mariamman Teppakulam. The icons are floated in the tank on a raft decked with flowers and flickering lamps. The Meenakshi Kalyanam is a ten day festival, which takes place in April – May at Madurai. On this day the Goddess Meenakshi is wedded to Lord Shiva. The deities are taken out in the decorated chariots and the festival is celebrated with lot of pomp and show.

The Karthigai Deepam festival can be termed as an extension of Diwali in Tamil Nadu as it falls just after the main festival of Diwali. It is the festival dedicated to the immortal light created by lord Shiva. Many houses add one lamp for the day from Diwali and by this day the houses are full of Lamps. The lamps are worshipped and they burn day and night also on the streets.

Situated on the Coromandel Coast, about 160 km south of Chennai, lies the Union Territory of Pondicherry. The French ruled this territory for 300 years, and today, it stands as a living monument of the French culture in India. Festivals are organized nearly every month in Pondicherry. With the still persistent French influence, the festivals although similar, have a slight difference from the rest of India. Pongal of Tamil Nadu is celebrated with equal fervour in Pondicherry. The Masimagam festival in mid March is a huge celebration when deities of around 50 odd temples from nearby reach Pondicherry. A sanctimonious sea bath is then held on the beach. Thousands come to witness and participate in this festival.  The Veerampattinam and the Villianur Car Festival are held in July and May respectively. The deities of these temples are taken out on carriages, which are drawn by devotees. Masquerade, held in March - April, is a popular mask festival, during which brilliantly costumed and masked people of Pondicherry, dance down the streets to the music of trumpets and accordions. During the Eve of the Bastille Day in July, retired soldiers parade the streets in war finery, singing the French and Indian National Anthem.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Festivals of India (Part 4)

September, October and November are the three months in the Indian calendar when festivals are followed by other festivals and rejoicing never ends. The weather starts cooling by this time. The rains have just stopped. The nature is in its full bloom. Flowers, fruits and vegetables are in abundance and of course that gives a reason to rejoice in forms of various festivals. Every state individually have heir own festivals and some festivals are common.


By the end of September and in the beginning of October comes the nine day and nine nights’ festivities called the Navaratri. This festival is celebrated for nine continuous days. These nine nights the people worship the Shakti and her forms. Temples are decorated and deities are worshipped. Some people also keep fast for nine days and some refrain from having non vegetarian food and alcoholic drinks. The festival is celebrated all around the country although in different ways and is termed differently; the basic reason remains the same. Actually India celebrates two Navaratris. This one is known as the Sharadiya or the Akalbodhan. Legend says that Goddess of Shakti is to be worshipped during the Vasant Navaratri. But Ram wanted to worship the Goddess at this time, a wrong time of the year, before his war with Ravan. So he invoked the Goddess and worshipped her. Since then this Navaratri has become more famous. More so as Ram won over the demon king Ravan on the tenth day.


The birthday of the great Indian leader, on October 2nd, called as the father of the Indian Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, is the third and last national festival celebrated by India. Homage is paid to the great leader by various dignitaries on this day. All religion prayers are held and people enjoy a holiday.


The grand finale to the nine day festivities of Navaratri is the Dushera. It is said that Prince Ram of Ayodhya won over the demon King Ravan on this very day. This is also considered as the last day of exile of the Pandavas in the epic of Mahabharat. It is celebrated all over India as one of the most pious days according to the Hindu religion. Huge effigies of the demon King Ravan and his son and brother are made and then burnt. People wear new clothes and rejoice and make sweets and distribute them. It is known Dasara, Vijaya Dashami and Duserah in various parts of the country but celebrated with equal enthusiasm. The festival marks the win of good over the evil.


The most famous and also the most awaited festival of the Indians falling in late October and early November is the festival of lights, Diwali or Deepavali. This festival of lights means triumph of the good over the evil. It falls in late October or early November every year and is celebrated by all with great enthusiasm. People specially buy new clothes, renovate or colour their houses. A variety of dishes, sweet and spicy, both are made. People burn crackers and hang lanterns in front of their doors. According to legends after killing the demon King Ravana, Ram, came back home after an exile of 14years. That was the time during Diwali. It is also said that Krishna also killed Narak, the demon on this day.

The Goddess of wealth is worshipped on this day. This festival falls on the darkest night of the year; therefore innumerous lamps are lit all around India to wipe out the darkness. Two days later falls the festival of Bhai Duj, Bhai phota, or Bhau bij. The sisters worship Gods and pray for their brothers’ well being on this day. A celebration of lights, sweets and colours is what Diwali is all about.


The first full moon night falling after Diwali is the Guru Nanak Jayanti; that is the birthday of the first Sikh Guru. The Sikh community all over India celebrates this festival with great exuberance. They burn crackers and decorate their houses with lights.


This festival celebrated by the Muslims varies in dates. Sometimes it may fall in summer while sometime in winter. It is believed that God conveyed the message of Koran to Hazarat Mohammed through Gabriel in the days of Ramzan. The whole month of Ramzan is sacred. All through this month the devout Muslims keep strict fast during the day. After sunset, Namaz is offered and then the fast is broken. It begins with the new moon and terminates with next new moon. The last day is known as the Id – ul- fitr. This day is celebrated by the people. People wear new clothes, prepare sweets and greet each other.

The month of December is the coldest all over India. But the southern parts of the country and the coastal areas are soothingly pleasant and cool. December mostly does not have any religious festival other than Christmas. But all over India some or the other cultural festival is on during this time of the year. The schools organize picnics and sports and cultural festivals. The crisp air rejuvenates the spirits and people wait eagerly for the New Year to come.


The only religious festival falling in the last month of the solar calendar is Christmas. The festival is the celebration of the birth off Jesus Christ to Virgin Mary. The Christian community of India celebrates this festival with all the glitter and glamour. Churches are lighted up, bakery shops and houses are decorated. People buy new clothes and eat goodies. Carols are sung and Santa Clause entertains children. Mass and sermons are held in the Church and whole air is filled up with festivity which in some places lingers till the New Year dawns.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Festivals of India (Part 3)

Around the month of April, the summers are already on. The days are hot and become hotter in the south by the end of the month. April normally comprises many regional festivals. Mostly because it is the first month in the Hindu calendar.

India has a large Jain community which celebrates the birth of the last, the 24th Teerthankar, Lord Mahavir. The Jains celebrate the birth anniversary of Mahavir, the founder of Jainism on a large scale. This religious event is largely observed by visiting sacred sites and worshipping the Teerthankars.


The Hindu New year is celebrated through out the country in nearly all the states with different names. People mainly cook and eat sweets and wear new clothes and wish each other on this occasion. They sing and dance and start with new ventures on this day.


The ninth day of the first month in the Hindu calendar is celebrated as the day of birth of the Hindu God, incarnation of Vishnu and the hero of the epic Ramayana, Lord Ram. The festival is celebrated all over the country with people fasting and worshipping the Lord for the whole day. Ramnavami is also celebrated as the Vasant Navratra and the celebration starts from the first lunar day of the bright fortnight of Chaitra and lasts up to Ramnavami. On Ashthami or the eighth day, Durga is worshipped. Both Ram and Durga symbolize the victory of good over the evil.


Good Friday falling in April is observed by the Christians as the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. More than a celebration, it is the commemoration of the crucification. Christians in India observe fast 40 days prior to this period known as the lent. Masses and prayers are held. Two days later it’s Easter. Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a day of great rejoicing and merry-making. Easter symbolizes the ultimate victory of good, over evil. Feasts are given, sweets exchanged and processions taken out on this occasion. Edible artificial and hard-boiled eggs are given on Easter as gifts among the Christian society in India.

The scorching Indian summer starts by late April in the southern parts of India and by mid – May the Sun rays just roast the people all over India. Only the places at the foot hills of the Himalayas, or those surrounded by mountains, experience cool weather, during this time of the year. Many Hill stations of India organize various festivals to attract tourists in May. There are hardly any festivities during this time of the year.

On the full moon day falling in May is the Buddha Pournima. A great day for the followers of Buddhism, who believe, that Lord Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and also left the mortal world on this very day. Huge celebrations and prayers are held at Bodhgaya in India and elsewhere also. The day is spent chanting hymns and prayers all day long.

Summers continue in the month of June and July brings down the showers all over India. After the first rains the farmers are busy tilling the soil and pray for a good harvest. Small festivities regarding these prayers are celebrated regionally during this time of the year. The showers have slowed down by the month of August. This is supposed to be the most pious month in the Hindu calendar, called as the month of Shravan. Onset of Shravan brings festivities and celebrations throughout India.

The first full moon falling in August celebrates the relations between a brother and a sister. On this day sisters tie a sacred thread called Rakhi on their brothers’ wrists and pray for their well being while the brothers return the love by gifting them and promising to take care of the sisters for the rest of their lives. This full moon day is celebrated as Nariyal or the Coconut Pournima along the coastal areas of India. It is basically festival of the fishermen who pray the sea God seeking his permission to venture into the sea to fish, after rest of two months, which is the peak monsoon season. Sweets made of coconut are prepared and everyone enjoys. In South India, it is celebrated as Avani Avittam. The holy thread is changed and libation of water is offered to the ancestors and Rishis on this occasion.


India gained independence from the British on 15th August 1947. This day is celebrated as the National day in India. The Prime Minister of India hoists the tri colour on the historic Red Fort in Delhi and gives a speech addressing the nation. The day is celebrated vibrantly by people and especially young children by making and hoisting flags and singing the national anthem. Chief Minister of various states hoists the flag and address the state.


Eighth day of the black half in the month of Shravan is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu. Legend says that the Lord was born in the midnight and it was raining heavily then. People all around the country celebrate this festival with equal fervour. They fast the whole day and rejoice the birth in the middle of the night by breaking the fast. Songs and dances are performed all around the temples of India and children make a small display of the birth scene of Lord Krishna.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Festivals of India (Part 2)

Although normally the Indian calendars are based on the moon and the New Year begins sometime around March – April,  we shall see the festivals from January.

The month of January is very cold in the northern region of India where the temperatures vary from 10 degree Celsius to 10 degrees below the freezing level. But the rest of the India enjoys the most pleasant climate during this time of the year.

Probably the only Hindu festival that falls on the stipulated date, that is January 14th ,  every year. This is the time when the Sun changes its course and comes into the northern hemisphere. This is known as the Uttarayan of the Sun in the sun sign of Capricorn or Makar. This day is celebrated in various ways all around the country. Just the names are different. It is known as Pongal in the south, when the people celebrate the harvest and make puddings out of the first paddy that is cut. In the north the previous day is celebrated as Lohri, when the people light huge bon – fires and sing and dance around it. All around India, sweets made of jaggery and various nuts made and eaten as they help the body fight the cold winter. People in the western part of the country fly kites on this day. The city of Ahemedabad in Gujarat holds a big Kite festival on this occasion for which people from various countries come and participate.


India was formed as a republic country on January 26th 1950. This day is celebrated as the Republic day and is a National Holiday. It is celebrated all over the country where the Governors of the state hoist the National Flag and take the honour of Guards. It is celebrated in an exuberant and grand scale in the Capital, Delhi. The President hoists the national flag and takes the guard of honour from all the  three forces. There is a spectacular show of all the armed forces, with tableaus of various states and dances and songs performed on the Rajpath. The grand finale is performed by the spectacular show of the fighter planes. This beautiful ceremony is attended by dignitaries and commoners too and is telecasted live on television. People are honoured for their distinguished job on this day.

The month of February brings along with the on setting of spring and crisp air. Other than the places near the Himalayas the whole country gets ready to welcome the spring. Practically, the best month to tour, the whole of India.


This festival dedicated to Lord Shiva is celebrated all over India. There are many legends in the Indian mythology which gives the reason behind celebrating this festival. People not only pray the Lord on this day but also keep a fast and refrain from sleeping in the night. Especially the married ladies pray for a long life for their husbands. Legends say that Lord Shiva married Parvati on this day. Another story goes that it was this day when the Lord assumed a form of Lingam. Some say this was the day when he consumed the poison from the ocean, while others say that it was on this day that he asked Ganga to come down and purify the earth.


Although the Muslim festivals follow their own calendar, the Bakri Id as it is popularly known is celebrated around February or March every year. It celebrates the sacrifice of Hazrat Ibrahim, who willingly agreed to kill his son at the behest of God. To celebrate the event, Muslims sacrifice one animal per family or group of families. There are prayers in mosques, feasting, and rejoicing. New clothes are worn and visits and greetings are exchanged.
The month March brings in the spring season in the north when the days are pleasant and nights are cool, while it gives a hint of approaching summer in the south. It is supposed to be the last month in the Hindu calendar.

Another Muslim festival that falls around March is the Muharram. It is not a festival to celebrate but a day is remembered and mourned as the martyr’s day of Imam Hussein. People take out big taziyas or processions on this day crying and mourning for Hussein. In some places people hit themselves and hurt themselves trying to remember the sufferings of Hussein.


One of the biggest festivals celebrated all over India. Holi is the last festival in the Hindu calendar and is celebrated by young and old, rich and poor and people from all the religions alike. It is the festival to welcome the spring and summer. People smear colours and splash water on each other and have fun. Sweets are prepared and people play with water and colours till late in the afternoon. Myriad colors of the blossoming flowers coupled with the tender green leaves, the melodious chirping of the birds, and an aura of romance and merriment marks the advent of the season of spring or Vasant. Holi enhances the romance of this season with its splurge of colors.

Keep reading for more...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Festivals of India (Part 1)

India will amaze you. This has been said too often but not without a reason. The Vast oceans and great rivers in the plains; the enchanting sea beaches and the calm back waters of the south; the Jungles and the snow capped mountains of the north; the ancient Temples, Churches, Mosques and Gurudwaras; a melting pot of nearly all the religions and various cultures; rich with flora and fauna and technically forward country, India is a traveller’s dream come true. A visit to India will change your life. 

The Indian calendar is full of festivals starting form the birthdays of Deities, saints and prophets to celebration of various seasons and mythological stories. Some of the festivals are celebrated as national days.

The huge subcontinent has ancient civilization and is an inheritor to a rich and diverse cultural tradition. Festivals and Fairs play a definite role to add to the enchantment, and help exploring the rich 4000 year old culture of India. The Fairs and Festivals celebrated across the length and breadth of the land present a fascinating pageant and showcase the resplendence of its arts and crafts tradition. Some festivals are of religious nature, others are linked with the lives of the people, change of seasons and harvesting. Each festival is unique in style and is characterized by color, gaiety, enthusiasm, feasts and heterogeneity of prayers and rituals. And although each religion celebrates their own festivals, they also participate in the other festivals with equal enthusiasm and fervor making the festivals typically Indian. Last but not the least, although most of the Indian festivals carry legends behind them, there is some scientific reason attached to them. Like Holi, which marks the end of winter and therefore splash of water is necessary. Diwali, which is the darkest and the coldest night, is lighted up with innumerous lamps all over, so on and so forth. Each festival in the Indian calendar carries a legend and a reason behind the celebration, which also includes the food that is eaten during the particular festival.

India is a vast country with different demography hence every region and state have their own ways of celebrating their festivals. Some of them are celebrated in a common way while some are very regional festivals.

1. Common festivals:

Although normally the Indian calendars are based on the moon and the New Year begins sometime around March – April,  we shall see the festivals from January.

The month of January is very cold in the northern region of India where the temperatures vary from 10 degree Celsius to 10 degrees below the freezing level. But the rest of the India enjoys the most pleasant climate during this time of the year.

Keep reading more to come on my next post....

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Diwali : The Festival of Lights

The most famous and also the most awaited festival of the Indians falling in late October and early November is the festival of lights, Diwali or Deepavali. This festival of lights means triumph of the good over the evil. It falls in late October or early November every year and is celebrated by all with great enthusiasm. People specially buy new clothes, renovate or colour their houses. A variety of dishes, sweet and spicy, both are made. People burn crackers and hang lanterns in front of their doors. According to legends after killing the demon King Ravana, Ram, came back home after an exile of 14years. That was the time during Diwali. It is also said that Krishna also killed Narak, the demon on this day. 

The Goddess of wealth is worshiped on this day. This festival falls on the darkest night of the year; therefore in-numerous lamps are lit all around India to wipe out the darkness. Two days later falls the festival of Bhai Duj, Bhai phota, or Bhau bij. The sisters worship Gods and pray for their brothers’ well being on this day. A celebration of lights, sweets and colours is what Diwali is all about. 

Dewali is celebrated as Kalipuja in West Bengal, Kali Pooja is one of the major festivals for people in West Bengal and they celebrate the occasion with much funfair and enthusiasm. Just as people in North India light lamps to honor Lakshmi Ma during Lakshmi Puja, people in West Bengal celebrate Kali Pooja by lighting lamps in honor of Goddess Kali. Houses are decorated and elaborate lighting is done throughout the house. Elaborate Kali Pooja is carried out during the evening. As Goddess Kali is regarded as the Goddess to be feared Bengalis leave no stone unturned in carrying out a special Pooja for her. The Kali pooja is said to be one of the symbols of great power. This pooja is always performed in the evening. Due to its perception as being a source of power, many sadhus (holy men) perform this pooja just before midnight. This is to ask the goddess for supernatural powers so that they might be able to help humanity. Through Puja people seek happiness, prosperity and protection against hardships.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Kozhikode: Historical Town of Prominence

Calicut, the most important city of Malabar region of Kerala, was a leading trading center for spices on the West Coast of India during the medieval period. Ruled by the Zamorin Dynasty, Calicut found a place in World History with the discovery of sea route to India in 1498 by the Portuguese navigator Vasco Da Gama. The landing of Gama at Kapat near Calicut changed the political scenarios of India, which ultimately ended with its colonization by the British. It remained under the Madras Presidency till the formation of Kerala in 1956 after independence.

Location: Calicut or Kozhikode is situated in the south Indian state of Kerala on the southwest coast of the Arabian Sea. The district extends from latitude 11°15' N to 75°49' E. Basking in the idyllic setting of the serene Arabian Sea on the west and mesmeric peaks of the Wayanad hills on the east, this district has all the required ingredients to fascinate a tourist.

Other Name: Calicut
Languages Spoken: Malayalam, English, and Hindi
Long Distance Code +91-495
International Access: Calicut International Airport
Area: 2345
Best Time to Visit: September to May

Kozhikode Attractions

Kozhikode Beach
The coastline along Kozhikode, located on the eastern part of the city, offers you a long stretch of uninterrupted sandy beach. You can see and enjoy the glorious spectacle of the setting sun from this beach. The Lighthouse, the Lions Park (children park) and the Aquarium (which has a good collection of marine life and freshwater fish) are interesting places to visit on this beach.

Kappad in Calicut is the place where Vasco de Gama set foot for the first time when he came to India on May 27, 1498. There is a small stone monument at the beach to commemorate that event. Pazhassirajah Museum is located on the East Hill. It is run by the State Archeological Department. Ancient mural paintings, antique bronzes, old coins, models of temples, and megalithic structures are on display here. Situated next to Pazhassirajah Museum is an art gallery displaying paintings of Raja Ravi Varma. Dolphin's Point is a good place to watch dolphins playing in the sea early in the morning. On this beach are also situated Calicut Town Center, Lions Club, and a lighthouse. Two crumbling piers, more than hundred years old, stand out into sea at Kozhikode beach. The beach is easily accessible from the city and provides a good view of the setting sun. The place also has a Marine Life Aquarium open whole day.

The Science Planetarium at Jaffarkhan Colony is the best place to unravel the mysteries of universe and enlightens about the planets and stars. The Science Center has an interesting array of games, puzzles, and scientific gadgetry, which can keep a person busy for the whole day. The planetarium and Science Center are in the same complex. Mananchira, which was the palace tank of King Mana Vikrama, has been now turned into a traditional architectural splendor with carpeted green grass and surrounded by ethnic buildings. The place also has a musical fountain.

There is a dam at Kakkayam, located around 45 km from Calicut. The place offers challenging trekking and rock-climbing through river path and numerous waterfalls. There is another dam at Peruvannamoozhy, 60 km from Calicut. It is a place of beauty, calm, and serenity. The place has a crocodile farm run by the state forest department.

Pazhassiraja Museum
You can have a glimpse of the rich historic past of Kozhikode in the Pazhassiraja Museum, which is located at East Hill, 5 km from the city. The state archaeological department runs this museum. The various galleries within this museum have an extensive collection of artifacts that range from ancient coins, bronze objects, copies of ancient murals, etc., depicting the rich cultural heritage of this region. The exhibits of the megaliths (huge prehistoric monuments) are quite interesting. This museum is open for public viewing from 10 am to 12.30 pm and from 2.30 pm to 5 pm everyday except on Mondays and public holidays.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Orchha : The kingdom lost in Obscurity

An inevitable journey to Orchha while visiting Khajuraho to or fro Delhi is a delightful surprise. All the routes for Delhi to Khajuraho or Agra to Khajuraho go via Orchha. Orchha now nothing but a small tiny village, is one of those many villages of India which live in obscurity despite having great potential. Orchha some say means hidden, as the Rajput kings were pushed back from their Bundelkhand residence and they resorted to this place, there for the name , Orchha.

Around 170 kms from the erotic temples of Khajuraho this small village must once have been a flourishing empire. The lost empire has left many of its impressions on this village. Situated on the banks of Betwa River, Orchha was founded by the Rajput Chieftain Rudra Pratap in the 16th century. Between 1531 to 1783 it remained the capital of the locally powerful Rajput Kingdom. The subsequent rulers after Rudra Pratap added many structures here which only enhanced the beauty of the previous ones, before finally shifting their capital to Tikamgarh.

The Fort of Orchha is what Orchha is all about. Though almost in ruins, still one can imagine the grandeur of the structure that it must once have been. The most notable king of Orchha was Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo. He built many palace and temples in the fort.

The most important monument inside the fort is the Jehangir Mahal, built to commemorate the visit of Emperor Jehangir to Orchha. The beautiful palace is built in tiers and is crowned by equally beautiful Chhatris on the top. The view from above is just stupendous. Built by Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo, this is the most exquisite palace of the fort.

The Raj Mahal gives a clear picture, of the royalty with which the kings lived. The Raj Mahal still holds some beautiful murals on the walls and the palace gives a spectacular view of the Jehangir Mahal and the Chaturbhuj temple.

This palace turned temple with its soaring spires and palatial architecture is one of the most unusual in India. The Ram Raja Temple, they say was built by accident. An idol of Lord Ram as brought from Ayodhya and installed in this palace initially till the temple was being built. But later on it became impossible to remove the idol and thus this to be palace was made into a sacred place. The actual temple where the idol was to be worshiped still stands as the Chaturbhuj Temple. Lotus emblems and other symbols of religious significance provide the delicate exterior ornamentation. Last but not the least is the Lakshmi Narayan Temple. The interiors are exquisitely beautiful as that of his exteriors. It contains some of the most beautiful murals and paintings of Orchha.

Apart from the famous landmarks the whole area is dotted with big and small shrines and cenotaphs which only add to the beauty of this small place.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


An Enchanting Plantation Town Thekkady, located in central Kerala, is a popular hill station and a wildlife centre. This town, which is an important plantation centre, conjures up images of elephants, unending chains of hills and spice scented plantations.

In the Periyar Forest of Thekkady is one of the finest wildlife reserves of India and spread across the entire district are picturesque plantations and hill towns that hold immense opportunities for treks and mountain walks. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary offers a fairly good chance of seeing the great Indian tiger in its natural habitat.

Location: The drive to Thekkady itself is enchanting as the road winds through tranquil countryside, rich plantations & thick jungles. The sanctuary, 60 km from Idukki, 190 km from Cochin and 114 km away from Kottayam is open throughout the year, but the best season is from September to March.

Other Name Periyar
Languages Spoken: Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi and English.
Long Distance Code: +91-486
Importance: Houses one of the best sanctuaries in India, Periyar.
Best Time To Visit: September To March

Thekkady Attractions:

The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

Lying close to the plantations, in the rich jungles of Periyar in Thekkady is one of the worlds most fascinating natural wildlife reserves - the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Spread across 777 sq. km, of which 360 sq. km is thick evergreen forest, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1978. Noted for its geo-morphological diversity of wildlife and scenic beauty, the Reserve attracts visitors from all over the world. The splendid artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam across the Periyar River adds to the charm of the park.

This is the only sanctuary in India where you can have the unique experience of viewing wildlife at close quarters from the safety of a boat on the lake. The greatest attraction of Periyar remains the large herds of wild elephants that come down to the lake's edge.


The river Periyar flowing through the centre of this town nourishes its vast tea, coffee and pepper plantations. A major trade centre, Vandiperiyar is also home to a number of tea factories. The Government Agriculture Farm and Flower Gardens have a delightful array of rose plants, orchids and anthodium.
(18 km from Thekkady)


This sleepy little village with its spectacular view of the plains and cascading waterfalls during the monsoons is a feast to the eyes. The village slopes down to the famous coconut groves of Kumbam in neighboring Tamil Nadu.
(15 km from Kumily)


This plantation town, closely associated with Thekkady, is situated on the outskirts of the Periyar Sanctuary. It is an important shopping centre and spice trade centre, the main bus station and most of the medium range accommodation in the Periyar region is in Kumily.
(4 km from Thekkady)

Mangala Devi Temple

This ancient temple is hidden in the dense woods at the top of a peak 1337 m above sea level. The temple is built in the traditional Kerala Style of Architecture. Visitors are allowed here only on the Chithra Pournami festival day. The peak commands a panoramic view of the other side of the ghats and the vast plains of Tamil Nadu. Permission to visit the area can be obtained from the Wildlife Warden at Thekkady.
(15 km from Thekkady)


(43 km from Thekkady,)
The winding journey to this hill town, along the Periyar river, offers a stunning view of the rolling hills draped in lush greenery. Velvet lawns, rare flora and fauna add to the beauty of Pullumedu, which can be accessed from a jeep.The famous Sree Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala and the Makara Joythi illuminations at the shrine are visible from here. Since it is part of the restricted forest zone, special permission to visit Pullumedu has to be obtained from the Wildlife Preservation Officer, Thekkady or The Range Officer, Vallakkadavu.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tirupati : The abode of Lord Venkateshwara

Tirupati is famous world wide as the abode of Lord Venkateshwara popularly known as Tirupati Balaji an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. One of the most sacred pilgrimage Hindu site, the town is visited by hundreds and thousands of devotees from all over the world every year. The presiding deity Vishnu is enshrined in this temple, located on a range of the Eastern Ghats, called the Seven Hills representing the seven hoods of Adisesha, thus earning the name Seshachalam. The seven peaks are called Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrishabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri.

Location: Situated in the extreme southeast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, Tirupati is situated in the Chitoor district. It is about 3200 feet above the sea level and comprises of seven peaks. Tirupati is 137 km from Chennai, 258 km from Bangalore, and 562 km from Hyderabad.

Languages Spoken: Telgu and English
Long Distance Code: +91-8574
Importance: Richest temple ofthe world
Area: 27 sq.kms.
Best Time To Visit: October To May
Tirupati Attractions


A shrine dedicated to Kalyana Venkateswara is a major attraction at Narayanavanam; a small town situated about 22 km southeast of Tirupati-Balaji. Legend has it that Lord Venkateswara married Padmavathi Devi, the daughter of Akasa Raja, at this place. To commemorate this great event, Akasa Raja built the temple here.        
The Venkateshwaraswamy or Tirupati Balaji Temple

Situated at the height of 3200 feet above sea level on the seventh peak, is the world''s richest temple dedicated to Tirupati Balaji. Tirupati, meaning husband of Goddess Lakshmi. The town is known as Tirupati while the seven hills are known as Tirumala. All the rulers of the great dynasties in the southern peninsula have paid homage to Lord Sri Venkateshwara in this ancient shrine. The Pallavas of Kancheepuram, the Cholas of Thanjavur, the Pandyas of Madurai and the kings and chieftains of Vijaynagar have been devotees of this shrine. The history of the temple dates back to as far as 9th Century A.D, when Pallavas, the rulers of Kancheepuram, patronized this shrine. But it was not until the time of Vijayanagara dynasty in 15th Century AD that the temple got recognition, and the contributions started pouring in.

Many legends are attached to the temple and the devotees believe that the Lord would fulfill all their wishes, hence a large number of devotees visit this place daily. It is one of the most famous shrines in the country where an uninterrupted worship of the Lord has been carried out for over thirteen centuries. Even today, Tirupati draws enormous crowds throughout the year. The view of the deity profusely ornamented from tip to toe is in itself awe-inspiring. The idol of Sri Venkateswara has attributes of both Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer-two of the three aspects of the Hindu Trinity.

There are many festivals attached with the temple which also draw a huge crowd. One of the most important among these festivals is the Brhamotsav festival. Celebrated annually in September, the festival is especially grand every third year. On the final day of of the festival, the image of Lord Venkateshwara is taken out in procession in a spectacular white horse-drawn chariot. During the spectacular deepakulam ceremony, this ancient temple tank is full of decorated boats and thousands of brass lamps are reflected in the water. Another important festival taking place is the The Vijayanagar Festival held for three days at the historic Chandragiri Fort near Tirupati-Balaji in the third week of October every year. The fort is a living testimony to the valour of the rulers of Vijayanagar, and the festival coincides with the annual Brahmotsavam at the Tirupati-Balaji Temple. Musicians and dancers from all over the state come here to perform during the festival. The Rayalseema Food Festival is also held at the same time. During this festival, most of the local delicacies of the state are presented.

The small town of Nagalapuram, around 65 kms from Tirupati is famous for its Sri Vedanarayana Swamy Temple. Also an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the idol is in form of Matsya or fish incarnation accompanied by Sri Devi and Bhu Devi. The beautiful temple, which is a fine specimen of the of the Vijayanagar style of architecture was constructed by the Vijayanagar emperor, Sri Krishna Devaraja at the behest of his mother. An important aspect of the temple is the Sun worship. The temple has been constructed in a way that every year in the month of March the rays of the sun pass through its gopuram and fall on the idol in the sanctum for three days.     

Padmavati Devi Temple

The smal village of Tiruchanur, around 5 kms from Tirupati has this large temple dedicated to goddess Padmavati, the consort of Lord Venkateshwara. Also known as Alamelumangapuram, the visit to the Lord is fruitful only after visiting the Padmavati Devi temple. The beautiful idol of the deity is holding a lotus in both of her upper hands while the lower hands are in poses of Abhaya, fearlessness, and Varada, benediction. There are idols of Lord krishna and Balarama and also of the Sun god present in this temple. According to a legend Goddess Padmavati emerged from the lake here, sitting on a Golden Lotus, after she had taken penace for 12 years in rage, when Lord Balaji was insulted by Sage Bhrigu. The visit to Tirupati remains incomplete if one does not visit the temple of Padmavati.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mathura : Birthplace of Lord Krishna

Around 60 kms from Agra on the road to Delhi are the holy twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan. Associated with the birthplace of Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, these twin cities are special pilgrimage centers and are thronged by devotees round the year.

Situated on the bank of River Yamuna, Mathura is an ancient city known since ages. Although it is said to be the birthplace of the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna, the history of this place can be traced back to the period of Ashok and even before that. Mathura has a strategic location, which ensured it to be the important place for trade and commerce. The archaeological findings from this place take us back to 5th century B.C. when it became the eastern capital of the King Kanishka of the Kushan dynasty. During the Gupta and the Maurya dynasties, the art and culture of this place flourished and grew into an industry. It became a major place for trading and learning.

Today all that remains of that history has been preserved in the museum and the town of Mathura has become famous for its temples.

The whole area is known as the Braj Bhoomi, which includes the place where Lord Krishna was born, and also the places like Nandgaon, his foster father's village and Gokul where he stayed and played with his friends. Vrindavan is around 15 kms from Mathura is also associated with the life of Lord Krishna, and hence is important pilgrimage place.

The ancient temples, the picturesque Ghats on the bank of River Yamuna, the invocating prayers and songs for the God and the Pedhas, sweets prepared of milk is what Mathura is famous for today.

Location: The city of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, is located at a distance of 145 km south-east of Delhi and 58 km north-west of Agra. Covering an area of about 3,800 sq. km., today, Brajbhoomi can be divided into two distinct units - the eastern part in the trans-Yamuna tract with places like Gokul, Mahavan, Baldeo, Mat and Bajna and the western side of the Yamuna covering the Mathura region that encompasses Vrindavan, Govardhan, Kusum Sarovar, Barsana and Nandgaon. In a nutshell, the land of Braj starts from Kotban near Hodel about 95 km from Delhi and ends at Runakuta which is known specially for its association with the poet Surdas, an ardent Krishna devotee.

Other Name : Brajbhoomi
Languages Spoken :  Hindi, Braj, English
Long Distance Code :  +91-565
Importance : Famous as the birth place of Lord Krishna
Area : 3800 sqkms
Best Time To Visit : October To March & During the month of July-August to witness the Janmashtami celebrations.

Mathura Attractions:

The Raslila Dance

The Raslila dance performance of the Braj area is very famous. This traditional dance form is being performed for ages today. The dance steps are those which are unique to the place and the steps are taken in accordance with the folk songs that accompany them. Normally the Raslila dances are the folk tales and mythological stories based on the life of Krishna, his pranks and his youthful romance with the Gopis and Radharani. Till date the Raslila is performed with much vigour and enthusiasm in the area.


This temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and his elder brother Balaram is structure in pure white build by the followers of the Hare Ram, Hare Krishna group in 1975. One of the most beautiful temples of the sect, this one in Vrindavan is very clean and has beautiful idols of the two deities.

Jugal Kishore Temple

One of the oldest remaining structures in the area is the Jugal Kishore temple. This temple was built along with four others. It was built in 1627 A.D. but the permission was granted by Emperor Akbar in his visit to the place. The other temples build along with this were the Radharaman temple, the Govindji temple and the Gopinath temple. Most of these temples have lost their old structure in some attack or the original idol has been smuggled away to save it from the wrath. Therefore it is only the Jugal Kishore temple which still stands in the same place and with the original structure and the deity and hence it is considered to be most important one.

The Vishram Ghat

According to mythology, Lord Krishna killed his maternal uncle Kansa in Mathura when he was still a young boy. Kansa was an evil man who has imprisoned Krishna''s parents and grandfather and would torture his subjects. After killing the evil man Krishna came and rested at this place on the bank of River Yamuna. So this place is called as the Vishram Ghat or the place to rest.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Puri : The Abode of Lord Jagannath

Puri, commonly known to Indians as Jagannath Puri, is one of the four major sacred sites for the Hindus all over the world. The seat of the hallowed God, Lord Jagannath, Puri, was once part of the Kalinga Kingdom which was brought under the rule of the Maurya dynasty, under the mighty Ashoka. Puri used to be a hilly region in the ancient times and is believed to have been inhabited by the Sabaras, a tribe belonging to pre-Aryan and pre Dravidian Austric linguistic group.

Most famous for the Jagannath temple, Puri also has a beautiful and virgin beach. This is one of the most unexploited beaches in India. This is a small town and the life of this town is all centered round the activities related to the Lord Jagannath and the temple. It is as if the sleepy town wakes up to the glory of the Lord during the annual Car festival or the Rath Yatra of the Lord; this when the whole town comes alive with devotees and enthusiasts who come from all over the world to watch this mega event.

Location: Just about 60 kms from the capital of Bhubaneshwar stands the holy beach town of Puri. Surrounded by the Bay of Bengal and the rice-growing alluvial plain on its east, Khurda district on its west, Sambalpur on its south and the state capital Bhubaneshwar on its northern side, it is an important sacred site for the Hindus. Puri is the neighbour of another important Hindu site of India, the Sun temple of Konark. The district of Puri encompasses most of the Chilika Lake.

Languages Spoken: Oriya, English and Bengali
Long Distance Code: +91-6752
Importance: Famous for Jagannath temple
Area: 16.84 sqkms
Best Time To Visit: October To February
Puri Attractions

The Temple of Lord Jagannath

One of the four sacred places for the Hindus, the Puri temple is dedicated to lord Jagannath. Jagannath literally means the Lord of the Universe. This 65meter tall temple can be seen long before entering the town of Puri. The tallest and the most magnificent temples of Orissa, the idols are the most unique as they are made of wood and have a change over after every stipulated time. The idols comprise of Balabhadra, Subhadra, and Lord Jagannath.

The Jagannath temple was built by the Kalinga King Chodganga in the beginning of the12th century. The Deities of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Chakra Sudarshan are made of Margosa wood. Lord Balabhadra is the elder brother, Lord Jagannath is Younger brother and Devi Subhadra is youngest sister. According to the legends the Lord Jagannath earlier was worshipped alone as Neelmadhab, in dense forests by a tribal king Vishwavasu. The king Indradyumna heard about it and wanted to worship the Lord. So he sent one of his spies, but the spy too could not find the exact place so eventually married Vishwavasu's daughter. At the pretext of being the son- in - law, he requested the tribal chief to take him to the deity, Vishwavasu took him blind folded. But the person outsmarted him by throwing mustard seeds all the way, which grew within few days and called King Indradyumna. But the king was disappointed when he could not find the deity there. But a divine sound assured him that he would be able to worship the Lord.The present temple was begun by King Chodganga Dev and finished by his descendant, Anangabhima Dev, in the 12th century. The main temple structure gives an imposing impression because of its height of 65m on an elevated platform. The temple has the largest kitchen in the world and feeds thousands of devotees every day. A meal for more than 100,000 people is cooked on a festive day and other days minimum of 25000 devotees are fed.

The main temple has the blue wheel called as the Neel Chakra made of alloy of eight different metals. This 11 feet 8 inches high with a circumference of about 36 feet, is perched on the top of the temple and a flag is tied every day. On every 11th day of the lunar circle a lamp is lit on top of the temple near the wheel. The temple can be entered through four gates which have their own significance. The Eastern Gate is the Singhadwara or the Lion Gate, the Southern Ashwadwara means the Horse Gate, and the Western Gate is the Vyaghradwara or the Tiger Gate, and the Northern Hastidwara which means the Elephant Gate. The animals are neatly carved on the gate, but the most commonly used is the Lion gate which falls on the main road. In front of the gate is the Aruna Stambha or the pillar of Aruna which once was situated at the Sun temple of Konark. It has the figure of the charioteer of the Sun God.

The navakalebar or the new body ceremony of the deities takes place whenever there is an extra leap month in the year. During this time various artisans are employed who have been doing this sacred duty for generations. It is not one man who makes the idol but it is made in parts by various artisans. During this time the small township takes the shape of a huge fair.

The Puri temple has always attracted invaders for its riches over the centuries but it has withstood all the attacks and the problems, as the devotees say, by the grace of Lord Jagannath. Unfortunately, non - Hindu are not allowed inside the temple, but as the legend says, just viewing the Neel Chakra on the top can give one the same emancipation as that of seeing the Lord in the temple.The Lord and his siblings are taken out in a huge procession every year in June - July and are shifted to a summer temple for a week. This procession is known as the Rath Yatra and the annual religious affair attracts tourists and devotees from all over the world.

The Beach of Puri

The beach of Puri is one of the best beaches on the Indian coastline. It has been always considered to be a sacred beach with daily thousands of devotees taking a purifying dip in its waters before visiting the Lord Jagannath temple. The clean turf and the white sands with large waves gushing towards the shores is a wonderful sight. The beach is ideal for swimming and other water sports. Tourists and devotees equally flock to the beach every morning to watch the spectacular sun rise form the shores. The rising fire ball from the waters pouring saffron in the waters and colouring the sky in various shades is indeed a magnificent sight to watch.

The Clean and clear beach is to day full of people throughout the year. Although it can be very hot in summers, the waters and the sand are beckoning enough for a tourist to come here time and again

The Gundicha Temple

The Gundicha temple which is just a km away from the Jagannath temple of Puri is also known as the aunt's house. The most famous festival of Puri, the Rath Yatra, has connections with this ancient temple. As the Rath Yatra symbolizes the departure of Lord Krishna from Gokul to Mathura, so is the Lord and his siblings taken away to the Gondicha temple for a week in their respective chariots. The Gods rest in the Gundicha temple for a week and return in the same chariots after a week. The devotees tag these Chariots which are around 14 meter tall and have six wheels each with a huge rope. Thus Gundicha has earned its name as a resting place of the Gods for a week.

The Balighai Beach

About 8 kms away from Puri is the virgin beach of Balighai. Situated on the confluence of River Nuanai and the Bay of Bengal this beautiful beach has a huge plantation of Casuarinas and has a Turtle Research Institute which one can have a glimpse at. It is also a natural habitat of the Baliharina Deer which can be spotted here.