Festivals for the Month of June, July, August
Sindhu Darshan Festival - (1 June - 3)
The Sindhu Darshan Festival, as the name suggests, is a celebration of River Sindhu, also known as the Indus. Last year, the Festival was organised from 6-8 June and was livened up by the presence of a wide variety of cultural troupes from various corners of India. Troupes from States where the mighty Rivers of India run, brought with them water from those rivers in earthen pots and immersed the pots in the Indus, thereby mingling the waters from all over India with that of the mighty 'Indus', the river that gave India its name.
As part of the celebrations, various groups from different states in India bring water from the other mighty rivers in the country in earthen pots and immerse these pots in the Sindhu River, thereby mingling the river water with other waters of the land. The Sindhu Cultural Centre was inaugurated a few years back as well as the new office complex of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council.
This complex will be helpful in bringing out the unique culture of the Ladakh region and its people.The facilities proposed at the complex include an auditorium for seating 500 people, an open-air theatre, an exhibition gallery, a music room, a small library and a souvenir shop where Ladakh handicrafts could be available to visiting tourists.
The Sindhu Darshan Festival aims at projecting the Sindhu as a symbol of multi-dimensional cultural identity, communal harmony and peaceful co-existence in India. Whilst promoting tourism to this area, this festival is also a symbolic salute to the brave soldiers of India who have bravely fought the odds at Siachin, Kargil & other places. The Sindhu Darshan Festival will help forge a bond of unity with those who live in far-flung corners of the country and provide an opportunity to visit the beautiful region of Ladakh. As a National Integration Program, the festival was welcomed by the Ladakh Buddhist Association, Shia Majilis, Sunni Anjumam, Christian Moravian Church, Hindu Trust and Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee. The three day programme will be inaugurated on June 1, 2001 at Shey is being organized by the Government of Jammu and of Kashmir with the support of Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Govt. of India. The festival promises a kaleidoscope of Indian culture and an exciting array of performing arts being brought together at an exciting place. Indian Airlines is expected to operate special flights for the festival.
The Sindhu Darshan Festival is organised annually at Leh. The first time when this Festival was organised in October 1997, over seventy people from all over India had travelled to Leh for a Darshan and Puja of the River Sindhu (Indus) which originates from the Mansarovar in Tibet.
Ganga Dussehra – 2 June
During this festival, ten days of the month are devoted to the worship of Holy River Ganga venerated by the Hindus as a mother as well as a goddess. Places such as Rishikesh, Haridwar, Garh-Mukteswar, Prayag, Varanasi etc where Ganga flows hold special significance on this day. Devotees flock to these places and Varanasi with its numerous ghats situated on the west bank of the Ganga, to touch the river water, bathe in it and take the river clay home to venerate. In Haridwar, 'aratis' are performed at twilight and a large number of devotees meditate on riverbanks.
The river Ganga holds a uniquely significant place in Indian life and consciousness. It rises at Gangotri, high in the snow-clad Himalayas. Cascading down mighty boulders, it flows into the hot plains of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and finally meets the waters of the sea in the Bay of Bengal. At Allahabad, the Ganga merges with the river Yamuna and the mythical river Saraswati. The confluence of these rivers, known as Prayag, is considered one of the most sacred spots on earth.
The Ganga, largest of the rivers of India, has been sacred to Hindus from the epic era. She is the mother who washes away all the sins of mankind. The water of the Ganga is worshipped in sealed containers in every home, sprinkled as a benediction of peace, and mven as the last sacrament.
Rathyatra - 24 June
This spectacular chariot festival celebrated for 8 days is held at the famous Jagannath Temple at Puri (Orissa). Thousands of devotees flock to Puri during the occasion, as they believe that a glimpse of Lord Jagannath in his chariot gives salvation. Images of Lord Jagannath - the Lord of the Universe, his sister Subhadra and brother Balbhadra are taken out in a procession in three immense chariots. The main chariot is 14 meters high and 10 meters square with 16 wheels.
Thousands of devotees pull these chariots to Gundicha Mandir, a temple 3 km away. After a week, on 'Ashadha Sukla Dasami', the 10th day of the bright fortnight of Ashadha (June-July), return journey or 'Bahuda Yatra' of the deities commences in the same manner from Gundicha temple to the main temple like Rath Yatra.When two months of Ashadha fall in one year, Rath Yatra is observed as the festival of 'Nabakalebar' the old deities are buried within the temple premises ('Koilibaikuntha') and are replaced by new deities, carved out of Margosa trees for which there are set procedures. Double Ashadha occurs at intervals of 8 to 19 years. Construction of the chariots begin as early as April.
Jagannath Rath Yatra or the' chariot journey of Lord Jagannatha', observed in the month of Ashadha (June-July), is a festival that celebrates the annual visit of the God to his birthplace. The Jagannath Temple at Puri, Orissa is the venue for all celebrations. Several lakh people converge at Puri for this festival. An atmosphere of almost hysterical devotion prevails on this day and in earlier years; devotees were known to have thrown themselves under the wheels of the rath in the hope of obtaining instant salvation.
Images of Jagannath, as Lord Krishna is known, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra, are taken in giant chariots to Gundicha Ghar. They stay there for a week and then return to the temple. On their journeys they are accompanied by a huge procession of people, singing and celebrating.
The Legends behind the Yatra The festival has been celebrated since ancient times. According to a legend about its origin, Jagannatha is said to have expressed his desire to visit his birthplace every year for a week. Accordingly, the deities are taken to the Gundicha Mandir every year.
According to another legend, Subhadra wanted to visit Dwarka, her parent's home, and her brothers took her there on this day. The Yatra is a commemoration of that visit.
According to the Bhagavad Purana, it is believed that it was on this day that Krishna and Balarama went to Mathura to participate in a wrestling competition, at Kansa's invitation.
Hemis Festival (1-2 July)
The courtyard of Hemis Gompa - the biggest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh - is the stage for the famous 'Hemis' festival that celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. The colourful two-day pageant falls on the 10th day (Tse-Chu) of the Tibetan lunar month. The local people are seen dressed up in their finest traditional garb for the occasion. Lamas called 'chhams' perform splendid masked dances and sacred plays to the accompaniment of cymbals, drums and long horns. The head lama presides over the function. The festival takes an auspicious turn every 12 years in the Tibetan Year of the Monkey, when the two-storey high 'Thanka' depicting Padmasambhava is displayed. This famous 'Thanka', richly embroidered with pearls and semi-precious stones, is due to be displayed at this years festival i.e in 2004. A colourful fair, displaying some beautiful handicrafts, is the special highlight of the festival.
Hemis Monastery, 40 km from Leh, it is the wealthiest, best-known and biggest gompa of Ladakh. Its popularity stems from the major annual festival held here in summer. The festival is in honour of Guru Padma Sambhav's birth anniversary. It also has the largest Thangkha in Ladakh, which is unfurled, once in 12 years (next in 2004) Hemis was built in 1630 during the reign of Sengge Namgyal, an illustrious ruler of Ladakh. It flourished under the Namgyal dynasty for the royalty favoured the Drugpa sect, which managed the monastery.
It is divided into two, the assembly hall on the right and the main temple on the left. The hall Dukhang is also used as "green room" by the dancers during the festival. The temple is known as Tshogkhang. The varandahs have a surfeit of frescoes, among them the Buddhist 'wheel of life' (Kalachakra) and the lords of the four quarters, besides the prayer wheel.
Splendid masked dances are performed to the accompaniment of cymbals, drums & long horns. A colorful fair, displaying some beautiful handicrafts, is the special highlight of the festival.
Champakulam Boat Race - 6 july
Kerala, with its winding stretches of backwaters, is famous for its native boat races held in different parts of the State in the harvest season. The Champakulam boat race, held on June 30th this year, is the first one during this season and has a tradition of centuries.
The festivities include spectacular water floats, decorated boats, Vanchipattu - the song of the oarsmen and the most thrilling Chundanvallom race. Chundans are a category of boats over 100 feet in length with raised prows. The foreign rulers first called them snake boats.
The traditional annual boat race of Kerala begins in late June and early July at Champakulam. This festival is known as ' Moolam Vallamkali'. Moolam signifies a Malayalam asterism (star or Nakshathram), Moolam of the month Mithunam.
The oldest and most popular snake boat race in Kerala, and is closely connected to the Sree Krishna Temple at Ambalappuzha. The race is held on the Champakulam Lake on the moolam day of the Malayalam month Midhunam, the day of the installation of the deity at the Temple.
Legends say that Maharaja Devanarayana of Chempakasseri, as instructed by the royal priest, built a temple at Ambalappuzha. But just before the installation of the deity he was informed that the idol was not auspicious. The king was disturbed, but his minister suggested an inspired solution. To bring down the beautiful idol of Sree Krishna - presented to Arjuna by the Lord himself, from the Karikulam temple in Kurichi. The minister with a few others went to Kurichi, met the authorities there and returned with the idol.
On the way back they stopped at Champakulam to spent the night and perform a pooja. The next morning boats from the entire region assembled to escort the idol in a colourful, ceremonial procession through the lake to the Temple. Years later the pageant is still re-enacted with the same enthusiasm. An exotic procession of water floats, boats decorated with colourful parasols and performing arts greets the spectator before the race. The race proper is held in various stages for various categories of boats.
Guru Purnima – 7 July
The full moon day in the month of Ashadh (July) of the Hindu calendar is celebrated as Guru Purnima by all Hindus all over. This day is celebrated as a mark of respect to the “Guru” i.e. a teacher or a preacher.
This day is celebrated in the sacred memory of the great sage Vyasa, the ancient saint who compiled the four Vedas, wrote 18 Puranas, the Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavata.
The day, also known as “Vyasa Purnima” is observed by devotees who offer pujas (worship) to their beloved Gurus. Sage Vyasa is known to be the Adi (original) Guru of the Hindu religion. The auspicious day of Vyaasa Poornima has a great significance as everybody knows that the role of a Guru in real life is very much important.
Hindus show much respect to their gurus. Gurus are often regarded as God. The Shvetashvatara Upanishad (6/23) tells :
“Yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau
Tasyaite kathitaa hi arthaaha prakashante mahatmanaha”
This means, Guru to be worshipped in the same manner as the deity - God, to attain all there is to attain on the path of God-realization. When this Self is within you where is the need to search for someone to teach you!
On this day several programs and cultural performances are organized by spiritual organizations. Divine discourse and bhajan samarohas are also organized to make the day more special.
In India, Guru Purnima is celebrated at various ashrams, especially with much grandeur at Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh. The day is celebrated here on a grand scale with devotees coming from various parts of the country. The same is also celebrated at ashram of Satya Sai Baba at Puttaparthy, Ashram in Amritapuri and few other places of spiritual importance. Guru Purnima is also celebrated few places outside India.
This is a day for spiritual seekers who remain extremely open to their gurus to receive divine power, and for this reason holy people choose this day to shower everyone with their most auspicious divine blessings.
The day of Guru Purnima has great significance for spiritual sadhaks and farmers. All spiritual aspirants and devotees worship Vyasa in honor of his divine personage and all disciples perform 'puja' of their respective spiritual preceptor or 'Gurudevas'. They offer flowers and sweets to their spiritual gurus. It is also good time to begin spiritual lessons from a guru. Traditionally, spiritual seekers commence to intensify their spiritual 'sadhana' from this day.
The day also finds a great importance for farmers. The period 'Chaturmas' ("four months") begins from this day. The water, drawn up and stored as clouds in the hot summer, now manifests in plentiful showers that brings fresh life everywhere.
Urs – 7 July
The Urs are held at Ajmer, Rajasthan every year at the tomb of the Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, commemorating his symbolic union with God. The Urs, commemorative celebration is held in the solemn memory of Khwaja Muin-nddin Chisti, a sprightly respected Sufi saint fondly revered as the benefactor of the poor, popularly known as Gareeb Nawaz. The Dargah Sharif in Ajmer is the place where the Saints mortal remains lie buried and is the site of the largest Muslim Fair in India.
Pilgrims from all over the world gather to pay homage. Qawalis (poems) are presented in the saint's honour and religious assemblies (mehfils) and 'fatihas' (mass prayers) are held. The lakeside town of Ajmer also called Ajmer Sharif (holy) comes alive during the Urs which attracts thousands of devotees irrespective of caste, religion etc. At the huge fair the largest Muslim fair in India that springs up at this time, religious objects, books, rosaries, embroidered carpets and silver ornaments are on sale.
Chadar; Ghilaph & Neema, which are votive offerings for several hundred thousand devotees offer the tomb. Mehfils & Qawwalis are held and mass prayer calls for the eternal peace of the mankind. An interesting ritual is the looting of Kheer (Milk Pudding), which is cooked in two large cauldrons, called Degs and distributed to the devotees as tabarruk (blessed food). The lakeside city of Ajmer is located in central Rajasthan, and is held in great reverence by devotees of all communities who call it 'Ajmer Sharif' (Holy Ajmer). It is here that the mortal remains of the highly respected Sufi saint Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chishti lie buried.
The Khwaja came from Persia and established the Chishtia order of fakirs in India. He is popularly known as Gharib Nawaz (protector of the poor) because he dedicated his entire life to the service of mankind. His spartan life spanned almost a hundred years and he embraced death in solitude while he had withdrawn to his cell for six days, asking not to be disturbed.
The Dargah Sharif in Ajmer is the place where the Saint's mortal remains lie buried and is the site of the largest Muslim fair in India. More than five lakh devotees belonging to different communities gather from all parts of the subcontinent to pay homage to the Khwaja on his Urs (death anniversary) during the first six days of Rajab (seventh month of the Islamic calendar.)
The pilgrims who come to seek the blessings of the Khwaja make rich offerings called nazrana at the holy spot where the saint has been entombed.
The offerings of rose and jasmine flowers, sandalwood paste, perfumes and incense contribute to the fragrance that floats in the air inside the shrine. Also offered by devotees are the chadar, ghilaph and neema, which are votive offerings for the tomb.
These are brought by devotees on their heads and handed over to the khadims inside the sanctum sanctorum. Outside the sanctum sanctorum of the dargah, professional singers called qawwals in groups and sing the praises of the saint in a characteristic high-pitched voice. People gather around them and listen attentively, sometimes clapping to the rhythm of their instruments.
The Urs is initiated with the hoisting of a white flag on the dargah by the Sajjada Nashin (successor representative) of Chishtis. It is done on the 25th of Jamadi-ul-Akhir (sixth lunar month), with the accompaniment of music. On the last day of the sixth month, the Jannati-Darwaza (gateway of heaven) is flung open early in the morning. People cross this gate seven times with the belief that they will be assured a place in heaven. On the 1st of Rajab, the tomb is washed with rose water and sandalwood paste and anointed with perfumes. This ritual is called ghusal. The Sajjada Nashin then covers the tomb with an embroidered silk cloth.
An interesting ritual is the looting of kheer (milk-pudding), which is cooked in two large cauldrons called degs and distributed to the devotees as tabarruk (blessed food).On the 6th of Rajab, after the usual mehfil and the sound of cracker-bursts accompanied by music, the Sajjada Nashin performs the ghusal of the tomb. Fatiha and Salamti are read. A poetic recitation called mushaira is arranged in which poets of all communities arrive to recite compositions dedicated to the Khwaja. The Qul (end-all) on the 6th of Rajab marks the end of the Urs.
At night, religious assemblies called mehfils are held in the mehfil-khana, a large hall meant for this purpose. These are presided over by the Sajjada Nashin of the dargah.
Qawwalis are sung and the hall is packed to capacity. There are separate places reserved for women who attend the mehfil. The mehfil terminates late in the night with a mass prayer for the eternal peace of the Khwaja in particular and mankind in general.
The Dargah is located at the conjunction of three bazaars. There are a number of restaurants around the Dargah where visitors can choose from a variety of dishes most of which are non-vegetarian preparations. Guesthouses on the road leading to the Dargah offer accommodation that ranges from economical to luxurious. Many other guesthouses are strewn across the city. The shops in the market around the Dargah sell flowers, prayer mats, rosaries, textiles, and general merchandise as well.
Ajmer is 132 kms. Southwest of Jaipur and 198 kms. East of Jodhpur. It is connected by road to Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Udaipur and Kota. Ajmer is a railway junction on the Delhi-Ahmedabad section of the Western Railway. During the Urs, special buses ply from cities all over India carrying people to Ajmer and back.
Nag Panchami – 26 July
Hinduism as a religion is many-sided yet bound by a common search for Truth and to Hindus it means a way of life and a fellowship of faiths. With the advent of the Aryans, it originated as a simple form of worship of the forces of Nature, drawing in its system action in social organisations, local cults, deities’ diverse beliefs and modes of worship.
Nag-Panchami is an important all-India festival and is celebrated on the fifth day of the moonlit-fortnight in the month of Shravan (July /August). This is the time when serpents invariably come out of their holes that get inundated with rain-water to seek shelter in gardens and many times in houses. As such they pose a great danger to man.
May be therefore, snakes are worshiped on this day. Right from the times when mankind started acquiring some sort of culture, Sun and Snake have been invoked with prayers and ritual worship in most of the countries. In India even before the Vedic times, the tradition of snake-worship was in vogue.
In ancient India, there lived a clan by the name of "NAGAS" whose culture was highly developed. The Indus Valley civilisation of 3000 B.C. gives ample proof of the popularity of snake-worship amongst the Nagas, whose culture was fairly wide-spread in India even before the Aryans came. After the Naga culture got incorporated into Hinduism, the Indo-Aryans themselves accepted many of the snake deities of the Nagas in their pantheon and some of them even enjoyed a pride of place in the Puranic Hinduism.
The prominent Cobra snakes mentioned in the Puranas are Anant, Vasuki, Shesh, Padma, Kanwal, Karkotak, Kalia, Aswatar, Takshak, Sankhpal, Dhritarashtra and Pingal. Some historians state that these were not snakes but Naga Kings of various regions with immerse power.
The thousand-headed Shesh Nag who symbolises Eternity is the couch of Lord Vishnu. It is on this couch that the Lord reclines between the time of the dissolution of one Universe and creation of another. Hindus believe in the immortality of the snake because of its habit of sloughing its skin. As such Eternity in Hinduism is often represented by a serpent eating its own tail.
In Jainism and Buddhism snake is regarded as sacred having divine qualities. It is believed that a Cobra snake saved the life of Buddha and another protected the Jain Muni Parshwanath. To-day as an evidence of this belief, we find a huge serpent carved above the head of the statue of Muni Parshwanath. In medieval India figures of snakes were carved or painted on the walls of many Hindu temples. In the carves at Ajanta images of the rituals of snake worship are found. Kautilya, in his "Arthashastra" has given detailed description of the cobra snakes.
Fascinating, frightening, sleek and virtually death-less, the cobra snake has always held a peculiar charm of its own since the time when man and snake confronted each other. As the cobra unfolded its qualities, extra-ordinary legends grew around it enveloping it in the garble of divinity. Most of these legends are in relation with Lord Vishnu, Shiv and Subramanyam.
The most popular legend is about Lord Krishna when he was just a young boy. When playing the game of throwing the ball with his cowherd friends, the legend goes to tell how the ball fell into Yamuna River and how Krishna vanquished Kalia Serpent and saved the people from drinking the poisonous water by forcing Kalia to go away.
It is an age-old religious belief that serpents are loved and blessed by Lord Shiv. May be therefore, he always wears them as ornamentation around his neck. Most of the festivals that fall in the month of Shravan are celebrated in honour of Lord Shiv, whose blessings are sought by devotees, and along with the Lord, snakes are also worshiped. Particularly on the Nag-Panchami day live cobras or their pictures are revered and religious rights are performed to seek their good will. To seek immunity from snake bites, they are bathed with milk, haldi-kumkum is sprinkled on their heads and milk and rice are offered as "naivedya". The Brahmin who is called to do the religious ritual is given "dakshina" in silver or gold coins some times, even a cow is given away as gift.
During this time, snakes often seek refuge in houses as their holes in the ground become flooded with rainwater. Due to the danger they pose to humans, snakes are worshiped during this period to protect villagers from harm.
Nag Panchami is celebrated throughout India; however, more festivities are seen in the south than in the north.
The village of Baltis Shirale, which is situated approximately 400 kilometers (approximately 250 miles) from Mumbai, conducts the most outstanding of all the celebrations.
Reportedly, the largest collection of snakes in the world can be found in Baltis Shirale. Visitors from all over the world gather in the village to worship live snakes. Interestingly, despite no venom being removed from the snakes, no one has ever been bitten.
Other popular areas of worship during the Nag Panchami include:
* Adiesha Temple in Andhra Pradesh
* Nagaraja Temple in Kerala
* Nagathamman Temple in Chennai
* Hardevja Temple in Jaipur.
Raksha Bandhan - 5 Aug
Rakshabandhan or Rakhi which is celebrated on a full moon day in the month of Sravan (August) is a day when brothers and sisters reaffirm their bonds of affection. It is usually a festival of the Hindus though today people from different religions participate as well.
Sisters tie colourful threads or rakhis on their brother's wrists. The brothers in turn promise to protect their sisters and give them gifts. Around mid-August, on Shravan Purnima, Hindus all over celebrate Raksha Bandhan. "Raksha" means protection, "bandhan" means bound or binding. The festival is also known as Balev.Raksha Bandhan is celebrated in different forms in different areas and it is also known by the names like rakhi, rakhri and saluno.
Amarnath Yatra - 5 Aug
One of the most important events during July/ August is Amarnath Yatra to the Holy Pilgrimage. This is an annual event when thousands of Hindus from different corners of the Globe visit Amarnath caves. The pilgrims trek from Pahalgam to these caves and worship the great ice Lingam.
Legend has it that Shiva recounted to Parvati the secret of creation in a cave in Amarnath. Unknow to them, a pair of mating doves eavesdropped on this conversation and having learned the secret, are reborn again and again, and have made the cave their eternal abode.Many pilgrims report seeing the doves-pair when they trek the ardous route to pay obeisance before the ice-lingam (the phallic symbol of Shiva).
Nehru Trophy Boat Race 8 Aug
Alappuzha is famous for its annual boat race, held on the second Saturday of August every year. The long elegant snake boats, with crews of over hundred men vying to win the coveted trophy, attract spectators from all over.
This was started in 1952 when India's first Prime Minister, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, visited Alappuzha, and inaugurated the function in which the gigantic snake boats with over 100 rowers in each raced one another.
It is called a Snake Boat Race as its 135 feet length has since been overtaken by Vellankulangara snake boat, which is 140 feet long.
Origin of Snake Boat Race of Kerala
In the year 1952, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited the erstwhile Travancore-Cochin. On his way to Alappuzha district from Kottayam he was given a roaring reception by the people of Alappuzha, escorted by the huge snake-boats. Having gone through the tremendous excitement of sailing in a snake boat popularly known as Chundan he donated a rolling trophy to be awarded to the winner of the Snake Boat Races to be held every year.
Kazri Teej 9 Aug
This swing festival welcomes the advent of the monsoon. Swings are hung from trees and decorated with flowers. Women, colourfully attired, swing on them and sing songs in celebration.
With every drop of first rains; Peacocks dance in ecstasy, spirits soar high in celebration. Song & dance mark the gaiety of the Teej Festival.
Teej is held on Third day of the moonlight fortnight of the Hindu Month of Shravan (Mid-July to Mid-August) and marks the