Thursday, August 27, 2009


Onam is the biggest and the most important festival of the state of Kerala. It is a harvest festival and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm all over the state by people of all communities. According to a popular legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, the mythical Asura king of ancient Kerala whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam.

Malayalees believe that on Onam day Bali visits his subjects. Onam is now celebrated by everyone in the region irrespective of any caste or relegion. Onam has become a secular festival of India and can be classified as a celebration after the harvesting season.

During the reign of mighty asura (demon) king, Mahabali, Kerala witnessed its golden era. Every body in the state was happy and prosperous and king was highly regarded by his subjects. Apart from all his virtues, Mahabali had one shortcoming. He was egoistic. This weakness in Mahabali's character was utilized by Gods to bring an end to his reign as they felt challenged by Mahabali's growing popularity. However, for all the good deed done by Mahabali, God granted him a boon that he could annually visit his people with whom he was so attached. It is this visit of Mahabali that is celebrated as Onam every year.

Onam has two specific significances. First it is the memory of community at large and celebration of past history as enunciated in the Mahabali legend – a story of how paradise was lost. Second it is the celebration of the harvest, tied with the memory of the golden age of prosperity. It is believed that during those days the whole of Chingam (welcome month for people in the state of Kerala) was celebrated as Onam season.

The festival is the harbinger of spring — signalling the start of the harvest season.

Onam epitomises the newfound vigour and enthusiasm of the season, and is celebrated with traditional fervour with folk games, family get-togethers, gifting of clothes called Onakkodi and lots of merrymaking. Thiruvathira kali is a dance form performed at the time of Onam. Onam is celebrated with flower and sadya (Kerala vegetarian feast).The flowers are decoratively arranged on the floor and clay models of the family of Mahabali are placed in the middle to welcome Mahabali. Intricately decorated Pookalam, ambrosial Onasadya, breathtaking Snake Boat Race and exotic Kaikottikali dance are some of the most remarkable features of Onam - the harvest festival in Kerala.

Carnival of Onam lasts for ten days and brings out the best of Kerala culture and tradition. First day, Atham and tenth day, Thiruonam are most important of all. Popularity and presentation of rich culture of the state during the carnival made Onam the National Festival of Kerala. Elaborate feasts, folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, elephants, boats and flowers all are a part of the dynamic festival called Onam. Thousands of domestic and foreign tourists visit Kerala to be a part of Onam.

People make all efforts to celebrate the festival in a grand way and impress upon their dear King that they are happy and wish him well.

Rich cultural heritage of Kerala comes out in its best form and spirit during the ten day long festival.

It is indeed a treat to be a part of the grand carnival. People of Kerala make elaborate preparations to celebrate it in the best possible manner.

The most impressive part of Onam celebration is the grand feast called Onasadya, prepared on Thiruonam. It is a nine course meal consisting of 11 to 13 essential dishes. Onasadya is served on banana leaves and people sit on a mat laid on the floor to have the meal.

Another enchanting feature of Onam is Vallamkali, the Snake Boat Race, held on the river Pampa. It is a colourful sight to watch the decorated boat oared by hundreds of boatmen amidst chanting of songs and cheering by spectators.

As it is a harvest season, the beautiful state of Kerala can be seen in its magnificent best.Weather is pleasantly sunny and warm calling for mirth and celebrations.Fields look brilliant as they glow with golden paddy grains. It is also the boom time of fruits and flowers.

After the month of deprivation, Karkidakam (last month of Malayalam Calendar), farmers are happy with a bountiful harvest and celebrate the festival to the hilt.

There is also a tradition to play games, collectively called Onakalikal, on Onam. Men go in for rigorous sports like Talappanthukali (played with ball), Ambeyyal (Archery), Kutukutu and combats called Kayyankali and Attakalam. Women indulge in cultural activities. They make intricately designed flower mats called, Pookalam in the front courtyard of house to welcome King Mahabali. Kaikotti kali and Thumbi Thullal are two graceful dances performed by women on Onam. Folk performances like Kummatti kali and Pulikali add to the zest of celebrations.

As I have done my Masters from Kerala so I enjoyed Onam very much. And, if experienced once, it is cherished for a lifetime.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Ganesha Chaturthi is a day on which Lord Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati, is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all his devotees. It is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi.

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated as it is the birthday of Lord Ganesha.The day usually falls between 20 August and 15 September. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Anant Chaturdashi .

Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, is widely worshipped as the supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune.

While Vinayaka Chaturthi is celebrated all over India, it is most elaborate in Maharashtra, Goa (biggest festival for Konkani people all over the world), Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and other areas which were former states of the Maratha Empire.Outside India, it is celebrated widely in Nepal which was only Hindu Kingdom in the world and Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka.

The origin of the festival lies in the Holy Hindu scriptures which tell the story of Lord Ganesha.

According to the legend, Lord Shiva, the Hindu God of resolution, was away at a war. His wife Parvati, wanted to bathe and having no-one to guard the door to her house, conceived of the idea of creating a son who could guard her. Parvati created Ganesha out of the sandalwood paste that she used for her bath and breathed life into the figure. She then set him to stand guard at her door and instructed him not to let anyone enter.

In the meantime, Lord Shiva returned from the battle but as Ganesha did not know him, stopped Shiva from entering Parvati's chamber. Shiva, enraged by Ganesh’s impudence, drew his trident and cut off Ganesha's head. Parvati emerged to find Ganesha decapitated and flew into a rage. She took on the form of the Goddess Kali and threatened destruction to the three worlds of Heaven, Earth and the subterranean earth.

Parvati was still in a dangerous mood. Seeing her in this mood, the other Gods were afraid and Shiva, in an attempt to pacify Parvati, sent out his ganas, or hordes, to find a child whose mother is facing another direction in negligence, cut off his head and bring it quickly. The first living thing they came across was an elephant. That elephant was facing north (the auspicious direction associated with wisdom). So they brought the head of this elephant and Shiva placed it on the trunk of Parvati's son and breathed life into him. Parvati was overjoyed and embraced her son, the elephant-headed boy whom Shiva named Ganesha, the lord of his ganas. Parvati was still upset so Lord Shiva announced that everyone who worships Ganesha before any other form of God is favoured. So Ganesh is worshipped first in all Hindu occasions and festivals.

Ganesha — the elephant-deity riding a mouse — has become one of the commonest mnemonics for anything associated with Hinduism. This not only suggests the importance of Ganesha, but also shows how popular and pervasive this deity is in the minds of the masses.

The son of Shiva and Parvati, Ganesha has an elephantine countenance with a curved trunk and big ears, and a huge pot-bellied body of a human being.He is the Lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshipped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. In fact, Ganesha is one of the five prime Hindu deities (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Durga being the other four) whose idolatry is glorified as the panchayatana puja.

The devotees of Ganesha are known as 'Ganapatyas', and the festival to celebrate and glorify him is called Ganesh Chaturthi. Ganesha's head symbolizes the Atman or the soul, which is the ultimate supreme reality of human existence, and his human body signifies Maya or the earthly existence of human beings. The elephant head denotes wisdom and its trunk represents Om, the sound symbol of cosmic reality. In his upper right hand Ganesha holds a goad, which helps him propel mankind forward on the eternal path and remove obstacles from the way. The noose in Ganesha's left hand is a gentle implement to capture all difficulties.

The broken tusk that Ganesha holds like a pen in his lower right hand is a symbol of sacrifice, which he broke for writing the Mahabharata. The rosary in his other hand suggests that the pursuit of knowledge should be continuous.

The laddoo (sweet) he holds in his trunk indicates that one must discover the sweetness of the Atman. His fan-like ears convey that he is all ears to our petition. The snake that runs round his waist represents energy in all forms and he is humble enough to ride the lowest of creatures, a mouse.

Ganesha is also the destroyer of vanity, selfishness and pride. He is the personification of material universe in all its various magnificent manifestations. All Hindus worship Ganesha regardless of their sectarian belief. He is both the beginning of the religion and the meeting ground for all Hindus.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Cultural Fest highlights three of North Queensland’s greatest assets – its spectacular natural environment, its vibrant cultural life and the diverse heritage of its people.

Cultural Fest is a five-day family event showcasing the talents of Queensland’s most exciting music and dance entertainers, foods and arts. The festival was held from 12 – 16 August 2009 at Strand Park on the beautiful waterfront of Townsville, North Queensland.

During 5 fun filled days of dance, food, music, arts, workshops and sports, Cultural Fest brings the Townsville region to life. The festival mirrors the diversity of contemporary Queensland by offering events and activities for people of all ages and interests. Cultural Fest’s inclusive program enables locals and visitors to celebrate diversity in an atmosphere of friendship and harmony.

Cultural Fest’s theme of ‘Unity in Diversity’ brings together people from all walks of life in the spirit of fun and friendship giving the festival a magical feeling.

Cultural Fest began as a one-day event featuring 20 local dance groups and food stalls. Today it is one of the largest and most well-known festivals of its kind in the country. It is the most inclusive festival in Australia, happily involving diverse groups from belly dancers to Latino cuisine, from hula extravaganzas to mega drumming circles, from the Tropigo Street Carnival to authentic Indigenous arts and crafts. Cultural Fest has something for everyone.

Cultural Fest attracts close to 80,000 guests and involves at least 350 food sellers, music and dance groups, market stalls and community groups.

Cultural Fest has an enviable location of swaying palm trees, golden sand and a beautiful ocean view looking out to stunning Magnetic Island.

In Cultural Fest, people from diverse backgrounds enjoy together a range of arts and cultural experiences and learn about the different cultures of people living in their community. These experiences can help break down the barriers between people - from tasting the food of another culture to participating in a dance workshop.

Cultural Fest is a wonderful opportunity for the people of North Queensland to celebrate Queensland’s incredible diversity. Dynamic dance and performance, fantastic costumes and smiling faces on the main stage under the big marquee with seating for 1000 people and the variety of performances was astounding. Bush balladeers, dancers and bands entertained with a variety of traditional and contemporary styles for all the family to enjoy.

William Barton, one of Australia’s leading didgeridoo players, composers and a powerful advocate for the wider perception of his cultural traditions charmed with his extra-ordinary instrument playing which mesmerized thousands of people. He aimed to present the virtuosic potential of his instrument and richness of his Australian culture to audiences throughout the world. In his opinion, this music is not just as an illustration of some exotic antiquity but as a living, dynamic process, requiring considerable technique, stamina and study equal to that of any conventional classically trained professional musician.

The festival is a celebration for the North Queensland community and the visitors from interstate and around the world.

The final day of the festival was capped off with a multi-faith prayer for peace and prosperity led by a variety of religious groups followed by the symbolic release of pigeons and a reconciliation concert.

Cultural Fest is a wonderful and enjoyable occasion to get all the cultural groups in one spot.It presents the unique model of harmony, community development and empowerment to the world by showing that peace and tranquility is the only destination for the global community as long as there is respect for human dignity and rights. It is only within a free society and democratic system such as Australia that this extravaganza and expression of the oneness of humanity is possible.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Janmashtami is the joyful celebration of Lord Krishna's birth which is also known as Sri Krishna Astami. Janma’ means birth and ‘ashtami’ means the eighth. It is said that Lord Krishna was born on Astami. Janmashtami takes place on the eighth day of the second fortnight in the month of Sravana.

Janmashtami is one of the most widely celebrated Hindu festivals and it is celebrated with devotion and pomp in homes.

From the time, Devki conceived Sri Krishna, she began to glow and exude divine light. The prison walls glowed with the aura of the new born infant. Atmosphere of peace and happiness prevailed all over, forests were all green and full of trees with all kinds of beautiful flowers, rivers were all swollen due to joy, peacocks began to dance in sheer joy and people in all villages started being happy.

The ritual is to fast the previous day (Saptami, seventh day), which is followed by a night-long vigil commemorating the birth of Krishna at night, and his immediate removal by his father Vasudeva to a foster-home for safe-keeping.

At midnight, the deity of the infant Krishna is bathed placed in a cradle and worshipped. The fast is completed after aarti, a special prayer.

Major celebrations of Krishna Janmashtami takes place at midnight as Krishna is said to have made his divine appearance in that hour. Fasting, bhajans, pujas and many other rituals mark Janmashtami celebrations in India.

In the early morning, ladies draw patterns of little children's feet outside the house with rice-flour paste, walking towards the house. This symbolizes the entry of the infant Krishna into his foster-home.

Janmashtami is celebrated with fervor in India. Euphoria for the festival is not just restricted to Mathura - the birth city Mathura but pervades in rest of India too. The birth of Lord Krishna is one of the most popular festivals of Hindus and they celebrate the occasion with great joy and delight.

The festivities include various rituals being followed religiously. Temples all over India engage in various ceremonies and prayers in honour of Lord Krishna. Chanting of shlokas, readings from religious texts, singing devotional songs and dance performances are a common sight.

Important and common customs observed in different states include performance of rasleelas by professional artistes. The festival is thus celebrated with great joy and communal togetherness by one and all.

While it is the festival that is celebrated in North India as Janmashtami, in the South, the festival is celebrated as Srijayanthi or Krisnajayanthi or also as Sri Krishnajanmashtami.

Janmaashtami, popularly known in Mumbai and Pune as Dahi Handi is celebrated with enormous zeal and enthusiasm। The ceremony of 'Dahi Handi' wherein enthusiastic young men break an earthen pot filled with curd, depiction of 'Jhankis' and other decorative items to show important events of Lord Krishna's childhood. The handi is positioned at a convenient height prior to the event; the topmost person on the human pyramid tries to break the handi by hitting it with a blunt object, and when that happens, the curd is spilled over the entire group, symbolizing their achievement through unity.

Various Handis are set up locally in several parts of the city, and groups of youngsters, called Govinda, travel around in trucks trying to break as many handis as possible during the day.

Many of the more affluent homes of Hindus have a separate ‘puja’ or prayer room. Where this is the case, the Janmashtami rituals are carried out in the puja room. Otherwise a separate space in the home is earmarked for the celebrations.

The puja room or earmarked space is first thoroughly scrubbed clean.After all, a divine birth will be enacted there. The room or area has to be brightly lit. A string of small flashing electric bulbs is often used for festive effect. The puja room is filled with fragrance using ‘agarbattis’ or fresh flowers.

Many families that celebrate Janmashtami with fervor have Radha Krishna as the main deities in the puja room. The idols of Radha and Krishna are bathed with scented water and the ritual sandalwood paste is applied. Then the idols are dressed in a new set of apparel. They are adorned with suitable jewellery.

Usually the Janmashtami cradle is a miniature cradle made of silver. Cradles made from sandalwood or other material are also used. On a soft mattress inside the cradle a reclining idol of Krishna is laid out. In some cases, worshipers use small toy dolls. The infant is tucked in a silken sheet.

During the old times, the cradles had long ropes tied to them. The mother kept the other end of the rope near at hand and while busy in the household chores tugged the ropes to rock the cradle from afar. The Janmashtami cradle has a similar chain attached to it so that devotees can rock the cradle while Krishna sleeps.

Another popular jhanki is that of Bal Gopal. Gopal is another name of Krishna. In this jhanki the centerpiece is an idol of Krishna on his hands and knees in a crawling position. Next to the idol are placed small silver or earthen containers with freshly made butter in them. This recreates Krishna’s habit of crawling to the butter pots and stealing butter. For this reason he is also known as ‘makhan chor’ or butter thief. The butter is sweetened and colored with saffron.

Gopal translates as 'cow herd.' When Krishna grew older herding the cows was the task assigned to him. This jhanki depicts an idol of Krishna standing with his legs crossed and playing a flute amidst statues of cows. The more creative devotees add grass and mango trees and the River Yamuna in the jhanki.

The rituals end with the Janmashtami prasad of sweetened butter being distributed.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


India is a country rich of festivals. Its culture is so rich that it celebrates a festival almost every month. In fact, India is globally known for its colourful festivals and ever-green tradition. Moreover, people of India are so lively that they celebrate each and every festival with lot of enthusiasm. One of such festival is Rakhi or Raksha Bandhan, which strengthens and celebrates the precious bond shared between a brother and a sister. Like any other festival, rakhi has its unique significance.

Raksha Bandhan - the bond of protection is a Hindu festival, which celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters.Raksha Bandhan is celebrated every year on 'Shravan Purnima' (Full Moon Day of the Hindu month of Shravan), which generally falls in the month of August.

Rakhi is basically a sacred thread of protection embellished with the love and affection of a sister for her brother. Raksha Bandhan is a festival which On the auspicious day of Rakhi, sisters wake up in the morning, take bath, offer prayers to the Almighty and visit their brothers to perform the rituals of Rakhi. The ritual of Raksha Bandhan essentially includes tying of sacred thread (which is called 'Rakhi' or 'Raksha Sutra') by the sisters, on their brothers' wrist.

Before tying Rakhi, the sisters would perform an aarti, apply tilak (by mixing rice grains and roli) on their brother's forehead. The brother and sister traditionally feed sweets to each other. Sisters bestow their brothers with gifts and blessings. Brothers also wish them a good life and pledge to take care of them. After the ritual of tying Rakhi is over, the brothers would give their sisters some gift or money and promise them to help them when ever they need and protect them throughout their lifetime. In fact, offering gifts to sisters is a tradition of Raksha Bandhan. Year by year, the enthusiasm amongst the brothers and their sisters, to celebrate the festival, is increasing.

It is clearly visible from the wide variety of Rakhi, Raksha Bandhan gifts and sweets flocking the shelves of the stores, during the holiday.

Rakshabandhan bears social significance, because it symbolizes the importance of relationship between siblings.

Though brothers and sisters share and enjoy the bond of love between them throughout the year, but Rakhi is the day when they get an opportunity to express their tender love and feelings for each other. Rakhi also makes them commemorate their loving memories, loyalty, closeness, trust and friendship that is ever lasting and pure.

The day of Raksha Bandhan has over a period of time gained tremendous importance in India. On this occasion, people cut across manmade barriers like religion, caste, and color, and reach out to each other. This display of oneness is what makes Raksha Bandhan special and one of the most important festivals of India.

The day is all about raksha or protection, not just for self but for the dear ones, for peaceful existence of the human race. Each ritual that is followed has significance. The sisters seek love from their brothers; the brothers seek courage and endurance. Rakshabandhan is a festival that dictates the values of brotherhood and self-perseverance.

Monday, August 3, 2009


The United States Congress, in 1935, proclaimed first Sunday of August as the National Friendship Day.Since then, celebration of National Friendship Day became an annual event. The noble idea of honoring the beautiful relationship of friendship caught on with the people and soon Friendship Day became a hugely popular festival.

Human beings are social creatures and have always valued the importance of friends in their lives.To celebrate this noble feeling it was deemed fit to have a day dedicated to friends and friendship. In the subsequent decades, Friendship Day spread world wide. Friends exchange friendship bands as a sign of an unbreakable bond.

Friendship Day is celebrated in a big way in India. The noble idea of honoring friends and friendship has really caught on with the youth in India and one can see the festival being enthusiastically celebrated by the youth especially, students. At gift stores, customers are willing to spend on items ranging from the traditional friendship bands to friendship packages of stuffed animals, mugs and cards.

This beautiful idea of celebrating Friendship Day was joyfully accepted by several other countries across the world. And today, many countries including India, celebrate the first Sunday of August as Friendship Day every year. Celebrating Friendship Day in a traditional manner, people meet their friends and exchange cards and flowers to honor their friends. Many social and cultural organizations too celebrate the occasion and mark Friendship Day by hosting programs and get-together. Everywhere, people express love for their friends and cherish their presence in life.

There is not much literature on Friendship Day history as we celebrate today.However, there are numerous folktales and several instance in mythological legends that shows that friends and friendship have been valued since the beginning of civilized world.

Following the popularity and success of Friendship Day in US, several other countries adopted the tradition of dedicating a day to friends. Today, Friendship Day is enthusiastically celebrated by several countries across the world including India.

In 1997, the United Nations named Winnie - the Pooh as the world's Ambassador of Friendship. The Bible, the primary text of the western civilization, reflects upon friendship as the bond that forms the foundation to human faith, trust and companionship In tune with the spirit of the occasion, people dedicate Friendship Day festival to their best friends. Most choose to celebrate the entire day in the loving company of their dearest friends, recollecting sweet memories of the time spent together and catching up with their lives over a cup of coffee is the idea of ideal Friendship Day celebration for many.

Friends separated by geographical distances, call up their friends to express love and warmth for each other and to wish a "Happy Friendship Day". With more and more people getting hooked to the net, many people also choose to chat with their friends with the help of Internet. Sending SMS and Friendship Day e-cards is another popular way of greetings friends.

Friendship Day celebrations are particularly marked in schools and colleges in India। Euphoria of the day sets in days before the festival as everybody gets excited to wish their best friends in their own special way. Children make Friendship Day Cards or other special gift to thank their friends for their wonderful presence in their life. Exchange of Friendship Bands is the other most prominent feature of Friendship Day celebrations. Friends vie with each other as to who gets the most stylish band or who gets the maximum number of bands.

In several colleges, special programs are also organized to mark the occasion.Most of these programs and events intend to give youth an opportunity to dance and sing with friends and have a good time.

Following their counterparts in the west, youth in India too mark Friendship Day by participating in Friendship Day parties or organizing bashes for their friends. Major crowd for Friendship Day can be seen in discotheques and pubs where people dance with friends on fast pace music and cherish the loving company of their pals. Such parties also give youth a chance to make new friends and widen their friendship circle. At present such bashes are more popular in metros and other big cities, however, youth in small towns too are warming up to the idea of partying on Friendship Day.

Just as in US and several other countries, Friendship Day has been commercialized to a great extent in India. Days before the festival, gift marketers run an extensive campaign to lure the people to buy cards and gifts for their friends.

True friends will not have any reason for their friendship. So it can never be broken when they don't find that reason. A single candle can illuminate an entire room. A true friend lights up an entire lifetime. Friendship is the blend of all relations. A good friend is like a computer; I 'enter' your life, 'save' you in my heart, 'format' your problems, 'shift' you to opportunities and never 'delete' you from my memory. Friendship is like a golden chain which links two hearts.