Feasts and Festivals.
One of the best aids to getting a comprehensive grasp of the prominent observances of Hinduism is a review of the feasts and
festivals that recur throughout. Hindu life is replete with celebrations or all kinds. There are holidays and religious festivals
and birthday anniversaries of gods and mythological heroes that are observed during the course of the year. There arc other occasional ceremonies to obtain or to avert rain, hailstorms or floods, and to prevent epidemics or cattle diseases, etc. So also many ceremonies and good deeds by which punya (spiritual merit) may be acquired such as performance of pilgrimages to sacred places like Kasi. Gaya and Prayag, homas, construction and consecration of temples, digging of wells and tanks for public use, plantation of mango-groves and so on. There are also propitiatory ceremonies in which the aid of spirits is solicited for the successful performance of rites of marriage, birth and death. A short survey of the cycle of feasts and festivals through which a pious Hindu goes through during the course of a year is given here.
The first day of Caitra is called Gudhi Padva, the new year day of the Hindus who observe the Salivahana Saka (era). This is observed by all except the aborigines and some other castes. With this day begins the spring. It is ushered in by house-holders by seeing up in front of the house a gudhi, i e., a bamboo pole capped with a small silver or copper pot and a new piece of cloth hanging to it as a flag. On this day, mango, tamarind and other fruits of the season are first eaten. Eating a mixture of nim leaves, gul and cumin seeds is a special observance of this day. The day is considered auspicious for building or entering a new house, putting a child to school or starting a new business. This is one of the three and a half most auspicious days of the year.
On the 9th day of the bright half of Caitra is celebrated the birthday of Rama, the hero of the Ramayana and the 7th incarnation of Visnu. People chiefly of the high castes gather together in the temple of Rama in holiday dress where a silk doll is made to represent Rama and all the ceremonials connected with childbirth are gone through. Exactly at 12 noon, the Haridas announces the birth of Rama by tossing gulal (red powder) and the silk doll is put in a cradle. Arati, distribution of sunthavada (a mixture of ginger and sugar), tirthaprasad, kirtan and bhajan in praise of Rama are the usual functions held at the festival. Many Brahmans observe it as a fasting day.
On the full moon day of Caitra, exactly at sunrise, a festival is arranged in the temple of Maruti to celebrate his birth, much the same way as Rama's birth is.
Aksaya Trtiya or Tij falls on the third day of the first half of the month of Vaisakh. On this day, every household must give food to a person of their own caste in memory of its deceased
ancestors. All cultivators go to their fields and ceremonially plough a little
to indicate that the work of the year has commenced. This is one of the three and half most auspicious days of the year on which many weddings are arranged to take place.
On the last day of the month is Mothi Bhavai. In the villages
seven stones are set on nim leaves and nim leaf shades are put over them. In front of these stones boys dance and the bystanders throw water on them. The ceremony is said to induce the Devi to send good rains and is a peculiarity of Candrapur district.
The Ekadasi (eleventh day) occurring in the bright halves of Asadha and Kartika are considered very sacred. They mark the beginning and the end of Caturmasa (four holy months) and arc observed as fast and prayer days by very large sections of Hindus. Followers of the Varkari sect make it a point to visit the temple of Vithoba at Pandharpur on those days.
On the dark eighth of Sravana falls the Gokulastami, festival in honour of Sri Krsna's birthday. Exact midnight of this day was the time of birth of Lord Krsna and the next day the babe was taken to Gokul. The way the occasion is celebrated varies from place to place. Usually, people fast on this day. A boisterous play-ritual of breaking the Handi by young people is a characteristic of this festival.
Nagapancami falls on the 5th day of the bright half of Sravana when snakes are propitiated. Bowls of milk are placed near their holes and pictures of snakes are drawn on walls. About this time snakes are driven from their retreats by the rising water and the festival is supposed to induce them not to harm those into whose premises they may come. The evening of Nagapancami is devoted to wrestling contests.
Raksabandhan falls on the 14th of the bright half of Sravana when twice-born castes change their sacred threads and rakhis i.e., little charms of silk or cotton thread are tied on the wrists as a protection against evil spirits. They are also put on furniture and trade implements. In most places they are tied by Brahmans who receive small gratuities for their services, but in Candrapur they are tied by prostitutes.
Pola is a cattle festival which falls on the last day of Sravana when the plough-bullocks are taken in a procession to the shrine of Maruti. An old bullock goes first and on his horns is tied a makhar, a wooden frame with pegs to which torches are affixed. They make a rope of mango-leaves stretched between two posts and makhar bullock is made to break this and stampede back to the village followed by all the other bullocks. On the following day children mimic the ceremony with toy bullocks. The explanatory legend, prevalent in Candrapur to account for this festival is that the bullocks complained to Mahadev that men were oppressing them beyond endurance. Mahadev appointed a day to enquire into the matter. Men got to know of this and on that day treated the bullocks so well that when
Mahadev came he found their, complaint utterly groundless.
The bullocks were outwitted but they still claim their day. On
the evening of Pola day. the houses are thoroughly searched for
mosquitoes, bugs, flies etc. and at dawn the Badge ceremony is
performed. The head of the house or a servant representing
him. dressed in the meanest rags, goes forth carrying a pot in
which bugs, mosquitoes etc. with a little rice, fruit, spices, a
small bit of iron, two cowries and a little fire have been put. As
he goes he shouts " Masha Murkute Gheun Ja re Marbot " and
" Rai Rog Gheun ja re Badgia. " The first shout means, ' Take
away all flies and bugs, oh! Marbot" and the second shout
means. "Take away all diseases and calamity, oh! Badgia."
When he reaches a place where three roads meet, he casts down
the pot. breaks it with his stick and returns home without looking
behind him. He enters the house quietly, taking no notice of
any one until some one pours water over him. He is then given
oil! to anoint himself, sandalwood paste, some sweetmeats after
which he may again speak to his household.
Ganes Caturthi .
Hartalika-puja is a special worship for women who do this for
happy married life in which Parvati and her companion are paid homage to Even girls go through this worship. They fast on this day and eat only fruit and roots. If any woman eats rice or sweets on this day they will be rats or ants in next birth. This day is known as Kajaltij in this district. The following day is Ganes Caturthi when fresh clay images of Ganapati are installed and worshipped. A special feature of this festival, particularly in urban areas is that the worship is celebrated on a community scale by public subscriptions with the added attraction of religious and semi-social programmes held each day during the festival which lasts for ten days. Out of a superstition still current, a person avoids looking at the moon on this day lest he might get involved in a baseless theft charge. In Candrapur it is believed that any calamity may befall one who consciously or unconsciously sees the moon. Should one do so accidentally, the remedy is to throw stones at the houses of his neighbours till some justly incensed house-holder comes out and abuses him. The calamity will then fall on the irate neighbour.
Conjoined to the Ganes festival women hold a celebration in honour of Parvati or Gauri. mother of Ganapati. On the first day she is installed, on the second worshipped and on the third immersed.
In the month of Asvina falls the great festival of Navaratra (nine nights) culminating in Dasara, so called from Das, ten and Ahara, day, it being a ten day festival in honour of Durga. It is also called by Hindus Vijaya-Dasami, the day of victory won by Rama over Ravana. It is also the day on which Goddess Kali vanquished Mahisasura and at some places a buffalo is slain in memory of it on this day. Sacrifice of goats is usual and those
who will not or cannot afford an animal sacrifice adopt a substitute in the shape of a white pumpkin supported on four sticks
resembling the feet of a goat. The first nine days are known
as Navaratra, on the first day being performed Ghatasthapana or
the invocation to the goddess to be present in ghata (jar). On
the tenth day, every householder worships his caste insignia
represented by tools and implements. A Teli will worship his
oil machine, a Kayastha his inkstand and pen, a blacksmith his
anvil and hammer, a Brahman his holy books and so on. They
have sumptuous meals at noon and towards evening they don
holiday attire and gather together Sami (Prosopis spicigera) or in
its absence Apta (Bauhinia racemosa) tree. On this day. the
Apta leaves are supposed to symbolise gold, and exchanged
while greeting one another. The day is one of the three and a
half most auspicious days of the year and children are put to
school on this day and fresh adventures begun. Every one
desires to see the blue jay (Nilkantha) as it is regarded as a
Twenty days after Dasara comes Divali, when Laksmi. the goddess of wealth is worshipped. She is supposed to pass over the land distributing gifts of riches. All, therefore, illuminate their houses and shops in order that they may not be overlooked. The lights are often tastefully and beautifully arranged and the festival is one of the prettiest of the whole year. The day is also the birth day of Buddha. In villages of this district a peculiar ceremony is performed. A Gowardhan or a heap of cowdung cakes is built in which an egg is placed. Cattle and buffaloes are worshipped and driven over the heap. Should the egg remain unbroken, it betokens immunity from all calamities during the year. Two days after Divali comes Bhaubeej or Yamadvitiya when Yama the god of death was entertained by his sister Yamuna at the river Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh. On this day brothers visit their sisters and are entertained by them. In the evening the sisters return the visit, perform the Arati ceremony and receive a gift.
Ten days later is the festival of Tulasi Vivaha, the marriage of the Tulasi plant to Visnu. From this day, the season of weddings commences.
On the 6th of Margasirsa comes Campa Sasthi which is
celebrated in honour of Khandoba. chiefly by Marathas by
whom he is regarded as an incarnation of Siva and his vahana, (vehicle), the dog, are worshipped. Alms are given to Vaghyas
and Muralis who are devotees of Khandoha.
On January 14 comes the Makara Sankranta otherwise known
as Til-Sankranta. On this day all rise and bathe early and til cakes and sweets are eaten. On the following day bullock-cart races are held in many villages. On the last day of Paus is Mahi when people from some castes worship their deceased ancestors. They offer fowl, coconuts and udid cakes fried in oil. All
offerings must be cut, with a knife since they symbolise flesh. If
the last clay of Paus falls on Sunday and the naksatra be Sravana and the Yoga Vyatipata, it is the festival of Ardhodaya. This
astronomical conjunction happens once in 45 years. The last
occasion in living memory was on February 2, 1908. It is considered a most auspicious day and many pilgrims resort to
Markanda to bathe. The belief is that if one gives away a rupee
as chanty on this day, he will receive a crorc in next birth.
Vasanta Pancami and Sivaratri.
The 5th of Magh in the bright half is called Vasanta Pancami on which day Kamadeva. god of love, is worshipped. Many
weddings and sacred thread ceremonies are reserved for this day. Sivaratri falls on the 14th day of the dark half of this month when Siva is worshipped and his devotees fast for 24 hours.
The Holi festival falls about the middle of Phalguna, when
Madana. the Hindu god of lust, is worshipped mainly by people belonging to some castes. Two fires, the fuel for which, it is customary to steal, are kindled, usually outside the village, for Madana and Rati. A coconut is bung from the pole in the centre of the fire and when it falls people secure the burnt core and eat it. They smear themselves with ashes of the fire. They also throw a red fluid over each other and grossly obscene songs in praise of love are sting. The explanatory legend is that Kamadeva, the beautiful god of love, endeavouring to influence Siva with a passion for Parvati discharged an arrow at him. But Siva enraged at his insolence, reduced him to ashes with a beam of fire darted from his central eye. Afterwards, the great god relented and caused him to be born again as the son of Krsna. The fires are said to symbolise the death of love and the rejoicing at his rebirth. Another explanation is that the object of the festival is to avert the troubles that may he brought on the community by the demoness Dhundha or Holika, which 'Lady Evil', the Jyotirnibandha assures us is satisfied with the unclean language of the hymns and leaves the revellers free from love troubles throughout the year.
Some peculiar agricultural festivals must be noted. Saioni is the cultivators' observance of Tij. The carpenter is called in and ceremonially welcomed, kunku and rice being applied to his forehead. He prepares a makhar which is taken to the field next day by gaily caparisoned bullocks. The earth, the bullocks and the plough are worshipped and a little ceremonial ploughing is done. A feast is cooked in the field and eaten. On that day no one should give grain to his neighbour lest his own granary should become empty all the year. Bijora, the festival of the seed-god is performed in the wilder tracts. It is a joint puja to which the whole village subscribes. The god is enshrined outside the village. Seed sprinkled with the blood of the victims sacrificed is distributed to the tenants and the handful of seed thus received must he that first sown in every field. The Dudhara (milk-god) ceremony is performed on any Saturday or
Sunday in Asadha before commencing rice transplantation. The god is enshrined on the hank of a tank and goats and fowls sacrificed to him. Miniature winnowing fans and grain baskets with grain, fruit etc. are presented and milk is poured over the
god to induce him to grant good rains and a fertile year. The flesh of the animals sacrificed is distributed among the cultivators. Palkapoli is celebrated in Bhadrapad on any Saturday or Sunday. Devi is worshipped in her form of Mahisamma (buffalo-mother). The usual offerings are made and grain dipped in the blood of the victims sacrificed is cast into the fields with the invocation that they may be free from weeds. The ceremony is performed at each tank from which cultivators obtain water for their fields. Sanjori is the harvest festival to propitiate the Sanjora god before commencing threshing operations. The blood of the victims is sprinkled on the winnowing fans, baskets and the sheaf of dhan which each cultivator brings with him to the place of worship. The sheafs thus sanctified are replaced on the stacks and threshing commences. During threshing a handful of grain is laid aside each day and taken home separately. It is called deodhan and food prepared from it is eaten by members of the family alone. It may not be shared with others. At the beginning of the harvest each cultivator offers a chicken to his crop and sets it free which is caught by the Bhumak for his own use. Should blight attack the crop, it is believed that it may be averted by sending a woman in her courses round the field so that her garments touch the crop and the blight goes.
In the month of Caitra starting from the bright third and on
a convenient day, suvasinis hold in their homes the ceremony of haldikunku. The full-moon day of Jyestha known as Vata-purnima is observed by married women as a day of prayer so that their husbands' lives may be prolonged: a banyan tree or its boughs are worshipped and vayans (special offerings) are distributed to Brahmans and suvasinis. Some observe a vrata (vow) for three days during which they live on fruits, tubers and milk only. During Caturmas. (four months of rainy season) some women observe Sola Somvar vrata (vow observed on sixteen successive Mondays) at the end of which they hold a grand worship of Siva and Parvati and feast seventeen dampatis (couples). Similarly, married girls vow to offer sivamuth (handful of corn) to God Siva on every Monday of Sravana fior the first five years of their married life followed by worship of Mangalagauri on Tuesday following. The Fridays of the same month are observed by women with a worship of goddess Laksmi drawn on a small earthen pot. These are designated Sampad Sukravars. On the third and fifth of the bright half of Bhadrapada come Haratalika and Rsipancami which are observed as days of fast by women. The first is kept by married women and young girls in honour of Haratalika (goddess Parvati) who is said to have successfully resisted, her father's wish to marry her to Visnu and married Siva whom she loved. The second is observed by elderly women in honour of Rsis (seers) to make
amends for sins committed unconsciously. That day, they do
not eat anything that is grown with the labour of cattle or any
other animal, but eat only hand-grown fruits and vegetables.
Vasubaras which falls on the 12th of the dark half of Asvina is observed by some women who have children; they fast for the day and at night after worshipping a cow, give a calf in charity. The day previous to Sankranta in the month of Paus is called Bhogi on which a special dish known as Khicadi is offered to gods and eaten. On the Sankrant day sugads (auspicious jars) are presented to Brahmans, and the following day known as Kinkranta is celebrated by newly married girls with lutne, a free distribution to Suvasinis of auspicious articles.
Candrapur has many sacred places to which pilgrimages are made. Tadoba Lake and Sat Bahini are resorted to, once a year, by large number of Gonds and other forest tribes and the Manas still journey to the shrine of Thakur Dev on the summit of Surajgadh to be purified. In addition to these, four yatras or religious fairs are held annually to which Hindus gather from long distances.
Markanda Yatra is a purely religious gathering. The people assemble to worship in the beautiful ruined temple there and seek purification from sin in the cleansing water of the Wainganga. The fair begins from Sivaratri, the last day of Magh and lasts for fifteen days. The popularity of this place of pilgrimage remains even to this day. The other fairs are partly religious and partly commercial. The Mahakali yatras at Candrapur lasts for a month commencing from the full moon day in Caitra. The devotees worship at the temple of Mahakali and at the Acalesvara tirth by the eastern gate. All shops in the town are closed and the traders of the bazar move out to the large open space in front of the temple where a little town of booths springs up.
The Balaji yatra is held at Cimur near the Balaji temple there. It occurs some time in Phalgun and lasts for 15 days. The Bhadranaga yatra at Bhandak lasts for a month from 5th of Phalgun to the 5th of Caitra. It draws very large crowds, even from Berar and Nagpur. In the early centuries of the Christian era, when under Hindu domination, it was called the temple of Bhadranath. a name of Siva. A period of Buddhist domination supervened during which the cave temples of Bhandak were built. When the Buddhist power was overthrown probably by the rise of the Nagavansi Kings of Bastar, the old temple was renovated and became Bhadranag, the Blessed Snake, which name it still bears. In the semi-commercial yatras, the religious element is slight. It occupies only a short portion of the daily leisure of the visitors for three or five days. The yatra is a practically huge temporary bazar and agricultural show. The large open spaces near the temple are filled with the booths of
traders, gay with wares and implements from distant mails displayed for sale. Every one is in holiday attire and happy.
people buy provisions and sundry household articles for the rainy season at these jatras.