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Ram Navami Festival

Ram Navami is a sacred Hindu festival celebrated with lot of enthusiasm all over the country. It is a festival celebrating the birth day of Shri Ram. Shri Ram is considered as the 7th incarnation of Vishnu. It is believed that God Vishnu has come to the earth in 10 different forms which is known as dashawtar, 7th being Shri Ram. Ram Navmi falls on the ninth day of Chitra (the first month in Hindu calendar). It ends the nine day Chaitra Navratri which begins from the 1st day of Chitra.

Origin of Ram Navami

The followers of Lord Rama would observe a whole-day fast on the festival of Ram Nava. This fast is also called vat. At many places, the celebration of Ram Navmi starts from the first day of Chitra and goes on for nine days. This nine day period is called  ‘Shri Rama Navratra’. This festival is celebrated in almost all everywhere in India. Shri Ram, the epitome of humanity is regarded as the perfect son, ideal husband and the most ideal king. 

The day of Ram Navmi start with the worship of God. People get up early in the morning and perform Poojas followed by chanting of Ram mantras. Temples and shrines are decorated on this occasion. After the birth celebration in temple, rathyatras are taken out. Even Satsangs are organized by cultural committees to commemorate the birth of Lord Rama. The congregation of the devotees would sing bhajans, chant mantras in the praise of the God and listen to the legendary stories.

Many households perform poojas by offereing flowers and navaidyam to the pictures of Lord Ram, wife Sita and brother Lakshman. In many parts of India, typically South India, small idols of Lord Rama and Sita are worshipped in the households, which are taken to a procession on the streets, in the evening.

Some cities in India like Ayodhya, Bhadrachalam and Rameswaran are known for their celebration where thousands of people gather for Ram Navmi.  In Ayodhya, the birthplace of Sri Rama, a big fair is held on this day. In South, in temples and at pious gatherings the learned narrate the thrilling episodes of the 'Ramayana'. The Kirtanists chant the holy name of Rama and celebrate the wedding of Rama with Sita on this day.

On the occasion of Ram Navmi, sharing with one shlok which describes the whole essence of Ramayan, it is known as ‘Eakshloki Ramayan’:

आदौ रामतपोवनाभिगमनं हत्वा मृगं कान्चनम॥ 

वैदेहीहरणं जटायुमरणं सुग्रीव संभाषणं  

वालीनिर्दलनं समुद्रतरणं लंका पुरीदाहनं  

पश्चाद्रावणकुम्भकर्णहननमेतद्धि रामायणं

Ugadi - Telugu and Kannada New Year

The term Ugadi is derived from the Sanskrit word Yugadi, meaning “beginning of an age” or “beginning of an era”. Ugadi is celebrated as the New Year's Day by Telugus, Kannadigas and Konkanis. It falls on the first day of of the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April timeframe). Maharashtrians also celebrate this day and call it Gudhi Padwa.

Ugadi (start of new year) is based on the 12th century lunar calculations of Bhaskara II. It starts on the first new moon after Sun crosses equator from south to north on Spring Equinox. However, people celebrate Ugadi on the next morning as Indian day starts from sun rise. According to Hindu mythology, it is believed that Lord Brahma started creating this world on the day of Ugadi. The festival also signifies the beginning of Srping.

Preparations for the festival begin well ahead of the actual day. Houses are given a thorough wash and people buy new clothes. On Ugadi day, people wake up before the break of dawn and take a head bath after which they decorate, the entrance of their houses with fresh mango leaves. The green mango leaves tied to the doorway signify a good crop and general well-being. In rural areas, people splash fresh cow dung water on the ground in front of their house and draw colorful rangolis. People perform the ritualistic worship to God invoking his blessings before they start off with the New Year. They pray for their health, wealth, prosperity and success. Ugadi is considered the most auspicious time to start new ventures.

Neem leaves and raw mango have a special significance for Ugadi. It is customary to eat a chutney or pachchadi called the Ugadi Pachhadi in Telugu and Bevu-Bella in Kannada. The pachchadi has specific mixture of six tastes and symbolizes the fact that life is a mixture of different experiences (sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust, surprise), which should be accepted together and with equanimity through the New Year.

The ingredients in the pachchadi are Neem leaves or flowers for bitterness signifying sadness, jaggery and ripe banana pieces for sweetness signifying happiness, green chilli pepper for its hot taste signifying anger, salt for saltiness signifying fear, tamarind juice for its sourness signifying disgust, and unripened mango for its tang signifying surprise. Bobbattu or Holigey, a special sweet containing puran filling made with chana dal and jaggery/sugar is made on this day. It can be eaten hot or cold with ghee or milk, and even eaten with coconut milk in some parts of Karnataka.

Almanac Recitation or Panchanga Sravanam at temples is a widely followed tradition on Ugadi. It is an informal social function where a priest or an elderly person provides a general forecast of the year to come. Ugadi celebrations are also marked by literary discussions, poetry recitations and recognition of authors of literary works through awards and cultural programs. Recitals of classical Carnatic music and dance are held in the evenings.

Ugadi is a festival of many flavors. It not only has religious importance but also cultural and social significance. It brings tremendous joy as it ushers in the season of Spring and the New Year.

Cheti Chand - The Sindhi New Year

Cheti Chand is the Sindhi New Year’s Day. It is celebrated on the second day of Chaitra (the first month of the Hindu Calendar). It falls on the day after Gudhi Padwa (Maharashtrian New Year) and Ugadi (Telugu and Kannada New Year). Chaitra is called Chet in Sindhi, and hence the name Cheti Chand.

The festival honors Jhulelal, the patron saint of the Sindhis who was born on this day. It is believed that Varun Dev (the Water God) incarnated as Ishtadeva Uderolal (or Jhulelal). Hence people worship water – the elixir of life on the occasion of Cheti Chand. This day is considered to be very auspicious and many Sindhis take Baharana Sahib to a nearby river or lake. Baharana Sahib consists of Jyot (Oil Lamp), Misiri (Crystal Sugar), Phota (Cardamom), Fal (Fruits), and Akha. Behind is Kalash (Water jar) and a Nariyal (Coconut) in it, covered with cloth, phool (flowers) and patta (leaves). There is also a murti (idol)  of Pujya Jhulelal Devta.

Businessmen start new accounts books on this day. It is considered an auspicious day to start new initiatives. People greet each other with "Cheti Chand jyon lakh lakh wadayun athav". The aarti of Jhulelal is performed and then men perform the folk dance, Chej before Jhulelal. Tahiri and Chole are typically distributed as prasad. Tahiri is a rice pudding made with milk.

According to legend, Jhulelal, was born on Cheti Chand day, to Rattanchand Luhana and his wife Devaki in the 10th century A. It was the time when Ruler of Thatta, the tyrant Mirkh Shah, ordered the Hindus to embrace lslam. The Hindus asked Mirkh Shah for some time to think over the order. Mirkh Shah agreed to give Hindus forty days.The Hindus then gathered on the banks of the mighty Sindhu and prayed to God Varuna to save them. For forty days, they continued the prayer. They neither shaved nor wore new clothes, praying and fasting and singing songs in praise of God Varuna. On the fortieth day, a voice was heard "Fear not, I shall save you from the wicked Mirkh Shah. I shall come down as a mortal and take birth in the womb of Mata Devaki in the house of Rattanchand Luhana of Nasarpur". Even today followers of Jhulelal perform this prayer for forty days ("Chaliho") and celebrate "Thanksgiving Day" after "Chaliho".

As expected, on Cheti Chand, Jhulelal was born to Mata Devaki as "Udaichand" or "Uderolal". As the child grew, he performed many miracles and people were more and more convinced each day that Uderolal was their savior. One day Uderolal was asked to appear before Mirkh Shah. Upon meeting Mirkh Shah, Uderolal urged him to encourage about Hindu-Muslim unity and preached about the oneness of God. However, Mirkh Shah was not convinced and ordered his arrest. As Uderolal was being arrested, suddenly, great waves of water flooded the palace and a huge fire broke out. Mirkh Shah, on seeing this miracle, was terrified and pleaded for mercy. As soon as he pleaded for mercy, the water receded and the flames vanished. Since then, Jhulelal is worshiped by both Hindus and Muslims.

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