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Varalakshmi Vratham

Varalakshmi Puja, or Varamahalaskhmi Pooja, is observed by women in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and by some communities in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The observance is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and falls on the Friday before Shravan Poornima. Varalakshmi Puja is an elaborate puja and is usually performed with the help of elderly women who have performed the Pooja earlier. All the months of Sravana Masam are considered auspicious for Lakshmi puja.

Like the Satyanarayana Vratram the Varalakshmi Vratam is performed for all-round prosperity.Some perform this vratam in the mornings and invite people in the evenings and offer thambulam. Others perform in the evenings in everybody’s presence.
Varalakshmi literally means the boon granting goddess. Worshipping Goddess Lakshmi on this day is equivalent to worshipping Ashtalaksmi – the eight goddesses of Wealth, Earth, Learning, Love, Fame, Peace, Pleasure, and Strength.

Varalakshmi Vratham Story:
According to Hindu mythology, once Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva about a vratha that will be beneficial to women. Lord Shiva then mentioned the importance of Varalakshmi Vratha. The conversation on Varalakshmi Vratha between Parvati and Shiva takes place in the Skanda Purana.
To illustrate the importance of the Vratha, Lord Shiva narrates the story of Charumati. Pleased with Charumati’s devotion to her husband and family, Goddess Lakshmi appeared in her dream and asked her to perform the Varalakshmi Vratha. The pious Charumati invited all her neighbors, friends and relatives and performed the Varalakshmi puja as directed by Goddess Lakshmi. Soon after the puja, all the people who participated in the puja where blessed with wealth and prosperity.
According to another Hindu legend, the origin of Varalakshmi Vratha is associated with a game of dice played between Lord Shiva and Parvati. Goddess Parvati who was winning all the games was accused of cheating by Lord Shiva. So they decided to appoint Chitranemi, a gana of Shiva, as the umpire. Chitranemi ruled in favor of Lord Shiva and this angered Goddess Parvati who cursed him to be a leper. Shiva asked Parvati to forgive Chitranemi and she agreed to revoke the curse if he watched Varalakshmi Vratha performed by pious women. The tradition of Varalakshmi Vratha started from then onwards.

What is the Auspicious Time to do Varalakshmi Puja?
For Varalakshmi Nombu, or Vara Mahalakshmi Vrata, it can be done from 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM noon in the morning or from 8pm to 11pm in the evening is very auspicious.Avoid performing the puja during the Rahu Kalam period. The fasting that begins on Friday morning (sunrise) ends when the puja is completed.

Required Puja items:

  • Individual flowers and flower garlands
  • Fruits – at least 5 varieties
  • Turmeric powder
  • Sandal Wood Powder or sandal wood paste
  • Kumkum – red vermilion powder
  • 3 Coconuts
  • 12 or more Betel leaves (2 leaves for every thamboolam –given to each guest)
  • Mango Leaves (For Thoran infront of the house and to the stool of lakshmi devi will be placed).
  • 12 or more Betel nuts (2 for each thamboolam)
  • 12 or more Incense sticks
  • Dhoop
  • Camphor for aarathi
  • Edible camphor – A pinch for Kalash water and a pinch for Neivedhyam (food offering)
  • Akshrinthalou (mix handful whole rice grains with turmeric powder & couple drops of ghee)
  • Lakshmi face statue or a picture of Sri Yantra, or Sri Meru is sufficient.
  • Turmeric Ganesha -Take some turmeric powder, mix with water and make a small cone shaped image.
  • 2 Kalsham or Kalash
  • Oil or Ghee
  • Rice – Spread a banana leaf on the alter and spread 1 Kg raw rice on banana leaf (or new cloth) and install the Kalash over the rice.
  • ½ Kg Rice grains (Inside Kalash)
  • Coins (Inside Kalash)
  • Single Whole Lime (Inside Kalash)
  • Comb (Inside Kalash)
  • Mirror (Inside Kalash)
  • Small Black Bangles (Inside Kalash)
  • Black Beads (Inside Kalash)
  • Kalash Cloth (to cover the Kalash)
  • Stool
  • Water
  • White Sand or Rice flour for Rangoli
  • One small gold coin
  • Bangles for Thambulam
  • Panchamrutham – Organic Milk, Yogurt, Ghee, Honey, Sugar, Coconut juice – an ounce of each to bathe the Lakshmi idol/coin.
  • -Lamps – 4 or 2 to be placed on each side of the square mantel/mandap
  • Chothing – New Saree blouse or a piece of cotton as offering to the Goddess. You may use the saree later.
  • Mangalyam to goddess (a turmeric root is tied to a thread and offered as necklace to the statue.
  • Gold, navarathna ornaments for the goddess. Those who can afford, can buy new gold jewelry or you can offer your own ornaments after cleaning them.
  • Maha Neivedhyam – Twelve varieties of sweet and savories are offered to the goddess as neivedhyam – usually milk sweets and garellou made of channa dal, jaggery and rice are offered.
  • Thoram – A foot length thread usually nine-fold with nine knots (a small flower petal is placed with each knot). First smear the thread with turmeric. (At least 3 – One for the goddess, one for self and one each for as many guests as you invite.)
  • Uddarini, Pancha pathra (a glass of water and spoon – traditionally in silver or copper).
  • Other standard puja items like bell, arathi plate, blowing conch, etc.

For making ‘Prasad’ or offering – Usually sweets this depends on the person’s ability. There are a lot of varieties of sweets that are made. The preparation begins on Thursday.
If you want to strictly follow all the rules and methods of Varalakshmi Puja, then it is wise to take the advice from an elderly woman who is regularly performing the puja.
Always remember rituals should not be a trap. It should only be a helping step in realizing the ultimate truth. A simple flower offered with devotion is far better than elaborate showy rituals.

Special Prayers or Shlokas to be chanted on Varalakshmi Vratha day
Lakshmi Ashtotram and Lakshmi Sahasranamam. Please do not fast (Upvaas), if you are pregnant or are having any disease or are under medications.Fasting is done from morning till Varalakshmi Puja is over. If you missed the Varalakshmi Nombu day or failed to observe it, you can do it during the following Friday.Varalakshmi Nombu Saradu or thread Yellow thread is prepared with nine knots and flower is placed in the center. It is tied on the right hand.

Do not impose the Puja. You should observe it only, if you are really interested. Also do not impose the puja on youngsters.

Click here to view more pictures and how we celebrated the festival this year!

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Ugadi

UGADI……Such a Special festival when we were kids…all of my cousins used to gather on this day in our village….We had to get up early in the morning and there used to be so much hungama…..I really miss my childhood days…….I wish I could go back ……As usual many of my friends are not aware of this festival and its significance
What is Ugadi? When do we celebrate Ugadi? Why do Telugu people Celebrate Ugadi?
Ugadi is a New Year festival for Andhra people; it comes close on the heels of Holi. It is the season of spring (vasantha-rithu). It is chairtra masa (the first month of the year). The bright fortnight (sukla paksha) is the better part of the month. Among the days, the first day of the lunar month is important. As all these important elements are present today, it has special significance as marking the commencement of a new year (described as Ugadi).
When the Pandavas lived, the time scales were determined on the basis of the longitude which passed through Lanka. When we take this as the basis, we come to the conclusion that the period which we now call kali yuga started in the year named Pramadi, in the month named Sravana and in the fortnight named bahula and on the day called Ashtami. According to the English calendar, this would be described as February 20th, 3102 B.C. years before the advent of Christ. In order to bring out this aspect of the commencement of a new yuga on February 20th, 3102 B.C., our ancestors have been calling that day as Ugadi or the day of a new era. As this was the commencing day of a new yuga, it was called the Ugadi. Ugadi is also the day on which Krishna gave up his mortal body in a sacred place of pilgrimage called Prabhasa near Dwaraka
It is a season for raw mangoes spreading its aroma in the air and the fully blossomed neem tree that makes the air healthy. With the coming of Ugadi, the naturally perfumed jasmines (mallepulu) spread a sweet fragrance which is perhaps unmatched by any other in nature’s own creation! While large garlands of jasmine are offered to Gods in homes and temples, jasmine flowers woven in clusters adorn the braids of women.
Spring is considered the first season of the year hence also heralding a new year and a new beginning. The vibrancy of life and verdant fields, meadows full of colorful blossoms signifies growth, prosperity and well-being.
Ugadi is characterized by new clothes, sumptuous food and reveling. The air is filled with joy, enthusiasm and gaiety. Some people participate in social community gatherings and enjoy a tranquil evening with devotional songs (bhajans).
What Telugu People do before Ugadi? (Preparing for the Occasion)
Preparations for the festival begin a week ahead. Houses are given a thorough wash. Shopping for new clothes and buying other items that go with the requirements of the festival are done with a lot of excitement..
What People do on Ugadi Day?
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 significance of tying mango leaves relates to a legend. It is said that Kartik (or Subramanya or Kumara Swamy) and Ganesha, the two sons of Lord Siva and Parvathi were very fond of mangoes. As the legend goes Kartik exhorted people to tie green mango leaves to the doorway signifying a good crop and general well-being.
It is noteworthy that we use mango leaves and coconuts (as in a Kalasam, to initiate any pooja) only on auspicious occasions to propitiate gods. People also splash fresh cow dung water on the ground in front of their house and draw colorful floral designs. This is a common sight in every household. People perform the ritualistic worship to God invoking his blessings before they start off with the New Year. They pray for their health, wealth and prosperity and success in business too. Ugadi is also the most auspicious time to start new ventures.
Any special dishes on Ugadi day?
The celebration of Ugadi is marked by religious zeal and social merriment. Special dishes are prepared for the occasion.
On this day, it is the practice among the rural folk to eat what is called “Ugadi Pacchadi (Ugadi Chutney). This Chutney is made from neem flowers, mango juice, honey sugar and other ingredients with different tastes. The inner significance of this preparation is to indicate that life is a mixture of good and bad, joy and sorrow and all of them have to be treated alike. All experiences have to be treated with equanimity. Every one should make a resolve that he will face calmly whatever happens in this year, accepting it with good grace. Welcome everything. Consider everything as for one’s own good. Men should rise above sorrow and happiness, success and failure. This is the primary message of the Ugadi festival.In Andhra Pradesh, eatables such as “pulihora”, “bobbatlu” and preparations made with raw mango go well with the occasion.
You can also make resolutions today:) Auspicious days like Ugadi should be used for making resolutions to change our way of life and to purify our behavior by giving up all bad qualities. Ugadi is a festival that teaches lessons in selfless service. It is not intended for feasting. It is a sacred day when wholesome wisdom should dawn and enlightenment should blossom in the hearts of the people. Ugadi teaches man/woman the lesson that they should perfect themselves as an embodiment of divinity
Ugadi is thus a festival of many shades. It ushers in the new year, brings a rich bounce of flora and fills the hearts of people with joy and contentment.

Click here to view more pictures and how we celebrated the festival this year!


 

Holi…..Bura Na Maano Holi Hai bai

holi
“Bright colors, water balloons, lavish gujiyas and melodious songs are the ingredients of perfect Holi.
Holi or Holika, also called holikotsava, is an extremely popular festival observed throughout the country (India). It is especially marked by unmixed gaiety and frolics and is common to all sections of the people.

The colorful festival of Holi is celebrated on Phalgun Purnima which comes in February end or early March. Holi festival has an ancient origin and celebrates the triumph of ‘good’ over ‘bad’. The colorful festival bridges the social gap and renews sweet relationships. On this day, people hug and wish each other ‘Happy Holi’

Holi celebration begins with lighting up of bonfire on the Holi eve. Numerous legends & stories associated with Holi celebration makes the festival more exuberant and vivid. People rub ‘gulal’ and ‘abeer’ on each others’ faces and cheer up saying, “bura na maano Holi hai”. Holi also gives a wonderful chance to send blessings and love to dear ones wrapped in a special Holi gift.

“Rango Ke Tyohar Me Sabhi Rango Ki Ho Bharmar,
Dher Saari Khushiyo Se Bhara Ho Aapka Sansar,
Yahi Dua hai Bhagwan Se Hamari Har bar,
Holi Mubarak! ”

This festival is very ancient. Known originally as ‘Holika’ it has been mentioned in very early religious works such as Jaimini’s Purvamimamsa-sutras and Kathaka-grhya-sutras. It must have therefore existed several centuries before Christ. It was at first actually a special rite performed by married women for the happiness and well-being of their families and the full moon (Raka) was the deity worshipped by them.
There are two ways of reckoning a lunar month: Purnimanta and Amanta. In the former, the first day starts after the full moon; and in the latter, after the new moon. Though the latter reckoning is more common now, the former was very much in vogue in the earlier days. According to this purnimanta reckoning, Phalguna purnima was the last day of the year and the new year heralding the Vasanta-rtu (with spring starting from next day). Thus the full moon festival of Holika gradually became a festival of merrymaking, announcing the commencement of the spring season. This perhaps explains the other names of this festival: Vasanta-Mahotsava and Kama-Mahotsava.
According to the stories in the Puranas and various local legends, this day is important for three reasons.
• It was on this day that Lord Siva opened his third eye and reduced Kamadeva (the god of love, Cupid or Eros) to ashes.
• It was on this day that Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakasyapu, who tried to kill the child devotee Prahlad by taking him on her lap and sitting on a pyre of wood which was set ablaze. Holika was burnt to ashes while Prahlad remained unscathed!
• It was again on this day that an ogress called Dhundhi, who was troubling the children in the kingdom of Prthu (or Raghu) was made to run away for life, by the shouts and pranks of the mischievous boys. Though she had secured several boons that made her almost invincible, this – noise, shouts, abuses and pranks of boys – was a chink in her armour due to a curse of Lord Siva. The day itself came to be called ‘Adada’ or ‘Holika’ since then.
There are practically no religious observances for this day like fasting or worship. Generally a log of wood will be kept in a prominent public place on the Vasantapanchami day (Magha Sukla Panchami), almost 40 days before the Holi Festival. An image of Holika with child Prahlada in her lap is also kept on the log. Holika’s image is made of combustible materials whereas Prahlada’s image is made of non-combustible ones. People go on throwing twigs of trees and any combustible material they can spare, on to that log which gradually grows into a sizable heap. On the night of Phalguna Purnima, it is set alight in a simple ceremony with the Raksoghna Mantras of the Rgveda (4.4.1-15; 10.87.1-25 and so on) being sometimes chanted to ward off all evil spirits. (Coconuts and coins are thrown into this bonfire).The next morning the ashes from the bonfire are collected as prasad (consecrated material) and smeared on the limbs of the body. Singed coconuts, if any are also collected and eaten.
In some houses the image of Kamadeva is kept in the yard and a simple worship is offered. A mixture of mango blossoms and sandalwood paste is partaken as the Prasad.


 

Makar Sankranti

Wishing you all a very Happy Makar sakranti & lohri.
May this harvest season bring you prosperity
And help you to fly high like a kite,
Let us celebrate together.

Bhogi is celebrated one day before Makar Sankranti which is on 14th Jan

Makar Sankranti festival, unlike other Hindu festivals, is not dependent on the position of the moon, but on position of the sun.
According to Hindu calendar Makar Sankranti is celebrated as the Sun’s journey to Northward region and enters the Makar sign (Capricorn) from the Tropic of Cancer. This period is regarded as highly auspicious in Hindu communities. The Sun’s movement from the Southern to Northern Hemisphere is considered to be very auspicious for crop harvesting. This has made Makar Sankranti, the harvest festival of India.

The history behind Makar Sankranti holds it s significance of being the day of religious significance. With Sun entering the Northern Hemisphere the day and nights become equal on this day and days become longer and nights become shorter. It is also said a day of victory of good over evil as on this day Lord Vishnu conquered the terror of demons and buried them under the Manadara Parvata. Makar Sankranti is also termed as very auspicious even in the epics of Mahabharata. Bhisma Pitamaha after being wounded in the battle field chose to wait for the Uttarayan to set in so that he would get salvation and free himself from the cycle of rebirth. The festival is also given due importance in the Sikh communities as the tenth Sikh Guru Govind Singh brought Moksha, Salvation or Mukhti for fourteen Sikhs. Makar Sankranti is marked as the starting point for all the festivals fall throughout the year.

This festival is celebrated with gaiety and traditional fervour across Andhra Pradesh and other parts of the states with rangoli, kite-flying, decoration of bulls, cock fight, bull fight and other rural sports.

The day begins with colourful ‘muggu’ or ‘rangoli’ in front of the houses with cow dung and flowers. The houses were decorated with marigold flowers and mango leaves.

Bhogi is the day preceding Sankranti and Kanumu is the day after Sankranti.On Bhogi Day we get up early in the morning to light a sacred bonfire called ‘Bhogi Mantalu’. On this day back home in India we burn all the agriculture waste, domestic waste and our bad memories to invite the new memories and happy days :).

Makar Sankranthi is a special day for the women in Maharashtra when married women are invited for a get-together called ‘Haldi-Kumkum’ and given gifts of any utensil, which the woman of the house purchases on that day. Here is my Puja Thali to do the Haldi Kumkun to all the ladies out there.

No festival in India is celebrated without rich and delicious foods. Makar Sankranti is no exception. It is a harvest festival and Like other important festivals, Makar Sankranti is also flooded with lot many sweets and delicious recipies. In South-Indian states, ‘Bandaru Laddu’ is a famous sweet made during the occasion of Makar Sankranti. Ariselu and Kajji-Kaayalu are some of the other special dishes related to it. in Karnataka, a mixture of fried til, fried gram, molasses, dry coconut pieces and peanuts are prepared and distributed among friends and relatives to prevail the sweetness among them throughout the year. Tilgul is a famous sweet exchanged by the Maharashtrian people to speck sweetly and signify the friendship among them. In the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, people prepared rice centric meals for this auspicious occasion. In Punjab and Rajasthan, sweets like Kheer and Ghevar are eaten and special meals or ‘Sakrat Bhoj’ is arranged for friends and relatives. In Orissa, people offered puja to the god by preparing and exchanging ‘Makar Chaula’ to make friendship.

Festivals are the heart and soul of Indian people and Makar Sankranti is a festival with which we begin a year with great joy.

click here to view more pictures and how we celebrated the festival this year!


 

Janamashtami

baby-krishna

Janamashtami or Krishna Jayanti, the festive day is known by different names. Some call it Krishna jayanti day and few call it Janma Ashtami, while a good many call it Gokulashtami and Sri Jayanti.
According to the Hindu lunar calendar falls on the eighth day of the month Shravan, modern calendar is the festival usually celebrated in august.On this day, lord Vishnu was taken birth in this world as the son of kind Vasudeva and his wife Devaki devi. He was then given the name of Sri Krishna. Born to rid the world of the wicked, he was secretly brought up by the chief of the Yadava’s (cowherds) to whom he was taken as soon as he was born, since his uncle kansa considered him an enemy and wanted to get rid of him as soon as he was born, by putting him to death. The birth of this child is celebreated as a festive and sacred day.) and what to cook.


 

Ganesh Chathurthy…..Ganapati Bapa Moriya!

ganesha

About Ganesh Chathurthy:
Who is ganpati – Ganpati is an elephant headed mythological hindu god.
Who started it – Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak (Freedom Fighter and statesman) who revived it in the form of a public festival.
Why was it started – It was celebrated to unite people, from all walks of society, for freedom against british empire which was ruling india.
When was it Started – 1893
Where did it start – Pune, India
Which part of the world celebrates it – All over india & world but notably in mumbai and pune
Where is it celebrated – Public places, apartments, homes, schools, trains !! and everywhere else ….
When is it celebrated – Typically in september or october
How many days is it celebrated – 10 days typically
What significance does it have now in Free India – Social and Public awareness, specially to those who dont/cant have access to media and other sources of knowledge and information
What is the Nature of the festival – Plaster of paris or clay idols are worshipped with a social theme and colorful decorations and worshipped everyday and the idols are immersed into sea/rivers on the last day.

According to the Indian Convention, Ganesh is the prime most deity whom everyone of us must worship first since He is the reliever of obstacles, giver of wisdom and all boons and finally bestows liberation on all those who seek His Grace, and thus cuts asunder the worldly bondage.
The Indians are of the firm belief that no success can be achieved without first paying obeisance to Lord Ganesh. So those who aspire wordly and spiritual success in their life should first start their prayers to Lord Ganesh. Lord Ganesh is the elder son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Shiva is the one who removes and destroys all evils in the world. Parvathi is the Goddess of Sarvashakthi, who helps in his work. He is also affectionately known by many other names like Vinaayaka, Heramba, Siddhivinayaka, Gajamukha, Vigneshvara, Lambodhara,Gajanana, Ganpathi etc
What does the term Ganapathi signify? ‘Ga’ means Buddhi (Intellect). ‘Na’ mean Vijnana (Wisdom ). ‘Ganapthi’ means one who is the Lord of the intellect and wisdom. He is also the Lord of all Ganas (spiritual entities). Ganas also symbolise the senses. Ganapathi is thus the Lord of the senses.
Vinayaaka is known for his supreme intelligence. He has the head of an elephant. The elephant is also known for its high intelligence. The elephant will not trust anybody except its master. Because Vinaayaka is endowed with exceptional intelligence, His elephant face is symbolic of supreme intelligence. Vinayaaka also mean that He is the one who has no master above Him. He is the supreme master.

Source:http://www.planetenjoy.com

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