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Thread: Lunar New Year and associated festivals

  1. #1
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    Lunar New Year and associated festivals

    Namaste.

    Most of us already know that the Hindu calendrical system is very complex. The years, months and days in the Hindu calendar are reckoned according to both the sun and the moon, as they travel across the backdrop of the stars. Naturally, therefore, we have both lunar and solar new year days. For historical reasons, different parts of the Hindu world observe new year either according to the lunar or solar reckoning. This write-up will be about the lunar new year.

    In most regions, the lunar year begins in the spring with the waxing moon in the month of Chaitra (exceptions: the state of Gujarat in India, and the Newar region of Nepal, where the lunar year begins in the fall after Diwali). This year, the lunar new year begins on March 19 (at 02:44 GMT).

    The lunar new year day is called by different names in different regions:

    Nav Samvat (Chaitradi) in Northern India (Hindi and Punjabi regions)
    Hari Raya Nyepi throughout Indonesia (especially Bali)
    Yugadi (Chandramana) in Southern India (Kannada and Telugu regions)
    Cheti Chand in Sindhi
    Navreh in Kashmiri
    Gudi Padva in Marathi
    Samvatsar Padvo in Konkani
    Sajibu Nangapanba in Manipuri (Meitei)

    Other names: Chaitra Shukla Pratipada, Chaitradi, Nav Samvatsar, Chaitra Shukladi, Varsha Pratipada, etc.

    Per legend, Brahmā began creation on this very day. The Kaliyuga also is said to have begun on this day in 3102 BCE, which is why it is referred to as yugadi (yuga + adi – beginning). With this day, we begin the lunar year 5109 of the Kaliyuga (5108 years have thus far elapsed).

    In addition, there are two other year-count systems in common usage. Both are reignal years of popular historical emperors. The first system is called the Vikram Samvat, which is popular in the north of India, and counts the years since the coronation of Emperor Vikramaditya of Ujjain in 58 BCE. According to the Vikram Samvat, it is now the year 2064. The second system is called the Shaka Samvat, which is popular in the south of India and Indonesia, and counts the years since the defeat of the Shaka invaders by Emperor Shalivahana of Pratishthana in 78 CE. According to the Shaka Samvat, it is now the year 1929.

    In addition to the numbers, each year also receives a name out of a list of 60 successive names. Originally, the 60 names were associated with Jovian (Jupiter) “years,” but now they are linked to lunar years. According to Vikram Samvat, the present year (2064) will be called Sharvari; and in the Shaka Samvat, the present year (1929) will be called Sarvajit.

    The lunar new year itself is generally a quiet observance without much external celebration. It is a day of quiet reflection, temple prayers, wearing of new clothes, dining on freshly harvested crops, and reading of the predictions for the new year in the traditional Hindu almanac (Panchanga). In Bali, this is a day of complete silence, when no action is performed and no fire is lit.

    With the lunar new year day, we begin two nine-day festivals: one Shakta and the other Vaishnava. The festival of Shakti is known as Vasanta Navaratri (nine spring nights), where the Divine Mother is worshipped as Devi Durga. Devi Durga has nine forms, hence the festival lasts for nine days. The Vaishnava festival which overlaps the same days is the festival of Lord Rama. This observance also lasts nine days, involves a nine-day recitation of the Ramayana, and culminates with the birthday of Lord Rama (Rama Navami) on the ninth day.

    Jai Shri Ram
    Jai Mata Di,

    A.

    In whom the Adityas, Rudras and Vasus are held together; in whom are set firm the worlds; that which was and that which shall be – tell me of that Support – who may He be? (Atharvaveda Samhita X.7.22)


  2. #2
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    Re: Lunar New Year and associated festivals

    Namaste MG,
    Quote Originally Posted by MysticalGypsi View Post
    So Agni, when you are talking about the first day when silence is observed is that day March 19? And then count nine days starting March 20? And how exactly are the nine days celebrated?
    The lunar new year technically begins this year on March 19 everywhere (observance may be deferred to March 20 in India since it begins after sunrise). The day of silence is in a tradition in Indonesian Hinduism, not Indian.

    Either way, the nine day count begins on March 19 itself. So the nine days should be March 19 - 27. Traditionally, there would be a Durga Puja on each of the nine days (after dusk) - the major ones I believe are day 6, 7, 8 and 9. Some people recite a portion of the text known as Durga Saptashati (700 verses on Durga) on each of the nine days. Sometimes, temples will also hold cultural programs. You may want to check with your temple. In my personal practice, I read a 40 verse hymn called Durga Chalisa on these days. It incorporates much of Shakta mythology and theology.

    My calendar says March 19-Vasantha Navarati begins & March 26-Ramanavami begins and that Saturday is Ramanavami Celebration. What is the celebration like?
    In the west, Rama Navami will be on March 26 (day 8) because of certain technicalities (it must be celebrated on the solar day when the ninth lunar day overlaps noon). In India, Rama Navami will be on March 27. In western Hindu temples, many festivals are celebrated on weekends so more people can come.

    In the Rama Navami celebrations I've been to before involved reciting of the Ramayana (by those who know how), a puja, singing of some bhajans, etc.

    There are many regional variations as to how these festivals are celebrated. I hope other members here will tell us a little about the celebration of these festivals especially in India.

    OM,
    A.
    Last edited by Agnideva; 18 March 2007 at 06:32 PM.
    In whom the Adityas, Rudras and Vasus are held together; in whom are set firm the worlds; that which was and that which shall be – tell me of that Support – who may He be? (Atharvaveda Samhita X.7.22)


  3. #3
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    Re: Lunar New Year and associated festivals

    Excellent write-up.

    Another data point is that Makar Sankranti (Pongal in South India) is the only Hindu festival which is celebrated per the Solar calender, on January 14th each year. Contrary to the popular belief that it marks the start of Uttarayan - sun's northward journey - it marks the day when the sun transits from Sagittarius and enters Capricorn. Sun's northward journey starts on the winter solstice - Dec 21/22.

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    Re: Lunar New Year and associated festivals

    Vannakkam Believer: Just a point on how the forums are organised ... in case you hadn't realised this. The time of posts is up in the corner. So it has been about 3 years and 4 months since Agnideva's post, so it may well be unlikely that you will get a response from him.

    Having said that, it is fine to restart an old thread as others who are newer to the forums may wish to express their opinions as well.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: Lunar New Year and associated festivals

    Gudi Padwa celebration which is also referred as chaitra shukla pratipada festival specifically celebrated in Maharashtra.
    Chakra Healing with RRST!!!

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