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Hindu Festivals

Hindu Festivals : AHA Shiva Vishnu Temple

As part of our Mission, AHA ensures that the community is able to celebrate all major Hindu festivals and events of interest. AHA helps out in facilitating the planning and celebration of such events for the benefit of everyone.

The following is a sample of major festivals that the AHA organizes on behalf of the community. Community members are encouraged to provide inputs and also participate in the planning and celebrations of all these events either at the temple or around town. 


Festival: Pongal

2014 Celebration Date: January 14th

Thai Pongal (தைப்பொங்கல்) or Pongal (பொங்கல்) is a harvest festival celebrated by Tamils at the end of the harvest season. It is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Tamils in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry and Sri Lanka.

Pongal marks the beginning of the northward journey of the Sun from its southernmost-limit, a movement traditionally referred to asuttarayana. It coincides with the festival Makara Sankranthi celebrated throughout India as the winter harvest, and is usually held from January 13–16 in the Gregorian calendar i.e. from the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi to the third day of Thai. The second of the four days or the first day of month Thai is the main day of the festival which is known as Pongal or Thai Pongal. This also represents the Indic solstice when the sun purportedly enters the 10th house of the Indian zodiac i.e. Makar or Capricorn.

The word pongal itself refers to the “boiling over” of milk and rice during the month of Thai. The saying “Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum” meaning “the commencement of Thai paves the way for new opportunities” is often quoted regarding the Pongal festival. Tamils thank the Sun god (Surya) for the good harvest and consecrate the first grain to him on this ‘Surya Mangalyam’. Tamilians decorate their homes with banana and mango leaves and embellish the floor with decorative patterns drawn using rice flour.

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Festival: Holi

2014 Celebration Date: Monday March 17th (Will be celebrated at the Temple on Sunday March 16th from 12pm)

Holi (English pronunciation:hoʊli) (Sanskrit: होली) is a spring festival also known as festival of colors, and sometimes festival of love. It is an ancient Hindu religious festival which has become popular with non-Hindus in many parts of South Asia, as well as people of other communities. It is primarily observed in India, Nepal, and other regions of the world with significant populations of majority Hindus or people of Indian origin.

Holi celebrations start with a Holika bonfire on the night before Holi where people gather, sing and dance. The next morning is free for all carnival of colors, where everyone plays, chases and colors each other with dry powder and colored water, with some carrying water guns and colored water-filled balloons for their water fight. Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. The frolic and fight with colors occurs in the open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings. Groups carry drums and musical instruments, go from place to place, sing and dance. People move and visit family, friends and foes, first play with colors on each other, laugh and chit chat, then share Holi delicacies, food and drinks. In the evening, after sobering up, people dress up, visit friends and family. It is a national holiday in India.

Holi is celebrated at the approach of vernal equinox, on the Phalguna Purnima (Full Moon). The festival date varies every year, per the Hindu calendar, and typically comes in March, sometimes February in the Gregorian Calendar. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair ruptured relationships.

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Festival: Ugadi

2014 Celebration Date: March 31st

ugādi, (Ugādi) ‘Samvatsarādi Telugu:Ugadi (ఉగాది), Kannada: ಉಗಾದಿ, yugādi, IPA: juga:di, Konkani/Marathi: युगादि yugādi) is the New Year’s Day for the people of the Deccan region of India. The name Yugadi or Ugadi is derived from the Sanskrit words yuga(age) and ādi (beginning): “the beginning of a new age”.  The Saka calendar begins with the month of Chaitra (March–April) and Ugadi marks the first day of the new year.

While the people of Andhra Pradesh and Karnatka use the term Ugadi/Yugadi for this festival, the people of Maharashtra term the same festival, observed on the same day, Gudi Padwa (Marathi: गुढी पाडवा). Marwari, people of Rajasthan celebrate the same day as their new year day Thapna. Sindhis, people from Sindh, celebrate the same day as their New Year day Cheti Chand. Manipuris also celebrate their New Year (Sajibu nongma panba) on the same day. It is observed as Baisakhi in Punjab and Puthandu in Tamil Nadu. However, it is not celebrated on the same day as Yugadi in Tamil Nadu.

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Festival: Ram Navami

2014 Celebration Date: March 31st – April 9th

Ram Navami (Devanāgarī: राम नवमी) also known as Sri Rama Navami is a Hindu festival, celebrating the birth of Lord Rama to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya of Ayodhya. Ram is the 7th incarnation of the Dashavatara of Vishnu. Years later Lord Rama was married to Sita on the Vivaha Panchami. The sacred marriage of Devi Sita with Lord Rama was held on Margashirsha Shukla Panchami as per Valmiki Ramayana (This occasion is known as Seetha kalyanam). The Rama Navami festival falls in the Shukla Paksha on the Navami, the ninth day of the month of Chaitra in the Hindu calendar. Thus it is also known as Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami, and marks the end of the nine-day Chaitra-Navratri celebrations.

At some places the festival lasts the whole nine days of the Navratras, thus the period is called ‘Sri Rama Navratra’. It is marked by continuous recitals, Akhand Paath, mostly of the Ramacharitamanas, organized several days in advance to culminate on this day, with elaborate bhajan, kirtan and distribution of prasad after the puja and aarti. Images of infant form of Sri Rama are placed on cradles and rocked by devotees.

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Festival: Jagannath Puri Rath Yathra

2014 Celebration Date: Sunday 29th June

An Article on 2013 AHA Rath Yathra Festival by Akash Pattnaik as published in Wisconsin State Journal

Ratha-Yatra or Chariot Festival is a Hindu festival that involves transporting deities on a chariot (called a ratha). “Ratha” (ରଥ) in Oriya means chariot and “yatra” (ଯାତ୍ରା) means journey. The festival thus refers to the annual journey of the divinity in the form of idols to their aunt’s (ମାଉସୀ) house. “Aunt” here refers to the feminine creative aspect of divinity.

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Festival: Diwali

2014 Celebration Date: 23rd – 27th October

Diwali (English pronunciation: /dɨˈwɑːliː/) also called the “festival of lights“, is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in autumn every year. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartik. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November.

Before Diwali night, people clean, renovate and decorate their homes. On Diwali night, Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja typically to Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity. After puja (prayers), fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Diwali also marks a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated.

Diwali is an important festival for Hindus. The name of festive days as well as the rituals of Diwali vary significantly among Hindus, based on the region of India. In many parts of India, the festivities start with Dhanteras, followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, Diwali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife-husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhau-beej dedicated to sister-brother bond on the fifth day. Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dussehra.


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