Maha Shivarathri

People chant ‘Om Nama Shivaya’ as many times on the auspicious day of Shivarathri.

March 10th was Maha Shivarathri celebrations for Hindu’s. The festival is very important for followers of Lord Shiva. It is celebrated in a grand scale in India and in parts of Nepal.

It is believed that this is the day when Lord Shiva married Parvati. It is also believed that this is a favorite day for Lord Shiva. Another story says this was the day when The Lord danced to create the universe. Another story days when the world or universe was is in danger of destruction, Parvati prayed to her husband Lord Shiva to save the universe.

On the day of shivarathri, married women fast for their husbands’ long life. They worship Lord Shiva and Parvati for a happy and long married life. They stay up all night which is known as jagaran doing the prayers. The next day after sunrise is when women break their fast.

As a kid I remember visiting the Lord Shiva temple every year. It would take at least couple hours sometimes to get the glimpse of the idol as devotees line up to pray. I cannot remember much more other than that and sometimes spending evenings and nights driving around the city to see various idol’s of lord Shiva. They would be decorated and beautifully adorned.

Today people play games and some do chant prayers on the occasion and stay up all night in the name of god.

People send wishes to their close friends and family on the occasion. My best friend sent one that was creative I thought.

Om Nama Shivay

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Wish u & ur family happy MAHASHIVRATRI.

Here is a link to an interesting read about Shivarathri, which also explains science behind the festival.

http://www.hindujagruti.org/hinduism/festivals/mahashivratri/

Wikipedia has an interesting aspect as well-

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maha_Shivaratri

I absolutely believe that most of our festivals have a scientific reason and religion is just an aspect around it. I am sure their is a reason for fasting as well. But for me..I probably ate a lot today in the name of god :-)!

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Makara Shankranti

Wishing you all a Happy Shankranti!!!

I can’t remember all the rituals and stories and I have a habit of calling mom on each one. Just a reason to catch up and understand the culture and some times on the stories. This time I had to speak to grandma to get more stories 😉

Jan starts with a new set of Hindu festival. Makara Shankranti. Even though hindus follow lunar calendar, this is one festival that follows sun position. Basically this means sun transitions to Makara meaning Capricorn sign. The festival always falls on 14th of Jan. This begins the journey of sun in the northward direction. This also marks the beginning season for harvesting. Scientifically the warmer days are supposed to start from this day onwards.

The festival is celebrated in various different ways in India. The harvesting season is welcomed in different cultures in different ways. In some parts they have a tradition to fly kites. Lots of yummy sweet dishes are prepared in some parts. In assam, it is Bihu. In southern states of india, a traditional pongal is cooked. In gujrath, the sky is covered with kites. It is a festival of kite. In punjab a festival of lohri is celebrated.

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In my home the kids are given Bogi Pallu which is a mixture of sesame seeds, peanuts, jaggery or sugar cubes (small ones), chickpeas.

The same mixture is also distributed to few families as part of tradition along with a fruit and sugarcane. As kids we loved eating sugarcane and sugar candies that came along from different house holds. Sugar candies were made in different shapes and colors and would be attraction for kids.

Festival food – I have always seen mom and grandma make pongal. Pongal is traditionally cooked in a new earthen pot. Pongal is like a porridge made with rice and lentil ( moong dal). They make sweet version with jaggery version known as sweet pongal and savory version known as khara or uppu pongal. It is accompanied with a tamrind and jaggery dipping. The warm pongal on a cold winter day is comfort food. My grandma makes more varieties of pongal and mostly cooked in milk. She calls is Pallu pongal as base and uses that to make variations. This is accompanied with freshly harvested vegetables that are cooked in a tamarind and spice mixture. They also traditionally make obaatu which is another sweet dish. Very yummy as well. Some folks refer that as pooran poli.

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The morning of Shankranti every one cleans the front of their house. They believe this is done for welcoming goddess Lakshmi. In some parts of the country they get fresh cow dung and use that for cleaning.

Every one after bath worships the Sun and goddess Lakshmi. They pray to the god’s to give them food and grain and keep their blessings on the family. Families wear new clothes symbolizing a new start. The variations food is then prepared and offered to god before prasadam(offerings) is consumed.

I perform the festivals in a smaller scale and less lavish. I make simple savory pongal and sweet pongal and everyone in the family pray to god for good health. This time mom sent the sugar candy and a good friend got them for me. I made the mixture of chickpeas, coconut, sugar, coconut and peanuts to distribute among few with sugar candy. I will update the story with new pictures I can share after the festival.

I am hoping these stories are inspiring to my friends and my family and wishing you all a great health and happiness!

This is visual yellu and sugar candy for all my family and friends.

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Happy Shankranti again!