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Festivals

Vaisnava festivals
Kumbha Mela
Holi

Vaisnava festivals
Compiled by Bhagavata-purana Das

Next is what could be a resume of all the information received about the calendar festivals:

Gopastami
Day when Sri Radha dresses as a cowherd boy. (Adipurusa Dasa)
Gopastami is the day when Krsna was put in charge of the calves. (Bhanu Swami)
On this day the gosalas are cleaned by all the devotees, and the cows are worshiped and offered nice prasada. (Dhira-Krsna Dasa)

Gosthastami
Day the Vrajavasis (Krsna's eternal associates) are worshiped. (Mahamantra Dasa)

Jagaddhatri-puja
Day of worshiping one form of Mahamaya called Jagaddhatri, the maintainer of the material world. (Dhira-Krsna Dasa)

Odan-sasthi
When Lord Jagannatha gets new woolen garments. Described in CC in connection with Pundarika Vidyanidhi. (Urmila dd)
Offering of starched cloth to Lord Jagannatha. (Dhira-Krsna Dasa)

Krsna-pusya abhiseka
During the morning puja the Deity or salagram is bathed in pure ghee. (pusya - ghee, nourishing) (Dhira-Krsna Dasa, Bhanu Swami)

Ganga-sagara-mela
The anniversary of when the 60,000 sons of Maharaja Sagara were liberated by Mother Ganges. (Dhira-Krsna Dasa)
Festival held at the mouth of the Ganga in memory of Bhagiratha bringing the Ganga down. (Bhanu Swami)
Day (usually in January) when Deity of Lord Kapila appears for darsan at Ganga Sagar (island in Ganga right at Bay of Bengal). Lakhs of devotees attend this function. (Maha-mantra Dasa)

Vasanta-pancami
First day of spring. Many flowers, leaves and new grass shoots are used to decorate the Deities. (Dhira-Krsna Dasa)

Bhismastami
Appearance of Bhismadeva. (Dhira-Krsna Dasa)

Krsna-madhura-utsava?

Damanaka-ropana-dvadasi
This is a day for planting and worshiping damanaka trees. (Bhanu Swami)

Krsna-vasanta-rasa
Krsna's rasa dance with the gopis in the spring. (Dhira-Krsna Dasa)

Aksaya-tritiya
Commemorates the beginning of Satya yuga. Auspicious day to start a new project. On this day sesame was created for the purpose of yajna. One could perform a yajna and offer sesame. (Dhira-Krsna Dasa)
Day when Lord Badrinath and Lord Kedarnath temples in the Himalayas open for public worship. (Maha-mantra Dasa)

Jahnu-saptami
The day when Jahnu Muni released the Ganga. (Bhakta Jan)
Perhaps the Ganga emerged from his ear on that day. (Dhira-Krsna Dasa)

Rukmini-dvadasi
Appearance of Srimati Rukmini Devi (Shyamasundara Dasa)

Krsna-pula-dola, Salila Vihara
Phula dola is Radha-Krsna's flower swing festival. (Bhanu Swami)
Salila Vihara means boat festival. In the summer the Deities of Radha and Krsna are taken on a lake in a boat. (Dhira-Krsna Dasa)

Jala-dana of Salagrama-Tulasi
During the hot summer season a pot with a hole in the bottom is hung over the Tulasi plant and the Salagrama sila and water is thus continually dripped over them to keep them cool. At the end Salagrama and Tulasi get married. (Shyamasundara Dasa)
This may not be practical in the West as it is quite cold during this season. (Dhira Krsna Dasa).

Hera Pancami
Takes place three days after Lord Jagannatha's chariot festival. Commemorates Rukmini devi's visit to Vrndavana to bring Krsna back to Dvaraka. (Dhira-Krsna Dasa)
Day when the Rathayatra returns from the Gundica Mandira. How Lord Caitanya observed this festival is described in CC Madhya 14. (Shyamasundara Dasa)

Guru (Vyasa) purnima
Appearance of Srila Vyasadeva. Generally we do not celebrate it. (Dhira-Krsna Dasa)
Worship of the guru, vyasapuja. We do this daily. (Shyamasundara Dasa)

Nandotsava
Day when Nanda Maharaja celebrated the birth of Lord Krsna, the day after his appearance (Janmastami). This coincides with Srila Prabhupada's birth day. (Dhira-Krsna Dasa)

Lalita-sasti
Appearance of Lalita Sakhi, two days before Radhastami. (Mahamantra Dasa)

Radha-kunda prakata
Appearance of Radha-kunda (Adipurusa Dasa)

Bahulastami (identical with Radha-kunda prakata)
The eighth day of the waning moon in the month of Karttika (Sept-Oct). The appearance day of Syamakunda and Radhakunda (Dhira-Krsna Dasa)

Go-krida?

Bhima-pancaka
Shyamasundara P. in his Vedic Astrology conf. said (text 343454 on 14-Jan-94) regarding the calendar program: "These bugs may not be software related but translation problems as in the example of Bhisma Pancaka discussed some time ago on COM. It actually turned out to be Bhima Pancaka after more research was done." Pancaka in general is a five day period (Dhanista through Revati naksatras) inauspicious for the Vedic rituals. Ref.: Garuda Purana 2.4.176-9. (Bhakta Jan)

Five days of fasting on these days is equivalent of whole Caturmasya fast. Bhima could not fast so this provision was made. (Bhanu Swami)

Also called Visnu Pancaka. Recommended in many sastras and also in the Hari Bhakti Vilasa. It is said that devotees, if possible, can do some fasting. Some devotees do it here in Mayapur by taking only ekadasi-prasada for these five days. (The real one is very technical and too difficult.)

Bhima pancaka is the five-day period at the end of Caturmasya. The fast can be observed by eating unsalted kichri once a day for the final five days, and the benefit is the same as following the entire four months of Caturmasya. It is somewhat like Bhima-nirjala-ekadasi in that one can get the benefit of the longer vrata by doing a shorter tapasya. (Ram-prasad Dasa)

Q: I saw in Vrndavana devotees were following very heavy fast. First day only little cow dung, second - cow urine, third - ghee, then yogurt and milk. Can anybody, please, tell how one should follow it correctly? I was also told that the real benefit of this fast is that one will "hold" pure devotion to Krsna in his hand. But one can observe this vrata only in Vraja. Why? (Sasvata Dasa)

A: After following and inquiring about the various paths of following caturmasya for several years I can tell you the following. Keep in mind that those living in the dhama may have access and info that I do not have. With that in mind I have not heard of or read the pancagavya type of fast you mention related to Caturmasya or anywhere. I also had not heard that this can only be done in Vraja. Is there some sastric quote for this?

Many of the practices we follow are traditionally done only in the dhama but fortunate for us, Prabhupada brought these things outside the boundaries of India. Myself and others have performed the Bhima pancaka a few times and it is quite a nice service to take up. The austerity is wonderful to tell the truth. Depending on the person and the work situation the fasting varied. One fasted from only foods grown on his land, another only took milk those five days, another took only water, another ate only once in the day, all of these were of course without spice, sweet, ghee, etc. I feel the main point is to perform austerity and enhance one's devotional practices - increase japa, reading, kirtan, preaching. This is what we have seen to be the real mood of accepting austerity. (Chaturatma Dasa)

Related:
Festival list
Ekadasi
GCAL (free download)
Online calendar calculation

Kumbha Mela
(Bansi Pandit: The Hindu Mind)

Kumbha (literally "pot") Mela is a sacred pilgrimage that takes place at the following four locations of India:

  • Prayag (near the city of Allahabad, in the state of Uttar Pradesh) at the confluence of three rivers Ganga (Ganges), Yamuna and Sarasvati,
  • Haridvar (in the state of Uttar Pradesh) where the river Ganga enters the plains from Himalayas,
  • Ujjain (in Madhya Pradesh), on the banks of Ksipra river, and
  • Nasik (in Maharastra) on the banks of Godavari river.

The pilgrimage occurs four times every twelve years, once at each of the four locations. Each twelve-year cycle includes the Maha (great) Kumbha Mela at Prayag, attended by millions of people, making it the largest pilgrimage gathering around the world.

According to astrologers, the 'Kumbh Fair' takes place when the planet Jupiter enters Aquarius and the Sun enters Aries.

The observance of Kumbha Mela is based upon the following story:
Thousands of years ago, in the Vedic period, demigods and demons made a temporary agreement to work together in obtaining amrita (the nectar of immortality) from the Milk Ocean and to share this equally. However, when the pot containing the amrita appeared, the demons ran away with the pot and were chased by the demigods. For twelve days and twelve nights (equivalent to twelve human years) the demigods and demons fought in the sky for the possession of this pot of amrita. It is said that during the battle, drops of amrita fell on to four places: Prayag, Haridvar, Ujjain and Nasik. Thus Kumbha mela is observed at these four locations where the nectar fell.

Kumbha Mela is attended by millions of people on a single day. A ritual bath at a predetermined time and place is the major event of this festival. Other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men/women and the poor and religious assemblies where doctrines are debated and standardized.

Kumbha Mela (especially the Maha Kumbha Mela) is the most sacred of all the pilgrimages. Thousands of holy persons (monks, saints, sadhus) grace the occasion by their presence. The auspiciousness of Kumbha Mela is in part attributed to the gathering of thousands of holy persons at one place on earth.

Related:
Places of Pilgrimage

Holi - Full Moon Day of Phalguna

This is pre-eminently the spring festival of Bharat. The trees are smiling with their sprout of tender leaves and blooming flowers. With the harvest having been completed and the winter also just ended, it is pre-eminently a festival of mirth and merriment. Gulal (colored powder) is sprinkled on each other by elders and children, men and women, rich and poor alike. All superficial social barriers are pulled down by the all-round gaiety and laughter.

The day itself is associated with many interesting and enlightening Puranic legends. It is the day of Kamadahana, the burning of god Kama, Cupid. The virgin daughter of the king of Himalayas, Parvati, was in deep penance to acquire the hand of Lord Siva as her spouse. But Siva himself was lost in a deep trance entirely oblivious of the outside world. Kamadeva came to the rescue of Parvati and shot his amorous arrows of love at Siva. Siva, disturbed from his trance, opened his terrible third eye. The flames of Siva's wrath, leaping from his forehead eye, burnt Kama to ashes and thereafter Kama became spirit without a form. Siva then looked towards Parvati and fructified her penance by marrying her. It is this burning of lustful infatuation by penance that is signified in this festival.

Holi is also associated with the story of Holika, the sister of demon Hiranyakasipu. The demon-father, having failed in various other ways to make his son Prahlada denounce Lord Narayana, finally asked his sister Holika to take Prahlada in her lap and enter a blazing fire. Holika, who had a boon to remain unscathed by fire, did her brother's bidding. But lo, Holika's boon ended by this act of supreme sin against the Lord's devotee and was herself burnt to ashes and Prahlada came out unharmed.

One more legend pertains to another Holika, also known as Putana, who came as a charming woman to kill the infant Sri Krishna by feeding him with her poisoned breast. Sri Krishna, however, sucked her blood and she lay dead in her hideous form.

Such stories have effectively charged the popular mind with the faith that ultimately the forces of divinity shall triumph over the demonic forces. Symbolically, a bonfire of Kamadeva or Holika is made in every town or village, attended by unbounded fun and frolic. Games depicting the pranks of infant Krishna are also played by boys singing and dancing around the fire.

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