Amavasya is the New Moon day. This is regarded as a sacred occasion for performing worships and rituals, especially in memory of our departed ancestors. This day usually comes once a month and 12 times a year. Accordingly, Amavasya 2020, too, occurs 12 times during that calendar year.
Amavasya is a Sanskrit word, made up of the terms ‘Ama’ and ‘Vasya.’ Ama means ‘together,’ and ‘Vasya’ is ‘to dwell.’
There are 30 lunar phases as per the traditional calendar, and each of them is called a thithi. The dark Moon thithi, when the Moon is not seen in the sky, is referred to as Amavasya thithi or only as Amavasya. There are Hindu calendars that regard Amavasya as the beginning of the lunar month, which runs for around 29 days. Pournami, the Full Moon day, falls in the middle of such a month.
Tradition regards the Moon as the ruler of the mind. Known as Mano Karaka, it is believed to control emotions. This is said to be the reason why some people are given to mood swings on Amavasya days, when the Moon is absent, and behave oddly. As Amavasya was dark, people in the olden times used to avoid traveling and the starting of new ventures on those occasions. As Lord Shiva adorned his head with the Moon, they also worshipped him on Amavasya, seeking light and guidance in their lives.
Importance of Amavasya
Amavasya is of great religious significance. It is considered highly suitable for remembering the ancestors and departed souls in the family and worshipping them. It is believed that on the sacred Amavasya, the day when Moonlight is absent, the sunlight reaches them. There is also a belief that the departed forefathers come down to the earth plane and visit their children and descendants, on this day.
As Amavasya marks the beginning of a new month, some people regard this as a good day for making new beginnings and undertaking essential activities. People also utilize this day for discarding unproductive thoughts, harmful habits, and negative beliefs, and try welcoming the days to come with enthusiasm. As a day when the Moon starts on its waxing course, growing bigger and brighter in the days to follow, people also start growing in confidence, with optimism and hope.
While many beliefs are associated, and rituals are practiced on Amavasya, important festivals are also observed on this day. Diwali, the biggest of festivals, is celebrated on Kartik Amavasya, the new moon day falling in the month of Kartik (October – November).
Amavasya observation and benefits
As Amavasya is fundamentally dedicated to ancestral worship, prayers are offered to them in the form of rituals. Ceremonies like Tarpanam for feeding the dead are performed, in which rice and sesame seeds are offered in their memory along with water, amidst recitation of appropriate sacred mantras. People also do poor feeding and give grains, clothes, and money in charity. Many observe partial fasts also, restricting to one meal on that day.
However, different Amavasyas falling in different months have their own unique significance and specific customs. While Kartik Amavasya is Diwali, Ashwin Amavasya is observed as Mahalaya Amavasya or Sarv Pitra Amavasya, when the ceremonial worship of the departed souls is undertaken on a large scale. Deep Pooja is done on Ashadha Amavasya, during which sacred lamps are worshipped with the belief that it will bring light in life and give happiness. Shravan Amavasya is commemorated as the day of the onset of monsoon and is observed as Hariyali Amavasya, the festival of rains.
In the calendar year 2020, Thai Amavasya falls on 24th January, Phalguna Amavasya on 23rd February, Chaitra Amavasya on 24th March, Vaishaka Amavasya on 22nd April, Jyestha Amavasya on 22nd May, Ashadha Amavasya on 21st June, Shravana Amavasya on 20th July, Bhadrapada Amavasya on 19th August, Ashwin Amavasya on 17th September, Ashwina Adhika Amavasya on 16th October, Kartika Amavasya on 14th November, and Margashirsha Amavasya on 14th December.
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