Sri Rama Navami – April 2, 2020 – Thursday
The Hindu festival of Rama Navami celebrates the day on which Vishnu incarnated in the human form of Sri Rama in the kingdom of Ayodhya. This was the seventh incarnation of Vishnu. Rama is said to have half the divine qualities of Vishnu. The word “Rama” means many things -‘one who is divinely blissful’, ‘who gives joy to others’, and ‘one in whom the sages rejoice’. The ninth day of Shukla Paksha (bright fortnight) in Chaitra month (April/May) is celebrated as Rama Navami. It coincides with Vasant Navratri or Chait Durga Puja. Hence, in some places, the festival lasts nine days. The day which marks the birthday of Rama is also observed as the day of Rama’s nuptials with Sita. So it is also called Kalyanotsavam.
Rama was ‘maryada purushottam’ or the perfect person who embodied compassion, kindness, integrity, and righteousness. Despite his power, he was a gentle soul. His reign is called Rama rajya, the example of perfect governance. Rama was born to establish dharma (righteousness) and destroy adharma (evil). On Rama Navami, there are poojas, ratha yatras, bhajan programs, and pandals.
Vasanta Navaratri – March 25 to April 3 – 2020
Vasanta Navratri, also called Chaitra Navaratri, is a festival that lasts nine days. It begins on the first day of the Hindu calendar, in March or April. As Chaitra is the first month of the Hindu calendar, it got the name, Chaitra Navaratri. The birthday of Lord Rama, Rama Navami, usually falls on the ninth day of the festival. Navratri is celebrated four times in a year, during the months of Chaitra, Aashadh, Ashwin, and Magha.
All the nine days of Vasanta Navaratri are dedicated to the worship of nine forms of Goddess Shakti.
The nine forms of the goddess are –Maa Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandmata, Kaatyayini, Kaalraatri, Mahagauri and Sidhidaatri.Customs and rituals related to Sharad Navaratri, which is observed in September or October, are also followed during Vasanta Navratri. The festival enjoys great popularity in north India. In the state of Maharashtra, Vasanta Navaratri begins with Gudi Padwa, while in Andhra Pradesh, it begins with Ugadi.
Ekadasi – April 4 and 18, 2020 – Saturday
The day of Ekadasi has great importance in the Hindu religion. The word means ‘eleventh day’. Ekadasi is the 11th day after the full moon or new moon. Usually, there are two Ekadasis in a month.
Ekadasi is an auspicious day for the worship of Vishnu or Krishna. People observe a Vrat on this day and spend their time in prayers or other religious activities. Every Ekadasi has a particular significance and is believed to give certain benefits. April 4th, 2020, a Saturday, is Ekadasi. The Ekadasi vrat or fast is observed for the entire day.
On this day, one should follow a particular diet. Grains and beans should not be eaten. Hence, foods like rice, bread, lentils, pasta, etc. have to be avoided. The Ekadasi fast is like a devotional service. But it need not be very extreme.
Fasting helps us take away our focus from the body and spend our time contemplating the divine. Devotees reflect on Vishnu or Krishna and chant their names, for the very purpose of Ekadasi is to think of Krishna and take stock of our spiritual lives.
Pradosham – April 5 and 20, 2020 – Sunday
Pradosham is an important day for those who worship Shiva. The 13th day (Trayodashi) of the lunar fortnight is observed as Pradosham. Pradosham can occur both during the waxing and waning phases of the moon as per the Hindu calendar. If Pradosham falls on Monday, it is Soma Pradosham or Chandra Pradosham, and if it is on Tuesday, it is Bhauma Pradosh. If it falls on Saturday, it is Shani Pradosham. For Shiva devotees, Soma Pradosham and Shani Pradosham are more significant. On Pradosham days, they observe a vrat or fast from sunrise until sunset as it grants many benefits.
The Shiva Puranas say that observing a fast on Pradosham is very auspicious as it bestows progeny, wealth, and happiness. Prayers to Shiva during Pradosham has the power to liberate one from all their sins. A legend says that Shiva drank the Halahala poison during Pradosham time. The poison emerged during Samudra Manthan.
Mahavir Jayanthi – April 5, 2020 – Sunday
Mahavir Jayanti is a major festival for Jains. It celebrates the birth of the twenty-fourth Tirthankara, Mahavir. Going by the Gregorian calendar, the festival is celebrated in March or April. Jain texts say that Mahavir was born on the thirteenth day of Shukla Paksha, (the bright half of the moon), in Chaitra month, in 599 BCE.
Mahavir Jain founded Jainism in India, and he was the last Tirthankara. The Jain community enthusiastically celebrates the festival at Jain temples in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Kolkata, and Bihar. On this occasion, many Jains perform charitable activities to attain moksha or liberation. Often, traditional dishes are cooked and served to the needy. People try to follow an honest and simple lifestyle on Mahavir Jayanti.
When Mahavir was born, there was peace in the world. The gods and goddesses in heaven paid homage to him and bathed him. He was named Vardhaman and Mahavira. When he was thirty, Mahavir renounced the material world and started to meditate. It took him twelve years of meditation under an Ashoka tree to gain enlightenment. He then traveled all over India and spoke against superstitions and other false beliefs. He established dharma for promoting ethics, moral values, non-violence, and truthfulness. Mahavir forbade killing. He also taught people to gain virtues by meditating and fasting.
Panguni Uthiram – April 7, 2020 – Tuesday
Panguni Uthiram is a festival that is celebrated grandly in many temples in south India. Some of the more famous temples associated with the festival are Kapaleeswarar temple, Mylapore, Vadapalani Murugan temple, Palani temple, and Perur, near Coimbatore. The festival is celebrated in the month of Panguni (March-April). On this occasion, the star, Uthiram, and Pournami come together. It is said that on Panguni Uthiram, the marriage of Rama and Sita took place, and hence, many divine marriages are held in temples on this day. The custom is to take all the utsava murthis to the marriage hall (kalyana mantapam) of the temple, and perform the wedding ceremony of the presiding deities. The marriages of Murugan- Deivanai, Shiva- Parvati, Vishnu-Lakshmi, and Rama–Sita are celebrated with great pomp in this manner. There are many rituals associated with the festival. One such ritual is the practice of carrying a kavadi (semicircular canopy supported by a wooden rod carried aloft on the shoulders). Some carry milk pots or pull a chariot in order to fulfill their vows. Others have their body pierced with spears and hooks, a feature called alagu. They do it as a thanksgiving gesture to God for saving them from some misfortune. The festival has been held since the 7th century. There are also other important happenings ascribed to this day including the incarnation of Lord Ayyappa and the incarnation of Goddess Mahalakshmi.
On Panguni Uthiram, devotees visit the six famous temples of Muruga in Tamil Nadu, the Arupadai Veedus. The Palani car festival is an important feature of Panguni Uthiram. Other important events related to this day are the births of Ayyappa and Goddess Mahalakshmi.
Hanuman Jayanthi – April 8. 2020 – Wednesday
The festival of Hanuman Jayanti celebrates the birth of the monkey god, Hanuman. It is observed in the Hindu month of Chaitra (April – May) and is celebrated with great devotion by Hindus, especially devotees of Hanuman. Hanuman is an important character in the Ramayana, where he renders invaluable help to Rama to save Sita from Ravana’s clutches. An ancient saying claims that if you want to please Rama and make him remedy all your sorrows, the best way is to worship Hanuman. Hanuman is very powerful and also an ardent devotee of Rama. He bestows happiness and destroys problems. Reciting the Hanuman Chalisa is believed to help us overcome all sorrows.
Hanuman was the son of Vayu (Wind god) and Anjana. He is also an incarnation of Shiva. Hanuman was renowned for his strength, courage, and physical energy. He had the ability to transform into any form. On the day of Hanuman Jayanti, devotees visit his temples seeking his blessings. They offer prayers and chant mantras like the Hanuman Chalisa and Sundar Kaand. Many people observe a day-long fast too.
Good Friday – April 10, 2020 – Friday
Good Friday is a Christian holiday. It commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus and his death on the cross at Calvary. Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God, and he was born on earth to redeem human beings from their sins by sacrificing his life. Good Friday is observed during Holy Week on the Friday that comes before Easter Sunday. Sometimes it coincides with the Jewish Passover. It is also called Black Friday, Holy Friday, and Great Friday. Followers of most Christian denominations observe Good Friday by fasting and attending church services. It is a day of mourning, penance, and fasting, so there are no celebrations. It is, rather, a time for introspection and soul-searching. The date of Good Friday may change every year. It is a legal holiday in most parts of the world. In some countries, like Germany, there are laws that forbid acts like dancing and horse racing on this day in recognition of the solemnity of the occasion.
Good Friday is followed by the Easter that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. The reason why Good Friday is called so is because the suffering and death that is associated with it is followed by Christ’s glorious resurrection and eternal life.
The events that transpired on Good Friday are commemorated in the Stations of the Cross. This is a 14-step devotion that Catholics perform during Lent, particularly on Good Friday. The Stations of the Cross are usually recited on Wednesdays and Fridays during the Lent season. Good Friday is a day of fasting. There will be no Mass or celebration of the Eucharist on this day. Even the church bells do not toll, and the altars are bare.
Chaturthi – April 11, 2020 – Saturday
Chaturthi is the fourth day of any lunar month in the Hindu calendar. It is also called Tithi. The 4th day of the waning moon, following the full moon, is Sankashti Chaturthi. It is called Angarki Chaturthi if it falls on Tuesday. ‘Angarak’ in Sanskrit means ‘red like burning coal embers’. A strict fast is observed by devotees on this day. The fast is broken at night after they have darshan of the moon. This will be preceded by prayers to Ganesha. It is believed that our wishes will be fulfilled if we pray on this auspicious day. Sankashti also means deliverance from problems, so observing this fast can reduce our problems. Ganesha is the god who removes all obstacles and rules intelligence. The Ganapati Atharvashesha is recited before moonlight to get the blessings of Ganesha.
Every month, Ganesha is worshipped with a different name and lotus petals. On the Chaturthi day of each month, the ‘Sankashta Ganapathi Pooja’ prayer will be performed. Each and every ‘Vratha’ (fast) has a purpose. This will be explained through a story called the ‘Vratha Katha’. The prayer offering consists of 13 Vratha Kathas, with one for each month. The 13th story is for ‘athika’ (Every four years, the Hindu calendar has one extra month). The uniqueness of this Vratha lies in the fact that the story related to that month alone needs to be recited.
Easter – April 12, 2020 – Sunday
Easter is the day on which Jesus Christ resurrected from the tomb on the third day after he was crucified. It had been prophesied that Jesus, who died for the sins of humanity, would rise from the dead on the third day. By commemorating the resurrection of Jesus, Christians renew the hope of triumphing over sin. Easter is preceded by a period of fasting called Lent. Lent is a time for repentance and remembrance. Lent season commences on Ash Wednesday, and ends on Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified on the cross. This 40-day period was established by Pope Gregory I, and it fuses the 40-day pattern of Moses, Israel, Elijah, and Jesus’ time in the wilderness. The week that leads up to Easter is called The Holy Week, or “Passion Week”. It also includes Palm Sunday (the day on which Jesus entered Jerusalem and was feted), Maundy Thursday (the day Jesus had the “Last Supper” with his disciples to observe Passover), and Good Friday.
Easter is an important day for Christians. For, on this day, Jesus, who was the Son of God, fulfilled the prophecy and gave the gift of eternal life in the heavens to his believers. There are many traditions associated with the Lent season, Holy Week, and Easter Sunday. They include the Easter bunny, flowers, colored eggs, gift baskets, etc. In Europe, large bonfires called Easter Fires are lit on Easter Sunday and Monday. The Saxons felt that the fires would dispel winter and Easter would usher in spring. Easter comes in spring and celebrates the birth of new life.
Vedic New Year – April 14, 2020 – Tuesday
The Vedic New Year is also called the Tamil New Year. It marks the vernal equinox during which the earth’s equator passes through the center of the Sun. This happens twice a year in March and September. During this time, the days and nights will be almost equal in duration. The Vedic New Year falls on April 14, in Chithrai month. This is also the first day of the month. The day is also celebrated as Mesha Sankranti as the Sun enters the zodiac sign of Aries or Mesha. In the Vedic calendar, a deity governs each year. They rotate each year for 60 years. In Vedic tradition, the New Year starts with the Sun entering Aries. In astrological terms, the Sun gets exalted here. The Sun’s transit into Aries is powerful because, during its journey north or Uttarayana, the Sun reaches its highest strength in this sign.
The Vedic New Year signals the beginning of the season of fertility, rejuvenation, and growth. At this time, the Sun’s power and vitality are greatly enhanced. This boosts every aspect of life. Flowers bloom and fruits appear on trees, and the time is ideal to improve our health and immune system. The Sun represents pure life force. It triggers expansion and helps enhance wisdom, intelligence, willpower, good fortune, and success. On Vedic New year day, people wear new clothes and greet their friends and kin. They also visit temples to get divine blessings for a prosperous new year. In many places, a tray will be arranged with a variety of fruits, areca nut, betel leaves, a piece of gold or silver jewelry, flowers, and a small mirror. One is supposed to see it first thing in the morning. The Vedic New Year day is auspicious as it marks a new beginning. On this day, people may start new ventures. Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, and Ganesha, the Lord of abundance, are worshipped on this day.
Nataraja Abhishekam – April 16, 2020 – Thursday
The law of karma says that our actions have consequences. Good deeds bring good consequences, while evil deeds bring evil consequences. This belief is part of all cultures and religions. Hinduism and Vedic astrology speak of the importance of karma in a person’s life and the impact it has on their destiny. Bad karma accumulated in this life or our previous lives can cause many problems like debts, lack of progeny, failure, poverty, illness, bad relationships, etc. Fortunately, for those who repent their evil deeds and wish to get rid of their negative karma, divine help is available. Nataraja, the dancing form of Shiva, is the deity who can rid people of their bad karma.
The auspicious day of Nataraja Abhishekam is ideal to appeal to the deity to remove our karma. This auspicious time comes six times in a year during early winter, late winter, early summer, high summer, rainy and autumn seasons. This corresponds to dawn, morning, noon, afternoon, evening, and night – the six times of the day when poojas are performed in temples. Nataraja Abhishekam can effectively dissolve karma and purify our life. Nataraja performs the cosmic dance of bliss or Ananda Tandava in the golden hall of consciousness on the day of Nataraja Abhishekam. His divine dance frees mortals from all illusions and removes their negative karma. The positive energies of Shiva will enable them to lead a blissful and worthy life.
Shivaratri – April 21, 2020 – Tuesday
Shivaratri is a day dedicated to the worship of Shiva. Pious Hindus believe that Shivaratri is an occasion which has the power to purify the soul, mind, and body. While Maha Shivaratri is observed only once in a year, Masik Shivaratri is observed every month of the year. Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in the 11th Hindu month – Phalguna or Maagh. It is believed that on Shivaratri, Shiva and his consort, Parvati, create a lot of love and peace by talking to each other. Masik Shivaratri is observed on the Chaturdashi or 14th Tithi of each month during the dark lunar phase or Krishna paksha.
Hindu scriptures narrate how during the time of Samundra Manthan, a pot of poison called halahala emerged from the ocean. The poison could destroy the earth, and the gods went to Shiva and asked him to save the world from the poison. Shiva then drank the poison but did not swallow it. It remained in his throat which turned blue. This is why he is called Neelkanth, and it is also a major reason for celebrating Shivaratri. On this auspicious day, devotees will celebrate by observing a fast and offering special prayers to Shiva. There will be rituals like abhishekams where milk and water will be poured on the Shiv linga, which will be decorated with flowers and bilva leaves. Shivaratri is also celebrated in Nepal. It is believed that observing Masik Shivaratri bestows many benefits like cure for illness, love, happiness, love, success in career, victory over enemies, freedom from fears and phobias, etc.
New Moon – April 22, 2020 – Wednesday
The Moon has a very important place in astrology, both Vedic and Western. As it rules the emotions, it is believed to influence human behavior. Astrologers claim that we can set goals by following Moon cycles, thereby deriving the benefits. Supposedly, during the New Moon, our energy begins to grow, and two weeks later, at the Full Moon, it begins to peak. Hence, farmers usually plant during the New Moon and harvest during the Full Moon.
The New Moon is a time for new beginnings. It is the ideal time to begin a new project. If you want to manifest something in the next six months, the groundwork for it should be laid during the New Moon. New relationships, too, can be initiated at this time. The New Moon is like a resting period before the next cycle of events. One can spend time reflecting on life in the days before the New Moon. It’s not easy to determine what exactly you want to manifest in your life. So one has to be clear about one’s intentions. Maybe it’s a quality like courage or compassion. Or it could be something specific – like a promotion or a new job, a new relationship, etc. The New Moon also represents a void, and it may be scary to those who fear uncertainty. The moment when the old gives way to the new can be unsettling. Hence, the New Moon is a very important time for conveying your wishes and prayers to the Universe.
Akshaya Tritiya – April 26, 2020 – Sunday
Akshaya Tritiya is a Hindu festival that is celebrated in the Hindu month of Vaishakh (April – May), on the third day of the month, to be precise. The word Akshaya denotes “never diminishing”, and the festival is associated with abundance, prosperity, wealth, and happiness. It is also called ‘Akha Teej’. This is an annual spring festival observed by Hindus and Jains. It is widely believed that Akshaya Tritiya is the most auspicious day to begin a new venture. The day has immense religious significance. It is Parashurama’s birthday. Parashurama is an incarnation of Vishnu. It is the day Treta Yuga began after Satya Yuga ended. Draupadi received the Akshaya Patra from Krishna on this day during the Pandavas’ period of exile in the forest. It was a vessel that gave them food in abundance. On this day, Krishna’s friend, Sudama, offered Aval to him. In turn, Krishna bestowed on him, wealth beyond his dreams. Sage Veda Vyasa began writing the Mahabharata on Akshaya Tritiya, and the Ganges came down to earth on this day as well. The famous Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra, too, begins on this day.
People buy silver and gold on Akshaya Tritiya, as it is believed to be auspicious. The belief is that Goddess Lakshmi is associated with gold and silver, and hence investing in these on this day will ensure that the Goddess will bless us with wealth and prosperity. Anything begun on this day is likely to flourish. If one is performing Griha Pravesham on Akshaya Tritiya, there is no need to look for a good Muhurtham. If one does Annadanam on this day, it gives them great merit. Cow feeding on this day can remove sins and doshas. Observing a fast, pursuing religious and spiritual activities, doing charity, meditation, etc. are done on this day. People also worship Lakshmi and Vishnu.
Shasti – April 28, 2020 – Tuesday
Shasti is an auspicious day for Tamil Hindus, and it is dedicated to the worship of Murugan. Devotees of Muruga fast on this day and pray to him for his blessings. Shasti is observed twice a month, on the sixth day of Shukla Paksha (waxing moon phase) and Krishna Paksha (waning moon phase) of every lunar month in the Hindu calendar. Fasting is an important ritual for Shasti. It may be a partial or full fast. The Shasti vrat begins at sunrise and ends the next day after prayers have been offered to the Sun God.
Those who observe a strict fast abstain from food for 24 hours. Partial fast can be observed by consuming fruits. Those who have health problems can eat one meal during the day. Certain spices should not be eaten on this day. Non-vegetarian food and alcohol are strictly forbidden. On the day of Shasti, devotees of Murugan devotees read the ‘Skanda Purana’, or recite the ‘Skanda Shasti Kavacham’. They also visit Muruga temples in the evening. Hindu scriptures say that it was on the day of Shasti that the demon Soorapadman was defeated by Murugan. The belief is that those who offer prayers and observe a fast on Shasti will receive abundant blessings from Murugan.
Sankaracharya Jayanthi – April 28, 2020 – Tuesday
Shankaracharya or Adi Shankaracharya was an Indian theologian and philosopher who lived in the 8th century. His teachings played a great role in the growth of Hinduism. It was he who came up with the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta. Shankaracharya’s birth anniversary is observed in the month of Vaishakha (April-May), on Panchami Tithi during the Shukla Paksha (waxing moon phase). Along with other revered figures like Ramanuja and Madhava, Shankaracharya was instrumental in helping to revive Hinduism.
Shankaracharya was known for his remarkable reinterpretations of Hindu scriptures as well as his statements on the Vedic canon. These include the Brahma Sutras, the main Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita. His teachings have heavily influenced many sects of Hinduism. They have contributed greatly to the development of modern Indian thought. He became master of all the Vedas as well as the six Vedangas. During his travels, he spread spiritual knowledge and the teachings of Advaita Vedanta. He expired at the young age of 32. He transformed the way the Vedas were taught and modernized Hinduism.