INDIAN Religion

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INDIAN Religion

Post  Admin on Wed Jul 30, 2008 9:22 am

During the last 50 years since India gained Independence, the Constitution has guaranteed the freedom of worship and way of life to all its citizens. This has ensured the rich kaleidoscope of festivals that are celebrated throughout the realm.

Since the majority of the inhabitants of India are Hindus, their festivals dominate the calendar. The most colorful of all the festival is Deepawali or Diwali as it is commonly known, the festival of lights. The central figure in the Indian epic, Ramayana, is Rama who went into exile for fourteen years at his father’s behest, accompanied by his wife Sita and his brother Lakshman. During their wanderings in the forests, Ravana, the king of Lanka, carried Sita away. It was only after an epic battle that Rama vanquished Ravana, rescued Sita and returned home to his kingdom of Ayodhya. The journey from Lanka in the south to Ayodhya in the north took twenty days. His triumphal return to Ayodhya brought great joy to his people who illuminated the whole city to celebrate the occasion. This joy and this illumination continues to this day as houses and cities throughout the India are lit up (traditionally with small earthenware cups or diyas filled with oil) to commemorate the anniversary. Deepawli signifies the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness
The battle between Ravana and Rama and the latter’s victory are celebrated as Dussehra in many parts of India, twenty days before Deepawali. Dussehra is the day when the effigies of Ravana, his brothers Meghnath and Kumbhakaran, are burnt. Dussehra is preceded by enactment of the story of the Ramayana by amateur groups of people in all villages, cities and in localities of the metropolis throughout India. Practically all-night performances of the Ramayana from the beginning to the end are enacted, analogous to street plays, and the actors are mainly young boys who perform the role of the male and the female characters. Immense popularity is reflected by the large gatherings for these performances known as Ram Lila.
These are simplified accounts of two of the major festivals of the Hindus in India but there are many variations and accretions as different people perform different rituals and forms of worship. For example, in Bengal, the worship of the Goddess Durga precedes Deepawali.

While Goddess Durga is the eminent icon crafted with great devotion in West Bengal, Lord Ganesha - acknowledged universally in India as the remover of obstacles - who is the central figure in the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra.

Since Independence of India, there is also a definite revival in general of traditions and in particular of craft traditions. Crafts are an intrinsic part of the religious and ritual traditions in India as craftsmen often worked for the temples and for providing the appurtenances necessary for worship. Before Indian Independence, many village crafts languished as the British implemented the policy of modern industrialization.
There are many gods and goddesses in the Hindu pantheon; different parts of the country give importance to one or the other. Lord Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, is the divine core in the epic Mahabharata. It was he who gave the sermon of the Bhagwat Gita (the song Celestial) to Arjuna, one of the five Pandava brothers during their battle with the Kauravas at Kurukshetra. This battle again epitomizes the fight between the forces of evil and good. Lord Krishna, however, is not a mythical character. Lord Krishna is venerated all over India and there are temples dedicated to him specifically but in particular, his home ground of Vrindavan and Mathura where he lived as a boy and revealed his divinity by the miracles he wrought. His love for Radha has been the inspiration for miniature painters of the Kangra or Pahari school of Painting, as also for the elaborate style of painting embellished with gold, known as the Tanjore styles from South India.
The Indian calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian, starts in April. New Year’s day is April 13, celebrated as Baisakhi, which coincides with the harvesting of the wheat crop in Northern India, especially in Punjab. People wear new clothes, sing and dance in joy. In Eastern India the new year begins on April 14th and again it is a joyous occasion with singing and dancing by young men and women who don their best silken mekhalas (sarongs) and chaddars (an overwrap) and dance to the beat of the drum. This festival is known as Rangali Bihu in Assam.
As the Hindu gods and goddesses in their myriad forms were worshipped with elaborate rituals, many introduced by the priesthood, there appeared on the scene in North India a reformer who enjoined a simpler form of worship shorn of rituals. He was Guru Nanak Dev, whose teachings and those of the nine gurus who followed later are collected in the holy book of the Sikhs, the Granthsahib. The birth anniversaries of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last of Gurus, are very important days and are celebrated with religious fervor and devotion. Processions are taken out, the scriptures are chanted, without a break, and the Gurudwaras (Sikh temples), illuminated in most parts of India where Sikh population exists.

Lord Buddha was born in India and it is from the shores of this land that Buddhism was disseminated to Sri Lanka and to Tibet. Lord Buddha’s birth anniversary is celeberated as Buddha Purnima. Falling on the full moon day and is a holiday in India for the last so many years. Buddhists practice their rituals and observe their special religious days all over India.
Christians are equally at home in India. Two important Christian saints came to India many centuries ago and preached the doctrine of Christianity. It is believed that St Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Christ, came to India in the first century AD, and spent the rest of his life in India preaching Christinanity, particularly in Kerala where a large part of the population were converted to Christianity. His tomb, St Thomas Mount in Chennai, Tamil Nadu has become a place of pilgrimage for Christians in India.
The Spanish Catholic missionary, St Francis Xavier, also spent the greater part of his life in Goa - a small coastal state on the western coastal strip in India. His body, in a glass casket, has been kept in the Church of Basilica of Bom Jesu in Panjim, Goa. Every ten years, his relics are exposed to the public, and people from all over the world throng to Goa in order to get a glimpse and receive the benediction.
The Muslims in India celebrate all their festivals of Id, but they look westwards towards Arabia, which is their spiritual home, and the Government of India has made special arrangements for Haj pilgrims who go to Mecca annually. Chartered aeroplanes take them to their destination and they enjoy this concessional privilege.
Thus, it is evident that all members of this country enjoy the same constitutional rights and privileges since India got its Independence and their festivals and rituals lend a new dimension to the many faceted society that is India.


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