Sunday, September 29, 2013

Oktober Fest-Celebrating Beer Festival

Oktober fest is a beer festival and is one of the biggest world fair with more than 6 million people participating in it. It is a 16 day long festival which is celebrated from late September to the first weekend to October and is conducted across the globe with many people taking part in it. However, the original celebration takes place in Bavaria of Munich in the European country of Germany with the first celebration dating back to 1810.

The beer which meets the criterion of conforming to the Reinheitsgebot at an estimated of 6% alcohol by volume only can be served at this particular festival. The other major criterion for the beer used in this festival is that it must be brewed within the boundary of Munich city. People from across the globe attends the festival with more than 15% of visitors coming from different parts of European countries and other countries like Canada, Australia, US and some parts of East Asia.

14 large tents and 20 small tents accompany the people who come to celebrate this fest in Bavaria. Today, a twelve gun salute and the pattering of the primary barrel of Oktoberfest beer at 12:00 by the in office Mayor of Munich in the Austro-Bavarian vernacular opens the festival celebrations. The official introduction to the opening of the Oktoberfest involves about 1,000 participants counting the landlords' families in bedecked carriages, superb horse haggard drays, waiter and waitresses. 

Long parades of groups in past uniforms, marching bands, riflemen, cows, goats, decorated drays of the Munich breweries, and historic carriages etc. passes through the center of the state which is 7 km long starting the celebrations.

History: When Crown Prince Ludwig married to Princess Therese of Saxe Hildburghausen on 17th of October in 1810 all the citizens of Munich were asked to be present at the celebrations conducted on the fields which were named Theresienwiese (in honor of the crown prince). As a festival for the whole of Bavaria, horse races were presented in the observance of the Royal Family to symbolize the ending of the event. The horse races that were observed at the last were repeated in consequent years, thus giving rise to this happily celebrated event.

Since then, the celebration is observed in Bavaria and during the last two centuries of the Oktober Fest celebrations, the celebrations have been cancelled for more than 24 times due to epidemics of cholera and war. 

The modern day festival started in 1950, and the horse races ended in 1960 giving the way of celebrating the festival in a new way.

Oktoberfest Celebrations in Goa

Loaded with entertainment, fun, exotic food and plenty of drinks, the land of sea, sand and surf will offer you with its best during this festival. Many bands from more than 30 countries come to the event venue in Goa to make the people lost in music and entertainment. It is three daylong events in Goa which celebrates the spirit of music and booze. It is created to give the people a real taste of the Oktoberfest which is celebrated in Bavaria famed for its extraordinary hospitality, exotic food, great entertainment and world famous beers.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Nuakhai - Greeting New Rice Paddy and Thanking Mother Earth

Nuakhai (Nua means new and Khai means food) is a festival of harvest which is celebrated after the day of Ganesh Chaturthi festival, on the Panchami Tithi (fifth day) of lunar fortnight of Bhadra month.

This harvest festival is celebrated by the people of Western Odisha in India particularly in the cultural area of Sambalpuri. Though it is absorbed in different parts of India, Sambalpuri stands atop because of its great splendor celebration with great enthusiasm. Grain meaning ‘Anna’ is regarded as Brahma by Hindus and since Goddess Laxmi is attributed to Lord Brahma, she is also worshipped on this celebration along with the local deities. 

On the day of this harvest festival, Mother Nature is worshipped for providing food and all those basics necessary for the endurance of livelihood of human beings. The offering for this is made to Goddess Shakti in Shakti Temple and is offered in leaf-cups made from Palasa, Sal, Tendu, or Kurei leaves. The foods that are prepared form the fresh harvest is offered to the local deities. After the worshipping and prayer to the goddess, all the members of the family consume the holy offering.

Mouth watering sweets along with culinary delights like Manda Pitha and Khiri Puri with fresh rice are prepared. Various events like traditional dances, musicals, and lots more are also organized on the same day. The festival time is set by divine astrologers making it even more important for the people of various places of Western Odisha including Bolangir, Phulbni, Sambalpur, and Sundargarh where the main celebration takes place. All the houses are neatly cleaned and festooned with decoration by house makers. Every old and young people wear new clothes.

For the past few decades, West Oriyas living in different parts of India including Delhi, Bangalore, Vishakhapatnam, Goa and Mumbai are celebrating it with great pomp and show marking their unification all across India.

History: According to researchers it was started in Vedic times when Rishis talked about five important activities in the yearly calendar, including pralambana yajna meaning cutting of the crops and ultimately offering to goddess. Though, the modern celebration can be traced back to 12th century AD, when the founder of the princely state of Patna presently under Balangir district in Western Odisha, Chauhan Raja Ramai Deo realized the crucial importance of agriculture in the economy as, the people spend their livelihood by food gathering and hunting in Patna. The credit for commencing this celebration can be given to him, because it was he who during state formation in Sambalpuri area started Nuakhai as a ritual to promote agriculture as a way of living life thus giving life to the new day celebration of Nuakhai. 

Main Attractions:

• Juhar Bhet is one of the nine colours of Nuakhai in which the elders are respected in an exceptional way.
• Merry making and meeting of relatives and friends.
• Eating of fresh and new rice.
• Unique and delicious Kheer of new rice.
• Cultural and Traditional musicals and dances. 

Truly, it is more than a festival; it is a unique way of thanking Mother Nature for providing foods.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Navratri Festival

Navaratri festival with ‘nav’ meaning nine and ‘ratri’ meaning nights, is one of the major festival of Hindu community residing all across the globe, the spirit of this festivity lies on the nine aspects of Goddess Durga which is celebrated on each of the nine days. In the autumn season with the pleasant and enjoyable air, before the onset of the festival house are cleaned and ornamented with various decorative items as it is believed that Goddess comes to every home and resides for nine days before advancing to her own abode. In India, it depicts the rich culture and traditions of Incredible India. 

History: There are many legends behind the celebration of this festival. One such is that, Mahisasura (the demon buffalo) got the power of immortality by worshiping Lord Shiva and that nobody could kill him. He started to kill lots of people on earth, so three gods namely Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma created Shakti with lots of divine feminine powers and potency to kill the demon. It is believed that the fierce battle between Goddess and the demon last for nine days and on the tenth day she beheaded him. So, to honor her victory over the demon i.e. good over evil, this festivity is celebrated.

Another legend says that, Lord Rama worshiped Goddess to gain all her powers to be able to fight with the mighty Ravana. He fought with him and killed the ten head Ravana on the tenth day. To commemorate his victory over Ravana, Vijaya Dashami/Dussehra is celebrated.  

According to another legend, this festival is celebrated for the nine days in which Sati (first wife of Lord Shiva) stayed at her parents’ home.

Key Attractions:

• Huge statues of Goddess divine form kept in various places to worship and offer prayer.
• Drama, dance and cultural performances conducted throughout the country.
• Garbha and Dandiya rasa in Gujarat.
• The huge procession for taking the idols to immerse in holy waters.
• Chariots and parades for the commencement of festival in some places.
• Jagrans to sing devotional songs (bhajan) in Punjab.
• Decoration of houses.

This festival has many names including Vijaya Dashami, Dussehra, and Dashain etc. and is celebrated mainly in the parts of South East Asia with various people from countries like India, Nepal, etc. celebrating this festival in the grandest way possible. It is celebrated twice in a year with one celebrated in March/April known as ‘Chaitra Navaratri’ and second celebrated in September/October called as ‘Sharad Navaratri’. Most of the devotees of Goddess Durga fast for nine days and some fast only for two days eating fruits, milk, coffee/tea, boiled potatoes etc.

The festival commence with prayers that are offered to the goddess along with a plate of five fruits and an lamp (Diya) which needs to be lighted day and night and should not be off so, it should be taken care. Offering of prayers should be done very morning and evening after a bath. The mother goddess is worshipped in all her forms which unite of all goddess like Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga.
Along with ornamentation of houses, various mouth watering delicacies are prepared like Aloo Tikki, Makhane ki Sabji, Sabudana Kheer, Kadhi, Kuttu ata roti with Kaddu sabzi or aloo sabzi etc.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ladakh Festival-Showcasing Culture and Traditions

Popularly known as ‘Land of High Passes’ owing its name to Tibetan language, Ladakh is a region in the North Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Enriched with natural and cultural extravaganza, Ladakh has many things to offer its visitor. Ladakh Festival which is conducted in a span of 15 days starting from the 1st of September and ending in the 15th of same month is on e of the major events in this region.

With an aim to show case the deep culture, traditions and heritage of this region, the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department organizes this annual fiesta with collaboration from the district administration of Leh and local communities. Usually, this festival is conducted in span of 15 days for visitors to know about the rich heritage and cultural traditions of this region but this year it has been scheduled to 8 days with much more improvements than the previous year.

Celebration: The celebration is commenced in the 1st of September with magnificent parade carried out by diverse cultural troupes, local leaders, school children and troupe dancers attired in traditional costumes making their way to Leh and finally finishing the parade at the Polo Ground. Various participants of diverse regions than perform their own type of cultural dances showcasing their traditions. The successing days are observed with craft shells, costume dances, Thankas displays, polo matches, musical concerts, local culinary delights and drinks etc. Among others archery, singing concerts, etc are conducted. The winner of the polo matches are awarded with the prestigious Ladakh Festival Cup. Almost every people relish this particular festival with great enthusiasm and make it a grand success.   

Key Attractions:
• Photographic exhibition at the Leh palace organized by National Museum Institute of History and Art.
• Colloquium on "Museums and Changing Cultural Landscape" at Central Institute of Buddhist Studies (CIBS).
• Meditation/yoga program at the Mahabodi Meditation Centre for devout seekers.
• The invigorating dance performance of the Lamas to the haunting tunes adds extra beauty to this festival. Attired in a traditional costume with a colourful mask, they are chosen from varied monasteries of the region.
• Musical Concert.
• Tibetan foods like Thukpa, Skyu and Tsampa are lined up by the various local food stalls and are exotic in its own type.

Must do Activities: A handsome amount of local handicrafts including shawls, prayer flags, mementos, rugs and silver jewelry are brought out to sell by the local people which are inconceivable and if you get one it will add moments to your visit to Ladakh. Make sure to taste and relish the exotic culinary delights and local drinks at the stalls.  

If you are visiting Ladakh during this festival you will feel the real treasure of India by getting closer to this festival. Basically it is a cultural extravaganza filled with immense warmth and joy. The festival symbolizes the end of the festival as after the end of the festival, the chilly weather closes the high passes due to snow.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Athachamayam Festival in Thrippunithura

Also known as temple town, Thrippunithura is a suburb of Cochin City in Gods own Country Kerala and was the capital of the erstwhile Royal kingdom of Kochi. It is very popular for the celebration of the first day ‘Atham’ of the 10 days long Onam festival which is celebrated in this place with great fervor and joy. The celebration is named as Athachamayam and this town of majestic splendor celebrates the factual fortitude of Onam with collective harmony all over the state in the Atham asterism of the Malayalam month Chingam (approximately in August/September).

History: Initially, it was celebrated to honour the renowned victory of King of Kochi along with the memories of legend King Mahabali. In the first day of Onam, the Maharaja of Kochi along with the Kozhikode Zamorin used to hold a festivity and poojas at Thrikakkara Vamanamorthy Temple with glorious walk of the Maharajas to Vamana temple at Thrikakkara signifying the royal spectacle, peace, impartiality recollecting the days when almost everything was plentiful. The Maharaja used to give 'darshan' to his countless citizens during this day.

The last such Athachamayam was conducted during the control of Rama Varma Pareekshtih Thampuran. After the Independence and unity with larger India, this tradition was disappeared until the early sixties (1960’s) when the people of Tripunithura determined to revitalize the festival but was named as Athaghosham. Since, the formation of Municipal Council of Tripunithura in 1980 it is conducted under its joint leadership with thousands of artists from all over the state participating in this festival. Now once again the majestic charm and splendor of this festival is conducted and has become the official commencement of the 10 day celebrations of Onam in Ernakulam district.    

Key Attractions:

• Almost all folk arts of Kerala can be seen including Kummatti, Theyyam, Kolkali, Mayilattom, Karakattom, Kummi, Poykal, ammankudam, Kathakali, aatakavadi, panjavadyam, chendamelam, Pulikali etc.
• Floats portraying eternal moments from Mahabharata, Ramayana and Bible as well as the current social issues are displayed.
• Competitions and variety of entertainment programmes.
• Handicrafts and cottage sector vendors lined up in the path.
• Trade fair for 10 days.

This festival is celebrated in the Thrikkakara Temple which is also considered as the abode of King Mahabali. After the hoisting and the lightning of the lamp, ceremonial parade headed by Lord Mahabali is taken out in the streets of Thripunithura with thousands of people partaking in it. Thrippunithura Athachamayam is a spectacular festivity where all the people irrespective of all castes and community come together for participating in this festival. It is the only one day in the year when people from diverse communities are allowed to enter the fort of Kottakkakam. The caparisoned elephants, diverse folk art forms, float, and musical ensembles jointly form part of the march and are the major attraction of the festival which remains its royal charm despite of the procession of the king.

As of present, this festival is vigorously endorsed as a tourism event. To witness this grand festivity is like an exotic experience not only for Keralites but to all non-Keralites who visit Kerala during this period of year to witness the grand success of Athachamayam. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ganesh Chaturthi – Mumbai Resonates with the Sound Ganpati Bappa Moriya

Ganesh Chaturthi is a great Hindu festival celebrated on the birth day of the elephant headed god Lord Ganesha. It falls on the Hindu month of Bhadrapada i.e. late August or early September depending on the cycle of moon. It is celebrated for 10 days with heavy celebrations on the last day known as Anant Chaturdasi. Lord Ganesha is worshipped on this festival as he is believed to remove all the obstacles. This festival is celebrated with great pomp and show across the globe by Hindu communities, but the Indian city of Mumbai stands at the top for the greatest celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi.

This festival was introduced in Mumbai by Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja but it was freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak who transformed it into a public event in 1893 to fill the gap between different communities, castes etc. The main reason behind it was to unite all the people living in Mumbai. The tradition is carried on till today with more people participating on it and competing to put the best idols in their area. 
In Mumbai not only the people of Hindu community but large number of people from varied communities come together to celebrate this festival and make it into a grand success. The whole city is adorned with decorative along with their home; each and every Mumbaikar can be seen in a festive mood during the celebration. The top places in Mumbai where this festivity is celebrated with great grandeur are Mumbaicha Raja, Andhericha Raja, and Khetwadi Ghanraj etc. In these places the idols are decorated using golds and diamonds and are made up to a height of 40 feet. 
On the first day the idol is kept over a base that denotes a throne and it is tracked by a priest who performs the rituals devoted to the idol. Before offering Modak (sweetened ladoo) along with incense and flowers to god, it is dipped in the holy water. After days, the idol is being worshipped with Ganesh Stuti and devotional songs (bhajans) in the sunset and sunrise. Along with programmes which are organized at various places, people also set up idols at homes and pays their greetings to god and ask for wishes.  During this festival season everywhere you will hear the resonating sound “Ganpati Bappa Moriya, Mangalmurti Morya”.
On the tenth day farewell procession for taking the idol into the watering bodies are accompanied by lots of famed singers, priests and dancers as it is believed that god leaves for heavenly abode after visiting. Sweets, ladoos, aarti, flowers and other delicacies are offered to god before immersing in the Arabian Sea. People enchant saying ‘Ganapati Bappa-Maurya’ following the farewell procession. The most famous immersion takes place on Chowpatti Beach which is positioned 1 km away from the Marine Drive, large number of people flock to observe the majestic Visarjan.

Negative Impact of Ganesh Chaturthi:
The grave impact of the festival on the atmosphere is due to the immersion of idols made of Plaster of Paris into various sources of water including sea, lakes, rivers etc. It takes place on the last day of this festival. With the contamination of water sources which affects the environment, the floras and faunas are also hugely affected as lakes and rivers are used by them for water sources. Animals, birds, marine life along with people of rural area are mostly affected. Heavy metals like mercury and cadmium which are used to adorn the idols cause water pollution. Among others, noise pollution is also the outcome of this festival. Traffic jams is another problem and above all these problems, security is the major problem during the festival season as the festival is celebrate with great vigor and pomp, but every individual has the fear of terror attack. With such a huge crowd coming together, it becomes very difficult for the management to provide security, but even though, India government put all its efforts to avoid and ensures that such unexpected incidents does not occur.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Onam Celebration - Festivity Across the World With Great Pomp and Show

Onam is the state festival of Kerala which is celebrated with great pomp and show. It falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam (August-September) and marks the homecoming of the Great King Mahabali (Asura King) who was loved by all his subjects. It is a 10 day festival and starts with Atham (the first day) and ends with Thiruvonam (the last day). This festival begins on the first day with parade called Aathachamayam which is a royal parade in the Thrikakkara Temple in Thripunithara (suburb of Kochi). It is the biggest festival of Kerala and also the harvest festival of Malayalis which is celebrated by each of them of varied community all over the land.
Malayali people of varied communities living in the various parts of the world celebrate this festival with great zeal and joy. Pookalam (floral carpets), Onasadya (feast dinner), Vallam kali (boat races), Kaikottikkali (womanly dance), Thumbithullal (Folk dances), Kummatti Kali and Pulikali (Tiger Dance) are the prime things that are done and prepared in an Onam celebration. Other things that are done during the celebration of this festival are; sending greetings, indulging in some apparel and jewellery shopping etc. Every year, Malayali people living in various countries particularly in USA, UK, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria celebrates Onam with great pomp and make it the memorable until next year.
Onam Celebrations in USA: Malayali people living in USA celebrate this festival creating colourful decorations of floral carpets and everything else linked with Onam festivities. Places in US which have a huge Malayali presence like New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Detroit, North Carolina celebrate this festival by organizing and performing art5 forms like; Thiruvathirakali, chenda melam, pulikali, vanchippattu. In some place like Chicago where Malayali people resides in a large number, they organize war competitions. Except, the traditional boat race, the US Malayalis celebrate every bit of Onam preparing Sadya to dressing in traditional attire. 
Celebrating Onam in Italy: In the European country of Italy, all the Malayalis people living in various parts come together for the celebrations of Onam. The major places in Italy where Onam celebration is held with grand success are Rome, Milan etc. Dances and feasts are conducted by various organizations alike to USA.
Switzerland Onam Celebrations: Several Malayali associations of Zurich, Bern and Basel celebrate this festival by organizing socio cultural festival and serving many dishes which are prepared on this occasion like; Ona Sadya, Idli etc. Children and elders dressed in traditional Kerala style visit to various programmes that are organized by the associations in their respective places, musical and visual extravaganza are served along with traditional many dishes like Ona Sadya, Idli etc.        

Celebrations in Indian Cities:

Delhi Malayalees Onam Celebration:
In the capital city of India, many restaurants and hotels prepare various foods related to Onam like, Pachadi, Theeyal, Avial, Throan etc. Homes are decorated with flowers with kids and elders wearing new dress. Some places also hosts cultural programmes where one can relish varied meals and traditional dances. With the initiatives by DMA (Delhi Malayalee Association, in many Malayalee dominating parts like in Mayur Vihar, Dilshad Garden, VikasPuri, Janak Puri, Srinivas Puri, etc Many events are been organaised.

Alike, Delhi many other places in India like Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai etc. organizes various feast and cultural programmes which are attended not only by the Malayali people but by various other peoples who comes to celebrate this festival and relish various mouth watering delicacies that are prepared during this festival. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Janmashtami - Celebration to Remember the Wordly Facade of Lord Krishna

Janmashtami Also known as Krishnasthami, it is an annual celebration of Hindu deity Lord Krishna, the eight avatar of Lord Vishnu. It is celebrated by Hindus and is observed with great pomp and show in particularly in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and in some parts of Caribbean. It is celebrated in the eight day of the Krishna Paksha of the month of Bhadrapada (August-September). Mischievousness, adorableness, compassionate friendship and romanticism are the major aspects of him which are celebrated on this particular day. 

Janmashtami memorializes the worldly facade of Lord Krishna. It is one of the biggest religious festivals in the world celebrated approximately by 930 million people around the world with 2 million alone in the US. To devotees, it’s the completion of running year and commencement of a fresh year. Homes and streets are ornamented with beautiful decorative, all the people of Hindus community and also of other communities comes together to celebrate this annual event.

In various parts of India, kids dress like Krishna whether to take part in some fancy dress competition or to break the ‘matka’ during a societal celebration. People fast all through the day and show their affection and fondness to the Lord and break fasting at the midnight, it is celebrated with devotional songs, dances, pujas, aarti, blowing of the conch, and rocking the cradle of the baby Sri Krishna. Actually, the celebration takes place during midnight as he was believed to be born on a gloomy, fiery, and blustery night.

 Key Places for Celebrations in India:

Mathura and Vrindavan: Mathura is the birth place of Krishna and is one of the major places for Janmashtami celebration. He was grown up in Vrindavan. A total of 8 lakhs visitors visit this city during this celebration. The major celebration takes place in the actual place of Lord’s birth which is now turned into a mammoth temple, Krishna Janma Bhoomi Mandir. The birth of Lord is celebrated with Pooja, bathing with milk and curd and then rocked in a cradle. Raasleelas (dance drama which is offered by professionals and amateurs), Jhanki (it depicts the activities of Lord like Janmlila, Shankarlila, Putanalila and Naglila), Jhulanotsav (swings are set to welcome his birth) and Ghatas (temples and all other decorations including Lord’s attire are done with a selected or same colour) are carried out after the birth ceremony. Kheer, Laddoo, Shrikhand etc. are deliciously prepared on this day. Securities are tightened at various temples of Mathura and Vrindavan during this celebration.     

Numerous residents of Mumbai come alive to celebrate the Janmashtami with larger than life ceremony; every Mumbaikar (resident of Mumbai) celebrates this festivity with great enthusiasm. ‘Dahi Handi’ event is organized at various venues and societies which are also attended by Bollywood personalities. Enchanting the tune ‘Govinda ala re’, the participants for the event prove their mettle by breaking the ‘Matka’ which is places at the top of the by lanes of metropolis. They form like a human pyramids and stood up on top of one another to break it. The participant efforts are dissatisfied by the people congregated in the venue by wetting them with water. The idea behind this event is the boy-hood trick of stealing butter from a suspended earthen pot by Lord Krishna.

Manipur: It is celebrated by Manipuri as Krishna Janma; disciples congregate at various temples including ISKCON, International Society for Krishna Consciousness Temple and Govindaji Temple. Raasleelas are performed by them, in Manipuri style.

Apart from Mumbai, and Mathura it is well celebrated in Northern and Western India, South India etc. It is celebrated with equal zest and joy in all of India chanting ‘Hare Rama Hare Rama Hare Krishna Hare Krishna’.