Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pumpkin Festival - Breaking the World Record

Popularly known as the Keene Pumpkin Festival, Pumpkin festival is an annual festivity conducted in Keene, New Hampshire in United States. It is celebrated during mid October to late October in Saturday and is one of the events where the residents of Keene attempt to accumulate a bigger figure of lit jack-o-lanterns in one place inorder to beat or level the world record. In this particular festival, the organizers try annually to beat the record by encouraging organizations and schools to make and aid jack-o-lanterns.

Apart from the major celebration, the festivity also includes music, foods and fireworks in which people from neighboring places are attracted to take part in this fascinating festival. After the end of the celebration, the pumpkins are moved by the volunteers and later they are given to the pig farmers to feed their pigs. The major places for this celebration around the world are: Circleville in Ohio, Keene in New Hampshire, Half Moon Bay in California, New York in New York, and Sarasota in Florida, all taking place in the month of October. 

History: There is not a deepened history behind this festival. Initially it was started in 1991 with 600 pumpkins and after that it brings atleast 20, 00 pumpkins. The Guinness Book of World record was held by Keene for a period of time. After the start of Keene Pumpkin festival, it was celebrated in other places including Norwich, Hartsburg, Boston in Massachusetts, Goomeri, Morton, Maryland, Virginia and many other places. Today, this festival symbolizes a unity among people of each town where this festival is being absorbed.  

At some places, the festival was initially observed to end the drought of water and in some places it is celebrated to relish a standard and enjoyable quality of time. 

   Main Activities and Attractions:

  • Jack-o-lanterns exhibited on enormous banks of shelves.
  • Pumpkin Mile Race (running through the streets)
  • Food and Craft Court in which several delicacies and crafts are kept for sale.
  • Beer Garden
  • Pumpkin Pie baking Contest
  • Pumpkin Pyramid Lighting

Breaking the record of 28, 952 held by Keene Pumpkin festival in 25th of October in 2003, the recent Guinness World record is held by Boston, Massachusetts in 21st of October where 30, 128 pumpkins were counted.
Keene: The major place for celebration of this festival is Keene which receives the maximum number of crowd to witness this grandiose event. In 2006, an estimation of about 80, 000 people from across the globe were present in downtown Keene to observe this festival and which is much more compared to the population of Keene that is 23, 000. In 2010, the organizers of this festival in Keene leave it in mid-point; however it was able to find organizers who were willing to sponsor this event. Thus, the celebration was continued in 2011. In 2013, this festival completes 22 year and celebrate the 23 year of this huge celebration. Highlighted events in this festival includes: beer garden, pumpkin mile race, pyramid lighting etc, and many more.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sonepur Fair-Biggest Cattle Fair of Asia

Also known as Harihar Kshetra Mela, Sonepur Fair is the biggest cattle fair of Asia which is conducted on full moon day of November (Kartik Poornima) in Sonepur of Saran district of Bihar. The venue for this celebration is on the meeting point of river Gandak and Ganges. Numerous visitors from across Asia and other parts of world are attracted to this festivity which elongates from 15 days to one month of time.
On the start of this festival, pilgrims take a bath in the early morning in the convergence point which continues for about 3 weeks, they do this inorder to wash away their sins and negativity. Herd of crowds than visit the temple to worship the lord. As of now, it has been organized by Bihar Tourism from 2012 inorder to draw more international and domestic tourists.Elephants, horses, dogs, donkeys, ponies, rabbits and goats are purchased by people in this trade fair.

History: Initially the cattle fair was held in Hajipur but later the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb shifted it to Sonepur where only the puja was conducted in Hariharnath Temple (supposed to be built by Lord Rama) at the time of cattle fair in Hajipur. The modern day temple was constructed by Raja Ram Narain during the Mughal era. At the venue of today’s day cattle fair, a great years and years of fight between King Indrayamuna (elephant) and Gandharva Chief Huhu (crocodile) who were turned to animals correspondingly due to the curse of sage Agasthya and Dewala Muni was ended when Lord Vishnu cut the head of Huhu at the pray of Indrayamuna. Both were taken to the sacred abode by Lord Vishnu after their curse was made over by the god.

Thus Hindus regard as a sacred site and apart from attending the cattle fair, they visit this place inorder to take a sacred dip at the convergence point and also to pay their homage to the shrine inside the temple. This celebration and trade fair can be date back to India's first Emperor Chandragupta Maurya who used to purchase elephants and horses for his armies from this place. 

Major Attractions and Activities:

  •  Biggest Cattle Fair of Asia and among the biggest in world too.
  •  Sights, sound and shopping.
  •  Theatre and folk dances.
  •  Sale of elephants, dogs, horses, donkeys, sheeps, ponies etc.
  •  Sale of birds, poultries and diverse fishes.
  •  Handicrafts, bamboo products, souvenirs and traditional art crafts on sale.
  •  Swiss Cottage attracts mainly foreign visitors
Apart from these, stalls of garments, weapons, furniture, toys, utensils, agricultural implements, jewelry can be seen in different parts of this place along with magic shows which is another popular attraction for the kids.

The area in which the fair is held is very difficult to cover for even a healthy guy, so visitors needs to stay for about 2 to 3 days for witnessing this grand festivity. The maximum crowd can be seen in the river where people bathe, the temple where they offer their prayers and lastly in the place where elephants are kept on sale.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Chhath Puja - Worshipping Lord Sun for Blessing life on Earth

Chhath Puja is a Hindu festival devoted to the god of energy Lord Surya and is the only Vedic festival which is entirely dedicated to him. It is celebrated on the sixth day of Kartik which falls in the Gregorian month of October or November. The wish fulfilling deity is believed to bestow happiness in life and is also believed to give child to the mother who is infertile. Lord Surya is worshipped for blessing the life on earth as ever. The devotees wake up early in the morning of this festival keep fast for entire day without drinking water and for long period of time they keep themselves standing on the water.

Before the start of this festival, banks of rivers are cleaned and festooned and sanctified with decorative and pure waters. Woman prepares delicacies at home and husband or any other members of the family guard the Ghats (venue) all night. In the early morning of the main day of the Puja, traditional songs are carried out with woman offering prayers and edibles to the Lord thanking the god for blessing the life on earth. Chhathi Maiya is also worshipped along with Lord Sun.    

History: It is supposed that the oldest Purohits were asked to come by the Kings and perform their traditional Puja of the Lord Sun where they sued to chant the ancient hymns and Rigveda texts to worship the sun. The ancient Chhath Puja was celebrated by Pandavas and Draupadi to regain their lost kingdom. According to legends, it was the son of Surya, Karna who first commenced this Puja. Worship of Chhathi Maiya also known as Usha (the first light of the day) is held at Chhath Puja. People pray to Chhathi Maiya to overcome their troubles and to get the liberation (Moksha).

Another legend says that, Lord Rama and Mata Sita observed fast and offer Puja to the Lord Sun during their coronation before returning to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. They observed this Puja in the Hindu month of Kartik in Shukla Paksh, since then it became significant and is celebrated on the same date by Hindu devotees of the Lord Sun.    
Main Activities & attractions:

Ø Herds of devotees lining across the river for worshipping the Sun lord.
Ø Traditional and folk songs.
Ø Illumination of the Chhath venue on the banks of river at night.
Ø Offering of Jal (water) to the sun.
Ø Kosi-a colourful event is displayed.
Ø Special delicacies are prepared Thekuwa, Bhusuwa etc.
Ø Offering prayers to Lord Sun by dipping half body in water.
Ø Decoration of the Ghats.

Bihar: The Indian start of Bihar is the main place for the celebration of this festival. The four day festival is observed by the people of Bihar especially the people residing in the Northern part of Bihar are merited to observe this festival in the most grandiose way possible. The son of Lord Sun, Karna first observed this festival to worship the Lord, when he was the king of a place in today’s Bihar. From then the people of Bihar like every year to seek blessings from the Lord and also from Chhathi Maiya.  

Apart from Bihar, Chhath Puja is celebrated in various places in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Jharkhand and also some parts of Nepal. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Kolayat Fair - Largest Cattle fair of Bikaner

Also known as Kappil Muni fair, Kolayat Fair is the largest fair of its kind celebrated in the city of Bikaner on the full month day of Kartik Purnima (November) in the village of Kolayat or Kapilayatan in Rajasthan. The village of Kolayat is positioned at a distance of about 50 km from the South-West of Bikaner. The village derived its name from a famed sage Kapil Muni who undertook a deep meditation for the fine sake of civilization. This festival is celebrated on this day as it is considered the holiest of days in Hindu calendar.

In the early mornings the Hindus take a dip in the lake which is believed to wash away all their sins and offer temple of sage Kapil with sugar drops and milk pudding. Hindus believed that a one day spend in this sacred abode of Kapil Muni is equaled to 10 years spent on any other pilgrimage site. A temple devoted to Kapil Muni known as Shri Kolayat Temple is situated on the Ghat with a marble statue of the saint where prayers and other edibles are offered to the sage. Thousands and thousands of devotees and tourists visit this place during this festivity to witness this grand festival and also to observe the unique rituals and traditional dances that are offered by the inhabitants of Rajasthan. The mesmerizing view of the hundreds of devotees leaving the illuminated camp in the lake is majestic enough.

The worship in the temple is performed by Sewag Brahmins who are hereditary priest. Aarti is offered two times in a day and then the bhog is offered.

Kolayat was the venue for the meditation of sage Kapil Muni who underwent into a deep meditation for the well sake of the humanity. According to legends, he shed his body under a peepul tree and meditated there for a long period of time. He was believed to be a descendent of Lord Brahma, and today in the same venue a temple devoted to him and a lake namely Lake Kapil Sarovar is established. The devotees take a holy dip in the lake and head on to the temple for worshipping.    

Main Activities & attractions:
  • Beautiful decoration of the 52 Ghats.
  • Unique rituals performed by the devotees.
  • Offering of milk pudding and sugar drops to the deity.
  • Leaving of illuminated oil lamps by devotees in the water of the lake which is known as Deep Malika in local dialect.  
  • Cattle fair
  • Mesmerizing culture and traditional dances performed by the inhabitants of Rajasthan.
  • Captivating Folklore.
  • Contests in the cattle fair

Cattle Fair:
It is the one of the vital part of this festival and is the biggest cattle fair of Bikaner. People from varied parts of India visit this place during this festivity in order to trade camels, horses, buffaloes and other cattles in this fair. Contest also takes place in which awards are given to the best breeders present in this fair. 

For any tourists, it could be an interesting learning where you could learn about the ethics of Rajasthan in the best way.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dussehra - Celebrating Victory of Good over Evil

Popularly known as Navaratri (India) or Dashain (Nepal), Dussehra is one of the major celebrations of Hindus all over the world. It is one of the many Hindu festivals symbolizing the victory of good over evil. The festival is celebrated on the tenth day of the Ashwin month of Hindu calendar corresponding to September/October of Gregorian calendar.

The first nine day of the festival is celebrated as Navaratri in which devotees worship each of the nine forms of Goddess Durga. And, at the end of the ninth day the tenth day is celebrated as Vijaya Dashami meaning victory on the tenth day referring to the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon buffalo Mahisasura on the tenth day. In many parts of India, Nepal and Bangladesh it also marks the harvest season and so the worshipping to Mother Goddess is performed to create fertility and vigor in the soil.  

The people celebrating Dussehra greet the festival by decorating their house in a colourful and vibrant way. Kids relish in shopping new clothes while the elders engage themselves in ornamenting their house by cleaning and decorating it with garlands.

History: There are many legend behind the celebration of Dussehra, of them the famed are the two one of Goddess Durga and the other of Lord Rama. Goddess Durga who is a divine form of energy booned by all the main three gods of Hindus including Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma killed the demon king Mahisasura when he created a havoc on the earth and won a war against the devas (gods). As per the legend, when strength of lighting from the mouth of three gods emerged, goddess was born. She rode on a lion and fought the demon but was unable to kill her until the end of nine day and nine nights, at the commencement of tenth day she killed her thus ending the havoc on earth.

Another legend says that, Rama the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu after gaining secret powers from Goddess Durga in Treta Yuga killed Ravana (king of Lanka) who kidnapped Sita. As per both the legends, it is believed that the celebration of this particular festival is observed as the victory of good over evil. 

Major Attractions of Dussehra:

  • Ram Leela is major enactment in which the story of Lord Rama is told until the ninth day and in the tenth day the effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhakarna and his son Meghnada are set to burn. The person who plays the role of Lord Rama in the play shoots the burning arrow and set the effigies to burn.
  • While burning the effigies, the people in and around are asked to burn the devil inside them.
  • People pray to Goddess Durga to wash away all their impurities.
  • Pandals with idols of Goddess Durga killing Mahisasura.
  • Colourful streets and houses.
  • Delicacies are prepared.

Indian City with Huge Celebration:

Kolkata: It stands atop all the Indian cities in the colourful celebration of Dussehra; one can see the most frantic celebration. Over crowded events, domes, minarets, huge pandals and great enthusiasm make Kolkata vibrant during Dussehra. The 4 daylong event of Kolkata is the most happening with each and every part of the city turning into colourful rainbow.  

Apart from this, Ahmedabad, Mysore and Karnataka are other major place for celebration of this glowing festival.