September 30, 2020

Hinduism is one of the most diverse religions in the world. It is usually referred to as the world’s oldest religion and is associated with a multitude of myths and deities. The belief in more than one god brings with it a plethora of festivals, which are an integral aspect of Hindu religion. The festivals are a combination of religious ceremonies, semi-ritual spectacles, prayer, worship, processions, music, dances and other activities of religious or traditional character.

Here, we have listed the Hindu celebrations that took place throughout the month of August:

Raksha Bandhan - August 3rd

This occasion represents "the tie or knot of protection,” where "Raksha" signifies protection and "Bandhan," the verb to tie. The festival symbolizes the eternal love of brother-sister relationship and not only solely by blood. On this day, a sister ties a rakhi around the wrist of her brother in order to pray for his prosperity, health and well-being. The brother in return offers a gifts and promises to protect his sister from any harm and under every circumstance.

The festival is mainly celebrated in the northern and western parts of India along with countries like Nepal, Pakistan and Mauritius.

Krishna Janmashtami – August 10th

This joyous festival celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna with an abundance of merriment, dancing and singing.

Of the various aspects of the Janmashtami Puja, drawing the feet of Bal Krishna (Little Krishna) forms the most significant part of the worship of the Lord and the decoration of the Pooja (prayer) room. It is a sign of welcoming the Lord to one's home. Dressing up babies as Krishna or Gopis on Janmashtami festival is also a popular tradition.

The gaiety of Krishna Janmashtami is often accompanied by competitions, notably breaking a Dahi Handi (earthen pot filled with yogurt) that is suspended high in the air. Competitors form human pyramids in an attempt to break the pot and spill the contents, which is then formally offered as a ritual offering.

According to the legend of baby Krishna, he would seek and steal milk products such as yogurt and butter and people would hide their supplies high up out of the baby's reach. Krishna would try all sorts of creative ideas in his pursuit, such as making human pyramids with his friends to break these high hanging pots. This story, symbolizing the joyful innocence of children, that love and life's play is the manifestation of god.

Independence Day – August 15th

August 15, 1947 marks the end of British rule and the establishment of a free and independent Indian nation. It also marks the anniversary of the partition of the subcontinent into two countries, India and Pakistan. British rule in India began in 1757. Following their victory at the Battle of Plassey, the English East India Company began exercising control over the country for almost 200 years. The Indian independence movement began during World War I and was led by Mohandas K. Gandhi, who advocated for a peaceful and nonviolent end to British rule.

Independence Day is celebrated with flag hoisting and a national parade by different battalions of the Indian Army at the historic Red Fort monument. Indians demonstrate their patriotism by using the flag in different sizes and also decorate their homes and belongings with the tri-colors of the national flag.

Ganesh Chaturthi – August 21st

This festival celebrates the birthday of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, the God of new beginnings. He is considered the remover of all obstacles and difficulties, the one who grants success in all human endeavors. His idol is installed in individual homes for days leading up to the festival. Ganesha's favorite food modak (a wheat flour pastry stuffed with coconut and jaggery and baked on a griddle) is offered to the deity and served throughout the festival's duration.

At the end of festival, the idols are displayed in a grand procession accompanied by thumping music and dancing to the beats of the dhol (drum). The fanfare ends with ceremoniously immersing the idols in a river, sea or ocean, to symbolize reuniting Ganesha with his parents or the Creator.

Below are some personal accounts from our fellow Epsteiners:

Starting our daughter’s school year with Hindu god Ganesha’s Birthday. It is widely believed in Hindu religion that anything and everything started with a prayer to Lord Ganesha will be a success. This year’s motto is to defeat the Corona Virus and go to school ASAP to play with friends and learn better things.” – Jayadeep Reddy

Traditionally, the idols were made from non-biodegradable materials, which when immersed in water bodies have a detrimental effect on the environment. People are becoming more conscious with every passing year and opting for idols made of biodegradable materials. My friend made this eco-friendly Ganesha idol out of turmeric that readily dissolves in a bucket of water at home.” – Priyanka Rao

“It is hard to convey a sense of these, or of any Hindu festival, so removed from India, without those mass convulsions of emotion and spectacle, that sense of occasion and anticipation, the unquestioned mysterious layers-upon-layers of tradition, the unexpected gestures of belonging from family and strangers, language, food, clothes, colors and so many other aspects of a Hindu’s heritage, accrued through 4 millennia of ever-expanding history. Here in the United States, it is more subdued; it mostly consists of simple affirmations of ties to family and a larger way-of-life. Whether at home or in a temple, there is quietude and this ever-present, implacable hope, prayer, that in our small, and maybe not insignificant ways, we have permanently tied our next generations to their and our shared past.” – Raveesh Varma