India is a multi religious country where one can find different religions and varying cultures across the country’s landscape and most importantly, every religion has many sub sects with each of them having their own following and traditions.
We celebrate festivals according to our religions and offer special prayers to god on all the important and auspicious days of the year. Festivals in India are marked by offering worship to God, chanting prayers at home, visiting temples, greeting family and friends, performing special rituals to god and preparing special dishes for the whole family.
It’s that time of the year when the whole family gets together to pray God seeking his blessings and prepare special dishes to offer God and then everybody enjoys the special meals.
It is also an occasion when the family bonds are strengthened, when we bow down before elders seeking their blessings and youngsters have fun with all the celebrations. Different festivals have different historical backgrounds and the way they are celebrated also varies from place to place, across different cultures.
Hindu festivals celebrate the power and strength of gods and goddesses in various forms. Different gods are given importance and prayers are offered to them on special days and their special powers are held high. Depending on the Hindu calendar, festivals are celebrated and special days are reserved for doing fasting to please the lord.
Fasting is an important part of celebrating any festival and it depends on each ritual, whether fasting is to be done or not, and even if done, whether it involves full day fasting or only for a certain period of time.
Special offerings to lord are given and food is consumed in some cases. People, with all their devotion make it a point to visit temples to seek lord’s blessings for the prosperity of their family.
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Importance of Lord Shiva in Hindu Traditions
Lord Shiva is also popularly known as Shankar and Bholenath and is called by various names across different states of the country. Lord Shiva acts as both the destructor as well as a benevolent giver to mankind. People perform special puja during Shivrathri to please Lord Shiva to help them through the difficulties in life.
People worship lord Shiva in an attempt to get rid of the obstacles they are facing in their personal lives/ professional lives/ studies or any other aspects. People do fasting to please the lord and chant special prayers in the name of lord Shiva. Some people even stay awake the whole night to seek the lord’s mercy.
Lord Shiva is worshipped in the country in many forms. There are various ways in which people offer worship and it differs from one state to another. Temples dedicated to lord Shiva are aplenty in our country. The 12 Jyothirlingas at different regions of the country represent 12 seats of power, dedicated in the name of Lord.
The Kedarnath and Badrinath temples are the epitome of faith and devotion in Lord and people struggle to make their way to these temples due to the tough terrain where they are located.
The Himalayas are thought to be the abode of lord Shiva. It is also a popular belief that a person born as a Hindu should visit Varanasi and The Kashi Vishveshwara Temple at least once in his lifetime to seek salvation and enlightenment from God.
History of Kalashtami
Kalashtami is a special puja performed by people after eight days of the full moon day in the month of Krishna Paksha of the Hindu calendar. The tradition of Kalashtami puja happens in the name of Kala Bhairav, who is actually a manifested form of Lord Shiva, but in a very fierce outlook.
We all know that Brahma is believed to be the one who is the creator of this whole universe. Brahma was once filled with a lot of ego since he is bestowed with the power of creating the universe. The Destructor naturally is Lord Shiva and he had to do something to bring down the ego of Lord Brahma.
So what Lord Shiva did was, he transformed himself into Kala Bhairav on Kalashtami day and successfully took out one of the faces of Brahma. After this, Brahma realized the enormous powers of Lord Shiva and thus his ego was destroyed. It is on this day, that the manifestation of Lord Shiva into Kala Bhairav happened and hence the day is called Kala Ashtami.
This day falls on the dark phase of the lunar month and lord Shiva actually sat on the back of a black dog to remove one of the heads of Lord Brahma. This is the significance behind the celebration of Kalashtami.
Many people observe fasts during the puja to please the lord. We all commit sins and mistakes in our lives. We may hurt others by speaking harshly and most of the times, it may happen knowingly or unknowingly also. To seek lord’s blessings and ask him to relieve us from the sins we have committed, people keep fasting throughout the day.
It is also a day when people who have left for heavenly abode are remembered and relevant rites in their names are performed. It is said to do good to the people who have left us and also for those, who have performed the rites to the departed souls.
There is a certain procedure in which way, the puja and fasting process should be done. People seek lord’s blessings to help them get rid of any kinds of diseases they may be suffering from any family issues, problems in the external world etc.
Importance of the Day
Lord Shiva is also worshipped as ‘Bholenath’ in northern regions of the country. Lord helps those who are loyal to him. He is not only a destructor but also provides in plenty to those who offer him worship with utmost faith and devotion. The kalashtami puja finds special mention in the religious scripture ‘Aditya purana’.
Followers of this puja have to get up very early in the morning, even before sunrise. They have to purify their body, mind and souls by taking bath as early as possible. Special Puja is performed to God and holy prayers and chants carried out in mass recitations.
All the observers of this puja have to follow a strict fasting procedure and have to visit the temple of Lord Shiva to complete the full course of Puja. Along with this, reading out relevant stories from ancient scriptures is also said to bring prosperity to people following this puja.
Temples of lord Shiva are decorated and decked up with flowers of all varieties and temples even conduct special recitations of the story of Kaal Bhairav to make devotees aware of the benefits of performing this puja in the correct procedure.
Brahmins are called over and lunch is offered to them on this special day and it is know n to bring prosperity, health and wealth. A special and unique thing about this festival is providing offerings to black dogs as a mark of respect to Lord Shiva on this auspicious day.
Overall, the puja of kalashtami is observed in many parts of the country and is especially famous in the northern belt of the country. People connect with the God through prayers, meditation, chants etc to seek relief from their daily hectic life and pray for the well being of their family and themselves. People offer special puja to attain prosperity, health, wealth and happiness.
Happiness comes from observing rituals correctly and having a satisfaction of doing things in the right manner. A pure heart fills other people around them with happiness and that’s what is conveyed through the celebration of kalashtami.
As the destroyer of ego and one who wards off evils and sins, Lord Shiva inspires people to pray to him with a pure heart that is free of any tensions or worries. Conflicts in mind can be kept at bay by following these auspicious rituals.
Enemies can be won over and prosperity in terms of material gains and spiritual learning can be achieved through this puja. Keeping fast for an entire day cleanses the whole system and chanting songs in the praise of lord will give us peace of mind.
It is very important to observe the procedures correctly and celebrate the puja with all our devotion and faith in the name of lord.