“Diwali is one holiday I sorely missed when I lived in the US. I remember visiting the Indian stores in the neighborhood to buy my earthen ‘diyas’ (lamps), calling my cleaning service to come and give our home a professionally cleaned look, buying sweetmeats from wherever it was possible.
But I also remember being alone while performing these rituals. I would sheepishly light the diyas on my deck, the window ledges, and the house entrance, guilty that it was against the rules for being a fire hazard!” Guest Blog – Chatty Divas
The triumph of good over evil, light over darkness. This simple sentiment is at the heart of the great festival of Diwali which is celebrated in the Hindu Diaspora all across the world. This year it falls on November 11. In this Diwali 101, everything you ever wanted to know about Diwali – check out the videos.
“It is almost criminal in Calcutta to start any discussion around this time without a reference to the shopping done for the upcoming festival ‘Dasherra’ or ‘Pujo’. This is a time not only of shopping for your wardrobe but for the entire battalion of extended family. It is a time to give and receive gifts. The markets thrive and throb during these months and when the festival is over it’s almost as if a war has just got over! And so our conversation began with my mother-in-law and Maashi exchanging notes on each other’s bargains, new styles and various other subjects associated with ‘Pujo’.
Anyone who is familiar with wearing or buying ‘sarees’ will know the challenges of finding an ace tailor to make a perfect blouse to go with the coveted piece of new garment. A blouse gone wrong could prove to be disastrous to the festive spirit of looking perfect; it could dampen the entire annual celebration and hence the rest of the year! A good blouse is an imperative for a Bengali wrapped in Tangail, Tant or other special saris.”
Guest Blog – Chatty Divas
They spin round and round, going faster and faster, but never breaking the sacred circle, as they clap their hands rhythmically, dancing around the Garba or earthen pot. They smile as they twirl around for in these nine nights they are celebrating the Goddess that is enshrined in all of us.
This hugely empowering dance is called the Garba and it is the centerpiece of the celebration of the Hindu festival of Navratri or Nine Nights.
With the upcoming holiday season begins the Indian community’s tryst with tradition in America. Both Garba and Dandiya Raas, folk dances, have found their way to America and everyone from heart surgeons to hip-hop kids are taking to the large dandiya raas arenas during the festival of Navrati which heralds a season of upcoming festivals from Dusshera to Diwali. How has the interaction with America changed Garba and Dandiya Raas?
This isn’t Kashi or Prayag but thousands of devotees clog the streets, dancing and chanting as Ganesha’s Ratha Yatra takes place – in Queens, New York. Yes, this pilgrimage spot happens to be in Flushing, Queens, and people came to celebrate Ganesha Chaturthi from as far as California, Florida, Texas, Atlanta – and even India!
It is Lord Ganesha’s birthday and everyone is invited to this giant block party. Over 50,000 lunches are prepared; there are hundreds of pounds of sweets and hundreds of gallons of rose milk. About 20,000 people turn up over the course of nine days at the Hindu Temple Society of North America. (Photo: Chirag D. Shah)
Would you be willing to give up your life, your family and your name? Would you renounce love, marriage and parenthood forever? Could you live with the prospect of never seeing your father and mother again?
Bhavesh Choksi, 27, has done exactly that.
This high-achieving young Indian-American, forsaking all, has taken ‘diksha’, monastic vows, and is on his way to becoming a swami in BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, a socio-spiritual Hindu organization. For those of us still embroiled in the trappings of the material world, this decision can be wrenching. Breaking all ties with his past life and giving up even the smallest of luxuries, he is turning his back on what most people fight tooth and nail for. Bhavesh is following his dream, walking into a joyous light which most of us cannot even comprehend. He is obtaining ‘moksha’ and guiding others to find it too.
Lord Krishna is the Cosmic Cowherd, the mischievous deity that Hindus love the most for his pranks, for his butter-thievery, for his melodious flute, for his romantic interludes with Gopis, the milkmaids.
He fought demons, danced on the mighty serpent’s head and lifted Govardhana Hill with his little finger, using it as an umbrella to protect the people from torrential rains.
One of the most anticipated festivals in the Hindu calendar is Rakhi or Raksha Bandhan, the Festival of Threads. This is the day when brothers and sisters renew their bonds and sisters receive money and gifts from their brothers. Now which little girl can argue with that? Lucky are the sisters who have several brothers!
Indeed, if you are Hindu and have a brother, no matter where you are, you will try to meet up with him on Raksha Bandhan which falls this year on August 29. This is an ancient Hindu festival which occurs in the month of shravan on the full moon. Sisters pray for their brothers health and well-being, tying the sacred Rakhi thread on their wrists, and brothers pledge to protect their sisters.
Faith in a higher power infiltrates all of life in India. When things are tough or challenging, you see God is at every corner. There are countless ways spirituality merges into all aspects of life from small roadside shrines to massive temples; how nothing begins without the invocation to Ganesha, be it a new store, a new film or just a school examination.
At Christmas, some beautiful images from Roberto Custodio, all created from recycled materials and old magazine images. What could be more meaningful than an article of faith regenerated from the embers of the old and the discarded?
Infant Jesus of Prague is a famous statue located in the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Mal Strana, Prague. Thousands of pilgrims pay homage to the Infant of Prague each year. Claims of blessings, favors and miraculous healings have been made by many who petitioned before the Infant Jesus.
We wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and peace in the New Year.
At Hanukkah, Indian-Jews remember the homeland which nurtured their faith. “India has been the only country in the world where Jews have never been oppressed or suppressed or discriminated against,” says Romiel Daniel, who is Jewish-Indian-American. Indeed, India has been nurturing home and haven for generations of Jews whose ancestors fled from persecution centuries ago. At its peak there were about 37,000 Jews living in India. “Discrimination is something that has never happened in India for 2000 years and that is something we are very proud of, and that is why we go back to India so often,” he says.
While Christmas is important to Indian Christians as a celebration of faith, many non-Christians enjoy it as a secular holiday in ways small and big. Indeed, Christmas is such a huge, high voltage commercialized event in America that few can escape its allure, be they Christians or not.
If Thanksgiving is a festival of gratitude, then Indians have been preparing for it their whole lives.
In India, take a walk down the Mumbai waterfront in the early morning mist, and you see ordinary citizens quietly feeding the fish and the birds. Their daily day doesn’t really begin until the deities in their home shrine have been venerated with fresh flowers and offered prasadam.
It is only after eating a little of this blessed offering does the family sit down to their meals. Many remember to keep aside a portion of the food for a hungry person or the birds. It is all about sharing.
I’m not monkeying around! There really is an Onam feast for monkeys – the guests seem to be having a monkey of a time!
Of course, monkeys are especially beloved because of Lord Hanuman, the monkey god and diehard devotee of Sri Rama. In any Indian town or city, monkeys can do a lot of mischief but get away without punishment due to this divine connection.
During the festival season of Onam, there is a special feast for these honored guests. Watch the video!
What better way to start a new blog than with Ganesha, the Lord of New Beginnings? Give him whichever name you choose – He is that consciousness that is within us and around us and in the very breath we take.
Maha Shivaratri – “Himself creates. Himself preserves. Himself destroys.”
For millions of Hindus Mahasivaratri is a very meaningful day, a day of oneness with the Supreme Being. Why do Hindus observe it? What is the Sivalinga? And do believers fast or feast on this day?
If you’ve ever wondered what the different rituals signify, the editors of Hinduism Today share an all-comprehensive report with readers of Lassi with Lavina, dispelling the myths and clarifying the power behind this observance.
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen we were young, there was one lesson we learned early from our parents – a respect for knowledge. If we dropped a book by accident, we not only had to pick it up but touch it to our foreheads and our eyes in a mark of contrition.