Festivals of Maharashtra
This topic provides information about the festivals of Maharashtra.
"Gudhi Padva" (Marathi: गुढी पाडवा, "Guḍhī Pāḍavā") is a spring-time festival that marks the traditional new year in Maharashtra. It is celebrated in and near Maharashtra on the first day of the Chaitra month to mark the beginning of the New year according to the Lunisolar calendar (Hindu calendar). The word पाडवा (pāḍavā) or पाडवो (pāḍavo) or पड्ड्वा/पाड्ड्वो (pāḍḍavā/pāḍḍavo) comes from the Sanskrit word प्रतिपद (pratipada) or प्रतिपदा (pratipadā) in Sanskrit, which refers to the first day of a lunar fortnight.
The festival is observed with colorful floor decorations called rangoli. A Gudhi which is believed to be Brahma’s flag (Brahmadhwaj), is hoisted outside every house as a symbol of victory and joy. In Maharashtra, it is reminiscent of the valiant Marathas returning home from their successful expeditions of the war. Since the symbol of victory is always held high, so is the Gudhi. Gudhi is a bright green or yellow silk cloth adorned with brocade tied to the tip of a long bamboo pole over which gathi (sugar crystals), neem leaves, a twig of mango leaves and a garland of red flowers is tied. All these things symbolize nature’s bounty in spring. A silver or copper pot is placed on the raised Gudhi in the inverted position. This Gudhi is then hoisted outside the house, in a window, terrace, or a high place so that everybody can see it. Gudhi is also believed to ward off evil, invite prosperity and good luck to the house.
Traditionally, families are supposed to begin the festivities by eating the bitter leaves of the neem tree. Usually, a paste of neem leaves is prepared and mixed with coriander seeds, jaggery and tamarind. All the members of the family consume this paste, which is believed to purify the blood and strengthen the body’s immune system against diseases. There is also a belief behind this tradition that if you start a new year with a bitter taste, the year ahead brings you happiness and sweet success.
According to Brahma Purana, an ancient Indian text, this is the day on which Brahma created the universe after the deluge, and time began to tick from this day forth. In mythological terms, this festival is celebrated to commemorate the coronation of Lord Ramachandra on his return to Ayodhya after slaying Ravana. Gudhi Padwa also commemorates the commencement of the Shalivahan calendar named after the emperor Shalivahan who vanquished the Huns, his enemies. Gudhi Padwa is one among the three-and-a-half auspicious days (muhurtas) in the Indian lunar calendar. The special feature is that every moment being auspicious, people can initiate new ventures on this days.
In Maharashtra, it is celebrated on either of the two days January 10 or 14. While the former day is celebrated mainly in Ratnagiri and Pune districts, as per the Tilak almanac brought out by Lokmanya Tilak, the festival is largely celebrated on January 14. However, sometimes when the sun enters Makar rashi only in the evening hours, it is celebrated on January 15, when the sun will rise in Capricorn.
Even as it coincides with the onset of the harvest season, Makar Sankrantiis enthusiastically brought in with flying kites, taking a dip in a holy river, a bath with sesame oil, propitiating ancestors with a sesame oil lamp, exchange of til gul (sesame and jaggery twin symbols of prosperity), etc.
In cities, ladies celebrate the values of wedded life with haldi kunku,but rural parts of Maharashtra take this ceremony further with the elaborate exchange of sugad (earthen pots containing sticks of sugarcane, turmeric, cloth, rice and cotton.)
Makar Sankranti is celebrated by different age groups for an assortment of reasons. And the star of the occasion - without a doubt is sesame. While the day begins with bathing in sesame-sprinkled water, sweets like til gul and gulaachi poli are enjoyed through the day. Not only is sesame the finest offering of the season, but its health benefits in the cool months are manifold.
The Suneche Tilavan or the first welcome to the daughter-in-law is much looked forward to by several families with new brides in their midst.
New babies are fussed over too - with the fun filled bornahan. The customary ‘bath’ with all the goodies that children usually covet - including the ber fruit, pieces of sugarcane, puffed rice, candy and chocolates is symbolic of the baby’s first spring.
On this day, devotees rise early, following a fast on the previous day (Sashti.) For Ratha aka Bhaskar Saptami that falls in the Hindu month of Magha is an important day, marking the seventh day following the Sun’s northerly movement (Uttarayan) starting from the zodiac sign of Capricorn (Makara).
A prayer before sunrise is followed by seeking the blessings of elders. Rakta Chandan (or red sandalwood) is used to draw images of the Sun God Surya on his chariot, drawn by his seven splendid horses with Aruna the charioteer, towards the northern hemisphere, in a north-easterly direction. The symbolism of the seven horses are a tribute to the seven colours of the rainbow, an endless source of beauty and delight to everyone. The chariot has 12 wheels, which represents the 12 signs of the Zodiac (360 degrees) and constituting a full year.
Ratha Saptami also marks the gradual increase in temperature across India and heralds the arrival of spring. Kheer is cooked on cow dung cakes, and offered to the sun god. Offerings include green bananas, uncooked rice, flowers, jaggery, turmeric and betel nuts.
Shravan, the fifth month in the Hindu calendar, opens up a number of avenues for such celebrations. But the ‘coconut festival’ is truly one of its kinds. This festival marks the end of the monsoon season in Maharashtra. It is celebrated on the first full moon day of Shravan. And since coconut is known as ‘naral’ in Marathi, this particular festival is popularly known as ‘Narali Pournima’. It is also known by other names such as ‘Shravani Pournima’, ‘Rakhi Pournima’ or ‘Raksha Bandhan’.
The ‘coconut festival’ also marks the beginning of a new fishing season. The fishing community (known as Koli) in Maharashtra celebrates this occasion in a jubilant manner. On the festive day, fishermen who depend on the sea for their living, appease the sea god before venturing out into the ocean in their boats painted in bright colours and festooned with streamers and decorations of different kinds. Coconuts are offered to the sea god during the worship and prayers are chanted to seek protection from natural calamities and help reap bountiful fish from the sea. Singing and dancing continues for a whole day and the entire fishing community arrives at the coast to mark the occasion. Sweet coconut rice is the special delicacy prepared for this festival.
The reason for offering coconut is because it is considered the purest. The water and the kernel inside the coconut are unadulterated and on a religious level it is believed that a coconut has three eyes, thus symbolising the presence of Lord Shiva. There is yet another legend associated with this festival. It suggests that the ritual is a sort of thanksgiving to Lord Varuna (god of rain or water) for holding aloft the bridge that enabled Lord Rama to go to Lanka as narrated in the epic ‘Ramayana’.
Marabats and Badgyas
On Bhadrapada Shukla Pratipada (approximately August – September) of the Indian lunar calendar, a unique festival, popularly known as Marabat, is celebrated in the eastern part of Vidarbha. It is held on a somewhat larger scale and in a rather unique way in Nagpur where huge male and female effigies are taken out by various people and institutions while shouting slogans and beating the drums. In the evening a festival of toy bulls, called ‘Tanha Pola’, is celebrated by children. Marabat and Badgyas are female and male representations respectively. These, and various smaller versions, are in fulfilment of some vow or desire.
The Badgyas are male figures personifying crime or nuisance, for example dowry, bribery, corruption, scams, scandals, encroachment, load-shedding, smuggling, etc or as a way to disgrace or condemn someone associated with any similar social problems. Marabats are also considered to have the power to do away with ailments and the processions are accompanied with such slogans as “O Marabat, take away cough, cold, pain and sufferings, insects like flies and mosquitos, deceases and epidemics”.
Marabats and Badgyas are made of bamboo, paper and foil. The tradition of celebrating Marabat coincides with the mid-monsoon season when the environment turns unhygienic and begins to fester due to the earth becoming marshy and the stagnant pools of water turning into a breeding ground for insects, flies and mosquitoes that lead to diseases like cough, cold, fever, malaria, pneumonia, etc. The festival is thus targeted at keeping the environment clean and free of ailments, which is why garbage and filth is collected in various areas and burnt. The first day of Bhadrapada Shukla (August – September) is selected for this occasion. A day or two earlier, branches of Palash (Butea monosperma/ frondosa) are bought and kept in the corners and at the sides flanking the door. On the day of the Marabat, people take these branches and join the procession. These branches of Palash, also called Mendhi and Badgyas, actually represent a baton. A mock drill is observed to drive away all forms of nuisance by beating the ground with Palash batons and then burning them at the junctions where four roads meet.
The festival of Naga Panchami is a living tradition of the snake cult, observed across India and Nepal on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Shravana during the monsoon season. It is believed that the festival celebrates the victory of Lord Krishna over the mythical Kaliya, a monstrous black cobra that was killed by Krishna. Krishna not only made the waters of the river safe for people by ousting the Kaliya Naga but released the serpent from the curse that made him take the form of Kaliya.
Another legend states that once a snake was trampled upon by a woman during night. The snake followed her with the intention of biting her. There it saw that the same woman was giving milk to the offspring of a snake. The snake changed its mind and went off. It was the day of Naga Panchami.
The rites and rituals to be observed on this festive day are laid down in the Sanskrit work called ‘Vrataraja’. According to this text, “The poisonous one must be drawn with cow dung on both sides of the door.” Elaborate rituals in the form of ‘puja’ are held in temples and temporary altars in the honour of snake gods. In many parts of Eastern India, the festival is dedicated to the worship of the snake goddess Manasa. In Maharashtra and the entire south India, the festivities are most prominent. On the festive day women take a holy bath in the morning and worship the cobras by offering milk and honey. The adobe of a cobra – usually an ant hill - is decorated with turmeric and kumkum and milk is poured into it. The snake charmers go about with trained cobras and collect money. Milk is offered to the Nagas because they are considered to be a form of death and the milk consumed by snakes and the Nagas soothes their anguish. It is believed that the reward of this worship is freedom from snake bites in the family.
Battis Shirala, a small town in Maharashtra, is famous for its annual Naga Panchami festival, which is attended by thousands of people. Tourists from all over the world gather at this place to witness the unique festivities. Two weeks before the festival, villagers go snake-hunting, after getting ‘kaul’ (permission) from the village goddess Ambabai by placing a flower on her head. If the flower falls voluntarily on the left side then that family is not allowed to catch snakes that year. It is believed that only the natives of Shirala are allowed to catch the snakes. Snakes (including the venomous Indian King Cobra) are tracked by their body marks in the soil. The ground is dug up carefully and the snakes are captured.
On the day of the festival, the snakes are displayed in a huge procession. The procession begins with the blessings of Ambabai and 70 to 80 groups of snake-catchers and the villagers take part in this procession. Before this procession, in the morning, village women worship these snakes. After the festival the snakes are released exactly where they were caught.
Source : Maharashtra Tourism