Festivals during Māgh, Fālgun, Chaitra and Vaiśkha:
Mahāśivrātrī: This festival is celebrated on the 14th day of Kriśna Pakṣa in Māghmās. This is celebrated with great pomp and glory at twelve Jyotirlinga places i.e. Kedarnāth, Baidyanath, Kashi Vishwanath, Somnath, Mallikarjuna, Mahakaleshwar, Omkareshwar, Nageshwar, Ghrishneshwar, Tryambakeshwar, Bhimashankar, and Rameshwar. When the twelve Jyotirlingas come for discussion, I must mention their importance for Suvrushti Projects. “Suvrushti’ means ideal, adequate and well-distributed rainfall. The inspirational Research Paper which has been the basis of Suvrushti Pojects undertaken by Vedāśram; was the paper submitted by a primary teacher from Bihar in 1950 to our then President Dr. Rajendra Prasad. The summary findings of this research paper was that Twelve Jyotirlingas are the Holy Fire Places (nodal centres of Sacred Fires) which attract and accelerate the Monsoon Cycles in Bhārat Khand i.e. India. If a series of Somayāgas are performed during dry season (Rain Conception Period) at these twelve Jyotirlinga places, Bhārat Varsha will get Suvrushti-timely, adequate and well-distributed rainfall during wet season throughout the country. This theory and RCRD Theory of Varāh Mihir were validated during the Suvrushti Projects undertaken by Vedāśram in 2005-06 and 2015-16. The reports of these Suvrushti Projects have been published in Asian Agri-History Journal published by Asian Agri –History Foundation.
On the day of Mahāśivrātrī in the ceremonial pūjās, Devas are invited, Śiva is invited, Yajñā is performed. Offerings are made with chants and devotional songs. Rudra Swahakars are performed at most of the places. At our Homa farm we also organize” Rudra Swahakar “Yajñās” periodically but not necessarily on Mahāśivrātrī Day.
Holī: On the full moon day of Fālgun, Holī is celebrated throughout India. Holī has religious, philosophical, spiritual and seasonal significance. In India, the Agri-eco production system has basically two cropping patterns in a year i.e. Kharip crops and Rabbi crops. Kharip crops mature during Aświn-Kārtik (Oct. /Nov.) and Rabbi crops mature during Fālgun to Vaiśkha (Jan. to April). It is our Vedic tradition that new produce of crops is first offered to Agni Devatā and Sūrya Devatā which are the main sources of cosmic energy and then we start having it as food to nurture the life bio-energy within us. In Sanskrit the word ‘Holak’ means raw (just reaching maturity stage) cereals and grams roasted in bonfires of dry cow-dung patties, wood and grass stalks (remains from the fields). Holī as a colourful festival has significance in many ways. The first and foremost is the process of Yajñā. Holy Bonfires are lit and offerings of sweets and snacks prepared from new season’s crops are made to Agni Devatā and Sūrya Devatā. Incense sticks and lamps are lit and sacred fires, which represent success of good over evil, are circumambulated thrice with slow pouring of water from the containers. The next day is celebrated as “Dhulīvandana” where, ’Bhūmi’ or ‘Prithvī’ is recognized and appreciated. From Dhulīvandana to Rang Panchami it is celebrated as a colourful festival representing colours of spring flowers and nature’s beauty and bounty. It is a joyful festival of throwing on or smearing others with colours without any discrimination. In the bonfires, old furniture, dead wood, prunnings of trees and waste material of crops are burnt as and by way of “Holikā Dahan” for “Space Clearance” (discarding old and welcoming new).
From Puraṇas, one story which is associated with “Holikā Dahan” is the story of Bhakta Pralhād and ‘Dhundha’ or ‘Holikā’ Hiranyakashyapu’s sister. Holikā had a boon that she will not get burnt in fire i.e. she had protection from fire. Hiranyakashyapu, the Rakṣasa was against the worship of Lord Vishnu by his own son Pralhād. Since Bhakt Pralhād was not ready to give up worship of Lord Vishnu, Hiranyakashyapu ordered that Pralhād be burnt alive. For that purpose he made Holikā to take Pralhād in her lap and lit a big fire. But with the grace of Lord Vishnu Pralhād was saved and Holikā got burnt into the fire, thus representing the success of virtue over vice.
Jyotir bhaskar Jayant Salgaonkar, the founder and author of, “Kālnirṇaya Panchāng” (published in many Indian Languages) describes in his book, “Dharmbodh” a ‘Vrita’ or ’Anuṣṭān’ (practice) called “ Vanhi Vrita” which is related to Agnihotra / Yajñā. Vanhi Vrita is started on the 14th day of Fālgun Kriśna Pakṣa or one day prior to Fālgun Amāvasyā. On this day an idol of Agni made from any metal or five metals is worshipped and offered cow-ghee, til (sesame seeds) and sugar with mantra, “Agnaye Swaha!”. Agni is worshipped because Agni is the connecting link between man and Devatās like Indra, Varun, Ādi Śakti, Lord śiva and Vishnu. During Holī all elements i.e. Prithvī, Āp, Teja, Vāyu are worshipped and readiness is made for celebration of the fifth element,’ Ākāś’ on the following first day of Chaitra i.e.’ Gudi Padava’ by hoisting well decorated/adorned Gudis or flags pointing towards Ākāś’or Space, which is the mother of all other elements, for auguring well the “ New Year” as per Hindu Calendar.
Rāmnavamī Navrātra: This is celebrated as birth-day of Lord Rāma. In some parts of the country Yajñās like, “Vishnu Yāga” are performed.
Akśaya-Tritīya/Paraśurām Jayantī: Akśaya-Tritīya is supposed to be an auspicious day as per Hindu calendar. On this day also some Yajñās/ Homas are performed. Lord Paraśurām had initiated Param Sadguru Shri Gajanan Mahāraj of Akkalkot Maharashtra, to rejuvenate the Vedic Yajñā system and also the Vedic Way of Life. Followers of Param Sadguru Shri Gajanan Mahāraj perform Havans on this day while celebrating Paraśurām Jayantī.
Vedic Yajñā System and Festivals based on the concept of Yajñā:
Our Vedic Yajñā System broadly consists of Yajñā performances during “Sandhi Kāl” or “Sankraman Kāl” as Nityakarmas for restoration of atmospheric order, ecological and seasonal balance and ensuring Suvrushti i.e. good, adequate and well–distributed rains –“ निकामे निकामे न पर्जन्यो वर्षतु-“ “Nikame Nikame Nah ParjanyoVarśatu!”. Apart from these Yajñās there are various Naimittik or Kāmya Yajñās which are prescribed in Vedic system including Homas and Havans which form part of Sixteen Hindu Sanskāras. The Yajñā System for ecological balance, good rains etc. consists mainly of the following :
- Agnihotra (Smārta/ Shrouta)— ‘ Nitya’ Daily at the time of sunrise and sunset as per circadian cycle.
- Darshya-Poorna Māsya (Smārta/ Shrouta Eshti )— ‘Nitya’ Fortnightly on Full-Moon/ New Moon Day as per Moon Cycle.
- Chaturmāsya Yāga (Shrouta Eshti )—‘Nitya’ during Sandhi Kāl i.e Transition Period of change in Seasons as per Cycle of Seasons. This is also called as Medicinal Homa for healing the Atmosphere.
- Somayāgas– ‘Nitya’ during Sharad Ṛtu and during Vasant Ṛtu.” वसंते वसंते ज्योतिस्तोमेन यजत” –“ Vasante Vasante Jyotistomen Yajat!”.
- Parjanya Yāga—‘Naimittik’- During Rainy Season when one or two Nakṣatras have gone dry and Bhūmi is “Vrishti Kāmu”, i.e, when the land is desirous of rains for sowing new crops (new life).
( Nitya = Regular , Naimittik = Occasional for specific purpose)
From the above it will be clear that Agnihotra can be performed individually by anybody, however for performance of Shrouta Yajñās, particularly so in case of “Sapt Somayāgas”, you require Ritwijas well versed in all Vedas. Our great Rishis had anticipated that if Shrouta Yajñā System gets dwindled or out of practice for whatever reason at least the festivals based on Yajñā Concept will be celebrated by mass-participation; for the purpose of keeping Atmospheric Order and Ecological Balance and also to safeguard cultural traditions. Since Yajñās are related to environmental protection, purification/ restoration of atmospheric order, ecological balance and ensuring good rains during Monsoon Season it is important to understand the relevance of Verse 28 and Verse 30 of Chapter 21 of Brihat Samhitā:
सर्वेष्वृतुषु विवृध्दो गर्भो बहुतोयदो भवति ||२८||
“Bhadrapadādvaya Viśvāmbudeva Paitā Maheṣvathkṣerṣu \
Sarveṣvṛtuṣu Vivṛddho Garbho Bahutoya Do Bhavati \\28\\
The Rain-foetus that develops when the Moon stands in any of the five asterisms viz. Purvabhādra, Uttarabhādra, Purvaṣadha, Uttaraṣadha and Rohiṇī in any season will yield plenty of rain. Also
मृगमासादिश्वष्टौ षट् षौडश विंशतिश्र्चतुर्युक्ता |
विंशतिरथ दिवसत्रयमेकतमर्क्षेण पन्चभ्य: ||३०||
Mṛgamāsādiśvaṣto Ṣat Ṣodaś Vimśatischaturyuktā |
Vimśatiratha Divasatraya Mekatamarkṣeṇa Panchabhyaḥ ||30||
Rain-foetuses coming into being when the Moon is in conjuction wih any of the aforesaid asterisms during the month of Margaśirṣa, Pauṣya, Māgh, Fālguna, Chaitra and Vaiśakha; will yield rain after 195 days for 8,6,16,24,20 and 3 days respectively.
Thus celebration of and participation in the festivals based on Yajñā concept by masses ensures restoration of Atmospheric Order, Eco-Seasonal balance and good rains during the rainy season. This is the great wisdom and sagacity of our Ṛṣis and Seers in interweaving seamlessly the festivals based on Yajñā concept in our social and cultural life. Therefore these festivals should be celebrated with proper understanding of the Yajñā concept incorporated into them and not simply by way of fun and frolic or introducing any pervert way of celebration. The sanctity of Yajñā, Agni Devatā and Sūrya Devatā has to be kept in mind in the joyful celebrations of these festivals.
- Panditabhushan Sastri VS & Bhat MRV, “Varāh Mihir’s Brihat Sanhita” With an English Translation and Notes . V.B. Soobbiah & Sons Bangalore City.1946.
- Jyotirbhaskar Jayant Salgaonkar, “Dharmbodh” (in Marathi) Jaya Ganesh Mandir Nyas, Medha Malwan, Dist-Sidhudurga Maharashtra 2011.
–Sh. Anand Gaikwad, Krishi Bhushan Sendriya Sheti M. S. & Retd. Executive Director/Company Secretary