Holi, a festival of colors, is celebrated with great fervor all over the nation. A celebration of the triumph of good over evil, a riot of colors, an occasion for people to come together and as an ancient spring tradition, Holi celebrations have many aspects. Families and friends are seen to come out on the streets in numbers and spray each other with colored water with their even more colorful pichkaris. People of diverse Indian culture and custom celebrate Holi differently and the celebrations are typical to each state.
In Barsana near Mathura in the Northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Holi is celebrated in an unusual manner where one can see crowds of men, cowering before women striking them with bamboo sticks. Men taking advantage of the opportunity the festival grants them, spray women with colored water and powder and provocative language and the women retaliate by raining blows on the men with sticks.
Indian cultural facts talk about a story that Lord Krishna who lived in Nandgaon, another village in Uttar Pradesh, is believed to have come to Barsana to tease Radha and her friends, when he was driven away by the women with sticks. Thus the tradition of lathmar holi.
Another age-old tradition associated with holi celebrations is drinking thandai, a cooling drink made with a mixture of dried fruits and certain spices, laced with ‘bhang’, prepared from the leaves and buds of the female cannabis plant. Consumption of bhang, the drink known to have been patronized by Lord Shiva, is a tradition followed by most holi revellers today.
The spirit of Holi encourages the feeling of brotherhood in society with people of all communities and religions participating in this joyous and colorful festival to strengthen the secular fabric of the nation.
One of the most sacred temples of Lord Shiva around the world, with its astounding beauty, stands a symbol of faith, religion, culture and tradition – The Pashupatinath temple. Tradition says it was constructed by Pashupreksha of the Somadeva Dynasty in the 3rd century B.C.; however there have been many legends in Indian mythology describing as to how the temple of Lord Pashupatinath came into existence. The present temple is the subtle work of architecture with its gold-plated roof, bejeweled doors, floral motifs and woodcarvings of the finest quality. The Pashupatinath temple is listed in UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.
Standing about 24 meters above the ground, in the middle of an open courtyard, on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, the Pashupatinath temple is a square, two-tiered structure called a pagoda. On both sides of the richly ornamented, silver plated doors adorning each side, are niches containing gold-painted images of the guardian deities. In the central sanctum of the temple, is a 3 feet high, four faced Shivlinga with images of Vishnu, Surya, Devi and Ganesha. Outside sits the largest statue of Nandi the bull, the vehicle of Shiva.
Several festivals associated with ancient Indian culture are celebrated at the Pashupatinath temple. On auspicious occasions like HaribodhaniEkadashi, Balachaturdashi, Sankranti, Mahashivratri, TeejAkshaya, Rakshabandhan, Grahana (eclipse), Poornima (Full moon day) the temple takes on a festive atmosphere with thousands of devotees from different parts of Nepal and India visiting to pay homage to Lord Shiva.
A 45 minutes bus journey from Kathmandu and one is at the most sacred adobe of Lord Shiva.
Spelling peace and tranquility, the very word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’, which means to join or unite; a union of the individual self with the cosmic consciousness. Despite almost a century of research, the earliest beginnings of yoga are unknown, and although it is said to be as old as the rise of complex civilization, there is no physical evidence to support this claim. However, what we do know is that yoga originated in India almost 5,000 years ago.
The discovery of the Indus civilization, the largest civilization in early antiquity in the early 1920s was a surprise sprung upon the world by archaeologists. Depictions on soapstone seals strongly resembling yogi-like figures and many other finds show the amazing continuity between that civilization and later Hindu society and culture.
The history of yoga can be broadly categorized into Vedic, Pre-classical, Classical and Post-classical. Vedic Yoga or Archaic Yoga, had people believing in a ritualistic way of life where they turned to rishis or Vedic yogis for illumination. In its pre-classical period, yoga found its way into Buddhism, with Lord Buddha being the first to learn yoga.
The history of modern yoga is widely believed to have begun at the Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Chicago in 1893, when the then young Swami Vivekananda made a big and lasting speech that left a sizeable impression on the American and global public.
With its physical, emotional, spiritual and mental benefits, yoga has been India’s greatest contribution to the world. The importance of yoga in Indian culture has spread to the world, indeed a gift of love from India!