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Vaisakha Festival

The month of celebration begins mid April to mid May. That is called the month of Vaisakha in the north and the month of Chaitra in the South according to the Hindu calendar.

Beginning with Good Friday and Easter, this month represents celebrations on a softer key. Christians across the country attend Church services on Good Friday. Easter is celebrated with great merriment and people make and buy Easter eggs. Today is a day celebrating the triumph of good over evil.

Another festival which represents equanimity even in joy, is the Buddha Jayanti. On the full moon day in the month of Vaisakha, Gautama was born in Lumbini in the Nepal Tarai. On the same day of purnima, many years later, he attained enlightenment at Uruvela at Bodh Gaya in Bihar. Still a few years later, on this very day the Buddha attained salvation at Kusinara in Uttar Pradesh. This day is then very important to the Buddhist who fast all day in his memory and partake of a light meal at the end of the day. In places like Ladakh and Tawang, which are primarily Buddhist dominated areas, celebrations continue over a month.

An interesting festival is held in Kancheepuram, the temple city of Tamil Nadu. Called Chaitra Purnamasi, this festival worships Chandragupta, the chief account of the Lord of Death, Lord Yama. It is believed that Chandragupta has an account of who is good and who is bad and he deals out punishments or rewards accordingly. People put on their best and pray to Chandragupta at a temple in his name in Kancheepuram hoping to convince him of their nobleness. Whether he gets convinced or not is something we do not know!

In Kerala the magnificent festival of Pooram is held. This festival begins with the setting of the sun at the temple of Vaddakuntan on top of the hillock of Trichur. Thirty rich caparisoned elephants carrying ceremonial umbrellas and fanned by whisks stride out through the door of the temple gate and line up outside. The temple in the centre carries the idol of the presiding deity, Lord Siva. The celebrations reaches a new crescendo by midnight by which time all the people of the city have joined and crackers fill the quiet night with resounding joy.

In the temple of Khir Bhawani, 22 km from Srinagar a festival has been celebrated since long. It is actually a birthday celebration of the presiding deity and as the name suggests, khir that is a sweet milk preparation is the important offering to the goddess.

All over India, in the Month of May another celebration is held. This is not addressed to a deity but to a poet who till recently lived amongst us. Rabindra Nath Tagore. On the 9th of May, it is his birthday and people from all walks of life organize evenings of dance music or poetry reading in his memory. This issue features his poetry on another page.