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A full moon day with hand full of festivities!

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It is indeed the most eventful day of the yearly calendar, also one of the most auspicious. Kartik Purnima is day to travel and relish the different cultures, this day has to offer. It is the full moon day of the Hindu month of Kartik, and most likely it falls in calendar month of November. I am not in praise of this day just because my b’day falls on this day every year as per the Hindu calendar, it is revered for many other reasons as well (just kidding!). 

Devotees taking holy bath in Ganges on the occasion of Kartik Purnima at Dashaswamedh ghat, in Varanasi. Photo: PTI

It is considered as most auspicious of all 12 full moon days in the year. There are many mythological legends associated with this day. In India, it is celebrated across cultures. Interestingly, full moon has always been part of festivals around the world and here we are not just talking about full moon beach parties in Thailand. Greece has a full moon festival in August every year, Chinese celebrate mid-autumn full moon festival in September, Germans celebrate autumn full moon festival in October (we also celebrate Sharad Purnima during that time every year). Even Phoenix in Arizona celebrates many full moon festivals, including one this November. Hoi An in Vietnam celebrates lantern festivals on all full moon days.

Illuminated Golden Temple at Amritsar on occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti

Well, I was talking about Kartik Purnima, considered among most holiest of the days to take bath in rivers in north India, that too at the time of moon rise. Sikhs celebrate this day as Guru Nanak Jayanti, while Jains celebrate with a strenuous Shatrunjay Teerth Yatra at Palitana Jain temples in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat.

Shatrunjay Teerth at Palitana in Gujarat

Dev Diwali is one of the main celebrations of the day, that largely takes place at Varanasi and on few other cities along the Ganges river. It has a legend associated with it about killing of Tripurasura by Shiva as desired by gods. Gods than celebrated his death by lighting the lamps, hence called as Diwali of the gods.

Dev Diwali at Benaras

Karthigai Deepam is another festival of lights and diyas associated with this day and is largely celebrated in Tamil Nadu and parts of Kerala as well as Sri Lanka. Karthigai Deepam is celebrated during Purnima or full moon day when the moon is in line with the six star constellation called Karthigai. It is believed that Lord Shiva appeared in Thiruvannamalai hills on this day and the people like to commemorate the situation by lighting a huge fire on the top of the hill. Lamps are also illuminated every where else- homes, offices, temples. But this festival also resonates Raksha Bandhan or Bhai Dooj as in Tamil culture, sisters will pray for their brothers on this day. It is a big social occasion.

Karthigai Deepam

Since, one of the main rituals of Kartik Purnima involves taking bath at holy rivers, Pushkar near Ajmer in Rajasthan is also mythologically considered very holy place. Hence lakhs of people come here on this day to take bath. Somehow, historically this day also got associated with cattle trade in the region. So, on Kartik Purnima we also have Pushkar Fair. A similar historic cattle trade fair associated with this day is Sonepur Cattle fair in Bihar. Only difference is that while a week long Pushkar fair concludes on Kartik Purnima with a bath in Pushkar lake, the month long Sonepur fair starts on Kartik Purnima with a holy bath at confluence of Ganges and Gandak rivers. It is interesting to know that even during Karthigai Deepam festival at Thiruvannamalai hills a fair is organised and large scale cattle trade takes place during that fair.

Pushkar Fair

Rajasthan has two another festivals associated with Kartik Purnima and they both are also fairs largely associated with cattle trade. Three day Chandrabhaga Fair is celebrated in Jhalawar district of Rajasthan on the banks of Chandrabhaga river every year with Kartik Purnima on the middle day. Similar to it is Kolayat Fair (also known as Kapil Muni fair) at Bikaner in Rajasthan. This three day festival also concludes on Kartik Purnima.

Kapil Muni temple at Kolayat during fair

Another important festival associated with this day is Bali Jatra of Odisha celebrated largely at banks of Mahanadi river in Cuttack. As the name says, this is in commemoration of ancient voyage to Bali. Locally it is also known as Boita Bandana. In ancient times Odia traders would embark on a journey to distant lands like Bali, Sumatra, Borneo and Ceylon. Voyages would begin in large vessels called Boita. On Kartik Purnima boats were worshipped before moving into high seas for distant lands to expand the trade. Boats from Cuttack now no more go to Bali but to commemorate, on this auspicious day people float artificial boats made of banana tree bark, colourful paper and cork in water bodies. A huge fair is organised on this day.

Bali Jatra fair at Cuttack in Odisha

Raas Mahotsav at Majuli island in Assam is another interesting festival associated with this day. The Raas Lila is an annual festival being performed on the full moon day (Purnima) in the months of October-November (Kati- Aghun) during the autumn season. Actually, it is believed that Krishna and Radha danced rasa and Krishna worshipped Radha on this day. It is not known for certain in which Sattra Raas Lila was first introduced in Majuli as a performing festival. During this festival the Sattras draw a large number of people.

Raas Mahotsav at Majuli

Gauchar Festival of Chamoli

Interestingly, this year Uttarakhand’s famous Gauchar Festival also starts on 23rd November, on the day of Kartik Purnima. Gauchar Festival in Uttarakhand has been one of the most important elements of Uttarakhand’s history and has been celebrated like a ritual since 1943 – since the time of Indo-Tibetan Trade era and is a mark of the period when the people were initiated into the local trade which now has been converted into a tradition. This year, Gauchar Festival will be up and lively from 23rd – 29th November, and will hold an all-round theme signifying the confluence of ‘Trade and Tradition’ encompassed under the serenity of Chamoli. The weeklong extravaganza will offer a variety of activities to participate and indulge in. 

Gauchar Festival at Chamoli

Since the festival will be held at different locations in Gauchar, it will exhibit a diverse environment for all types of enthusiasts. People seeking for an adrenaline rush can take part in land and aerial adventure sports such as paragliding, hot air balloon rides and trekking. For people who are looking to visit the festival for business meets can interact with the other buyers and sellers during the trade fair which will keep the agrarian and artistic treasure of Uttarakhand on the forefront. Furthermore, the festival also features amazing Yoga Camp, where one can immerse in practising and getting to know about the ancient Indian art and will also cater to the people towards the spiritual side with activities like a Prabhat Pheri. 

Taking it to the next level, Gauchar Festival will also organise some mini internal fairs with concentric themes; the visitors can be a part of the Film Festival, to witness some of the most amazing feature films by well known directors and composers. Last but not the least, no festival in Uttarakhand is complete without an element of the State’s cuisine, which will take form as a Food Festival for the people to please their palates and tickle their taste buds with the amazing array of dishes. What’s more? There will also be an opportunity for the people to showcase their culinary skills with a ‘Master-chef Competition’. Going beyond the expectations, for sports enthusiasts, this festival in Chamoli will also host a Sports Meet and sports activities like State Level Boxing Competition, Football, Volleyball, Badminton, Tug of War and Kabaddi Competition.

Have you ever been part of any of the festivals happening on Kartik Purnima? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below. 

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5 thoughts on “A full moon day with hand full of festivities!”

  1. That’s a lovely list. I’m afraid I haven’t been to any of them. But diwali in Udaipur is one thing I was impressed by. Another lovely memory of Diwali is of villages in central India where they put out diyas in fields and around trees. A dark landscape really lights up magically with that.

    1. swamiupendra says:

      Yes, interesting one for festivals on a single day. That’s what make it amazing. With the amount you travel, you are surely going to make it to many of them in coming years. Enjoy China for now!

  2. arv! says:

    Such an informative post. Lots of new things to know! Thanks for posting it.

    1. swamiupendra says:

      Thanks a lot Arvind.

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