1. INTRODUCTION :
THE HINDUS are a profoundly religious people. Their goal of life is Self-realisation or the attainment of God-consciousness. A religion of some kind they must have—a religion which will stir the depths of the heart and give room for the exercise of faith, devotion and love.
All Hindu festivals have a deep spiritual import or high religious significance. All great Hindu festivals have religious, social and hygienic elements in them. In every festival there is bathing in the morning before sunrise in the river or tank or well. Every individual will have to do some Japa, prayer, Kirtan, recitation of Sanskrit verses and meditation.
Man gets tired on account of hard work or monotonous actions. He wants some change or variety. He wants relaxation. He wants something to cheer him up. These festivals make him cheerful and happy, and give him rest and peace.
Swami Sivananda has explained the significance and the philosophy of many of our fasts and festivals. In two aspects of these observances, he has always allowed the greatest freedom: (1) in the determination of the dates of the festival, (2) in the traditional ways of celebrating them. For instance, in South India during the Durga Puja they have the Kolu when various idols and toys are arranged in colourful galleries before which, every evening, girls sit and sing. Again, in some places there is fire-walking without the Kavadi held in honour of Draupadi Amman who was born of fire; or in Ceylon, according to Yogi Satchidananda of Ceylon, in honour of Kannaki Amman. Gurudev never disturbs anyone’s good beliefs and customs.
The way in which the most important festivals are observed at the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, in India is also given in this volume. If we have no precedent, we can as well adopt that. On the particular day, it would be even enough to read the chapter relating to that day, to remind ourselves of the spirit of the occasion.
Swami Sivananda observes in his Ashram not only the festivals of the Hindus but those of the Christians and the Muslims, too: an example for us to copy. In his eyes, there are no distinctions. The New Year’s Day according to the English calendar has the same significance to him as the Tamil or the Telugu New Year’s Day. Hence, when he talks of the Telugu New Year’s Day in this book, it can well be read Tamil New Year’s Day or Gujarati New Year’s Day.
To be continued ....