This time of Easter is the major festival of the Christian religion. It is also the Purim festival of the Jewish faith. This time of this year also marks several festivals from other religions and we give account of these festivals and greetings to religious communities of the Goulburn Valley at this festival time.
In India, spring officially begins with the festival of Holi. The date is not fixed, but follows the lunar calendar. It’s celebrated on the full moon day, the poornima, closest to the spring equinox – March 24 this year. The spring festival, also called the festival of color, is marked by celebrations that involve bonfires, coloured powder and supersoakers.
Holi also showcases Indian traditions of communal harmony as Muslims, Christians and Sikhs play it in large numbers with their Hindu brethren. Such scenes were seen in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and many other places of north and east India.
This mishmash of a holiday has confusing origins. According to one legend, it’s the day an evil king and his demonic sister, Holika, met their just desserts. Holika died in a fire, and to celebrate the victory of good over evil, people light bonfires the night before Holi (which for reasons that aren’t totally clear takes its name from the demon) and then apply some of the ash as a talisman. In a second origin story, the god Krishna, self-conscious about his dark-hued skin, applied colored powder to the faces of the fair cowherd girls to make them like him.
The Shepparton Interfaith Network wishes “Happy Holi” to all who are celebrating Holi in Australia.
Hola Mohalla is actually an annual fair that is organised in a large scale at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab on the day following the festival of Holi. Practise of holding a fair of this kind was initiated by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru.
Anandpur Sahib is located about 85 km from Chandigarh.
It was at this shrine that the 10th Sikh master Guru Gobind Singh had in 1699 baptized five men and founded the Khalsa Panth, which is the modern-day Sikh religion.
The Hola Mohalla celebrations made its beginning around 1701 as Guru Gobind Singh wanted his troops to have mock battles to keep them battle-ready.
In 2016, the Jewish Festival of Purim is celebrated on Thursday, 24th of March. Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. This took place in the ancient Persian Empire. The story is recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther.
According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus/Achashverosh (presumed to be Artaxerxes I of Persia, “Artakhsher” in Old Persian), planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his cousin and adopted daughter Esther, who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing
- Reading of the Megillah (book of Esther), which recounts the story of the Purim miracle. This is done once on the eve of Purim and then again on the following day.
- Giving money gifts to at least two poor people.
- Sending gifts of two kinds of food to at least one person.
- A festive Purim feast, which often includes wine or other intoxicating beverages.
Holy Thursday – Good Friday – Easter Day
Easter observances in the Churches – for many churches – begins on the Thursday before Easter when Jesus observed what is called the Last Supper with his disciples and followers. This is the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday (the vigil of Good Friday) and ends with evening prayer on Easter Sunday, the three-day period therefore from the evening of Maundy Thursday (excluding most of Thursday) to the evening of Resurrection Sunday. It recalls the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, as portrayed in the four Gospels.
Pope Francis spoke on the meaning of Jesus on the Cross:
The Shepparton Interfaith Network joins with all Christians in celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Birthday of Prophet Zoroaster – Parsee Religion
On Monday 28th March (Easter Monday), Parsees will celebrate Khordad Sal – The Birthday of Zoroaster, the founder of the ancient Persian religion, today called Zoroastrianism, and the followers or adherents are called Parsees. Their number is declining every year as the religion forbids marriage outside the religious group.
Khordad Sal can be likened to the Christian holiday of Christmas as it celebrates the birth of their prophet. Khordad Sal is the birth date for Zoroaster and Zoroastrians around the world celebrate it with vigour. Jashans are recited and large parties are held in order to commemorate the occasion. Large banquets are served up and Parsis come together for one of the most celebrated dates on the Zoroastrian calendar. Houses are cleaned to the point of shining and clothes are bought and worn just for this occasion. The Parsi community comes together in order to celebrate the occasion.
For those with a limited knowledge of Zoroastrianism, Zoroaster is an Iranian prophet who founded the religion. The religion is based upon Zoroaster’s teachings as a philosopher. They are centred on honesty, community, charity and nobility. There is also a large focus on helping people and remaining constructive within the community in order to benefit the whole rather than the individual. One of Zoroaster’s key tenets is that which relates to free will. Many western philosophers have picked this up and use it largely in regards to philosophy centred on morality and the human condition. In this regard, Zoroaster can be considered ahead of his time.
The Shepparton Interfaith Network extends good wishes to all Parsees in Australia on the occasion of Khordad Sal.
Birthday of Mahavira – Jain Religion
On Wednesday, March 30th, Jains will celebrate the Birth of Mahavira, the most well known of the Jain “Great Teachers”.
Mahavira (599 BCE-527 BCE), also known as Vardhamana, was the twenty-fourth and last tirthankara (great teacher) of Jainism. Therefore, although Mahavira is widely regarded as the founder of Jainism, he is more properly seen as a reformer of Jainism.
Mahavira was born into a royal family in what is now Bihar, India. At the age of 30 he left his home in pursuit of spiritual awakening (Diksha). For the next twelve and a half years he practiced intense meditation and severe penance, after which he achieved Kevala Jnana or enlightenment. He travelled all over Bharata (which was larger than today’s India) for the next thirty years to teach his philosophy which is based on ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha. Mahavira attained moksha at the age of 72.
The Shepparton Interfaith Network extends good wishes to all Jains on the occasion of Mahavira Jayanthi.