Religions and their Festivals at Easter

new-coexistEaster is a sacred season of Christianity. At the time of Easter, there are religious festivals in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Judaism, to name a few. Jains observe the birthday of Mahavir; East Asian Buddhists observe the birthday of Quan Yin. There is the Passover of the Jewish Faith and the Sikhs recall the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev, who compiled the Guru Granth Sahib. These are among the religious festivals celebrated at this time.


Palm Sunday – the Christians Prepare



March 25th is Palm Sunday, an event common to all Christians

Christianity enters a 40 day preparation – called Lent – for its most important sacred time, that of Holy Week and Easter. Holy Week commences on the Sunday prior to Easter when the Church proclaims the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, in fulfilment of a prophecy of King David. This day is called Palm Sunday. Lent, Palm Sunday and Holy Week are all movable events; they are based on a lunar calendar.

Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. As he rode into the city on a donkey, his followers spread palm branches at his feet and shouted “Hosanna.” Palm branches were considered symbols of victory and triumph at the time.

Christian churches across the country will incorporate palm branches into their services on Palm Sunday. Many hand out palm branches that have been blessed by the priest to the congregation, who will then make them into crosses. The branch is meant to serve as a reminder of the Christ’s victory over death.

In Australia, Palm Sunday is also the day of seeking Justice for Refugees. In what has become an annual event, Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees, bringing banners and other messages of support in solidarity with refugees and people seeking asylum. This is an event where the community recognises that social justice needs to be done for the refugees; thousands have walked of justice for refugees.

The Shepparton Interfaith Network greets Christians on occasion of Palm Sunday: Hosanna!


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Rama Namvami – a festival of Hinduism



March 25th is Rama Navami, a festival of the Hindu Faith.

In the Hindu religion, God has taken up human form many times. There are the ten avatars of the God Vishnu, who have taken human birth. (Ava-tara means “descent of divinity”). It is to be kept in mind that God takes human form to destroy evil and restore righteousness on a firm footing. One such avatar of the God Vishnu is Lord Rama.

Lord Rama was born in the ancient kingdom of Ayodhya (in the north of India) and had three brothers: Shatrugna, Laksmana and Bharatha. He was brought up in the ways of right conduct, and at the command of his father, abandoned his coronation and went to live in the forests for thirteen years. His wife Sita, and one brother by name Laksmana accompanied him into the forest.

His wife Sita was abducted by an enemy king, Ravana, and thus begins the great story of Rama – the Ramayana – the triumph of right conduct, righteousness, over evil and the return of Rama to rule over the kingdom of Ayodhya, the Lord Kosala.

Lord Rama is the model, the human embodiment of dharma, righteousness, right conduct. He is named the ideal son (obedient to his father), ideal brother, ideal husband, ideal king. Rama is a man of one wife, one word (of truth) and one arrow (unerring aim and right conduct).

The Shepparton Interfaith Network greets Hindus on occasion of Rama Navami: Sri Rama Sharanam!


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Mahavir Jayanti – festival of the Jains



March 29th is Mahavir Jayanti, a festival of the Jain Religion.

Jainism is an Indian religion and philosophy which offers an austere path to enlightenment. Much of its mythology was inherited from Hinduism, including huge numbers of gods, and ideas on the structure of the Universe, but Jains differ from Hindus in that they do not believe in the idea of creation, considering that time is cyclic. Jain ascetics attempt to conduct their lives following these five vows:

  • to injure no living thing (because everything has a soul);
  • to speak the truth;
  • to take only what is given;
  • to be chaste;
  • to achieve detachment from people, places and things.

Their exemplars in following this discipline are 24 tirthankaras or ‘spiritual teachers’ who have appeared in the present cycle of time. A tirtha is a ford or crossing place or a sacred place, person or path which enables believers to cross over into liberation from an endless round of rebirth; for Jains, the tirthankaras were the builders of the ford.

Mahavira (above) the twenty-fourth tirthankara, was a contemporary of Gautama Buddha. At the age of 30, he renounced family life and embarked on life as a wondering ascetic. He endured 12 years of fasting, silence and meditation to achieve enlightenment, then spent the next 30 years preaching throughout northern India.

Mahavira and his followers went about naked to indicate their conquest of passion, and he and his followers are traditionally portrayed with downcast eyes – dead to the world.

The Shepparton Interfaith Network extends good wishes to all Jains on the occasion of Mahavira Jayanthi.


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Good Friday – Christian Observance



March 30th is Good Friday, a remembrance of the Christian Religion.

Good Friday is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. It is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover.

Christians participate in a variety of services recalling the last journey of Jesus, carrying his cross up to Mt. Calvary in Jerusalem. This is called the “Way of the Cross” or Via Dolorosa. The Via Dolorosa is a street within the Old City of Jerusalem, believed to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. The winding route from the Antonia Fortress west to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—a distance of about 600 metres (2,000 feet) — is a celebrated place of Christian pilgrimage.

Local churches may have “Stations of the Cross” either inside or outside the Church. An observance is conducted, excerpts from one or another of the four gospels are read and prayers are chanted. There is no celebration of the Eucharist on Good Friday.

In Rome, since the papacy of Saint John Paul II, the heights of the Temple of Venus and Roma and their position opposite the main entrance to the Colosseum have been used to good effect as a public address platform. A red canopy is erected to shelter the Pope as well as an illuminated cross, on the occasion of the Way of the Cross ceremony. The Pope – either personally or through a representative – leads the faithful through meditations on the stations of the cross while a cross is carried from there to the Colosseum.

The Shepparton Interfaith Network greets all Christians who embrace the Passion of Jesus in their daily life.


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Magha Puja – Sangha Day – Buddhism



March 31st is Magha Puja, a celebration of the Buddhist practitioners.

Magha Puja, also called Sangha Day or Fourfold Assembly Day, is a major uposatha or holy day observed by most Theravada Buddhists on the first full moon day of the third lunar month, usually some time in February or March.

The Pali word sangha (in Sanskrit, samgha) means “community” or “assembly,” and in this case it refers to the community of Buddhists. In Asia the word usually is used to refer to monastic communities, although it can refer to all Buddhists, lay or monastic.

Magha Puja is called “Sangha Day” because it is a day to show appreciation to the monastic sangha.

“Fourfold assembly” refers to all followers of the Buddha — monks, nuns, and men and women who are lay disciples.

On this day laypeople gather at temples, usually in the morning, bringing with them offerings of food and other items for the monks or nuns. Monastics chant the Ovada-Patimokkha Gatha, which is a summary of the Buddha’s teachings. In the evening, often there will be solemn candlelight processions. Monastics and laypeople walk around a shrine or Buddha image or through a temple three times, once for each of the Three Jewels – The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

History of Magha Puja

Magha Puja commemorates a time when 1,250 enlightened monks, disciples of the historical Buddha, spontaneously came together to pay respect to the Buddha.

This was significant because —

  • All the monks were arhats.
  • All the monks had been ordained by the Buddha.
  • The monks came together as if by chance, without any planning or prior appointment
  • It was the full moon day of Magha (the third lunar month).

The Shepparton Interfaith Network greets all Buddhists sanghas on occasion of Magha Puja: Sangam Sharanam Gacchami.


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Hanuman Jayanti – a festival of Hinduism



March 31st is Hanuman Jayanti, the birth of Hanuman – observed in the Hindu religion.

Hanuman Jayanti or Hanuman Janam-Utsav is a Hindu religious festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Sri Hanuman, who is immensely venerated throughout India and Nepal. This festival is celebrated on different days in different parts of India. In most states of India, the festival is observed in the month of Chaitra – usually Chaitra Purnima, the 15th day of the bright half of the month.

In Hinduism, it is taught that through the act of aspiring to divinity, one reaches divinity. Here, with Hanuman, we learn of one who aspired to be the selfless servant of the Divine, Lord Rama. The fruit of his devotion and service unto the Divine, Hanuman was gifted with immortality: wherever the Story of Lord Rama (the Ramayana) was told, there Hanuman is present.

Hanuman – sometimes called the “monkey god” was a vanara – a member of a now extinct race of intelligent monkeys. In the Ramayana they are represented as humans (va nara) with their speech, clothing, habitations, funerals, consecrations, etc., and as monkeys with reference to their leaping, their hair and fur. This race of intelligent simians is thought to have become extinct with the Fall of Atlantis.

Hanuman is known as Maruti, Pavanakumara, Vayusuta, Anjaneya, Kesarinandana, Mahavira, Bajarangi, Sankatmocana. He is presented as a simian – monkey figure kneeling with joined palms beside Rama, Sita and Laksmana, or tearing his chest open to reveal Rama’s image in his heart.

The Shepparton Interfaith Network greets the devotees of Hanuman: Jai Hanuman!


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Passover – a festival of the Jewish Religion



31 March – 2nd April is Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) – a most important event in the Jewish Religion.

Passover is one of the most important religious festivals in the Jewish calendar. Jews celebrate the Feast of Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) to commemorate the liberation of the Children of Israel who were led out of Egypt by Moses.

Jews have celebrated Passover since about 1300 BC, following the rules laid down by God in Exodus 13.

The Children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt for 210 years. God promised he would release them from slavery, but not before Pharaoh had refused their release and God had visited ten plagues on Egypt to demonstrate his power. (Exodus 3: 19-20)

In Israel

Passover lasts seven days – the first and seventh days are observed as full days of rest (yom tov), and the middle five as intermediate holidays (hol ha-moed).

Outside Israel

Passover lasts eight days and the first two and last two days are observed as full days of rest.

The Torah says to celebrate Passover for seven days, but Jews in the Diaspora lived too far away from Israel to receive word as to when to begin their observances and an additional day of celebration was added to be on the safe side.

The Shepparton Interfaith Network extends Moadim l’simcha to the Jewish community of the Goulburn Valley on occasion of Pesach.


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Easter – Christians Celebrate!



1st of April is Easter Day – on which Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus

Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Around the world, churches observe Easter with midnight services, and usually, reception of new Christians into the Church. It is the most important Christian festival, and the one celebrated with the greatest joy.

The date of Easter changes each year, and several other Christian festivals fix their dates by reference to Easter.

Churches are filled with flowers, and there are special hymns and songs. The Easter story is at the heart of Christianity

On Good Friday, Jesus Christ was executed by crucifixion. His body was taken down from the cross, and buried in a cave. The tomb was guarded and an enormous stone was put over the entrance, so that no-one could steal the body.

On the following Sunday, some women visited the grave and found that the stone had been moved, and that the tomb was empty. Jesus himself was seen that day, and for days afterwards by many people. His followers realised that God had raised Jesus from the dead.

The Shepparton Interfaith Network joins with all Christians in celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.


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Birthday of Quan Yin

(Kuan Yin or Kwan Yin)



4th of April is the Birthday of Quan Jin, an East Asian Buddhist Festival.

Kuan Yin (also spelled Guan Yin, Kwan Yin) is the bodhisattva of compassion venerated by East Asian Buddhists. Commonly known as the Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin is also revered by Chinese Taoists as an Immortal. The name Kuan Yin is short for Kuan Shih Yin (Guan Shi Yin) which means “Observing the Sounds of the World”.

There are three different dates celebrated as her birthdays; when she was born, when she achieved enlightenment and when she became a nun.

In Japanese, Kuan Yin is called Kannon or more formally Kanzeon; the spelling Kwannon, resulting from an obsolete system of Romanisation, is sometimes seen. In Korean, she is called Kwan-um or Kwan-se-um. In Vietnamese, she is called Quan Âm or Quan Thế Âm Bồ Tát.

Due to her symbolising compassion, in East Asia Kuan Yin is associated with vegetarianism. Chinese vegetarian restaurants are generally decorated with her image, and she appears in most Buddhist vegetarian pamphlets and magazines.

The Shepparton Interfaith Network greets Buddhists on occasion of the Birthday of Quan Jin.


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Guru Arjan Dev – one of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism



7 April is the Anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev of the Sikh Religion

Guru Arjan was the first martyr of the Sikh faith and the fifth of the ten Sikh Gurus, who compiled the first official edition of the Sikh scripture called the Adi Granth, which later expanded into the Guru Granth Sahib.

The Guru laid the foundation of the Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) in Amritsar. He also designed the four doors in a Gurdwara, proclaiming that “My faith is for the people of all castes and all creeds from whichever direction they come and to whichever direction they bow.”

He also declared that all Sikhs should donate a tenth of their earnings to charity.

The greatest contribution he made to the Sikh faith was to compile all of the past Gurus’ writings into one book, now the holy scripture: the Guru Granth Sahib. It was this holy book that made him a martyr.

The greatest contribution he made to the Sikh faith was to compile all of the past Gurus’ writings into one book, now the holy scripture: the Guru Granth Sahib.

The Shepparton Interfaith Network joins with Sikhs in remembering the martyrdom of Guru Arjan.


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