Several religious festivals occur on Thursday 21 March, which is also International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In Australia, we celebrate this week as Cultural Diversity Week. Shepparton Interfaith Network will collaborate with Shepparton Uniting Church to deliver a Multifaith Prayer Service on Thursday, March 21.
Holi is the festival of colours. The festival is celebrated for two to three days. People pour colored water on each other and cook many types of sweets and other food. Holi is celebrated in the spring season because it is welcoming spring. Hindus believe that spring is full of colours so they throw coloured water on each other.
Holi is based on a legend about King Hiranyakashipu. `Hiranyakashyapu had a son, Prahlad. Prahlad was the greatest devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap wanted to kill his son, so he called his sister, Holika. She had a magic robe. This robe had the power to save the wearer from burning in fire. Hiranyakashyap ordered his sister to sit on a burning fire along with Prahlad. He thought that his sister would not be harmed by the fire because of the magic robe and Prahlad would be burnt to death. But the result was the opposite to what the evil demon king planned.
As is believed, no one can harm the person who has God as his saviour. Thus Prahlad came out of the burning fire safely and Holika was burnt to death. The other day is celebrated with joyful colours to mark the victory of virtue and goodness over evil.
The festival is celebrated for five days. The 5th day, Rag Panchami, marks the closing day of the Holi festival.
Tesu Flowers and Holi Festival
The color used to play Holi in ancient India was extracted from Tesu flowers which bloom during the spring season. It is believed that Lord Krishna played Holi with Radha using colors made from Tesu flowers. Even today many of the temples in Vrindavan, Braj area and Mathura play Holi with traditional yellowish-orange coloured water extracted from dried Tesu Flowers.
Tesu Flowers is also known as the flame of the forest and is the flower of the Palash tree. It is believed to possess medicinal properties and is also good for the skin. Fresh Tesu flowers are used to welcome guests and it is also used to sprinkle water on devotees during Holi.
The flowers are soaked overnight in water and can also be boiled to obtain fragrant yellowish – orange coloured water. The dried flowers can be dried and powdered for an orange powder.
Sacred Festivals and the Equinox
The March equinox marks the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from south to north. This happens on March 19, 20, or 21 every year. The length of night and day are nearly equal.
On the equinox, night and day are nearly the same length – 12 hours – all over the world. This is the reason it’s called an “equinox”, derived from Latin, meaning “equal night.” However, in reality, equinoxes don’t have exactly 12 hours of daylight.
Sikh / Nanakshahi New Year (also called Hola Mohalla)
Hola Mohalla 2019 in India will begin on Friday, 22 March and ends on Sunday, 24 March 2019
Hola Mahalla is an important Indian Sikh festival held in Anandpur Sahib in Punjab which follows Hindu festival of Holi. Unlike festival of Holi, when people playfully throw colored powders on each other, Hola Mahalla is an occasion for the Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills. Sikhs gather here in large numbers to witness a very impressive and colourful procession of Nihangs, in their traditional attire displaying their skill in the use of arms, horse riding, and other war-like sports. The fair is also known for community service as langars (voluntary community kitchens) are held by the locals for serving traditional cuisine to visitors to this festival.
Naqw-Ruz Bahá’í New Year
19, 20, 21 or 22 March Bahá’í New Year (also called Naw-Rúz. It is the day (starting at the previous sunset) in Tehran containing the exact moment of the vernal equinox)
The Baha’i New Year, or Naw-Ruz, which means “new day” in Persian, is celebrated by Baha’is around the world each year on the date of the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. Naw-Ruz marks the end of the 19 day month of fasting, and it’s a joyous time of celebration. It’s also one of the Baha’i Holy Days on which work is to be suspended.
Naw-Ruz is also celebrated by Zoroastrians.
Judaism – Purim
Purim, Hebrew: meaning allotment, is a cheerful Jewish feast in memory of the liberation of the Jewish people during their stay in ancient Persia.
The origins of Purim are to be found in the Book of Esther.
It is celebrated on the 14th of Adar (in Jerusalem on the 15th of Adar).
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid “pass laws”. Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination .
The Beginnings of Cultural Diversity Week
In 1979, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Programme of activities to be undertaken during the second half of the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination . On that occasion, the General Assembly decided that a week of solidarity with the peoples struggling against racism and racial discrimination, beginning on 21 March, would be organized annually in all States. In Australia, this is known as Cultural Diversity Week.
In Shepparton, Cultural Diversity Week is observed every year, with a launch event at Kidstown, and many events during the week. Shepparton Interfaith Network will collaborate with Shepparton Uniting Church to deliver a Multifaith Prayer Service on Thursday, March 21.