Easter: A time of many religious festivals

Easter Egg hunt!
The Full Moon after the Autumnal Equinox brings many religious festivals in its wake, as these festivals mostly follow a lunar Calendar. This time brings the Jewish Passover (Pesach), the Christian Easter, the Holi festival on Monday 29th, the Lailat al Bara’ah of Islam, and Monday, 29th March to Wednesday, 31st March is the Sikh festival of Hola Mohalla. For many children, the Easter Egg hunt!


 

Passover Seder

Passover:

Jewish holy days (chaggim), celebrate landmark events in Jewish history, such as the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah, and sometimes mark the change of seasons and transitions in the agricultural cycle.

In the Bible, Passover marks the Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egyptian slavery, when God “passed over” the houses of the Israelites during the last of the ten plagues. When the Temple in Jerusalem stood, the paschal lamb was offered and eaten on Passover eve, while the wave offering of barley was offered on the second day of the festival. Nowadays, the Passover seder is one of the most widely observed rituals in Judaism.

Passover (Pesach) is a week-long holiday beginning on the evening of the 14th day of Nisan (the first month in the Hebrew calendar), that commemorates the Exodus from Egypt. Outside Israel, Passover is celebrated for eight days. In ancient times, it coincided with the barley harvest. It is the only holiday that centers on home-service, the Seder. Leavened products (chametz) are removed from the house prior to the holiday and are not consumed throughout the week. Homes are thoroughly cleaned to ensure no bread or bread by-products remain, and a symbolic burning of the last vestiges of chametz is conducted on the morning of the Seder. Matzo is eaten instead of bread.

 

Christ of St John of the Cross
Christ of St John of the Cross

Easter

Easter is the Christian Festival that commemorates the last journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, where he was hailed as the Son of David as he entered the temple city. Thereafter, Jesus took his disciples to an upper room where they took a meal, which is now called the institution of the Last Supper and (for many churches – the institution of Holy Communion with bread and wine). This event took place the evening before Good Friday.

On that evening, Jesus – the Son of God – was arrested and abused by the Roman soldiers and taken before the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands of this matter and ordered the soldiers to crucify him.

Christianity takes its central holy revelation from this event: the passion, crucifixion, death and resurrection from the dead, of Jesus. He appeared to his disciples after his death and was seen by hundreds at the event called Ascension.

Washing of Feet
Washing of Feet – Pope Francis washing feet of Christians, emulating the service of Jesus
All over the world, Christians re-enact these events, come together in worship and celebrate the resurrection on Easter morning. In Jerusalem, there is the re-enactment of Jesus carrying his cross; in Rome, the Pope washes the feet of Christians and proclaims Jesus as Risen Lord to the World on Easter Day.

 

Holi - the Festival of Colours!

Holi

Holi is celebrated after the full moon day in the month of Phalguna (February – March in the Indian calendar). It is traditionally a harvest festival. Like all Hindu festivals, the reason for the celebration of Holi can be traced to Hindu scriptures and it commemorates the victory of good over evil. The significance of Holi is that victory of good over evil is achieved by a young devotee through his unshakable devotion for the Lord.

Young Prahlada was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu but this was detested by his arrogant father, Hirnakashyipu, who was the king of the land. The father constantly sought for ways to eliminate his son and each time he failed miserably. But this only hardened his stance.

Now, the king had a sister named Holika who was immune to fire. So, she took young Prahlada and entered into fire. Legend has it that Prahlada came out of the fire without any burns but Holika was consumed by the fire. Huge bonfires that are burnt on the day prior to Holi symbolize this event from mythology.

The second day of Holi is called Rangwali Holi, Dhulandi, Dhulandi, Phagwah or Badi Holi. This is the day when people apply colours to one another, party and enjoy. Children and youngsters play in groups with dry colours called abir or gulal, pichkaris (water guns), water balloons filled with coloured solutions and other creative things. You might even find groups of people with drums and other musical instruments on streets, dancing and singing their way from one place to another

The Indian version of the roman Cupid (called Kamadeva) was burnt to ashes on this day by Lord Shiva!

 

Hola Maholla

History of Hola Mohalla

Hola, which originated from the world ‘halla’ means military charge. Mohalla, as explained by Mahan Kosh, the first Sikh encyclopaedia, means an organized parade. Therefore, the words Hola and Mohalla put together mean ‘the charge of an army’.

Hola Mohalla is the continuation of the spring festival of Holi. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji incorporated a martial attribute to the procedure of celebrating Holi to create Hola Mohalla, celebrated on the day after Holi. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, developed on the story of Prahlad to establish this festival. It is believed that Guru Gobind Singh formulated Hola Mohalla in 1680.

The military training occurred on the bed of the Charan Ganga River and was personally overseen by the Guru. In this small town found on the Punjab-Himachal Pradesh frontier, people from all over the world gather in large numbers to witness the yearly event that stars martial games and sports that used to be traditionally performed by the Sikhs during their long war against the Mughals.

Known colloquially as Akalis, Nihngas or Nihang Singhs, they are affectionately dubbed as the Knights of the Guru. A remarkable and colourful parade takes place in which the Nihangs, in their conventional panoply, form the vanguard while exhibiting their mastery in the use of weaponry, horsemanship, tent-pegging and other war-like sports. The most spectacular event in the Hola Mohalla is the majestic procession of the Nihangs on horses and elephants and foot, carrying a range of traditional and modern weapons and displaying their capabilities to use them.

 

Muslims at Prayer

Lailat al Bara’ah

On the fourteenth of Sha’ban, the eighth month of the Muslim calendar and two weeks before Ramadan commences, Muslims seek forgiveness for their sins. Many Muslims believe that it is on this night that a person’s destiny is fixed by Allah for the coming year, and the night is often spent in prayer, asking for forgiveness and God’s guidance. Some Muslims fast during the daytime in preparation for the night. In certain parts of the world Muslims visit the graves of relatives, and the giving of charity is also traditional.

For the majority of Muslims worldwide, Lailat al Bara’ah is a cause for celebration. Strings of lights and candles illuminate the night, and fireworks brighten the dark sky. Families that have lost a member in the past year are showered with sweet treats by friends. Laylat is a popular time for performing acts of charity for the less fortunate.

The wording ‘Lailat ul Bara’h’ is Arabic; layltun meaning night and baraat meaning forgiveness. In Persian and Urdu it is called Shabbe Baraat.

 

Symbols of World Religions
The Shepparton Interfaith Network greets religious participants of all religions on occasion of their sacred festivals.

 


 

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