The Sacred Season of Many Religions

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The Full Moon after the March Equinox (often called the Vernal Equinox) brings in its wake many religious celebrations based on the lunar calendar each year. We think of Passover, Easter, Buddhist New Year, Jain celebration, Hindu and Baha’i Observances and the Islamic observance of Ramadan ending in Eid-al-Fitr, the festival of celebration.

2 April: Palm Sunday – Christian Observance

Palm SundayPalm Sunday is a Christian festival. It is always happens on a Sunday but the date each year changes. It is a day to celebrate the day that Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem in Israel as was written about in the Bible in Mark 11:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and in John 12:12-19. During Palm Sunday many Christians celebrate with Crosses made out of Palm leaves and by going to church.

Many Christian churches mark Palm Sunday as the beginning of Holy Week which ends on Easter Sunday. It is an event celebrated by some churches by cutting branches of palm trees and attending mass. Palm Sunday is celebrated by most Christian churches all over the world including Roman Catholics and Protestants.

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4 April: Mahavir Jayanti – Jain Observance

MahaviraMahavira (599 BC-527 BC), also known as ‘Vardhaman’, was 24th Jain Tirthankara (Teaching God). He was born in 599 BC in Bihar state of India. He revived the Jain Dharma with five moral teachings under broad headings of Non-violence (Ahimsa), Truthfulness (Satya), Non-stealing (Asteya), Control of senses including mind (Brahmacharya), and Non-possessiveness (Aparigraha). Mahavira preached that ahimsa (non-injury) is the supreme virtue. He is not the founder of Jain religion. He was preceded by 23 earlier Thirthankaras.

This day stands for the most fundamental tenets of Jainism. It is an extremely auspicious day for Jains all around the world, not just in India. On this day, the Jain community celebrates the memory of their last spiritual guru or teacher, Lord Mahavir. Every year, this day arrives in either March or April, as per the Gregorian calendar. However, as per the Hindu Panchang, this day falls on the 13th day of the sacred Chaitra month.

On the day of this celebrated event, a mighty procession is taken out on the streets with the idol of Lord Mahavir. This procession is called the Rath Yatra. Later in the day, the devotees visit the temples and pay homage to Lord Mahavir by singing religious hymns. They seek blessings for a prosperous and fruitful life through prayers. The day is colored with the theme of charity, inspiring people to help the needy through donations and gifts. Giving back to society to be a noble citizen is the message behind celebrating this festival.

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5 April: Pesach (Passover) – Jewish Observance

Passover sederPesach (Passover) is a religious holiday or festival noted by ceremonies each year, mostly by Jewish people. They celebrate it to remember when God used Moses to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, as told in the book of Exodus in the Bible. God told Moses to set aside this special week originally called “the feast of unleavened bread”. During this time, the people eat special foods, do special rituals and sing songs.

As told in the Bible, after many decades of slavery to the Egyptian pharaohs, during which time the Israelites were subjected to backbreaking labour and unbearable horrors, God saw the people’s distress and sent Moses to Pharaoh with a message: “Send forth My people, so that they may serve Me.” But despite numerous warnings, Pharaoh refused to heed God’s command. God then sent upon Egypt ten devastating plagues, afflicting them and destroying everything from their livestock to their crops.

At the stroke of midnight of 15 Nissan in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), God visited the last of the ten plagues on the Egyptians, killing all their firstborn. While doing so, God spared the children of Israel, “passing over” their homes — hence the name of the holiday. Pharaoh’s resistance was broken, and he virtually chased his former slaves out of the land. The Israelites left in such a hurry, in fact, that the bread they baked as provisions for the way did not have time to rise.

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6 April: Theravada New Year – Buddhist Observance

Theravadin New YearTheravada New Year is observed three days after the first full moon appears in April every year and this day will be marked on April 6. This day marks Buddha’s birth, death, enlightenment, and the start of the rainy season.

New years in Theravadan Buddhism is often called Maha Songkram (in Thailand), derived from the Sanskrit word, saṅkrānti (or, more specifically, meṣa saṅkrānti which means literally “astrological passage”). Maha Songkran means ‘great Songkran — since technically there is a Songkran every month.

Theravadan New Year is celebrated all over South East Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and India — is typically a three-day celebration beginning with a temple visit (usually) on April April 6 to 8 this year (2023). Songkran 2023 in Thailand begins on Wednesday, April 6, and ends on Friday, April 8. It is also Nepali New Year April 6!

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6 April: Hanuman Jayanti – Hindu Observance

Hanuman - immortal devotee of Lord RamaHanuman Jayanti is celebrated on full moon day during Chaitra month. Hanuman, who is also known as the Vanara (monkey) God, was born on this day and Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Hanuman. Devotees observe Hanuman Jayanti during different time of the year according to their regional beliefs and the type of calendar being followed. Hanuman Jayanti during Chaitra Purnima is the most popular one in North Indian states.

April 6, 2023 is Hanuman Jayanti, the birth of Lord Hanuman – observed in the Hindu religion. Jayanti means birth anniversary. Some say Hanuman is a monkey god. This is not true. The Hindu scriptures record the presence of intelligent primates (with speech, awareness of divinity and learning) called vanara. This is an extinct race of intelligent primates that interacted with humans – in this case, Hanuman, a vanara – interacted with a divine incarnation of the Hindu faith.

Hanuman Jayanti is a Hindu religious festival that celebrates the birth of 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.

Devotees chant Hanuman Chalisa and Hanuman Stuthi on the day. These are often chanted on Tuesdays or Saturdays. Hanuman is very popular.

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

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7 April: Good Friday – Christian Observance

Good FridayGood Friday is observed on the Friday before Easter Sunday. On this day Christians commemorate the passion, or suffering, and death on the cross of Jesus Christ. Many Christians spend Good Friday in fasting, prayer, repentance, and meditation on the agony and suffering of Christ.

Why Is Good Friday Called “Good?”
In Christianity, God is holy and humans are sinful; holiness is incompatible with sin, so humanity’s sin separates us from God. The punishment for sin is eternal death. But human death and animal sacrifices are insufficient to atone for sin. Atonement requires a perfect, spotless sacrifice, offered in just the right way.

Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the one and only perfect God-man, that his death provided the perfect atoning sacrifice for sin and that through Jesus, our own sins can be forgiven.

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9 April: Easter – Christian Observance

Easter Day - the resurrection of JesusEaster, Latin Pascha, Greek Pascha, is the principal festival of the Christian church, which celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his Crucifixion. The earliest recorded observance of an Easter celebration comes from the 2nd century, though the commemoration of Jesus’ Resurrection probably occurred earlier.

The New Testament tells that on the third day after Jesus died on the Cross, his body was no longer in the tomb where he was laid. Later, Jesus is said to have appeared to over 500 people and preached to them. The New Testament teaches that the resurrection of Jesus is what Christianity is based on. The resurrection made people believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Christians believe that God has given Christians “a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.

For those who are not Christian, Easter is observed as a cultural celebration.

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14 April: Orthodox Good Friday (Orthodox Christianity)

Orthodox Good Friday ServiceMany Orthodox Christian churches in Australia often observe Good Friday at a later date than the Good Friday date observed by many western churches. Good Friday focuses on Jesus Christ’s death, which is described in the Christian bible. The day is also known as Great Friday, Holy Friday, and Holy and Great Friday.

Orthodox Good Friday features a strict fast, with most churches allowing for no food all day, unless the observer is ill. Many churches hold services late into the night, holding elements of the Good Friday service after midnight. Orthodox Christians are forbidden to take the Eucharist, or communion, on Good Friday.

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14 April: Vaisakhi – Sikh Observance

Vaisakhi ParadeThe Sikh Holiday of Vaisakhi falls on Friday, 14 April. Also frequently spelled Baisakhi, Vaisakhi has origins as a springtime festival in the Punjab region, but since 1699 has taken on important religious significance for Sikhs. On Vaisakhi in that year 1699, Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa and established much of what is at the core of the Sikh faith today.

On the Vaisakhi day of 1699 (the first day of the month of ‘Vaisakh’ in the Sikh calendar), Sri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, the tenth Guru, formalized the concept of Saint-Soldier by introducing the Amrit ceremony (the formal initiation ceremony). The initiates were instructed to keep the five K’s: Kes (uncut hair), Kangha (a small comb), Karra (an iron bracelet), Kachh (special shorts) and Kirpan (a ceremonial dirk or sword).

They were given the title of Khalsa, meaning those whose life and spirit belonged only to the One Universal Creator and not to any ruler, tyrant or even a messenger of the Creator. The principle of One Universal Creator, a founding principle of the Sikh Faith, means that all human beings are children of the same Creator, and thus all are equal, irrespective of their religion, gender, race, color, caste or anyting else that may distinguish.

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15 April: Vishu – Hindu Observance

Vishu celebrationVishu, also spelled Viṣu, spring festival observed by Malayali Hindus in Kerala and in adjacent areas of Tamil Nadu, India. Vishu (Sanskrit: “equal”) celebrates the vernal equinox, when day and night are roughly equal length. Although the astronomical equinox falls in late March, the Vishu festival falls on the first day of the Malayali month of Medam.

This day is also observed as the beginning of the Hindu solar new year celebrated by the people of Nepal and India in Assam Valley, Kerala, Orissa, West Bengal and some other regions of India. There are regional variation outside of Punjab too. In Himachal Pradesh, the Hindu Goddess Jwalamukhi is worshipped on Vaisakhi, while in Bihar, the Sun-god Surya is honoured.

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17 April: Laylat al-Qadr – Islamic Observance

Shab-E-Qadr - the Night of Power, the Night of giving Quran to Prophet Muhammad Laylat al-Qadr[1] (Arabic: لیلة القدر) (also known as Shab-e-Qadr), basically the Night of Decree or Night of Power, is the anniversary of two very important dates in Islam. They occurred in the month of Ramadan. It is the anniversary of the night Muslims believe the first verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

According to many Muslim sources, the exact date is uncertain but it was one of the odd-numbered nights of the last ten days of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Since that time, Muslims have regarded the last ten nights of Ramadan as being especially blessed. Muslims believe that the Night of Qadr comes with blessings and mercy of God in abundance, sins are forgiven, supplications are accepted, and that the annual decree is revealed to the angels who carry it out according to God’s grace.

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18 April: Yom HaShoah – Jewish Observance

Yom HashoahYom HaShoah (Holocaust Day) is the official day for remembering the Holocaust in Israel. It is also widely observed by Jews in other countries.

Yom HaShoah, also known as Yom Hashoah VeHagevurah, literally means the “day of remembrance of the Catastrophe and the Heroism.” It is commemorated on the 27th day in the month of Nisan. The observance is held one week after the seventh day of Passover.

The day is also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, for those who died in the Shoah. The word holocaust comes from a Greek word meaning “sacrifice by fire.”
The Siren
Since the early 1960s, the sound of a siren on Yom Hashoah stops traffic and pedestrians throughout the State of Israel for two minutes of silent devotion. The siren blows at sundown as the holiday begins and once again at 11 a.m. the following morning. All radio and television programs during this day are connected in one way or another with the Jewish destiny in World War II, including personal interviews with survivors. Even the musical programs are adapted to the atmosphere of Yom Hashoah. There is no public entertainment on Yom Hashoah, as theaters, cinemas, pubs, and other public venues are closed throughout Israel.

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21 April – 2 May: Ridvan – Baha’i Observance

the garden of ridvan restoredThe festival marks Bahá’u’lláh’s time in the garden of Ridván in 1863 and his announcement that he was the prophet promised by the Báb. Bahá’u’lláh ordained this festival ‘Most Great Festival’

The Ridvan Festival commemorates the anniversary of the garden sojourn where Baha’u’llah declared his mission outside Baghdad during the twelve days before his banishment to Istanbul (then called Constantinople) in 1863. Baha’u’llah had been exiled to Baghdad ten years earlier in 1853 by a Persian government that feared the rapid spread of his teachings and their progressive impact on society; and now, because his teachings continued to spread and threaten the clerics, Baha’u’llah was being sent into further exile as a result of pressure from that same government.

We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; yet they deem Us a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and banishment…. That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled — what harm is there in this? – Baha’u’llah, The Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, p. VIII.

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22 April: Eid-al-Fitr – Islamic Observance

Eid-al-Fitr, Festival at the end of RamadanEid is an Arabic word meaning “festivity”, while Fiṭr means “conclusion of the fast”; and so the holiday celebrates the conclusion of the thirty days of dawn-to-sunset fasting during the entire month of Ramadan.

Common greetings during this holiday are the Arabic greeting ‘Eid Mubārak (“Blessed Eid”) or ‘Eid Sa‘eed (“Happy Eid”). In addition, many countries have their own greetings based on local language and traditions.

Eid-Al-Fitr is celebrated on the first day of Shaw’waal, at the completion of Ramadan. Shaw’waal is the 10th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The date changes from year to year. Since there are different ways of recognising the beginning of Eid, Muslims around the world do not always celebrate on the same day. Eid festivities may vary culturally depending on the region, but one common thread in all celebrations is the spirit of generosity and hospitality.

Fasting is not observed on the Day of Eid. Traditionally people have sweet dish before attending the special Eid prayer (salah). Eid prayer is performed in congregation in open areas like fields, community centers or at mosques. After the Eid prayer, Muslims usually join with the family, visit relatives & friends, give gifts (especially to children), and make phone calls to distant relatives. There is henna painted on girl’s hands.

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22 April: Parasurama Jayanti – Hindu Observance

Parasurama - one of the Dasavatars, incarnation of Lord Vishnu Parashurama (Sanskrit: परशुराम, romanized: Paraśurāma, lit. ’Rama with an axe’), also referred to as Rama Jamadagnya, Rama Bhargava and Veerarama, is one of the ten incarnations or avatar (descent of divinity) of Lord Vishnu, the preserver divine of Hinduism. He is believed to be one of the Immortals who will appear at the end of this age – Kali Yuga – to be the guru of Vishnu’s tenth and last incarnation, Kalki.

Parashurama always carried an axe which he received from Lord Shiva after pleasing him with his meditation. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and from whom he learned the methods of warfare and other skills.Though a Brahmin’s son Parashurama had inordinate love for weapons and had kshatriya (warrior) traits in him. He is also referred as ‘Brahma-Kshatriya’ -one who possesses both the qualities of Brahmins and kshatriyas (since his mother was a daughter of kshatriya and his father was a brahmin).

Both Parashurama and Lord Rama were an incarnation of lord Vishnu. When Lord Rama took birth on earth, his path crossed with Parshurama at a ceremony. As a small boy Rama once went to attend the yagna performed by Vishwamitra. In the meantime King Janak of Mithila had arranged a Swayamvara (choice marriage) for his daughter. Parashurama had presented a Shiva dhanushya, the Pinaka (a bow of Lord Shiva) to Janak, and Sita was to be married to the person who could lift that bow.

Under the instructions of Vishwamitra Rama lifted the bow to string it but it snapped into two while bending it. Parshurama, had a violent temper and when he heard of Rama breaking the bow at Sita’s swayamvara, he became furious.

“Who has broken Lord Shiva’s bow.The bow that was designed by Vishwakarma was given to me by Lord Shiva himself. Speak up who is responsible for this heinous crime? “, screamed Parshurama.

On behalf of Rama, Laxmana replied, “It was an old bow and therefore it was broken. What makes you so angry at it?”

His words infuriated Parasurama more. As he was ready to say more Lord Rama in his humble voice apologized to Parshurama and the deep respect and modesty in his voice took Parasurama completely by surprise. He looked at Rama and realized that Rama was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and that his duties were over. To confirm, he handed his own bow that slung across his shoulder to Rama, and challenged Rama to string this bow of Lord Vishnu.

Rama bowed and with ease he strung it and notched an arrow. Rama then asked Parshurama that where should he release the arrow. With a smile on his face Parshurama said, “Cancel all my duties in this land. You send this arrow towards the North and I’ll go and live there forever.” Rama obliged him and aimed the arrow on Parashuram’s destiny making him one of the immortals. Parashurama then settled on mountain Mahendra.

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