Isheeta Sharma

… lotus blooms have disappeared,
and frost begun to form:
this is the time of winter’s onset,
and it has now arrived.

Ritusamharam: A Gathering of Seasons
Kalidasa (Trans. A.N.D. Haksar)

Prabodhini Ekadashi falls on November 8 this year. This day marks the end of the Chaturmas, the four-month period during which Vishnu is believed to be asleep. Prabodhini Ekadashi literally translates into the “awakening eleventh” since this is the day when Vishnu wakes up.

Traditionally our festivities have always been synchronised with the lunar and solar rhythms. The annual Pushkar Mela of Rajasthan coincides with this Ekadashi. This year the Mela begins from November 5 onwards but all the traditional events only commence with the Prabodhini Ekadashi. The Mela ends on Kartika Purnima.

The traditional harvest of Sugarcane also begins with this Ekadashi amidst special rituals performed by the farmers. Traditionally the family would gather in the field before the harvesting of sugarcanes. They would ritually cut a few sugarcanes. Some of these they would place at the boundary of the field and then distribute the rest to different people in the village. Then a yagna would be performed at home. In this yagna cotton, betel nuts, lentils and sweets are the ritual offerings. Prabhatiya, a folk song, is then sung to awaken Vishnu. After this some sugarcanes are hung from the roof of the house and kept until the festival of Holi when they are burnt. After this the harvest commences, and the sugarcanes sold and consumed.

Prabodhini Ekadashi also marks the beginning of the auspicious Hindu wedding season.

Kartika Purnima arrives on November 12 this year. It is also known as Tripuri or Tripurari Purnima. Tripurari is another name accorded to Shiva because he slayed the demon Tripurasura, thereby saving gods and mortals alike. And the Kartika Purnima, according to legend, is the day when Shiva defeated Tripurasura. This is also why Kartika Purnima is celebrated as Dev Deepawali – ‘Diwali of the gods’.

Diyas are lit on the ghats of river Ganges in honour of the gods and the celestial river – Ganga. Unlike other terrestrial rivers, Ganges is the river of the heavens. She consented to also flow over the earth only in response to the austere worship undertaken by Bhagirath. His ancestors had been burned in a curse by a powerful rishi – Kapil. And because of the curse they were denied salvation. The only way their souls could be freed was if the Ganges flowed over their remains. And so Bhagirath undertook the severest of worships. And as a boon the Ganges came down to the Earth. And so, ‘Dev Deepawali’ is celebrated on the banks of the holiest of the rivers, Ganges.

There is also the ritual of Kartika snan – a ritual dip in the Ganges on the day of Kartika Purnima. This snan is believed to bring peace and salvation.

Kartika Purnima is also the night of dalliance and love, when Krishna and Radha perform Raas Lila – the divine dance of love – together. This Raas Lila is celebrated in Vrindavan as well as parts of Tripura.

Guru Nanak Jayanti also falls on Kartika Purnima and will be celebrated by the Sikh community on November 12.

With this full moon, the month of Kartika comes to a close as does the Sharad rtu. The next day, on November 13, the month of Margashirsha starts. And brings with it Hemanta Rtu.  

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