Kartika Snan

Kartika Snan

Type of Holiday: Religious (Hindu)
Date of Observation: October-November; Hindu month of Kartika
Where Celebrated: India
Symbols and Customs: Lamps, Tulsi Plant
Related Holidays: Dewali

ORIGINS

Kartika Snan is a religious celebration in Hinduism, which many scholars regard as the world's oldest living religion. The word Hindu is derived from the Sanskrit term Sindhu (or Indus), which meant river. It referred to people living in the Indus valley in the Indian subcontinent.

Hinduism has no founder, one universal reality (or god) known as Brahman, many gods and goddesses (sometimes referred to as devtas), and several scriptures. Hinduism also has no priesthood or hierarchical structure similar to that seen in some other religions, such as Christianity. Hindus acknowledge the authority of a wide variety of writings, but there is no single, uniform canon. The oldest of the Hindu writings are the Vedas. The word "veda" comes from the Sanskrit word for knowledge. The Vedas, which were compiled from ancient oral traditions, contain hymns, instructions, explanations, chants for sacrifices, magical formulas, and philosophy. Another set of sacred books includes the Great Epics, which illustrate Hindu faith in practice. The Epics include the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Bhagavad Gita.

The Hindu pantheon includes approximately thirty-three million gods. Some of these are held in higher esteem than others. Over all the gods, Hindus believe in one absolute high god or universal concept. This is Brahman. Although he is above all the gods, he is not worshipped in popular ceremonies because he is detached from the day-to-day affairs of the people. Brahman is impersonal. Lesser gods and goddesses (devtas) serve him. Because these are more intimately involved in the affairs of people, they are venerated as gods. The most honored god in Hinduism varies among the different Hindu sects. Although Hindu adherents practice their faith differently and venerate different deities, they share a similar view of reality and look back on a common history.

The Hindu months of Vaisakha (April-May), Kartika (October-November) and Magha (January-February) are regarded as especially holy and therefore suitable for acts of religious devotion. Throughout the month of Kartika, Hindus bathe in a sacred river, stream, pond, or well early in the morning. A month-long bathing festival is held on sacred rivers like the Ganges and the Yamuna. People set up tents on the riverbank, have regular morning baths, eat only a single meal each day, and spend their time in prayer and meditation.

Hindu women get up early in the morning and visit the sacred streams in groups, singing hymns along the way. After bathing, they visit a nearby temple. They also fast, keep sky LAMPS burning throughout the month, and worship the TULSI PLANT , which is considered sacred and is cultivated in homes and temples.

SYMBOLS AND CUSTOMS

Lamps

Lamps hung in small baskets from the tops of poles or from bamboo plants growing along the riverbanks during Kartika are sometimes referred to as "sky lamps." They are kept burning throughout the holy month of Kartika because they are believed to light the path of departed souls across the sky.

In Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu in southeastern India, the full moon day of the month of Kartika is celebrated in much the same way as DEWALI is observed in northern India-that is, by lighting lamps in temples and private homes.

Tulsi Plant

Hindus believe that watering, cultivating, and worshipping the Tulsi plant ensures happiness. When Tulsi leaves are put into water, it becomes as holy as water from the Ganges. When placed in the mouth of those who are dying, along with some Ganges water, Tulsi leaves make their departure from this life easier. Tulsi leaves offered to Vishnu during Kartika are said to please him more than the gift of a thousand cows.

The Tulsi plant is a symbol for Vishnupriya (beloved of Vishnu), and their marriage is celebrated on the eleventh day of the waxing half of Kartika.

FURTHER READING

Bellenir, Karen. Religious Holidays and Calendars. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2004. Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. Welbon, Guy Richard, and Glenn E. Yocum. Religious Festivals in South India and Sri Lanka. New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1982.

Kartika Snan

October-November; Hindu month of Kartika
The Hindu months of Vaisakha (April-May), Kartika (October-November), and Magha (January-February) are regarded as especially sacred and therefore the most suitable for acts of piety. Throughout the month of Kartika, Hindus bathe in a sacred river, stream, pond, or well early in the morning. On the sacred rivers, such as the Ganges and the Yamuna in India, a month-long bathing festival is held. People set up tents on the riverbank for this purpose, have regular morning baths, eat only a single meal each day, and spend their time in prayer, meditation, and other acts of devotion.
Hindu women in villages and towns get up early in the morning and visit the sacred streams in groups, singing hymns. After their baths, they visit the nearby temples. They also fast and hang lamps in small baskets around their houses or on the tops of the bamboo along the river. These lamps are kept burning throughout the month. The women also worship the Tulsi plant, which is considered sacred and is cultivated in homes and temples. When Tulsi leaves are put into any water, it becomes as holy as water from the Ganges. Tulsi leaves offered to Vishnu during the month of Kartika are said to please him more than the gift of a thousand cows.
SOURCES:
RelHolCal-2004, p. 177