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Hinduism   
 
Hinduism, also called Sanatana Dharma, is the world’s oldest organized religion.  It evolved over many centuries in the Indian subcontinent and has no single founder or scripture.  Adherents believe in one omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient God.  Followers refer to a number of holy texts – Veda, Purana, Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata – and many worship many male and female manifestations of God either in temple or at home.

Hinduism’s core beliefs include:

  • Dharma (righteous practices)
  • Karma (action with cause and effect)
  • Moksha (liberation from cycle of rebirth)
  • Atman (eternal soul)
  • Ahimsa (non-violence)
  • Bhakti (devotion)
  • Jnana (knowledge and spiritual enlightenment)

The Hindu calendar – Vikram Samvat and Panchang – uses both lunar and solar calculations.

Anant Chaturdashi
This is the tenth and final day of the festival celebrating worship of Lord Vishnu and includes colourful processions.  It is celebrated by Hindus and Jains.

Diwali
This very popular Hindu festival is celebrated for five continuous days and is known as the Festival of Lights.  During this festival, lights are lit inside and outside followers’ homes.  Lighting the lamp is a symbolic representation of “illuminating the lamp of knowledge within us.”  It is a time to celebrate new beginnings, the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness.  Families visit their places of worship and spend time with family and friends.  Customs and traditions vary based on geographic region, culture, and language.

Durgaashtami
This is the eighth day of Navaratri celebrations and is an important day in Goddess worship in Hindu religion.  The Goddess Durga is worshipped and devotees of Hinduism fast and perform religious ceremonies on this day.
 
Ganesh/Vinayek Chauth
This ten-day festival celebrates Lord Ganesh, God of Success.  Celebrations range from ceremonies and prayers in the home to large community festivities.  The festival ends with ends with Anant Chaturdashi

Guru Purnima
This day is celebrated around the world by disciples to revere and honour their Gurus (spiritual masters).  The same day is celebrated by Jains as well as Hindus.

Holi
Also referred to as the “Festival of Colours,” Holi is a colourful and joyous festival that welcomes Spring and is dedicated to Krishna or Kama (longing).  The festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil and is celebrated with people throwing colourful powder and coloured water.

Karva Chauth
This one day festival is celebrated by married women who take part in a one-day fasting ritual for the safety, prosperity and well-being of their husbands.

Lohri
“The Bonfire Festival” celebrates the winter harvest.  Hindus who partake in this festival relax and enjoy traditional folk song and dance.

Mahashivaratri
This day is dedicated to Shiva, one of the major deities to whom Hindus direct their devotion.  The night before the feast, Hindus recite texts, sing, and tell stories in honour of this God whose dynamic cosmic dance creates, preserves, destroys, and recreates the world.

Makar Sankrati
This harvest festival marks the change from a decrease to an increase in sun.

New Year
The Hindu calendar uses both lunar and solar calculations and therefore the celebration of the New Year differs greatly from the Gregorian calendar.  New Year celebration dates differ throughout the regions, but most often occur at the same time as the beginning of Spring.

Raksha Bandhan (tying on protection)
This is a festival in which married and unmarried girls and women tie amulets on the wrists of their brothers for protection against evil.

Sharad Navaratri
Also known as Durga Puja, Navaratri (nine nights) symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and marks the start of autumn.  Navaratri is divided into sets of three days to adore three different aspects of the supreme goddess or goddesses.  The festival culminates with Dussehra, the victory of good over evil, on the tenth day.
 
Shri Ramnavami
This is the celebration of Lord Rama’s birth, who was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.  The story of Rama is chanted continuously for 24 hours.

Sri Krishna Janmaashtami
Celebrates the birthday of Krishna, the eighth incarnation of the God of Vishnu

Vaisakhi/Baisakhi
This is the first day of the solar year and celebrates the harvest.  It is especially important in North India.

Vasant Navaratri
“Spring Navaratri” is a nine night celebration in which Hindus fast and worship of Goddess Durga.

Vasant Panchami
This North Indian celebration is associated with Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning, and with Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth.  Vasanta Panchami is the first day of spring.  Ceremonies are held to honour Saraswati. Marigold flowers are featured in religious ceremonies.   Adherents dress in yellow and gather with their families.
 
Vijaya Dashmi/Dassehra
This day celebrates the victory of good over evil:  of Lord Rama over the demon Ravan, and the Goddess Durga over a demon.  It follows the nine-day celebration of Navaratri (nine nights) and Durga Puja (worship), when other goddesses are worshipped.