Mauni Amavasya, also known as ‘Mauna Amavasya’ is a unique Hindu tradition observed on the ‘amavasya’ (no moon day) during the Hindu month of ‘Magha’. It falls during the month of January-February as per the Gregorian calendar.
As name suggests it is the day of silence in Hinduism when people take pledge to observe one day fasting by not uttering a word throughout the day. It is believed that the water of the most sacred and holy river in Hinduism, the Ganga, turns into the nectar on Mauni Amavasya day. Due to this belief Mauni Amavasya day is the most important day in Hindu calendar to take holy dip in the Ganges.
If this date falls on Monday, (which it does in 2019), then its auspiciousness increases all the more.
The day is also celebrated as the birthday of Manu rishi. It is believed, Lord Brahma gave origination to Maharaja Manu and queen Shatrupa. Hence, this day is considered as the beginning of the creation of the universe.
Do’s and Don’ts For Today
- Silence is considered auspicious on this day.
- Wake up early in the morning and take a bath while keeping silence.
- Better yet, bathe in a river, lake or sacred pool.
- After bathing, offer Sun (fire) to the God.
- Silence on Mauni Amavas is of particular importance. If it is not possible to remain silent then do not speak bitter words from your mouth.
- In Vedic astrology the moon is said to be the factor of the mind. Restraining the mind by keeping a silence fast strengthens the mind.
- On this day there is also the law of worship of both Lord Vishnu and Shiva.
- The poor and the hungry should definitely have food. Offer food in grains, textiles, sesame, amla, blankets, beds, ghee and cows.
- Donations of gold or land can also be done.
- Remember the ancestors also on Mauni Amavas, this leads them to salvation.
- Both men and women should avoid having physical relations on this day. According to Garuda Purana, children born with sexual relation on the Mauni Amavas may have to face many kinds of problems in life.
- Men and women should avoid arguments. This brings an atmosphere of unrest to the house. It always gives birth to negative power.
- At the same time, one should remain silent on this day and worship God.
- Do not insult the poor and helpless. According to beliefs, Shani Dev represents the poor. In such a situation, Shani Dev does not bless the person who insults the poor.
- The worship of the Banyan Tree (Peepal) on the new moon day is considered to be auspicious and fruitful.
- It is considered inauspicious to touch a Banyan Tree on a day other than Saturday. So worship on Mauni Amavasya, but do not touch it.
- Do not go to the graveyard, negative powers are active on the night of the new moon.
Collected from various sources
Ethiopia follows the Ethiopian calendar, consequently Christmas falls on January 7th and Epiphany on January 19th. Timkat, Ethiopia’s Epiphany celebration, is a celebration of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. The festival lasts for three days and is at its most colorful in the capital, Addis Ababa, where everyone gets involved in the celebrations.
As part of the celebration, a ritual baptism is done. A stream or pool is blessed before dawn. The water is sprinkled on some participants, while other immerse themselves in the water to symbolically renew their baptismal vows.
Pilgrims come from far and wide to take part in the festival and witness the re-enactment of the baptism. All over the country large crowds assemble as the religious festivities commence, with spectacular processions, song, dance and prayer.
In Addis Ababa, the festival is particularly spectacular. The streets are adorned with green, red and yellow to represent the Ethiopian flag and priests walk through the streets holding colorful and richly decorated umbrellas.
The religious ceremony commences on the first day when the Tabot, a model of the Ark of the Covenant, which is present on every Ethiopian altar (somewhat like the Western altar stone), is reverently wrapped in rich cloth and borne in procession on the head of the priest.
The Tabots are then carried to the river in a procession led by the most senior priest of each church, who carry the arks on top of their heads. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated near a stream or pool early in the morning (around 2 a.m.). Then the nearby body of water is blessed towards dawn and sprinkled on the participants, some of whom jump in the water to renew their baptismal vows.
The second day of Timkat marks the main celebrations, with Orthodox Ethiopians from every segment of society merrily march through the streets in a riot of color, singing, dancing and feasting. All but one of the Tabots are returned to their respective churches.
On the third day of Timkat, known as the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, the Tabot of St. Michael’s Church is escorted back to its church in colorful procession and festivities.
About the Tabot
The Tabot symbolizes the Ark of the Covenant and the tablets describing the Ten Commandments, which God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai to serve as the core principles of the moral behavior for humanity. The Tabot, which is otherwise rarely seen by the laity, represents the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah when he came to the Jordan for baptism.
The original Ark of the Covenant is said to be under permanent guard in Northern Ethiopia, protected by priests who have sworn never to leave the sacred grounds.
According to the book, 365 Goddess, January 19, is the day given to the Water Blessing Festival in Bulgaria. However, I think she must have been referring to the Anastenaria, a firewalking ritual performed primarily in May with a smaller one on an unspecified date in January, which culminates in a water blessing after the fire walking.
If you wish to celebrate today as a day of Water Blessings, here’s what you can do:
- Themes: Joy; Health; Cleansing
- Symbols: Water; Flowers; Fern; Birchwood
- Presiding Goddess: Kupala
The Slavic goddess of springs and water, Kupala, whose name literally means “to bathe,” washes us with happiness and longevity. Oddly enough, she has a fire aspect too, which likely alludes to purification, protection, and transformation. Wildflowers, birch trees, and ferns are sacred to her.
To do today:
To bring a year filled with joy, contentment, and health, leave a natural-fiber cloth outside today to gather dew. Use it tomorrow to bathe in Kupala’s magic.
Take some flower petals to any moving water source (even a hose) and toss them on the stream. As you do, make a wish for something that will make you really happy. Let Kupala, in the form of the water, carry your wish toward manifestation.
To rid yourself of sickness, negativity, or a bad habit before the year gets really rolling, find a safe fire source (such as a candle that’s self-contained in glass). Put this on the floor and jump over it. As you do, say:
Old burns away; only the good, the good shall stay.
Old to new, old to new, Kupala, my heart renew.
This symbolically leaves the old behind and invokes Kupala’s aid in your efforts for positive change.
Source: 365 Goddess
The Songkran Festival is a national holiday in Thailand. It marks the beginning of the Thai New Year. It is a traditional Buddhist festival, and it is usually celebrated between 13 and 16 April unless the dates are modified by an official government announcement. In 2019, the holiday will be observed 12–16 April as 13 April falls on a Saturday.
On the first day they will dress up in new clothes and visit the local temple to make merit and then to their grandparents’ house in order to receive blessings. Afterwards, the youngsters will be out on the street taking part in the world’s biggest water fight.
The word “Songkran” comes from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti, literally “astrological passage”, meaning transformation or change. The term was borrowed from Makar Sankranti, the name of a Hindu harvest festival celebrated in India in January to mark the arrival of spring. It coincides with the rising of Aries on the astrological chart and with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia, in keeping with the Buddhist/Hindu solar calendar.
In Thailand, New Year is now officially celebrated on 1 January, Songkran was the official New Year until 1888, when it was switched to a fixed date of 1 April. Then in 1940, this date was shifted to 1 January. The traditional Thai New Year Songkran was transformed into a national holiday.
The Songkran Festival is also known as the water festival. It celebrates water as a ritual of washing away negativity from the year before. People celebrating Songkran take part in a traditional pouring of water that symbolizes washing away back luck and sins from a person’s life. Some people add herbs to the ritual water, as well.
As April is the hottest month of the year, the celebration of water is relevant on many levels of the festival. However, Songkran is not always celebrated in the same traditional manner. In big cities, the country takes to the streets. Cities like Bangkok see a host of street parties and water fights.
The most famous street party in Bangkok is called Silom. This party takes place all along a street that is over 4 kilometres in length. It is a huge party in which thousands of people have water fights with water guns, balloons and any other vessels they can get their hands on. The street is also crowded with vendors selling water guns, toys, food and drinks.
As a national holiday, offices and banks are closed during the three-day period. Many people take this as an opportunity to go visit their families. In addition to traditional water rituals and street parties, there are other key activities that the Thai people participate in during this week. Many will take this time to attend their temple. Some may also participate in an annual spring cleaning of their homes.
It’s Not Just A Giant Water Fight
The Songkran celebration is rich with symbolic traditions. Mornings begin with merit-making. Visiting local temples and offering food to the Buddhist monks is commonly practiced. On this specific occasion, performing water pouring on Buddha statues and the young and elderly is a traditional ritual on this holiday. It represents purification and the washing away of one’s sins and bad luck. As a festival of unity, people who have moved away usually return home to their loved ones and elders. Paying reverence to ancestors is an important part of Songkran tradition.
On the first day of the Songkran Festival, people will offer alms to monks. Thai people do this to make merit which is a good way to start the new year. Another way of making merit during the Songkran Festival is by releasing fish and birds back into the wild.
On the second day of Songkran, many families rise early and take part in traditional Buddhist rituals. They give alms to Buddhist monks. They also take part in a ritual that is known as ‘Bathing the Buddha image.’ During this ritual, devout followers will pour water over the statues of Buddha in their home and at their local temple.
Many cities around Thailand will have Songkran Parades to mark the start of the festival. During Songkran there are also beauty contests to find the most beautiful Thai woman and also the most handsome Thai man. The winners will take part in the parade.
During Songkran, it is traditional for Thai people to return to their ancestral homes and to pour water on the hands of their elders. They will also do this to anyone older than themselves that have been important in their lives like a teacher or other relative.
People also pour rose scented water on Buddha images as part of the ceremony. At the temples they organize ceremonies where you can go and pour rose scented water onto Buddha images and onto the hands of monks.
Another traditional activity for Songkran is making sand pagodas. This is a competition joined by local families to make the most beautiful pagoda made of sand. The original idea was for people to bring sand back to the temple which they may have inadvertently carried away on the sole of their shoes.
The Festivities Around Thailand:
- Central Region
People in this region clean their houses when Songkran approaches. All dress up in colorful clothing or Thai dress. After offering food to the monks, people will offer a requiem to their ancestors. People make merit offerings such as giving sand to the temple for construction or repair. Other forms of merit include releasing birds and fish. Nowadays, people also release other kinds of animals such as buffaloes and cows. Phra Pradaeng hosts traditional Mon ceremonies.
- Southern Region
Southerners have three Songkran rules: Work as little as possible and avoid spending money; do not hurt other persons or animals; do not tell lies.
- Northern Region
On April 7, Baan Had Siew in Si Satchanalai District hosts the’Elephant Procession Ordination’ event with a colorful parade where men dressed in the traditional clothes are taken to the temples on elephants. In northern Thailand April 13 is celebrated with gunfire or firecrackers to repel bad luck. On the next day, people prepare food and useful things to offer to the monks at the temple. People have to go to temple to make merit and bathe Buddha’s statue and after that they pour water on the hands of elders and ask for their blessings.
- Eastern Region
The eastern region has activities similar to the other part of Thailand, but people in the east always make merit at the temple throughout all the days of the Songkran Festival and create the sand pagoda. Some people, after making merit at the temple, prepare food to be given to the elderly members of their family.
- In Bangkok
In Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, the Khao San Road and Silom Road are the hubs for modern celebration of Songkran. The roads are closed for traffic, and posts equipped with water guns and buckets full of water. The party runs day and night.
Some tips to make the most of the Songkran Festival:
Modern Songkran is renowned for the massive water-fights that take place on the streets of the cities and towns around the country, often continuing for three days or more. While the origins of the festival are far more sedate (more on that later), today Songkran is a pretty boisterous affair.
This is a great time to visit Thailand, but it definitely pays to be prepared if you haven’t experienced it before. Here are some tips to get you through:
- You Will Get Wet
If there is one thing we can say with certainty about Songkran, it’s that you are going to get wet. Very wet. That is, of course, unless you want to lock yourself in your home or hotel room for three or four days. Bringing a sense of fun to the occasion and accepting the fact that you’re going to get soaked many, many times over makes Songkran an infinitely more enjoyable experience. If it all gets too much, find a quiet place to chill out and dry off before returning to the fray.
- You Are Fair Game
If you go out during Songkran, then you are fair game. Don’t complain if you are squirted in the face with a water pistol or someone rubs white powder on your face. Although it might not seem like it, they are actually taking part in a centuries old tradition of paying respect to their elders. Let them do it and smile. Resistance is useless.
- Dress Appropriately
Don’t wear your best clothes. If you are a woman, try not to dress provocatively – particularly spaghetti strap tops or white t-shirts that become revealing when wet. Thai people are traditionally conservative, but some young men will take advantage of Songkran to grope you. Many of them have been partying all night and are drunk.
- Keep Your Cool
Keep your cool at all times. Everyone is just having fun. Be prepared for the buckets of water which have been pre-chilled with ice. Also beware that people might come up to you from behind to smear white powder on your face. If they are polite they will ask first. But, you won’t see that happen often. Try not to move too much when they are doing it as you might end up with the paste in your eyes. However, that is inevitable the longer you stay out.
- Protect Your Electronics
While Songkran is packed with excellent photo opportunities, it is advisable to leave high-end cameras and other expensive electronic equipment at home. Street vendors sell handy waterproof pouches that will effectively protect your smartphone and your cash.
If you take your camera then make sure you also have a plastic bag. Better still, buy a camera that is waterproof. Last year, many people ended up with soggy mobile phones that stopped working. The mobile phone vendors do good business during Songkran repairing them.
- Protect Your Papers
By law you have to carry your passport at all times. However, during Songkran you are running the risk of your important documents getting wet. Make photocopies of your passport to take out with you and leave all important documents in the hotel safe. It is advisable not to carry anything that can be damaged by water with you.
- Equip Yourself
Street vendors sell an impressive arsenal of water guns, buckets and anything else that can be used to soak passers by. Your weapon of choice is up to you. It’s best wear light, comfortable clothes that protect you from the sun. And if you really want to make like a local, be sure to invest in one of the very loud floral shirts you will see on sale everywhere.
- If You Opt Out
If you don’t want to take part in the water fights then you will need to stock up for at least 3-4 days. Some expats go out to buy enough DVD movies and food to last them the holidays. If you do venture out, the chances are high that you will get soaked.
The shopping malls and movie theatres are all open during Songkran. So, you can use these places as a safe haven. However, getting to them safely might be a problem. If you have to use public transport, make sure you use an air-conditioned bus or meter taxi. If you use a normal bus with the windows down or a tuk tuk then you will get soaked. Skytrain and subway are safe havens. Skywalks are reasonably safe.
- Travel Concerns
If you are going out in your car, try to stick to the main roads. There is no point in washing your car before or during Songkran. Wherever you go, your car will get plastered with white paste. Make sure that you have topped up your windscreen wipers with plenty of water. You will use them often. Whatever, you do, don’t forget to LOCK all car doors. If you stop at traffic lights or in a traffic jam, they will try to open your doors.
Lot’s of people drink day and night during Songkran and this new year period in Thailand sees the most horrific crashes on the roads. Most deaths occur on the side roads and in the evening. On the main roads most accidents are caused by drunk driving and speeding. If you are driving take extra care. There are a lot of drunk drivers out on the roads during Songkran. Personally, I don’t like to drive too far during this period and if I do, I stick to the roads that I know near my home.
- Plan Ahead
If you are planning to travel shortly before, after or during Songkran be sure to book ahead. Traditionally, this is a time when many Thais travel to their hometowns to visit family, so flights and even trains and buses can get booked up well in advance. Accommodation in certain areas, such as Chiang Mai, may also fill up quickly around Songkran.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the waterfights are only on 13-15 April. This year this is up against the weekend and so some kids might also play on Saturday. In addition, some areas of Thailand have their Songkran celebrations a week later. For example, Pattaya, Bangsaen and Koh Chang. The last of the waterfights will take place in Phra Pradaeng District of Samut Prakan on 24 April 2016.
- Visit a Temple
While Songkran today resembles a massive water-fight, it wasn’t always like that. The more traditional ritual of splashing fragrant water on Buddha statues and on the palms of elders is still common today as a symbol of cleansing. Acknowledging the true spirit of Songkran by visiting a temple is a great way to escape the madness. If you are in Bangkok, check out some of the temples in the Rattanokosin area.
Songkran is not just about water fights. Do make an effort to see the more traditional side. Early in the morning Thai people will be going to the temples to make merit. They will also bathe the monks and Buddha images with rose scented water. In the afternoon, they will build sand pagodas in the temple grounds.
- A Final Thought
If you are in Thailand, then I hope you go out and have some fun! The temperature is above 35 degrees Celsius and this is a good way to cool down. However, if you are not in Thailand, then try visiting your local Thai temple. Many of them will be holding Songkran activities.
The Story of Songkran
Like many celebrations and festivals in Thailand, Songkran has its origins deeply rooted in myth and legend. With Songkran, the myth revolves around Nang Songkran, or the Seven Ladies of Songkran.
In Thailand, the Hindu god Brahma, the creator and four-faced god, was also known as Kabila Phrom. He enjoyed betting and one day met a seven year old boy prince named, Thammabal Kumara who was prodigious in learning, being able to recite scriptures in public. The boy was also reputed to be able to understand the language of the birds.
Kabila Phrom wanted to test the child’s knowledge so he descended to earth and presented three riddles to the boy. Should Thammabal answer the 3 riddles correctly, Kabila Phrom would offer him his head to the boy. However, if the boy failed to come up with answers within seven days, he would lose his own head to Kabila Phrom. The three riddles were as follows:
- 1. Where did a person’s aura exist in the morning?
- 2. Where was a person’s aura at noon?
- 3. Where did it appear at night?
For six days the boy agonized over the answers to the riddles, yet could not come up with them. One the the seventh day, whilst lying under palm trees, he heard a male and female eagle joyfully talking about how they would soon be able to feast on a boy’s dead body. Not knowing the boy was was able to hear, the two eagles revealed the answers to the riddles. Thammabal immediately went to Kabila Phrom and recited the answers,
“In the morning, a person’s aura appeared on his face, so he washed it. At noon, it was at his chest; so, he wore perfume there. And at night, his aura moved to his feet; that was why he bathed them”.
Kabila Phrom had lost the bet and so had to cut off his own head. Kabila Phrom’s head, however, held special powers. It was extremely hot, so if it should touch the ground, the earth would be engulfed in a firestorm, destroying all life; if it should be left in the air, there would be no rain, bringing about vast drought and if it should be dropped into the sea, the sea would dry up.
In order to save the world from these possible disasters, the god’s seven daughters, the Nang Songkran, placed their father’s head on a phan (tray) and carried it in procession around Mount Meru before placing it in a cave on Mount Kailash with many offerings. Thus, at the beginning of each year, Kabila Phrom’s daughters would take turns to bring out the god’s head and carry it in procession around Mount Meru, this celebration is known as Songkran.
The seven daughters represent the seven days of the week and all have their particular names and vehicles that they ride on. The one who carries Kabila Phrom’s head on Songkran Day is called Nang Songkran, Miss Songkran. Thus, in some locations, “Miss Songkran” is crowned, where contestants are clothed in traditional Thai dress.
The spirit of Poland’s Dyngus is captured in this description from the Poznan region during 1800s:
Poland’s Dyngus, or Smigus, Day is said to hark back to the baptism of the founder of Polish Christianity, Prince Mieszko I (c. 935 – 992), and his entire court, on Easter Monday, 966. Dyngus is an ancient celebration which is still observed both in country villages and the big cities, with singing, pranks, visiting friends’ houses, and the custom of dousing.
The custom of pouring water is an ancient spring rite of cleansing, purification, and fertility – at this time of year there are drenching customs enacted in Sri Lanka and Thailand during their respective New Year celebrations. In a Spring custom of pagan (pre-Christian Slavic) times, the Poles ‘confronted’ (dingen) Nature with their pouring of water and switching with pussy willows to purify themselves for the year ahead. The alternative name for the day comes from smiganie, meaning ‘switching’.
(Boys, don’t do this at home.) On Easter Monday, at around 5 am, the men creep through a neighbour’s window or chimney, often with the collusion of the male family head, into the rooms where the sleeping womenfolk are abruptly awakened by being doused with water. The girls, naturally enough, reciprocate in kind. In cities, where people are refined and perhaps girls more aware, this custom tends to be practised by the use of a sprinkle of water or cologne.
In the first recorded Polish writing on Dyngus Day; a medieval Polish historian wrote of what he termed the Oblewania.
Barely had the day dawned on Easter Monday when I woke the boys and gathered some water to start throwing it on the girls. Up with the Piwezyny! (eiderdown)! There was screaming, shouting, and confusion. The girls are shrieking and hollering, but in their hearts they are glad because they know that she who isn’t gotten wet will not be married that year. And the more they are annoyed, the more we dump water on them calling, Dyngus – Smigus! Then we had to change our clothes because there wasn’t a dry thread on the girls and we boys were not better off.
From Llewellyn’s 1994 Magical Almanac, we have the following description of this summer holiday:
“A beautiful city was once believed to have risen gracefully off the shores of a small French village in Brittany, France, only to have been washed away in a high tide. Every year, on the first Sunday in August, the priests go to this fabled spot and bless the waters while observers lean over the sides of boats hoping to glimpse remnants of the city. This might be a good day to consider any spells or rituals pertaining to water and hidden truths.”
Holy Wells Day is a day dedicated to Caedda, the Celtic goddess of healing springs and wells.
Ceadda, an Old English Goddess of healing springs and wells, enjoys her holy day of celebration on March 2. While Her place in the hearts of the people has since been appropriated by St. Chad of Mercia, Catholic patron saint of wells, those of us who follow the old ways may care to pay homage to Ceadda today.
To lend energy to this maiden Goddess, visit a natural spring or well. Tidy up the grounds by picking up any refuse that you see on the ground, and leave a small gift of organic flowers or fruit near the water. Naturally sweet gifts are appropriate, as are organic cotton ribbons to bedeck the well.
Saying a few words for Ceadda is also appropriate. Speak from your heart, either out loud or silently, and tell Her how grateful you are for the living waters that spring from the Earth to heal and nourish us. If you wish, you may use this prayer:
Ceadda, Lady of healing waters,
Hear my grateful voice.
Please receive my gift of _______
In acknowledgement of your Divine work
Thank you for protecting and keeping the sacred springs and wells
I pay You homage and remember You
Sources: The Pagan Book of Days
On July 25, in ancient Rome, the annual Furinalia (also spelled Furrinalia) took place in honor of the Goddess of springs, Furrina. This was the time when a drought might begin to “bite,” and the value of springs is appreciated. This is a good day to remember our vital reliance on sources of water and how important it is that they be kept clean and free of pollutants and contaminants.
The Egyptians called it, Night of a Teardrop. On this night, (June 16) when the moon rose high in it’s sky, Isis shed one blessed and mournful tear for her beloved, Osiris. That precious tear was then collected into the palm of the Goddess of the River Nile, Satis, in which she placed it within’, causing the Nile to bring forth it’s annual flood. Even in Isis’ pain, something divine came forth.
The Nile River has always been the backbone of Egypt. The mighty river flows for some 4,000 miles from the mountains of Equatorial Africa (Blue Nile) and Lake Victoria (White Nile) before it empties into the Mediterranean Sea. Were it not for the Nile River, Egyptian civilization could not have developed, as it is the only significant source of water in this desert region. It would flood each year, bringing in silt-laden waters; when the waters receded the silt would stay behind, fertilizing the land,the silt would be helpful for growing crops.
If a flood was too large it would wash over mud dykes protecting a village. A small flood or no flood at all would mean famine. A flood must be of just the right intensity for a good season.
The Ancient Egyptians used an object called a nilometer to record how high the Nile was during the year. The nilometer was a staircase that proceeded down into the Nile with marks on it so the Egyptians knew how far the river rose. Nilometers were placed at various points along the Nile in order to monitor the changes in the water level. It was recorded that at the start of the flooding the clear waters would turn a turbid red.
As the agriculture of Egypt revolved around the Nile, so did the social life of the ancient Egyptians. During inundation when there was less to do, people had more time for recreational activities, they played games, held sporting tournaments and regularly feasted.
When the River Nile receded the appearance of the land had radically changed and there was a great rush to restore boundaries. There were many disputes as markers had moved, banks had collapsed, and distinguishable features had disappeared.
~Compiled from various sources