is always a reason to celebrate.
Special days of festivals, then, are especially enriched with
joy and jubilation whenever celebrated in his divine presence.
And among all celebrations
nothing arouses more auspiciousness and elation
than the end and beginning of a year.
This year, all of
the many festivals associated with Diwali, including the Annakut
were fortunate enough to be celebrated
by His Divine Holiness at the sacred Akshar Mandir, Gondal.
Diwali is the last day (Aso vad
30) of the year in the Hindu calendar, and celebrations begin
two days before Diwali.
- The first festival is called
Dhanteras (Aso vad 13; 5 Nov. í99). On this day, money
is worshipped (Lakshmi Pujan) as a symbol of appreciation to
the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. Lakshmi Pujan is also performed
with sentiments of purifying oneís wealth and that it be utilized
for noble purposes during the New Year.
- On the next day, Kali Chaudas
(Aso vad 14; 6 Nov. í99), Shri Hanumanji is worshipped to drive
away all inauspicious and ill-omened elements. On this day,
Lord Krishna destroyed Narkasur and released the 16,000 damsels
that the demon had imprisoned.
- Diwali (Aso vad 30; 7
Nov. í99), the last day of the year, is celebrated because Lord
Ram returned victorious to Ayodhya from his 14 year exile in
the forest. On this day, lamps are lighted as a symbol of jubilation
for Lord Ramís return to Ayodhya and a sign to kindle the light
of knowledge and divinity within oneís heart.
- Chopada pujan or the ritual
for the sanctification of account books for the New Year is
also held on this day.
Bestu Varsh or New Yearís
day (Kartik sud 1; 9 Nov. í99) is the first day of the Indian
calendar year. It was the day when Lord Vaman was granted
three steps of land from King Bali. To fulfil the Lordís third
step, King Bali surrendered everything and earned His eternal
On New Yearís day, Lord Krishna stopped the tradition of Indra
puja in Gokul and introduced the ritual of offering fodder
to cows and worship to Mount Govardhan. Subsequently, Lord
Indra (god of Rain) was angered and rained mercilessly upon
the village of Gokul. But Lord Krishna lifted Mount Govardhan
with his little finger and provided refuge and protection
to the citizens of Gokul. Hence, this day is also remembered
as a reflection of Godís tremendous power and the benefit
of taking His refuge.
On the morning of New Yearís day, Mahapuja is performed in
Swaminarayan mandirs, where devotees participate to seek the
blessings of Lord Swaminarayan and the Guru. At 12 noon, as
a symbol of appreciation and prayers to remain God-centered,
the Lord is offered a feast of food items - called Annakut.
A sumptuous and colorful array of vegetarian items, decoratively
arranged by the devotees and sadhus, are devoutly offered
to the Lord.