A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
First Onam (Uthradom, Thiru Onam, Sacred Onam Day). The first of four named days of celebration during the most popular festival in Kerela that runs from 12 (Atham) to 23 August, a harvest festival that includes the Malayalam New Year on 17 August. The legendary King Mahabali is believed to arrive in Kerala on Thiru Onam at the beginning of the month of Chingam, the first month of the solar Malayalam calendar (Kollavarsham) in August or September, to walk amongst his people again. First Onam begins with an early bath, temple visits and prayers. Women create in front of their homes to welcome the King floral arrangements (pookalam) with ten rings, each representing a Hindu god and colours to please each god, starting with a first layer of yellow flowers. A procession (Athachamyam) normally marks the start of Onam celebrations near Kochi. Second Onam (Thiruvonam) on 21 August sees the main Onam celebrations, when King Mahabali is said to visit people’s homes, the finished pookalams having greatly grown in size and complexity, new clothes being worn and families normally gathering to enjoy an Onam Sadya vegetarian feast. Pyramid-style clay statues (Onathappan) are ritually installed in the centre of the pookalams to represent King Mahabali and Lord Vamana (the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu) who sent Mahabali to the underworld but allowed him to visit his kingdom once a year during Onam. On Third Onam (Avvittom) on 22 August, preparations are made for King Mahabali’s departure and the Onathappan statues are immersed in the sea or river, and the pookalams are cleared and removed. Fourth Onam (Chatayam) on 23 August normally has post-Onam celebrations that continue on the following days with snake boat races and Pulikali tiger dances, colourful folk art by trained artists dressed up as tigers performing on the streets. Image: avanigo.com.
Prayer Trees yield fruits without selfish motive. Rivers carry water to help others. Cows yield milk without any trace of selfishness. The human body is given with the purpose of helping others. Adoration of God must be through one name and one form but not limit our loyalty to that form only. Amen
Varamahalakshmi Vratha (ಶ್ರೀ ವರಮಹಾಲಕ್ಷ್ಮೀ ವ್ರತ). South Indian annual Hindu festival in Sravan, the fourth month of the Hindu year, on the second Friday or last Friday before the full moon. The Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu, one of the Hindu Trinity is propitiated. Varalakshmi is the one who grants boons (Vara) and there is an important pooja (पूजा) worship ritual for many women in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharastra and Uttar Pradesh, but not in Kerala, to offer devotional homage and prayer. In Magadha, one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas (Great Kingdoms) of the Second Urbanization in 600-200 BCE, in what is now south Bihar, a woman was asked in a dream to worship Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and seek to fulfil her wishes, offering prayer on the Friday preceding the night of the full moon and many other women of her village joined her in performing the pooja with the utmost devotion, offering fruits, sweets and flowers to a kalasam (inverted pot representing the deity) decorated with a sari, flowers and gold jewellery. A rakshai sacred thread is among the offerings and then adorns the wrists of the women after the pooja to signify protection and piety and seek blessings in the form of wealth and wellbeing for their family, there being no restriction to caste or creed. Image: m.facebook.com.
William and Catherine Booth, Founders of the Salvation Army (1829, promoted to glory 1912 and 1890). Commemoration of the 1912 death (promotion to glory) of William, a poor boy and a pawnbroker’s apprentice who saw poverty and suffering daily and hated it. A talented Wesleyan Methodist Church preacher, as a travelling evangelist he reached the down-and-outs on Britain’s city streets with the Gospel of Christ. Preaching on the street in London slums, he found his life’s purpose and the idea of The Salvation Army was born. Catherine, the Salvation Army’s mother, had a strong Christian upbringing and deep knowledge of the Bible. Catherine and William met when he preached at her church, married and embarked on a lifelong journey to answer the call of God to bring the Gospel to the people. He was a natural speaker and she was driven by a conviction that women had the same rights to speak as men. She counselled alcoholics in their homes and held cottage meetings for new converts. William and Catherine founded The Christian Mission, which became the Salvation Army, modelled on the military as God’s Army seeking salvation for the masses. William preached to the poor and Catherine sought finance from the wealthy. William was appointed the first General and, of their eight children, Bramwell and Evangeline also became Generals, with ministers becoming officers. The Salvation Army became established in 58 countries and colonies, guided as it still is by William’s book In Darkest England and the Way Out, mapping out a revolutionary approach to social engagement never before undertaken by a church. William travelled the world to oversee his growing Army. William and Catherine continue to be guiding influences in The Salvation Army and stand as the mightiest examples of how God uses the ordinary to create the extraordinary. Image: quotesgram.com.