Posted in Religion, Uttarakhand

The descent of the gods of Uttarakhand

Akedarnath-temple-and-mountain

The mountains have received their first snowfall. As winter sets in, the temples in the high mountains of Uttarakhand are getting ready to close. The dates have already been announced. The gods and goddesses from these will move down to their winter abodes, and return again in May.  Many rituals accompany this annual journey. After a special bath, puja and worship, the image of the deity is placed in a decorated palanquin, ready to be carried. A band accompanies it for some distance, then devotees and pilgrims continue the journey. After more rituals the deity is installed in its winter temple. Worship will continue there till the gods return.

Kedarnath, Badrinath,  Gangotri and Yamunotri, are the most important temples, known as the ‘char dham’, though others close down too. Kedarnath is one of the names of the god Shiva, at Badrinath the god Vishnu is worshipped. Gangotri and Yamunotri represent the rivers Ganga and Yamuna.

This year, Gangotri, the abode of the goddess Ganga, will be the first to close on 31 October. Yamunotri and Kedarnath will close on 1 November, Badrinath on 16 November. The goddess Ganga goes to her winter temple in village Mukhba, the goddess Yamuna to Kharsali.  The deity of Kedarnath descends to Ukhimath, and of Badrinath to Joshimath.

Pilgrims to the temples were fewer after the great floods of 2013, but reached 15 lakh [1.5 million] this year.

 

Advertisements
Posted in Art, Festivals

Children’s Day and the Black Carp

In Japan, black carp were known for their courage and strength, and streamers and banners  depicting these carp were used as symbols by samurai warriors. The streamers or ‘windsocks’ are known as Koinobori, while the carp are known as koi.

Today Koinobori are used on Children’s Day, 5 May. A pole is planted with a colourful streamer above, a black carp streamer below, representing the father, and then a red carp streamer for the mother, with smaller and different coloured streamers representing the children. Initially Children’s Day was known as Tango no sekku, or Boy’s Day, and was only to honour sons. It used to be celebrated according to the lunar calendar, but was fixed on 5 May, after Japan began using the lunar calendar. Girl’s Day was on 3 March. But in 1948, Boys Day was renamed Children’s Day, celebrating the happiness of both boys and girls, and 5 May became a national holiday.  Apart from carp streamers, a kintaro doll too is depicted, riding on a carp. Kintaro is a folk hero, a child with superhuman strength.  One of Kintaro’s fictional exploits, was the capture of a black carp.

In the Edo period , black carp were were popular with great artists who often depicted them in paintings or woodblocks.

Black carp have been selectively bred to create ‘brocade carp’. Selective breeding actually started in Japan in the 1820s, but today this has been refined, and these coloured carp are kept in ornamental ponds. White and red, known as Kohaku, are the most popular. Decorative carp are now avavilable across the world.

Masuji Ibuse [1898-1993], famous for his novel Black Rain, on the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima, also wrote The Carp, a story of friendship. Crazy Iris [Kakitsubata] is another of his works on Hiroshima, a species of Iris distorted by radiation.