FESTIVALS AND FAIR
Hindu Community: –
Almost all the common Hindu festivals are celebrated in the district.
Sitala Astami falls on the 8th day of the first fortnight of Chaitra, when Sitala Devi, is worshipped. On the ninth day of the bright fortnight of the same month falls Ram Navami, birth anniversary of Rama. Some people keep fast on that day. Ramayana and Ramcharitmanas are read and devotional music and discourses etc., are arranged. In some temples the idol of Rama is exhibited on a cradle. The Vata Amavasya falls on the 15th of the first half of Jyaistha. It perpetuates the devotion of Savitri to her husband Satyavan, whence it is also named Vat Savitri. It is observed by married women praying and wishing for their husbands, life and prosperity. The typical feature is women’s worshipping and twelve times going round the banyan tree or a branch of it in their houses.
Naga Panchami is celebrated on the fifth day of the bright half of Sravana, to appease the serpent god. It is an important rainy-season festival in the district for girls particularly. Married daughters look forward to visiting their parent’s homes for this festival. They swing and sing jhoola songs called kajari and baramasi. Actually swinging along with singing these folk songs by women, children and also men, during the twin rainy month of Sravana and Bhadon is popular in the whole of eastern part of the State. Fairs and wrestling bouts are also held at many places on this occasion, a typical feature being the bamboo pipes blown by the brother carrying coloured neem sticks and going with their sister’s dolls.
Raksha Bandhan is a festival denoting brother’s pledge to protect the sister. It falls on the full monday of Sravana. The sister ties rakhis i.e. coloured thread on the right wrist of the brother and thus the latter’s pledge to protect the sister is renewed. At some places the Brahmin or pundits or class IV staff also tie rakhi to their yajamana or officers and receive money from the latter.
Harchatha falls on the 6th day of first fortnight of Bhadra, when mothers keep fast for the well-being of the sons eating only the rare variety of rice and green leaves without salt or sugar, milk and curd permitted. Hartalika Teej falls on the 3rd day of the first fortnight of Bhadra and is a well-known festival of the district, when the women keep fast for the welfare of their husbands.
Janamastami falls on the birth anniversary of Krishna on the eight day of the first fortnight of Bhadon. Staunch devotees fast without taking even water till the time of birth at midnight when they eat prasad. All the temples of Krishna are decorated and illuminated. Dolls and toys are also arranged in homes around idol of Krishna in cradles or depicting events of his life. These are called jhanki meaning a glimpse of the auspicious event. People go from house to house and temple to temple appreciating the artistic arrangements some of which show great ingenuity and skill. Singing of devotional songs relating to Krishna and his life is a special feature of this festival.
Anant Chaturdasi falls on 14th day of later half of Bhadra and is celebrated in memory of Rishi Ananta.
Dashehra falls on the tenth day of the bright half Ashvin and commemorates the victory of Rama over Ravana. It is celebrated for nine days and coincides with the Navaratra celebrations of worship of goddess Durga. Ramlila and Durga puja celebrations are held at innumerable places in the district and in the city. Many dramatic performances are also arranged besides literary and other programmes. Vijai Dashami is the tenth day which marks the death of Ravana and Mahishasur, representing evil, at the hands of Rama and Durga, representing good. The entire Bengali Community of the district celebrates these ten days-they put on new clothes. Many people fast on all the nine days by eating non-grain diet only once a day. Ramlila processions are taken out with great enthusiasm at many places in the district. The fourth day of the dark fortnight of Kartika is called Karwa Chauth, observed by married women for the well being of their husbands.
The 13th day of Kartika is called Dhanteras, when the Dewali festivities begin and people purchase jewelry and metal utensils according to their means. Some also worship Dhanwantari, the presiding deity of Ayurveda. The next day is Naraka Chaturdashi or Chhoti Diwali when daridra, that is god of poverty, is supposed to quit houses which are cleaned and kept ready for the reception of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Next day is diwali or Deepawali, the festival of light, falling on Kartika Amavasya. It commemorates the return of Rama to Ayodhya after destroying Ravana. Homes are illuminated and Ganesha and Lakshmi are worshipped. For traders and businessmen Deepawali marks the end of a fiscal year when they close the account books, open new ones and pray for profit and prosperity, labha and shubha in the new year. None fasts in this festival. Eating of zimikand also called sooran which is a root vegetable, is must on this day. On the second day of the next fortnight falls the famous festival of Bhaiya Dooj, to renew fraternal affection when sister puts tika on the brother’s forehead after performing some puja, keeping fast till then. For Kayasthas this is an important day as they worship pen and inkpot, the means of their livelihood, after offering prayer to Chitragupta their ancestor. Some people worship the god of cattle wealth on the day next to Diwali.
Kartiki_Purnima is a bathing festival. People here take a dip in the Ghaghra believing that all their evils will thereby be washed away as shiva conquered demon Tripura on this day.
Makar Sankranti usually falls on January 14 or sometimes 13. It is the last day of the sun on the tropic of Capricorn where after the sun travels northwards. It is also a bathing festival. Its typical feature is alms-giving and eating of khichari and laddoos of black and white til and gur. It is followed by another bathing day the Amavasya of Magha. Basant Panchami is the fifth day of the succeeding fortnight of Magha dedicated to the worship of Saraswati, the goddess of learning. Its typical feature is bathing and wearing of basanti i. e., a shade of yellow, coloured clothes. Some men put on basanti caps to mark the day.
Shivaratri is the thirteenth day of the first fortnight of Phalguna dedicated to worship of Shiva. The devotees fast throughout the day and are supposed to keep awake at night singing the glory of the god but generally they go to sleep. The Shiva temples are specially decorated and illuminated. A large number of devotees offer water, yellow flowers and belpatra to icons and images of Shiva. For the Arya Samajists, Shivaratri is a memorable day because Dayanand a son of a devotee of Shiva and the the founder of this school got enlightenment on this night. The Arya Samajists celebrate the week preceding this day as Rishi-bodha-saptah and arrange discourses by learned scholars during the seven days.
Holi, the festival of spring, is the concluding festival of the Vikrama era falling on the full-moon day of Phalguna. People in the rural areas sing phaag, the folk song of the season, to the accompaniment of dholak before and after the day of festival. Holi is sung even by classical singers in cities. Fires are lit at important points in public places at the fixed time in the previous evening or night to commemorate the annihilation of all illwill, malice and evil forces of the previous year represented by the demon god’s sister, Holika. The newly harvested ears of barley and wheat are thrown on fire as offering to the gods. The following day people rejoice throwing coloured water on each other, meeting without any distinction and putting dry coloured power on each other’s forehead or face. Rural people put on new clothes before playing coloured water, whereas urban people do so in the evening before visiting relatives and friends.
The number of Hindu religious fairs in the quite large Most of the festivals are accompanied by local fairs too. Nearly a dozen of these fairs are visited by about ten thousand or more people. The biggest are the fairs of Rama Navami falling in the bright half of Chaitra held at Narainpur, and Nagri in tahsil Maharajganj and at Adrauna in tahsil Pharenda. About 1,50,000 persons attend these. All types of household and fancy goods are sold in the fair. The Karitiki Purnima fairs of village Tirmohini in tahsil Maharajganj and of Birsghat in tahsil Gorakhpur are also famous. They attract about 60,000 persons each. On this occasion small fairs are held at other places also. Fairs at Karmainighat in tahsil Pharenda, at Barhalganj Town at Gola in tahsil Bansgaon can be mentioned. On Dashehra, also fairs are held at many places, important being of Raj Ghat in tahsil Gorakhpur attended by nearly 50,000 persons.
Gorakhnath fairs is held at the Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur. About 20,000 devotees attend it. Rubber and clay toys, utensils, glasswares, hosiery goods and clothes, etc., are sold in the fair. The fairs of Suraj Kundis held at Gorakhpur on the first Sunday of Jyaistha in which 20,000 persons come. On the dark half of 13th of Phalguna, Sivaratri fairs are held at Bharhova in tahsil Pharenda and Harpur Mahant in tahsil Maharajganj. About 50,000 persons attend it.
The Muslims too celebrate a number of festivals most important being Barawafat, Sab-e-Barat, Id-ul-fitr, Id-uz-Zuha, Giarhween Sharif and Muharram, the last named being an occasion for mourning rather than rejoicing. They fall on particular dates of the Islamic calendar Hijri and depend upon the visibility of moon. Barawafat, the birthday of prophet Muhammed, falls on the twelfth day of Rabi-al-awwal. Alms are distributes and discourses called Milad Sharif on the prophet’s life are held.
Sab-e-Barat falls on the night of the fourteenth day of Shaban when prayer i.e. fateha is recited for peace to souls of one’s deceased kin Fateha is recited or read over sweets and bread which are then distributed. On the first of Shawal, the festival of Id-ul-Fitr is celebrated by offering prayers in mosques or at Idgahs and meeting each exchanging gifts and greetings. Typical feature of this festival is eating of sewain. Id-ul-Zuha (or Bakrid) is celebrated on the tenth day of the month of Zilhijja to commemorates prophet lbrahim’s submitting himself to the will of God. Men attend morning prayers in mosques or ldgahs and sheep and goat are sacrificed in God’s name.
Giarhween Sharif is a festival of special importance to the Sunnis and is observed on the eleventh day of the month of Rabi-us-sani in honour of Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jilani, the ancient Muslim saint of Baghdad, believed to be a descendant of prophet Muhammad. Prayers and sweets are offered in hid memory on this occasion.
The first ten days of the month of Muharram commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husain and his companions on the historic field of Karbala. The Muharram, the first month of Hijri era i.e., the Muslim year is a period of mourning, specially for the Shias whose women observe all the mourning customs during this period e.g., breaking of their bangles, abstaining from use of ornaments, wearing of black clothes, non-participation in social functions, etc. Many Shias Majalis in their homes to hear marsia describing the life of Imam Husain and the scenes of the battle of Karbala, followed by lamentation and beating of chests. On Ashura, the tenth day of Muharram the tazias which are installed on the first or subsequent days are taken out in procession for burial at Karbala. On the Chelhum or the fortieth day from Ashura which falls in the second month called Safar of the Hijri-era the remaining tazia processions are taken out in the morning by the Sunnis, and in the afternoon by the Shias. This arrangement holds good according, to a settlement arrived at long ago between the two communities in order to prevent any clashes between them. On the 8th day of the third month of Hijri i.e., Rabi-al-awwal, mourning concludes and a procession of Alams i.e., banner’s is taken out by the shias. In Shia processions there is no external demonstration of grief and it marches in silence.
Besides the above festivals, urs ceremonies are held at the tombs of famous saints. They are usually accompanied by local fairs. The urs of saiyed Salar Masud at Gorakhpur falling on first Sunday of Jyaistha, is of great importance. On the tenth of Muharram, big fairs attended by about 65,000 persons are held at Balua in tahsil Maharajganj and at Imambara-Mian Bazar in Gorakhpur proper.
The Sikhs celebrate the birthdays of their gurus, Nanak Dev, Teghbahadur and Govind Singh, portions from the granth are read, congregational prayers are held at gurudwaras and proceddions taken out. The Baisakhi is another Sikh festival. Local fairs are held at gurudwaras on each occasion.
Christian Community :-
The main festivals of the Christians are Christmas the birthday of Jesus Christ, which falls on December 25, Good Friday, the day of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, Easter, which always fall on Sunday in March or April is, the day of His resurrection and New Year’s Day on 1st January. People attend services in their churches and exchange presents. On Christmas eve scenes from the nativity of Christ are enacted and cribs are set up in the churches which people, particularly children, flock to see. The Roman Catholics celebrate the festival of corpus christi by taking out a procession in honour of Christ’s body. Christians organise fair on the occasion of Easter or Easter Monday.
The jains in the district celebrate the birth and nirvana anniversaries of Parshvanath and Mahavira, their twenty-third and twenty-fourth tirthankaras. The other important festivals of the Jains are Paryushan (the last ten days Bhadra and Asthanika falling on the last eight days of Kartika).
The principal festival of the Buddhists is the Buddha purnima on which day Buddha took birth, got enlightenment and attained nirvana. On this occasion they worship in their temples and recite verses from the Pali books Tripitaka.