Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Pilgrimages in Hindu

    In India there a lot of sacred places which are called places of thirtha and the action of going on a pilgrimage is called thirtha-yatra. The Sanskrit word "thirtha" means river ford, steps to a river, or place of pilgrimage. In Vedi times the world may have concerned only those sacred places associated with rivers and water, but by the time of the Mahabharata, thirtha had come to denote any holy place, be it a lake, mountain, forest, or cave. The Hindus believe that thirthas are more than physical locations. They believe them to be spirituals fords, the meeting place of heaven and earth, the locations where one crosses over the river of samsara (the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth) to reach the distant shore of liberation, the Omnipotence.

Why Do They Go On Pilgrimages?

    Vedas and Puranas state the reasons for going on pilgrimages. Hinduism finds the image of godhood in the Murthy (statue or symbol). Hence they can fix their minds on god and remember the saints who walked before them in the past. Thirtha-yatras give them a new vision of spiritual development to have a broader outlook of their samsara. They want to be purified of their Karma in this incarnation. They are able to meet holy people and get guidance from there. Many go to fulfill their religious rituals and vows they had promised for their intentions. Pilgrim centers are places of self-reflection and deep contemplation. These yatras become indelible in their memory and uplift memorable experiences. The preparations that they make before the thirtha-yatras involve them deeper in the religious spirit.

The Activities During Pilgrimages

1) The Iyyappa devotees, before going to the Iyyappa temple in Sabarimala in South India, observe fast for forty days or a certain period and follow very strict austere life.
2) The devotees of Lord Muruga do many penances and go to the temple at Pazani, Madurai,South India. Some wear saffron-colored clothes and carry shoulder-chariots(Kavadi).
3) Millions throng everyday to Tiruppathi, the holy place of Lord Venkateswara in South India. They fulfill their vows with their sacrifices and offerings.
During these pilgrimages they make "Dharshan" (visual experience) of god experience, glorify the Omnipotent Almighty and do acts of penance to free themselves from their sins. These pilgrimage places help them to do charitable activities by feeding the poor, giving alms, offering things to the poor, etc.

When Do They Go?

    Some pilgrimage places are visited throughout the year. Some have yearly or seasonal festivals. Some festivals like Allahabad Kumbamela take place only once in twelve years. These days are observed as per the dates calculated by eminent astrological mathematicians. The movements of the planets around the earth and the sun have much to do in fixing these dates. December and January ,especially the day of Magaravilakku, are the months of Sabarimala Iyyappa temple devotees. April (panguni uttiram) is the time for Muruga devotees to visit Pazani. Rameswaram,Guruvayur, Benares, Poori, Batrinath, Dwaraka, Ayothi, etc. are some places visited during their time of festival.


The Significance of Festivals in Hinduism

    The importance of festivals can be seen by the fact that one cannot find more holidays for festivals in any other country than in India. Festivals are the occasions for family gatherings and entertainments. Some festivals are celebrated throughout the country by all sects of Hindus; some are regional, celebrated only in some parts of the country. For example, Diwali is celebrated allover the country, whereas Pongal is celebrated only in Tamil Nadu. The worshippers of Lord Siva celebrate the festivals like Mahasivaraatri, Durgapooja, etc.. Vaishnavaites celebrate Dassara, Ramanavami, Gogulashtami, Vaigunta Egadesi, etc.
   Astronomical days like solar eclipse, lunar eclipse, full moon day, new moon day etc. are celebrated as festivals. Magarasankaranthi marks the movement of the sun towards northern hemisphere, which usually falls in the middle of January. Diwali , the festival of lightness is celebrated on a new moon day which may fall in October or November of every year.


    Even though pilgrimages are attempted and festivals are celebrated by people of all the religions, all over the world, Hinduism has a very deep meaning in encouraging these pilgrimages. It just advocates the celebrations and does not make them compulsory. Festivals in Hinduism help to develop harmony and friendship and bring people of the whole universe closer to the Supreme God.


   Disputed in the last Sunday in June, it is undoubtedly the event the Pisans feel most strongly about . On that one day they once more discover the heated opposition between the factions, ready to root for the colors of their own Magistratura (or Court. The ‘Magistratura’ is the political-military organization of a quarter or of the team which participates in the Game). The Gioco del Ponte virtually closes the events of the Giugno Pisano, reproposing, in the magnificent setting of the lungarni which are jammed with people (generally there are no less than 100,000 spectators, sometimes many more) the ancient historical opposition between the Parties of Mezzogiorno (south of the Arno) and Tramontana (north of the river). The actual battle is preceded by a historical

procession with participants wearing period armature and costumes (around 750 in Spanish style) and with the banners of the participating teams of the four ‘historical’ quarters of Pisa, represented on the city plan by dividing lines that coincide with the intersection of the axis of Borghi-Ponte di Mezzo-Corso Italia with the curve of the Arno: S. Maria, S. Francesco (Tramontana); S. Antonio, S. Martino (Mezzogiorno), to which are added the formations of S. Michele, Mattaccini, Satiri, Calcesana – for the northern part – and those of S. Marco, Leoni, Delfini, Dragoni – for the southern part.

   The Gioco del Ponte is a historical re-evocation, where elements of folklore fuse with the proud warrior tradition of the Parties, who fight for possession of the bridge, no longer with maces shields and ‘targoni’ (an instrument in wood still carried by the combatants during the procession, it is offensive and defensive at the same time, spreading out and rounded off at the top, sharp and pointed at the bottom) but challenging each other in a trial of strength which consists in pushing a

heavy "Carrello" (carriage) weighing approximately seven tons, set on tracks fifty meters long. The final victory goes to the Party which has won the greater number of battles, pushing the trolley into the enemy field and knocking over the staff with the banner with the colors of the enemy party.

   While the origins of the game are lost in the mists of time (a legend attributes its institution to Pelops, the mythical founder of Pisa, who wanted to recall his native Olimpic Games; another to the roman emperor Hadrian who attempted to present a ‘Pisan’ version of gladiatoral combats on the shores of the Arno; and still another has it that the Games were instituted in memory of the battle on the bridge between Pisans

and Saracens on the occasion of the legendary episode of Kinzica de’ Sismondi), mention of a Gioco del Ponte does appear in 1490. It was Lorenzo the Magnificent who decided to transfer the game into its natural setting. Previously, as far back as could be remembered a sort of medieval tournament called Gioco del Mazzascudo had been held in the piazza delle Sette Vie (now piazza dei Cavalieri) between the Parties of the Rooster and the Magpie and which was thought to be the ancestor of the present Game. Originally the Gioco del Ponte took place twice a year: January 17th, the day of Saint

   Anthony Abbot, was the date of the so-called ‘Battagliaccia’, a sort of dress rehearsal of the ‘Battaglia Generale’ which almost always took place on the occasion of visits to Pisa of the various rulers and other noble guests. It continued to be held until 1782 when it was suppressed by Pietro Leopoldo on grounds of public order. After an extraordinary edition (1807) it lapsed into oblivion until it was re-introduced in 1935. Suspended because of the war, it returned to the bridge from 1950 to 1963. After another lengthy interruption, the event returned to its original magnificence in the edition of 1982.