The month of Chaitra during Vasant Ritu is significant for various festivals that herald the joy of harvest, spring, fertility and renewed life on earth.
Chaitra (Chithirai) is the first month of the lunisolar calendar. It refers to the month of March-April which announces the arrival of spring season. The onset of Vasant Ritu (spring season) brings with it the abundance of harvest, bright sunshine,renewal of life and a time to rejoice and celebrate the spirit of the season. The term ‘Vasant’ means ‘spring’ and ‘Ritu’ means ‘season’. Adishakti, the divine feminine, the source of all energy manifests as mother nature, nourishing the whole creation and providing continuity and rejuvenation to life. The arrival of spring sees blooming flowers, trees laden with rich fruits, plants and trees coming back to life and birds and animals busy again after a period of hibernation.
Festivities during Chaitra
Chaitra Shukla Pratipada or the first day after the new moon in the month of Chaitra is celebrated as the new year among different communities in India. It is known as Ugadi, Gudi Padwa and Cheti Chand. The nine nights that follow the beginning of the month of Chaitra (March 25th) is known as Chaitra or Vasant Navratri. Vasant Navratri is celebrated as an offering of gratitude to the divine feminine or Shakti that exists in everything. Navratri is also a time that brings devotion, celebration and creativity very much alive. When Navratri is celebrated, seasons are in the midst of change.
Just as the seasons change, the body- mind complex changes too, mirroring nature. Such transitionary phases require one to bring changes in lifestyle so as to be in sync with the changes in season.
For several communities, the month of Chaitra is a period of expression and engaging in various rituals, art, preparing delicacies and decorating the deities at homes and temples. Two days after Gudi Padwa or Ugadi, women in Northern Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and few other regions observe Chaitrada Gauri Vrata or Gangaur or Saubhagya Gauri Vratam.
An idol of Goddess Gauri or a form that represents Her is kept at home and the ongoing rituals and ceremonies continue until Akshaya Tritiya. Alankar(dressing up) of the deity is an important part of the ritual and the Devi is adorned with vibrant colors, flowers and jewellery. Flowers, fruits and delicacies (predominantly made of mangoes which are in season) are offered to Her as a sign of gratitude. The underlying message is to mirror what is in nature, the vibrancy of life in all its colors and to relish what is local and seasonal.
There is also a tradition of making Chaitrangan Rangolis, especially in Maharashtra which involves using 51 motifs or auspicious symbols that reflect different aspects about life, drawn as a rangoli in the courtyard. This month also sees the beginning of the Hindu solar calendar with the Sun in an exalted position viz-a-viz the first house of the zodiac, Aries. The period between April 13th -15th is celebrated as a new year amongst various communities as Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Vishu in Kerala, Baisakhi in Punjab and Bihu in Assam to name a few.
Celebration is a way of feminine expression for both men and women.
This month also sees various festivals that herald the joy of harvest, spring, fertility and renewed life on earth. Various forms of gods and goddesses who embody the feminine aspects of living are honored as a sign of gratitude for the abundance that is brought. Indigenous communities and villages in India honor their local goddesses that bring with it a promise of continuity and prosperity.
Elaborate rituals, fairs, traditional art forms, percussion music performances, local delicacies are all part of welcoming the spring and honouring the goddesses.
The full moon in the month of Chaitra is also considered important because it is the first full moon according to the lunisolar calendar. If we were to take a cue from nature, with the Sun in an exalted position and a full moon or pournami, it would have a significant impact on our system.
The situation in the outside world and sometimes in our own homes, might not be in our favor right now. There may be a limit to our outward expression, celebration and festivities. But there is no limit as to what we can do with our inner self. We can imbibe the spirit of spring, celebration and togetherness in times of social distancing in a unique way. We can reach out to others in distress and ensure they are safe and secure. We can still try to be the sun, moon, bright green leaves and blossoms of our lives.
Picture credit (Chaitra Gauri decor) – Isha Gupte via Pinterest