Unit I Reflection Paper Welcome to the Religious News Station! As the newest mem
Unit I Reflection Paper Welcome to the Religious News Station! As the newest member of the organization, you will be exploring many different religions from varying viewpoints throughout this course. This ongoing travel will have you reporting on various religions around the world and will conclude with a final project for the news station. For your first assignment, you will be packing your bags and traveling to India! It is there where you will find the major concentration of those practicing Hinduism. As you begin traveling for Religious News, your boss wants you to embrace the Hindu culture as much as possible. Per his request, he has asked that you visit a temple, attend one festival of your choosing, and observe either an investiture, marriage, or funeral ceremony. For your write-up, be sure to include the following components for your r eport: summarize the impact samskaras have on Hindu society; compare and contrast a selected Hindu ceremony (e.g., the investiture, marriage, or funeral ceremony) or festival (pages 50–54 in your textbook) to one that takes place within your culture; and compare and contrast social statuses within Hinduism to that of your culture. Your reflection should be at least one page in length. You must include at least two outside sources, one of which can be your textbook, Remember to use APA formatting throughout the assignment. Hindu festivals The practice of bhakti often cultivates a passionate, complex, and abiding relationship between the devotee and the deity, the intensity of which is most openly expressed in Hinduism's countless religious festivals. All Hindu temples have annual festivals, during which the murti of its main deity is brought out and paraded through the town or city. These festivals attract thousands of worshipers, many of whom arrive days beforehand to claim a place along the processional route. Local gurus and renunciants will make an appearance, yogic practitioners will display their feats of body control, and those with serious illnesses and disabilities—the lame, the blind, the lepers—will come in hope of healing. The deity's image (which can be quite heavy) is carried on a wagon or chariot, the largest of which can be 20–30 feet tall and require hundreds of worshipers to pull them. Throughout the festival, those present will chant the names of the deity, sing devotional songs, and pray for absolution from sins and for final release. Festivals also provide the occasion for “unbroken readings” of epic and Puranic texts as well as reenactments of a deity's mythology. Dramatic stagings of the Ramayana, for example, are performed annually throughout India, with month-long presentations taking place in and around the city of Ramnagar along the upper Ganges river. Puppet shows of episodes from the epics are also very popular. The number of religious festivals in Hinduism, including local and regional celebrations, has been estimated at over one thousand. What follows is a description of six of the most popular pan-Indian festivals, four of which are national holidays in India. They individually engage hundreds of millions of participants, and while each is associated with one of the principal three deities of bhakti, devotees of all the gods join in. Maha-shiva-ratri Maha-shiva-ratri, or the Grand Night of Shiva, is a twenty-four hour festival whose center point is a moonless night in February or March. Early on the morning of the first day, devotees begin a fast of fruit and liquids, undergo a ritual bath, apply ashes to their foreheads, and put on new clothes. They then collect leaves from the bilva tree, a plant sacred to Shiva, and go to a temple to offer them and perform other acts of puja. At the temple, the ritual bathing of Shiva's lingam by a priest takes place throughout the day and night, every three hours or so. On the morning of the second day, participants break their fast by accepting prasad from the deity. While the festival is considered a special time for unmarried women to pray for a husband like Shiva, and for wives to pray for their husbands and sons, its fuller purpose is explained variously. Some see it as a celebration of Shiva's heroic drinking of the poison at creation to save the other deities. Others say that it commemorates the performance of Shiva's cosmic dance, or his marriage to Parvati. And still others claim that the Maha-shiva-ratri celebrates Shiva's appearance to Vishnu and Brahma as the Universal Pillar. Holi Holi also takes place in late February or early March and, depending on regional practices, can last 3 to 16 days. It is an end-of-winter festival that celebrates both the coming of spring and the divine love shared between Krishna and his favorite milkmaid, Radha. Leading up to the main day, devotees sing love ballads and recite stories of the romance between Krishna and Radha. On the evening before the main day, they light bonfires. In one account, this is to commemorate Vishnu's protection of a devoted follower named Prahlad, whose father, the powerful demon Hiranyakashipu, attempted to burn his son alive because of the latter's love of Vishnu (which is heresy for a demon). In another account, the bonfire recreates the deadly wrath of Shiva when he destroyed Kama, the god of love, with the fire of his third eye, after Kama had interrupted Shiva's meditation. On the main day of Holi, participants throw paint or colored power on each other just as Krishna is said to have done to Radha to make her skin as dark as his. Holi is a time to revel in Krishna's playful and mischievous spirit. On the evening of the main day, and for an evening or two thereafter, risqué dance performances and poetry recitals are held. Caste rankings and other regulators of the social order are set aside, and hierarchies are turned topsy-turvy. The women of a household will playfully beat the male members, reversing the gender dominance that typically prevails; and members of the lower castes mock and ridicule Brahmins and Nobles for their ritual concerns and pompous ways. When the play of Holi is finished, however, people make the rounds of family and friends to express unbridled affection for those close to them. This is done to restore social order and to put an end to lingering grudges from the past year. Janmastami Janmastami is a two-day celebration of Krishna's birth, taking place sometime between mid-August and mid-September. On the first day participants fast and women create small designs from rice powder resembling Krishna's baby feet, to lead him into their homes. At midnight, when this avatar of Vishnu is believed to have been born, an image of the baby Krishna is bathed in various precious substances and rocked in a cradle. A vigil of prayer and worship then continues until morning. Many devotees break their fast at midnight with prasad; others keep it until dawn of the next day; and a few refuse to drink even a drop of liquid during the entire fast. Figure 1.17 Several worshipers immerse a clay statue of Ganesha at the conclusion of a Ganesh Chaturti festival. Source: © PUNIT PARANJPE / X01659 / Reuters / Corbis. Ganesh Chaturti Ganesh Chaturti, or Ganesha's Fourth, is celebrated on the fourth day of the moon's waxing phase in late August or early September. Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Parvati who removes obstacles and gives success to those engaged in new undertakings, is arguably the most popular Hindu deity. Weeks before the festival begins, local artisans fashion clay images of Ganesha for sale. Smaller ones are purchased for domestic use during the festival, while larger ones are commissioned by various Hindu organizations and installed in public venues. The public images are sometimes flanked by clay images of Shiva and Parvati, whereas the household images are surrounded by small stones that are sanctified and treated as his mother Parvati. Once the clay images are in place and the breath of the deities has entered into them, puja is performed: the images are bathed and anointed; food, drink, and flowers are presented; the deities are entertained with song and chant; and the fire blessing (arati) is waved before them. At the conclusion of the festival, all the clay images are taken to a pond, a river, or the sea to undergo the final immersion ceremony used for such temporary images. Expressing great emotional verve and sentiments of loss, participants bid the deities farewell and ask them to come again for next year's festival. Did you know… Although there are many theories, it is unknown why Hindus chose the cow to be a holy animal deserving reverence, and not to be eaten.

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