Religious Holidays Quiz

Handy Religion 2e
ISBN: 9781578593798
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Do Vaishnavites observe unique feasts in honor of Vishnu or his avatars? How do Shaivites honor Shiva?

  • Rama Navami (Rama Ninth, during Chaitra in early spring) celebrates Rama's birthday.
  • Several feasts also recall other specific avatars.
  • Shivaratri, "Shiva's Night" is a monthly festivity occurring on the fourteenth night of the dark half of every lunar month.
  • Once a year devotees observe Mahashivaratri, "Shiva's Great Night".


>Rama Navami (Rama Ninth, during Chaitra in early spring) celebrates Rama's birthday. During a nine-day festival celebrants attend a lengthy retelling of the massive epic Ramayana. A related feast occurs on the fifteenth of Shravana, a full moon celebration of Rama's crossing over to Lanka to rescue Sita. Two major feasts focus on Krishna. Krishna Janmashtami ("Birthday Eighth" during the dark half of Shravana) in late summer, celebrates Krishna's birthday. For a full seven days devotees reenact events from Krishna's life. The festivities culminate with a fast and midnight worship on the seventh day, the eve of the birthday. Naga Panchami ("Serpent Fifth," so named because it occurs on the fifth day of Shravana's bright half) comes in late summer and recalls one of Krishna's many victories over embodiments of evil, his dispatching of the serpent demon Kaliya in the river Jumna. Although the evil demon in this case is a serpent, the fast and feast celebrate the grace represented by other cosmically beneficial serpents as well. Several feasts also recall other specific avatars. For example, on the full moon of Karttika some Vaishnavites celebrate Vishnu's descent as the savior-fish Matsya.

Shivaratri, "Shiva's Night" is a monthly festivity occurring on the fourteenth night of the dark half of every lunar month, just before the appearance of the new moon. Once a year devotees observe Mahashivaratri, "Shiva's Great Night" either during the midwinter lunar month called Magha or during the following month, Phalguna, depending on regional custom. The feast celebrates Shiva's manifestation of his power and glory to Vishnu and Brahma in the icon called the jyotirlinga or "fiery linga." Girls who hope to marry soon often fast during the day and keep vigil all night. Festivities in parts of India generally last all night and often include massive street parties and processions featuring elaborate floats, ecstatic dancing, and sometimes extreme demonstrations of devotion in the form of self-mutilation. A full moon feast during Karttika, in the fall, is called Tripuri-purnima. It recalls how Shiva incinerated the demon Tripura's three cities, Tripuri, made of gold, silver, and iron. Meanwhile his consort Kali dispatched the demon himself, ending his partial dominion over heaven, earth, and hell (the "three cities").

From The Handy Religion Answer Book, Second Edition by Jack Rendard, Ph.D., (c) 2012 Visible Ink Press(R). Your Guide to the World's Major Faiths

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