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Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated before the arrival of spring that marks the “Great Night of Shiva,” a Hindu deity. It is a major holiday in Hinduism, a solemn remembrance of overcoming darkness and ignorance. Because the holiday is based on the Hindu Lunar Calendar, the date it is celebrated changes each year.
History of Maha Shivaratri
Legend has it that a poison came out of the ocean during Samundra Manthan. In order to protect the citizens, Shiva drank the poison, but it did not kill him. Instead, it caused his throat to “burn blue.” The day is a public holiday in Nepal with offices, schools and businesses closed to honour Shiva.
Maha Shivaratri


Traditions and Celebrations
Thousands of visitors come to the Pashupatinath Temple to celebrate Maha Shivaratri and the Shiva Shakti Peetham nearby. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva in the form of Pashupati, Lord of the Animals. Legend has it that Lord Shiva roamed as a deer in the forests in the area. The temple is open only to Hindus with several shrines and pavilions where yogis and priests chant or meditate.

In the days before the holiday, people fill the roads around the temple and there are vendors selling red tika powder or sacred beads. The day of the holiday there is a military parade to honour Lord Shiva as well.

Unlike most Hindu festivals which take place during the day, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated at night. There are all night vigils and prayers representing Shiva’s ability to overcome darkness and ignorance. Many spend the night around the temple, lighting sacred fires, singing praises to Lord Shiva and keeping vigil to welcome his descent to Earth.

The official celebration begins at midnight with priests offering items to Lord Shiva in the temple. People swim in the sacred Bagmati River, carrying water in cupped palms to offer it to the stone stele which is the symbol of Lord Shiva. In the morning, sacred texts are recited until noon when people begin singing sacred songs. Some of the finest musicians and singers come to Nepal to sing praises of Shiva.

It is not unusual to see yogis or sadhus sitting naked, covered with ash or smoking marijuana during the festival. Although marijuana is illegal in Nepal, it is permitted for religious rituals during the festival. It is believed that after Shiva’s consort died, he came to the forests near the temple, smeared with ash, wearing a serpent and draped in a tiger skin. While there, he smoked marijuana which grows wild in the forests.

Shukla Paksha Saptami in Magha month is known as Ratha Saptami or Magha Saptami. It is believed that Lord Surya Dev started enlightening the whole world on Ratha Saptami day which was considered as birth day of God Surya. Hence this day is also known as Surya Jayanti.
Ratha Saptami is highly auspicious day and it is considered as auspicious as Surya Grahan for Dan-Punya activities. By worshipping Lord Surya and observing fast on this day one can get rid of all type of sins. It is believed that seven types of sins done, knowingly, unknowingly, by words, by body, by mind, in current birth and in previous births are purged by worshipping Lord Surya on this day.

On Ratha Saptami one should take bath during Arunodaya. Ratha Saptami Snan is one of the important rituals and is suggested during Arunodaya only. Arunodaya period prevails for four Ghatis (approx. one and half hour for Indian locations if we consider one Ghati duration as 24 minutes) before sunrise. Taking bath before sunrise during Arunodaya keeps one healthy and free from all types of ailments and diseases. Because of this belief Ratha Saptami is also known as Arogya Saptami. Taking bath in water body like river, canal is preferred over taking bath at home. DrikPanchang.com lists Arunodaya period and sunrise time for most cities across the globe.

After taking bath one should worship Lord Surya during sunrise by offering Arghyadan (अर्घ्यदान) to Him. Arghyadan is performed by slowly offering water to Lord Surya from small Kalash with folded hand in Namaskar Mudra while facing Lord Sun in standing position. After this one should light Deepak of pure Ghee and worship Sun God with Kapoor, Dhup, and red flowers. By doing morning Snan, Dan-Punya and Arghyadan to Suryadev one is bestowed with long life, good health and prosperity.
Ratha Saptami

Bidri craft
Bidriware is a renowned metal handicraft that derives its name from Bidar, presently in Karnataka. It was believed to have originated in 14th century AD during the reign of Bahamani Sultans.

The term 'Bidriware' therefore represents the manufacture of a unique metalware that is named after the region of Bidar. The Bahamani sultans had ruled Bidar in the 14th–15th centuries. Bidriware was first practised in ancient Persia and then it was brought to India by Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti’s followers. The art form developed due to a mix of Persian and Arabic cultures and after the fusion with local style, a new and unique style of its own was created. The Nizam of Hyderabad introduced the art form in Aurangabad, which was part of Nizam’s Hyderabad state before 1947.

Bidriware is an eight-stage process. Those are moulding, smoothening by file and the process of designing by chisels. It is then followed by engraving using chisel and hammer where pure silver inlaying is done. It is subjected to smoothening again, followed by buffing and finally oxidising by making use of soil and ammonium chloride. Bidriware is therefore manufactured from an alloy of copper and zinc metals, in the ratio 1:16 by means of casting.

Initially the presence of zinc ushers alloy a deep black color. Firstly, a mould is created using soil and this is made malleable by adding castor oil and resin. The molten metal is later poured to create a cast piece followed by smoothened through filing. The casting is further coated with a strong copper sulphate solution to gain a temporary black coating. Then the designs are etched freehand over this using a metal stylus.This is eventually secured in a vise and the Bidri craftsmen make use of small chisels to engrave the designs over this freehand etching. Fine wire or even flattened strips of pure silver are clearly hammered into the grooves.The item is then filed and buffed, as well as smoothed to remove the temporary black coating. This results in a silver inlay that is not that clearly distinguishable compared to the gleaming metallic surface, which is now completely silvery white.

The Bidriware item is now completely set for a final blackening process. Here, makers use a special variety of soil that is available only in select places. This is mixed with ammonium chloride and water for producing a paste. The mixture is further rubbed onto a heated Bidri surface that darkens the body without affecting the silver inlay.The paste is clearly rinsed, revealing a shiny silver design looking stunning and resplendent against the rest of black surface. The oil is applied as a finishing touch for the product to strengthen the matt coating. The finished product is now shining black with a brilliant silver inlay.

The makers of Bidriware create designs like flowers, leaves and also geometric designs, stylized poppy plants, human figures etc. In some countries there is a great demand for the design of Persian roses and also the passages from the Holy Quran in the Arabic script.Bidriware was also used for making paanholders, hookahs, and vases as well as bowls, ornament boxes, earrings, trays and other jewelry and showpiece items.

The world famous artistic metallic Work which was on a decline few decades ago is currently on the revival path following the introduction of several innovative designs and new patterns.The designs represent Indian to international themes in tune with latest home and lifestyle needs and interior spaces. Bidar in Karnataka state and Hyderabad in Telangana are the popular centres for Bidriware in India and it is also practised in some of the other centres across India. Due to the striking inlay artWorks, Bidriware is considered an important export handicraft item from India’s handicraft market and seen as a prized symbol of wealth. This native art form has also gained the Geographical Indications (GI) registry.



Saraswati Puja is observed in the month of Magha according to the Bengali Saraswati Puja calendar. It is celebrated on the fifth day of the season spring on a full moon day and hence is known as Shree Panchami. Saraswati Puja is observed in the months of January-February according to the Gregorian calendar. Saraswati Puja also known as Vasant Panchami marks the beginning of spring when the mustard fields are in full bloom. Being a spring festival, yellow is the significant colour of the festival Saraswati Puja. Yellow flowers like marigold and food items like khichdi (mixture of rice and pulse), kesar bhaat (saffron pudding), kesar halwa (saffron pudding) form a quintessential part of the festival. Not only the flowers and food items used in this festival represent the colour of spring, but even the attires worn by devotees and young girls flaunt the mustard colour.
According to the Saraswati Puja calendar, it will be celebrated on February 10th in the year 2019 and 6th Magh, 1423 according to the Bengali calendar. The best puja muhurta or time of the daywill be 07:07 to 12:35. The Panchami tithi for the Saraswati Puja 2019 is at 12:25 on the 9th of February and the tithi ends at 14:08 on the 10th of February.


Saraswati Puja Timing

Panchami Tithi Begins : 12:20 PM - 9 February 2019

Panchami Tithi End : 02:10 PM - 10 February 2019

Saraswati Puja 2019 Muhurat = 07:15 To 12:52 - 10-Feb-2019




Magha Gupta Navratri is an auspicious 9-day period that is dedicated to worshipping the nine different forms of Goddess Shakti. It is observed from the ‘Pratipada’ (1st day) to the ‘Navami’ (9th day) during the Shukla Paksha (the waxing phase of moon) in the ‘Magha’ month of the traditional Hindu calendar. Magha Gupta Navratri is also known as ‘Shishir Navratri’ as it falls between the winter months of January-February. It is an important occurrence for Sadhaks, tantriks and any person desiring to resolve materialistic problems. The word ‘gupt’ is a Hindi word meaning ‘secret’ and therefore Magha Gupta Navratri is known to less people unlike the other prominent Navratris observed during the Hindu month of ‘Vasant’ and ‘Chaitra’. Magha Gupta Navratri is predominately celebrated in the northern states of India namely, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

Rituals during Magha Gupta Navratri:
During Magha Gupta Navratri, Hindu devotees get up at the time of sunrise and take an early bath. After finishing the morning rituals they clean and decorate the place of worship and begin making preparations.
An idol of Goddess Durga is placed on a red cloth and worshipped with vermillion, rice, colourful flowers, dhoop and incense sticks. Devotees also offer chunri, bindi and bangles to the Goddess. This nine day ritual begins on Pratipada and ends on Navami, in which nine different forms of Goddess is worshipped on each day.

The puja rituals for specific days are given below:
Navratri Day 1: Pratipada – Ghatasthapana and Shailputri Puja
Navratri Day 2: Dwitiya – Brahmacharini Puja
Navratri Day 3: Tritiya – Chandraghanta Puja
Navratri Day 4: Chaturthi – Kushmanda Puja
Navratri Day 5: Panchami – Skandamata Puja
Navratri Day 6: Sashthi – Katyayani Puja
Navratri Day 7: Saptami – Kaal Ratri Puja
Navratri Day 8: Ashtami – Mahagauri Puja and Sandhi Puja
Navratri Day 9: Navami – Siddhidatri Puja
The tenth day ‘dashami’ marks the end of the Navratri celebrations and is observed as Navratri Parana.

Devotees keep a strict fast during this 9-day long Magha Gupta Navratri. The observer of this vrat can eat only one meal after finishing the puja rituals of the day and offering food to a Brahmin. Some people can also observe partial fasting in which eating fruits and dairy products are allowed.
It is very auspicious to recite ‘Durga Mantra’ 108 times during the Magha Gupta Navratri. Also reading Durga Stotra during this period appeases Goddess Durga to shower Her love and affection on devotees.

The Kantha Embroidery is the predominantly the most popular form of embroidery practiced by the rural women. The traditional form of Kantha embroidery was done the soft dhotis and saris. The thread for this craft was drawn out of the borders of the used cloth.
Kantha Embroidery of West Bengal
 It is a simple running stitch made on the edges. When five to six layers of the cloth were embroidered together it formed a quilt. Fewer layers of the cloth is used to make clothes for other purposes. The outer layers of the cloth comprises of white or light colored clothes which made the embroidery perceptible. Depending on the use of the finished product they were known as Lepkantha, Sujni Kantha etc. The embroidered cloth is used as stoles for women and shawls. The clothes also find use as covers for mirrors, boxes, pillows etc. The entire cloth is covered with running stitches and usually has beautiful folk motifs, floral motifs, animal and birds figures and geometrical shapes. Themes from day to day activities are also a common subject for the embroidery. Such stitches on the cloth give it a slight wrinkled wavy effect. The contemporary Kantha is not necessarily done on old multiple layered saris or dhotis. It can also be seen on the present day garments like the sarees, dupatta, shirts for men and women, bedding and other furnishing fabrics. For these fabrics and dresses the base fabric used is cotton and silk.



Lucknow, in Uttar Pradesh, was and is the centre of chikan embroidery, renowned for its timeless grace and its gossamer delicacy, a skill more than 200 years old --- exploited, commercialis but not dead. In fact, the craft is alive and struggling to regain some of its former beauty and elegance. Chikan embroidery is done on fine cotton fabric. The garments are first stitched and then embroidered, whereas skirts, saris, and table linen are first embroidered and then finished. A study of the origin of chikan reveals that this form of embroidery had come to India from Persia with Noor Jehan, the queen of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir. The word chikan is a derivative from the Persian word 'chikaan' meaning drapery. Some, however, insist that the craft migrated from Bengal. What we know is that chikankari came to Oudh when Mughal power declined in Bengal and the artisans moved to the Oudh durbars, seeking employment and patronage.
The craft flourished under the benign nawabi influence. The ladies of the harem vied with each other in making white embroidered caps for the nawabs in order to be noticed and favoured. Earlier garments were so fragile that they had to be discarded after a few washes --this explains why early samples of chikan garments are not available. With the British influence, designs became more formal and items other than ethnic apparel began to be created. This brought a formalisation of designs to a large extent, which resulted in an export market. These items found a place in the prestigious homes in Europe and England, specimens of which are still available. The bel or creeper was the most commonly used design";" individual motifs or butis of animals and flowers were also made. Fish (mahi) was a very common motif in Lucknow and used widely because it was the emblem of the Court of Oudh.

The design to be embroidered is printed on the fabric with wooden blocks, using fugitive colours, which are commonly made by mixing a glue and indigo with water. For extra fine designs, brass-blocks are sometimes used.

In chikan, the needle is held in the right hand while inserting it into the fabric, the left hand supports and controls the thread so that the stitches take the right shape. In traditional chikan no frames were used (though they are used now)";" the portion of the cloth to be embroidered is placed over the index finger of the left hand, supported by the rest of the fingers, leaving the thumb free. The needle is pulled away from the embroiderer who starts from the nearest end and finished at the farthest end.

There is a discipline and method in the application of the stitches. The darn stitch is worked on rough cotton fabric to fill angular designs and to cover the surface of the fabric, while satin stitching is done exclusively on delicate fabrics like silk, muslin, or linen. In chikan some stitches are worked from the wrong side of the fabric, while others are worked from the right side. It is however unique in its discipline in as much as stitches designated for a particular purpose are used only for that purpose --- they are not replaced by other stiches. For example, the chain stitch (zanjeera) will only be used for the final outline of a leaf, petal, or stem.

Different specialists work with different types of stitches. For example, open work or jaali is not done by embroiderers who do the filling work - each worker completes his/her bit and the fabric is then sent to the next embroiderer. The wages for each job are fixed separately.

Chikan embroidery has a repertoire of about 40 stitches of which about 30 are still being used. These can be broadly divided into 3 heads - flat stitches, raised and embossed stitches, and the open trellis-like jaali work. Some of these have equivalents in other embroideries, the rest are manipulations that make them distinctive and unique. They cover almost all the embroidery stitches of the country and have interesting and descriptive names.

The main flat stitches with their traditional names are:

Taipchi: Running stitch worked on the right side of the fabric. It is occasionally done within parallel rows to fill petals and leaves in a motif, called ghaspatti. Sometimes taipchi is used to make the bel buti all over the fabric. This is the simplest chikan stitch and often serves as a basis for further embellishment. It resembles jamdani and is considered the cheapest and the quickest stitch.

Pechni: Taipchi is sometime used as a base for working other variations and pechni is one of them. Here the taipchi is covered by entwining the thread over it in a regular manner to provide the effect of something like a lever spring and is always done on the right side on the cloth.

Pashni: Taipchi is worked to outline a motif and then covered with minute vertical satin stitches over about two threads and is used for fine finish on the inside of badla.

Bakhia: It is the most common stitch and is often referred to as shadow work. It is of two types:

(a) Ulta Bakhia: The floats lie on the reverse of the fabric underneath the motif. The transparent muslin becomes opaque and provides a beautiful effect of light and shade.

(b) Sidhi Bakhia: Satin stitch with criss-crossing of individual threads. The floats of thread lie on the surface of the fabric. This is used to fill the forms and there is no light or shade effect.

Khatao, khatava or katava is cutwork or appliqu? - more a technique than a stitch.

Gitti: A combination of buttonhole and long satin stitch, usually used to make a wheel-like motif .

Jangira: Chain stitch usually used as outlines in combination with a line of pechni or thick taipchi.

The bolder or knottier stitches include the following:

Murri: A very minute satin stitch in which a knot is formed over already outlined taipchi stitches.

Phanda: It is a smaller shortened form of murri. The knots are spherical and very small, not pear shaped as in murri. This is a difficult stitch and requires very good craftsmanship.

Jaalis: The jaalis or trellises that are created in chikankari are a unique speciality of this craft. The holes are made by manipulation of the needle without cutting or drawing of thread. The threads of the fabric are teased apart to make neat regular holes or jaalis. In other centres where jaalis are done, the threads have to be drawn out. In chikankari, this is not the case. Names of jaali techniques suggest the place where they originated from --- Madrasi jaali or Bengali jaali ---- or possibly the place of demand for that particular jaali. The basic manner in which jaalis are created is by pushing aside wrap and weft threads in a fashion that minute openings are made in the cloth. Shape of openings and the stitches used distinguish one jaali from another.

The source of most of the design motifs in chikankari is Mughal. Noor Jehan's personal preferences and desire to replicate the Turkish architectural open-work designs is said to have that led to the introduction of jaalis in chikan embroidery. The designs in chikan are graded and used according to the stitches employed - murri ka buta and tepchi ka jaal --- though terms like hathi (elephant) and kairi (mango) are also used to signify the shape of the motif. It is however the stitch employed that is the established nomenclature.

The production process of a chikan garment, assuming it is a kurta, goes through several processes. In each process a different person is involved. The final responsibility is, however, that of the person ordering the manufacture, who is also usually the seller. Chikan work involves several stages. The fabric is cut by the tailor into the required garment shape, after which the basic pre-embroidery stitching is done so that the correct shape is available to the block-printer to plan the placement of the design. The design is printed on the semi-stitched garment with fugitive colours, and the embroidery of the garment is then begun. After completion, the article is checked carefully since most defects can be detected at first glance. However, the finer flaws surface only after washing. The washing is done in a bhatti, after which the garment is then starched and ironed. The whole cycle can take from one to six months. Originally, chikan embroidery was done with white thread on soft, white cotton fabric like muslin or cambric. It was sometimes done on net to produce a kind of lace. Today chikan work is not only done with coloured threads but on all kinds of fabrics like silk, crepe, organdie chiffon, and tassar.

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