Festivals and Features Related to Our Moon


Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

Like the sun, the moon also plays an important role in the lives of people around the world and especially in India. Many poems and songs are recited in praise of the Moon especially on the Poornima and amavasya (Full moon and new moon nights). The importance of the Moon can be seen linguistically also. The day Monday (in English), Lundi ,  Somvaar  in French and Hindi respectively, all refer to our planet.

Several Indian festivals are observed in India and in Buddhist countries in the context of the moon. Some of the important ones are Guru Poornima, Holi, Buddha Poornima, Guru Nanak’s Anniversary, Diwalietc.

Guru Poornima   celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Buddhists in India, Nepal — paying respect to your Gurus, teachers and seeking happiness and enlightenment

Holi— festival of colours played by dousing your friends and family members in gulal  (natural colours) and sprinkling coloured water on  the Poornima day of March . It is celebrated out of joy after a bountiful agricultural harvest mainly in north India.

Buddha  Poornima  day when Gautam Buddha was born in 623 BC in Lubini, now in Nepal. It is usually a holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and south East Asian countries where large number of people are Buddhists.

Diwali falls on amavasya — the New moon night when the moon is crescent shaped as observed from the Earth. It is a joyous festival celebrated with lights on the return of Lord Ram to his kingdom after a fourteen year exile in various places and forests in India and Sri Lanka. Several countries especially USA, Canada and England where a large Indian Diaspora exists, also join in the Diwali celebrations by lighting important buildings and Hindu temples and feasting.

Guru Purab— Birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of the religion Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh Gurus. His birth is celebrated worldwide as Gurpurabon Kartik Poornima, the full-moon day that falls in the month of October–November. He was born in 1469, in Nankana  Sahib  that now is located in Pakistan. Recently on the full moon day on 12 November 2019, large number of events were organised in India and other countries to celebrate his 550th birth anniversary. He died in 1539 at the age of 70 years in Kartarpur, a place which has now become a place of reconciliation between India and Pakistan.

Not only in India and Asia, the moon has significance in Christianity and Islam.

The Easter festival is celebrated in Christianity to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The date of the festival is not fixed. It is celebrated on the first Sunday of a full moon day after March 21. It usually falls between March 21 and April 25.

Eid-ul-fitris celebrated by Muslims at the end of the holy month of Ramadan where a Muslim is not supposed to eat or drink during day time. The festival begins after the sighting of the crescent moon amavasya or the new moon day. Since it is often difficult to sight the new moon, Muslims generally depend on the official announcement of the sighting of the moon.

Similarly, the moon has its significance in Judaism and other religions and faiths for worshipping and seeking its benediction. In addition it is not surprising to know that several tribal peoples also look towards the Moon both as a Deity and as a source of light and beauty and celebrate their relationship with it in their own unique ways by dancing, singing and feasting.

Apart from the worship of the Moon by various religions and celebrations of several festivals, this unique planet of our Earth has been a source of scientific curiosity by various countries from the time of Copernicus and Galileo. India also had observatories for the study of the Moon and solar and lunar eclipses from pre historic times. The USSR sent a satellite to the Moon to study its features in 1960s.  The first men who landed on the Moon’s surface were the Americans, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Buzz Aldrin, on July 20, 1969. The third astronaut of the Apollo spacecraft was Michael Collins but he did not step on the Moon’s surface.

On stepping on its surface, Neil Armstrong made a statement that has reverberated all over the world: “A small step for man, a large step for mankind.”

India also has a scientific program called Chandrayan mission for the study of the Moon under the aegis of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation).

In October of this year, the Chandrayan2 programme that was aimed at exploring the other side of the moon by a combination of orbiter and lander entities on the moon was launched. Unfortunately the desired objective could not be met because of the complexity of the program. However scientists in ISRO are not dejected. They say they have learnt quite a bit even in its failure. They plan to send another rocket and lunar craft to the moon soon.

We see that the Earth’s planet has been a source of faith for centuries and scientific study. It is not too difficult to guess at our fascination for the Moon in our cultures — music, dance, festivities and now in science and technology. Some people feel that men and women will start living in some specially designed pockets of the Moon by the end of this century. The idea does not seem farfetched considering how degraded and polluted our Earth has become.

Let us go to the Moon but let us sustain our Earth at the same time. Such a thought gives us a feeling of peace and harmony.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. ravipbhatia@gmail.com


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 25 Nov 2019.

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