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Pushkaram - The Festival of Sacred Rivers in India

As per Hindu Sanatana Dharam, Pushkaralu of 12 selected sacred rivers are celebrated on specified dates / time based on the planetary position of Brihaspati i.e Jupiter planet. As per Vedic Astrology, Brihaspati remains in a zodiac sign for one year. The 1st continuous 12 days period of Jupiter's entry into a specific zodiac sign is celebrated as Pushkaram for the particular sacred river. There are 12 zodiac signs and hence Pushkaram for a particular river repeats after every 12 years.

Last year (2015), Godavari Pushkaralu was celebrated in a grand scale in the Telugu speaking states and in the state of Maharashtra - the place of origin of River Godavari. Again Godavari Pushkaralu will be celebrated after 12 years.

What is Pushkaram and who is Pushkara?

Since early civilization, rivers in India had been closely associated with Hindu culture and religion. Rivers have been considered as sacred / Holy ones or Goddesses and have been worshiped. Pushkaram is a Hindu festival which is dedicated to worshiping of rivers. It commemorates with the transit of Jupiter from one zodiac sign to the other (one Raashi to the other). During the holy period devotees take Holy dips in the specified rivers and worship the river.

According to ancient Hindu scriptures, Pushkara is believed to be the son of Lord Varuna (rain god) who is the presiding deity of rivers i.e. the main source of water for the rivers. As per legends, Pushkara and Brihaspati remain associated for the 1st 12 days when Jupiter enters a specific Raasi and last 12 days at the end of the transit period. Accordingly 12 sacred rivers have the privilege of Pushkara celebrations. Pushakaram of these rivers is celebrated when Jupiter / Brihaspati transits from one Raasi (zodiac sign) to the other:
  1. The cycle of Pushkaraulu begins with River Ganga when Brihaspati enters Mesha Raasi (Aries). It is celebrated as Ganga Pushkaram.
  2. Narmada Pushkaram when Jupiter enters Vrishabha Raasi (Taurus).
  3. Saraswati Pushkaram when Brihaspati enters Mithuna Raasi (Gemini).
  4. Yamuna Pushkaram is celebrated when Jupiter enters Karkataka Raasi (Cancer).
  5. Godavari Pushkaram when Brihaspati enters Simha Raasi (Leo).
  6. Krishna Pushkaram when Jupiter enters Kanya Raasi (Virgo).
  7. Kaveri Pushkaram when Brihaspati enters Thula Raasi (Libra).
  8. Bheema Pushkaram when Jupiter enters Thula Raasi (Libra).
  9. Pushkara Vahini when Brihaspati enters Dhanur Raasi (Sagittarius).
  10. Tungabhadra Pushkaram when Jupiter enters Makara Raasi (Capricorn).
  11. Sindhu Pushkaram when Brihaspati enters Kumbha Raasi (Aquarius).
  12. And when Jupiter enters Meena Raasi (Pisces), Pranahita Pushkaram is celebrated.
Pushkaralu for a specific river occurs / is celebrated once in every 12 years and the cycle keeps repeating. Godavari Pushkaralu is celebrated once in every 12 years when Brihaspati enters Simha Raasi. The 1st 12 days of the transit are celebrated as Aadi Pushkara and the last 12 days of the transit period are celebrated as Antya Pushkara.

Religious and Scientific Significance of Pushkaralu

As per Vedic Astrology, Brihaspati who is responsible for the occurrence of Pushkara is the most benevolent planet that symbolizes wealth, knowledge, fortune, progeny, family well-being and peace and overall prosperity.

It is believed that when Brihaspati and Pushkara remain in association during the Pushkaralu in the specified river, all the gods (Brahmaadi Devatalu), all great rishis (sages), pitru devatas (ancestors) and all the rivers (teerthas) including Holy River Ganges enter into the specified river thus making the specific river highly sacred. Due to this acquired sacredness, the specific rivers gets energized and gets power-packed. Having a darshan of the sacred river, taking a holy dip in the river waters, drinking the river waters or even just sprinkling the river waters on one's head helps in removing all the sins committed and thus cleanses one's body, soul and inner self which in turn helps in attaining salvation or Moksha.

It is even considered a sacred time to perform rites to forefathers in the banks of the Pushkara rivers as it is a belief that this helps the forefathers in attaining salvation.

During summer, rivers and other sources of water dry up due to evaporation. Rivers get enriched with water during monsoon. Rivers which mostly originate in mountains are full of potential energy and the water gains kinetic energy as it flows down. Hence, taking a dip in such a flowing water helps in energizing the body. Above all, water is essential for sustenance of life on Earth.

Certain vidhis / austerities need to be observed during the Pushkaram. These include holy dip (pushkara snanam), stay in the place of pushkaram (vasati), a visit to the place (Pushkara darsanam), tonsuring of head (siro mundanam), fasting (upavasam), pitru karma (performing rites to ancestors) and finally charity (danam).

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