Significance of Easter to Indians
1. Mother Goddess Eostre. 1
2. The Date of Easter Festival 1
3. What is Easter Egg and Easter Bunny?. 2
4. Spring Festival Celebrations Around the World. 2
Easter Friday this year falls on 5th April 2007. It is one of the few festivals celebrated round the globe as a holiday. Easter is one of the most ancient festivals of the world and has been celebrated in Europe by the pagans for more than 2500 years. Later Christians in order to get popular acceptance in Europe adopted this Pagan festival around 10th century. Easter is closely associated with the Hindu New Year festival known as Varsha Pratipada which heralds the coming of Vasant Ritu or spring season.
1. Mother Goddess Eostre
Eostre is the spring goddess of ancient Anglo-Saxon people. She is the goddess of fertility and ensures progeny and continuity of the race. This is similar to the Indian spring festival Varsha Pratipada also known in different parts of India as Gudi Padwa, Cheti Chand, Yugadi or the Hindu New Year. It fell on 19th March this year and proclaims the coming of spring season after the cold winter months. The planet which was covered by snow and appeared brown now becomes green with many plants sprouting all over. It falls around spring equinox.
2. The Date of Easter Festival
Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs upon or next after the vernal equinox (taken as March 21). Easter therefore can fall between March 22 and April 25. Easter following the phases of the moon is not a new phenomenon to Indians. Most Indian festivals also follow the course of the moon. Varsha Pratipada falls on the first day after Amavasya in the month of Chaitra. We also have festivals like Akshaya Tritiya, Ganesh Chaturthi, Naag Panchami or Rang Panchami, Skanda Sashti, Ratha Saptami, Gokul Ashtami, Ram Nawami, Vijaya Dashami, Vijaya Ekadashi, Vinayak Chaturdashi and Guru Purnima falling on different phases of the moon.
3. What is Easter Egg and Easter Bunny?
Millions of eggs and egg-shaped replicas are bought, decorated, given as gifts and happily eaten every Easter by millions of people all over the world.
Why the egg? To understand the egg’s prominent place in Easter celebrations we need to go far back in history to the origins of the festival. The name Easter is derived from Eostre, the ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility whose rebirth after the dark northern winter was heralded by feasting, bon-fires and various rituals involving the egg. The Anglo-Saxons believed Eostre was reincarnated in the form of a hare, since it was widely believed that when hunted, the mother hare would sacrifice itself so that its offspring could escape. The cute little Easter bunny that today pops up on greetings cards or in chocolate shops is a survivor of those beliefs. The ancients saw life and continuity of offspring in the eggs and hence it finds a place in this festival. In the Indian epic Mahabharat, to the question by yaksha as to what has life but does not move Yudhishtra answers as “Egg”. Hindus use paddy and cereals as a sign of life and continuity in their New Year rituals.
In former Yugoslavia, children still design nests for hares in their gardens and next morning find brightly painted eggs deposited there. In Germany and Hungary children carry baskets decorated with painted hares, in which they collect chocolate eggs and other small gifts on Easter Sundays.
While the Anglo-Saxons were wrong in assuming hares hatched from eggs, they were right in associating eggs with Spring renewal.
4. Spring Festival Celebrations Around the World
The rebirth of a spring deity has been celebrated through rituals and feasting not only by Anglo-Saxons but by other cultures all around the world.
Hindus have been celebrating this festival as Chaitra Varsha Pratipada or Yugadi or Cheti Chand or Gudipadwa since times immemorial. This is followed by eight days of fasting for Goddess Parvati. This is followed by feasting for Rama Nawami, the birth of Lord Ram of Ayodhya.
The ancient Egyptians marked the rebirth of the God Osiris with eight days of celebrations.
It is from these celebrations that we get the eight days of Easter, known as Holy Week, which begins on Palm Sunday and finishes on Easter Sunday.
In ancient Rome, an annual festival was held for the rebirth of the God Attis, whose return was celebrated with banqueting, processions and sporting events. This festival was held just after the spring equinox, and it is from here that we derive the date of Easter, which always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. This means Easter can fall any time between March 21 and April 25;
In China people were offering each other painted red eggs during the Ching Ming (Pure Brightness) festival as far back as 3,000 years ago.
Central to all ancient spring festivals are huge feasts celebrating the fact that the spring was return to abundance after long, lean winters without fresh food.
(This article is based on details available in Encyclopedia Britannica and Microsoft Encarta)
-1- March 2006