Know About Pushkaram (The River Festival)

Pushkara Darshini (All you wanted to know about Pushkaram)

What is Pushkara?

Pushkara or Pushkar is a Sanskrit word derived from the element of Push (Pushti) meaning nourishment and Kara means one who does it.  Pushkara is the energy that nourishes. With reference to the sacred rivers, Pushkara means the one who energize the rivers and provide spiritual purification. Pushkara also means Lotus, sanctified water, Swan, Sword, Sky, Lake Etc.  In Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stothram sloka # 5 we find a reference to the word Pushkara where Lord Sri Maha Vishnu is referred to as Pushkaraakshah meaning the one who has lotus eyes, the one who provides nourishment to the entire Universe and the one who is always present in sacred Theerthas. In Tirumala Kshethra the water tank near Sri Varaha Swamy temple is known as Swamy Pushkarini.
In Astrology also we find a reference to the word Pushkara referred to as Pushkara Navamsa that purifies and nourishes the quality of the planet placed within it.  In Electional Astrology especially for a marriage muhurtha we find preference being given for Pushkara Navamsa for a given Lagna that brings strength to the muhurtha chart.  Pushkar is the name of a famous pilgrim center known as Pushkara Kshetra located in Rajasthan about 17 km from Ajmer city.  It is said and believed that the lake here known as Pushkara Lake was the creation of Lord Brahma on the banks of which He performed penance for several thousands of years.   You will find here one of the very few temples where Lord Brahma is worshipped.  Pushkara also indicates the 12 years time factor in Vedic terms.  Pushkara or Pushkaram is a festival of a particular river celebrated once in twelve years based on the transit of Jupiter (Brihaspathi) in the zodiac.

Who is Pushkara?

As per scripts it is said that Pushkara is the son of Lord Varuna the Presiding Deity of all the rivers.  As per the legend behind, it is said that, once Pushkara prayed Lord Brahma and asked Him for a boon to live in the sacred waters (emanated from the foot of Primordial Lord Sri Maha Vishnu) of His Kamandalu with the intention of providing purity to all the Theerthas (Rivers).  Looking at the selfless desire expressed by Pushkara, Lord Brahma granted him the boon to live in the waters of His Kamandalu. Later, Pushkara also performed penance and acquired the Jala Tattva Siddhi from Lord Shiva as a boon. By virtue of the boons acquired from Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, Pushkara became the King of all Theerthas and was regarded as the Theerthapalaka.

Pushkara & Brihaspathi (Jupiter)

At that time when Pushkara acquired the boons, Brihaspathi (Jupiter) the Devaguru also performed penance and pleased Lord Brahma.  Looking at the perpetual sacredness of Pushkara, Brihaspathi wanted Lord Brahma to spare Pushkara to be with him permanently.  But Pushkara was not prepared to go along with Brihaspathi.  Then, Lord Brahma resolved the situation by asking Pushkara to be associated with Brihaspathi (Jupiter) for 12 days in the beginning and 12 days at the end of his sojourn in a particular raasi (house) in the zodiac, the transit of which generally happens once in a year.   Accordingly, twelve sacred rivers have been identified in which Pushkara enters each River once in twelve years coinciding with the transit period of Jupiter in twelve zodiac signs.

Pushkara Schedule & Blessed Rivers

It has become a custom and tradition since time immemorial to celebrate the transit of Jupiter in a particular house in the zodiac as the Pushkara festival of a particular river.  The schedule is as follows.Pushkara schedule starts with Ganga River when Jupiter enters into Mesha Raasi which is the first sign in the zodiac. Pushkara schedule for a particular river will be for one year, however, the first twelve days known as Aadi Pushkara and the last twelve days known as Anthya Pushkara are held to be highly sacred.

Merits & Significance

Astrologically Jupiter (Brihaspathi) the Devaguru is the most benevolent planet symbolizing the wealth, fortune, learning, knowledge, divinity, progeny, domestic peace, auspiciousness and above all the karaka for occurrence of Pushkaram. Pushkara the Theertharaja always resides in the Kamandalu of Lord Brahma in the sanctified waters that has emerged out from the foot of Lord Sri ManNarayana.  Entry of Pushkara into a particular river signifies the Pushkara festival when, all the Brahmaadi Devathas, all the Sages, all the Pithru Devathas, all the Theerthas in this Bhoomandala including Ganga (Ganges) enters into that particular river along with Brihaspathi and Pushkara. This time of their entry into a particular river is considered as highly sacred and celestial that has the power to diminish the ghastly and dreadful sins committed. Having darshan, taking bath, touching Pushkara waters, drinking the sacred waters of Pushkara is considered to be highly meritorious and soul cleansing.  It is considered as the most sacred time to perform rites to forefathers on the banks of Pushkara River that will help them to attain salvation.

Pushkara Vidhi

Our ancient seers have prescribed certain austerities to be observed during Pushkara time known as Pushkara Vidhi. Most important are Pushkara Snana (taking bath), Pushkara Vaasa (staying), Pushkara Darshana, Siro Mundana (tonsuring of head), Fasting, Pushkara Pithru Karma, and Pushkara Dana (charity).

Pushkara Snana

In Hindu philosophy lot of significance has been given for taking bath which is Nithya karma and that too in a flowing river is considered as the paramount. Exclusive Snana Vidhi has been prescribed by our elders the details of which will be covered in future posts.  Taking bath in a sacred river during Parvakala is still more auspicious and when it is the days of Pushkara the merits are manifold.  It is said that during Pushkara all the Brahmaadi Devathas, Sages and Pithru Devathas will be residing in that Theertha (River) along with Brihaspathi and Pushkara. During Pushkara all the theerthas in the Universe will be entering into that particular river and will be flowing as Antarvahini.

Taking bath in a Pushkara river will help to cleanse the inner selves, wash out the evil tendencies and open up a path for a righteous living.  This bath should be taken early in the morning before Sunrise during Brahmi Muhurtham which is highly meritorious time.  It is believed that Pushkara Snana also has curative properties from chronic ill health.  After Pushkara Snana one has to pray and give Arghya to the concerned Pushkara Theertha (River), Theertha Raja (Pushkara), Brihaspathi, Lord Vishnu who is eternally present in all the Theerthas, Brahmaadi Devathas, Vasishtaadi Sages, Gangaadi Rivers and the Sun God (Sri Surya Narayana).

Pushkara - Pithru Karma

Pithru Yagna like performing Pithru Shraaddha, Tharpana have been prescribed to get discharged from Pithru Runa.  This has been in vogue since time immemorial and even Avathara Purushas like Sri Ramachandra (Lord Sri Rama), Lord Parashurama have performed Pithru karma.  We, the human beings are no exception to this dictum. Performing Pithru Karma during Pushkara days also forms part of the Pithru Yagna which is considered as highly sacred and meritorious.  Only those who have lost their parents are eligible to perform the sacred rites to their fore-fathers.  Pithru karma during Pushkara days has to be performed for all the deceased (Sarva Pithru).  It has to be performed on the banks of the sacred Pushkara River like a Theertha Shraaddha.

This has to be performed preferably in the form of Anna Shraaddha with Pinda Pradhana and Brahmana Bhojana.  Hiranya Shraaddha is also in vogue where instead of rice, wheat flour is used for making Pindas and instead of Brahmana Bhojana they will be offered Dakshina. Pushkara shraaddha can be performed on any day during the 12 day period of Pushkaram, or on the 9th day or on the Pithru thithi day if it coincides except on the day of Ekadasi.  It is said and believed that Pithrus (fore-fathers) will descend on Earth during Pushkara days and will reside on the banks of Pushkara River longing for their off-spring to perform Pithru Shraaddha. Performing Pushkara shraaddha, one will be bestowed with blessings from fore-fathers, peace and prosperity to the family. It will also work as remedy for various mundane problems one is facing in life related to marriage, progeny, health, poverty etc.

Pushkara Dana (Charity)

During Pushkara period Snana, Shraaddha and Dana are considered to be highly meritorious that gives eternal results.  This charity (Dana) can be given to Brahmins in the form of Dasa Dana (10 in number) or Shodasa Dana (16 in number).  Some of the charities prescribed are as follows.

Anna Dana, Gold, Silver, Bhoo-Dana, Rice, Ghee, Jaggery, Honey, Grandha (sacred text), Vasthra, Paada Raksha (Chappals), Umbrella, Hand Stick, Fan, Sayya (Bedding), Phala (Fruits), Bell (Ghanta), Paathra (brass/silver vessel), Asana (Mat), Nava Dhanya, Milk, Cow, Salagrama, Pinda Daana.

Pushkaram is a very big river based festival in India participated by lakhs of people including foreign tourists and is performed across the path of that particular river. Since time immemorial Hindus consider rivers as Divine and river worship in the form of Pushkaram is performed to make the mankind realize the significance of water the life sustaining force. It is our ardent duty to respect and follow the traditions and culture pioneered by our elders with a great foresight and Pushkaram is one such sacred Hindu sampradaya that has descended from Sages which is highly auspicious and meritorious.

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