Many generations of Telugu speaking families who relocated to South Africa have kept their culture and traditions to this very day, which is similar and sometimes not so similar to Tamil tradition. As a descendant of the Ashtasahasram caste, our rituals differed slightly in terms of prayers during this holy period. It is also the period known to the Telugu community as Karthika Masam which is the 8th month in the Telugu Panchangam or calendar.
What is special about Karthika Masam? It is a month-long festival, starting just after Deepavali Amavasya where both the Hindu god Shiva and Lord Vishnu are worshipped and revered.
The month begins from Aswayuja Suklapournami and remains a sacred month for both Saivite and Vaishnava followers. The Purtassi festival dedicated to Lord Venkateswara is also a means of fasting to please Saturn or Sani Bhagavan, one of the nine planets. During the month of Purtassi, Saturdays are observed for the worship of Hanuman and Shri Balaji because Saturdays are free from the influences of Saturn and other planetary forces known as the Grahas. The month of Purtassi 2020 fasting season for Hindus starts on 17 September until 16 October and that too under the lockdown. Prayers are dedicated to the worship of the Hindu god Mahavishnu (the preserver) who is the absolute symbol of the transcendent state of Ananda.
The entire purpose of venerating both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu during these is their aspect of oneness, while Mahavishnu laid to sleep, Shiva laid rampage to demons that plagued the world.
The Holy Trinity
In the Holy Trinity (Trimurthi) of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, the Preserver is Vishnu. It is the period of the year in which we pay homage to Lord Vishnu. Therefore our worship is thanksgiving to mother nature for preservation.
Preservation is a Divine Attribute which embraces many aspects of our life to which we invoke Lord Vishnu as Emperumal, Govinda, Gopala, Venkateswara, Hari Narayana, Balaji, Srinivasa, Runganatha, Ramchandra, etc. It was in the month of Purtassi, Lord Vishnu in the form of Sri Venkata Chala Pahi (Balaji) came to earth to guide people and left his form in the Thiruppathi Hills in India. Therefore people from all parts of the world flock to India to pay homage to Thirupathi to get a glimpse of the Divine form by taking vows to overcome their problems.
At many Temples, the Garudan Flag is hoisted on the first day of the month. In the case of the Shree Emperumal Hindu Temple, a flag is not hoisted on the first day of the month because the insignia of Garudan lies permanently at the entrance of this temple in South Africa. This flag is renewed annually during the Thiruna Festival. However, the first day of the month, Malayappa Swamy and his two consorts and Lord Ganesha are taken in procession around the temple to herald this sacred month. Thereafter prayers are held on each Saturday of the month. Special recitals pertaining to Lord Vishnu are conducted from religious books like Garuda Parthu and Thirunaam Padhigam. Devotees hail the phrase: “Govinda, Govinda, Govinda”, after each verse is recited.
Devotees, especially on Saturdays, wear the Namam or the Vaishnavite symbol. Symbolically, the Naamam represents Lord Vishnu’s two feet in his reclined pose – which is represented in the shape of a capital “U” (white). The central stroke represents the Thrishaum (red stroke) – Mother Lutchmee.
Saturdays are observed for the worship of Hanuman and Shri Balaji because Saturdays are free from the influences of Saturn and other planetary forces (Grahas). In this month planets like Mercury and Ketha influence the earth. Therefore, the worship of Lord Vishnu with devotion and love will help us to have a peaceful and happy life with good and obedient children.
“Bakthi” is the main theme of all the rituals in the month. Benefits from observing Purtassi.
- The community becomes united during this period. We must strive at all times to be united.
- The restrictions to a vegetarian diet are not only an act of self-discipline but this abstinence has profound religious significance, which helps in the purification of the body, mind and soul. It helps to discipline the mind, removes waste and toxins from the body and helps to revitalise the body in its capacity to function well. It further helps the mind to become more alert and reflexes becomes sharper.
- Devotion to God, especially during this Kaliyug period, is important. This period which is characteristic of excessive greed for power, extreme hatred, jealousy, anger and intolerance have polluted the life of man in general all over the world. We must strive, seek and maintain the following virtues: truth, peace, righteousness and non-violence. This helps people in directing their thoughts towards God Realisation.
Do Telugu or Andhra communities participate during the Tamil month of Purtassi?
The understanding is that Purtassi is the Tamil fasting month. As a Telugu person, many are unsure if one should be fasting or not. But the general consensus is that Andhra descendants fast in the same month as the Tamil speaking community. There are a variety of different versions of this debate in South Africa. Over the years, the have been variations of the Purtassi fasting month has been mystified. Each person has his or her own version of whether Telugu’s should or shouldn’t fast.
The South African Telugu community has over the decades often followed the Tamil concept of the fasting period. But there are distinct differences in the Telugu version of fasting. Those of us with children whether we are Telugu speaking or Tamil speaking would like to instil the correct beliefs in the younger generation. Personally, I would not want them to grow up confused as I was.
Andhra fasting period explanation
Karthika Masam/Kartheeka masam is the eighth lunar month of Indian astrological charts. It comes around November of Gregorian calendar. Karthika masam is considered very sacred and there are many reasons for it:
Importance of Karthika masam
- Lord Vishnu goes to sleep on Ashadha suddha ekadashi and wakes-up on Karthika suddha ekadashi.
- Lord Shiva kílled Tripurasuras on Karthika Purnami and protected the world.
- In this month Ganga (Godess of river Ganges) enters in to all rivers, canals, ponds and wells and makes them as pious as Ganga.
- Ayyappa Deeksha is also taken in Karthika masam and is continued up to Makara Sankranthi (January 15th)
The most important aspect of Karthika masam is hearing Karthika puranam. It is called as Karthika Vratham. It normally includes the following rules:
- Waking up early in Brahmi Muhartham (4.00A.M)
- Whilst bathing remember Mother Ganga
- Shiva Puja / Damodara (Vishnu) Puja
- Lighting Akasha Deepam during sunset
- Understanding Karthika Puranam
Your Andhra fasting practice explained
It starts with Abhyangana Snana that means we should bathe/ shower (including hair) every morning for whole 30 days or at least auspicious days including Mondays.
- Fasting: You have to fast until the evening. You can eat after Sun goes down after looking at the sky, my grandmother was one of them who carried this rule out for the entire month.
- You can have fruits and milk during fasting but not cooked food. As I currently fast on Mondays, Poornima.
- Avoid onions for the whole month.
- Pooja: If possible a Shiva Pooja is suggested otherwise recitation some Siva Stotrams.
- Ensure that Deepam is lit every evening.
- People light wicks (Vathulu) 100 or 360 counts in a Sivan temple or any temple on any auspicious days during the month. Some may recite the Siva Puranam.
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