Indian Festivals

Some Indian Festivals similar to the Osiris Festival

V. Krishnakumar, N. M. Krishnakumar

1. Onam 

One of the greatest festivals of Kerala, and unique to India is the Onam festival. It is the time when king Mahabali visits his people in Kerala. Mahabali was pushed to netherworld by Ulagam Alanda Perumal (UAP)/Trivikrama. However, since Mahabali loved his subjects, he was permitted to visit them once a year, his visit is celebrated as Onam. One can find a detailed description of this festival in [95] and plenty of other websites. Some important points that map to Egyptian connection of Onam are as follows:

  1. Onam is the festival of harvest.
  2. We have already mapped Bali to Osiris and UAP to Seth in an earlier article.
  3. Statues of Bali and Vamana are made in pyramidal shape and worshipped. Making of Osiris effigy is also an Egyptian tradition in the festival of Osiris. The pyramidal shape of effigy suggests possible Egyptian origin.
  4. Trikkakara is believed to be the place of Mahabali where there is a Vamana temple. The temple also has a god called Rakshassu. Thrikkakara can be the source of the word Trivikrama, the other name of UAP. The word Rakshassu is significant, it is used synonymously with Asura, it possibly refers to Mahabali as Asura. The Egyptian name of Osiris is Asar [1], it can also be read Asur, as the Egyptian hieroglyphs lack vowels [24].
  5. There is a beautiful song of Onam remembering the great day of Bali’s rule [95]. Osiris was also praised for his great qualities.
  6. It is also the birthday of Lord Anantha-Padmanabha whom we map to Osiris in a future article.
  7. The statue of Mahabali will be immersed in the sea on the tenth day of Onam. Whereas in Osiris festival his effigy is buried [1].

2. Yaanai Pandigai of South India 

There is a community called Srivaishnava in South India, who follow Saint Sri Ramanujacharya. A subset of them who live in South India celebrate a festival called Yaanai Pandigai in the latter half of December, close to the winter solstice. The celebration involves making a clay idol of elephants with a depression at its abdomen. They decorate the idol with white and red dots on its head, temples, ears, trunk and limbs. The clay elephant is robed and ornamented, and an idol of the baby Lord Krishna is kept over it. Every evening for 3-5 days, the idols are worshipped with lamps, incense, flowers and food. Turmeric powder and a red powder called ‘Kumkumam’ are rubbed over the idol’s face. There is one unique thing about the worshipping procedure on the first day: women circumambulate the idols holding a pitcher filled with milk, spilling the milk on their way three times. Rows of lamps are lit all round the house all night. In fact the other name for this festival is “Vishnu Deepam”, where ‘Deepam’ means ‘lamp’. On the 3rd or 5th day, the elephant idols are taken in a procession to a pond or lake; a specially prepared dish made of rice and curd is filled in the hollow of the idol’s abdomen, and are ceremonially immersed in water, after worshipping with incense and lamps.

There is a more general celebration in South India called ‘Shiva Deepam’ or ‘Vishnu Deepam’ where lamps are lit around the houses through out the month, especially on the first day of the festival that begins on the winter solstice.

There are some similarities of this festival to that of Osiris:

  1. The theme of the festival is to create an image of god and to ceremonially bury it or immerse it in water, in both Egyptian [1] and Indian festivals..
  2. Making the clay idol, robing and ornamenting it, smearing the yellow turmeric powder are similar to the worshipping of idol of Osiris in Denderah as well as Sais [1].
  3. Circumambulating with milk may be a surrogate to taking the cow around the temple seven times in Sais in Egypt [1].
  4. Row of lamps burning all night around the houses is similar to what is celebrated in Egypt [1].
  5. The time of the Indian and Egyptian festivals [1] match.

Elephant idols are made in Yaanai pandigai possibly because, at a later point of time, Indra might have been mapped to Osiris, thus his mount Airavatha, an elephant, would have represented Osiris. We compare Indra to Osiris in detail elsewhere.

Alternatively, the Elephant may represent Seth of Egypt as well. Seth is represented by a gigantic animal in Egypt [1], therefore we find several occasions where he is mapped to elephant in India as we will be discussing this in greater detail in a later article. The points in support of mapping the elephant of this festival to Seth are as follows:

  1. Seth idol is made and destroyed in Egypt with an intension to ward off his ill effects [5].
  2. Worshippers fill curd rice in elephant’s abdomen praying him to return peacefully, again suggesting their fear, thus mapping it to Seth.
  3. Seth carried Osiris after being defeated by Horus [87], Lord Krishna idol on the clay elephant may commemorate this.

3. Dipawali festival in India 

There are two myths related to the Dipawali festival that deserve comparison with festival of Osiris.

  1. Hindus celebrate Dipawali in mid-November. After death, Osiris reunited with Isis, his sister and wife. He also became the lord of the netherworld [1]. Many earlier researchers [7,12] have compared Osiris-Isis pair to Lord Yama and his sister Yami. The New Year of Gujarat is on the day of Dipawali, when Yama meets his sister Yami. Note that Yama is the lord of the netherworld in India. The timing of the festival is comparable.
  2. Dipawali was the day when Visnhu as Trivikrama or Ulanam Alanda-Perumaal(UAP) pushes Mahabali to the netherworld. It may be recalled that we have shown the similarity between Mahabali and UAP to Osiris and Seth respectively.

4. Birth festival of Lord Krishna 

Some of the Hindus celebrate Lord Krishna’s birth and death on the same day, it is called Krishna-Jayanthi, for example Srivaishnavas of South India. The celebration has a sad and a happy component; generally the sadness is observed by fasting, in several of Indian festivals, as will be shown in number of articles. The dishes prepared in the festival include those of festivity and also of death ceremony. This is quite similar to the death and resurrection of Osiris celebrated in a few-day long single festival in Egypt [1].

Birth of Lord Krishna has varied celebrations across India. One of the South Indian communities, the Srivaishnavas, have a practice with a very unique name: they place the idol of Lord Krishna under a structure, which they call ‘Phalavastra’ meaning ‘fabric of fruits’. What they actually do is, they have a grid roof on the top of four pillars from which they suspend all available fruits, and decorate it with flowers and mango leaves. They claim that they are simulating ‘Kalpavriksha’, which yields all varieties of food. The word ‘fabric of fruits’ does not match the structure or the explanation. What is more likely is, that once it was a fabric of fruits with which they were draping the Lord. This matches the picture of Osiris in one of the temples of Egypt where Osiris is decked with all fruits of the earth [1].

Krishna is the god of fertility. In the very sacred temple of Vishnu in Srivilliputtur, South India, childless couples pray holding the cradle of Lord Krishna. Osiris, being the god of fertility in Egypt [1], may map to Lord Krishna.

5. A twin festival: Bhimana Amavasye and Nagarapanchami: 

There are two festivals celebrated in South India with a gap of four days that have similarity with Osiris festival. They are Bhimana-amavasye and Nagarapanchami.

Bhimana Amavasye: This festival is celebrated in South India, especially by the people who speak Kannada language. As the myth goes [85], a prince of a kingdom dies at an early age before he got married. The father, longing to see his son married announces that he would suitably honor any one who marries his son posthumously. A poor girl, out of financial necessity of her parents, offers to marry the dead prince. While she was cremating the prince after marrying him, a rain prevents the body from burning. She prays Lord Shiva for getting back her husbands’ life. Lord moved by her prayers, brings the prince back to life.

The ritual involves making a human effigy that is worshipped with a single lamp by young women for the welfare of their husbands. The lamp is called Shiva-Linga. Brothers meet their sisters and accept gifts during the festival. This is similar to the New Year day celebration in Gujarat where brothers meeting their sisters is considered as the enactment of Yama meeting his sister Yami. Recall that Yama is the lord of the netherworld, as is Osiris and hence Yama-Yami map to Osiris-Isis as discussed in [7].

Following are the similarities with the Egyptian myths and rituals:

  1. The myth of a woman getting life back for her husband following prayers is similar to Isis resurrecting Osiris with the help of god Thoth [1].
  2. The worship of an effigy here is similar to the ritual in Osiris festival [1].
  3. The name of the festival is Bhimana amavasye, meaning the new moon day festival of Bhima, the consort of Draupadi. We have already mapped Draupadi to Isis in an earlier article. Osiris, the consort of Isis is mapped in general to Pandavas, thus we can map him here to Bhima. What is strange is, the myth of this festival does not talk about Draupadi or Bhima anywhere. Therefore, it is possible that its origin is forgotten and the name of the festival is just passed on through generations.

Nagarapanchami: The celebration involves the following:

  1. Worshipping the snake god.
  2. Brothers meet sisters and accept gifts as in Bhimana amavasye.
  3. In addition there is an interesting ritual as follows: sisters dip a flower in milk and touch the navel of their brothers.

Our speculation is as follows: In the case of mapping Lord Ranganatha to Osiris, we have already mentioned that, the ithyphallic nature of Osiris is replaced by a lotus stalk with Brahma at its apex in the case of Ranganatha. That is, the lotus stalk at the navel is a modest replacement for the phallus. Here the theme can be quite similar. The story of this twin festival is the revival of the dead husband by the poor girl, which we have mapped to Isis in a humble guise resurrecting her brother-husband Osiris. However one may recall that Isis could not recover Osiris’ genitals while threading together his body. Thus she made one out of wood to replace the missing member. The twin festival being similar to this story, might commemorate this act of Isis, by an act of the sister touching the navel of her brother with a flower dipped in milk, possibly a gesture of anointing his wound. Thus the name of the festival may actually refer to Osiris, where ‘Naga’ means cobra, note that Osiris is also called Serapis. The mapping looks natural. Here a flower is used to touch the navel, while in the case of Rangantha, a flower stalk is connected to his navel. Again we reiterate that, it is possible that the origin of the ritual is forgotten and the modest version of the ritual of this festival is just passed on through generations.

6. Chhat festival 

Chhat festival celebrated in India looks similar to Sed festival of Egypt [1] discussed in the previous article. As the myth goes, Draupadi observed this ritual for the benefit of her consorts Pandavas, though they were benefited only much later. The goal of Chhat is rejuvenation. The goddess worshipped in Chhat is ‘Ushas’ who is mapped to Isis in [4]. We mapped Isis to Draupadi in our earlier article.

The rituals of Chhat are as follows:

Day 1: Houses are cleansed after a ritual bath, and there is feast

Day 2: Women fast till evening, worship the earth god and then have food

Day 3:Offerings are made to the Sun god near a river. A canopy of five sugar cane sticks is made over an earthen lamp, the canopy signifies the five elements that make a human body.

Day 4: Offerings are made to the Sun god again in the early morning.

Following are the similarities between Chhat and Sed festival:

  1. The idea of rejuvenation of the husband.
  2. The myth that Draupadi performed it, who is the counterpart of Isis.
  3. Draupadi had a delayed benefit of winning the war as did Horus.
  4. Women are the main performers in both Sed and Chhat.
  5. The canopy made on third day with sugar cane sticks may map to the structure made of poles and curtains in Sed.
  6. Fasting in several Indian festivals map to mourning. Therefore, fasting in Chhat may map to death of the king enacted in Sed.

Finally, the name ‘Chhat’ resembles ‘Sed’. In Tamil, ‘Chhat’ is also pronounced as ‘sat’, meaning ‘die’.

Final conclusions: 

Onam, Yaanai Pandigai, Krishna-Jayanthi, Dipawali, Bhimana-amavasye, Nagarapanchami and Chhat festivals have commonality with the Egyptian festivals of Osiris.

Bibliography 

[1] J.G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, A study in Magic and Religion, 3rd Edition, Macmillan and Co. London, 1914

[4] Muata Ashby, The African origins of Civilization, Religion, Yoga Mysticism, and Ethics Philosophy, 2nd Edition, ISBN 1-884564-50-X, 2005

[5] Richard H Wilkinson, The Complete gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt, Thames and Hudson, London, 2003

[7] David Frawley, Gods, sages and Kings, Vedic secrets of ancient civilization, MLBD, New Delhi, 1993

[12] http://satyavidya.com/egypt.htm

[24] Egyptian Writing Systems and Grammar, Shawn C. Knight, Spring 2009

[85] Vedamurthy Sri Lakshminarasimha Shastry, Sateekaa Vratharathnam, T S Krishnayyashetty and Sons, India

[87] http://henadology.wordpress.com/theology/netjeru/

[95] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onam

 

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One Response to Indian Festivals

  1. Narasimha says:

    I like this

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