By Swami Harshananda
Utsava literally means ‘productive of happiness’.
General Usage of The Word Utsava
In general, the word means a festive occasion, though quite a few fanciful definitions have been offered. Utsava means festivals and sacred days which gradually replace the Vedic sacrifices of the olden days. They are intended to secure the well-being of all the creatures to bring about peace and enable people to get their desires fulfilled. As for the details of the various utsavas or festivals like Gaṇeśacaturthi, Janmāṣṭamī and Rāmanavamī, see under the respective titles.
General Classification of the Utsavas
Utsavas are a special feature of the temples. They are classified in various ways. The most common classification is as follows:
- Nitya - routine festivities conventionally fixed for the whole year, month and day.
- Naimittika - festivals or rites connected with occasional events, prescribed to be gone through in special situations like eclipse, fire in the temple campus, epidemics, damage to icons and so on.
- Kāmya - festivals conducted to secure the desires of the devotees.
Individual Classifications Per Temple
There are other types of classifications also. Temple utsavas of a major kind, like the brahmotsava, generally involve the following procedure:
- Aṅkurāropa - sowing of sprouts
- Dhvajārohaṇa - hoisting of the temple flag to indicate the commencement of the utsava
- Bherīnāda - beating the big drum of the temple
- Yāga and homa - fire- rituals
- Balipradāna - food-offerings
- Mahotsava - processions
- Tīrthasnāna - bathing the deity in the temple tank
- Puṣpayāga - flower-worship
- Dhvajāva-rohaṇa - bringing down the flag
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore