The first day of this month has carved its own place in the world-calendar, but there are so many other days celebrated in April that if you sit down to count, practically every day has its own significance. So i decided to compile a ‘list’ ~ in the tradition of ‘top-ten- of-something’ lists that are so ubiquitous these days. (The knowledge of some of these ‘days’ below, is courtesy the many Facebook and WhatsApp posts that seek to ‘inform and enlighten’!)
Apr 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day—a day designated so by the United Nations since 2007 to “bring individual autism organisations around the world to aid in things like research, diagnoses, treatment, and overall awareness for those with the disorder.” There was time when my only knowledge of autism came from that 1988 classic, “Rainman” with Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of the condition, specially his prodigious abilities, or ’savant skills’ as they are called, being a sort of benchmark for all autistic people. Thanks to such initiatives, people have a better understanding of the condition today.
April 7th is designated World Health Day and is sponsored by WHO to spread global health awareness. (Incidentally WHO has 7 such days, with another one—World Malaria Day– also falling in April on the 25th of this month.) The day also marks the founding of the WHO and is taken as an opportunity to draw the attention of the world populace to issues that affect global health. A different health-theme is taken up each year and this year it was declared that the focus would be on that lifestyle disease of our times—Diabetes; the aim being “to scale up prevention, strengthen care and enhance surveillance of diabetes.”
Then there are days which ‘move annually’ between March and April—our Hindu festivals being prime examples. Just recently however i learnt from a Christian friend that even Easter is a ‘moving festival’ and depends on the full moon after March 21 or the vernal equinox, with Easter being celebrated on the first Sunday after that! (Must confess that i felt a wee sheepish when she shared this for inspite of my so called ‘convent educated’ background, i had never heard of this earlier!!) This year that happened to be on March 27th. Easter is the story of the last days of Jesus in Jerusalem, before his crucification. The Easter story includes Maudy Thursday (The Last Supper leading to Eucharist or the Holy Communion rite), Good Friday (the day Christ was crucified) and Easter Sunday (the day he came back to life). For Christians, the dawn of Easter Sunday with its message of new life is the high point of the Christian year.
Among Hindus, one of the most auspicious dates (or ‘tithis’ as they are called in Vedic time-keeping), also falls in this March-April time zone.
(To digress here, there are four ’tithis’ which are considered extremely auspicious as per traditional Vedic astrology. Astronomically the Sun and the Moon are believed to be in their most exalted position on these days and so every second is highly auspicious and there is no need look for any ‘muhurtham’. People choose these days for performing important life-events like house warmings, marriages, naming-ceremonies, even investing in property and valuable items like jewellery etc. The first falls on the first day of the lunar month of Chaitra (March-April) which is considered the first month of the year. The lunar month starts with the ’shukla-paksha’ (the bright fortnight or the waxing phase of the moon). Most of us in the North also know it as the first Chaitra-Navratri while in the south it is Ugaadi or Gudi-padwa. The second such date is called ‘akshay-tritiya’ which falls on the third day of the ‘shukla-paksha’ of the lunar month of Vaisakh (April-May). The third is Vijay-dashmi, the tenth day of the ‘shukla-paksha’ in the month of Ashwin (Sep-Oct) and the fourth (also considered a half-muhurath) falls in the month of Kartik, on the day after Diwali.)
They say during the lunar month of Chaitra the sun assumes a position above the point of intersection of the equator and the meridians. It is supposed to be in the first point of Aries, which is the first sign of the zodiac and hence the celebrations associated with a new year and new beginnings. India being a predominantly agrarian culture, this period also marks the end of one harvest season, the rabi crop. The celebrating of Baisakhi and Vishu on 13th April and Rangoli Bihu on 14th April all form part of this tradition.