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Most Indians are well aware of the fact that in the Hindu religion there are 33 million different Gods. We are also well acquainted with the fact that every month there is some sort of festivity involved. However, little do we know that there are a number of different events that mark the Christian calendar.
In fact, most of these occur during Lent. For those of you who are unaware of the same, Lent is the period just prior to when the resurrection of Jesus is celebrated.
With the world gearing up for an Easter weekend, it is a good idea for us to learn more about the significance of the different occasions that come before and after Easter. One of the most important days in this period is that of Maundy Thursday.
This year, the day falls on the 29th of March. Thus if you are someone who thought that Christmas and New Year are the only two festivals that Christians celebrate, read on to widen your horizon and learn more about the second largest religion in the world.
• All About Maundy Thursday
Most of us are aware of the story of the Last Supper that Jesus Christ had with the Apostles. There have been numerous instances in modern an ancient art and literature that have depicted the same. Maundy Thursday is the day just prior to Good Friday and it is celebrated in honour of the great Last Supper. It is interesting to note that there isn't very elaborate mention of the Maundy Thursday in the Bible at all. In fact, it will be fair to say that the Bible neither proposes not rejects the celebration of this festival. It is left open to interpretation for one to decide on whether to celebrate this festival or not.
• One Festival Has Multiple Names
Considering that Christianity is the second largest religion in the world, it is obvious that its spread is also very wide. For a religion with a spread as wide as that of Christianity, it is obvious that one festival will be known by different names in different parts of the globe. Holy Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday, Covenant Thursday and Thursday of Mysteries are all the same thing and are used to signify this day of religious importance. In India, this festival is more popularly known as the Good Thursday.
• Literary Interpretation
The word 'Maundy' is derived from Latin and literally translates to the word 'command'. It is celebrated in honour of the command that Jesus gave to his twelve disciples on the night of the Last Supper. The command was to love one another and serve each other with utmost sincerity. It is here that Jesus stated that one must love their neighbour as much as they would love themselves. It is to be noted that it is with the same sincerity that Jesus performed the supreme sacrifice a day later and gave up his life for that of His children (that is all of us). Hence, the spirit of sacrifice and giving up one's pleasures for the greater good of others forms the core of the Maundy Thursday celebrations even today.
• A Walk Down History
In the past during the festival of Maundy Thursday the ruling Monarch would wash the feet of the poor. This foot washing ritual by the most powerful man or woman in the kingdom is in remembrance of how Jesus Christ humbled himself and washed the feet of his disciples. This act speaks volumes of the Christian way of life wherein each human being is treated in the same way and given the dignity of life that he or she deserves. This was a grand ritual and the common people looked forward to the same for the entire year. The ritual was carried out in the famous Westminister Abbey all the way up to the spring of 1689.
• A Turn In The Regal Celebrations
Since the last couple of centuries the celebration of Maundy Thursday was up for a major change. These days a Royal Maundy service is held in one of the largest cathedrals of Britain. Every year the choice of cathedral varies. This is done in order to ensure that a greater amount of people can be a part of the royal celebrations. The Queen also hands out Maundy Money to pensioners from in and around the area in which the cathedral for the Royal Maundy for that particular year is situated. This year the Queen will attend the Royal Maundy services at the Leicester Cathedral.
• Maundy Money
This is specially currency in Britain that is minted exclusively for Maundy Thursday. Unlike the ordinary currency, the Maundy Coins still show the same image of Her Royal Highness as that of the first coins that were issued during her coronation in the year 1953. Maundy Money is highly coveted and is a collectable entity and has value as a legal tender in Britain. Needless to say, Maundy Thursday celebrations in India go about without the presence of Maundy Money.
• Special Rituals
One very interesting custom that is associated with Maundy Thursday is that of the Queen giving out the Maundy Money. Every year the number of elderly men and women who receive the Maundy Money is equal to the number of years in the Queen's age. Thus the number increases by one with every passing year. In the Indian context, a number of Christian churches all over the country observe a foot washing ceremony to commemorate Jesus's washing the feet of his disciples.
• As India Follows Suit
The mere absence of Maundy Money does not lessen the spirit of celebrations in the country. The spirit of giving and that of universal brotherhood that is central to any Christian celebration remains unhindered. It is on this day that items of clothing, money and food are handed out to the most deprived sections of the society. This practice is carried out with all the zeal and fervour in the Christian-dominated areas of the country.