Pushkaram is an Indian festival dedicated to worshiping of rivers. It is also known as Pushkaralu (in Telugu), Pushkara (in Kannada) or Pushkar.

Godavari Pushkaram at Bhadrachalam, 2015

It is celebrated at shrines along the banks of 12 major sacred rivers in India, in the form of ancestor worship, spiritual discourses, devotional music and cultural programmes. The celebration happens annually, once in 12 years along each river. Each river is associated with a zodiac sign, and the river for each year’s festival is based on which sign Jupiter is in at the time. Due to regional variations, some of the zodiac signs are associated with multiple rivers.[1]

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According to a legend mentioned in astrology treatises such as Jataka Parijata (1426), a Brahmin was granted a boon from Shiva after severe penance. The boon was that he would be able to live in water and purify the holy rivers. The Brahmin came to be known as Pushkara (“the one who nourishes”). On a request from Bṛhaspati (Jupiter), he decided to enter one of the 12 sacred rivers when Bṛhaspati traveled from one zodiac sign to another.[2]

Each river is associated with a zodiac sign, and the river for each year’s festival is based on which zodiac sign the planet Jupiter (Bṛhaspati) is in at that time.[3] There are periods when Jupiter is in retrograde motion, resulting in entry into the same Zodiac sign twice in a year. On such occasions, the second entry of Jupiter is reckoned for celebrating the first part of the festival.[4]

The Pushkaram tradition is not mentioned in the early Hindu texts; it is part of the medieval Hindu astrological lore. Therefore, the names of 12 rivers may vary depending on the regional traditions. For example, in Maharashtra, Bhima is associated with Scorpio sign, while in Tamil Nadu, Tamraparni is associated with it. The sacred rivers include:[1][2]:32

# Rashi (Hindu zodiac sign) Corresponding Western zodiac sign River Next Pushkaram
1 Mesha Aries Ganga; Ganga Pushkaram April 22 – May 5, 2023
2 Vrishabha Taurus Narmada; Narmada Pushkaram May 1-13, 2024
3 Mithuna Gemini Saraswati; Sarasvati Pushkaram May 15–26, 2025
4 Karka Cancer Yamuna; Yamuna Pushkaram June 2–13, 2026
5 Simha Leo Godavari; Godavari Pushkaram June 26 – July 7, 2027
6 Kanya Virgo Krishna, Krishna in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh; Krishna Pushkaralu

In Tamil Nadu, the festival is celebrated at the Sangu Theertham tank at Vedagiriswarar temple.

August 12–23, 2028
7 Tula Libra Kaveri; Kaveri Pushkaram September 12–23, 2029
8 Vrishchika Scorpio Bhima, Bhima in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana; Bhima Pushkaram

In Tamil Nadu, the festival is celebrated on the banks of Tamraparni river.

October 12–23, 2018[5]
9 Dhanus Sagittarius Tapti, (Pushkaravahini); Tapti Pushkaravahini

In Assam, the festival is celebrated on the banks of Brahmaputra river.

March 29 – April 9, 2019
10 Makara Capricorn Tungabhadra; Tungabhadra Pushkaralu November 20 – December 1, 2020
11 Kumbha Aquarius Sindhu (Indus); Sindhu Pushkaram April 6–17, 2021
12 Mina Pisces Pranhita (Parineeta); Pranahita Pushkaralu April 13–24, 2022

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