Top 10 Indian festivals
Who doesn’t like celebrating small and big occasions all across the world? Festivals give people a reason to rejoice, get together with the family, and catch up with their near and dear ones. How can one forget savoring the special delicacies made especially during festivals?
Festivals are an inherent part of every culture and India is no exception. In fact, since it is a unique land with many diverse cultures, languages and religions, it has probably the highest number of festivals in the world. There is a general belief that in India, everyday there is a festival being celebrated in some part of the country!
Here is a peek into top 10 festivals that are celebrated with fervor here, listed down month-wise:
Since we are primarily an agricultural nation, the harvest of a good crop is a joyous occasion! January sees people celebrating the harvesting festival in India. Each region celebrates the same festival with a different name. In southern India, it is celebrated asPongal / Sankranti. It marks the beginning of the Indian New Year for many, and hence has religious significance as well. Making offerings to the Gods to express gratitude for a good crop and wishing for a prosperous year ahead is the basic aim of this celebration. North India calls it the Lohri festival, in which a bonfire is lit and munchies are eaten, along with a lot of song and dance!
Holi, the festival of colors is celebrated throughout India with great enthusiasm. Everyone, irrespective of age, caste, race or creed loves to play with colors. The colors used are either dry in powder form or it is mixed with water to get liquefied colors that can be smeared or sprayed or used in small water balloons, the size of table-tennis balls, to hit your friends with, just for fun! One has to play Holi to fully experience the fun and frolic! The color filled (literally!) faces, the goofy grins of people just letting go of inhibitions in exchange for pure fun, is something that can only be experienced rather than effectively written about! In fact many foreigners visit India to take part in the gaiety. So much so that the West World is now inspired to hold their own adaptations of the colorful Holi in their own countries!
In northern regions, yet another harvesting season is celebrated as Baisakhi. It is celebrated on 13th/14th April. The festival is celebrated with great joy and fervor especially in Punjab. People show their joy by dancing the world famous “Bhangra” and singing lively folksongs. What an energetic and colorful sight it is to behold! The atmosphere is electrically charged with enthusiasm. Many localities organize community fairs to mark this festival that are attended by families for exciting shopping, fun rides and yummy food!
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Time to celebrate the unbreakable sibling bond – the festival of Raksha Bandhan! The goal is strengthen the bond between brothers and sisters. Raksha Bandhan is celebrated by one and all in India, irrespective of their religion. Girls tie colored decorative threads on their brothers’ wrists as a reminder of the promise of the sisters’ protection by their brothers and the latter need to reward them with gifts. Oh boy, guys have to bat hard to please their sisters!
August / September:
Moving to the Southern coasts – Onam is celebrated mainly by Keralites or Malayalees (as the people of Kerala state are called). A pyramid of flowers is decorated and prayers are offered for good health and prosperity. A unique ritual is the boat race held in Kerala on river Pampa annually during Onam. It has to be experienced at least once in a lifetime! The boats are long and colorful, have large number of oarsmen at their oars, rowing together in synchronized fluid movements. Wow, what a sight it is! It is a rich blend of tradition and the spirt of healthy competition.
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Mid-august to September
Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the important festivals celebrated over a period of 10 days. According to Hindu mythology, the elephant-headed God, Ganesha, was manifested on the first day. He is worshipped as the remover of obstacles in any venture. Colorful idols of Ganesha are installed and worshipped at homes and temples for 10 days. He is then bid good bye on the 10th day by immersing the idols in nearby water-bodies like lakes, ponds, tanks or rivers, led by fanfare and dancing processions. The vehicle of this god is a rat, which has a field day (pun intended) during these 10 days as people offer the rodent a lot of tasty treats!
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Durga Pooja or Navratris is also a 10-day festival, culminating in Dussehra in the tenth day. It symbolizes the power of women (worship of goddesses) and the victory of good over evil. This festival is celebrated with great religious fervor by Hindus all over the country of India. Fairs are organized and everyone celebrates across all nine days.Dandiya or dances with sticks are performed in local gatherings as people swing to old and new tunes, decked in the finest of traditional extravaganza!
The epic Ramayan known as “Ram Leela” is enacted on stage at various places for the duration of the festival. It is quite an elaborate and dramatic performance enjoyed by one and all. On the 10th day, the effigies of demons Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhkaran are burnt with arrows made of flames. The effigies are made of firecrackers and covered with costume like papers. The grand finale is a colorful display of firecrackers in the sky as the effigies burn to ashes, symbolizing the end of evil!
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Diwali is the festival of lights. Although it has its roots in Hinduism and is upheld by Sikhism, nowadays the colorful festival has caught the fancy of people of all faiths. Markets are decorated and this is the best time for the most lucrative deals of the year!
For Hindus, it is a religious and pious occasion. Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi are offered prayers on Diwali to get blessings. It is believed they will bring prosperity in all the business ventures that will be started during the year. In the evening, all homes are decorated with lighted oil lamps. Now comes the fun part of the evening for anyone who is firecracker crazy – firecrackers are burst and sweets are distributed amongst all. The louder and fancier your firecracker, the more attention and admiration you will garner! Having pure fun while observing fire safety is the name of the game!
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India is home to a number of Christians. Their most important festival, Christmas, is celebrated on 25th December all over the world. India rejoices the spirit of Christmas with pride. It is a season of cakes and cards, carols and Santa Claus, donations and decorations. The markets come alive once again with beautiful decorations, trees and irresistible gifts. People of all faiths like to bring the joy into their homes, especially the families with children! Since it coincides with the onset of winter vacation in schools across many parts of India, it is a fun-time for shopping and exchanging gifts, attending parties and just having a grand time, which runs up to the New Year!
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Eid-ul-Fitr– the festival that cannot be tapped into a specific time-period!
It is the main festival for Muslims. Ramzan is a holy month for them where they fast from dawn-to-dusk without single sip of water. The fasting is quite rigorous and considered to cleanse both body and soul. Even a 7 year old is encouraged to keep the fast. At the end of a month of fasting, Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Everyone is greeted with hugs and wishes of “Eid Mubarak’. A special prayer calledNamaz is offered to Allah, new clothes are worn and special food is made. Which child does not love getting some money for fun spending? Adults give a small amount of money as a token of their blessings to young people on this day. This is called “Eidi”.
This is a festival of good will and peace. The festival and fasting is according to Islam calendar, so there is no fixed time of the year in Grecian calendar that it follows!
This list offers a comprehensive glance at some of the most important festivals in India. Each has it its own unique flavor and mythological legends behind the celebrations. Sure enough, Indians need just a pretext to celebrate, magnanimous and joyful that we are! Any chance to display our rich and colorful heritage and culture, dances and music, with religious and spiritual backdrops, is lapped up promptly here!