There is popular saying that there are more festivals in India than days in a year! Owing to its religious, cultural and regional variations, India has a large number of festivals and fairs. These fairs and festivals lend color and gaiety to life and Indian calendar is marked by plethora of such big and small occasions. Some festivals are of religious nature, others are related more to, change of season and harvesting. They have a long past and many have undergone major modifications. Every occasion you can dream of is celebrated with gaiety, pomp and fevour. These colourful and happy festivals bind the people of the nation across various states and religions in a unique way and provide a spectacle that cannot be be experienced anywhere else in the world. . Though the enthusiasm for some also seems to be fading, nevertheless they do bring about a change in the lifestyle of the people.
People gather together to sing and dance to celebrate these formal festivals. An exchange of gifts marks most occasions. People dress in festive best to prepare the best of the season. Houses are painted, women buy new ornaments, children play together. Ritual designs are painted before the entrance of the home and auspicious oil lamps lit.
There are some principal festivals that are celebrated all over the county with equal fervour
Deepawali or Diwali, the most pan-Indian of all Hindu festivals, is a festival of lights symbolising the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. Enchanting festival of Diwali is celebrated with lot of enthusiasm in India The word 'Deepawali is composed of two words -- Deepa meaning Light and Avali meaning a Row. It means a row of lights and indeed illumination forms its main attraction.
Companies are usually busy meeting deadlines, promoting their products in the market to manage all the in-house functions.
Diwali Festival in India is celebrated on the auspicious 15th day of the dark fortnight in the Hindu month of Kartik (October-November). Diwali falls 20 days after the festival of Dussehra on the amavasya or the no moon day. Celebrated to mark the victory of good over evil Divali commemorates the day when Lord Ram was coronated as the King of Ayodhya on his return with wife Site and brother Laxman after 14 years of exile and slaying of the demon King Ravana.
Deepavali is a festival where people from all age groups participate. They give expression to their happiness by lighting earthen 'diyas' (lamps), decorating the houses, bursting firecrackers and inviting near and dear ones to their households for partaking in a sumptuous feast. The lighting of lamps is a way of paying obeisance to god for attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace, valor and fame. It is through the light that the beauty of this world is revealed or experienced. Most civilizations of the world recognize the importance of light as a gift of God. It has always been a symbol of whatever is positive in our world of experience.
To Hindus, darkness represents ignorance, and light is a metaphor for knowledge. Therefore, lighting a lamp symbolizes the destruction, through knowledge, of all negative forces- wickedness, violence, lust, anger, envy, greed, bigotry, fear, injustice, oppression and suffering, etc.
Auspicious Days of Deepawali
Day 1 : 'DHANT-RAYODASHI' is for welcoming the Goddess of wealth.
Day 2: 'NARKA-CHATURDASHI' marks the victory of Good over Evil.
Day 3: 'LAKSHMI-PUJAN' for worship of Goddess Laxmi.
Day 4 : 'PADWA' marks the coronation of Vikaram-Samvat.
Day 5 : 'BHAYYA-DUJ' as the symbol of love between siblings.
The relationships are the essence of celebration. The tiny silk threads pull the siblings together and make the bonds even stronger. It is the celebration of the brother sister love. It is the reminder of brotherly duties and a repeat and renewal of a sisters wishes. It is the celebration of being a part of the family. The delicate thread is symbolic of the peaceful coexistence of not only the siblings but of the whole human race. The brother sister relationship is no where so worshiped as here. It is this affection and love that is celebrated on the Raksha Bandhan.
The festival is known as Rakhi or Rakshabandhan throughout the country but owing to its various legends and significance rakshabandhan is known by different names in different states of India, by different communities. Rakshabandhan significance also varies with the region. Rakshabandhan is primarily a North and West Indian Festival but is celebrated in other parts of India as well though the day of Shravan Purnima or Rakshabandhan has a different significance in southern and coastal regions.Raksha Bandhan is also known as Rakhi purnima or Narial Purnima. The Full Moon day - the Purnima - in the month of July is the day of Narial Purnima. It is the festival for all those who depend on the sea for their livelihood. Therefore, Sea-god Varun, a vedic deity of considerable importance in the Puranic pantheon, is worshiped on this day. Coconuts are thrown into the sea as offerings to Varun. Hence, this day has come to be known as Narial Purnima.
Rakhi has been promoted as a way of harmonious life by many a social workers and philoophers. It is a festival that dictates the values of brotherhood and self-perseverance.
One of the most popular Gods in India , lord Ganesh or Ganpati is considered a symbol of wisdom and a bringer of good luck. Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival in his honour and is celebrated in the states of Maharashtra , Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Ganeshji is remembered on chauth or chaturthi, the 4th day of every month of the Hindu calendered, but most of all on Ganesh Chaturthi which is celebrated as his birthday.
Started by Chhattrapati Shivaji, the great Maratha ruler, to disseminate culture and nationalism, the festival was given a new impetus by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak to spread the message of freedom struggle and to defy the British who had banned public assemblies. The festival infused the Indians with a sense of unity and revived their patriotic spirit.
The celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi continue for five, seven, or ten days. Some even stretch it to ten days. In the tradition of the right hand path the first day is the most important. In the left hand path tradition the final day is most important.
Ganesha statues installed in street corners and in homes, and elaborate arrangements are made for lighting, decoration, mirrors and the most common of flowers. Poojas (prayer services) are performed daily. The artists who make the idols of Ganesh compete with each other to make bigger and more magnificent and elegant idols. The relevantly larger ones are anything from 10 meters to 30 meters in height. These statues are then carried on decorated floats to be immersed in the sea after one, three, five, seven and ten days. Thousands of processions converge on the beaches to immerse the holy idols in the sea. This procession and immersion is accompanied by drum- beats, devotional songs and dancing.
Ganesha is the god of wisdom and prosperity and is invoked before the beginning of any auspicious work by the Hindus. It is believed that for the fulfillment of one's desires, his blessing is absolutely necessary. According to the mythology, he is the son of Shiva and Parvati, brother of Kartikeya - the general of the gods, Lakshmi - the goddess of wealth and Saraswati-the goddess of learning. There are numerous stories in Hindu mythology, associated with the birth of this elephant-headed god, whose vehicle is the Mooshak or rat and who loves Modaks (droplet shaped Indian sweet).
As the brief spring warms the landscape, northern India cuts loose for a day of hijinx and general hilarity.
The festival of Holi is celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March every year
There are many stories of the origin of Holi. The most widely held belief is that Holi marks the day when the devotee of lord Vishnu, Bakt Prahlad, seated on the lap of demoness Holika, was saved from the effect of the fire by God and the demoness got burnt instead. Other stories relate to the death of demon Putana at the hands of lord Krishna and to the burning of demoness Hoda by children. Some link the festival with the worship of Karma, God of pleasure and destiny. Holi is a harvest celebration marking the climax of spring.
Holi festival is spread over two days .On the first day generally a log of wood will be kept in a prominent public place on the Vasantapanchami day (Magha Sukla Panchami), almost 40 days before the Holi Festival. An image of Holika with child Prahlada in her lap is also kept on the log. Holika's image is made of combustible materials whereas Prahlada's image is made of non-combustible ones. People go on throwing twigs of trees and any combustible material they can spare, on to that log which gradually grows into a sizable heap. On the night of Phalguna Purnima, it is set alight in a simple ceremony with the Raksoghna Mantras of the Rgveda (4.4.1-15; 10.87.1-25 and so on) being sometimes chanted to ward off all evil spirits. (Coconuts and coins are thrown into this bonfire).The next morning the ashes from the bonfire are collected as prasad (consecrated material) and smeared on the limbs of the body. Singed coconuts, if any are also collected and eaten. The next day, dhuleti involves plenty of colour throwing, prayer, fasting and feasting. People have fun throwing coloured powder and colourful water at each other, dancing and gambling over cards.
Besides Hinduism, India is also the home of innumerable other faiths and the religious and cultural diversity of this nation is manifested in the large number of non-Hindu festivals.
Id is the most celebrated festival of the Muslims of West Bengal. Muslims celebrate id thrice in a year. One is the Id-ul-Fitr ,the other one is the Bakrid or Id-Ul-Zuha and the last one is Id-i-Milad .
Id-ul-Fitr comes after the lapse of the Ramjan month and marks a happy communion after a month of fasting. The Muslims celebrate Id ul-Fitr on the first day of the lunar month of Shawwal. This religious festival is an expression of thanks giving to Allah for His grace in enabling His faithful servants to observe the fasting month of Ramjan.
Seventy days after Id-ul.Fitr comes Bakri Id or Id-Ul-Zuha. Bakri Id or Id-Ul-Zuha is celebrated with ritualistic fervour in West Bengal . The significance of the festival is the commemoration of the ordeals of Prophet Ibrahim. On this day devout Muslims of all ages offer special prayers at mosques in the morning and they offer animal sacrifices. The reason for which they offer animals is that as per the doctrine of Islam, sacrifice of animals signifies the sacrifice of the follower himself and his readiness to lay down his life, his interests and desires in the cause of the truth.
The Prophet was born on the twelfth day of Rabi-ul-Awwal , the third month of the Muslim year. His death anniversary also falls on the same day, the word ' barah ' standing for the twelve days of the Prophet's sickness. During these days, sermons are delivered in mosques by learned men, focusing on the life and noble deeds of the Prophet.
Onam is the most important harvest festival of Kerala and is an attraction for thousands of people within and outside the state. Ranging from four days to ten days, all the activities during this season are centered around worshipping, music, dances, sports, boat races and good food. It is celebrated in the Malayalam month Chingam (ending of August and beginning of September). This year it falls on 15 September 2005. Onam is a harvest festival, and celebrates the bounty of nature after a year of hard labor. Elaborate procession of Trichur and spectacular snake boat races on River Pampa mark the merry-making nature of the festival. Women dress up in new saris and heavy jewelry and make elaborate and intricate designs of 'rangolis' (with colored rice paste) and 'pookkalam' (with flowers) in front of their homes.
The people in Kerala prepare for the festival by cleaning their houses and decorating them. On Onam, everybody in the family would be wearing new clothes. Delicious sweets and favorite dishes would be cooked and served on banana leaves. One important item that would be visible outside each house is the ‘pookalam' a flower mat. This flower mat is like a symbol of welcoming the King Mahabali. During Onam, traditional rituals are performed and the people celebrate the occasion with a grand feast. One favorite dessert that would be served on the day is ‘payasam' a sweet & tempting porridge.
An attractive feature during this festival is the famous ‘Vallamkali' or otherwise known as the great boat race. In this boat race, hundreds of men row the boats to the beat of drums and cymbals. An interesting thing to note is that above each boat there is a scarlet silk umbrella and gold coins are hung from the umbrellas. There are various boats, which also include the ‘Chundans': the snake-like long boats that are shaped like snakes. This event is extremely popular with various types of boats compete with each other to win the race.
This festival is not celebrated by Hindus only but by Christians and Muslims as well. It is one festival that unites all people regardless of race and religion
Christmas the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ, is celebrated in India with great fervor all over India by the Christians. Despite the same underlying spirit, the celebration of Christmas in India is different in different parts of this country of diversity. If in the North East it is celebrated in one way, in the South West it is done in a different way. Christians in the plains decorate mango or banana trees at Christmas time. Sometimes they also decorate their houses with mango leaves. In some parts of India , small clay oil-burning lamps are used as Christmas decorations; they are placed on the edges of flat roofs and on the tops of walls. People decorate their houses, erect Christmas trees, make cribs with figures of baby Jesus, Mother Mary, Joseph, the three kings who come to visit the baby and shepherd boys and their herds grazing around depicting the scenes of Jesus's Birth in the Bible. They decorate the Christmas tree, hang stars, gifts and illuminate them. Churches are decorated with poinsettias and lit with candles for the Christmas Eve service. However, for the urban regions the ingredients of the festivities are the familiar X-mas trees (mostly potted) decorated with stars and tinsels, toys, plastic fruits, and colorful streamers and illuminated well are placed in front of the Christian houses, shops and restaurants. Santa is also seen in some streets and some shops and departmental stores deploy Santa to entertain their kid-customers. In the major cities of India caroling processions are also seen on streets and thoroughfares.
Though the Hindus and Moslems comprise majority of the population, Xmas is celebrated with much fanfare in this secular country. The Day is a national holiday and people irrespective of their religion enjoy it along with the Christians.
Festivals bring joy and happiness in our lives. If we celebrate all festivals alike we can spread the message of joy, happiness, brotherhood and humanity among one another and live as one family and community.
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