Festivals of India

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A festival is a time when people from all around the neighbourhood come together to celebrate an event as one. It is a joyful time accompanied by dance, music, gaiety and togetherness. It is usually staged by a local community, which centres on and celebrates some unique aspect of that community and festival.  Mostly it is celebrated in the honour of Gods or Goddesses. There are many festivals that are celebrated around the world.

India being such a vast country has numerous festivals that are celebrated in each state. Here we will read about some of the most famous festivals of India and we will go month wise. Republic day is a national festival held in January, all over India to commemorate the day when India became a republic in the year 1950 and subsequently the constitution came into force. The grand parade is held in Delhi, the capital of the country on the Rajpath passing along the India gate and into the historic red fort. On this day India makes a display of its military might and cultural heritage from different parts of the country.

In the month of February/March, the Shivaratri festival is held all over India. It falls on the 13th or 14th day of the dark half of Phalgun (lunar month).  On this day people fast and they keep awake all night. An offering of Bael leaves is made along with Cannabis. The Shiva Lingam is washed every three hours throughout the night with milk, honey, rosewater and curd. Hymns are sung in praise of the lord and pilgrims flock to Shiva temples.

Another festival widely celebrated all over India is Holi although it is primarily observed in North India. This day is celebrated on the last full moon day of the month of Phalgun and there are many legends attached to it. This is in true terms a colourful festival as people celebrate it by throwing colours in powder or water form at each other, and there is a very fun-filled atmosphere. On the eve of Holi, a bonfire is lit and on this day people often get intoxicated with bhaang (a beverage made from the leaves and flowers of the female cannabis plant).

Easter also held in India commemorates the resurrection of Christ in the month of April. Christians all over the country especially in Goa, Mumbai and northern states celebrate this day by praying in churches, decorating, collecting Easter eggs from the stores which are given to kids, and baking mouth-watering Easter cakes at home. Lanterns are traditionally exchanged as well as the cross amongst friends and relatives.

Baisakhi is the Sikh New Year which marks the beginning of a new solar year.  The festival began with Guru Tegh Bahadur’s (the ninth Sikh guru) martyrdom when he was publicly beheaded by Aurungzeb. Devotees start the festival by proceeding towards the Gurudwara with flowers and offerings in hands. Processions throughout the cities are also a common fare.

Id-Ul-Fitr is a three day festival celebrated by Muslims all over the country and marks the end of Ramadan, the moth when Muslims fast for thirty days from dawn to dusk.

Rath Yatra in the month of June is mostly held in Puri in the state of Orissa. It is a huge Hindu festival associated with lord Jagannath. It was believed that every year in mid-summer Jagannth with his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra went on chariot rides for vacation from their temple in Puri to the garden palace in the coutryside. This has given rise to the tradition of placing idols in grand chariots and pulling them.

In the month of August is Raksha Bandhan, the festival which celebrates the pure bond shared between a brother and his sister by tying the holy thread on the brother’s wrist. Observed by mostly north Indians though now celebrated widely all over the country it symbolizes a sister’s constant love and prayers for her brother, the brother’s commitment to protect her forever. There is also exchanging of sweets.

Durga Puja also referred to as Durgotsava is the biggest festival of South Asia. It is also known as Dussehra and Navaratri in other parts of the country. This festival is celebrated to showcase the victory of good over evil by the slaying of Mahisasura. Durga, the goddess of power after her victory in the battlefield comes home to her parent’s house with her children, Ganesh and Lakshmi on her left hand side and Saraswati and Karthik on her right hand side. Pandals are put up all over the city preparations for which start months ahead. The whole city is decked up with beautiful lights. People enjoy this festival for five days by wearing new clothes, eating, enjoying, dancing, enjoying with friends and loved ones and most importantly by pandal hopping.

Diwali held usually in mid October or November is another festval that celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Popularly known as the festival of lights, people on this day light small clay lamps with oil to signify this triumph. For five days people enjoy this festval by lighting fireworks throughout the sky, wearing new garments and exchanging sweets. This is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, in west Bengal this is celebrated as Kali Puja. This day commemorates the return of Ram along with Sita after his 14 years of Vanvas.

Last but not the least is Christmas, observed on December 25, it celebrates the birth of Christ, the son of God. Started by the Europeans in India during their colonization, this festval still stayed on after they left. Now it is celebrated all over the country. Christmas trees with decorations are set up, gifts are kept under the trees, people enjoy with their loved ones and yummy cakes are baked at home. Usually the myth of Santa Claus is also associated with this festval, who is a mysterious slay rider, a favourite of children for sure. He is said to reward children who have been good throughout the year with gifts, mostly toys. So there is atmosphere of happiness and warmth all around during this festival

All the festivals have been described here in a nutshell; to talk about them in details would be a never ending article. All the festivals have long histories and legends attached to them. There are also several festivals that have not been described. But the ones above are the most celebrated and favoured by the Indians.

Madhurima Ganguly

Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/shankbone/4697697926/]

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