India is often described as land of festivals and fairs. Whether you go to North or South, East or to the West, you will come across every month a festival or a fair. In simple terms, no month goes vacant without any eminent festival. The most astonishing thing to see is that all religion whether Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism or Christianity everyone enjoys each other culture, religion and festivals with warmth feeling. In India, every religion and every region has something to celebrate, which not only reflect the vigor but the life-style of this country. Besides, the best things that magnetize are vibrant colours, lights, dresses and lively music which keep all of us rocking all through the year.
There are festivals, like Navratri that last nonstop for nine consecutive days and occur twice in a year. Kumbh Mela is another biggest Hindu festival that takes place once in twelve years that continues for 42 days and it is known to be the largest public gathering in the world. Harvest festivals in India, like Pongal, Onam, Lohri, Makara Sankranti, etc. is celebrated by 28 states by their own way at various times throughout the year. Below are the 10 most popular and important festival of India.
1.) Diwali – also known as the ‘festival of lights’ is one of the most important festivals in India. The festivities start with ‘Dhanteras’, followed by ‘Naraka Chaturdasi’ on second day, and Diwali on the third day. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. People before Diwali night clean, decorates and renovate their homes. Hindus dress up in new clothes, light up ‘diyas’ (even lamps and candles) inside and outside their home; participate in family ‘puja’ typically to Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity. After that all enjoy fireworks, sweets and nice food.
2.) Navratri (and Dussehra) – The word Navaratri means ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit, ‘nava’ meaning nine and ‘ratri’ meaning nights. It is a festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity ‘Durga’. During this festival all the forms of ‘Shakti’ are worshiped. The tenth day, which is commonly referred to as ‘Vijayadashami’ or Dussehra (Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, killed the great demon ‘Ravana’) is celebrated massively among Hindus. Both these are different festivals, but as Dussehra appear on subsequent day, we have emerged it into consecutive 10 days celebration. Navratri and Dussehra, both are very popular festivals in India.
3.) Holi – occurs during spring season and signifies the end of winter period. Holi is known as the ‘festival of colours’ and enjoyment for people of all ages. Holi celebrations start with a ‘Holika’ bonfire (end of Holika Devil) on the night before Holi where people sing, gather and dance. The next morning people play, chase and colour each other with dry Holi (powder) and coloured water, with some carrying water guns and coloured water-filled balloons for their water fight. The fight and play with colours occurs in the open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings. Big groups carry drums and musical instruments, go from place to place, sing and dance. People move and visit family and friends and enjoy till twilight.
4.) Christmas – Many Christians (as well as other religion) in India celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth on Christmas. But the celebrations are most noticeable in states where there are many Christians, like in the state of Goa, Kerala, etc., on 25 December, according to the Gregorian calendar. Christianity is India’s third-largest religion Christians constitute the second largest religious minority in India next to Islam with approximately 24 million followers, constituting 2.3% of India’s population. And that is a reason that Christmas Day is a gazetted holiday in India.
5.) Ganesh Chaturthi – is another big festival which is celebrated on the birthday (as rebirth) of the lord ‘Ganesha’, the son of ‘Shiva’ and ‘Parvati’. It is believed that Lord Ganesh bequeaths his presence on earth for all his devotees during this festival. It is the day when Ganesha was born. Ganesha is widely worshiped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune and by tradition always prayed foremost at the beginning of any new venture or at the start of travel. The festival lasts for 10 days and in these 10 days, there are traditions and rituals that people perform during the festival in overwhelming way, like, making delicious recipes and thinking of innovating decoration ideas to celebrate this festival in flamboyant manner.
6.) Eid Al-Fitr – is one of the most celebrated festivals among Muslims all over the world. The festival is celebrated at the end of Ramadan (a month of fasting), and Muslims usually give ‘zakat’ (charity) on the occasion ‘Eid Al-Adha’ is celebrated on the 10th day of ‘Dhu al-Hijjah’ and lasts for four days, during which Muslims usually sacrifice an animal and distribute its meat among family, friends, and the poor. Muslims believe that they are commanded by God to continue their fast until the last day of Ramadan and are also encouraged to forgive and forget any differences with others or animosities that may have occurred during the year.
7.) Krishna Janmashtami – is an annual celebration of the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna, the eighth avatar of ‘Vishnu’. The festival is notable on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the ‘Krishna Paksha’ (dark fortnight) of the month of ‘Shraavana’ (August–September) in the Hindu calendar. Janmashtami is celebrated by fasting and staying up until midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. Krishna’s infancy ‘Murti’ (statue) are placed in swings and cradles in temples and homes and worshiped. At midnight, devotees gather around for devotional songs, dance and exchange gifts. Some temples also conduct readings of the Hindu religious scripture ‘Bhagavad Gita’.
8.) Pongal or Makar Sankrantri – Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated by Tamil people at the end of the harvest season. It is a four day festival which usually takes place from January 13 to 16. In Tamil, the word Pongal means ‘overflowing’ which signifies abundance and prosperity. Where Pongal is celebrated in south, at the same time, Makar Sankranti, is celebrated in north in form of cultural harvest carnival. According to the Hindi calendar Makar Sankranti is a festival celebrated for New Year for Hindus. Both of these festivals believed to mark the arrival of spring in India and are therefore considered traditional.
9.) Maha Shivaratri – is a festival celebrated every year in worship of Lord Shiva. It is the day Shiva was married to goddess Parvati. The Maha Shivratri festival, also popularly known as ‘Shivratri’ or ‘Great Night of Lord Shiva’, is observed on the 13th night/14th day in the ‘Krishna Paksha’ (according to the Hindu calendar) every year on the month of Feb or March. It marks the union of Shiva and Shakti. All through the day, devotees worship ‘Shivling’,keep fast, and chant ‘Om Namah Shivaya’, a sacred ‘Panchakshara mantra’ dedicated to Lord Shiva.
10.) Guru Nanak Gurpurab – also known as ‘Guru Nanak’s Prakash Utsav’, celebrates the birth of the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak. This is one of the most sacred festivals in Sikhism. Apart from Sikhs, Hindus and followers of Guru Nanak’s values from other religion also celebrate this festival. The festivities in the Sikh religion revolve around the anniversaries of the 10 Sikh Gurus. These Gurus were responsible for shaping the beliefs of the Sikhs. On this day, the celebrations commence early in the morning at about 4 to 5 am. Night Prayer sessions are also held in some Gurudwaras, which begin around sunset when ‘Rehras’ (evening prayer) is recited, followed by ‘Kirtan’ till late at night. The celebrations are especially colourful in the States of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh.