India is well known for its cacophony of sounds, tantalising aromas and flamboyant colours. Those of you who have had the good fortune of visiting India at festival time will know how it reaches the summit of all three during this period. Festivals are important to Indians as it takes away the monotony and pressure on people’s everyday lives whilst giving them a chance to celebrate and have fun with their families. But Indian festivals are more than simply zeal and vigour: it’s about supporting all communities and religions.
Pongal is a harvest which is celebrated on 14 January with great enthusiasm. On this occasion, people pray to the Sun God and thank Him for the good harvest that He has hitherto given. During this time, houses are decorated with beautiful flowers, banana leaves and mango leaves and people draw intricate patterns with paint colours outside their houses to welcome God’s grace.
The festival of Vaisakhi is celebrated by Sikhs and some sects of Hindus too. This festival marks new harvest and is celebrated especially in the Punjab region by the Sikh community. The folk dance of ‘bhangra’ is also performed by the people as an expression of their joy and happiness.
8. Ganesh Chaturthi
Ganesh Chaturthi is a Hindu festival that marks the birthday of the elephant-headed God, Lord Ganesh. It is celebrated in August-September and is celebrated for 10 days. Idols of Ganesh made of unbaked clay are worshipped in every house and a special sweet called, ‘Modak’ is prepared for the occasion. To mark the end of the festivities, the clay idols are immersed in a river or lake.
7. Krishna Janmashtami
Krishna Janmashtami, marks the birthday of Lord Krishna. An extremely fun part of the festival involves people climbing on each other and forming a human pyramid in an attempt to reach and break open clay pots filled with curd, which have been strung up high from buildings.
The festival of Dussehra marks Lord Rama’s victory over evil lord Ravana and is therefore a celebration of the victory of good over evil. To celebrate and rejoice this victory, people hold outdoor fairs (melas) and large parades with effigies of Ravana which are burnt on bonfires in the evening.
5. Raksha Bandhan
Raksha Bandhan means the Bond of Protection. This festival is popular in India and celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters. On this day, the sister ties a decorated string (Rakhi) on her brother’s wrist for his security, progress and blessings from God. In return, the brother gives his promise to protect and look after his sister. The festival is celebrated every year across the whole of India.
4. Durga Puja
Durga Puja is an annual Hindu festival in India that celebrates the worship of the Hindu Goddess Durga and marks her victory over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. In certain Indian states such as Assam, Bihar, Manipur, Jharkhand and West Bengal, the festival is a five-day annual holiday. The real and core essence of the festival remain the religious values and teachings that have been passed down from one generation to another in the Hindu households and communities. Thus, Durga Puja remains a devotional celebration, which honours the divine Goddess Durga through large prayer ceremonies in Hindu temples.
Onam is an ancient, culturally rich ten-day harvest festival that marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali. People strikingly decorate the ground in front of their houses with flowers arranged in beautiful patterns to welcome the King. The festival is also celebrated with many elements such as new clothes, feasts served on banana leaves, dancing, sports, games, and snake boat races.
Holi is known as the ‘Festival of Colours’, which occurs at the beginning of spring, in the month of March. The ancient Hindu festival is celebrated to bid farewell to winter season. People play, chase and throw colour on each other with dry powder and coloured water, with some carrying water guns and coloured water-filled balloons for water fights! Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. The frolic and fight with colours occurs in the open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings. Groups carry drums and musical instruments and go from place to place in song and dance.
Diwali is probably the most prominent of all festivals in India. Also known as the ‘Festival of Lights’, it is celebrated every autumn and represents the start of the Hindu New Year. It runs over five days with fireworks, small clay lamps, and lit candles used during the celebrations. These lights are symbolic and mean victory of good over evil, hope over despair and brightness over darkness. Diwali is a warm, atmospheric festival and one that is observed with much joy and happiness.
So, you can see that each festival has a unique reason and innovative way of celebration, which adds to the excitement and splendour.
Come, see the land of festivals for yourself that is ever increasing in its appeal to the world and experience life worth living!