The land which is known all over the globe for its cultural and religious diversity, India, observes festivals throughout the year. People belonging to different religions celebrate different festivals. However, some festivals have become pan-religious and are celebrated by all the sects in the society. The rich cultural heritage of India can be proven by the diverse religious festivals that are celebrated. Owing to this dense cultural identity of India, we hereby bring to you the top 10 festivals that are celebrated in India:
10. Ganesh Chaturthi
Another important religious festival for the Hindus, this festival is primarily celebrated in the Western and Southern parts of India whereby Lord Ganesh, one of the Gods of Hinduism, is worshiped. The festival is actually called Vinayaka Chaturthi which means, Festival of Ganesh. The festival is a 10-day long celebration which begins on Shukla Chaturthi, usually falling in between Mid-August and September and ends on Anant Chaturdashi. Legend has it that, Lord Ganesh was created by Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati on the request of Devas as Obstacle-Creator in the path of demons and Obstacle-Averter in the path of Devas. This went on to give him a name of Vighnakartaa and Vighnahartaa respectively. Ganesh Chaturthi celebration begins with the installation of idols of Lord Ganesh in temples. Various sweets are then offered to the almighty and prayers offered for the 10 days of celebration. After a set number of days, the installed idol is then taken and drowned into a river or a lake.
Baisakhi or Vaisakhi is celebrated by Sikhs and some sects of Hindus too. This harvest festival is celebrated especially in Punjab region by the Sikh community. For Sikhs, this festival celebrates for the new harvest and also the birth of Khalsa. Baisakhi is generally celebrated either on 13th or 14th April. People usually go to Amritsar to visit The Golden Temple. The folk dance of ‘bhangra’ is also performed by the people as a marker of their joy and happiness.
Holi, also known as the festival of colors, is celebrated as per Hindu calendar on the Purnima i.e. Full Moon of the Phalgun season. The survival of a holy figure in Indian mythology, Prahlad and burning of Holika, is celebrated as Holi. Among the Hindus, Holi is also celebrated to bid farewell to the winter season. People celebrate Holi by playing with colors and water with family and friends. This festival brings in colorful joy and a new refreshing sense.
7. Raksha Bandhan
As the name suggests, Raksha Bandhan means, The Bond of Protection. This festival marks the celebration of the bond between a brother and sister. Observed by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs, this festival is celebrated widely across the country. This day is marked by a ritual of tying a sacred thread onto the wrists of the brothers by the sisters, asking them for the promise of protecting them throughout their lives. This is a symbolic gesture of the strong bond between a brother and sister.
Being one of the major festivals of India, Dussehra meaning ten, refers to Lord Rama’s victory over evil lord Ravana. The festival is symbolic of victory of good over evil. Ramleela, the portrayal of Rama’s story is staged at nights for ten days before the festival. On the tenth day, the actor impersonating Rama throws fiery arrows on the effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkarna and Meghnath. All are then set on fire and people celebrate by buying sweets and gifts for each other. It is also celebrated in certain cultures as Goddess Durga’s victory over the Demon Mahisasur which is popularly known as Durga Puja. People get together in a carnival to rejoice the victory of Good over Evil.
Onam is the festival which is celebrated by the people of Kerala in South India. The festival marks the public holiday of four days for its celebration. This festival falls in the time period between August and September. It is celebrated as the homecoming of the mythical king Mahabali. People wear new traditional dresses and eat the traditional food of rice poured on banana leaves along with four different types of dishes. They celebrate this occasion by decorating a pyramid of beautiful flowers and pray for their good health and wealth. On this day people of Kerala also participate in an enormous boat riding competition. They celebrate this festival to bring peace and harmony to their homes.
Pongal is a harvest festival which is also called makar Sankranti. Every year it is celebrated on 14 January in south India with great enthusiasm. On this occasion, people pray to the Sun God and thank Him for the good harvest that He has hitherto given. People decorate their houses with beautiful flowers, banana leaves and mango leaves. They draw different patterns with paint colors on the floor in order to endow an aesthetic appeal to the festival and welcoming God’s grace. On this occasion too, people visit their neighbors, exchange gifts and pray to Sun God for further good harvest.
Christmas, the annual celebration is a feast central to the Christian liturgical year. This festival is celebrated all over the world by Christians on December 25th. Family reunions and the exchange of gifts are the stock features of the festival. Apart from this, religious parades are also popular in many countries in the days preceding Christmas. Christmas carols, cards and Santa Claus are some of the popular derivatives of the festival that have developed across the globe and have become a crucial part of Christmas celebrations.
Eid-ul-Fitr also meaning breaking of fast, is one of the most widely celebrated religious occasions in the world. Celebrated in almost every part of the world, this festival marks the most important day for the Islamic World. The day celebrates the commemoration of 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting during the entire month of Ramadan. On the 29th night of Ramadan, the moon is prayed to and is also called Eid ka Chaand (The Moon before the Eid). Among the celebrations, exchanging gifts, buying new clothes is popular in the Asian context. Another tradition involves for children to be given small sums of money, also called Eidi, by their elders.
Diwali, also known as the festival of lights is celebrated throughout India by the followers of Hinduism. The festival is first said to have been celebrated by the people of Ayodhya when Lord Rama came back from exile with wife and brother after fourteen long years. The festival was celebrated by lighting little clay lamps and the whole city of Ayodhya was decorated for welcoming the mighty king. Today, people worship Goddess Laxmi and God Ganesha and ask their blessings in terms of physical well being and monetary wealth. The festival celebrations are marked by organisation of numerous cultural programs and exchanging of gifts.