Major Indian festivals


Festivals of India

India is a land of festival. With the kind of diversity in terms relegion culture tradition and practices not even a single day would pass in India when one of many diverse group is celebrating one of its festival.Given below is a list of some of the more popular festivals of India that have their expanse beyond the region in which they evolved.

1. Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti

2. Lohri

3.Makar Sakaranthi

4.Pongal

5.Holi

6.Ramanavmi

7.Mahavir Jayanthi

8. Buddha Poornima

9.Good Friday and Easter

10.Baisakhi

11.Onam

12.Raksha Bandhan

13.Janamasthami

14.Ganesh Chaturthi

15.Durga Puja

16.Dusehrra

17.Deepawali

18.Chirstmas

19.Id-ul-zoha or Bakrid

20.Id ul Fitr

1. Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti marks the birthday of the tenth and last Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh. It generally falls in the month of December or January as it is calculated according to Hindu Bikrami Calendar a lunar calendar. According to the Nanakshahi Calendar it falls on the 5 th of January. Large processions and special gatherings are seen at all Gurudwaras.

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Wide ranges of varying dishes are prepared through out the country. Ugadi/Gudi Padwa made of bitter neem leaves and jaggery is common. In the south India, puligore (sour tamarind rice dish), bobbatlu, holige (sweet stuffed bread) and Ugadi Pachadi made of neem flowers, tamarind, jaggery and raw mango pieces, is prepared. In Maharastra, shrikhand (fragrant yogurt dessert), with poori (fried puffy bread) is prepared.

2. Lohri is celebrated on the 13th of January or Paush or Magh of the Hindi calendar. In the North India it is known as Makar Sankranti. It marks the sun's entry in to the 'Makar Rashi' (northern hemisphere). It is also the last day of Maargazhi, the ninth month of the lunar calendar. The Bhagawad Gita deems it as an occasion when Lord Krishna manifests himself most perceptibly. It significance can be gauged from the fact that across India, people celebrate this occasion under various names like Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bhogi in Andhra Pradesh, Makar Sankranti in Karnataka, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and Bihu in Assam

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The center of all events of Lohri is the bonfire. There is puja, involving parikrama (circumnavigation) around the fire. This symbolizes a prayer to Agni, the spark of life, for abundant crops and prosperity. People gather around the bonfires, throw sweets called Rewadi, puffed rice and popcorn into the bonfire, sing popular songs and exchange greetings. The customary dinner of makki ki roti and sarson ka saag is exemplary. The prasad comprises of five main things: gazak, til, moongphali, gurphuliya and popcorn.

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3. Makar Sankranti celebrated in the month of 'Magh' is a harvest festival. It is a celebration the 'ascent' of the sun to Uttarayana (the north hemisphere).This period is considered to be such a propitious time that the veteran Bhishma of Mahabharata chose to die during this period. It is believed that those who die in this period have no rebirth.

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In the Indo Gangetic plain, this day begins for people with taking dips in the Ganga and offering water to the Sun god to purify them self of all sins and bestow punya virtue. Special puja is performed as thanksgiving to god for good harvest. According to tradition, bachelors take dips to get their desired partner .

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Til and rice are two important ingredients for the entire range of dishes prepared in various parts of India for this festival. In the Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, people have a special rice-centric meal , in Maharashtra, people greet each other on this festive day by saying "til gud ghya, god bola" (hereafter, let there be only friendship and good thoughts between us)and exchange a few grains of multi-coloured sugar with Gazak (fried til mixed with molasses), in Karnataka, sugarcane, a mixture of fried til, fried gram, pieces of dry coconut, molasses, and peanuts signifying prevailence of sweetness in all the dealings. Cows and bulls are given a wash, their horns are painted with bright colours and decorated with garland, are taken in a procession accompanied by pipes and drums around the village.

4. Pongal is a celebration of the harvest, which is observed for three days in January. It is a colourful and traditional festival with many a ceremony devoted to various deities especiall the Sun god who helps in the growth of the paddy and other plantations. The four days of Pongal festivities on successive days namely Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal, Mattu Pongal and Kaanum Pongal mark the long festivities of the festival.

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Bhogi Pongal marks the beginning of the celebrations on the last day of Maargazhi( the ninth month of the lunar calendar) which is known as "Bhogi". The day begins with a very early morning head bath. Then trash is burnt in front of the house, old and useless things are disposed from the house and replaced with new ones. Rangoli or design made of colours is used to decorate the entery to every house.

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Surya Pongal is the day on which reaping of paddy is done. Using this new rice, the offering or bhog "pongal" is made and offered to Sun God. Turmeric sprigs and sugarcane along with the Pongal/the dishes of the new rice are offered to God. After the pooja everyone takes a small amount of Pongal and sprinkles it everywhere in the house, saying "Pongalo Pongal" as a prayer to God to bless their houses.

Mattu Pongal is the pongal for the cows as they are worshipped on this day. Milkmen paint the cow and their horns, apply colours and tie clothes on them and take the cows to all the houses of the village and each household seeks their blessing.


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Kaanum Pongal People go out for places and enjoy this day. This is a day to spend time and entertainment outside. In Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjore a kind of bull fight called the Jellikuttu is held. Bundles containing money are tied to the horns of the ferocious bulls, and unarmed men try to wrest the bundles from them.With ingredients provided by freshly gathered harvest, community meals are held at many a place.

5. Holi is celebrated to mark the arrival of spring and death of demoness Holika; According to the legend, Hirankashyap, a very powerful Devil had defeated the Gods. This made him very egoistic. So he issued an order that no one should pray or even take the name of God. Out to fear, people started worshipping him. But his son Pralhad was a true devotee of Lord Vishnu and disobeyed the order. So Hirankashyap ordered his sister Holika, who had the boon of not being harmed by fire, to take Pralhad on her lap and sit on a bed of fire. But by Lord Vishnu grace Holika is burnt in the fire and Pralhad comes out of it unaffected. People celebrate Holi in the remembrance of this event, by burning wood and pray to Goddess Holi for their well being.

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Bonfires are lit to banish the cold dark nights of winter and usher in warmer spring. Dhuleti, day after Holi, is the actual festival of colours, begins on Duwadashi - on the twelfth day of the waxing moon of the month of Phalgun. Coloured powder (Gulal) is filled long syringes called 'pichkaris' and balloons and splashed at each other.

Holi comes in a different flavour in Mathura the city Lord Krishna (an incarnation of lord Vishnu) lived in his early days is the epicentre of the celebrations. Lord Krishna popularised the festival with his ingenious pranks on the gopies (unmarried women of the region). Gopies responded with equal passion and the festivities have continued ever since. Men and women clash in the battle of the sexes. Celebrations of holi start a week earlier here than rest of India. Men of Nandagow( where Krishna grew up) raid Barsana(where radha grew up) to raise their flag over Shri Radhikaji's templebut they face resistence from the women of Barsana who greet them with long wooden sticks. The men in their attempt to rush through town to reach Shri Radhikaji's temple are thoroughly beaten up. As they are not allowed to retaliate men are well padded. Those captured are led forcefully, thrashed and dressed in female attire and then are made to dance.

Bhang, sweets like Ghujia and Jalebi are the special dishes prepared on this day.

6. Ramanavmi celebrated on the ninth day of the waxing moon in the month of Chiatra, is the birthday of Lord Rama the hero of the Great epic of Ramayana and an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It occurs at the beginning of summer when the sun has started moving nearer to the northern hemisphere. The Sun is considered to be the progenitor of Rama's dynasty so the celebrations begin with a prayer to the Sun early in the morning. At midday, when Lord Rama was born according to tradition, a special prayer is performed. People sing devotional songs and rock, images of him in a cradle, to celebrate his birth. Rathyatras or chariot processions with Ram, his wife Seeta, brother Lakshman and devotee Hanuman in a chariot are organized by many temples.

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Ayodhya ( Lord Rama kingdom) is the focus of great celebrations People gather on the banks of the sacred river Sarayu, on the banks of which Ayodhya is located, for a dip. Some observe a strict fast on this day

7. Mahavir Jayanthi is the birth anniversary of Vardhman Mahavir the founder of Jainism is celebrated by the Jain community in March. On this day Jain temples are decorated with flags. The day begin with giving ceremonial bath to the idol of Mahavira is given a ceremonial bath. It is carried in a procession around the neighbourhood placed in a cradle. The devotees make offerings of rice, fruit, incense, milk, lamps and water to their last Tirthankar (prophet). Pilgrimages are made by the follower formal parts of the world to the ancient Jain Temples at Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat on this day.

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Some members of the community take part in a grand procession. Discourses on the path of virtue are given. People meditate and offer prayers.  Donations to save the cows from slaughter are collected.

8. Buddha Poornima, the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha, founder of Buddhism falls on the full moon night in the month of Vaisakha (either in April or May according to the Lunar year). It is principal annual ceremony for the entire Buddhist Community. It is also is the Vaisakha Purnima and Buddha Jayanti in India and as Wesak festival in Sri Lanka. Pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya (the city where Buddha attained his salvation) are undertaken asa part of Buddha Poornima celebrations. Celebration include prayer meets, religious discourses, symposia sermons on the life of Gautam Buddha, group meditation, continuous recitation of Buddhist scriptures, worship of the statue of Buddha, and processions. The Mahabodhi Temple is decorated with colourful flowers and flags.

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In most Buddhist dominated areas like Laddakh streets, temples and houses are brightly illuminated with color Lanterns, electric lights and colorful, tasteful decorations.

9. Good Friday and Easter are two important days in a Christian calendar. Good Friday is the day when Jesus Christ was crucified and on Easter, Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Ceremonial worship follows the entire events as is described in the scriptures. Some congregations to represent the three hours, for which he was hanged on the cross, organize a three-hour long service on Friday. It includes seven distinct elements representing the seven utterances of Christ's while on the cross.

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In Panjim, a large wooden cross-carried by an image of Jesus is taken from the church through the streets of the town. The clergymen carry this cross while the others follow in two parallel lines in front of and in back of the statue. Those who are not participating look on from the roadsides. Somber music played by a band accompanies the procession, which slowly winds its way through the main streets in Panjim before returning to the church. Similar celebration occurs in every church of India.

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10. Baisakhi marks the beginning of New Year as it is on this day that Sun enters Aries, the first sign of Zodiac. It is the first of the Hindi Bikrami month of Baisakh. It is one the few Indian festivals that have a fixed date of April 13th.. It marks the gathering of harvest and reaping the fruits of the year’s hard work.

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The Baisakhi begins with a dip in the holy rivers at the break of dawn.Guru Gobind Singh added another dimension to this day by establishing the Khalsa Panth on this day in 1699 giving a final impetus to the course of Sikhism. During Baisakhi the farmers offers 'thanks' to the Lord Almighty. The day involves a lot of socializing as friends and relatives are invited and delicious meals are served. Fairs are organized in every part of the state and are expression of prosperity. Dressed in their distinctive folk attire, and celebrate the day with Bhangra and Giddha. Sweets are distributed, old enmities are forgotten and forgiven and life is full of happiness and high spirits.

11. Onam is the harvest festival of Kerela and corresponds with the Malayalam New Year, Chingam.as per the legends long time ago, Mahabali an Asura (demon) king ruled Kerala. He was a wise, astute ruler and loved by his subjects. But when his rule began to extend to the heavens and the netherworld, Vishnu took the incarnate form of Vamana and approached Mahabali ask for alms of three paces of land and the king agreed to it. Vamana then increased his stature and with the first step covered the sky, and straddled the netherworld with the second. Realising that third step will destroy the earth; Mahabali offered his head for the last step.Vishnu's fatal third step pushed him to death. Vishnu allowed him to return once a year from exile. Onam is the celebration that marks the homecoming of King Mahabali.

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Onam is a festival of festive celebrations. New clothes are bought on this day and people indulge themselves in dances and sports. The celebration last for four to ten days. The children and the youth, following the specifications of the type of flowers to be used on each day of the festival, set about to collect flowers early morning to decorate the yards. The flower carpet 'onapookalam' is the highlight of these decorations. At Aranmulla, near the temple of Lord Krishna and Arjuna, people gather on the banks of the river Pamba to witness the exciting Snake Boat races. Each snake boat represents a village along the banks of the river Pamba and is worshipped like a deity. Nearly 30 chundan vallams or snake boats participate in the festival.

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12. Raksha Bandhan falls on the full moon day of the hindi month of Shravan (August) and is Hindu sister's day as brothers and sisters reaffirm their bonds of affections. Sisters on this day prepare the pooja thali with roli, diya, chawal and colourful threads or rakhis which they tie on their brother's wrists. The brothers promise to protect their sisters and give them gifts.

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Traditionally, the sister worships the deities, and wishes for their brother(s) well-being. The brother acknowledges their love for their sisters with a promise to be by their side.

13. Janmashtami t he birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu, is celebrated all over India especially at Mathura and Brindavan the land of Lord Krishna. It is observed on the eighth day of the Shravan (July/August) month according to the Hindu calendar.

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Temples and homes are beautifully garlanded. Night long prayers and religious hymns are offered and sung. Devotees keep fasts and chant 'bhajans', until midnight which is the moment when Lord Krishna was born. The priests then chant holy mantras and bathe the idol of baby Krishna with Gangajal milk and milk products.

The main celebrations is at the Dwarkadhish temple in Mathura which continues for the entire month of Shravan. The ghatas, a unique feature of these celebrations, mark the covering of the whole temple with decoration of the same colour. Another important feature is the Raslila a theatrical representation of the events from the life of Lord Krishna.In Maharashtra witnesses the exuberant enactment of the god's childhood endeavours to steal butter and curd from earthen pots beyond his reach. Young men enact this episode by forming human pyramids by climbing on each other's shoulders and try to break these pots. In South India it is celebrated with devotional renditions and offering of fruits and sweets to Lord Krishna. In some houses, a typical setting of 'Gokulam' is arranged with mud images of things related to Krishna's legends are also created.

14. Ganesh or Vinayaka Chaturthi celebrates the birth day of Lord Ganesha, especially in Maharashtra. The festival was popularized by Shivaji , the great Maratha ruler, to promote a feeling of nationalism. It was later on used by Bal Gangadhar Tilak for the very same reason.

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On the occasion large numbers of idols are made of clay or metal. People establish them in their houses and worship the idol for the entire period of the celebration andthen on the last day , idols are taken out ceremoniously in procession through the streets of the town and immerse into the river, sea or well.

15. Durga Puja is an important Hindu Festival celebrated with different rituals and custom in the month of September/October. There are various legends behind this festival. The story goes that Mahisasur, the Buffalo Demon, through prolonged devotion gets the boom fron Brahma to be invincible from every known power at that point. After this he began challenging the gods. So in dismay, Gods combined their powers to create a beautiful maiden, placed his or her most potent weapon in one of her ten hands riding a lion. Rama also before his battle against Ravana performed an invocation of the goddess Durga. The festival marks her coming to bless Rama. Thusthe battle started on the saptami (seventh day).Ravana was killed on crossover period between ashtami(eighth day) and navami(ninth) and was cremated on dashami(tenth day).

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Durga Puja is a festival of a series of rituals. The elemental ritual requires the ingredients used to make the idol of goddess Durga should come from the holy river Ganga. The idol of Durga is accompanied by the idols of Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Ganesh. Though celebrated with a wide range of variation in the ritual the festival has the basic aim is to symbolize Shakti, the Goddess in her aspect as Power, to bestow upon man all wealth, strength, auspiciousness, and prosperity.

It is the biggest festivals in Bengal celebrated on a mass scale with puja pandals dotting nearly every corner. On the final day the idols of the goddess are taken in elaborate processions to be immersed in the river or the pond.

16. Duseherra iscelebrated to mark the defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama and the triumph of warrior Goddess Durga over the buffalo demon, Mahishasura. It symbolizes the victory of good over evil. The 'Ramlila' or the theatrical representation of the life of Lord Rama is held during the nine days preceding Dussehra. On the tenth day (Dussehra or Vijay Dasami), huge effigies of Ravana, his son and brother -Meghnadh and Kumbhakarna, are constructed and the demolisher by the arrows of the theatrical Rama.

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During this time People decorate the entrances of their homes with torans, and flower studded strings. Dusshera celebration varies from place to place influenced by local myth and religious beliefs.

17. Deepawali is celebrated 20 days after Dussehra, on Amavasya - of the Hindu month of Ashwin (October / November) every year. It is celebrated over five-day commencing on Aswayuja Bahula Chaturdasi and ends on Kartika Shudda Vijiya.. This is a major Hindu festival honouring Mother Lakshmi Goddess of wealth who is supposed to be at her most merciful self on this day. It also marks the occasion of coming back Lord Rama to the city of Ayodhya after 14 years of exile in the Jungle. It marks the victory of light refering to knowledge over darkness refering to ignorance.

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Celebrations begin with the cleaning up of the entire house and getting new paint work done. New clothes are bought and worship of Goddess Laxmi in conducted in an elaborate way. Sweets and gifts are exchanged and customary game of betting on cards is also played.

18. Christmas the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ is celebrated in India with great fervor by the Christians. People decorate their houses, erect Christmas trees, and make cribs with figures associated with Christ birth .Everybody takes the pains in designing these in their houses. However Syrian Christians of Kerala celebrated it on 7th January with procession of elephants and musicians almost like Hindu Temple festivals. The music, fireworks and illuminations turned cold, dark winter nights into bright, dazzling days. Gaily decorated crosses of gold or silver were the main sacred symbols that were taken out in processions but with arrival of the Portuguese on the scene, images of saints were added to the procession. On the Christmas day, people enjoy a sumptuous Christmas lunch. Christmas cakes and wine are served to visitors and exchanged as gifts among friends and relatives. Shops and homes take on a festive air..

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19. Id-ul-Zuha (Arabic) or Bakrid, the Muslim festival of sacrifice is celebrated all over India. Muslims sacrifice a goat or Bakr (Urdu)on this to commemorate the occasion in which Prophet Ibrahim, willingly agreed to kill his son, which he had at the age of 90,at the behest of God. He had decided to sacrifice his son Ismail but as he was on the point of cutting the throat of his dear son, it was revealed that this exercise was merely a test of his faith in Allah, and a ram was sent from for the sacrifice.

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This festival also coincides with pilgrimage in Mecca. Muslims go to the mosques in the morning to offer prayers to Allah, and then sacrifice the animal at home. Bakr means 'sheep', and on Bakrid, the affluent sacrifice one animal per member of the family, and distribute one-thirds of the meat among the poor and the same amount for your relatives and family. A full-grown camel, cow, goat or sheep, free from any disease, is sacrificed Prayers are offered in the mosques and the sacrificial meat is then distributed among family and poor after the Id prayers. Special delicacies of Dal Ghost are prepared and served among family and friends on the occasion.

20. Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of the Arabic month of fasting, namely Ramadan. The festival is a festive and joyous occasion. Special foods in form sheer khorma and sawaiyan prepared for the day and are distributed to neighbours and friends.. It is an occasion of feasting and rejoicing. The faithful gather in the mosques to pray, friends and relatives meet and exchange greetings. Prayers, family get-togethers and feasts are the major highlights of the festival.

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