FESTIVALS

Festivals are an intrinsic part of the Indian way of life, a golden thread that runs through its cultural fabric. Given the size of India, the vast diversity of its people, religions, cultures, languages and terrain, it is not surprising that there are a variety of festivals being celebrated all the year round.

Festivals all over the country celebrate the coming of the seasons and harvest time. aspects of fertility and renewal are closely linked to many of these festivals. Festivals are the occasions when houses are cleaned and whitewashed. They occur at different times and vary in their celebrations. 

Religious festivals, the feast of saints, prophets, god and gurus are the most important of Indian celebrations. these are joyous affairs - a time for prayer and pageantry, music and feasting.

In India, festivals are marked by a warmth of participation. Colour and festivity also provide an occasion for shopping when overnight small markets appear from nowhere. these sell trinkets, local souvenirs and colourful apparel. Dance and music are essential ingredients. Exotic delicacies are a culinary delight.

JANUARY / FEBRUARY

MAKAR SANKRANTI, PONGAL, MEHA BIHU - Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh
A major harvest festival of India. It is one of the biggest events in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. But fights and bullock races are an important features of the celebrations. Also celebrated in the eastern region when millions of pilgrims take a holy dip in the Ganges.

REPUBLIC DAY - All over India
The national festival in observed through out  the country to make the inauguration of the Republic day of India on 26th January 1950. In Delhi, the celebration include a magnificent parade of the armed Forces, folk dances and floats from all the different states of India.

VASANT PANCHAMI - All over India
The festival of spring. On this day people wear clothes in bright shades of yellow and there is merriment all round.

DESERT FESTIVAL (21-23 February 2005)
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

The Desert Festival exudes the delightful spirit of this desert land. Fort three days, the otherwise barren land of Jaisalmer comes to life and is clustered with hordes of colourfully dressed people.

Some cherished moments of the glorious and illustrious past and a rich culture are on display. The traditional dancers and the audience seem to be on a euphoric trip. The Turban Tying competition and Mr Desert contest add a touch of excitement to the celebration. The traditional Gair dancers leave the crowds enchanted by their thrilling performance. 

FLOATING FESTIVAL - Madurai, Tamil Nadu
On the night of the full moon, in the Tamil month of Thai, this magnificent festival is held at Madurai. The festival is celebrated at the huge mariamman Teppakulam tank which has a little temple on an island at its centre. The temple and tank are illuminated for the festival, and beautifully dressed and jewelled images of the goddess Meenakshi and her consort are brought in procession from the Meenakshi temple. they are floated on a raft that is decked with flowers and lamps to the accompaniment of music and chanting of hymns.

SHIVARATRI All over India
Hindu perform puja of Lord Shiva by fasting on this day.

DANCES OF KHAJURAHO - Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
A marvellous week-long festival of dances is held every year at Khajuraho. Some of the best dancers in the country come to perform amidst the splendour of the ancient Chandella temples.

HOLI - North India
The most boisterous of Indian festivals, Holi is associated with Lord Krishna. Gay crowds fill the streets, squirting coloured water on people  regardless of age, caste or creed. Greetings and sweets are exchanged among friends and relatives.

MARDI GRAS - Goa
Mainly three days during lent. Unique celebrations at this carnival. 

CHANDRABHAGA - Konark, Orissa
Chandrabhaga yatra is a famous festival on the bank of river Chandrabhaga near Konark, Orissa. The festival is dedicated to the Sun God and takes place at the merging point of the river and the sea. More than fifty to sixty thousand pilgrims assemble here and take bath chanting name of the Gods and taking the dip in the sea. The fair is very well known among the Orissa people and attracts people from all corners.

FEBRUARY / MARCH

RAMNAVAMI - All over India
Birth of Rama, incarnation of Vishnu. No processions. Plays and folk theaters.

JAMSHED NAVROZ - Maharastra and Gujarat
Jamshed Navroz, new year to the Parsi. The day is also observed as the Day of Repentence when the members of the community pray to be forgiven for sins committed in the past year.

MAHAVIR JAYANTI - All over India

Major Jain festival; birth of Mahavira, the 24th and last Tirthankara. Pilgrims gather at Jain temples and shrines all over the country.

EASTER - All over India
Christians all over India celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Prayers and services are held in churches and cathedrals on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

ELEPHANT FESTIVAL (25 March 2005)
JAIPUR, RAJASTHAN

The Elephant festival gets underway in the month of Phalgun (March) on the eve of Holi, the festival of colours, at Jaipur.

The festival begins with a procession of elephants, camels, horses and folk dancers. The sights of mighty jumbos striding majestically is a treat to watch. The "mahawats" or owners, proudly decorate their elephants with bright colours, jhools (Saddle cloth) and heavy jewellery. Female elephants are made to wear payals or anklets, which jingle as they walk. Prizes are given away for the most beautifully decorated elephant.

The Polo Match, the Elephant Race, the Tug-of-War between elephants and men and women prompt applause from the spectators. The most colourful part of the festival is Holi played on elephant back.

MARCH / APRIL

 

KUMBH MELA - Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh
The Kumbh Mela, one of the India's largest fairs, takes place in a 12-year cycle at Prayag (Allahabad), Hardwar, Nasik and Ujjain. The holiest of these is the mela at Prayag, at the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythicalSaraswati. Millions of pilgrims at Prayag to bathe in the Ganga during the mela.

GANGAUR FESTIVAL (11-15 April 2005)
The festival of Gangaur is very significant for women of Rajasthan. It is a time for them to dress up in their best and participate in the festival.

UDAIPUR, RAJASTHAN
Women gather to dress the images of Isar and Gangaur and then carry them in a ceremonial procession through different parts of the city. Ornamented elephants, decorated camels and horses with their bells tinkling, chariots, dancers dressed in vibrant shades of red, shocking pink and yellow and musicians - all accompany the palanquin of the goddess Gauri. The procession winds its way to the Gangaur Ghat at Lake Pichhola. Here, images are transferred to special boats amidst much singing and festivity.

Once the religious part of the festival is over it is time for cultural events where Rajasthani culture is portrayed through songs, dances and other programmes. The festival culminates with an impressive fireworks display.

JAIPUR, RAJASTHAN
In Jaipur a colourful procession with the image of Gauri starts from the palace gate known as Tripolia and moves through the main streets, passing Chaughan before reaching Talkatora. 

APRIL / MAY

 

BAISAKHI, VISHU BOHAG BIJU - North India, Kerala, Assam
Baisakhi, the Hindu new year is celebrated all over India. It is a very popular festival of Punjab. It is celebrated to mark the harvesting season. To rejoice the occasion, Bhangra and Gidha dances are performed all over the Punjab.

In Kerala, the festival is known as Vishu. Known as Bohag Bihu in Assam, the new year is celbrated with music, folk dances and community feasting.

POORAM - Trichur, Kerala
On this day, the deity is taken out in procession. Magnificent temple tuskers decorated with gold head ornaments and surmounted by men holding colourful umbrellas, yak hair and peacock feather whisks parade to the throbbing of the temple drums. The festival is noted for its splendid displays of fireworks late in the evening.

ID-UL-ZUHA - All over India

Observed by Muslims to commemorate the prophet Abrahim's offer to sacrifice his son. The most celebrated Islamic festival in India.

ID-UL-FITR - All over India
Celebrated to mark the end of the month of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. It is an occasion for fasting and rejoicing.

MEENAKSHI KALYANAM - Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Marriage of Meenakshi with Lord Shiva. Colourful temple festival. Deities borne by colossal chariot. Ten day festival.

JUNE / JULY

RATH YATRA - Puri, Orissa
Greatest temple festival in honour of Lord Jagannath (Lord of the Universe). Three colossal chariots drawn from Puri temple by thousands of pilgrims. Similar festivals, on a smaller scale, take place at Ramnagar (near Varanasi), Serampore (near Calcutta) and Jagannathpur (near Ranchi).

HEMIS - Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir
Hemis Gompa is the largest Buddhist monastery. Crowds gather here to commemorate Padma-sambhava, the Buddhist saint. Dramatic masked dancer swirling around to the music of pipes, enact the battle between good and evil spirits. Around the monastery a fair springs up during the festival where local handicrafts are sold.

JULY / AUGUST

TEEJ
JAIPUR, RAJASTHAN

This festival marks the onset of the rains. The monsoons bring water to the parched land and women celebrate by singing and swinging on swings bung from trees. The festival is dedicated to Goddess Parvati and an elaborate procession is taken out in Jaipur for two consecutive days.

RAKSHA BANDHAN - Northern & Western India
Celebrated by Hindu's particularly in northern India. Sisters tie holy thread/Rakhi on the wrists of their brothers wishing their long life. Brothers take oath to protect the honour and help them in adversities.

NAAG PANCHAMI - Jodhpur, Maharastra

Snakes, especially cobras are venerated during the festival of Naag Panchami. This festival is dedicated to the sacred serpent Ananta, on whose coils Lord Vishnu rested while creating the universe.

AMARNATH YATRA - Kashmir
High up in the Kashmir Himalayas, at a height of 3880 metres, is the Amarnath cave with its sacred ice lingam, a symbol of Lord Shiva. This lingam is a natural phenomemon. Each year in the month of Shravan, at the time of the full moon, thousands of pilgrims make the difficult four-day trek up to the cave.

AUGUST / SEPTEMBER

INDEPENDENCE DAY - All over India
The anniversary of India's independence won on this day in 1947. Prime Minister delivers address from Delhi’s Red Fort.

JANMASHTAMI - All over India
The birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, celebrated with great anthusiasm all over India, specially at Mathura and Vrindavan, which are closely associated with his childhood.

ONAM - Kerala
Kerala's most important festival, Onam honours the ancient demon king Mahabali. Homes are cleaned and carpets of flowers are arranged for all ten days of the festival. It is harvest time and the season for feasting and fun. Along the limpid backwaters stately snake-boats with crews of over 100 men race each other to the rhythm to traditional boat songs.

GANESH CHATURTHI - Maharashtra & Tamil Nadu
The elephant-headed God Ganesh, the god of wisdom and success is worshipped at the colourful Ganesh Chathurthi festival. In Western India, large images of the god are installed and worshipped for several days after which they are taken out in procession and immersed in the river or the sea. 

SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER

DUSSEHARA - All over India

Based on the epic story of ramayana the ten days Dussehra festival signifying the triumph of good over evil is celebrated all over the country. In north India, the Ramlila is staged to commenmorate the heroism of Lard Rama. In Bengal, it is observed as Durga Puja and images of the warrior goddess Durga are immersed in lakes and rivers four days of worship.

GANDHI JAYANTI - All over India
The birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation is celebrated with reverence all over the country.

DIWALI - All over India

The brightest India festival when every city town and village is turned into  a fairy land with millions of electric light, candles and oil lamps illuminating homes and public buildings. A special feature of the festival is the worship of Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

GURPURAB - North India
The birth anniversaries of Guru Nanak, the first Guru of the Sikhs, is celebrate in the month of Kartik.

NOVEMBER

CHHATRA PUJA - Nalanda, Bihar
Twice a year, in the Hindu month spanning October and November and in that which spans April and May, in the state of Bihar women make vows to Surya, the sun god, promising to perform certain arduous rituals in exchange for special favours. A festival called Chhatra, lasting several days, is the culmination of these vows.

MUHARRAM - All over India
Commemorated the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the propohet Muhammad, Tazias, symbolic of the Marty's tomb at Karbala, are carried in morning procession. Muharram as observed in Lucknow, is famous.

DECEMBER

CHRISTMAS DAY - All over India
The Birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated in India, with the traditional exchanges of greetings and gifts.

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