India, the largest democracy in the world, whose cultural heritages date back to more than 5000 plus years, is essentially a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country and an ideal example of the phrase ‘Unity in Diversity’.
Basically, festivals of India can be safely characterized in different categories like state festivals that are essentially celebrated religion and community wise showcasing their rich culture and traditions and national festivals which are celebrated pan India, accompanied with a set number of holidays for each, over and above these there is also an opportunity to enjoy the gazetted holidays as authorized by the Government of India, clubbing which along with these festive holidays you can plan out a pan India trip on one of the tour packages.
Famous Festivals of Indian To Plan Your Trip
Although there are a number of festivals around the year the most exciting of all these happen, during the period October till January, in which fall, all the major festivals of India, that showcase the true and vibrant nature of our country. We list below some of the main festivals of India.
1. LOHRI –13th January
Falling on the last day of Paush, a day that is also known as Makkar Sankranti in various parts of the country, Lohri is one of the agriculturally related famous Indian festivals, that signifies the harvesting season of the rabi crops, in Punjab. Falling on the 13th January, as per the Gregorian calendar, every year, spreads the message of love and happiness all around.
Preparation for this festival, actually starts well before the day Lohri falls on. Children go around collecting the required revenue from the locals while singing songs in praise of the legendary Robin hood of a bygone era, who has the guts to lead protests against Akbar, during those days. They also collect twigs and wood for a bonfire on the day of celebrations.
On the final day, with the setting sun, a bonfire is lit around which you will find elders and children alike dancing around the bonfire while singing related Lohri songs and munching on sweets made from Jaggery and sesame seeds (rewari), gajak, peanuts etc.
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2. MAKAR SANKRANTI – 14th January
Makar Sankranti, another important festival of India, is celebrated pan India, in different ways, to observe the day marking a shift of the Sun into lengthening days, it also happens to be a seasonal as well as a religious celebration
This festival is known by various other names as Khichdi, Maghi, Uttarayan and Lohri. Down south it is observed as Pongal. Incidentally, this festival also happens to be one of the Hindu festivals that also happens to be a solar event thus resulting, in it, falling on the same day every year, i.e. the 14 of January with a rare exceptionality when it falls on the 15th January.
It is also believed that taking a holy dip on this auspicious day in any of the holy rivers like the Ganaga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery, washes away ones sins.
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3. Kumbh Mela
A religious Indian festival that is held cyclically every 12 years spread over four river pilgrimage sites namely the Godavari in Nashik, the Ganges – Yamuna Saraswati rivers confluence at Prayagraj, Shipra at Ujjain and the Ganges at Haridwar. The essence, among the believers of this festival, is a ritual bath in any of the above-mentioned four rivers which, it is believed is a means for penance for ones sins and thus the cleansing of one’s soul. His festival is also an ideal opportunity for a numerous numbers of religious discourses by saints, education, fairs, mass feeding of the poor and monks alike, and entertainment etc.
The great saint and philosopher, of his time, Aid Shankara is credited for the initiation of this festive congregation, in the 8th century, by initiating mainline Hindu gatherings for philosophical debates and discussions along with those from the famous Hindu monasteries across the Indian subcontinent, of the time. To further substantiate this, there exists ample proof in historic inscriptions and manuscripts regarding an annual Magha Mela in Hinduism, happening cyclically every 6 to 12 years constituting of a very large number of pilgrims. Such a gathering invariably included Holy dips in the holy rivers or a tank. It is only in the 19th century that this gathering was christened as the Kumbh Mela.
It is spans a period from one to three months with specified multiple dates for the holy dip for every person. A large number of people, from within and outside India visit this mass festival every year, with the largest gathering being at Prayagraj and the second largest at Haridwar.
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A very prominent South Indian festival, Pongal, celebrated at the same time while the North celebrate Lohri and Makar Sankranti, it is a three to four-day South Indian harvest festival. People, prepare the Pongal dish, wear their traditional attire and decorate their houses with colourful Rangolis (traditional floral designs made with powders of different colors, rice, and flower petals) on this day. Merrymaking, bonfires, dancing and singing, cattle races etc. form an important part of this festival.
It is celebrated pan India, by all the Tamilian, living in different parts of the country. Culminating on the 16th of January, this traditional festival of Kerala starts on the 14th of January annually.
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5. REPUBLIC DAY – NATIONAL FESTIVAL- 26th January
The Indian Tri color hoisting ceremonies are held pan India, with the most vibrant and elaborate one being held at the Rajpath in New Delhi, where the President of India, in the presence of a foreign dignitary (an invitee), unfurls the national tri-color.
The rich cultural heritage of India along with the countries military prowess is on full display at the Rajpath on this day.
The President of India, on this day, awards the gallantry medals to all those deserving army and paramilitary personnel for their acts of bravery, in the most adverse circumstances, while defending their country. Prior to this the Prime Minister of India lays a wreath at the grave of the unknown soldier at India Gate in New Delhi, thus initiating the celebrations of this all-important National festival. This is later followed up by a military parade that showcases the countries military might and an exhibition of the cultural heritage of India, through Tableaus, by the various states and a children’s parade.
The entire state capitals of the country are lit up during the evening of this day, while people hoist the tri-color on the roofs of their houses, schools, colleges, and all the institutional buildings.
FEBRUARY - 2021
6. Carnival of Goa –Fabruary
Dating back about 500 hundred years, ever since Goa was a Portugese colony, this Goan Festival of India, the Carnival of Goa, is an event that is unique to Goa held annually during the month of February. This most sought after festival for the locals comprises of parades, colourful costumes, some exotic floats, street celebrations and some night long non-stop parties making it an event attended by tourists from within and other countries around the world it also happens to be the main attraction for any and everyone wanting to visit Goa.
Over the period of time this festival has undergone some changes while retaining most of the old traditions, like during the old days people used to smear each other with fruits, flour, and eggs etc. but these days people smear each other with colors, so much so that this carnival is now being termed as the Goan Holi. More over this also happens to be the time for the youngsters to express their love and feelings for each other.
As per the tradition all the restaurants and eateries, around Goa, are expected to prepare the best non- vegetarian dishes in meat and fish on the days for which the carnival is on. Also as the Goans take this opportunity to clean up their kitchens they all dine out during this period that is the reason that all the eateries and restaurants are open throughout the night on all days, making it a unique extravaganza, eat drink and make merry that is something not to be missed even by mistake.
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7. BASANT PANCHAMI –February
This fest, on the list of festivals of India, is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of wisdom, education, art and culture, and is the wife to Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe. On this day you will find people dressed in yellow so much so that even the food cooked on the day is yellow like Khichidi, yellow sweet rice etc. Elders and children alike indulge in kite flying and compete with each other.
It is also believed that without the Goddess the entire universe would be shrouded in the darkness of ignorance, as it is she who is considered as the enlightenment in any and every one’s life. Moreover this festival also signals the onset of the spring season in the country and the entire fields are full of yellow coloured flower of Sarson. The idols of Goddess Saraswati are also decked up with yellow saree, as yellow is believed to be her favourite colour. Another significance of this festival is that it is from this day on that people start giving their young ones their first lessons in education. The other names for this process are Aksharbhayasam or Vidyarambam.
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8. MAHA SHIVRATRI –March
Although there are 12 Shivratri’s, as the fourteenth day of every lunar month, before the new moon, is known as Shivratri, Mahashivratri, falling in the month of February - March is considered to be the most significant of all these.
Various versions regarding the origin of this all important Indian festival, dedicated to Lord Shiva, are tendered by different people quoting different incidents in the life of Lord Shiva, of which the most often reiterated is the legend regarding the marriage of Goddess Parvati to Lord Shiva on this day.
It is interesting to note that the significance of this festival varies from people to people, like, for example, for those on the path of spirituality this festival is of extreme significance, while for those bearing a family the significance of this festival is different as compared to the spiritually inclined, and the worldly ambitious, see this festival as the day Lord Shiva overcame and conquered all his enemies. More over it is the belief that whoever worships Lord Shiva on this all auspicious day is redeemed of all his/her sins. Both, India and Nepal observe this famous festival with a great deal of pomp and show.
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9. LOSAR – THE TIBETAN NEW YEAR –March
Widely observed by the Tibetan community in India, Losar is the most important festival of the Tibetans around the world. It is essentially a15 day celebration with the first three days being the most important of these.
The families prepare for this day very well in advance starting by cleaning their homes, and paint the walls of their houses, in flour, with auspicious signs of the moon, sun, or a reversed Swastika, while at the same time decorating their hoses with fragrant flowers and at the same time preparing juniper, cedar and rhododendron branches to burn as incense. All the people buy new clothes and special foods like the fried twists etc. are made for the occasion. It is more or less in line with our Diwali festival only that it goes on for 15 days.
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10. MEWAR FESTIVAL -March
A colourful, vibrant and an exhilarating state festival of Rajasthan welcoming the onset of spring, the Mewar or the Udaipur festival of Rajasthan is celebrated with an immense amount of zeal and fervour.
Coinciding with the Gangaur festival it is considered to be a very significant festival for the womenfolk of Rajasthan, as it is during this festival that the women dress up in the most vibrant and colourful clothes, gather together to dress up the idols of Isar and Gangaur and can be seen carrying them all around the city on their way to the Pichola lake singing hymns and dancing. On reaching the lake the idols are off loaded onto special boats, while indulging in song, dance and festivities. A unique procession of boats at the Picholoa lake add to the splendor of the festival while offering a befitting finale to the whole show.
With the religious festivities over it is time to show case the cultural heritage of Rajasthan through song, dance and other dedicated programmes, culminating in an exotic display of fireworks that mesmerizes the visitors.
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11. HOLI –March
Holi, an ancient Hindu festival, other than being characterized as one of the most famous festivals of India, is also termed as the festival of love, colour, and that of the setting in of the spring season in the country. Incidentally this festival is not only limited to the Indian subcontinent but has spread around the world owing to the Indian diasporas where ever they reside and in which ever country, be it regions of Asia the Western world or the European countries of late.
It is said that this festival is the time when all differences are laid aside and the people meet each other play colour, hug each other and forgive others’ trespasses.
It lasts for two days, the eve of Holi also known as Holikadehan (burning of the Demoness Holika), also known as the Chhoti Holi, is the evening when people light a bonfire and dance and sing around it, and play colour the following day which is also known as Dhulandi, Rangwali Holi, Dhuleti or the Phagwah.
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12. HOLA MOHALLA –March
Sometimes coinciding with Holi the Hola Mohalla is an important three day Sikh festival celebrated by the Sikhs residing the world over. It falls on the second day of the lunar month of Chett, which is a day after Holi.
A three day fair, to mark this occasion is held at Anandpur Sahib, one of the five temporal authority seats of the Sikhs. The enthusiasm and excitement among the people is such that they along with the participants reach here a week in advance to enjoy the fun and frolic and listen to the Kirtan/ Hymns and enjoy the various displays of the fighting might and bravery of the Sihks. While here they also savour the traditional Guru Ka Langar. The fair concludes on the third day with the showcasing of the Sikhs display of their martial arts and their military like prowess.
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13. Vasant Chaitra Navaratri –April
This nine day long festival is one of the famous festivals of India, starts from the first day to the ninth day, the Navami, through the bright fortnight of the moon, during the Hindu calendar month of Chaitra. Incidentally this also happens to be the first month of the Hindu calendar.
The Chaitra Navratri or the Vsant Navratri, are dedicated to the nine forms of the Goddess Shakti and the rituals and customs are more or less the same as those followed during the Shardiya Navratri.
Fasting and prayers for these nine days mark the Navratri celebrations, before the celebrations people clean their houses and purify them for welcoming of Maa Shakti to their homes.
During these nine days of fasting strict vegetarianism is the norm which involves consumption only of potatoes, curd, fruits, and Kuttu Ka Aata, consumption of non-vegetarian food including use of onions and garlic needs to be strictly avoided.
Moreover since the Goddess manifests herself in three different forms of Goddess Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati, rituals pertaining to the puja to be performed, too, is accordingly characterized into three different set of days. In which the first three days are in dedication to Goddess Durga, the Goddess that provides energy, second set of three days to Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess signifying wealth and the last three days are devoted to Goddess Saraswati the Goddess of knowledge.
On the ninth day a pooja is held where seven girls, not having attained adolescence, are worshipped and the family after having offered them Prasad end their nine day fast after this ceremony.
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14. Ugadi –April
Ugadi, an important historic state festival of the Hindu’s, marks the New Year Day for the people of Telangan, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. It is traditionally observed on the first day of the Hindu Lunisolar calendar month of Chaitra, corresponding to the months of March – April as per the Gregorian calendar.
On this day people decorate their houses with beautifully coloured designs basically known as Rangoli, although identified by different names in the various states while decorating doors with mango leaves etc. and buy and shell out gifts like new clothes, dole out charity for the poor etc. and preparing the traditional food Pachadi, which essentially is a mix of various flavours like sweet, bitter, salty, sour, spicy hot, and astringent and visiting Hindu temples.
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15. Gudi Padwa –April
Celebrated chiefly in and around Maharashtra and Goa the festival of Gudi Padwa is essentially a spring festival while signifying the traditional New Year, falling on the first day of the Chaitra month, for the Hindus of the Marathi and Konkani regions of the country, as per the lunisolar Hindu calendar.
It is observed with flora decorations on the floors, Rangoli, and a unique Gudhi garland of flowers, neem and mango leaves, with upturned silver and copper vessels, traditionally known as the Gudhi flag, dancing and street processions along with the related festive sweets and foods.
The Sindhi community, pan India, also celebrates this day as their New Year while observing this day as Chet Chand, the day of the emergence of their deity Lord Jhulelal. They offer prayers to their deity and celebrate the festival with making of sweet delicacies etc.
However this day need not be mistaken for a universal New Year day for all Hindus, the reason being that for a majority the New Year falls on Baisakhi on the 13th or the 14th of April, and only for those in and near Gujrat does the New Year fall on the five day Diwali festivities.
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17. Baisakhi –April
The harvest festival of Punjab Baisakhi or Vasakhi, is the most famous and vibrant festival of India. As it is based on the solar calendar, it falls on the 13th April every year thus marking the beginning of the Hindu solar year.
This festival is celebrated both by Hindus and Sikhs alike with a great deal of zeal and fervor, where ever they are, within India and abroad, showcasing the tradition and culture of Punjab. Fairs and melas are held at many places in and around the state where people sing and dance with jot while relishing the sweet foods etc, while men perform the traditional Bhangra of Punjab the women make merry by performing the traditional Gidda on the traditional music that enthuses additional energy in people which results in the upkeep of the traditional folk culture of Punjab in the minds of the young and old people of the state.
There exists a very important historical fact that links with this festival. It says that it was on the day of Baiskhi, in 1699, that the tenth guru, Shri Guru Gobind Singh, of the Sikhs baptized five people, who answered to his call, from a large congregation thus laying the foundation of the Khalsa Panth as we know it today. He formulated this race chiefly to fight for and protect all the other people, regardless of their caste or creed, against the tyranny of Aurangzeb who was on a plundering spree.
Gurudwaras all over are decorated and hymn from the Guru Granth Sahib are recited and sung in the various gurudwaras and Karah Prasad is distributed among the gathering and Nagar Kiratans, religious processions are held all over the Country and abroad wherever Sikhs reside.
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18. Bihu – April
Bihu, an important state festival of Assam, is essentially constitutes of three Assamese festivals, the Bhogali or the Magh Bihu that is observed in the month of January, the Rongali or the Bohag Bihu, celebrated in the month of April, the Kongali or the Kitu Bihu in October, all these festivals are essentially in reverence to Lord Krishna. Of all these the Rongali Bihu is the most important as this celebrates the oncoming of the spring season while the Bhogali or the Magh Bihu marks the harvest season in Assam.
While the two of the Bihu festivals are essentially unique to the Assamese culture, the Rongali Bihu coincides with the Assamese New year same as the New year in the other regions of South-East Asia, East Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.
It is interesting to note that all the three Bihus are associated to three different aspects of agriculture, while Bohag Bihu is associated with the sowing of the crop, the Kati Bihu is associated with the protection of drops along with the worship of plants and crops and finally the Rongali/Bhogali Bihu is essentially the Harvest festival of Assam.
All the old and young wear new clothes and feast on this Bhogali Bihu. Some people hang silver, brass or copper in front of their houses while the children all decked up in garlands run through the village streets wishing everyone a new year.
19. Thrisur Pooram –April
The most significant and popular of all the Poorams in Kerala, the Thrissur Pooram is the single largest of all. It is said that this festival occurs on the day that the moon rises along with the Pooram star in the Medam month of the Mallayalam calendar. This annual festival is celebrated with a great deal of pomp and show while being Unique to Kerala. As it draws a large number of tourists it is also one of the most important state festival of India.
Pooram basically indicates it to be a temple festival generally celebrated in devotion to Maa Durga or Kali, the other name that this festival goes by is the summer harvest festival of Kerala. The fireworks, elephant shows, dance and music, puppetry along with folk art performances are the chief tourist attractions during this Pooram.
The Thrissupooram was initially started by the then Raja Rama Verma, who was the celebrated king of Cochin way back during the 18th & the 19th centuries. It was started because once owing to some severe rains the people of Thrissur were unable to reach for the then popular Arattupuzha Pooram and were turned back in disgrace, that is when having been approached by the people of Thrissur did Raja Rama Verma initiate this festival in association with the ten surrounding temples, whose deities are called on to partake in this all important Pooram since that day.
This festival essentially starts with the hoisting of the unique festive flag seven days before the main procession. The most interesting fact about this festival is that all the items used during the previous year’s celebrations are never repeated for the subsequent years celebrations, meaning that each year a fresh set of all decorations and ornament for the festival are re - made. Another interesting fact about the celebrations of this festival is that all the communities like the Christians, Muslims etc. become a part of this festival making it an ideal example of oneness.
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20. Mahavir Jayanti –April
Mahavir Jayanti is an important Jain festival of India, it is celebrated to commemorate Mahavirswami who was born to king Siddharta and Queen Trishna of Kundagrama. The idol opf Lord Mahavira, during this festival is carried taken around in a dedicated Rath and an abhishek of all the idols of Lord Mahavira is performed.
The devotees visit dedicated temple to pay obeisance to their deity while performing poojas, meditations, recite hymns, lecture on the virtues of the principles of Jainism are delivered by monks and nuns, while donations are collected to provide for the poor. Rallies and runs preaching non-violence in accordance wirth teachings of Lord Mahavira are held on this day.
21. Eid-Ul-Fitr –May
Eid al-Fitr also known as the festival of breaking the month long fast, that the Muslims practice throughout the month of Ramdan, is actually the most important of all the Eids that the Muslim community celebrates the world over.
This festival signifies the end of a month long hardcore dawn to dusk fasting. The date for the start of the festivities is solely dependent on the sighting of the new moon by the local chief religious authority, thus resulting in the variation in the time of beginning of the related festivities the world over.
People buy new clothes and are all decked up on the day of Eid and exchange wishes and greetings after having attended the morning prayers at the local mosques.
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22. Buddha Jayanti –May
The Buddha Jayanti or the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha is a very prominent Buddhist festival of India and Buddhists in India and most of East Asia. It is the commemoration of the birth of Prince Siddharta who latter on after having attained wisdom became Guatama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
The exact date of birth of Lord Buddha being based on the lunisolar calendar varies from year to year and corresponds to the months of April – May of the Gregorian calendar, during a leap year it is quite likely to be celebrated in the month of June.
It is widely celebrated in the eastern part of India in Darjeeling, Bodh Gaya, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Maharashtra and where ever else the Buddhist diaspora resides.
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23. Hemis –June
The birth anniversary of Guru Padamsambhav who fought the dark forces by use of the Vajrayana Buddhism is celebrated as the Hemis festival in Ladakh. This festival also happens to be a state, now a Union territory of India’s festival and is counted as one of the most vibrant festivals of India.
It is celebrated on a very big scale at the here hundred years old Hemis Monastery which happens to be under the rule of the Namgyal dynasty. Just as is the case in other regions of the country, here too, the festival begins with the seeking of blessing of the deity of the day, here from the portrait of Guru Padamasambhav.
The fore most attraction of this festival for all the visitors, be they tourists from within the country or abroad is the masked dance as performed by the Lamas that depicts the war between the good and evil forces which is ultimately won by the good. The Lamas add extra enthusiasm to this dance that entices the viewers who simply love it and enjoy this amazing dance.
You will get to see all the locals dressed in their most vibrant and colourful dresses making it a sight to behold, over and above this you can pick up souvenirs from the fairs that are organised to mark the occasion.
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24. Dree Festival –July
Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh is a witness to this amazing harvest festival of Arunachal Pradesh, also considered to be one of the major harvest festivals of India, where every 4th of July the Dree priests traditionally inaugurate this festival in the evening.
The following day i.e. the 5th of July this Dree festival is duly solemnized by the priest and is celebrated, at a common place where all the inhabitants of the surrounding villages gather together, with traditional fan fare, dance and music, after having been inaugurated by a chief guest unfurling the traditional Dree flag amidst the singing of the Dree anthem.
All present at this festival are then offered the traditional Dree Taku (cucumber) and the Dree ‘O’ (millet or rice bear) followed by a community feast. To further add to the festivities groups of artists perform their traditional songs and dances, literary competitions, other sport and games competitions too are held to mark the occasion.
Finally all the people gather together and pray for a bountiful harvest.
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25. Ratha Yatra –July
A festival that finds mention in the ancient scripture like the Skanda Purna, Kapila Samhita, and the Brahma Puran, today, designated as, the most popular Indian Hindu festival, the world over, is the famous religious festival of Jaggan Nath Rath Yatra of Puri.
Essentially an annual event, the Chariot festival of Shri Jaggannath is celebrated on the second day of the waxing cycle (Shukla Paksha) of the moon in the third month (Ashada masa) of the lunar calendar at Puri (the temple town of Odisha).
During this festival the idols of Lord Jagganathn, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhdra are removed from the main temple at Puri and a ceremoniously carried on Cahriots to the Gundicha Temple roughly two miles from the main temple at Puri. The Chariots are drawn by a number of devotees and make a momentary stop near the crematorium of Bhakta Salabega a Muslim devout to pay tribute to him.
The idols are returned to the main temple after a seven day stay at the Gundicha Temple, and while on their way back the chariots momentarily stopover at the Mausi Maa temple and savour a unique type of a pancake that happens to be a favourite of Lord Jagannath.
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26. HARYALI TEEJ –August
Haryali Teej is celebrated to commemorate the day Lord Shiva finally accepted Goddess Parvati as his wife after she had undergone multiple fasts with an aim to have him as her husband. This is predominately an all women festival of India, celebrated mainly in Northern and Western India.
The women, on this day, dress up in their traditional attire in green, with green sari, bangles etc., as green symbolizes monsoons and this essentially being monsoon festival, the married women on this day fast and pray for the well being and long life for their husbands while the unmarried girls apply mehendi, dress up for the 1occassion and pray for able husbands. This auspicious occasion is also celebrated by the giving of sweets and gifts to their married off daughters, by their parents, and to her husband and his family
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27. INDEPENDENCE DAY – A NATIONAL FESTIVAL – 15th August
The year 1947 is a landmark year in the history of India, as this is the day India attained its Independence, on the 15th August 1947, from a 200 year of tyrannical rule of the Britishers. This independence, was a result of a long drawn Independence movement by the people of India coupled with the non- violence and the civil disobedience movements of the populace. The legislative sovereignty was passed on to the Indian constituent assembly, by the British on this day.
The down side of this was the partition of the country, into India and Pakistan, on religious basis, that led to large violence, rioting and loss of life. The then Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru unfurled the Indian Tri colour for the first time on the ramparts of the Red Fort, a practice that is to date carried out by the Prime Ministers of India to mark the celebration of this Landmark National festival of India. This day is celebrated pan India with parades and cultural events being conducted all over.
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28. ONAM –August
A harvest festival of Kerala, when, as per the legend King Mahabali is said to visit the state, Onam is celebrated as a mark of welcoming King Mahabali on his visit. This most popular and important festival of Kerala is celebrated with a great pomp and show by all the communities of the state.
Celebrated during the period between August and September that corresponds to the first month of the Mallayam calendar, and lasting for 4 to 10 days, of which the first day and the tenth day are considered to be the most important as Atham and Thiruonam respectively. As it showcases the rich cultural and traditional heritage of Kerala it has also been classified as an important National festival of Kerala since 1961.
The vibrancy, elaborate feasting, elephant dances, folk singing, boat races, energetic games and flowers are all a part of this festival. Taking notice of this vibrancy the Government of India promotes Onam on a massive scale by observing the Onam week as a “Tourism Week” that attracts tourists from within and outside of our country, thus encouraging international and national participation in this famous festival.
The legend that goes with this festival is that during the rule of the demon king Mahabali Kerala witnessed unprecedented prosperity and abundance of crop and happiness, as a result of which the populace of the state was very happy and satisfied in all spheres of life, and gained immense respect of his subjects that inculcated in him a sense of ego and certain other shortcoming in his character. Fearing his growing might the Gods decided to bring an end to his reign. But for all his good deeds he was rewarded a boon that he could visit his subjects annually, with whom he was so intensely attached. So it to mark this annual visit of king Mahabali that this festival of Onam is celebrated with a great pomp and show.
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29. RAKSHABANDHAN –August
The bond between siblings is something that is considered to be a very noble relation all over the world and particularly in context to India. Raksha Bandhan is a festival of Indian that demonstrates this relation and the strength of it, between siblings.
It is celebrated during the full moon in the Hindu month of Shravan corresponding to August as per the Gregorian calendar. It is made up of two words having distinct meanings – Raksha corresponds to security or looking after and keeping safe while Bandhan means to tie a knot of protection, in this case, that symbolizes the existence of an unbreakable and a strong bond between a brother and his sister.
Various communities celebrate this festival in different ways like
Sikhism – Sikhs celebrate this festival as Rakhari dedicated to brother sister love.
Hinduism – This is widely celebrated among the Hindus of Northern and Western India along with those in Mauritius, Nepal and Pakistan.
Jainism – This festival is also revered by the Jain community and the related priests distribute or give a ceremonial thread to all the devotees.
On this day a sister ties a thread on to her brothers wrist and prays for his well being, prosperity and good health, while the brother in return presents her with gifts while promising to look after her and keep her safe under any circumstances that she may face at any time in her life.
There are various legends regarding the origination of this all revered festival of India.
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30. KRISHNA JANASTHAMI –August
Marking the coming of the eighth incarnate of Lord Vishnu, who it is said comes to redeem humanity from the clutches of goons, demons and misrule on earth, Janamashtami is celebrated to observe the coming or the birthday of Lord Krishna.
It falls on the eighth day or Ashtami of the moonless fortnight of the Bhadon month as per the Hindu calendar. It is unclear as to when this celebration actually originated, some say that it could have originated about a 1000 years back, there are a number of myths and legendry stories around the birth of this most famous and popular religious festival of India. A prominent reference to Lord Krishna can be found in the Indian epic Mahabharta where in it is said the Lord Krishna was born in a cellular jail and then due to divine intervention was transported to Nandagaon, across the Yamuna, by his father, and later on He happened to kill his maternal uncle Kans signaling the end of a tyrannical rule of his uncle and bringing long lasting peace and prosperity to his people.
Thus it can be said that the people of Gokul ( foster home of Lord Krishna) were the first ones to celebrate this festival with a great zeal and fervor, which spread all across the country over time, and is today celebrated pan India with a great deal of fan fare to mark the birth of Lord Krishna considered to be the epitome of friendship, love faith and peace.
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31. DAHI HANDI –August
Another important aspect of Krishna Janamashtami or Janamashtami, is the sport (Technically speaking) of Dahi Handi, held on the day after Janamashtami, based on the legend of the way Lord Krishna, during his childhood used to steal butter and yoghurt (dahi) from the pots hung from the ceiling with the help of his coterie of equally naughty and mischievous friends.
In the very same manner, on this day, groups of young people, having formed teams, compete to break a pot of milk, butter or any other milk products, could be sweets or dry fruits etc. suspended from a considerable height, by the people of a society, by forming a human pyramid to achieve this feat.
It is a festive occasion and a sight to behold with girls singing and dancing while encouraging and cheering the participants on to successfully achieve the feat of breaking the Dahi Handi. The society or the committee that organizes this amazing historic, traditional and a challenging sport also rewards the winners with prizes in cash or kind. This event is given a wide coverage by the media houses as well.
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32. GANESH CHATURTHI –September
“Ganapti Bapa Moreya” the chant that instills in one an energy that goes for the celebration of this all important, vibrant and energetic festival of India, popularly known as Ganeshutsav or Ganesh Charturthi is typically a ten day festival marking the birth day of Lord Ganesha, the second son of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva.
Essentially the Lord of art, science and wisdom Lord Ganesha is revered by 108 different names of which the most often used name are Ganapati or Sidhi Vanayaka. Lord Ganesh is considered to be the Lord of initiations and is thus invariably paid obeisance at the beginning or initiation of any ceremony.
There are two distinct legendary stories that tell us about birth of Lord Ganesha. One is that Lord Ganesha was created by Goddess Parvati, to guard the entrance while she was bathing and he challenged Lord Shiva who wanted in. Lord Shiva unknowingly kills him and an enraged Goddess compels Lord Shiva to infuse life into him to which Lord Shiva obliged by affixing an elephants head and bringing him back to life, while the other legend has it that he was created by both by Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati at the behest of the Devas for protecting them from the demons.
It is widely and diligently celebrated in the state of Maharashtra with fan fare and dedication by setting up colourful pandals etc.but now overtime is gaining popularity pan India. This festival is also celebrated in Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Nepal and China.
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33. SHARAD NAVRATRI –October
Nine nights – Navratri when literally translated is the most significant of all Hindu festivals of India. Observed during the Ashvin month, as per the Hindu calendar corrspondinbg to September/October of the Gregorian calendar, is celebrated over a period of 9 days and in some cases depending on the lunar calendar for 8 days, during which the nine different incarnations of Goddess Durga are paid obeisance and worshiped. Each day corresponds to one of these nine incarnations of the Goddess and calls for different rituals each day. In fact there occur four such Navratri festivals over the span of a year of which the Sharad Navartri festival is considered to be the most important.
Every region celebrates this festival according to their own belief and traditions. While in some regions people observe this festival by fasting for nine continuous days by following a strictly vegetarian regimen, other celebrate this by indulging in dancing and singing like the Garba in Gujarat and Durga Pooja in the Eastern part of the country.
Typically during this festival the first three days are dedicated to Godess Durga, the second set of three days to Goddess Lakshmi and the third set of the three days to Goddess Saraswati. As a finale, on the ninth or the eighth day a Kanya Pujan is held where in 9 young girls not having attained puberty, are traditionally and ritualistically honoured by giving them the related traditional food, gifts and clothes.
Incidentally an interesting fact about the Hindu tradition of fasting is associated to a scientific fact that it is good to fast at the change of seasons in order rest their digestive system and prepare for the new regimen.
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34. Durga Puja –October
Coinciding with the Navratri festival of North India, Durga Pooja the most revered festival of Northeast India, is widely celebrated in the states of Assam Odisha, West Bengal, Tripira, Bihar and Nepal, and the diasporas of these states residing elsewhere in India and abroad. As it coincides with the Navratri of North India Durga Pooja too falls in the month of Ashvin in the Hindu calendar corresponding to the period of the months of September – October as per the Gregorian calendar.
This ten day festival is celebrated with great zeal and fervor and constitutes the recitation of scriptures, dances and other performance arts, distribution of gifts among family and friends, family visits etc. Poojas are held both at home and in public wherein decorated structures called pandals are erected for the needful.
While the most prominent Goddess revered during the Durga pooja is a variant form of Goddess Parvati called Durga Parvati and Durga Lakshmi ( a variant form of Goddes Lakshmi), the celebrations also include the other prominent deities like Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesha Lord Kartikeya, who, in Bengali and Odia traditions are considered as sons of Goddess Durga and this event commemorates the visit of the Goddess to her natal home along with her children.
The main festival begins on the sixth day as this is the day when the Goddess is ritually welcomed and continues till the tenth day (Vijayadashmi) when people collectively proceed with the idol of the Goddess for immersion accompanied by large scale dancing and singing all along the way of the procession. Essentially this festival also exemplifies the victory of good over evil.
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35. Dussehra –October
Observed on the tenth day of the Hindu month of Ashvin, corresponding to the period September/October, according to the Gregorian calendar, Dussehra or Vijayadashmi, another one of the most prominent and vibrant festivals of India, is celebrated on the tenth day of Navratri. Just like in the case of Navratri, Dussehra too is celebrated differently in different regions of the country according to their belief and traditions.
In the Northern, central and the western states of the country, this festival known as Dussehra is observed on the 10th day of the Navratri festival. In this part of the country it marks the completion of the Ramlila based on the epic Ramayana, commemorating the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana, by burning the effigies of Ravan along with those of his brothers, Meghnat and Kumbakarana. In the eastern part of the country this is observed as the culmination of the Durga Pooja remembering the victory of the Goddess over the demon, in the form of a buffalo, Mahishasura in order to protect dharma and peace in the region.
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36. VALMIKI JAYANTI –October
Observed as the birth anniversary o, the greatest of all sages, of India, Maharishi Valmiki, instrumental in the composition of the, religious epic Ramayana, the life story of Lord Rama in Sanskit. His birth anniversary is traditionally celebrated as one of the festivals of India as Valmiki Jayanti.
Legend has it that having been kidnapped, whilst a child, by the Bhil clan who were at that time engaged in burglary, robbery and dacoity, had christened him as Ratnakar. Once when he tried to rob Narad Muni, who happened to be passing through the forest, but instead the great Muni changed his heart through his devotional and meditative power. This incident enlightened him and further it is said that when after the renunciation of Sita by Lord Rama, it was he who sheltered her and her sons Luv and Kush in his Ashram and educated them
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37. KARVA CHAUTH –October
Another woman centric festival according to the mythology is the most important Indian festival for married women is the Karva Chauth. All the women on this day observe a day long hard core fast sans water as it is a belief that the observance of this fast enhances the longevity of life of their husband.
This festival is observed by most of the Hindu women worldwide, but is most popularly celebrated in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan although in different mannerisms according to their beliefs and traditions but the essence of the observance of the fast is the longevity of their husbands’ life.
This is also observed by the unmarried girls who pray for an able husband. The women get up early in the morning, much before sunrise, and have their fill with whatever is permitted as per their tradition and then nothing else for the whole day till the moon rise. They listen to religious or mythological stories to kill their time waiting for the moon to rise. Towards the evening they get all decked up in the best of the clothes, having applied Henna to their hands and feet, and wear all the related necessary ornaments.
Once the moon, which is considered to be a symbol of age, peace and happiness, is sighted, they pay obeisance by offering it water and some Prasad and then drink water from the hands of their husband while also seeking his and their in-laws’ blessings, marking the end of the day long fast.
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38. Deepawali –November
The most vibrant religious festival of India, Deepawali or Diwali, starts with the people cleaning their houses thoroughly, decorate and light them up with oil filled diyas, candles and also decorate their shops and establishments in the same manner after having cleaned them up for the festival. The traditional Rangoli art work adorns the floors of their houses, shops or establishments etc. while their pooja rooms and entrances are duly decorated with garlands and lights.
The festival of Diwali is celebrated in honour of Lord Rama having returned home to Ayodhaya after defeating the demon King Ravana in a long drawn battle, and the 14 years of exile that he had to undergo at the behest of his step mother Kaikayi. In most parts of the country this festival is a five day affair. It is celebrated with great zeal and fervor by all the communities and is now even being celebrated by people all over the world other than the Indian Diasporas
The people, old and young, wear new clothes and exchange gifts and sweets among family and friends on this day and in the evening, after sunset perform the ritualistic pooja and prayers for a long, happy and a prosperous year ahead as it also marks the begging of anew year according to the Hindu calendar. The deities to whom obeisance is paid during the pooja are Lord Ganesha, for happiness and prosperity, Goddess Lakshmi for wealth and Goddess Shakti for power after which all get together and enjoy bursting crackers.
39. Hampi Festival –November
Having been rechristened as the “Nada Utsav” by the Government of Karnatka the Hampi festival or the Hampi Utsav also known as the Vijaya Utsav, has been in existence since the days of the Vijaynagar region. Moreover Hampi being a World Heritage site, this the conduction of this festival further adds to the value of the Heritage site rendering it to be immensely popular the world over with its mega cultural shows and the accompanying extravaganza.
Professional and traditional artistes from all over the country grace this occasion and bring back the memories of days bygone by their flawless performances during the festival, while the rich culture and heritage of the Kannadigas is showcased through the splendid artifacts, handicrafts, dances, music and other arts, among the ruins of Hampi.
Special attraction, during the event, are the leather puppets and bright coloured handicrafts, as made by the descendents of the artisans and craftsmen of the past, musical instruments such as pipes etc. and the traditional drums reverberate in the air making it a festival par excellence. The Government of Karnataka promotes this even in a bid way, annually, as an important State festival of India to attract tourists and visitors from India and the world over.
Gold coins, diamonds and costly gems stones are on offer, during the festival, recreating the ambiance of the Golden Era of the trade as it was then. The entire cultural extravaganza, of classical dances, music, etc. is spread over five different avenues within the ruins of Hampi. Apart from this those who are collectors of traditional items this place is like no other.
40. Gurpurab –November
One of the most significant and important Sikh festival of India, the birth anniversary of the first guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, or the Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Prakash Utsav, is celebrated with a great deal of fervour. The countdown for the celebrations begins almost a fortnight in advance with Jathas or congregations singing hymns in his praise while going around societies on foot early in the mornings when people enroute of this jatha distribute tea and simple eats for them at various places.
On the ultimate day a big celebration follows with a procession (Nagar Kirtan) led by five Sikhs or Panj Pyaras all around the town and terminating at the designated Gurudwara. All the Sikhs after having decorated the Gurudwaras decorate their homes and light candles at night and burst crackers in celebration of this all important and the most sacred festivals of the Sikhs. Sacred hymns, from the scripture Guru Granth Sahib, are recited and sweets and langars (community lunches) are served to all at various gurudwaras in the country. The Gurupurab is celebrated by the Sikh diaspora all over the world.
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41. Camel Festival –November
Another important state festival of India the Pushkar Mela, Kartik Mela, or the Pushkar Camel Fair, is a festival unique to Rajasthan is celebratd during the Kartik month as per the Hindu calendar and goes on till the Kartik Purnima or the full moon. This almost 10 day long extravaganza attracts a large number of people from, both, India and abroad, more over this period is also an important pilgrimage season for the Hindus to the famous Pushkar Lake.
The special attraction of the festivities are the various competitions like tug of war between women teams and male teams, Longest Moustache, breaking the pot or Matka phod, bridal competitions, camel races etc. The reason for such a large crowd for this festival is the cooler environs of the desert state during this period.
People, during this festival, indulge in trading of their live stock like camels, horses, sheep, goats and cows, etc. Fairs comprising of rural family shops selling bracelets, handicrafts, fabrics, and textiles etc., are organised along the Pushkar Lake.
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42. HORNBILL FESTIVAL December
This colourful and an extravagant state festival of India, is an important festival of the state of Ngaland. Nagas, have in the past, been known to be great warriors and take great pride in their culture and traditions, which in fact has taught them to always treat their visitors or guests with warmth and hospitality and also open their doors to any and everybody who at knock their doors.
This ten day long festival is organised and promoted by, both, the Tourism and the Art and Culture departments of the state, is mainly to attract tourists and visitors from across India and abroad, is held at a model village, as built for the purpose, at Kisama, roughly 12 Kms from the state capital Kohima.
People visiting here get an excellent opportunity to experience the warmth and the hospitality of the 16 tribes of Nagas that inhabit this land. The foodies will really fancy a visit here as they get to savour the essentially traditional non-vegetarian dishes and also watch them being cooked at the same time. During the Hornbill festival, all the visitors are welcomed into the traditional Naga huts with a great deal of warmth hospitality.
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43. Christmas – 25th December
Christmas one of the favourite and the most awaited festivals in India and all over the world is celebrated to mark the birth of the redeemer of mankind Lord Jesus. It stands out as one of the most extravagant festival of India and the world.
The elders and children alike, look forward to this festival, reason being that the elders get a chance to express their love for their children while the children look forward to receiving gifts from Santa Claus and their elders on this day.
Prayers and masts are held in Churches, decorated by people, on Christmas eve continuing till midnight and beyond ushering in the birth of the Lord. The largest or the biggest celebrations are held in Kerala, Goa and Pondicherry.
Discussed above are some of the major National, State, religious and harvest festivals of India worth the visit.