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Amazing Festivals Of India - Celebrating Life The Indian Style

Discussion in 'Destination Guides' started by Debapriya Deb, Mar 31, 2016.

  1. Debapriya Deb

    Debapriya Deb Active Member

    Indian festivals are much beyond just the culture and tradition. Festivals in India are the ways of celebrating life in the grandest possible manner. Festivals are the avenues that unite the entire country like no other. It's the festivals that bring life to a state of exuberance for the common Indian masses.

    The festivals of India are celebrated with lots of enthusiasm and great fanfare. People from all walks of life come together and engulf in the festive spirit. It won't be an exaggeration to term India as the 'Land of Festivals'. Few of the festivals in India are observed throughout the entire nation with no bar on religion, language, culture and socio-economic stature; while the others appeal to particular regions and communities.

    Each of the Indian festivals has a speciality of its own. There are legends associated with every festival here in India. The ways of celebration, rituals and grandeur differ considerably between one festival and the other, but one thing that remains constant is the passion. The festivals of India, both nation-wide and regional, are celebrated with immense passion and incredible fanfare.

    Important Festivals in India:

    Festive season is perhaps the best period to experience the real India. If you are planning to visit India, then it makes sense to plan your trip during the festive season. The colorful ambience, jovial crowd, plenty of music and delicious festive cuisines are a few of the reasons why one must plan to attend one of the major Indian festivals. Attending an important festival of India can be an unforgettable experience - especially for the foreign tourists.

    So what are the biggest festivals of India? Well, there are plenty of them to make things confusing for you. If you are finding it difficult to figure out which festivals to attend while in India, then here's a list of the top seven greatest Indian festivals that you would love to be a part of.

    1. Dussehra:

    Significance: Dussehra is one of the grandest festivals of India that has a universal appeal to people from all over the country. According to Hindu mythology, it was on this day that Lord Rama had killed the demon King Ravana. The festival of Dussehra is celebrated to signify the triumph of righteousness over evil.

    Highlights: Besides the religious rituals of homa and puja, people burst fire-crackers and distribute sweets in the neighborhood. Huge effigies of Ravana are burnt on that day to mark the demise of evil, while the crowd burst into loud cheers. Various cultural events and dance/music programs are an integral part of celebrating the festival of Dussehra.

    When: Dussehra festival is observed on the 10th day of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) of the month of Ashvin according to the Hindu calender. Usually it falls between the latter half of September and the middle of October.

    Where: Dussehra is celebrated with great fanfare across the length and breadth of India. Few of the most renowned Dussehra festivals in India are Mysore Dussehra (Karnataka), Bastar Dussehra (Chhattisgarh), and Kullu Dussehra (Uttarakhand). People from the states of Gujarat and West Bengal also celebrate Dussehra in grand fashion - albeit with different names, i.e., Navratri and Vijaya Dashami respectively.

    2. Diwali (Deepavali):

    Significance: Known as the 'Festival of Lights', Diwali is celebrated to mark the occasion of Lord Rama returning from his long exile of 14 years. It is one of the most prominent Hindu festivals of India, especially for the residents of the Northern parts of the country. Diwali is the time of family re-union. Even those who live at distant places make it a point to return to their natives for celebrating Diwali. Diwali is celebrated to ward off evil forces and to bring in peace and harmony in the lives of the family members.

    Highlights: Houses and streets are decorated with clay lamps, colorful lights, lanterns and candles to celebrate the home-coming of Lord Rama. The lights signify the victory of brightness over darkness. Crackers are burst in plentiful numbers, so the decibel level is quite high during the Diwali time. People wear new clothes, participate in various religious rituals, organize cultural functions, burst crackers and distribute sweets in the neighborhood.

    When: Diwali is celebrated exactly 20 days after the Dussehra celebrations, on the new moon night (Amavasya) of the Kartik month of the Hindu calendar. It typically falls between the second half of October and the mid of November.

    Where: Diwali is one festival that has a pan India appeal, though in some parts the celebration is more vibrant than the others. To experience a dazzling Diwali, you should ideally visit the Northern parts of India. Big Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata are renowned for the wild celebrations during the Diwali period. Jaipur, Lucknow, Jaisalmer, Ahmedabad, Varanasi and Pune are some other cities where Diwali is celebrated with grand fanfare.

    2. Holi:

    Significance: Holi is the celebration of colors. It ranks among the most vibrant festivals of India. It's a two-day festival that signifies the victory of Prince Prahlad over Holika - a mythological evil character. In some parts of India, Holi is celebrated to welcome the arrival of spring. It is also celebrated in the hope of good harvest and fertility of the land, especially in the rural areas. The carefree and colorful nature of Holi makes it, arguably, the most appealing Indian festival for the foreigners.

    Highlights: On the eve of Holi, effigies of Holika are burnt to celebrate the victory of good over evil. Holi is usually celebrated in open grounds where people exuberantly throw colored powders at each other and drench one another with colorful water guns and sprays. Parties under the sprinklers of waters with lots of music and dance are a common sight during the celebrations of Holi. Drinking 'Bhang' - an intoxicating milk-based drink that contains the buds and leaves of cannabis plant - is another notable highlight of Holi celebrations. Gifts and sweets are also distributed to the family members on the occasion of Holi.

    When: Holi is celebrated on the Phalgun Purnima - that is the full-moon day of the month of Phalgun according to the Hindu lunar calendar. The day usually corresponds to the mid of March as per the English calendar.

    Where: The festival of Holi is celebrated with a lot of fervor in all parts of India. Rajasthan, Punjub, Delhi, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh are arguably the most happening places to experience the charm of Holi in its full glory. Mathura and Vrindavan are considered to be the places Holi originates from, so quite naturally, both these places rank high among the tourists' wish-lists during the Holi season.

    4. Ganesh Chaturthi:

    Significance: Ganesh Chaturthi is a spectacular 11-days extravaganza celebrated in India to mark the birthday of Lord Ganesha. One of the most striking festivals of India, Ganesh Chaturthi celebration involves great fun and enjoyment. It is the most famous India festival for the people of Maharashtra, but the celebrations are not confined just to a single state. The festival is celebrated in grand fashion in the neighboring states of Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and some parts of Tamil Nadu as well.

    Highlights: Temporary podiums (pandals) are constructed on the streets and decorated with intricate craft work and lightings. Huge idols of Lord Ganesha are installed and worshiped amidst maddening fanfare. Dance and music shows are an integral part of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. Various traditional games are also organized to commemorate the occasion. On the 11th day, the idols are taken out for a grand procession through the streets and finally they are immersed in designated water bodies. The procession is another grand affair of the celebrations - which involves playing with colored dye, accompanied by crazy dancing and bursting of fire crackers.

    When: Ganesh Chaturthi is observed on the 4th day of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) in the month of Bhadrapada. As per the Gregorian calendar, the festival occurs between the end of August and the beginning of September.

    Where: Mumbai is the place to be at in order to relish the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi in its grandest form. Apart from Mumbai, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with great pomp in Pune, Kolhapur and Bangalore.

    5. Eid-Ul-Fitr:

    Significance: Eid-Ul-Fitr is the most important festival in India for the sizable population of Islam followers. The festivity follows the prolonged fasting during the month of Ramadan. The muslim community in India observes this auspicious day with honor and dignity. Eid-Ul-Fitr's significance is purely spiritual. It is the day when the Muslims thank the Almighty for blessing them with will, strength and courage. People rejoice in the festive mood of Eid to spread the message of happiness and prosperity.

    Highlights: Eid-Ul-Fitr celebrations last for three days. People dress up in all-white attires and offer special prayers in the morning. Meeting up with friends and relatives is an important custom of Eid-Ul-Fitr and sweets are exchanged as a goodwill gesture. A sense of generosity and gratitude colors the celebration of Eid. People distribute Sadaqa Al-Fitr, which is a donation given to the poor and needy souls, as per their own capacity. Kids are presented with various gift items.

    When: Eid-Ul-Fitr is usually celebrated in the month of July, but the exact date differs according to the Hijri calendar. Eid is celebrated on the 1st day of the month of Shawwal which follows the holy month of Ramadan.

    Where: India has a decent population of muslims throughout the country and Eid is celebrated with much enthusiasm everywhere. Having said that, the muslim dominated regions are the hotspots for the tourists who wish to witness the festival in its most vibrant form. Old Delhi, Hyderabad, Agra and Srinagar are known for their vigorous Eid celebrations. The North-Eastern state of Assam and the Southern state of Kerala are also well-known for celebrating Eid in grand style.

    6. Krishna Janmashtami:

    Significance: Krishna Janmashtami, also popular as Krishnashtami, is one among the most important Hindu festivals of India. It is celebrated to commemorate the appearance of Sri Krishna's on earth. According to Hindu mythology, it's on this day that Lord Krishna descended on earth in his most powerful human avatar.

    Highlights: All over India Janmashtami is celebrated with puja, aarati, devotional songs and dances. The actual celebration of Janmashtami takes place at midnight in accordance with the mythological belief that Krishna was born on a stormy and windy night. Temples and mandaps are beautifully decorated with flowers and illuminated with lights. The cradle of Krishna is rocked by the devotees. Keertans (traditional devotional songs) are an integral part of Janmashtami celebrations. Chariot procession with the idol of Sri Krishna, accompanied by devotional music and dance performances, is a major attraction during the Janmashtami celebrations.

    When: This grand festival of India is celebrated on the Ashtami of Krishna Paksh (8th day of the dark fortnight) in the month of Bhadrapada as per the Hindu calendar, which translates to the end of July / beginning of August in the Gregorian calendar.

    Where: While Janmashtami is celebrated with great devotion and enthusiasm in all parts of India, the celebrations at Mathura and Vrindavan, where Lord Krishna was born and brought up, are special. Large number of devotees gather at Mathura and Vrindavan to be a part of the grand celebrations.

    7. Durga Puja:

    Significance: Durga Puja is the greatest festival of the year for the Bengali community. The 4-day long festival is dedicated to Goddess Durga - the supreme Goddess of all powers as per the Hindu puranas. In Hinduism, Mother Durga represents the embodiment of the divine feminine force that governs all cosmic creations. Durga Puja is celebrated in honour of the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. It also commemorates Lord Rama’s invocation of Goddess Durga before his battle against Ravana, the demon king from Lanka.

    Durga Puja ranks among the most popular festivals of India - thanks to the presence of Bengali cultures in almost every corner of the country. Not only in India, Durga Puja has also made its present felt beyond the national borders. Bengalis living in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, and Spain celebrate this Indian festival with immense passion far away from their own nation.

    Highlights: Durga Puja is famous for the extravagant pandals and the highly decorated, life-sized idols of the Goddess surrounded by Her children. The actual celebrations last for four days - the Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Vijaya Dashami. Besides the religious rituals, the cultural programs steal the limelight. Durga Puja is not only a religious event, but is equally inclined towards social cultures. Drama, dance, and cultural performances are widely held. Food is an integral part of the celebrations. The make-shift street food joints around the Puja pandals are the perfect places to satisfy your taste buds with some delicious Bengali cuisines and sweet dishes.

    When: Like all other Indian festivals, the Durga Puja is celebrated as per the Hindu calender. Durga Puja begins on the 7th day (Saptami) of bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) in the month of Ashwina and concludes on the 10th day (Dashami). As far as the English calender is concerned, the festival of Durga Puja usually falls in the month of October.

    Where: Kolkata, the City of Joy, is undoubtedly the hub of Durga Puja celebrations. It is celebrated with equal passion in other parts of West Bengal, but none can come close to the grandeur of Kolkata. Agartala, the state capital of Tripura, stands next in line followed closely by Silchar (Assam) in the third spot. Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Jamshedpur and Guwahati are a few of the other places in India where Durga Puja is celebrated with grand fanfare.

    Besides these 7 prominent festivals of India which have found a mention in this article, there are quite a few famous Indian festivals that are equally popular but restricted to some specific regions. Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Gurupurab in Punjab, Bihu in Assam, and Onam in Kerala are a few of the significant religious festivals in India that deserve to be mentioned. That's not all though. With such a diverse array of religions, languages and cultures, there's a festival on almost every other day - in one region or the other.

    So while you are visiting India, do make sure to attend one of these major Indian festivals. You will not only relish the festive atmosphere, but also take home wonderful memories of Indian festivals to cherish for the years to come.

    Wanderlust, tabby and Chahal like this.

  2. tabby

    tabby Member

    These are pretty interesting festivals. I was just reading about some of these festivals last night. There was a member in the forum who was asking about getting some genuine Indian cultural experience and it got me curious. Among the festivals I read last night and the ones you presented here, the Festival of Colors is definitely something I'm more curious now. With the picture you posted, it sure is a feast to the eyes! This festival makes me remember about the Songkran experience I once had back in Bangkok. It's kind of similar with water fights and people smudging each other with some powder. However, theirs was just plain white/cream color, nothing like the different colored powder you mentioned and shown in the picture.

  3. rajesh

    rajesh Member

    I live in Asansol, West Bengal and among all the festivals that you described, 'Durga Puja' is the most famous one. Well, people become very excited when Durga Puja arrives. Among all the festivals, this is the only one that is celebrated on a very large scale. All the 'Puja Pandals' compete for the 'Best Pandal Award' here in West Bengal. Peoples from many different countries like to visit this place during Durga puja. I would recommend anyone to visit this place during Durga Puja and I bet you would not regret it. :)
  4. jnorth88

    jnorth88 Active Member

    All of my friends are very interested in Holi, and want to organize a trip to share in the experience. They have seen pictures and videos, and really love the idea of it. Honestly, I don't know much, but what little I have read. I understand the events are quite open to outsiders, and, generally, all of India is very inclusive of foreigners. I think it would be a great vacation, but I wonder what the locals think of tourists coming over to take pictures and gawk?
  5. iamawriter

    iamawriter Member


    It will not be out of place to emphasise the importance of Tiger Dance a speciality of South Kanara during Dussehra. There is heavy competition among groups. They go from house to house and shop to shop to showcase their prowess. In modern times the quality has really improved specially the kind art work they do on their bodies. It is amazing how they put up with that paint for 10 whole days until they dip themselves in the sea or river closeby

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons