Showing posts with label festivals of india. Show all posts
Showing posts with label festivals of india. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Festivals of India

The first full moon falling in August celebrates the relations between a brother and a sister. On this day sisters tie a sacred thread called Rakhi on their brothers' wrists and pray for their well being while the brothers return the love by gifting them and promising to take care of the sisters for the rest of their lives.

In India, festivals are the celebration of togetherness, of being one of the families. Raksha Bandhan is one such festival that is all about affection, fraternity and sublime sentiments. It is also known as Raksha Bandhan which means a 'bond of protection'. This is an occasion to flourish love, care, affection and sacred feeling of brotherhood.

Owing to the regional influence of the local legends and their relevance in different parts of the country, the celebrations of Rakhi vary throughout India. This festival is primarily known as being associated with the north and north western part of the country. But, it can be safely said that with changing times and the world having become a smaller place, this occasion has gained popularity in many parts of this country and even so the world.

According to one mythological allusion, Rakhi was intended to be the worship of the sea-god Varuna. Hence, offerings of coconut to Varuna, ceremonial bathing and fairs at waterfronts accompany this festival.There are also myths that describe the ritual as observed by Indrani and Yamuna for their respective brothers Indra and Yama.

Once, Lord Indra stood almost vanquished in a long-drawn battle against the demons. Full of remorse, he sought the advice of Guru Brihaspati, who suggested for his sortie the auspicious day of Shravan Purnima (fullmoon day of the month of Shravan). On that day, Indra's wife and Brihaspati tied a sacred thread on the wrist of Indra, who then attacked the demon with renewed force and routed him.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cultural Festivals of India

India is a vast country with rich and varied cultural heritage. Folk dance and music is the core of the Indian tradition and culture. Some local festivities have today gained so much importance that people from all over the world flock to see them. The Indian government has enhanced the tradition by holding dance and music festivals in world heritage sites.

January is the coldest month in India with a pleasant climate in the southern parts of India. A number of important cultural festivals take place in the month of January every year. South India hosts many festivals during this pleasant climate. The first and the unique festival is that of the Elephant March. While caparisoned elephants go out in procession, boat races on the backwaters and cultural events lend colour to the festivities. The festival takes place in some of Kerala's major towns – Thrissur, Alleppey and Thiruvananthapuram
The Mamallapuram Dance Festival, held in the ancient port city of the Pallavas of Tamil Nadu, has performances by exponent dancers who perform Bharat Natyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak and Kathakali against the magnificent backdrop of the Pallava rock sculptures. Another delicately carved temple of Pattadakkal, in the southern state of Karnataka, the ancient capital of the Chalukyas, hosts an annual Pattadakkal dance festival, to celebrate the marvelous heritage. The classical dances performed with the backdrop of the elegantly carved temples gives the performances an aura of worship, rather than jus an art form.

Rajasthan pays tribute to the local animal, the ship of the desert in the month of January. In Bikaner the camels are bedecked and taken up in processions and even a few competitions are held. The festival, known as the Bikaner festival draws huge crowds.

The month of February is the perhaps the best of the months in the whole year, throughout India, in the terms of weather. As a result a number of cultural festivals are organized throughout the country during this time of the year. The crisp chilly winters are gone and the advent and smell of spring is in the air. Naturally all over the country the spirits are high during this time of the year and hence many festivals are organized in this month.
Although nearly every state has some or the other cultural extravaganza coming up during this time, there are some which attract tourists from the world over.

The month begins with a 15 day affair with the Surajkund Fair. The Surajkund crafts Mela as it is known all over India is significant due to the place where it is held. Surajkund is in Faridabad near Delhi. It was an ancient city associated with the great epic Mahabharata. Artisans from all around the country come her to display their handicrafts. The open air fair is based on a theme state every year. The ambiance is picturesque rural bazaar of India. Along with a vast choice to shop there are cultural shows arranged pertaining to the local art of the theme state. Cuisines form all corners of India are offered here.

The International Yoga Week held in Rishikesh, a small town in the Uttaranchal state, is to promote the age old tradition of Yoga. This week long event is held at the foothills of the great Himalayas on the banks of River Ganga. Detailed lectures and demonstrations of various forms and arts of Yoga by prominent Yoga masters are held during this week. 

Two cities of Rajasthan come alive and bustle with life in February with the fairs they are host to. The golden city of Jaisalmer is the host to a three cultural extravaganza called the Desert Festival. Fire dancers swaying to traditional tunes, a turban-tying competition and a Mr. Desert contest are part of the fun of the occasion. Camel rides and folk dances at the sand dunes are an added attraction.

The Nagaur Cattle Fair is equally interesting. This annual cattle fair is believed to be the largest cattle fair in the world. Games and races of animals are the part of this festival.

The much awaited event in India, at the most coveted historical monument and epitome of Love, is the Taj Mahotsav. During this festival at Agra, the city of Taj Mahal, the best of the Indian cultural aspects are on display. Indian handicrafts travel from all the corners along with their cuisines for this festival. Great performers come from all over India to perform with the majestic backdrop of the Taj. Being a part of the Taj Mahotsav is a unique and unforgettable experience.

During this part of the year the nature is in full bloom. Various types of flowers with vibrant colors are on bloom. The Garden Festival of Delhi is just that. It is a magnificent display if exotic flowers and plants. Definitely a horticulturists’ delight. Rose Show of Chandigarh is also held in the same lines with only roses on display and the magnitude is much larger that of Delhi. Held in the Rose Gardens of Chandigarh, this is the biggest Rose show in the country.

Far in the North east festivals welcoming the spring are celebrated by various tribes of the region.
Down South one of the most famous cultural festivals organized during this time of the year is the Elephanta Festival. The Elephanta festival is a week long odyssey of classical dances, vocal and instrumental recitals and small skits and plays that are performed at the Elephanta Islands near Mumbai. The performers perform with the backdrop of the beautiful rock cut images, artistically developed centuries ago. The audience seats it self under the open sky on the ground. All this builds a perfect ambience for the cultural extravaganza. To reach the place is fascinating as well. Placed on an island, one can reach here only by traveling through the sea.
Near Mumbai the only one of its kind festival is celebrated at the coveted destination of Goa; the Goa Carnival. The exuberant Goa Carnival is the most famous annual feature of Goa which has been celebrated since the 18th century. Held in mid- February, just before Lent, the three day event is a time for feasting and drinking with lively processions, floats, the strumming of guitars and graceful dances. The great finale is with the famous Red-and-Black dance held by the Clube Nacional in Panaji.

Another recently started important festival organized further down south is the Deccan Festival, held in the Nizam’s city of Hyderabad. This annual affair celebrates the soul of the city with the local folk arts of the city. Mushairas are held and qawwalis and ghazals are sung. The pearls and bangles, the local specialties are put on display and so is the ethnic cuisine of Hyderabad.

The Andaman and the Nicobar Islands are the last tips of the vast Indian Subcontinent. The capital of Port Blair celebrates the arrival of spring by organizing a big cultural festival comprising of songs, dances and dramas known as the Island Tourism Festival.

The month of March has some of the most exotic cultural festivals taking place at the equally exotic locations. The Khajuraho Festival is a week long affair held at the erotic temples of Khajuraho. People from all over the world come to watch eminent artists perform under the aegis of the ancient wonderful temples. The sculptures and the stones magnify the performances. The Chandela Kings built the temples as an ode to life and living, the performances are an ode to the beauty within. The cultural festival is an enthralling experience with the ancient stone sculptures forming the background. An annual affair every March, it is a must visit event and a lifetime experience.

The other cultural festival that Madhya Pradesh hosts is the Tansen Music festival at Gwalior. The Gwalior Gharana has always been one of the most prominent styles of the Hindustani classical music. The lineage that Madhya Pradesh and especially Gwalior has provided to the Hindustani classical music under the patronage of various Kings is well known. The patriarch of the Hindustani Classical music and one of the nine jewels of the Emperor Akbar’s court, Ustad Tansen lays buried in Gwalior. This place comes alive with distinguished artists’ performances when the place becomes the venue for the annual music festival. What other better way to pay homage to the great singer but performing on his tomb, under his blessings.

The second important festival is the Ellora Festival that takes place at the ancient world heritage site of Ellora in Maharashtra. These intricately carved caves into the sides of a basaltic hill of the Sahyadri Mountain are the best examples of rock – cut caves in the whole world. It is the meeting point of three faiths, Buddhist, Jain and Hindu and nearly 1500 years old. The cultural programme of Dance and music is performed at the main Kailash Cave which is a lavishly carved cave cut from one rock and is world’s largest monolithic cave.

The Shivaratri Natyanjali Festival celebrated at the Chidambaram temple as a part of worship to the lord during the religious festival of Shivaratri, is a unique mode of worship. Dances and Songs are performed in front of the main deity as a form of worship and this festival goes on for five days.

The Pink city of Jaipur hosts the Elephant Festival in March. The elephants are decked up to their best and brought here. Various games between the elephants are held during this time.

The Hoysala Mahotsav held in the ancient temples of Belur and Halebid is the reminders of the glory of the Hoysala dynasty which promoted and encouraged dance and music during their rule.

The colourful Mewar Festival in Rajasthan is celebrated to welcome the spring in the romantic city of Udaipur. Dances, songs and colours are the essential factors of this festival celebrated in the Mewar region.
Similar festivals which show and encourage the folk culture of the place are held in various places during March. The Pataliputra Mahotsav of Patna in Bihar and the Jhansi Mahotsav of Jhansi belong to the same category.

The beginning of summer season in India is what the month of April brings in. While it becomes scorching hot in the western and southern parts of India, the northern and the north eastern parts still experience a pleasant weather. Normally it is the time when various regions celebrate their New Years according to their own calendars falling tentatively in the month of April. Thus hardly any cultural festivals take place in April. But the month of May which is the vacation time for educational institutes hence  major cultural fairs and festivals take place in May.

The Urs of Ajmer, though a religious festival has become a fair of great attraction. Urs means Fair and this fair is held at the dargah of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti commemorating his union with God. People from all over the world gather here and pay homage to the great saint. Qawwalis and Ghazals are performed in praise of the saint by various artists. People tie threads to the intricately carved windows to fulfill their wishes. 

The Northern and the North eastern states come alive with flowers and lush greenery during this time. Gangtok capital of Sikkim hosts the International Flower Festival during this time. A great variety of exotic Orchids and rare flowers are on display in April. This spectacular event comes with added attractions of mountaineering, Yak Safari and trekking.

Mostly all the hill stations come up with Summer Festivals in April to attract the visitors. Summer Festivals are held at various hill stations like the Mount Abu, Ooty, Shimla and many more. Various cultural programmes promoting the destination are held during this time of the year.

The month of June is the beginning of the rainy season for the southern part of India. Hardly any cultural festivals take place during the month of June due to rains and the heat in the northern parts of India. The only attraction of June is the Hemis Festival of Leh – Ladakh. Hemis is celebrated in the cold desert of Leh and Ladakh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Hemis is the celebration of Birthday of Guru Padmasambhava celebrated in the monastery of the same name. Masked dances are performed and a huge fair is associated with this festival of the northern tip of India.

The month of July is the full humidity and rains. But one unique festival the Delhi International Mango Festival is organized in the month of July. As the name suggests the festival is dedicated to mangoes and there are innumerous varieties of mangoes present here. Mangoes from all over the world are on display and also on sale. Various products made of Mangoes are also on sale and various competitions such as the mango eating and the cooking various dishes out of mango are held during the week long festival. It is a mango mania throughout!!!

The Champukulam Boat Race of Kerala is another unique celebration of life and devotion. It is less known than the other boat races also held in the district of Alappuzha; it is the most ancient and celebrated boat races of Kerala. Its association with a legend related to Lord Krishna has made the race all the more important for the local people of the area.

Come the month of August and the most auspicious month in the Hindu calendar has arrived. The month of Shravan that falls in August, is dotted with festivals big and small throughout the month. There are so many religious festivals that hardly any cultural occasion takes place during the month of August. The most important cultural event of this month however is the Nehru Trophy Boat Race. This race held in the Alappuzha district of Kerala is an enthralling experience. About hundred men sit in the huge snake boat and row it in the same rhythm and pace to win the coveted Nehru Trophy. It is an amazing sight and tourists from all around the world are attracted to watch the rhythm of the men while one of them stands and coaxes them to follow the rhythm and win the race.

The month of September brings the famous Ganapati festival of Maharashtra. To add more attraction to the Festival, the cultural capital of Maharashtra arranges Pune Festival during the same time. The Pune festival is the cultural festival where artists from far and wide come to perform. The festival is full of various classical dances, music and theatre and goes on for 10 days in a row in front of the Lord Ganesh with his blessings. People from all around the world come to attend this festival. 

October brings in pleasant weather and festivals galore. People are busy preparing for a host of festivals those come up during the month of October. It is the Marwar Festival celebrated in Jodhpur Rajasthan that celebrates the Marwar folk lore on the full moon night that falls in October. The folklore of the kings and their valour are sung and hummed in the Maand style of music, specialty of this region during this festival. Another important cultural festival held during the month of October is the celebrated in the small village of Rajgir in Bihar known as the Rajgir Mahotsav. It is a colourful festival of dance and music which is celebrated at once the capital of the Sakya dynasty and the birth place of Lord Buddha.

The month of November brings in a pleasant climate and high spirits for the people. Many religious as well as cultural festivals take place during the month of November. One of the most famous local festivals which also has a religious association is the Pushkar Mela or the Pushkar Fair. Pushkar in Rajasthan is a small village which comes alive during the fair in the month of November. It has Starting from the full moon in November this fair goes on for nearly 12 days. The Brahma temple that is found in Pushkar is full of devotees. Trading of cattle, their races and everything related to camels along with several handicraft items is the major attraction of this fair.

Around the same time the world’s largest cattle fair is held in Sonepur village on the bank of the River Ganga in the sate of Bihar known as the Sonepur Cattle Fair. This month long affair is great display of bedecked cattle from all over the country.

Reminder of the Nawab era of Awadh is brought alive during the Lucknow Festival. Celebrated in the capital city of Uttar Pradesh this festival celebrates Lucknow's living culture. This ten day long event witnesses colourful processions, traditional dramas, Kathak along with ghazals, qawwalis and thumri. Other exciting events like the ekka races, kite flying, cock fighting and other traditional village games recreate an atmosphere of the by gone era.

Hampi Festival celebrated in the southern state of Karnataka in the ruined temples of Hampi is a unique experience. The dance and the music recitals fill the air to form an ambiguous environment and fascinates all those who come to watch the festival.

December is the coldest month of the year in India. The southern states are pleasant and the northern states face crisp chilly winters. Along with Christmas and the New Year celebrations December brings in a host of cultural festivals and the most prominent amongst them is the Konark Dance Festival. India is a fascinating country with innumerous Gods and their innumerous temples. But the Sun temple of Konark is a unique temple with ancient legacy and surrounded by myth and legends. When these ancient temples form a backdrop to the dance performances, they actually come to be a form of worship or prayers by the dancers to the Lord of the temple. The Vishnupur Festival in West Bengal’s Vishnupur district celebrates the terracotta temples and the silk sarees that it is famous for during this festival.

These are the prime cultural festivals those are held annually in India. Other than these there is the International Book Fair of Calcutta and Delhi and Crafts Fair of Udaipur and Hyderabad. Nearly every state and the small temples or even the churches and the mosques complete the worship by arranging a huge fair for the occasion. India truly is a land of festivals and a land of cultural extravaganza.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Festivals of West India

The colourful states of Rajasthan and Gujarat, the exotic Goa with the rugged Maharashtra with the union territories of Daman and Diu, form the western part of India. Along with the colorfulness, the songs and dances make a prominent impact in the festivals all over India. Western side is no exception with typical food items prepared for particular festival.

The Desert State of Rajasthan is famous for its vibrant celebration of festivals. The Gangaur festival is very much similar to that of the one celebrated in Madhya Pradesh. In Rajasthan too it is celebrated around March when the ladies bring home the Gauri, wife of Shiva and worship her and then on last day immerse the idol. The ladies throughout the festival sing songs and dance. They decorate themselves with henna on their palms and wear all the traditional jewelery. The Mewar festival takes place in the lake city of Udaipur during this time. An exhilarating welcome to spring, this festival is a visual feast with Rajasthani songs, dances, processions, devotional music and firework displays. An unusual procession of boats on the lake offers a fitting finale to this splendid celebration.

The Urs held every year in the scorching month of May, at the dargah of Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer commemorates his symbolic union with God. Pilgrims from all over the world gather here to pay homage. Qawalis and poems are presented in the saint’s honour. At the huge fair that springs up at this time, religious objects, books, rosaries, embroidered carpets and silver ornaments are on sale.

Celebrated in the month of February in Dungarpur, the colorful Baneshwar Fair is considered to be a tribal fair. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Lingam is bathed with milk and applied saffron. On this day the Lord gets offerings of wheat flour, pulses, rice, jaggery, ghee and even salt and chillies, with coconut and cash. The main attraction of this festival are the Bhils attending Baneshwar Fair singing traditional folk songs in high pitched voices sitting around a bonfire every night.

Teej is the festival of swings celebrated in August. Dedicated to the Goddess Parvati, it marks the advent of the monsoon. Swings are hung from trees and decorated with flowers. Young girls and women dressed in green clothes sing songs in celebration of the advent of the monsoon. Goddess Parvati is worshipped by seekers of conjugal bliss and happiness. An elaborate procession is taken out on the streets of Jaipur for two consecutive days on the festive occasion.

Down south of Rajasthan is Gujarat. One of the prehistoric states of India, Gujarat’s history goes back to the Jurassic age. Also famous for the Indus Valley civilization, this state is unique in its geographical features as well. A vast sea coast, jungles with ferocious lions and always welcoming people, Gujarat, the land of Gurjars, is a truly vibrant state. Dwarka once supposed to be the capital of Lord Krishna, is in Gujarat. Gujarat celebrates approximately 2000 festivals in year out of which most are regional based fairs and festivals dedicated to the deity. Some of the famous are The Kite festival. It is an international kite festival held during the Makar Sankranti in January. People from the world come to participate in this internationally acclaimed festival for a display of their kites.

The Dang Darbar coinciding with Holi in March is another big event in Gujarat. Held in the Ahwa region and Dang district it is a unique celebration of Holi by the tribes. Countless tribal people from the adjoining districts participate in the fair dressed in colourful traditional outfits dancing to the beats of drums. The huge Janmashtami celebrations held in Dwarka, the abode of Krishna is a delightful sight. The most important festival celebrated by the Gujaratis is the Navaratri in October, before Dushera.

Navaratri is an auspicious occasion that commemorates the worship of Divine Mother Goddess and her numerous manifestations. The nine-day cultural extravaganza wraps the entire Gujarat. During Navratri, a pot with attractive designs is ceremoniously placed a light is placed inside. Religious texts are read out and people fast and later cook Gujarati delicacies to eat. The main feature of the Navaratri of Gujarat is its typical dance called the Garba raas. Mostly all the Gujarati ladies can dance the Garba, a rhythmic dance, danced in a circle with clapping hands and traditional songs to accompany with. The rhythm which is initially slow grows faster and the dancers match their footsteps along with that fast rhythm. Another Dance form performed during Navaratri in every nook and corner of Gujarat is the Dandiya. The concept is the same, only here men too can participate and the dancers use small sticks to give a rhythm. Every street in Gujarat is decorated and people come in their fineries to participate in the dance. The mood, the attire and the music are so upbeat and vibrant that every year, the festival attracts tourists from India and abroad.

Diwali celebrated all over India in October is celebrated with equal vibrancy in Gujarat as well. It has a particular significance for the Gujaratis as the third day of Diwali is the New Year of the Gujaratis and is celebrated with much pomp and show all over Gujarat. People start their new businesses and wear new clothes and do all that is good on this day.

The rugged state of Maharashtra has a vast coast line starting from Gujarat and extending till Goa. Peaceful co existence of various religions is Maharashtra’s highlight, and is seen ff and on through the celebrations of various festivals. The Gudhi Padava or the Marathi New Year celebrated in April begins the year full of festivity in Maharashtra. The Marathis place a long decorated stick in front of their houses calling it Gudhi to welcome the New Year. They worship the Gudhi and start new ventures on this day.

Nagpanchami comes with onset of Shravan month falling in August. This festival brings in a list of festivities that go on till January. Nagpanchami is dedicated to Snake God. The ladies worship the snake and request him to leave the fields for some time so that the men folk can begin sowing and ploughing.

The Parsi New Year of Pateti is celebrated within the Parsi community of Mumbai, Maharashtra with much gaiety and fun. The Parsis visit the Agyaris and later spend the time with families and friends dancing, singing and eating good meals.

The coastal Maharashtra celebrates the Narali Purnima, worshipping the Sea God and offering Him coconut, on the full moon day falling in August. This day is also celebrated as the Raksha Bandhan day. Sweets made of coconut are prepared and distributed. Fifteen days after comes the festival dedicated to the cattle especially the bulls and the Oxen. Maharashtra being agriculture oriented state, Oxen carry immense importance in the lives of the farmers who earlier used to plough their lands with the help of these Bullocks. On the day of Pola, the farmer decorates his cattle, worships it and feeds them with goodies. It is a rest day for the Oxen and the cows and no farmer works on this day.

Within a week of Pola, in September comes the most famous and most lavishly celebrated festival of Maharashtra, Ganesh Chaturthi. Lord Ganesh, the patron deity of Maharashtra, is the God of wisdom. The festival is an eleven day festivity is the largest of its kind celebrated in India, with worshipping of idols and their immersion for ten continuous days. Dedicated to Elephant god Ganesh or Ganapati the festival celebrates the birth of the God. The whole of Maharashtra is in festive mood during this time. Idols are brought home and worshipped for ten days and immersed on the last day with people shouting, Ganapati Bappa Morya, pudhchya warshi Lawakar ya!! The Marathis also have the community celebration when huge Pandals are put up and huge idols of the Lord are installed for ten days and worshiped. Immersion too is a huge procession and the Marathis bid a tearful farewell to the God and wait for the next year to come. For ten days various cultural programmes are arranged like music concerts, orchestra, plays and skits. Some social activities are also undertaken like blood donation, scholarships for the needy or donation to the people suffering from any kind of natural calamity. In between these ten days, Gauri, Ganapati’s mother too arrives. She too is worshipped and prayed for three days and later immersed. The Dushera and Diwali are celebrated with equal fervor as that of the rest of India.

Come December and the preparations for Christmas begin in Mumbai, the hub of Christian community in Maharashtra. Churches and streets are decorated; the Christians hang stars in front of their houses. Bakeries overflow with goodies. A small replica of the scene depicting the birth of Jesus Christ is made in front of houses and Churches. Carols are sung on streets and Santa Clause can be seen in stores. Midnight and morning masses are held and attended even by Hindus. The air of festivity continues till the New Year arrives. On the New Year eve, streets are decorated and people stay awake the whole night welcoming the New Year.

The small state of Goa is perpetually in a festive mood all through the year with some or the other fair in the state. The Christians call it feasts, the Hindus call it jatra and the Muslims call it Urus. Three names but one sentiment… celebration. It means worshipping and praying the deity, eating goodies, drinking, dancing, singing, buying and selling and basically merry making. Although each religion has their own festivals all of them carry the typical Goan flavour. All the festivals and Jatras are celebrated with great fervour and enthusiasm by one and all. People from all walks of life, rich or poor, old or young, Hindu or Christians celebrate the festivals together making it a Goan festival.

The Hindu festivals of Goa are similar to that of State of Maharashtra. The other unusual festivities of Goa are the festivals dedicated to local deities which later get converted into fairs. One such example is the Vasco Saptah. A week long festivity dedicated to Lord Damaodar, who according to legends once cured the on going epidemic after the worshiping, started. Held before the Chovoth, or the Ganesh Puja, similar to Maharashtra, this festival is held only in the town of Vasco. Apart from Easter, Good Friday and Christmas, there are end numbers of typical Goan Feasts celebrated by the Christians of Goa. Touxeachem Feast is held in the magnificent Church of St Anne also known as the Santana Church. It is dedicated to St Anne and the feast is celebrated on July 29. Touxeachem Fest (in Konkani) literally translates as the Cucumber Feast in English. The procession of Saints is the only of its kind taking place in India when the sleepy village of Goa Velha hosts this renowned and honoured Procession of the Saints on the first Monday of Easter week. The Feast of St. Francis Xavier is when Ceremonies to honour the death of St Francis Xavier who lies in a silver casket in the Church of Bom Jesus in Goa take place. The celebrations take place on December 3, the day he was buried. This day takes the shape of a great fair in the area.

The small union territories of Daman Diu and Dadra Nagar Haveli, being near to Gujarat, celebrate the same festivals that of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Being under the Portuguese rule, though they still carry the Portuguese impression and the Christian festivals like the Christmas are celebrated in their own unique way.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Festivals of Central India:

The central part of India, till recently comprised of the biggest states of India, Madhya Pradesh. Now it has been split in to two with Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

A predominantly tribal state, with about 35 big and small tribes spread all over, Chhattisgarh is perhaps the most economically strong region of the country, and is endowed with rich mineral and forest wealth. It has a potential of becoming an important industrial centre.

Dominated by he tribals, other than the major Indian festivals, all the tribes have their own respective festivals with their own culinary and dancing affairs. Cherchera celebrated after the harvest is the unique festival of the people of Chhattisgarh, when they go asking for rice, the staple crop. The rice then is cooked and eaten; a traditional way of distributing what one reaps. Chhattisgarh has its own dance styles, cuisine, music & traditional folk songs in which Sohar songs, Bihav songs & Pathoni songs are very famous. For the tribes, the Bhils and the Gonds, every festival is followed by some sort of animal sacrifice. The tribals of Bastar often complement their economy by community hunts like Pandum and Parad. 

Situated in the center, Madhya Pradesh was once the largest state in India. A visit to this land, in the very heart of India gives unexpected and delightful experiences. Madhya Pradesh has had a glorious past with various empires ruling the state. It has centuries-old culture of warriors and Builders, of Poets and Musicians, of Saints and Philosophers.

The Gana Gour festival is celebrated with much gaiety in Madhya Pradesh. The people believe that Gour, wife of Shiva, was married to Shiva and they stayed in Rajasthan. She could come home only once a year. This coming back is celebrated by these people here. They make small idols of the Gour and worship her along with her husband. The Gordhan festival celebrated after Diwali has its history in the legend of Krishna, who saved his village from drowning by holding the mighty Govardhan Mountain. Gordhan is celebrated as the festival of cows and cattle. The cattle is decorated and fed goodies on this day.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Festivals of South India

The southern region of India comprises of four states namely Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and the union territory of Pondicherry. The weather in these regions is mainly hot and pleasant during winters. The coastal areas are pleasant throughout the year with heavy rainfall during the monsoons. South India follows the Dravidian tradition and has different ways to celebrate their own festivals.

Karnataka celebrates all the national festivals and other religious festivals. But the most famous of them all is its special Dushera, popularly known as the Mysore Dushera. The Kannadigas celebrate this festival with pomp and glamour and dedicate the festival to Goddess Chamundeshwari. It is a 10-day long festival which falls in the month of October. On the last day of Vijaya Dashami, a colourful procession of caparisoned elephants carrying the idol of goddess Chamundi is taken through the gaily-decorated streets of the city. The festival was started by the Maharaja of Mysore and is being continued till date. The palace is illuminated every night and on the last day the former Maharaja leads one of India's most colorful processions.  People from all around the world gather to watch the pomp and show exhibited in Mysore. The festival is celebrated in a grand style with scores of cultural performances in the great Durbar Hall of the Maharaja's Palace. Indeed a unique celebration of the common festival of Dushera.

Another unique festival of Karnataka is the Karaga which is celebrated in Bangalore in the honour of the queen of Pandavas, Draupadi. Karaga is celebrated on the full moon day of April, the first month of the Kannada calendar.

Yugadi is the New Year celebration in Karnataka. This falls on the day after the new moon day in April, the month of Chaitra. The formation of the Karnataka State is celebrated on the 1st of November and is a state festival.

The state of Andhra Pradesh lies on the south eastern side of India. The Telgus, as the people of Andhra are called, are religious and celebrate the festivals with great enthusiasm. Hyderabad being the capital of this state, which was ruled by the Nizam, has seen the state celebrating the Id festivals with great fervour. Biryani and Haleem preparations are the specialty of Telgu Muslims during Ramzan.

The festival of Makar Sankranti holds special place in Andhra community. This harvest festival is celebrated for 3 days in Mid January. The first day is Bhogi that is spent with gaiety. The second day is Sakranti. Many families arrange a doll show and invite their friends and give alms to the poor. The third day is Kanuma when they acknowledge their gratitude to the part taking of the animals. They decorate and worship their cattle.
The New Year falling in the month of April is called the Ugadi and celebrated with new clothes and sweets. The birthday of Lord Ganesh, Vinayak Chaturthi, falling in September is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Huge idols are installed and worshipped and on the last day they are immersed in the water.

Kerala, famous as God’s own country, is famous for its back waters and boat races. This small state has nearly equal population of Hindus, Muslims and Christians staying and celebrating their festivals in harmony. Vishu is the New Year of the Malayali people, which falls every year on 14th of April. The Keralites believe that they should see the best things when they wake up in the morning. Huge flower decorations and other goodies are kept in front of the deities and worshipped. Sweet meats are prepared out of jaggery, rice and coconut.
Another important festival is the Onam. Onam falls in August – September. This day is celebrated in the honour of the King Mahabali who once ruled Kerala. His period is believed a have been the golden age in the history of Kerala. He was a threat to the Gods and so they got him killed. But since he had proved to be a good king he was allowed to return to his country once a year. Onam is that day of the year and the people of Kerala rejoice the homecoming of their King. Elaborate flower motifs are made in front of their houses to welcome him and a fully vegetarian feast is cooked to satisfy the Kings palate. The Malayalis wear their traditional dresses, laden with gold ornaments and exchange gifts.

Trichur Pooram is celebrated in the sweltering heat of the summer season at the Vadakkunathan Temple in Trichur. It is believed that on this day the respective deities of other temples visit Vadakkunathan temple. Nine Deities from the neighbouring temples pay homage to Lord Shiva at the Temple. Processions of beautifully caparisoned elephants provide a magnificent spectacle. The festival is rounded off at night by dazzling firework displays. It is only on the day of Trichur Pooram that the non-Hindus are allowed to enter the ancient temple of Vadakkunathan.

The southern most state on the eastern coast of India is Tamil Nadu. This southern state is popularly known as the temple state of India. The main local festival celebrated here is the Pongal. Pongal is the harvest festival celebrated for three days in Tamil Nadu. Bhogi is celebrated on January 13, Pongal on January 14 and Mattu Pongal on January 15 every year. During this time people wear new clothes and draw beautiful motifs in front of their houses with rice flour. The cattle too is decorated and rested during this time. Sweet made of the first rice is cooked, which is known as the Pongal.

Commonly known as the Float Festival, this magnificent festival is celebrated in Madurai. On the night of the full moon in January, ornamented icons of goddess Meenakshi and her consort are taken out in a colourful procession to the huge Mariamman Teppakulam. The icons are floated in the tank on a raft decked with flowers and flickering lamps. The Meenakshi Kalyanam is a ten day festival, which takes place in April – May at Madurai. On this day the Goddess Meenakshi is wedded to Lord Shiva. The deities are taken out in the decorated chariots and the festival is celebrated with lot of pomp and show.

The Karthigai Deepam festival can be termed as an extension of Diwali in Tamil Nadu as it falls just after the main festival of Diwali. It is the festival dedicated to the immortal light created by lord Shiva. Many houses add one lamp for the day from Diwali and by this day the houses are full of Lamps. The lamps are worshipped and they burn day and night also on the streets.

Situated on the Coromandel Coast, about 160 km south of Chennai, lies the Union Territory of Pondicherry. The French ruled this territory for 300 years, and today, it stands as a living monument of the French culture in India. Festivals are organized nearly every month in Pondicherry. With the still persistent French influence, the festivals although similar, have a slight difference from the rest of India. Pongal of Tamil Nadu is celebrated with equal fervour in Pondicherry. The Masimagam festival in mid March is a huge celebration when deities of around 50 odd temples from nearby reach Pondicherry. A sanctimonious sea bath is then held on the beach. Thousands come to witness and participate in this festival.  The Veerampattinam and the Villianur Car Festival are held in July and May respectively. The deities of these temples are taken out on carriages, which are drawn by devotees. Masquerade, held in March - April, is a popular mask festival, during which brilliantly costumed and masked people of Pondicherry, dance down the streets to the music of trumpets and accordions. During the Eve of the Bastille Day in July, retired soldiers parade the streets in war finery, singing the French and Indian National Anthem.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Festivals of India (Part 3)

Around the month of April, the summers are already on. The days are hot and become hotter in the south by the end of the month. April normally comprises many regional festivals. Mostly because it is the first month in the Hindu calendar.

India has a large Jain community which celebrates the birth of the last, the 24th Teerthankar, Lord Mahavir. The Jains celebrate the birth anniversary of Mahavir, the founder of Jainism on a large scale. This religious event is largely observed by visiting sacred sites and worshipping the Teerthankars.


The Hindu New year is celebrated through out the country in nearly all the states with different names. People mainly cook and eat sweets and wear new clothes and wish each other on this occasion. They sing and dance and start with new ventures on this day.


The ninth day of the first month in the Hindu calendar is celebrated as the day of birth of the Hindu God, incarnation of Vishnu and the hero of the epic Ramayana, Lord Ram. The festival is celebrated all over the country with people fasting and worshipping the Lord for the whole day. Ramnavami is also celebrated as the Vasant Navratra and the celebration starts from the first lunar day of the bright fortnight of Chaitra and lasts up to Ramnavami. On Ashthami or the eighth day, Durga is worshipped. Both Ram and Durga symbolize the victory of good over the evil.


Good Friday falling in April is observed by the Christians as the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. More than a celebration, it is the commemoration of the crucification. Christians in India observe fast 40 days prior to this period known as the lent. Masses and prayers are held. Two days later it’s Easter. Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a day of great rejoicing and merry-making. Easter symbolizes the ultimate victory of good, over evil. Feasts are given, sweets exchanged and processions taken out on this occasion. Edible artificial and hard-boiled eggs are given on Easter as gifts among the Christian society in India.

The scorching Indian summer starts by late April in the southern parts of India and by mid – May the Sun rays just roast the people all over India. Only the places at the foot hills of the Himalayas, or those surrounded by mountains, experience cool weather, during this time of the year. Many Hill stations of India organize various festivals to attract tourists in May. There are hardly any festivities during this time of the year.

On the full moon day falling in May is the Buddha Pournima. A great day for the followers of Buddhism, who believe, that Lord Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and also left the mortal world on this very day. Huge celebrations and prayers are held at Bodhgaya in India and elsewhere also. The day is spent chanting hymns and prayers all day long.

Summers continue in the month of June and July brings down the showers all over India. After the first rains the farmers are busy tilling the soil and pray for a good harvest. Small festivities regarding these prayers are celebrated regionally during this time of the year. The showers have slowed down by the month of August. This is supposed to be the most pious month in the Hindu calendar, called as the month of Shravan. Onset of Shravan brings festivities and celebrations throughout India.

The first full moon falling in August celebrates the relations between a brother and a sister. On this day sisters tie a sacred thread called Rakhi on their brothers’ wrists and pray for their well being while the brothers return the love by gifting them and promising to take care of the sisters for the rest of their lives. This full moon day is celebrated as Nariyal or the Coconut Pournima along the coastal areas of India. It is basically festival of the fishermen who pray the sea God seeking his permission to venture into the sea to fish, after rest of two months, which is the peak monsoon season. Sweets made of coconut are prepared and everyone enjoys. In South India, it is celebrated as Avani Avittam. The holy thread is changed and libation of water is offered to the ancestors and Rishis on this occasion.


India gained independence from the British on 15th August 1947. This day is celebrated as the National day in India. The Prime Minister of India hoists the tri colour on the historic Red Fort in Delhi and gives a speech addressing the nation. The day is celebrated vibrantly by people and especially young children by making and hoisting flags and singing the national anthem. Chief Minister of various states hoists the flag and address the state.


Eighth day of the black half in the month of Shravan is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu. Legend says that the Lord was born in the midnight and it was raining heavily then. People all around the country celebrate this festival with equal fervour. They fast the whole day and rejoice the birth in the middle of the night by breaking the fast. Songs and dances are performed all around the temples of India and children make a small display of the birth scene of Lord Krishna.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Festivals of India (Part 2)

Although normally the Indian calendars are based on the moon and the New Year begins sometime around March – April,  we shall see the festivals from January.

The month of January is very cold in the northern region of India where the temperatures vary from 10 degree Celsius to 10 degrees below the freezing level. But the rest of the India enjoys the most pleasant climate during this time of the year.

Probably the only Hindu festival that falls on the stipulated date, that is January 14th ,  every year. This is the time when the Sun changes its course and comes into the northern hemisphere. This is known as the Uttarayan of the Sun in the sun sign of Capricorn or Makar. This day is celebrated in various ways all around the country. Just the names are different. It is known as Pongal in the south, when the people celebrate the harvest and make puddings out of the first paddy that is cut. In the north the previous day is celebrated as Lohri, when the people light huge bon – fires and sing and dance around it. All around India, sweets made of jaggery and various nuts made and eaten as they help the body fight the cold winter. People in the western part of the country fly kites on this day. The city of Ahemedabad in Gujarat holds a big Kite festival on this occasion for which people from various countries come and participate.


India was formed as a republic country on January 26th 1950. This day is celebrated as the Republic day and is a National Holiday. It is celebrated all over the country where the Governors of the state hoist the National Flag and take the honour of Guards. It is celebrated in an exuberant and grand scale in the Capital, Delhi. The President hoists the national flag and takes the guard of honour from all the  three forces. There is a spectacular show of all the armed forces, with tableaus of various states and dances and songs performed on the Rajpath. The grand finale is performed by the spectacular show of the fighter planes. This beautiful ceremony is attended by dignitaries and commoners too and is telecasted live on television. People are honoured for their distinguished job on this day.

The month of February brings along with the on setting of spring and crisp air. Other than the places near the Himalayas the whole country gets ready to welcome the spring. Practically, the best month to tour, the whole of India.


This festival dedicated to Lord Shiva is celebrated all over India. There are many legends in the Indian mythology which gives the reason behind celebrating this festival. People not only pray the Lord on this day but also keep a fast and refrain from sleeping in the night. Especially the married ladies pray for a long life for their husbands. Legends say that Lord Shiva married Parvati on this day. Another story goes that it was this day when the Lord assumed a form of Lingam. Some say this was the day when he consumed the poison from the ocean, while others say that it was on this day that he asked Ganga to come down and purify the earth.


Although the Muslim festivals follow their own calendar, the Bakri Id as it is popularly known is celebrated around February or March every year. It celebrates the sacrifice of Hazrat Ibrahim, who willingly agreed to kill his son at the behest of God. To celebrate the event, Muslims sacrifice one animal per family or group of families. There are prayers in mosques, feasting, and rejoicing. New clothes are worn and visits and greetings are exchanged.
The month March brings in the spring season in the north when the days are pleasant and nights are cool, while it gives a hint of approaching summer in the south. It is supposed to be the last month in the Hindu calendar.

Another Muslim festival that falls around March is the Muharram. It is not a festival to celebrate but a day is remembered and mourned as the martyr’s day of Imam Hussein. People take out big taziyas or processions on this day crying and mourning for Hussein. In some places people hit themselves and hurt themselves trying to remember the sufferings of Hussein.


One of the biggest festivals celebrated all over India. Holi is the last festival in the Hindu calendar and is celebrated by young and old, rich and poor and people from all the religions alike. It is the festival to welcome the spring and summer. People smear colours and splash water on each other and have fun. Sweets are prepared and people play with water and colours till late in the afternoon. Myriad colors of the blossoming flowers coupled with the tender green leaves, the melodious chirping of the birds, and an aura of romance and merriment marks the advent of the season of spring or Vasant. Holi enhances the romance of this season with its splurge of colors.

Keep reading for more...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Festivals of India (Part 1)

India will amaze you. This has been said too often but not without a reason. The Vast oceans and great rivers in the plains; the enchanting sea beaches and the calm back waters of the south; the Jungles and the snow capped mountains of the north; the ancient Temples, Churches, Mosques and Gurudwaras; a melting pot of nearly all the religions and various cultures; rich with flora and fauna and technically forward country, India is a traveller’s dream come true. A visit to India will change your life. 

The Indian calendar is full of festivals starting form the birthdays of Deities, saints and prophets to celebration of various seasons and mythological stories. Some of the festivals are celebrated as national days.

The huge subcontinent has ancient civilization and is an inheritor to a rich and diverse cultural tradition. Festivals and Fairs play a definite role to add to the enchantment, and help exploring the rich 4000 year old culture of India. The Fairs and Festivals celebrated across the length and breadth of the land present a fascinating pageant and showcase the resplendence of its arts and crafts tradition. Some festivals are of religious nature, others are linked with the lives of the people, change of seasons and harvesting. Each festival is unique in style and is characterized by color, gaiety, enthusiasm, feasts and heterogeneity of prayers and rituals. And although each religion celebrates their own festivals, they also participate in the other festivals with equal enthusiasm and fervor making the festivals typically Indian. Last but not the least, although most of the Indian festivals carry legends behind them, there is some scientific reason attached to them. Like Holi, which marks the end of winter and therefore splash of water is necessary. Diwali, which is the darkest and the coldest night, is lighted up with innumerous lamps all over, so on and so forth. Each festival in the Indian calendar carries a legend and a reason behind the celebration, which also includes the food that is eaten during the particular festival.

India is a vast country with different demography hence every region and state have their own ways of celebrating their festivals. Some of them are celebrated in a common way while some are very regional festivals.

1. Common festivals:

Although normally the Indian calendars are based on the moon and the New Year begins sometime around March – April,  we shall see the festivals from January.

The month of January is very cold in the northern region of India where the temperatures vary from 10 degree Celsius to 10 degrees below the freezing level. But the rest of the India enjoys the most pleasant climate during this time of the year.

Keep reading more to come on my next post....

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Diwali : The Festival of Lights

The most famous and also the most awaited festival of the Indians falling in late October and early November is the festival of lights, Diwali or Deepavali. This festival of lights means triumph of the good over the evil. It falls in late October or early November every year and is celebrated by all with great enthusiasm. People specially buy new clothes, renovate or colour their houses. A variety of dishes, sweet and spicy, both are made. People burn crackers and hang lanterns in front of their doors. According to legends after killing the demon King Ravana, Ram, came back home after an exile of 14years. That was the time during Diwali. It is also said that Krishna also killed Narak, the demon on this day. 

The Goddess of wealth is worshiped on this day. This festival falls on the darkest night of the year; therefore in-numerous lamps are lit all around India to wipe out the darkness. Two days later falls the festival of Bhai Duj, Bhai phota, or Bhau bij. The sisters worship Gods and pray for their brothers’ well being on this day. A celebration of lights, sweets and colours is what Diwali is all about. 

Dewali is celebrated as Kalipuja in West Bengal, Kali Pooja is one of the major festivals for people in West Bengal and they celebrate the occasion with much funfair and enthusiasm. Just as people in North India light lamps to honor Lakshmi Ma during Lakshmi Puja, people in West Bengal celebrate Kali Pooja by lighting lamps in honor of Goddess Kali. Houses are decorated and elaborate lighting is done throughout the house. Elaborate Kali Pooja is carried out during the evening. As Goddess Kali is regarded as the Goddess to be feared Bengalis leave no stone unturned in carrying out a special Pooja for her. The Kali pooja is said to be one of the symbols of great power. This pooja is always performed in the evening. Due to its perception as being a source of power, many sadhus (holy men) perform this pooja just before midnight. This is to ask the goddess for supernatural powers so that they might be able to help humanity. Through Puja people seek happiness, prosperity and protection against hardships.