India is a land of often bewildering diversity. It is a jigsaw puzzle of people – of every faith and religion, living together to create a unique and colourful mosaic. There is a festivals celebrate the various harvests celebrate the various harvests, commemorate great historical figures and events, while many express devotion to the deities of different religions. Every celebration centres around the rituals of prayer, seeking blessing, exchanging goodwill, decorating houses, wearing new clothes, music, dance and feasting.
- Fairs and Festivals in India
- Some Common Indian Customs and Traditions
MAKAR SANKRANTI : Is a celebration of spring on the occasion of the ‘ascent’ of he sun to the north (Uttarayana). In Maharshtra, Karnataka as well as parts or Andhra, Makar Sankranti is a day of goodwill and friendship. Sesame ladoos and sugar drops are distributed as a symbol of he need to be generous and kind to everyone. Women wear new clothes, new glass bangles and hold get-togethers to share sweets and gifts. A New bride is given ornaments made of sugar drops and her new relatives are invited to meet and welcome her at a Haldi Kumkum celebration.
LOHRI : In the North Makar Snakranti is called lohri. It is the only Hindu festival which falls regularly on the 14th of January every year. Lohri is the time after which the bring cold of winter begins to taper off. On this day the children go from door to door to collect funds for community bonfires which are lit in the evening. Lohri is more of a community festival, where the birth of a son or the first year of marriage is celebrated with great fun and frolic. People gather around the bonfires and offer sweets, crisp rice and popcorn to the flames. Songs are sung to the beat of vigrous claps and greetings and exchanged.
VASANT PANCHAMI : Is a ceremonial welcome to spring on the fifth day of the waxing moon of Magh, When Saraswati, Shiva- Durga and Vishnu-Lakshmi are worshipepd. People wear colourful attires, especially in bright shades of yellow and they dance, sign and make merry.
In west Bengal, ‘Saraswati’ – the Goddess of learning in worshipped. The festival is celebrated with great fervour in the university town of Shantiniketan.
MAHASHIVARATRI : On the 14th night of the dark half of Magh occurs the festival of Mahashivaratri, the great night of Lord Shiva. The devotees stay awake throughout the night offering their prayers to Lord Shiva. They offer special food made from the fruits of the season, root vegetables and coconuts to Lord Shiva. Having observed the requirements of the all night fast, devotees eat the prasad offered to Shiva. Special celebrations are held in some of the major Shaivite temples at Varanasi, Kalhasti (Andhra Pradesh) and Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu).
SURAJKUND CRAFT MELA : In order to promote the traditional Indian handicrafts, a delightful handloom and handicrafts fair is held annually at Surajkund. Skilled artisans and craftsmen display their skills and crafts in a rural setting. Cultural programmes and rural cuisine are also a part of this colourful fair.
HOLI : Is the most boisterous of all Hindu festivals, observed all over the North. It heralds the end o winter and the beginning of the spring. The night before the full moon, crowds of people gather together and light huge bonfires to burn the residual dried leaves and twinge of the winter. People throw coloured water and powders (gulal & kukkum) at each other and make merry. Singing and dancing add to the gaiety of the occasion.
In the northern, western as well as eastern regions. Holi celebrates the joyful raasleela of Krishna and the gopis. They play phag which is a game of many colourful hues. It is a joyous celebration of he rejuvenation of nature, and renewed hope of happiness and peaceful coexistence. Especially famous is the Lathmaar Holi of Barsana and Nandgaon. In Anandpur Sahib, Sikhs celebrate a special festival Hola Mohalla on the day after Holi. It marks a displays of ancient martial arts and mock battles. Holi is also an occasion for the celebration of the burning of Kama, the Hindu cupid, with the fire that emanated from Lord Shiva’s third eye.
RAMNAVAMI : The birthday of Lord Rama, the celebrated hero of the famous epic, the Ramayana, is enthusiastically celebrated on the ninth day of the waxing moon of chaitra. Temples are decorated, religious discourses are held and the Ramayana is recited for ten days. People gather in thousands on the banks of the sacred river Saryu for a dip.
People sing devotional songs in praise of Rama and rock image of him in cradles to celebrates his birth. Rathyatras or chariot procession of Rama, his wife Sita, brother Lakshmana and devotee Hanumana re taken out from many temples.
ID-UL-ZUHA : TIs a Muslim festival celebrated all over India. Prayers are offered in the mosques and special delicacies are prepared and served among family and friends on the occasion.
KHAJURAHO DANCE FESTIVAL : Is a week-long festival of classical dances held at the Khajuraho Temples, built by the chandella kings.
GOOD FRIDAY : Is observed all over India by the Christians. This is the day when Lord Christ was crucified. The Christians offer special prayer services in the churches.
BAISAKHI : Is celebrated in Punjab with great fervour. It was on this day that Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa (Sikh brotherhood). The holy book of the Sikh, Granth Sahib is taken in a procession, led by the Panj Pyaras (five senior sikhs) whoa re symbolic of the original leaders. The occasion is marked by lot of feasting and merry making. All night revelries termed Baisakhi di Raat (Night of Baisakhi) or Baisakhi da Mela (Baisakhi fair) are held, where men and women dance to the rhythmic beat of drums.
In Kerala the festival is known as Vishu. A display of grain, fruits, flowers, gold, new cloth and money, is viewed early in the morning to ensure a prosperous year ahead.
Known as Rangali Bihu in Assam, the festival is celebrated with lively dances, music and feasting.