MUHHARAM : Commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of he holy Prophet Mohammed, and is observed by the Shiite Muslim, who take out processions of colorfully decorated ‘Tazias’ which are paper and bamboo replicas of he martyr’s tomb at Karbala in Iraq. The processions are specially impressive at Lucknow. In parts of the South, tiger dancers – men painted over with strips and wearing tiger masks, lead the procession.
BUDDHA PURNIMA : The festival which falls on the full moon day, commemorates the birth of Lord Buddha. Also it was on this day lord Buddha achieved Nirvana or the extinction of self and freedom from the cycle of birth.
RATHYATRA : This spectacular chariot festival is held at the famous Jagannath Temple at Puri (Orissa). Images of Lord Jagannath, his sister Subhadra and brother Balbhadra are taken out in procession in three chariots to their summer temple for a week. The main chariot to their summer temple for a week. The main chariot is 14 meters high and 10 meters square with 16 wheels. The ropes of the huge chariots are pulled by millions of devotees who also believe that this act bestows salvation upon them.
GURU PURNIMA : A special worship is performed on this day to all teachers and is called Guru Purnima. Whorship of the great Vyasa, the author of the great epic, Mahabharta, is a part of the celebration. On this day sudden visit their elders, teachers and guides in order to show respect to them with gifts of coconuts, clothes and sweets. These gifts are called gurudakshina. Discourse are held in community gathering to hear the readings of the holy book, Bhagwad Gita.
JANAMASHTAMI : The birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu is observed all over India. It is celebrated with great fervour at Mathura and Brindavan where Lord Krishna spent his childhood. Night long prayers are offered and religious hymns are sung in temples. Scenes are enacted from Lord Krishna’s early life.
In Maharashtra, earthern ports of curd and butter are hung high up over the streets. Young men enacting an episode from Krishna’s childhood form human pyramids by climbing on each other’s shoulders and try to break these pots.
ONAM : Onam is Kerala’s most popular festival, celebrated to welcome the spirit of the pious king Mahabali from eternal exile and to assure him that his people are happy and wish him well. At Trichur, caparisoned elephants take part in a spectacular procession. There is also a magnificent display of fireworks. At Shoranur, appreciative crowds gather on the green where coloufully dressed Kathakali dancers re-enact the well-loved stories of the epic heroes and virtuous women.
On the second day of the festival every home is lit bright and decorated in preparation for the visit of King Mahabali. Greetings are exchanged and lengths of auspicious saffron cloth are presented by friends to one another.
The Vallumkali (boat race) is one of the main attractions of Onam, and is best seen at Aranmulai and lottayam. About a hundred oarsmen row huge and graceful odee (boats). Oars dip and flash to the rhythm of drums and cymbals in each boat. The songs are generally topical in character and concern people well known in Malabar. Above each boat gleam scarlet silk umbrellas, their number denotes the affluence of the family owning the boat. Gold coins and tassels hang from the umbrellas.
In the evenings, girls perform the Kyekotikali (the clapping dance) in the open, dancing around the traditional brass lamp. Intricate patterns of flower petals are made on the grass forming a flower carpet for the dance.
NAG PANCHAMI : Nag Panchami is the festival when snakes, the symbol of energy and prosperity are worshipped. In Maharashtra, snake charmers go from house to house and dormant cobras ensconced in cane baskets, asking for alms and clothing. Women offer milk and cooked rice t the snakes and gathered around to see the snakes spread their hoods to the tune of the Pungi. Clay snakes are brought home to be worshiped by day and immersed in the sea in the evening. In southern India, particularly in Kerala, snake temples are crowded on this day and worship is offered to stone or metal icons of the cosmic serpent Ananta or Shesha.