India is home to many religious communities and hence many cultures and traditions. The many festivals celebrated throughout the year are a testament to the diversity of the land. Some of the popular festivals in India are briefly described below.
Dussehra or Vijayadashmi is one of the most popular festivals of India and is also celebrated in Nepal and Bangladesh. The celebration signifies victory of good over evil and is comes in early September or October.
Dussehra in Sanskrit means “removal of ten”, referring to the victory of Lord Rama over the evil king Ravana, who had 10 heads. The name Vijayadashmi in Sanskrit means the “victory on the 10th day”, referring to the day when Goddess Durga is believed to have gained victory over the buffalo-headed demon named Mahishasura.
Ganesh Chaturthi celebrates the birth of Lord Ganesh, who is the elephant headed son of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. It is a very popular festival in the state of Maharashtra, where the celebrations are 10 days long.
On the first of the 10 days long celebration, elaborately decorated spectacular clay statues of Lord Ganesh are installed at homes and specially created public podiums, for people to offer their prayers and take blessings from the Lord. Towards the end of the festival, groups of people parade through the city, with loud music and dance, taking their statues of Lord Ganesh to the nearest water body for submersion.
Holi is another festival that celebrates triumph of good over evil. Commonly referred to as the “festival of colors”, Holi is celebrated by smudging one another with colors. The occasion becomes even more euphoric after the consumption of bhang, a drink made from cannabis plant, which gives a high.
Navratri, Dussehra and Durga Puja
Navratri is celebrated on the first 9 days of the 10 days long celebration. The 10th day commemorates the victory of Lord Rama over evil king Ravana. Coincidentally, Goddess Durga killed the evil buffalo-headed demon called Mahishasura on this very same day. Celebration of this victory of Goddess Durga is called Durga Puja, which is a popular tradition in Eastern India.
Janmasthami is the celebration of birth of Lord Krishna and is extremely significant occasion for the Hindu community in India. It is said that Lord Krishna was born at midnight and hence people flock the temples to offer prayers and seek blessings at mid-night on Janmasthami every year. A popular tradition of the festival is the formation of a human pyramid to reach and crack a clay pot, which is usually hung at an elevation. The pot is symbolic of the pot containing Lord Krishna’s favorite food, butter. However, the modern day pot, used in celebrations, is usually filled with yogurt.
Eid Ul Fitr
Eid is the biggest festival of the Muslim community in India. It is celebrated after Ramadan, which is the 9th month of the Muslim year and is commonly referred to as the fasting month as the Muslim community fast throughout this month. Legend has it that it was in this month that Prophet Mohammed introduced the holy book of Koran.
Raksha Bandhan, also referred to as Rakhi, is a celebration of the bond between brother and sister. On the occasion of Rakhi, a sister ties a fancy thread, called Rakhi, around her brother’s wrist and in return the brother offers her a present and makes a promise to protect her from all harms.
Diwali is one of the most popular and much anticipated festivals in India. One of the most extravagant and pomp festivals, Diwali is celebrated by almost everyone in the country.
The word Diwali is derived from Sanskrit word “Deepawali” which translates to “rows of light”. Marked by many lamps lit together to illuminate the dark night of Diwali, the festival signifies victory of good over evil and enlightenment after eliminating the darkness of ignorance.