India is famous for a lot of things around the world, but one thing that this country is better at doing than most is celebrating festivals, lots of festivals. Being a highly religious and devotional country, festivals mark the significant part in the people’s lives in India. This is the time when Indian Culture experienced at its Best.
A country with diverse religious and cultural backgrounds India as a nation gets to celebrate festivals of different types, tastes, and colors and that is what makes festivities in this country so special to experience. Each festival has its own significance and teachings. These disparate and diverse festivals held throughout the year.
Vibrant Festivals of India
Let us have a quick glance at the most popular and vibrant festivals of India.
- LOHRI / MAKAR SANKRANTHI / PONGAL
- MAHA SHIVARATRI
- BUDDHA PURNIMA
- EID-UL-FITR (RAMADAN)
- RAKSHA BANDHAN
- KRISHNA JANMASHTAMI
- GANESH CHATURTHI
- NAVRATRI/ DURGA PUJA/ DUSSEHRA
Religious Festivals of India
Lohri (Maghi) observed on a day preceding to Makar Sankranti every year. It signifies the inception of the Hindu Month Magh and culmination of the month Paush.
Sankrathi/Pongal is a four-day long harvest festival hugely celebrated in South India. People make Pongal dish and wear traditional attires on the day. The houses look resplendent with Kolam designs. Celebrated in the second week of January, they signify the end of the harvesting season in the country when farmers put down their tools and come together in joy and harmony. It is an important festival in the state when people pray for abundance in wealth and health.
Significance: It marks the thanksgiving to nature marking its first harvest season.
Key attractions: Vibrant Kolam designs and cock-fights.
When: 14th or 15th January.
Where: Celebrated primarily by South Indians.
Among the biggest days in a Hindu calendar year, Maha Shivratri is celebrated as the day Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati. This religious festival in India is celebrated on the 14th/15th day of the month of February with devotees flogging to the temples to offer their prayers. The festivities are marked with all day fasting and all night vigils through singing and dancing. There is a tradition of offering a holy bath to the “Shiva Lingam”.
Shivaratri literally means the great night of Shiva. Many Hindus abstain from food for the whole day and break the fast at the time of sunset. Profound singing and dancing take place to enable people to stay awake all night termed as “Jagaran”.
Holy Bath to Shiva Lingam
Significance: Marks the event of the marriage of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati.
Key attractions: Holy bath to the “Shiva Lingam”, Jagaran.
When: During the month of February. In 2017, marked on 25th February, Saturday.
Where: Celebrated by Hindu Community all over.
Holi is regarded as the festival of colors. On the eve of Holi, people lamp bonfires, and burn down the evil Holika, splotch one another with colored powders and drench with colored water. On this day, people assemble in open places and apply colors to each other, with some carrying water guns and water balloons.
Kids smearing powdered colors
Significance: It indicates the victory of good over evil.
Key attractions: Bonfire, colors, and bhang thandai.
When: During the month of March. In 2017, marked on 13th March, Monday.
Where: Almost everywhere in the country; with most vibrant celebrations in North Indian states.
The biggest day in the life of a Buddhist, Buddha Purnima is celebrated across the Buddhist world as the day of birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautam Buddha. Devotees gather around at their nearest temples with flowers with candlesticks, offering prayers and singing hymns. Bodh Gaya in Bihar is the best place to witness the enchanting celebrations of Buddha Purnima in India.
Buddhists offering prayers to Lord Buddha
Significance: Marks the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautam Buddha.
Key Attractions: Singing of hymns, Prayers.
When: Generally in between the month of April and May. In 2017, marked on 10th May, Wednesday.
Where: Bodh Gaya in Bihar is the best place to witness the celebrations.
Eid marks the major festival for the Muslim community. On this day, people assemble for a special community prayer in the morning, visit friends, and relatives and offer sweets. Kids are presented with idi by elders. Id signifies the month-long fasting followed by celebrations of Ramzan. Cities such as Lucknow, Delhi, and Hyderabad see joyous celebrations and fanfare during Id. The festival is also symbolic of the brotherhood and cultural uniqueness of India.
Ramadan illuminates the power of characteristics like patience, humility, spirituality, and submissiveness to God.
Muslims offering mass prayers at mosque
Significance: It signifies the prominence of the holy month of fasting.
Key attractions: The extravagantly adorned markets and mosques, a huge assembly of Eid namaz at the mosques, and the special dish Haleem.
When: During the months of June or July. In 2017, marked on 26th June, Monday.
Where: Celebrated by Muslims all over the country.
Hemis, the two-day festival from Ladakh, marks its significance among the popular festivals of India. It even allures many foreign tourists every year. The scenic Cham dance is performed by the priests to the traditional music played by the monks dolled up in elaborate brocade attires and masks.
Cham Dance at Leh Ladakh
Significance: It marks the birth anniversary of the spiritual founder of Tibet Tantric Buddhism.
Key attractions: The spectacular Hemis monastery and the special dance named Cham.
When: During the month of June or July. In 2017, marked on 3rd July, Monday to 4th July, Tuesday.
Where: Prominently in Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
The name ‘Raksha Bandhan’ signifies ‘a bond of protection’. The festival marks the prominence of the brother-sister bonding, with the sister tying rakhi on the brother’s wrist wishing for his prosperity. The brother, in return, vows to protect his sister and ensure to look after her and sweeten the deal with a present of the wish.
Thali with Rakhi, Sweet and Aarti
Significance: It symbolizes the relationship between a brother and sister.
Key attractions: Colourful variety of rakhis and sweets.
When: During the month of August. In 2017, marked on 7th August, Monday.
Where: Followed throughout the Hindu Community in India.
Janmashtami is celebrated marking the birthday of Lord Krishna. Prayers, dances and singing bhajans are all a part of the celebrations. Oftentimes, kids dress up like Lord Krishna on this day. An extremely fun part of the festival involves people climbing on each other and forming a human pyramid to try and reach and break open clay pots filled with buttermilk, which has been strung up high from buildings. This custom is termed as Dahi Handi. On hitting the clay pot, buttermilk is spilled all over the group signifying the victory.
Radha Krishna Idols
Significance: It marks the birthday of Lord Krishna.
Key attractions: Janmashtami puja and the jhaankis of Lord Krishna.
When: During the month of August or September. In 2017, marked on 14th August, Monday.
Where: Celebrated by the Hindu community all over.
Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated to mark the birthday of Lord Ganesha. It marks the 10-day celebrations of colorful festivities. Massive handcrafted Ganesh idols are placed in homes and in public canopies. Pujas are offered both in the morning and the evening. The last day is the day of immersion of idol into any water body. Singing, dancing, theater held as a part of the procession.
Significance: It marks the birthday of Lord Ganesha.
Key attractions: Life size idols of Ganesha, and the immersion ceremony.
When: During the month of August or September. In 2017, marked on 25th August, Friday.
Where: Celebrated throughout India with great enthusiasm and pleasure.
Onam is a prominent festival, wherein people wear traditional attire, decorate houses with Pookalam (floral designs), and prepare Onasadya (a meal consisting of 11/13 dishes). This festival is celebrated on a wide-scale in Kerala. This ten-day harvest festival signifies the arrival of the legendary King Mahabali. The festival marks the culture and customs.
Significance: It signifies the homecoming of the ancient ruler Mahabali.
Key attractions: The picturesque Snake Boat Race, the Elephant procession, and the Kaikottikali dance event.
When: During the month of August or September. In 2017, marked on 4th September, Monday.
Where: Celebrated widely across each community in the state of Kerala.
Navratri is celebrated all over India in distinct ways. It is a 9-day commemoration of an overhaul of Garba nights followed by lively Dandiya dances by people in elegant and colorful traditional clothes.
The tenth day of Navratri is celebrated as Dussehra which symbolizes the triumph of Goddess Durga over the evil demon Mahishasura. Thus, it marks the conquest of good over wicked. The entire day remarked with feasting, singing, and dancing.
In eastern India, the festival is distinguished as Durga Puja. Stupendous idols of the Goddess are made, placed in artistically made canopies. Pujas are performed on each significant day and finally, the statue is immersed in the holy Ganges River. The festival is an extremely social and theatrical event, with drama, dance, and cultural performances held throughout the country.
Garba dance in colorful attires
Significance: It represents the celebration of the Goddess Amba in nine different forms.
Key attractions: Dance festivities in Gujarat, Plush pandals, ten armed Durga idols.
When: During the month of September or October. In 2017, marked on 30th September, Saturday.
Where: Almost all over the country.
Regarded as one of the widely celebrated festivals of India, Diwali is a 5 day Hindu festival that glorifies the triumph of good over evil. In North India, Diwali commemorates the arrival of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after conquering Ravana. It signifies the triumph of Lord Krishna over the evil Narakasura. It is also known as the “Festival of Lights” for all the fireworks, small clay lamps, and candles that were lit.
Lights are lit the maximum amount of time, and doors kept open to welcome the Goddess Lakshmi, presumed to bring with her wealth and success. After performing prayers, firecrackers lightened up in the sky.
Fireworks brightening up the sky
Significance: It signifies the arrival of Lord Rama and Sita along with brother Lakshmana, after a long exile of 14 years.
Key attractions: Decoration of houses with fancy lights and clay lamps, bursting of colorful fireworks and crackers.
When: During the period between mid-October to mid-November. In 2017, marked on 19th October, Thursday.
Where: All over the country.
It is a significant festival for the Sikh community. The day spent with assemblies of people and listening to the spiritual teachings of the gurus. Langars (community meals) arranged in the gurudwaras. Hymn chanting processions held throughout the city. At certain places, people even light up and burst crackers to celebrate the occasion.
Gurupurab celebrations at Golden Temple
Significance: It marks the celebration of the anniversaries of the ten Sikh Gurus.
Key attractions: The soulful hymns, Gurbani, the Langar and the Karah Prasad.
When: During the month of November. In 2017, marked on 4th November, Saturday.
Where: Celebrated by the Sikh community all over the world.
Perhaps one of the biggest and widely celebrated festivals in the world, Christmas is also celebrated with the same zeal and zest in India too. All the churches were well lit up and fancily decorated. The decorated churches, the Santa Claus and the Christmas Eve gifts are part of the whole experience of celebrating Christmas by not only Christians but people from other religion too.
Significance: Signifies the birthday of Lord Jesus.
Key attractions: Christmas tree, Prayers at the church and Santa Claus.
When: 25th December.
Where: Celebrated all across India.
The myriad of important festivals of India boasts the nation’s rich and varied customs and the religious sentiments of the people. These extensive festivals mark the true manifestation of India’s culture and traditions.