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Mother India
Festivals


Baisakhi

There are quite a number of important festivals in Northern India. One of the significant festivals is Baisakhi or Vaisakhi. It is even more so important in the state of Punjab. One can witness vivid celebrations during the festival and can go back collecting the best memories of the joyous occasion.

This festival is associated with the harvest of Rabi crop. Considered as very important in the rural India, this festival has one more significant factor attached to it. Yes, we are referring to the birth anniversary of Khalsa Panth (Sect). Held on the first day of the Vaisakh month, this festival herald’s atmosphere of enjoyment, lots of jubilance and fun. Vaisakh Month is usually referred as month of April and May. This festival is important for both Sikh and Hindus but for the former one, it is even more special.

The origin of Baisakhi is said to first take place in 1567 when Guru Amar Das had first institutionalized this occasion. On this day, all the Sikhs would gather together to receive the blessings of Gurus at Goindwal. On the same day in 1699, tenth Guru of Sikhs Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa Panth, near Anandpur Sahib, Punjab. On the same day, Muslim rulers killed him ruthlessly.

Sikhs perform Kar Sewa in Gurudwaras. Kar Sewa refers to physical labour to help in the daily chores of Sikh temple. Kirtans and recitations are also organized during the day. Kada Prasad is distributed and colourful processions, led by the Panj Piaras, are taken out. Bhangra dances are organized across the state and many entertaining performances are held. Musical bands and dramas are other common scenes during Baisakhi. Devotees from different religions visit Golden Temple and offer their prayers. People also take dip in holy rivers. Various fairs are also organized.



Diwali

One of the most celebrated and widely popular festivals in India is Diwali. The actual word has its origin from the phrase “rows of lights”, for which the term in Sanskrit language is “Deepavali”. This day is considered to be very auspicious among other Hindu festivals and is a way to appreciate the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, which is termed as a defeat of evil by good.

Lord Rama defeated Ravana to get back his wife Sita, who was kidnapped by Ravana. As per India’s tradition, this festival is also filled with many rituals, customs and celebrations. It’s a five day long process, which includes Vasu Baras, Dhan Teras, Naraka Chaturdashi, Lakshmi Puja, Bali Pratipada and Govardhan Puja. The popularity of the festival can be estimated by the number of weeks that people take to prepare ahead of time.

In accordance with the Hindu lunar calendar, the actual festival occurs on the moonless night of the dark half of Kartik. People adorn their houses with lights and lamps from the walls to the doors to the windows, thus presenting a vivid image at night. The lamps used are the traditional clay lamps, which are oiled and fed with cotton to light them. The legend says that Goddess Lakshmi descends on earth that day and honours to enter the house of someone that is the brightest and clean.

So people not only clean and illuminate their houses and streets, but also adorn themselves for the event. Both Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi are celebrated this very day, which ends with an exchange of sweets, fruits and other gifts. The illumination is not just limited to lamp lights. Small fireworks are used as children’s favourite pastime. The day ends but the celebration doesn’t. Diwali celebrations continue for next few days still exploring the festivity of the good’s victory over evil.



Durga Puja

One of the festivals widely celebrated in India, especially Northern and Eastern parts of India, is Durga Puja. It’s most common in Bengal, Bihar, Tripura, Jharkhand, and Orissa. One of the notable mentions is Bengal, where the festivities take a huge prominence. Puja reaches its full moon within the last four days from Maha-Shashti to the day when the idols take a water dip, which is held on the eve of Dashami. Looking at the religious side of Durga Puja, the legend talks about the descent of Goddess to earth on Shashthi.

She arrives on the sixth day (shashthi) and leaves on the tenth day (Dashmi). The whole festival is ten day long. The preparation of the festivities starts weeks before the actual event where people clean up their houses and adorn them as a welcome sign. Moreover, there the celebration is not on individual basis, but gifts are exchanged as well to share the celebration with the rest of the community. In India, no celebration is complete without a sweet dessert. So is Durga Puja.

The historic legacy of the Puja points towards a religious basis, but the turn of time has transformed this festival into something much more than sacred praying ritual. It’s a social event where people from eastern and northern states of India participate fully to enjoy the four days of the celebration. The most popular state is Bengal with its city Calcutta totally renewed into a celebration venue. Like other events, Durga Puja marks its own taste of culture. The dance, the celebration feast, the melody and music, all signify the importance of the event. On the social side of the event, the youth competes to bring forth their taste in fashion and style. In a way, the citizens find a way to give air to their sensibilities through a multidimensional event.



Dussehra

A very popular Hindu festival is Dussehra. Its history goes back to the times of Lord Rama when he killed Ravana to get back his wife, Sita. So the evil was defeated by good. This “Vijay” (victory) is celebrated on Dashmi “tenth day”, so thus the festival is termed as “Vijaydashmi”. The whole India celebrates this event, but it’s mostly concentrated in the Northern parts of the country.

The legend of the actual fight between Lord Krishna and Ravana is dramatized with enactments of Rama, his brother Lakshmana, Sita, Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarna, and son Meghnath. The plays consist of the climax of the famous battle. The climax takes a further turn with the shooting of the effigy of Ravana by a fireball. This brings a huge excitement and applause from the crowd, and the climax turns into a full blown celebration. This commemorates once again, the defeat of evil against good.

Dussehra also turns out to be a part of Durga Puja event, in Bengal. It’s like a culmination of celebration, marking the last day of Durga Puja. So the first nine day of Durga Puja is called “navratri” and the tenth becomes Dusshera. Dussehra is also dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Shakti, who reincarnated herself into the form of Durga, who was also a Goddess.

The rituals associated with the occasion are the nine days of celebration followed by immersion of idol of Goddess Durga in water at the end. The legend says that West Bengalis consider Durga as their daughter, and according to the belief she visits their home Durga as their daughter.


In the south, Vijaydashmi is a celebration too. It’s a sacred day to begin any new work or ritual, may it be education, career or any other field. Southerners observed Saraswati Puja on this very day where it’s considered an auspicious day to begin schooling for children.

 

Onam

Onam is a famous festival celebrated in South India, more importantly, Kerala. The inhabitants of Kerala wait every year to celebrate ten days of festivities in the month of Chingam, which falls between August and September. It’s another form of harvest event, celebrated specifically by Keralites. It is a way to thank God for the blessings. The legend says that great king of Kerala visits this place every year to make sure that the inhabitants are alright. This festival is celebrated in his honour. The king’s name was Mahabali. The whole ten days are passed in feats, dressing up, shopping, gifts exchanges and family gatherings.

The festival starts on the attam nakshatram of Chingam. The ten day festival is spent in carrying out various rituals. Some of them are Mavali Puja, Onakazhcha and Onathallu. These rituals were born in different part of the country, and have been continued since centuries. Another part of the event is adult and children games, which add another spice to the celebration. These games are not only representative of people’s joy but also mark the significance of this event in Kerala. Few examples of games are Kaikotti kali and Thumbi Thullal. Thumbi Thullal is a form of traditional dance performed by Keralite women. Another feature of the festival is Onasadya. So is Thiruvonam, which is considered an important day of Onam.

This is when the grand feast is prepared. Apart from food, there is a lot of effort involved in adoring the house such as making colored rangoli designs with rice paste or with flowers in front of the home doors. Another custom is the exchange of gifts especially clothes.

In Malayalam, it is called giving Onakkodi. This is a ritual practiced by the adults as they give gifts to the younger ones. Keralites are settled all around the world so this is one part of the year where people come from different parts of the world and gather in Kerala to celebrate Onam.



Holi

Holi is the most widely celebrated event in India. It has become a representation of Indian culture in all over the world. It celebrates the human habitat in full bloom, i.e. spring season. Nothing could be a better representative of spring other than beautiful amalgamations of colours. Holi is the name of that amalgamation. It’s not only a symbol of spring but also acts as an equalizer between different socioeconomic communities. In a nutshell, Holi eliminates differences, and brings people closer to each other. There have been few gables attached with the legendry history of Holi.

It’s believed that there used to be an evil ruler called Hirnakashyip. His pride and strength had overpowered himself so much that he started to believe that he was more powerful and worth worshipping even more than Lord Vishnu. So he casted a kingdom wide order of punishment of any person who is caught worshipping Lord Vishnu.

To his utter surprise, his own son Bhakta Prahlad went againt his father’s wishes, and kept praying to Lord Vishnu. The king had to stand by his word as well as vent out his extreme anger. So he ordered his son to be killed by throwing him down a hill. But to king’s utmost infuriation, his son was saved by Lord Vishnu due to his complete devotion to him, and rebellion for the King.

This time king Hirnakashyip sought his sister’s help. Her sister, Holika, had the unique ability to walk safely through fire. So she planned a trap for Prahlad. She took him into the centre of fire, in order to finish him. But Lord Vishnu intervened again, and instead of Prahlad, Holika was burnt alive. Holi is thus named after her. It’s a celebration of victory of good over evil. Holi will probably stay as the most famous religious festival in India, but it’s most extensive celebration occurs in Uttar Pradesh.




Janmashtami

The birth of Lord Sri Krishna is celebrated in form of Janmashtami. This festival is also known as Gokulashtami. The Lord Krishna was born on the eight day of the dark fortnight in the month of Sravana. He was born to King Vasudeva and Devaki Devi in the 'Rohini' nakshatram (star). This festival is also known by the names of Sri Krishna Jayanti and Krishnashtmi. There is no fixed date of celebration every year and the actual day can vary because of the fact that star 'Rohini' and Ashtami may not be on the same day. From Gregorian calendar’s point of view, the date of Janmashtami usually falls in the months of August and September.

Myth logically, Lord Vishnu who is one of the three major Hindu Gods had several incarnations on earth and Sri Krishna is considered as the eighth avatar. Sri Krishna is one of the most popular Hindu God. He has been associated with notions of romance, joy and divinity. He was a wonderful incarnation and he manifested true spirit of enjoyment and divinity. This festival is celebrated with all the splendour. You will come across numerous sweets made especially for this day like, laddus (yellu oonde), chakli, cheedai, payasam (kheer), and many more. Additionally, milk products like butter, cheese, curd etc are offered to the God on this day.

The famous Hindu religious Text Bhagavad Gita was given by the lord himself and it has acted as source of inspirations for sages and ordinary humans till the date. The Lord was profounder of Dharma. He was also known for his prowess and intellect. He was the chief architect of Mahabharata where he guided Pandavas to victory over evil Kauravs. Lord Krishna is the true source of joy and that gets so beautifully manifested on Janmashtami.



Karwa Chauth

Karwa Chauth is a world renowned tradition, representing India as a country full of love and traditions. This event has not been just in vogue in current soaps, but has played a big part in almost any other movie made in Hindi cinema. This festival is observed by Hindu married women belonging mainly from Northern and Western India. Few states which extensively participate in the event are Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat and many more.

Every married Hindu woman is supposed to establish a fast on this very day from the break of dawn till they see the moon at night. Women pray for their husbands all day long apart from not eating and drinking. The biggest feature of the prayers is the asking God for long life and wellbeing of their husbands. This ritual has its basis on strengthening bonds between husbands and their wives. This also shows the importance of family and relationships in India. Indian culture mostly believes in monogamy, and that signifies the importance of a partner in a person’s life. The preparations begin with women getting dressed up for the day, and adorning themselves with henna and jewellery. The day progresses as they pray to Lord Shiva, Ganesha, Parvati and Kartikeya, as well the pot of clay called Karwa. In some traditions, women begin their fast by having their last meal sent by their mother-in-laws called Sargi.

Similarly, women receive Baya,a gift of clothes and sweets from the mother-in-law as well. The whole day is passed by listening to the legend of Karwa Chauth. Finally after seeing the moon through the sieve and worshipping it, women take their first sip of water and first bite of food, by their husband’s hands, after seeing them through the sieve. This is how the day of Karwa Chauth culminates as being one of the most important days in the relationship of a Hindu couple.



Maha Shivarathri

Maha Shivaratri is one of the most pious festivals of Hindus. It is celebrated with great religious fervour and enthusiasm. There are several stories about the origin of this festival. This is a festival of Lord Shiva. According to one legend, a pot of poison emerged during the Samundra Manthan. Both Gods and Devils were indulged in Samundra Manthan and the poison was capable of destroying both parties. So they came running to Lord Shiva and he readily drank the poison but held it in his throat. Because of that his throat got colored in blue and thus he was named as Neelkantha. Another story says about a battle of superiority between Brahma and Vishnu where they were arguing about who is the creator and who has more power. Then emerged, lingam wrapped in flame that left both warring Gods overwhelmed. Both of them tried to ascertain the size but they could not. At that moment, came out Shiva from the Lingam and demanded to be worshipped in his phallic form, the lingam. Interesting stories, indeed.

This festival is celebrated with great fanfare and devotion. Different rituals are followed. However, there are certain items that are must in Maha Shivratri worship like, vermilion paste, food offering, the ceremonial offer of cooling bael leaves to the deity, incense, and lighting of the lamp. All these items represent certain virtues that worshippers need to follow.

The Maha Shivratri night is very eventful. Devotes sing hymns in praise of Lord Shiva. That is one beautiful sight to behold. The usual mantras chanted by devotees are the Panchakshara Mantra and Om Namah Shivaya. It is believed that one who chants the name of Lord Shiva on this day with utmost devotion is freed from all the sins. This festival is also popular with ascetics. Thandai is a popular drink with devotees on this pious day.



Makar Sankranti

One of the most auspicious days for Hindus is the day of Makar Sankranti. This festival is celebrated in different names and forms throughout India. The name Makar Sankranti signifies the day when the sun begins its northward journey and enters the sign of Makar (the Capricorn) from the Tropic of Cancer. You can also call it movement of Sun from Dakshinayana (south) to Uttarayana (north). According to solar calendar, Makar Sankranti is celebrated on the 14th of January every year. There are certain specific traits associated with this festival. People love to follow the tradition of kite flying apart from taking a holy dip at Prayag and Ganga Sagar. Devotees also worship sun on this auspicious day.

On the day of Makar Sankranti, day and night are of equal duration according to the solar calendar. This also symbolises reducing cold and onset of summer. According to history books, this day was celebrated by the Aryans as well. Even in religious scriptures like Mahabharata, you will find mention of this day as an auspicious day. According to Hindu beliefs, death on this day brings Moksha or salvation for the deceased.

Makar Sankranti is known by different names in different parts of the country. It is celebrated across the country. One will witness variety of traditions being followed in different regions. For example, in Punjab, it is known as Lohri that is marked by bonfire and public celebration. In Uttar Pradesh, Sankrant is called 'Khichiri'. On this day people from various places collect at Allahabad to take a dip at the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati known as Sangam. In Maharashtra, celebrations like till-polis and Haldi-Kumkoo are organized whereas in Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh the festival is known as 'Sukarat' or 'Sakarat'. In the southern region, it is known as Pongal.



Naag Panchami

Naag Panchami is considered to be one of the most sacred days celebrated in India. It’s a fast which is established on the fifth day of the bright half of the Shravan. Naag Panchami means festival of snakes.

Snakes are feared in many parts of the world, but in India snakes enjoy a religious significance. They are honoured, as it’s believed in accordance to Bhavishya Purana, that snakes Vasuki, Manibhadra, Kaliya, Dhananjaya, Talshaka, Airavata, Karakotaka and Dhritarashtra protect the worshippers from the snake’s families, once they are bathed with milk on Naag Panchami. To honour the snakes or “Naag” even more, it’s considered forbidden to plough the fields on that very day.

Naag Panchami has various legends and stories attached to its origin, and one of them dates back to the time when a farmer killed some young snakes by mistake. It’s believed that the serpents’’ mother killed the farmer along with his family in revenge. Although she didn’t kill one of his daughters who was praying to the serpent herself. This prayer proved to be so powerful that farmer and his whole family came back to life. This was the birth of Naag Panchami. Since then, hundreds of people worship snakes every year so they stay protected from their wrath.

This tradition of honouring snakes is not just restricted to keeping a fast. In fact there have been several temples dedicated completely to honour snakes.




Ganesh Chaturthi

Naag Panchami is considered to be one of the most sacred days celebrated in India. It’s a fast which is established on the fifth day of the bright half of the Shravan. Naag Panchami means festival of snakes.Snakes are feared in many parts of the world, but in India snakes enjoy a religious significance. They are honoured, as it’s believed in accordance to Bhavishya Purana, that snakes Vasuki, Manibhadra, Kaliya, Dhananjaya, Talshaka, Airavata, Karakotaka and Dhritarashtra protect the worshippers from the snake’s families, once they are bathed with milk on Naag Panchami. To honour the snakes or “Naag” even more, it’s considered forbidden to plough the fields on that very day.

Naag Panchami has various legends and stories attached to its origin, and one of them dates back to the time when a farmer killed some young snakes by mistake. It’s believed that the serpents’’ mother killed the farmer along with his family in revenge. Although she didn’t kill one of his daughters who was praying to the serpant herself. This prayer proved to be so powerful that farmer and his whole family came back to life. This was the birth of Naag Panchami. Since then, hundreds of people worship snakes every year so they stay protected from their wrath.

This tradition of honouring snakes is not just restricted to keeping a fast. In fact there have been several temples dedicated completely to honour snakes.



Navratri

Navratri just like the name suggests is a celebration of nine days to worship Goddess Durga which is the goddess of power. Goddess Durga is also known as Goddess Lakshmi in her protective form and Goddess Saraswati for disseminating knowledge. It is these three divine aspects that are worshipped during the festival of Navratri.

Goddess Durga which symbolizes the destructive aspect of the divine mother is worshipped during the first three nights of the festival. On the next three nights, her Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped and on the last three nights, the knowledge aspect which is Goddess Saraswati is worshipped. The festival is celebrated with this order because first Goddess Durga destroys all the evil after which Lakshmi imbibes divine qualities in the minds of devotees and finally Goddess Saraswati bestows true knowledge. The tenth day known as Vijaya Dasami is generally the day where victory of knowledge wins over evil.

The festival of Navratri is celebrated twice a year, once in the month of Chaitra and then in Aswayuja. Navratri is celebrated in the country differently in different states. In North India, all three Navratris are celebrated with much fervor by fasting on all nine days and worshipping the Mother Goddess in her different forms. In Gujarat, people dance in groups (garba) to worship the Goddess. In West Bengal people perform Durga Puja which is actually the biggest festival of the year in this state. In South India, Saraswati is worshipped with on the last day which is the 9th day.

Many Hindus all across the country who celebrate the festival of Navratri observe fast. They offer their prayers with all the rituals that are supposed to take place and wish for their well-being, health and prosperity. Navratri is considered to be an auspicious time for starting anything afresh or buying anything new.



Pongal

Quintessentially, Pongal is the harvest festival celebrated in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India. This festival is celebrated for more than over thousand years. The word ‘Pongal’ in Tamil means ‘boiling over or spill over’ which is an act that is considered to denote good wishes for the family. Pongal is like a thanksgiving on which the farmer pay their respect to the nature that is their farm and their cattle for being helpful during the harvest.

Pongal is celebrated on a large basis in Tamil Nadu because it is this day that marks the beginning of Tamil New Year where the first month called 'Thai'. Pongal coincides with the festival of Makara Sankranthi and is considered an important and auspicious day. Farmers keep boiling rice mixed with fresh milk with jaggery in earthen pots as this symbolizes good luck for them. As the rice boils over and bubbles out of the pot, the tradition is to shout of "Ponggalo Ponggal!" accompanied by blowing a conch which is a custom practiced since ages for bringing good luck to the land.

Pongal usually starts in the month of January and is a four days long festivity that starts usually from 14th or 15th day. Pongal largely associates itself with nature and so during Pongal celebrations house are washed, cleaned and decorated beautifully. People wear new clothes and make various sumptuous sweet dishes. Guests visit and wish each other and there are social get-togethers with family, friends and relatives. Gifts are exchanged and there is singing, dancing and more celebration.

Pongal is celebrated more lavishly in villages because it is mainly a harvest festival. People in the villages chew sugar cane and decorate their houses with kolam. Pongal is indeed one of the biggest festivals in Tamil Nadu.



Rakhi

Rakhi is a festival that is dedicated entirely to celebrate and appreciate the love and affection that exist between a beautiful relationship between a brother and a sister. There are so many festivals in India but Rakhi is one that everyone across the country awaits for. On this day sisters tie a 'Rakhi' which is a decorated thread on to their brother’s hand and pray for their long life. Brothers, in turn, give their sisters gifts and vow that they will protect and care for them. Thus all brothers and sisters across all the religions celebrate this day with great enthusiasm.

As per Hindu calendar, Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Shraavan. In western India this day is celebrated as Nariyal Purnima and an offering of a coconut is made to the sea to a mark of respect to Lord Varuna, the God of the Sea. Nariyal Purnima also marks the beginning of the fishing season and the fishermen also make an offering to Lord Varuna. Sisters buy Rakhis in advance and also prepare sweets for their brothers.

Vermillion and rice form part of the Rakhi pooja thali on the day of Rakshabandhan. Sisters pray for their brother by doing their aarti and applying teeka on their brother’s head. She then ties the sacred thread (the Rakhi) on her brother’s hand. Brothers in turn give their sisters some gift.

Indian sweets like Kaju Katli, barfis, laddoos, sandesh, ghevars, kheer etc are prepared and exchanged on that day as well. A lovely bond of trust and love is established between a brother and a sister on that day. Truly, Raksha Bandhan celebrates this beautiful relationship which is not bound by blood as any woman can tie a rakhi to a man and make him his brother.




Ram Navami

Ram Navami is celebrated to cherish the day when Hindu God Ram was born. This is usually celebrated on the ninth day of Hindu month of Chaitra. Lord Ram was born in Ayodha which is an ancient Indian city and was the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Ram Navami is the day that marks the end of nine day long festival called Chaitra Navratri or Vasanta Navratri.

On Ram Navami devotees of Shri Ram observe fast and visit temples and perform special prayers. Some people also take part in religious processions and go for special readings of Ramayana. Bhajans and Kirtans also take place where thousands of devotees sing in appreciation of Lord Ram.

Lord Ram symbolizes as the embodiment of truth and morality. Lord ram was known to be the ideal son, the ideal husband and above all, the ideal king. It is these qualities in him that are cherished on the day of Rama Navami. His bravery, character and righteous behavior are what people remember and celebrate on this auspicious day.

Amongst all the Hindu deities, Rama is the avatar of the protector Vishnu. He is the symbol for chivalry, values and virtue. Rama is literally known as the embodiment of truth. So many people have been inspired by the stories of the heroic deeds of Rama and his adventures that have been mentioned in the epic Ramayana. In South India, the day is also celebrated as the wedding anniversary of Rama and Sita.

A Ram devotee keeps a strict fast on this day as this fast is considered to be one of the five most important fasts in the ancient times. According to the ancient religious scriptures, every devotee observes the Ram Navami fast as it symbolizes inner happiness in this material world and aim to attainting salvation.



Christmas

Christmas is definitely one of the oldest and popular festivals across the world. It is way beyond the confinements of cast, creed, religion, ethnicity, race and colour. This festival is truly one of the most exciting and celebrated one in all the parts of the world. Celebrated on 25th of December, ever year, Christmas is notable as the birthday of Jesus Christ. There are several customs associated with this festival and each of them is unique and special in its own way. The most exciting part about Christmas is that it is also celebrated by other religions. Such is the universal appeal of this occasion. One must have come across several movies, serials and Santa Claus showcasing the popularity of Christmas during the month of December.

Also known as Xmas or Christmas Day, the festivities last no less than ten days during this period. The Christmas period also celebrates New Year Day on 1st of January. Festivities are held across the churches, streets and houses in form of prayers, lighting, exchange of gifts, decorations at home, Christmas trees, Santa Claus etc. This festival is even more special for kids as they look forward to receiving gifts from their favourite Santa Claus. For adults and elders, it is a much anticipated reason to socialise and shower well wishes.

Origin of the term Christmas is credited to Middle centuries English words Cristes maesse or Christ`s Mass referring to Mass on Christ’s Day. Names like Nativity, Incarnation, Yule Tide, Noel and Winter Pascha are associated with Christmas festival. There is lot of activities taking place around the world during Christmas. One will come across delicious cakes, balls, decorated Xmas trees and Santa Claus during this festival. There is lot of socialization that takes place during this occasion. Masses are held in churches commemorating the occasion.



Easter

Christianity is one of the biggest religions in the world. Christians are spread far and wide in every corner of the world. Christmas is their main festival. But apart from Christmas they also celebrate other crucial festivals like Good Friday, Easter and Thanksgiving Day. Easter is quite significant in the religion of Christianity. After the crucifixion, Jesus Christ was resurrected and this occasion is celebrated as the festival of Easter. One of the holiest Christian festivals, the Easter Day also traditionally heralds the advent of the spring season after the chilling months of winter. This is a festival when people make merry, rejoice the occasion and mingle with one another. One can associate Easter with cheerfulness and joyous gaiety.

This year, it was on 12th April, 2009. Historians credit ancient pagan roots to the origin of Easter. That makes sense because of same trend followed by several other Christian festivals. It is believed that Easter is a blend of a myriad of Christian, Hebrew and Pagan traditions. Not many know but Easter eggs and Easter bunny represents pagan symbols of fertility. Pagan Goddess of Spring is known as Eostre and many believe that term is the origin of the name of the festival Easter.

After the vernal equinox, the first Sunday following the first full moon heralds the arrival of Easter. According to history, Jesus Christ was crucified on Good Friday and thereafter his body was buried in a cave near Mount Cavalry, just outside Jerusalem. But on Sunday morning, his tomb was found empty and nobody could ever found his body. The stories of Resurrection got firm with many people claiming to see Jesus in several public places. That gave birth to acceptance of Jesus as the true Son of God and Resurrection became a reality. Christians celebrate this oldest Christian festival with amazing enthusiasm and excitement. It represents a new life, new beginning and abundance of joys.



Guru Nanak Jayanti

One of the major religions in India is Sikhism. It is often associated with progression and philosophy. Sikhism is a way of life. Sikhism is also the youngest of all the world's four great monotheistic religions. Founded in the 15th Century by Guru Nanak Dev, its origin comes from the word Sikh. This word refers to a Punjabi word that means ‘disciple’. Indian state of Punjab houses the maximum number of Sikhs. According to one estimate, there are total 18-20 million Sikhs in the world. Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak who was quite critical of blinds rituals followed by Hindus and Muslims. He focused on understanding and love. There were nine more successive Gurus after him and the last Guru was Guru Gobind Singh.

There is a school of thought that believes in close relation of Sikhism with Bhakti movement and Sufism within Hinduism and Islam. Later on, as the followers increased and religion acquired new wings, various independent beliefs and practices were added. One interpretation says, Sikhism is a modified version of Hinduism whereas other says there was a direct connection with God. The holy book of Sikhism is Guru Granth Sahib that has all the teachings of all the 10 Gurus. There are several basic teachings of Sikhism that include, equality of mankind, truthful living, close relationship with God, devotion and remembrance of God at all times and denouncement of blind rituals and superstitions.

Guru Nanak Jayanti refers to celebration of Guru Nanak Dev’s birthday which falls in the month of Kartik (October/November). Born in 1469 A.D. at Tolevandi, the anniversaries of Sikh Gurus are known as Gurpurabs (festivals). The celebration include three-day Akhand path, during which the holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib is read continuously, from beginning to end without a break. Several community services and charity works are performed on this occasion. Free sweets and langars are held at Sikh temples and lunch is offered to everyone irrespective of his religious faith. Bhajans and Kirtans are also organized.



Lohri

The harvest festival in Punjab is celebrated in form of Lohri. It is an auspicious occasion that is celebrated with great fervour in typical Punjab style. Punjab is the North Indian state that is famous for its Sikh population and bumper harvest every year. This festival is particularly celebrated by farmer fraternity because of their obvious connection with harvesting.

Many people find it quite similar to Thanksgiving Day celebrated in USA and Canada. But then Lohri’s local flavour is what makes it very special. During the festival people say their thanks to the God and offer prayers. This is more like thanking God for being so kind and bringing prosperity for all. Hindus also celebrate this festival that goes beyond religious beliefs and confinements. Mainly the North Indian states like Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and parts of Himachal Pradesh celebrate this occasion.

Lohri is celebrated during the month of January because of emergence of winter crop in North India. The point to be noted here is, the festival is organized between the period of harvesting and sowing of this winter crop. Entire society rejoices on this day joined by friends, families, relatives. They sing and dance on folk songs. People indulge in Bhangra and have loads of fun. Because of being an auspicious occasion, this period is considered as very good for newlywed bride and for birth of babies.

Usually, Lohri falls in the month of January before Makar Sankranti. It also signals, ending of winter season and arrival of summer. This year it was celebrated on Tuesday, 13th January. In India, Lohri is celebrated in different parts in different ways and in different names like Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bihu in Assam, Bhogi in Andhra Pradesh and the Sankranti in Karnataka, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The hallmark of this occasion is traditional bonfire celebration.



Bakrid

Another name for this day is Eid-ul-zuha. It’s celebrated on the 10th of the month Zilhaj, of Islamic calendar. It’s also called Bakra Eid, as according to Muslim tradition, every muslim who is earning beyond a certain limit has to slaughter a goat (Bakra), cow, sheep or any other big halal animal and distribute it into three parts. He keeps one part, one part goes to his relatives and the last goes to the poor and needy.

Eid-ul-zuha marks the event of Prophet Ibrahim P.B.U.H when he was ready enough to sacrifice his child for the sake of God. Traditionally, the inhabitants of Mecca used to perform pilgrimage or Hajj during the Zilhaj until the 10th of the month. That’s when the famous Eid’s cermon and dua or prayer is held. Muslims from all around the world go to Mecca to perform pilgrimage. People who are not in Mecca perform different rituals. They gather in the mosque for Eid prayers in the morning and then go back and sacrifice their chosen animals.

Traditionally the person who is doing the sacrifice touches the knife and the animal and either he or someone on his behalf sacrifices the animal. The animal has to be completely healthy and free of disease so that it fits best for human consumption. The butcher says “God is great” (Allah-u-akbar) three times and sacrifices the animal by cutting its windpipe. Despite the fact that sacrifice is important, it’s not mandatory on people who cannot afford it.

Muslims get together later in the day to enjoy feast and engage in social interactions for the whole day. So Eid has proved to be a very powerful vehicle of communicating a good will within the community. Moreover it reminds Muslims to celebrate but at the same time do not forget people who couldn’t afford to perform sacrifice. People donate sheep, or goat skins to such needy people, who can sell them and earn money that way.



Eid ul Fitr

Eid-ul-Fitr, most commonly referred to as Eid, is one of the two most popular religious occasions according to Islamic calendar. It’s celebrated by not just one community, or country but Muslims all over the world, and that’s one of the key reasons behind a strong Muslim brotherhood. Eid is a celebration. A celebration of the month of Ramzan. According to Islamic calendar, Ramzan is the most sacred month of the year. Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramzan. It’s a way to thank God for his blessings, and for giving Muslims the month of Ramzan where they could not only regulate their lifestyles but were also forgiven for their past sins. It’s a celebration of Muslim devotion.

Eid falls on the first day of the next month, i.e. Shawaal. Muslims start the day by performing the most famous Eid prayer. It’s done in massive congregations. Muslim men gather in the mosque to establish the Eid prayer and listen to Eid sermon, and later on hug and wish everyone a joyful Eid. These mosque gatherings are a special way with which God connects His people together on one platform and let them forget all their socioeconomic differences. Eid is celebrated both in cultural and religious manners. Traditionally a dessert is made for all the guests who will visit the household to wish Eid. Women get dressed and adorn themselves with Henna. Men forsake their Western attire and dress in traditional clothes before going to mosque.

There is another cultural tradition attached to the event, where elders give money or gifts to children. This is called “Eidi”. Eid gains even more significance, because in the month of Ramzan, God revealed His message in the form of Holy book, i.e., Quran to his messenger Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H, and finally he declared that Eid would be celebrated after the end of every Ramzan to mark the significance of this holy month.



Thanks Giving

One of the important festivals of Christianity is Thanksgiving Day. Primarily celebrated in United States and Canada, Thanksgiving Day is actually a harvest festival. It is a traditional festival in vogue since centuries. People of these two countries take this opportunity to express their gratitude and give thanks for the harvest. There is no concrete evidence of origin of this festival. Different school of thoughts have their own versions about its origin. However, many of them agree on the date of earliest Thanksgiving celebration that was held on September 8, 1565 in what is now known as Saint Augustine, Florida. The Plymouth Plantation is credited with hosting the traditional "first Thanksgiving" in way back in 1921.

In Canadian context, first Thanksgiving was supposed to be held in 1578 by explorer Martin Frobisher. He organized the festival while he was trying to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean. Date wise, in Canada, second Monday of October hosts this festival whereas Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. It is usually held over the course of the weekend amidst the gathering of relatives and friends.

During earlier days, this festival was celebrated more as a means to religious observance to give thanks to God for a common purpose. Every significant period in American history is marked with Thanksgiving mass. Whether it’s 1777, 1789, 1896 or 1975, some or other reference to Thanksgiving has been provided by the historians. Several religious and spiritual events are organized throughout the country.

Families herald the arrival of occasion by saying grace which is basically a prayer before the meal. Many families prefer to go on holidays with relatives and friends to celebrate the occasion. Usually, Thanksgiving is a four or five days holiday period for American families. This is also one of the busiest travelling periods in USA.



Buddha Purnima

Buddhism was originated some 2500 years ago. It is widely accepted as one of the universal religion that is in existence in many countries. It has a strong presence in many Asian countries and now even western countries like USA and Australia are accepting this on a wide scale. Buddhism is not only a religion but also a philosophy. Based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama also known as the "Buddha", Buddhism preaches peace and tolerance.

The literal meaning of Buddha means 'Enlightened one'. Going by the history books, Siddhartha Gautama was the prince of Lombini and in a moment of despair or enlightment he found himself totally non-aligned from worldly desires. He wanted to get rid of sorrows of human existence. At the young age of 29, he renounced all attachments to worldly pleasures and forayed into a voyage to seek answers for the misery of human condition. His next six years consisted of self-mortification and frequent fasting. He managed to achieve the supreme enlightment beneath the Bodhi tree while he was mediating. He died at the age of 80 in a small place called Kusinara. He spent his life in establishing Buddhist monastic order of monks.

Talking about Buddha Jayanti or Buddha Purnima, it is celebrated in remembrance of Lord Buddha. This day refers to his birthday. The day falls in the month of April or May (month of Vasakh), on the full moon of the lunar month. This day is not just restricted to celebrating his birthday. It also talks about some of the important events of Buddha’s life including his birth in 623 BC., his enlightment and attainment of Nirvana.

According to Hindu religious scriptures, Lord Buddha is also considered as the ninth avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu (Preserver in the Hindu Holy Trinity of Creator-Preserver-Destroyer). He was not a God and neither had he preached like one. He simply wanted to liberate human beings from sufferings of life. This year Buddha Purnima was celebrated on 9th May.



Gahambars

Like every religion, Zoroastrianism has several festival and sacred Occasions. Among the number of festivals they celebrate, Gahambars are believed to be quite auspicious and important. Parsi population has different ways of worshiping. In accordance with their religion, they honour Sky, Waters, Earth, Plants, Cattle and Man because these six are considered responsible for the creation of the entire world. The festival marked in honour of these is known as Gahambar and there are total six Gahambars in a year, each of them representing above mentioned six factors. Each Gahambars runs for five days.

If you are curious about how these celebrations are marked then let us point them out. Tribute paid to the creator of the world, common feastings and also usual get-together and remembering ancestors are the hallmarks of this festival. This occasion is used for spreading the message of harmony, peace and love among all the human beings.

Parsi community is often associated with tradition and generous deeds and this festival gives them one reason to celebrate their roots. It is said that a true Parsi must have the qualities of good deeds and Gahambar is significant because these good deeds are manifested through it. A Parsi must have act of goodness including, Celebrating the Gahambars, Rastih or being truthful, wishing everyone's well, observing a three-day ceremony after death, Building lodgings for the poor, Radih or being charitable and Worshipping God.

Gahambar can be translated to 'full time' or 'proper season' and it takes place six times a year. The celebrations begin with a charitable deed known as Afrin. Then follows, Baj prayers, Yasna and Pavi. The fifth and the last day is for feast where people can either serve or donate.



Jamshed Navroz

The first month of Zoroastrian begin with Jamshed E Navroz which is the first day of the year. Unlike English calendar, Parsis follow the Fasli calendar.

With Vernal Equinox, New Year of Parsis begins. There is a lot of excitement going for Parsi New Year commencement. The community indulges in numerous rituals associated with Jamshedi Navroz. Among the celebrations, special prayers are offered, community members greet each other warmly and fixed menu is savoured.


This Parsi festival is celebrated since 3000 years. It started when the legendary king of Persia, Jamshedji ascended the throne on the day of 'Navroz'. The literal meaning of 'Nav' is new whereas 'Roz' refers to day. This day is also a vernal equinox which refers to equal length of day and night. Navroz also signifies winter to summer transition. In the due course of history, this day came to be known as Jamshed Navroz Festival.

This is a very important festival for Parsis. They celebrate it in grandiose fashion. The spirit of happiness, harmony and friendship can be felt throughout the festival. According to history, King Jamshedji was the one who introduced solar calculation into the Persian calendar. The hallmarks of this festival are vernal equinox and advent of spring in February-March. Parsis wear new clothes on this day. They also welcome guests in royal fashion by applying tilak and sprinkling of rosewater.

Apart from new clothes, Parsis also rejoice by wearing their gold and silver caps and kustis. They relish their traditional drink of falooda that is made with milk and flavoured with rose water. Lunch consists of sev and sweet yogurt, followed by pulao. Ravo would be part of the meal. Parsis also visit Fire Temple or Agiary for a special thanks giving prayer called 'Jashan'. Charity is another important part of this festival.



Khordad Sal

The birth anniversary of Prophet Zoroaster is celebrated as Khordad Sal. Prophet Spitaman Zarathusatra’s birth anniversary falls sometime in August or September on the sixth day of the Parsi month, Farvardin. This is a big day for Zoroastrians all over the world. It is quite unclear as far as precise year of Zarathushtra’s birth is concerned. However, in this religion it is believed that beginning of the first millennium BC. was the time when saint was born. That explains symbolic celebration of the occasion. It is said that, during initial eras, Navroz-I-Khas was also celebrated as Khordad Sal by the kings and nobility.

Zoroastrianism originated in Asian country of Iran and later on it spread to different parts of the world. It is believed that many historic events of Iran have taken place on this pious day. In the due course of time, people started to celebrate this day as Zarathushtra's birthday.

Parsis love to celebrate their festivals with equal fervour and excitement. On this day, they decorate their houses in best possible ways; indulge in cleaning, wearing new clothes. The best part is house decoration with rangolis and fragrant flowers. You can see it from miles; such is the beauty of decoration. Wonderfully delicious meals are prepared and served. The thanksgiving prayer which is also known as Jashan are offered at the temples. This festival is marked with preparation of grand feasts.

From Indian point of view, Parsis are quite sparse in population but extremely well-knit religious society. This festival gives them a reason to come together and celebrate it. They also like to introspect about things and plan for future. One can find mentioning of this festival and its importance in religious lore and texts of the Parsis.



Hemis Gompa

Apart from Buddha Purnima, Hemis Gompa is considered as one of the most auspicious festivals for the Buddhist community in India. This festival marks the birth of Guru Rimpoche or Guru Padmasambhava who is also considered as the incarnation of Lord Buddha. In his remembrance, the Hemis fair is celebrated with great jubilance. This is actually a two day fair organized during 5th Tibetan month which normally falls in the June-July month. 9th to 11h day of this month are marked for Hemis Gompa fair. The term Hemis Gompa refers to the biggest Buddhist monastery that is located in Leh in Ladkah (Jammu & Kashmir).

There are other names of this monastery as well like Chang Chub Sam Ling or "the lone place of the compassionate person". It is concealed inside the Hemis national park. Surrounded by mountain rocks, this is an extremely beautiful and grand monastery. During the Hemis Gompa festival, Buddhists from all over the India and foreign locales come to the place and celebrate this occasion. Historically, this festival is held in occasion of the birth of head of Hemis Monastery and 12th Gyalwang Drukchen Rinpoche. He was also the chief spiritual head of the Drupka Kargyud lineage. He is credited with preaching the message of Buddhism in Tibet. His life was a sum total of efforts given into spreading spiritual harmony and intellectual prosperity among all human beings.

The two day festival is a great treat to the eyes and spirits. It symbolises enjoyment and enthusiasm. The prime attraction of the fair is traditional music that is played using the beating of drums, clashing of cymbals and long horns. Devotees also show their respect to the portrait of sacred Guru Rimpoche. Other attractions include the colourful dance performances using the vibrant masks.



Other Important Indian Days

Independence Day

India’s Independence Day falls on the 15th of August. This country was founded in 1947, and every year Indian citizens celebrate the birth of a huge nation. This was the time when Indians got independence from British, who reigned over them for more than 200 years. Independence Day carries its own charm with it. It’s a national holiday, so all government institutions are closed. The whole country is decorated with lights, paper flags and big fabric flags. The markets start selling patriotic badges, posters, stickers and flags weeks before 15th august.

There is a huge excitement component associated to Independence. People gather in the morning in every city to listen to a Government official’s speech, and sing anthem at the end of the day. Many more sit in their comfort zones at home, and watch the hoisting of Indian flag by the prime minister at Red Fort in Delhi on the television. School children sing patriotic songs, and martyrs from the fight for independence are remembered.

There are several patriotic shows arranged to pay homage to those who struggled for independence. Many reality TV shows specially invited Indian soldiers to come and participate in different activities or they are given awards, as recognition for their services. TV channels play recordings for the first announcement about Independence of India. Politicians and people from religious and academic disciplines come together and make plans on how to improvise on current Indian economy, defence, education, and so on, and so forth.

The evenings are spent outside the houses, visiting any decorated highlight buildings of the city, such as the India gate or Prime Minister’s house. The evening takes a completely different aura with the whole country flooded with lights. The children and youth enjoy this event the most, as young bikers would roam around the city waving the Indian flag all around and exclaiming “long live India”.



Republic Day

Indian Republic day is a national festival that’s celebrated all over India on 26th January. This day is celebrated in the remembrance of the promise that was made on the Lahore session of Indian national congress on the night of December 31st 1920, where the national flag was unfurled for the first time. This promise was to celebrate National republic day every year on 26th of January, and this is to motivate everyone to struggle for a sovereign and independent republic of India. This day was finally started celebrating on 26th January, 1950. This is when India came up with its first constituent assembly.

Many years later, still now, this day is celebrated with same passion and motivation. On the national front, the highlight features are the parades, March pasts and traditional dances. This event binds the national aspects to the cultural aspects of India. Another much awaited highlight is the air show, where Indian jet planes leave their marks on the sky as the coloured celebration of the magnanimity of the event. This is the most popular part of the whole celebration.

This event is celebrated in Delhi, as well as other capitals of states with similar customs and traditions. The Indian armed forces salute the President, recognizing him as the head of the state. The republic day festival marks its significance as thousands of people come and visit the capital of states to see the march past, the folk dances, and other customs associated with it. No other festival draws such a huge crowd which has an amalgamation of tribal, traditional and national ethos. Similarly, no other country brings such a great mix of men of all colour and backgrounds to be unified in one single uniform and represent the republic of India. This shows the unanimity of nationwide love and brotherhood, despite all the small religious and cultural differences among different parts of India.



Children’s Day

There are great numbers of festivals in India celebrating religions, spirits, rituals, cultures and what not. But there is also a festival that celebrates children. Yes, only children. To be a child is the greatest joy in the world. Childhood allows one to b

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