Hinduism is one of the world’s most complex religions and is synonymous with many myths and deities. This belief in more than one god brings a multitude of festivals with it. India is described as a festival land and has many religions and languages across the federal states.
Pahela Baishakh, Rathayatra of Mahesh, Ratha Yatra Festival, Vat Purnima, Palkhi Festival, Mahalakshmi Vrata, Shigmo, Rath Yatra, Raja Parba, Basoa, Bathukamma, Bonalu, Hornbill Festival, and Kartik Poornima are all major cultural and religious festivals in India.
In the Hindu calendar, each year on 14 January, the sun enters the Makara (Capricorn) part of the zodiac. On this day Surya (the sun god) is also worshipped with unparalleled devotion throughout the country. Since this day is popularly referred to as Makar Sankranti, the nomenclature varies from state to state, as do the customs in question.
It’s called Pongal by Tamils; it’s celebrated by the Assamese as Bihu and most North Indians call that Lohri. Makar Sankranti, irrespective of the monikers, is a festival made special by its festivities, ranging from kite-flying to bonfires and riverbank rituals.
Vasant Panchami is an important Indian festival that according to the Hindu calendar is celebrated every year in the month of Magh. Celebrated on the fifth day of Magh, the day according to the Gregorian calendar occurs somewhere in February or March. The day’s significance lies in the worship of Goddess Saraswati, a symbol of wisdom and the start of the spring season as well.
Shiva is the principal god in the Hindu pantheon and believed to be the destroyer. Maha Shivaratri, or’ Shiva’s Great Night ‘ commemorates Shiva’s supremacy. People refrain from sleeping and pray to the great lord instead. Most of Lord Shiva’s faithful followers celebrate Maha Shivaratri by fasting and singing the Tandava hymns, a dance performed by Lord Shiva.
Holi is an Indian color festival and a spring harbinger. Holi’s onset is marked by the burning of a Holika effigy–an evil entity from Hindu mythology–to signify the triumph of good over evil. Around the bonfire, the night of revelry continues until the embers die.
The next morning starts with people smearing colored powder on each other, more carousal and occasionally bhang consumption, an intoxicating edible preparation of cannabis.
In Hindu mythology, Cobras occupied a special place. Shesha Nag is celebrated in all corners of India, in honor of the Hindu snake God; Nag Panchami. People celebrate Nag Panchami with great verve and vigor during the monsoons. Nag Panchami is celebrated on the 5th day during the month of Shravan according to the Hindu calendar. As Hindus celebrate the forces of nature, Nag Panchami is also one of the most auspicious annual ceremonies.
Guru Purnima festival is mostly a common feast among Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains. Following the Hindu calendar, the Shakha Samavat is observed annually on the day of the full moon. Devotees celebrate this festival to thank their mentors for their teachings and enlightenment.
The learning and knowledge that a student may gain often depends on how well-educated his / her teacher is and is patient. Thus, Guru Purnima’s festival got its name from the light of the Sun that makes the Moonshine, which is to say how a student can shine only when he/she gets the teacher’s light. The festival usually takes place between July and August, on a full moon day.
In Purnima or Vat Savitri Vrat is a day to celebrate the love of a woman for her husband in the Indian states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and certain eastern regions of Uttar Pradesh. This day, as the name suggests, honors Savitri’s devotion to her friend, Satyavan, in saving him from Yama, the Lord of Death.
According to the Hindu calendar, on Purnima or the full moon of Jyestha (which falls in the Gregorian calendar in May-June), the auspicious festival is observed by married women tying a ceremonial knot around a Banyan tree and fasting for the long life of their husbands.
Teej, a Hindu festival spanning three days, is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It falls in the month of Shravana or Sawan, and Bhadrapada or Bhado, which corresponds to the July-August-September Indian monsoon season. The exact day it’s being celebrated is decided by the movement of the moon.
This festival is held in various states- Rajasthan, Bihar, UP, Punjab, Jaipur, Haryana, and even Kathmandu-and different called religions.
Five days after Holi’s colorful festival, Ranga Panchami is celebrated. It is observed on the’ Panchami,’ i.e. Krishna Paksha’s fifth day, the waning phase of the moon during the Hindu month of’ Phalgun.’ Ranga Panchami is also celebrated colorfully and is marked by throwing’ Gulal’ and splashing of colored water. The word’ Rang’ means’ red’ while’ Panchami’ means the fifth day. While Holi is also celebrated on Ranga Panchami in several parts of the country. In Maharashtra, it is celebrated as’ Shimgo’ or’ Shimga’ and is characterized by the traditional dance of Palkhi.
Ugadi is New Year’s Day for Hindus, by the Hindu calendar. The Ugadi festival is celebrated primarily in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana, South Indian states. The premises are adorned with mango leaves, flowers, and other decorations; floral designs are drawn on the floor and savory snacks are prepared on a high note to welcome the new year.
Also, bevu Bella–a mixture of neem (bevu) and jaggery (Bella)–is a mandatory consumption. Neem is bitter in taste and jaggery is sweet; in equal parts, they represent embracing the bitterness and joy of life.
Pongal is a four-day harvest festival held in Tamil Nadu, which falls during the Thai month (i.e. the January-February season) when crops such as rice, sugar cane, turmeric, etc. are harvested.
The term ‘ Pongal’ in Tamil means to “boil” and this festival is celebrated as a ceremony of thanksgiving for the harvest of the year. Pongal, one of the major Hindu festivals, falls each year at about the same time as Lohri, which is around mid-January. Pongal also happens to be the name of a dish eaten during this festive season, which is boiled with lentils and sweetened rice.
In Hindu folklore, Lord Krishna has a prominent place. Krishna Janmashtami is the joyful festival celebrating Krishna’s birth, with much merriment, music, and singing. Krishna Janmashtami’s gaiety is often accompanied by contests, especially breaking a yogurt-filled pot that is suspended high in the air.
In an attempt to break the pot and spill the contents, competitors form human pyramids which are then formally offered as prasad (ritual offering).
The reputation of Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the country’s most popular festivals is partly due to its eccentricity, something the festival shares with its corresponding deity, Lord Ganesh. Ganesh is the son of the destroyer Lord Shiva. Yet Ganesh’s convictions and appearance are at odds with his father. His face resembles an elephant’s nose, while his clever and playful nature inspires devotion from people of all ages.
Ganesh Chaturthi commemorates Ganesh’s birth with a formal offering of prayers to the deity’s clay idol. The idol is subsequently immersed in a body of water amid additional festivities.
The Sanskrit “Vishu” means “equal.” And this is not just a Malayalees festival. In various parts of India, this day is celebrated with different names. People in Assam celebrate it as Bihu and this day is known as Baisakhi in Punjab. Likewise, it is celebrated in Tamil Nadu by the name of Puthendu, and in Orissa as VishuaSankranti.
The traditions and practices in each state are different and unique. The importance of the Vishu festival and all the other festivals that fall on the same day is very much for the people celebrating it.
Assamese Bihu is one of Assam’s most important cultural festivals, which celebrates the seasonal change. It mainly caters to the state’s agrarian culture and society and marks the start of the Assamese New Year and harvest season. These three types of Bihu are all celebrated in different periods. Rongali or Bohag Bihu is to be observed in April, Kongali or Kati Bihu in October, while Bhogali or Magh Bihu is to be celebrated in January.
Navratri, meaning nine days, is a time to praise the deities and ask for their goodwill and blessings. The vigorous festival centers in East India around the goddess Durga and is named after Durga Puja. Mysore’s world-famous Dussehra also falls on Navratri’s final day and the entire festival serves essentially as the precursor to the coming Diwali.
The legend behind the Navratri festival, akin to the recurring theme in Hindu mythology of the victory of good over evil, has to do with the triumph of Lord Rama over Ravana, a demonic entity. An alternate myth revolves around the goddess Durga’s victories over the diabolical powers which once walked the face of the Earth.
The lights festival-Diwali or Deepavali-is the Indian subcontinent’s most famous festival. Diwali’s underlying essence revolves around light which overcomes darkness, or the triumph of good over evil. In the evening, glimmering diyas (lamps) adorn every nook and cranny of every house, as well as fireworks and a delicious traditional banquet.
Gudi Padwa is an Indian festival for the Maharashtra people which marks the beginning of the New Year and the harvest season. Gudi is the word used to refer to the flag of Brahma (which is hoisted on this day) while Padva is derived from the Sanskrit word Paddava or Paddavo which refers to the first day of the moon’s bright phase.
According to the Hindu calendar, which usually falls according to the Gregorian calendar during March-April, this festival is observed on the first day of the month of Chaitra. Even this day is representative of the Vasant or Spring season in India.
Onam is Kerala’s official state festival and is celebrated with the utmost fervor and festivities which include traditional sports such as boat races and war tug. The story behind Onam’s celebration involves the homecoming of a demigod named Mahabali and is close to Holika’s myth and the Holi festival.
The victory of hope over despair is celebrated in both instances, though Mahabali is treated with the utmost respect and Holika is not. Onam is rising beyond religious boundaries and as a religiously diverse festival in Kerala, it is establishing itself.