Indian Festivals

In India, the celebrations of fairs and festivals form a wondrous and joyful series of events, marking the rites of passage between birth, death and renewal. There are said to be more festivals in India than there are days of the year; not unlikely in a country where small, local village rituals of worship and propitiation are celebrated with as much as fervor as are high holy days across the nation, occasions that can draw floods of people numbering half a million or more. Fairs and festivals are moments of remembrance and commemoration of the birthdays and great deeds of gods, goddesses, hero's, heroine's, gurus, prophet's and saints. They are times when people gather together, linked by ties of shared social and religious beliefs. Each of India's many religious groups - Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and others - has its own such days.

Important Festivals of India for the Year

01 Jan - New Year
15 Jan - Pongal
15 Jan - Makar Sankranti
26 Jan - Republic Day
14 Feb - Valentine's Day
07 Mar - Maha Shivaratri
20 Mar - Navroz
24 Mar - Holi
25 Mar - Good Friday
27 Mar - Easter
08 Apr - Gudi Padwa | Ugadi
13 Apr - Baisakhi
15 Apr - Ram Navami
19 Apr - Mahavir Jayanti
22 Apr - Hanuman Jayanti
01 May - Maharashtra Din
08 May - Mother's Day
21 May - Buddha Purnima
15 Jun - Father's Day
07 Aug - Friendship Day
18 Aug - Raksha Bandhan
15 Aug - Independence Day
25 Aug - Janmashtami
05 Sep - Ganesh Chaturthi
05 Sep - Teachers Day
10 Sep - Bakri Id
13 Sep - Onam
01 Oct - Navratri
02 Oct - Gandhi Jayanti
11 Oct - Dassera
19 Oct - Karva Chauth
28 Oct - Dhanteras
30 Oct - Diwali
01 Nov - Bhai Dooj
06 Nov - Guru Nanak Jayanti
10 Dec - Eid-E-Milad
25 Dec - Christmas

The ancient tradition of celebrating festivals goes back to the Vedic times of the Aryans. The Vedic scriptures and literature give many references to festivals when celebrations where carried on to honor gods, rivers, trees, mountains, the coming of monsoons, the end of winter or the first flush of spring. The celebrations included not only fasting and prayers, but also equally events of social and cultural significance. Performances of music, dance and drama took place side by side with more rugged physical activities: displays of valor and virility through chariot and boat races or wrestling matches and animal fights in which rams, wild bulls, elephants, oxen, horses and even rhinoceroses took part. Then, as always, there was feasting and merriment to be enjoyed. There were YAJNAS (sacrificial fires), where milk, clarified butter and ghee were offered to gods before being shared between worshippers. Special foods were cooked and served, prepared from freshly harvested crops. Elaborate garlands and ropes of flowers were woven as an offering to the gods and also to be worn over festive robes and jewelry. Such an assembly provided opportunity to trade, buy and sell all manner if goods, from live stock to silks, spices and handcrafted objects of ritual or daily use.

Ancient Indians used to express these occasions through the words 'SAMAJA' (a gathering of people), 'UTSAVA' (a festival) and 'YATRA' (a pilgrimage or temple chariot procession). And though today we might use the word 'MELA' (meaning a fair) rather than a SAMAJA, it is astonishing how steadily and faithfully these traditions have endured over the centuries. Even today, festivals are symbolic of a link between the home, the villages and a larger outside world. Within the home, celebrations are expressed by the love and care given to its decoration by the women of the house; the freshly washed courtyards are embellished with designs made in flower petals, colored powder or rice flour; walls are painted with scenes from the epics is made brilliant with bits of mirrored glass; doorways are hung with auspicious mango leaves or marigold flowers. Each festival in each religion has its own particular foods and sweets appropriate to the season and crops, and days are spent in their careful preparation.