India Fairs and Festivals
In the North Makar Sankranti is called Lohri. It is the only Hindu festival which falls regularly on the 14th of January every year. Lohri is the time after which the biting cold of winter begins to taper off. On this day the children go from door to door to collect founds for community bonfires which are lit in the evening.
The zeal and the enthusiasm of the Tamilians come alive during the four day festival of Pongal which is the harvest festival of the Tamil Nadu. The Tamilians give it utmost importance. It is the biggest event of the year in Tamil Nadu. Pongal literally means "boiling over". The four day festival consists of Bhogi - Pongal, Surya -Pongal, Mattu -Pongal and Kanyapongal. The first day is devoted to the Rain God, Indran. The second day is celebrated in the honor of the Sun God Surya. In several places of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, Jallikatu, a kind of bull fight is held. The third day is dedicated to honor and worship the cattle.
Celebrates the end of Ramzan, the Muslim month of fasting. It is an occasion of feasting and rejoicing. The faithful gather in mosques to pray, friends and relatives meet to exchange greetings. Prayers, family get-togethers and feasts are the major highlights of the celebrations. Idi or present of money are given to the youngsters by the family elders, conveying their blessings.
Makar Sankranti is a Hindu festival. It marks the beginning of the sun's journey towards northern hemisphere. People take dip in the rivers and worship the sun. Gangasagar Mela is being organized near Calcutta where people come from all over India. In Gujarat, Makar Sankranti is celebrated by the flying of kites.
The Tyagaraja festival is celebrated in the memory of Tyagaraja. Tyagaraja, a South Indian composer and saint was born in 1767. He has composed a number of Telugu songs in praise of Lord Rama. Many young poets and musicians are inspired by this man's amazing work. Every year, South Indian musicians assemble at Thiruvaiyaru- 13 kms from Tanjore, to sing in his praise. People, young and old, sing in perfect harmony. The melody is such that one cannot remain untouched by its sheer devotion and divine resonance.
This festival is held across the Mumbai harbour, on the Elephant Island, near the world renowned Elephanta Caves. This feast of music and dance, celebrated under the stars, transforms the entire island into a large auditorium.
Ganga Sagar Mela
Gangasagar Mela is the largest and the most important fair celebrated in West Bengal. This fair is held where a nexus is formed by Ganga and Bay of Bengal. Hence the name Gangasagar Mela. This festival is a major attraction for millions of pilgrims from all over India. It is said that a dip in the Ganga purifies their 'self' and thus 'punya' can be. A special 'puja' is performed which is offered to the Sun God as a thanksgiving for good harvest. It is also believed that the girls who take the holy dip get handsome grooms and the boys get beautiful brides.
The ceremonial welcomes spring when people, colorfully attired, especially in bright shades of yellow, dance, sing and make merry. In West Bengal, 'Saraswati' - the goddess of learning is worshipped. The festival is celebrated with great fervor in the university town of Santiniketan.
All over the country, Shivratri is observed as the night, when Lord Shiva danced the 'Tandav' - his cosmic dance. Fasts and prayers mark the day and devotees throng the temples. The major Shaivite temples at Varanasi, Kalahasti (Andhra Pradesh) and Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu) are noted for their special celebrations.
Holi is one of the most exuberant Hindu festival that brings the message of the onset of spring. It is the festival of colors and is celebrated by throwing colored water and powder on each other. Huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation. The festival of Holi is being celebrated since centuries with the same zeal and zest. It is a joyous celebration of the rejuvenation of nature, and renewed hope of happiness and peaceful coexistence. Especially famous is the Lathmaar Holi of Barsana and Nandgaon.
Teepam is widely celebrated every year in Tamil Nadu from mid-January to mid-February during the full moon month which in Tamil is known as Thai. Fantastically dressed and bejeweled images of the goddess Meenakshi and her consort undaresvara are floated on rafts. All along the shore, the devotees chant hymns as a bevy of bands beat drums in tempo with their chants.
The desert festival celebrated in the golden city of Jaisalmer has an aura of its own. The festival becomes lively with legions of puppeteers, acrobats, and folk dancers add splashes of color. Camel races are of great significance and camel polo is a big attraction. The turban-tying competitions and the best-dressed Rajput contests add to this three day long festival.
Nagaur bustles with life during its annual cattle fair which is one of the largest in the country. Exciting games and camel races are part of the festivities. Owners of cattles from all over Rajasthan come and camp around the outskirts of Nagaur while they buy and sell animals. This fair is also famous for the various sports events that are organized in it, Tug-of-war, camel races and cockfights. At nightfall, folk music and songs bring out a magnificent musical touch to the quiet ambience of the desert.
Mahasivratri marks the festival of Mahavira, the founder of Jainism. It commemorates the birth of Mahavira. It is mainly celebrated by Jains with great zeal and enthusiasm. They visit sacred sites and worship Teerthankaras on this day. The festival is celebrated on a large scale in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Ramnavmi celebrates the birth of Rama, a human incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Ayodhya and Pondicherry, the places which are said to have witnessed the events of Ramayana, are the main centers for this festival. Temples are decorated and prayers are offered. Chariot processions of Ram, Seeta and Lakshman are taken out from the temples with great zest.
This Christian festival marks the memory of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Just as it is celebrated around the world, Good Friday is observed in India, too, in April every year. All Christians attend Mass held in the churches on this day. Following Good Friday comes Easter Sunday, which is also celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy.
Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It represents the victory of life over death. Easter is a celebration of Christ's resurrection from the dead.
Vishu is the New Year's Day for the Keralites. The New Year is supposed to bring better knowledge and understanding between all humans. The festival is celebrated with much joyous and happy minds and forgetting all the differences.
Nau Roz is Kashmir's New Year's Day. On this day, there is a general festivity and rejoicing throughout the state.
The Goru Bihu, the cattle festival is celebrated on the Hindu New Year's Day that is April or May. On this day, the cattle are washed and decorated. They are smeared with turmeric and are treated to Gur (Jaggery) and Brinjals.
This festival is the New Year's Day of the Bengalis. It welcomes the New year with early morning processions, songs and dance. Beautiful designs called Alpana are made on the floor by the house-wife.
Gudi Padva is widely celebrated in Maharashtra. The day is very auspicious for the people of Maharashtra. It is generally believed that any venture started on this day gives nothing but success.
Ugadi marks the beginning of a new Hindu lunar calendar with a change in the moon's orbit. It is believed that Lord Brahma started creation on this day. Ugadi is the Telugu New Year's Day. On this day mantras are chanted and predictions made for the New Year.
It is celebrated as the Tamil New Year's Day. At Tiruvadamarudur near Kumbakonam a big car festival is held.
This festival reflects the tradition and culture of the Sindhis. It is celebrated as the birthday of Asht Dev. Hi is believed to be the community God of the Sindhis. His birthday falls on the second tithi (occasion) of Chaitra (the first month of the year according to the Hindu calendar). This day is considered to be very auspicious and is rejoiced with much pomp and splendor.
Buddha Purnima, the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha, is celebrated by Buddhists all over India. But it is very popular in Sarnath and Bodhgaya. The Buddhists offer prayers in their temples on this day. The Buddha was born on a full moon day in the month of Vaisakh in 563 B.C. He achieved enlightenment as well as Nirvana on the same date.
Id-ul-Fitr or Ramzan Id marks the end of Ramzan, the month during which the Muslims fast everyday. Ramzan means the 'festival of breaking the fast'. Fitr is derived from the word 'fatar' meaning 'breaking'. Ramzan Id is celebrated on a day when the new moon appears. Prayers are offered in mosques and Idgahs and elaborate festivities are held. The festival is celebrated by the Muslims with great fanfare.
Held on first 'Baisakh'- the 13th April - Baisakhi is one of Himachal's most important festival. Rooted in the rural agrarian tradition, it bids a final farewell to winter. The Sikhs celebrate this as a collective birthday, filling the atmosphere with gaiety, music, dancing and good cheer. This festival is an opportunity in villages to enjoy with sheer abandon because they know that a season of hard work follows soon after which is the time for harvesting corn and other grains.
The dramatic festival of Karaga begins from the Dharmaraja temple in Bangalore. A devotee is chosen and a Karaga or a clay pot is placed on his head. The pot represents Shakti, the mother-goddess of archaic strength. The devotee has to balance the pot as he has a staff and a sword that occupy his hands.
This 10 day festival takes place at the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, to celebrate the mythical marriage between Siva and Meenakshi. The Meenakshi temple is one of the most spectacular excessive displays of architecture on earth. The temple has nine towering gopurams and thousands of pillars, covered from top to bottom with some 30 million colorful carvings and gypsum images of gods, demons and animals.
Dhungri Forest Festival
The Dhungri Forest festival is celebrated at the Hadimba or Dhungiri temple in Manali. This four story wooden temple is located in the middle of a forest called the Dhungiri Van Vihar. The Goddess is worshipped by the local women, who arrive in their colorful dresses to perform the ritual dance before her in order to appease her. Legend states that the king who commissioned the temple was so highly satisfied with the results that he cut off the craftsman's right hand to prevent him from duplicating it elsewhere.
Id-Ul-Azha Or Id-Ul-Zuha (Bakri Id)
Bakrid is celebrated with ritualistic fervor particularly in Andhara Pradesh. Bakrid is an important festival of Muslims falling in the last month of Islamic Calendar. The significance of the festival is the commemoration of the ordeals of Prophet Ibrahim. On this day prayers are held and goats are sacrificed.
This spectacular chariot festival is held at the famous Jagannath Temple at Puri. Images of Lord Jagannath - the Lord of the Universe, his sister Subhadra and brother Balbhadra are taken out in procession in three immense chariots. The procession or Rath Yatra draws huge crowds from all over the country.
Mela Hemis Gompa
A big fair is held at Hemis Gompa about 50 kilometers from Leh, to celebrate the birthday of Padmasambhava, the founder of Lamaism. The ritual dances by masked dancers are the main attraction, as are the main attraction, as are the local handicrafts.
This Rajasthani festival is celebrated by the women, on the third day of the moonlit fortnight of Shravan, in memory of Goddess Parvatis departure to her husbands home. Besides Rajasthan this festival is also celebrated in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. In the morning Puja is performed. Later, in the evening Young ladies and girls dressed up in lehengas and chunaris to perform dandia dances.
The Bonalu festival is a major welcome for the people of the Telangana region. This festival is and old tradition and is celebrated with undiminished ebullience and religious ardency. This one-month long festival witnesses musical treats and ritualistic worship. The word "Bonalu" has been derived from "Bhojanalu" meaning food, which is offered to the Goddess. The prayers are offered to the village deities Yellamma, Mahankali, Maisamma, Pochamma, Gundamma. It is also an annual thanksgiving by the people to the Goddess for fulfillment of their vows.
Raksha Bhandan is celebrated on the full-moon day in the month of Sravana (July-August). The festival of Raksha Bandhan symbolizes love, affection and the feeling of brotherhood. On this day, sisters tie an amulet, the Rakhi, around the right wrist of their brothers praying for their long life and happiness. Raksha means protection, and in some places in medieval India, where women felt unsafe, they tied Rakhi round the wrists of men they could count upon, regarding them as brothers. The tradition of tying a thread or "rakhi" around the wrist to convey different feelings has been coming down through the ages since the Vedic times.
Nag Panchami is observed on the 5th day of the bright half of Shravan (July-August). On this day nag, cobras and snakes are worshipped with milk, sweets, flowers, lamps and even sacrifice. The image of Nag deities made of silver; stone, wood are first bathed with water and milk, and then worshipped with the reciting of the mantras.
This day is dedicated to the Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of all good beginnings and success. Held annually, this festival is a ten day long event. The images of Lord Ganesha are installed and worshipped and on the last day these are taken in processions to be immersed in flowing water. The seafront at Mumbai, packed with people, is a spectacular sight.
Kerala's most important festival is celebrated in the honor of the ancient asura king Mahabali. The occasion also heralds the harvest season. The decorating of houses with carpets of flowers, a sumptuous lunch and songs in praise of the golden reign of Mahabali, mark the ten day long festivities. A major attraction of the Onam celebrations is the famed snake boat races along the backwaters at Champakulam, Aranmula and Kottayam.
Janmashtami, the birth of lord Krishna is celebrated with great devotion and éclat on the Ashtami of Krishna Paksh or the 8th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadon, in the whole of north India. Raslila, a tableaux depicting scenes from Krishna's life especially the love for Radha, is performed. In the evening, bhajans are sung, which end at midnight, the auspicious moment when lord Krishna was born. Thereafter, arti is done, prasad distributed and flowers showered on the idol.
Muharram is the opening month of the Hijra year. The 10th day of this month (May) is honored by the Muslims of Kerala. Muharram marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, grandson of Prophet Mohammed. Taziyas which are bamboo and paper replicas of the martyr's tomb, adorned with mica are carried throughout the streets of the city. The tragedy is expressed by mourners by beating their breasts and grieving over the murder of the Imam accompanied by drum beats. Fasting is an important ritual of this day.
The festival of Batkama in Andhra Pradesh is the most aesthetic occasion. It is basically, a festival of flowers. Celebrated for about a month, The festival commences from the Ganesh Chaturthi and ends on the Dussehra Festival. Flowers are arranged on a square wooden plank or a square bamboo frame with the size of frames in a conical shape to form an apex on top. This little floral mountain represents and is worshipped as Goddess Batkama.
Dussehra or Vijay Dashmi is a very popular Hindu festival, celebrated with éclat throughout the country. It is observed on the tenth day of the bright halk of Ashvin (September-October). It is a ten-day celebration, commemorating the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king, Ravana. Ramlila which is based on the epic story of Ramayana, is staged at various places in most of the cities and towns in northern India. During this performance the Ramayana is constantly recited accompanied by music. It presents a fine blending of music, dance, mime, and poetry before an enthusiastic and religious audience sharing every event of the story with the actors.
Id-E-Milad (Barah Wafat)
During this festival sermons are delivered in mosques by learned men, focusing on the life and noble deeds of the Prophet who was born on the twelfth day of Rabi-ul-Awwal, the third month of the Muslim year. The word 'barah' stands for the twelve days of the Prophet's sickness. In some parts of the country, a ceremony known as 'sandal' rite is performed over the symbolic footprints of the Prophet engraved in stone.
Diwali, the festival of lights, falls on 'Amavasya', the darkest night of 'Kartika'. It symbolizes the victory of good over evil and the lifting of the spiritual darkness that envelops the soul. The festival commemorates Lord Rama's return to his kingdom, Adyodhya after completing his 14 years of exile. The word Deepawali which means rows of lighted diyas (earthen lamps), brings a glow to the humblest home or the grandest houses. Sweets and gifts are exchanged between families and friends amidst the bursting of crackers. Doors are left open on Diwali for Goddess Laxmi. The festive occasion also marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year.
Gurupurab or Guru Nanak Jayanti is the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak who founded the Sikh faith. For two days and nights preceding the festival the Granth Saheb (Scriptures) is read. On the day of the festival, the Granth Saheb is taken out in a grand procession. The celebrations at Amritsar are the most impressive. Prayer meeting and processions are carried out particularly in Punjab.
This lovely and gigantic fair falls on the last day (Full Moon Day) of the Hindu month of Kartik (Oct Nov) near the sacred lake of Pushkar. This beautiful lake surrounded by bathing ghats, has its religious significance, rooted in a myth. The fair is primarily dedicated to Lord Brahma, the creator and one of the holy trinity. The colorfully dressed people enhance the exuberant mood of the fair.
Nagula Chavithi is celebrated on the fourth day after Deepavali, which falls on a New Moon day. On this day serpents are worshipped with great devotion and religious fervor. On this day women and children observe fast and worship snake god. Dressed in their festive best, they offer milk at the snake hills. On this day there is a great demand for snake hills. Some complete the ritual at home placing a picture or idol of a snake. Nagula Chavithi is celebrated twice a year during the months of Karthika and Sravanam.
This celebration in honor of the goddess, the mother of the world, begins on the first day of Ashvin, and goes on for nine days. The goddess is the personification of Power, or Shakti. She is known by many names: Kali, Laxmi, Sarasvati, Chandi-ka, Durga, Bhavani, Ambika, Ashtabhuja (eight hands). Her main task is to punish the wicked. She is engaged in war, and weapons are in her hands. She sits on a lion. Her weapons are the shul (pike), chakra (wheel), parshu (axe) and talvar (sword). Kali is known as Mahisha-surmardini, the slayer of the demon Mahishasur. The fight against the demon begins on the first day until he is defeated on the ninth day. VAIKUNTH EKADASHI There are in all 24 Ekadashis observed by Hindus during the year.
Sonepur Livestock Fair
The Sonepur Fair is held on Karthik Purnima (the full moon day) in the month of November in Sonepur (Bihar), on the banks of river Ganga. It lasts for a fortnight and the cattle are decorated for the occasion. It is Asia's largest cattle fair where anything can be bought right from elephants to camels, buffaloes, goats and all sorts of four-legged creatures. The fair becomes a virtual explosion of colors, music, dances, magic shows, cattle, merchants and handicrafts as people from all over the world congregate to participate in this huge event. It has all the fun and hue of a popular fair, which has religious connotations as well and is enjoyed with a lot of jest and fanfare by all.
Christmas is celebrated in India with great fervor. All the major Indian cities wear a festive look. Christmas parties launch off celebrations for the New Year, thus retaining the festive mood for at least a week. Shops and bazaars are decorated for the occasion and offer attractive bargains. Carol singing, get-togethers and the exchanging of gifts enhance the Christmas spirit.
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