(Last Updated on : 20/03/2013)
The high altitude plains and starkly beautiful mountains of Jammu and Kashmir are enough to make one wander about the world of poetry. That is probably the only reason why it is called the crown of India. Each region in Jammu and Kashmir is distinct as Jammu is a Hindu dominated region while majority of the population of Kashmir is Muslim. The fairs and festivals in Jammu and Kashmir are considered to be very striking with the abundance of striking colors in the backdrop of snow capped peaks and evergreen forests. In fact this is a state where festivals are regarded as a way of life. The festive season comes too often in this state to be missed by any visitor. The vigor, exuberance, pomp and show brighten up the whole state during the festive celebrations. The festivals of Jammu and Kashmir not only add color to the life of the locals but they also enhance the spirit of their lives with elements of devotion and sacredness. The tradition of collective celebration continues with every auspicious occasion.
This much-awaited festival in the Jammu province marks the culmination of the cold season and is celebrated through out the state with great excitement. During this festival the locals take a dip in the holy rivers in different parts of the state. In the province of Kashmir the special feature that marks the festival of Lohri is the Chajja dance. The young crowds in this state prepare 'chajjas' with colored bits of paper and then dance on the street to the rhythm of drumbeats. Traditional songs and dances also enhance the spirit of the festive celebrations.
The festival of Baisakhi is held on the first day in the month of Baisakh according to the Hindu calendar or on the 13th day in the month of April according to the English calendar. This is one of the most important festivals in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It also holds special significance for the Sikhs of the Jammu region as it marks the beginning of their New Year. As the origins of this festival can be traced in the rural agrarian tradition this festival is celebrated throughout the state to bid a final farewell to the season of winter. The traditional Bhangra dance also forms a part of the cultural performances during this festival. This festival is also considered auspicious for marriages.
Navaratri is one of the most important festivals in Jammu and Kashmir. It is a nine days festival dedicated to Goddess Durga. Navaratri means "nine nights". During this festival the province of Jammu is crowded with pilgrims and devotees on the way to or returning from the shrine carrying staves and wearing 'mauli', garlands and amulets. The entire region wears a very multidimensional look. This festival falls in the month of Ashwin or in the months of September/ October. The tenth day of the festival holds special significance as offerings are made to Durgadevi.
This religious Hindu festival is celebrated in the whole country along with the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This auspicious day is observed to mark the birth of Lord Rama. The people of this state celebrate this sacred festival by observing fasts and observing prayers in his honor. In the state of Jammu and Kashmir early morning rituals marks this sacred ceremony and processions are taken out presenting scenes from the great epic, Ramayana. During this festival the people of this state sing and chant the name of Lord Rama. The devotees indeed have a highly colorful ceremony to mark the beginning of the wedding celebrations.
Maha Shivratri is a very popular festival in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which literally means "the night of Shiva". This festival falls on the 13th or 14th day of the dark half of Phalgun or in the months of February/March. Maha Shivratri is observed in honor of Lord Shiva and it is believed that on this day Lord Shiva was married to Goddess Parvati. This festival takes place for three days in this state and is celebrated with much ebullience at Billavar, Purmandal and Jhandi.
Diwali is celebrated in the state of Jammu and Kashmir with as much fun and exuberance as in the whole country. The whole city of Jammu and Kashmir brightens up with lot of excitement in the air. Diwali in Jammu is not only about mere excitement, it is much more than one can actually imagine. The people of this state take an active part in the celebrations and decorate their houses much in advance. This festival comes as a great occasion for buying new things. For the young and the old alike it is a day of unrestrained merry making and they indulge themselves in playing with firecrackers and distribution of sweets. It is also one of the oldest rituals for Kashmiri Pundits.
This festival is celebrated usually in the months of March/April at Uttar Behni, which is about 25 kilometers from Jammu. This auspicious festival holds a special religious significance. This is so called because in the national language of the Indian subcontinent it signifies that the Devak River flows towards the North.
This festival is celebrated in Jammu and Kashmir with as much pomp and fervor as that of the whole country. In this state Basant Panchami is celebrated to welcome the season of spring after the dead and decay of the winter season. During this festival the bird loving Kashmiris prepare yellow rice, prepare small balls of rice and then throws them on the terrace for the birds to consume. People celebrate this joyous festival with much ebullience and the main attraction of this festival is kite flying.
The Muslim festivals of Jammu and Kashmir are celebrated with equal éclat and pious enthusiasm. During the month of Ramzan the Muslims abstain from drinking during the day. After sunset they break their fasts and then proceeds to have their usual dinner. They observe the religious rites and rituals with much veneration.