(Last Updated on : 18/04/2013)
Festivals of India play a major role in spreading unity in diversity, with emphasis on communal harmony. Some famous religious festivals mark the advent of the seasons and some mark the celebration of cultural events. Famous festivals in India are joyously celebrated all over the country. During any festive season, the whole of India brightens up and there is lot of excitement in the air. If you drop in during any of the festival time, watching or taking part in the festivities, can be an interesting experience.
A large number of festivals being celebrated in India have a religious outlook. These festivals are being celebrated in commemoration of some saints, gurus and prophets, the gods and goddesses or events celebrating their victories. Religious ceremonies, enthusiasm paralleled with ample fun and celebration marks the Indian festivals. Cities or states are famous for the celebration of particular festivals e.g. Kolkata
) for Durga Puja, Mathura
) for Holi
for Ganesh Chaturthi, Kerala
. Similarly, Muslim festivals of Id-ul-Zuha
are famous in Muslim community, Parsi festival
of Jamshed Nav Roz in Bombay, Christian festivals in Goa and the Kaza festival in the Lamaistic strongholds of Ladakh, Lahaul and Spiti and Sikkim
. In some tribal areas, the cult of Mother Goddess is more prevalent. However, the celebrations dissolve ethnic limitations and all religious groups merge into one, during such festivals.
Many local festivals were celebrated in villages and every village has its guardian deities. They were celebrated on fixed days and could be the gramadevatas (village deities), for protection or the grahadevatas (evil spirits) for appeasement.
Feasting has always been a part of festive occasion and the people in ancient times, like us, enjoyed them. During the festivals, whole nation gets vibrant and colourful as it resurrects itself from the repetitive and tiresome routine. Fun, get-togethers, special food and sweets, colours, crackers, loud music, dance and dramas though, are the characteristics of the festivals in India.
There are a number of Hindu religious festivals that are officially recognized by the government as "closed holidays" and the biggest of these occur within two blocks of time after the end of the southwest monsoon.
The Pilgrimage to Mecca during the month of Dhu al-Hijjah, is compulsory once in a lifetime for every follower of Islam. The Islamic calendar followed by the Muslims started on the Hijrah. The migration of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Madina in 622 AD is called Hijrah. The beginning of Hijrah 1407 corresponds to the Gregorian year 1987(January).
Sikhism, the youngest religion practiced in India. Sikhism started as a reaction to Hinduism
that had become too ritualistic. The Granth Sahib is the central object of Sikh worship and ritual. The festivals of the Sikhs are mainly religious and they organize kirtans (hymn-singing), katha (discourse), ardas (supplication), karah parshad (consecrated food) and langar (free food distribution from the gurudwara kitchen).
Christianity was introduced to India in 52 AD. As a result of incompatible interpretations of Christian scripture, dissimilar denominations have sprung up, counting the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and many others. The pockets which were under French and Portuguese rule add the distinct features of those European countries. Goa is special where Christian festivals are concerned, and Goan celebrations have a character and spontaneity of their own. Some of the oldest and most beautiful Indian churches are in Goa and, apart from the regular Christian festivals, these churches observe days particular to them with masses, feasts and processions.