Major Festivals of West Bengal
Durga Puja, Nabo Borsho, Kali Puja, Jagadhatri Puja, Bhai Fonta, Saraswati Puja, Ratha Yatra, Dol Purnima are the major festivals of West Bengal. These are celebrated with great ritualistic grandeur. These festivals have been discussed in detail below:
Nabo Borsho: Nabo Borsho is the Bengali New Year of Bengali community. It is celebrated in the month of 'Baisakh' or in the month of April. It is an extreme joyous occasion for the Bengalis and the businessmen in particular. It is a great time for visiting the temples and relatives, making offerings, buying new clothes, greeting people and much more.
Dol Purnima: The festival of Holi is celebrated as 'Dol Utsav' in West Bengal. Among several festivals of West Bengal, this is one of the most prominent ones. The other names by which the festival of Holi is popular in this state are 'Dol Purnima', 'Vasanta Utsav' and ‘Dol Yatra’. This festival was started in this state by the far-famed poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore at the Visva- Bharati University of which he was the pioneer. The people of the state not only welcome the season of spring with colours and sweets but also by chanting of hymns and other devotional songs. Holika is also done on the night before ‘Dol Utsav’, which is known as ‘Nyara Pora’ in Bengal.
Ratha Yatra: ‘Ratha Yatra’ or ‘Ratha Jatra’ is celebrated in between the moths of June and July. It is the birthday celebration of Lord Jagganath, who on this day visits to his maternal uncle’s house by a chariot and returns after one week, which is known as ‘Ulto Ratha’. The most famous Ratha Yatra of West Bengal is the Ratha Yatra of Mahesh in Serampore. It attracts lakhs of tourists from all over the state as well as across the country. This day is considered to be a very auspicious day and it marks the starting of the sowing season for the monsoon crop throughout Eastern India. Grand fairs are held throughout the state, which are called ‘Rather Mela’.
Janmashtami: Janmashtami is celebrated in West Bengal with much exuberance and ebullience to mark the birth of the Lord of Love, Lord Krishna. This festival of West Bengal falls on the day of Ashtami in the Sharavan month according to the Hindu calendar. In the Krishna temples 'Raslila' is performed to recreate the incidents from the life of Krishna and to commemorate his love for Radha.
Rakhi Purnima: This is one of the popular festivals of West Bengal and it marks the love and affection between brothers and sisters. On this special day the sisters tie a colourful band on the wrists of their brothers with the belief that this will bring peace, success and good health to their brother's life throughout the year. The brothers also take a vow on their part to protect their sister against all perils. They also present their sisters with some gifts as a token of love.
Durga Puja: Durga Puja is the most important festival of West Bengal. The familiar sounds of drums or 'Dhak', the 'Dhunuchi nach', the mild fragrance of the ‘Shiuli’ blossoms capture every Bengali heart. This festival is observed in the months of September or October. Bengalis believe that the advent of Goddess Durga, along with her children from Kailash to her maternal house will bring prosperity among all the people of West Bengal. Durga Puja is celebrated here for five days-Sasthi, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami. It is believed that Goddess Durga will again return to Kailash on Dashami after killing the demon-Mahisasura. Hence, goddess Durga is worshiped here as ‘Mahisasuramardini’.
Kali Puja: Kali Puja is one of the grand festivals of West Bengal after Durga Puja. The worship of Goddess Kali makes the festival of Diwali in the state of West Bengal very unique. The houses and temples all over the state are vivaciously decorated and lit with oil lamps, candles or 'diyas'. All the family members gather around in the evening for bursting crackers together during Kali Puja. Goddess Kali is worshipped during ‘Amavasya’. ‘Bhoot Chaturdashi’ is performed one day before Kali Puja, when 14 diyas light up together at each of the Bengali’s home and they also take 14 types of leaf type vegetables. ‘Bhoot Chaturdashi’ is considered to be a powerful day for the spirits.
Bhai Fonta: It is a festival purely dedicated to the love and affection between brothers and sisters. Brothers bless their sisters and also promise to protect them from all hardships. The celebration of 'Bhatri Dwitiya' or Bhai Fonta in this state can be redefined as a bond that speaks of sensitivity and timeless relationship. With sandalwood paste, Kajal and ‘Ghee’ sisters make marks on their brother’s forehead three times and offer them sweets to celebrate the Bhai Fonta rituals.
Jagadhatri Puja: This festival is celebrated with much fun and frolic in the Bengali month of Kartik or in the English month of November. During this puja, Chandannagarin Hoogly district of the state is adorned with huge pandals to worship the goddess Jagadhatri; other regions of West Bengal also celebrate this festival.
Saraswati Puja: This is one of the most devotional festivals of West Bengal, where goddess Saraswati is worshiped. The worship of Goddess Saraswati starts early in the morning with 'aarti' and chanting of various 'mantras’. This festival is celebrated in all schools and colleges and the youth can be seen participating in the puja with much enthusiasm.
Minor Festivals of West Bengal
Apart from the festivals of West Bengal mentioned above, there are some other minor festivals also celebrated in this state. Some of the minor festivals of West Bengal are mentioned below:
Christmas: In the 'City of Joy' the Christmas festivities continue till the New Year. During this time, some parts of Kolkata, especially Park Street area is brightly decorated with Christmas trees and lights. Winter carnival is also held at this time in Kolkata; people visit churches as well.
Muharram: This is one of the Muslim festivals of West Bengal and commemorates the martyrdom of the Prophet's grandsons, Hasan and Hussain in the battle of Karbala in Arabia. The Sunni sect of Muslimscarries on a warlike procession enacting mock fights and exhibitions of prowess. The Shia sectof Muslims also takes out processions of mourning with men and women all dressed in black and singing especially composed elegies.
Eid-Ul-Fitr:This is one of the most important Muslim festivals of West Bengal and is celebrated in the state with as much fervour and enthusiasm as it is celebrated all over the country. This propitious festival marks the end of the month of Ramzan. After a full month of fasting, the Muslims of West Bengal look forward to the festive celebration with a heart full of cheerful ideas. They prepare elaborate feasts and organize fairs for rejoicing and enjoyment. The Muslims also assemble for religious discourses, which are regarded as a main part of the observances.
Eid-Uz Zoha: This festival is also known as Id-Ul-Korbab or Bakri-Id and is one of the compulsory Muslim festivals of West Bengal. Animal sacrifice is one of the chief features of this festival. The mythological base of the observance is related to Prophet Abraham of the Old Testament.
Apart from these festivals of West Bengal, there are some minor festivals celebrated in this state. The festivals are Ganesh Chaturthi, Kalpataru Utsab, Shivaratri, Guru Purnima, Buddha Purnima, Jamai Shashthi, Snana Yatra, Bipattarini Brata, Jhulan Yatra, Shab-e-Barat, Vishwakarma Puja, Annakut Utsav, Kartik Puja, Itu Puja, Charak Puja, Gajan, Chhat Puja, Ganga Sagar Mela and 'Gurpurab' (Gurparab implying the birthday of Guru Nanak, the Sikh Guru).