Rajasthan Temple Festivals are perhaps the colourful and spectacular events in the whole of India. Apart from the religious festivals which are born out of age-old traditions and rituals there thrives to be numerous other festivals related to cattle marts and others. An array of enthralling fairs, craft fairs of west India brings out the flavour of west India. Rajasthan temple festivals provides a profound insight to the colourful life style of the Rajasthani people and are mesmerizing with their folk dances, music, drama and animal races. Some of the main Rajasthan temple festivals are Teej, Gangaur and the Pushkar Fair, Desert festival, Elephant Festival and the Camel festival, which are sometimes also celebrated without any religious association.
Rajasthan Temple Festivals
Gangaur Festival is celebrated in the Rajasthan temples, in veneration of Gauri, the consort of Lord Shiva, during March and April. This Rajasthan temple festival is dedicated to Gauri, a manifestation of Goddess Parvati; consort of Lord Shiva that begins on the first day of Chaitra, the day following Holi and lasts for 18 days. Gangaur Festival is the most important local festival of Rajasthan and is observed in most of the temples of this state. Girls and married women throughout Rajasthan celebrate this Rajasthan temple festival. The images of Gauri are ornamented and offerings are made. Unmarried women pray Mother Gauri for blessing to get good husband and the married women pray for the welfare, health and long life of their husbands. This is also an auspicious day for young people to choose their life partners. Colourful processions with the town band playing horses and elaborate palanquins create a fascinating spectacle.
Gujarat Temple Festivals
The temple festivals of Gujarat are vibrant events of the state in association with the ancient religious customs. Gujarat is often said to be the land of fairs and festivals. Thousands of small and big fairs and religious festivals are celebrated in different parts of Gujarat every year. The Gujarat Temple Festivals are based on the lunar or solar calendar. Whether the festival is religious, social or related to agricultural, the people of Gujarat take pleasure in them with equal fervour. Many of the Gujarat Temple Festivals are linked with myths and traditions. A tourist can experience the variety of the cultural and religious traditions of the Gujarati people during the festival season. The main fairs and festivals celebrated in Gujarat are Janmashtami, Diwali, Holi, Kite Festival in Gujarat, Tarnetar Fair, Modhera dance festival etc. Navaratri is the primary Gujarat temple festival that is observed for nine nights in October, preceding the Dussehra. When people assemble in village squares and temple compounds to pray to Goddess Durga, they sing and dance according to folk traditions. They worship the mother Goddess and her numerous manifestations during the festival. The festival ends on the Dussera day, when artisans worship their instruments, agriculturists their ploughs, warriors their weapons and students their books. Sharad Purnima closely follows the Navaratri festival, on the full moon night in the Asvina month. The people pray to the deities for long hours and ultimately at midnight they eat the Prasad of rice and milk.
Gujarat has two temples dedicated to two most popular mother Goddesses of Gujarat, Amba Mata and Becharji Mata. Quite ideally therefore Gujarat temple festivals revolve round these two temples. On Kartika and Chaitra Purnima days and during the Navaratri days, thousands of people visit these temples and enjoy Gujarati's typical folk drama, the Bhavai. Janmashtami is one of the main Gujarat Temple Festivals that commemorates the birthday of Lord Krishna and is celebrated on the twenty-third day in the month of Shravan according to the Hindu calendar. This Gujarat Temple Festival is celebrated with great fervour at Jagat Mandir in Dwaraka. The idol of Krishna is worshipped as an infant; bhajans are sung all over the state. A fair is held on this day at Jamnagar.
Ganesh Chaturthi is the worship of Lord Ganesha, the patron deity of Maharashtra and the God of wisdom. The temples dedicated to Lord Ganesh are decorated lavishly and elaborate offerings are done to the deity. Ganesh Chaturthi is held in August, when Lord Ganesha was born. The Ganesha idols are worshipped with families and friends. Many cultural events are organised and people of all ages participate with keen interest. After ten exciting days of celebration, people take Ganesha idols in procession to the sea or nearby river or lake, accompanied with music and dance and finally immerse.
Maharashtra Temple Festivals
Diwali is the most beautiful of all Maharashtra temple festivals. All the temples are decorated with lights of different colours and innumerable diyas. Streets are also illuminated with rows of clay lamps and homes are decorated with rangoli and aakash kandils. People offer Puja in temples with deities like Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi; they rise at dawn, massage their bodies and hair with scented oil and aromatic powders-uttana and take a holy bath. Diwali is celebrated with spectacular firecrackers and exchange of a variety of sweets in the company of family and friends.
Makar Sankranti is another Maharashtra Temple Festival, where people exchange greeting and good wishes on this day. Sweet and crunchy ladoos are made of sesame and jaggery called "TilGul". Nag Panchami is performed as a Maharashtra Temple Festival in different sacred sites of the state. This festival is celebrated in the honour of the Snake God Shesha Nag. Snake worship is an essential ritual of the Maharashtrians, and on the festival of Nag Panchami, clay icons of cobras are venerated in temples and homes. People offer sweets and milk to the snake deity and the snake charmers carry cobras in baskets and collect offerings from the public in the streets. Women apply mehendi on their hands and the day is celebrated with dances and songs.
Gudhi Padwa is a religious ritual in Maharashtra that marks the victory symbol-characterized by a bamboo stick with a coloured silk cloth and garlanded with flowers and sweets atop. This festival is celebrated during the New Year and the people welcome the year by worshipping the gudhi and distribute prasad comprising tender neem leaves, gram-pulse and jaggery. Narali Pournima festival is held on full moon day of the month of Shravan. This day is also famous in Maharashtra as Raksha Bandhan. People make offerings of coconuts to the Sea-God on this day, thus marking the advent of the new fishing season and fishermen appease the sea-god before sailing out in their gaily-decorated boats. Singing and dancing make the day. Sisters tie 'rakhis' or beautifully decorated threads on their brothers' wrists and thus renew the bond of affection between siblings.