Diwali, Indian Festival of lights, is one of the grandest festivals celebrated across the nation. It is celebrated between the months of October and November with great enthusiasm and zeal. During this Hindu festival, people light up the entire house with earthenware lamps or ‘Diya’ and decorate the floor with ‘Rangoli’. They distribute sweets and gifts to their friends, families and neighbours. In some areas, fairs are also held during Diwali. In West Bengal, Diwali is celebrated as Kali Puja, where they worship goddess Kali and burn crackers. According to the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated in the last day of Ashvina and at the beginning of Kartika, which is exactly 20 days after Dussehra.
Durga Puja is the most prominent and prime festival of West Bengal, which is celebrated between the months of September and November. The celebration is held for five days- 'Shashthi', 'Saptami', 'Ashtami', 'Navami' and 'Dashami'. Earlier, Durga Puja was only held in ‘Rajbaris’ (the palaces of royal families). Now it is also arranged by different clubs and associations. In this entire celebration along with Goddess Durga, Lord Shiva, Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya are also worshipped. It is imagined that they all come to visit the earth at this time.
Holi is celebrated across the corners of India and is one of the major festivals of India and also the most vibrant of all. It is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of Phalguna between the months of February and March. The name ‘Holi’ comes from ‘Holika’, who was the sister of demon King Hiranyakashyap. Holi is celebrated with colours and sweets. Different states have different conceptions of celebrating Holi.
Christmas celebrates the Nativity of Jesus Christ, founder of Christianity. The word Christmas comes from the words "Cristes Maesse", or "Christ's Mass." Historians claim that the first celebration of Christmas took place in Rome in 336 A.D. It was an important festival during British period all over India. After India achieved Independence from the British rule, this festival lost much of its official importance. The tradition of celebrating it as left behind by the British, continues even to this day. Indians celebrate the festival by Christmas trees and Santa Claus decorations along with lights and gifts and by giving a visit to the churches.
Eid Ul Fitr
Eid ul-Fitr occurs at the end of Ramzan, the ninth month of the Muslim year, on the first day of the new moon in Shawwal. Eid Ul-Fitr means the 'festival of breaking the fast'. 'Fitr' is derived from the word 'fatar' meaning 'breaking'. Another allegation suggests that it is derived from fitrah or 'alms'. A 30-day fast in the month of Ramzan is broken on Eid Ul-Fitr. It is broken with special prayers and festivities with sumptuous feasts. People embrace each other three times, as is laid down in the Quran (The Holy Book of Muslims).
Gurupurabs are the birthdays of the first and the last gurus of Sikh and these are celebrated with devotion and dedication. It is also known as 'Guru Nanak Jayanti', the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak who founded the Sikh faith. For two days and nights, preceding the festival, there is Akhand Path. The Akhand Path is the continuous reading of 'Granth Sahib' from beginning to end. It culminates on the day of the Guru Purab and the holy book is then taken out in a grand procession.
Other Indian Religious Festivals
Apart from the above ones, there are numerous other festivals in India, which are also celebrated with great zeal and they are:
Hindu Festivals: Dussehra, Mahashivratri, Janmashtami, Pongal, Ramnavami, Hanuman Jayanti, Vat-Savitri, Nagpanchami, Rakhi Purnima, Vasant Panchami, Ganesh Chaturthi, New Year Festivals, Gudi Padwa, Shivaji Jayanti, Bihu, Kartigai and Onam.
Muslim Festivals: Barah Wafat, Haj, Id-Ul-Azha, Muharram and Sair-E-Gul Faroshan.
Parsi Festivals: Gahambars, Khordad Sal, Zarthost No Deeso, Jamshed Navroz and Pateti.
Christian Festivals: Holy Week, Virgin Mary Feast and St.Thomas Mount Feast.
Jain Festivals: Mahavir Jayanti and Dev Diwali.
Buddhist Festivals: Buddha Jayanti.
Sikh Festivals: Baisakhi.