Updated: Oct 26, 2021
India is the land of color, culture, celebration, festivity, brotherhood, and love. Being one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, there is no doubt that there are countless festivals celebrated across India throughout the year. Festivals in India are celebrated with pomp and show, devotion, and a sense of belonging to the community. India has a rich cultural history, and each of the festivals has significance and value. Through this article, I intend on showing you the beauty of my culture and sharing my heritage. Here are some of the Indian festivals and their significance:
Diwali, popularly known as the Festival of Lights, is unquestionably one of the most celebrated Hindu festivals. During Diwali, families and communities come together to decorate their homes and neighborhoods with lights, earthen candles, and colorful floor paintings known as “rangoli.” Firecrackers are burst, gifts are exchanged, blessings are sought and given, and love and laughter blanket the environment. Diwali is celebrated because Lord Rama and Sita returned after 14 years of exile after defeating Ravana, and it symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. Diwali will take place on the 4th of November this year. If you know anyone celebrating Diwali, wish them “Happy Diwali” with a massive smile on your face and be a part of their celebrations.
Have you ever heard of Garba? Garba is the traditional dance of Gujarat and is usually performed during Navratri. Navratri translates to nine nights and is a Hindu festival that celebrates Goddess Durga's triumph over Mahishasur. Navratri is usually celebrated in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Men, women, and children gather around in a circle and perform dandiya raas and garba, the two traditional dances of Gujarat, to worship Goddess Durga. Navratri took place from the 7th of October to the 15th of October this year.
Durga Puja is the festival of the Bengalis. It is most popularly celebrated in West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Tripura, Jharkhand, and Bihar. For Durga Puja, huge clay idols of the ten-armed Goddess Durga are created and placed in temple porches, known as “mandaps,” for worship. Durga Puja is celebrated across four days, and people dress up in new clothes and go mandap-hopping with their friends and family. The end of the Durga Puja is marked with Dussehra when the idols of Goddess Durga are immersed in water. Durga Puja began on the 11th of October and ended on the 15th of October this year.
Dussehra marks the end of Navratri and Durga Puja. In different parts of India, people celebrate Dussehra for various reasons. Some celebrate Dussehra to commemorate the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, while others celebrate the triumph of Goddess Durga over Mahishasur. Dussehra is celebrated by enacting the Ramleela and burning massive statues of Ravana. Fairs are set up across the country, and cities are decorated. A huge procession carried out by decorated elephants also takes place in some parts of India. Mysore in Karnataka is one of the best places to attend the Dussehra festivities. Dussehra took place on the 15th of October this year.
Kerala's biggest festival, Onam, is celebrated to mark the onset of the harvest festival. Onam is celebrated magnificently with boat races, decorating houses with flowers, worshipping King Mahabali, and dancing. Kerala is a foodie's paradise during Onam because of an elaborate feast of 25 vegetarian dishes served on a banana meal. The feast is known as Onam Sadhya and is divine in taste. Be sure to visit Kerala during Onam next year to witness the festival and relish the delicious Onam Sadhya.
Gurpurab or Guru Nanak Jayanti
Gurpurab or Guru Nanak Jayanti is a sacred festival for the Sikh community in India. It celebrates the birth of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. The festival is observed by reading the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy religious scripture of Sikhism, organizing assemblies of the teachings of the Guru, and serving meals in the Gurudwara, the temple of the Sikhs. Then, they distribute the Karah Prasad to all, irrespective of caste and religion. The festival teaches you to treat everyone equally and love all the same. It is most commonly celebrated in Punjab during November.
Eid-ul-Fitr is one of the major festivals of the Muslim communities in India. The festival marks the end of Ramadan, a sacred month of fasting. The festival is celebrated the day after the crescent moon has been sighted. During Eid, people pray at the mosque, dress up in their best clothes, visit friends and family, and eat sweets together. Seviyan is the most popular sweet consumed on Eid, and it is heavenly in taste.
Karwa Chauth is one of the most important festivals in the lives of Hindu married women in India. It is particularly celebrated in the northern and western parts of India. On the day of Karwa Chauth, women fast all day for the well-being and longevity of their spouses. They break the fast upon the sighting of the moon and are usually hand-fed by their husbands. Women wear red-colored outfits because it symbolizes love and strength. Karwa Chauth will take place on the 24th of October this year.
Chhath Puja is a Hindu festival observed to show respect for the Sun God and his wife and seek their blessings for good health and well-being. Generations of families come together to fast, abstain from drinking water, bathing in the river, and worshipping the sun during sunrise and sunset. Chhath Puja is usually celebrated in November in Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh.
Makar Sankranti is the festival that marks the end of the winter and the onset of the harvest season. It is known by various names across India, such as Thai Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Maghi in the northern states, Magh Bihu in Assam, and Pedda Padunga in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. People celebrate Makar Sankranti by flying colorful kites, eating jaggery-based sweets, and offering water to the Sun God. Across India, various kite-flying competitions happen on Makar Sankranti. Watching colorful kites soar in the sky is a sight to behold. To participate in Makar Sankranti, you can visit India in the second week of January.
The Hornbill festival is weeklong and is celebrated at the Naga Heritage Village. The festival showcases the culture and tradition of Nagaland. During the festivals, participants put on colorful performances, set up traditional food fairs, play games, and organize a parade. They also display the different religious ceremonies that hold significant value for those from Nagaland. All the tribes of the state participate in the festival and truly make it one-of-a-kind. You can attend Nagaland in the first week of December to catch a glimpse of the festival.
Lui-Ngai-Ni is a festival celebrated by the Naga tribes of Manipur. The Naga tribes of Manipur celebrate Lui-Ngai-Ni as a seed-sowing festival. Naga tribes from neighboring states, such as Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, also come together to showcase their cultural heritage. The festival intends to honor and please the gods responsible for the growth of the crops. To mark the festivities, they sing traditional songs, beat drums, and dance. Lui-Ngai-Ni usually falls on the 14th or 15th of February every year.
Christmas needs no introduction. A festival to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated all across the world among Christians. However, in India, Christians aren't the only ones that celebrate Christmas. Everybody comes together to enjoy the festive spirit of Christmas. We decorate Christmas trees together, eat plum cake, and hope for a prosperous new year.
Hemis is a religious festival from Ladakh. It is celebrated at the Hemis Monastery for two days in honor of Lord Padmasambhava, a spiritual leader and founder of Tibet Tantric Buddhism. During the festivities, the Cham dance and other traditional dances are performed in public to the beats of drums and cymbals. Along with the performances, giant thangkas (Buddhist paintings) are displayed to the public. The festivities take place in Ladakh during June and July.
Pateti is the day preceding the Parsi New Year, also known as Navroze. Pateti is also known as The Day of Repentance because it is the day that Parsis repent their sins and wrong deeds to start afresh for the new year. Parsis acquire the right to greet “Pateti Mubarak” to a fellow Parsi only after they have stood in front of the holy fire and sought repentance for their past sins and said the holy Patet Pashemani prayer. The Parsi community visits the temple, cooks delicious food, and donates to charity on Pateti. Pateti was celebrated on the 16th of August this year.
Indian festivities aren't just about dancing and having a good time. They are also a time to learn about the culture and diversity of India. Alongside teaching us about culture and history, they also instill noble values like courage, honesty, determination, resistance, and grit in each of us. For Indians, festivals are also a time to give back to the community. Kids learn to share the gifts they have received with the underprivileged and understand the true meaning of brotherhood. Indian festivities are beautiful in the ways they are celebrated and the teachings they offer. If you ever get the chance to be a part of any Indian festival, grab it and experience the warmth and hospitality of Indians.