Experiencing the festive IndiaSpirit Bohemian
India, the land of cultural diversity has a varied range of festivals. The entire year has many festivals lined up from Lohri in January to Christmas ( not a native festival) in December. The winter festive season (mostly sunny) is filled with enthusiasm and fun, a time full of celebraiton, lights, shopping, home renovations, and much more. The following are the most prominent festivals in the country.
NAVRATRI (9 NIGHTS)
The season starts with the 9 day festival, ’Navaratri’ which is celebrated for worshiping three divine goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. This dancing festival is celebrated all over India in different ways. In places like Gujarat and Mumbai, celebrations are done with traditional dances known as agrGarba and Dandiya raas. In south India (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh), Navaratri is known as Golu and is celebrated by the display of dolls. The dolls are symbolic of feminine power. During the festival, women visit each other’s homes to view the displays and exchange sweets. The last four days of Navratri are celebrated as Durga Puja in the eastern parts of the country. The goddesses are worshipped by keeping a nine day fast.
Dussehra, the tenth day, is the most important day of the festival. The tenth day of the Navaratri festival is known as Dussehra. It’s devoted to celebrating the defeat of the demon king Ravan by Lord Rama in the holy hindu text, the Ramayana. In northern India, plays and dance performances known as Ramaleela, depicting the life of Rama, commonly take place in the lead up to Dussehra day. Then on Dussehra, huge effigies of the demon Ravana are burned all over India. Dussehra is predominantly a north Indian festival. Delhi and Varanasi are popular places to witness the celebrations. In Mysore as well, there are cultural performances and fairs. The highlight of the 10 day Dussehra celebration is the grand parade of decorated elephants and guards mounted on horse back to escort the goddess through the city. In Kullu, goddess deities are carried around on colorful chariots, and there is a lot of dancing and revelry.
According to mythology, King Mahabali told Ravan to get rid of his negative emotions. However, he refused, claiming that they were important to him to remain complete. As our head controls our destiny, the inability of Ravan to control his emotions and desires led to his ultimate destruction.
Durga Puja is a celebration of the Mother Goddess, and the victory of the revered warrior Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. The festival honors the powerful female force (shakti) in the Universe. The start of the festival sees huge, elaborately crafted statutes of Goddess Durga in homes and beautifully decorated podiums all over the city. Prayers are offered to the Goddess every day during the festival, and she is worshiped in her various forms.
At the end of the festival, the statutes are paraded through the streets, accompanied by music and dancing, and then immersed. Durga Puja is celebrated during the last five days of Navaratri and Dussehra. Durga Puja is celebrated in West Bengal, particularly in the city of Kolkata. It’s the biggest and most important occasion of the year there.
The Durga Puja festival is an extremely social and theatrical event, drama, dance, and cultural performances are widely held. Food is a huge part of the festival, and street stalls blossom all over Kolkata. In the evenings, the streets of Kolkata fill with people, who come to admire the statues of Goddess Durga, eat, and celebrate.
After 21 days comes the biggest celebration time, the festival of Diwali. This is the most awaited period by millions of Hindus in the country. In fact, the festive mood engulfs one and all, irrespective of their religion and beliefs. During the months of October and November,
the levels of excitement and energy are touching the skies. For shopaholics, there is no better time than this to explore the many Indian markets as every shop provides exciting offers and discounts on almost everything. One will see the most extravagant celebrations in the city of Mumbai.
Diwali, also known as the festival of lights and is one of the most important festivals celebrated in India, marking the triumph of good over evil. Diwali is celebrated by lighting diyas and candles all over to help Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth find her way into their homes and also to celebrate the end of the 14 year exile of Lord Rama and his wife Sita from the Kingdom of Ayodhya.
The entire country is decorated and lighted with Diyas, candles and colourful lights. Every place has its own peculiar way of celebrating. In Varanasi, a special aarti is performed at Ganga ghat, steps leading to the river are lighted with beautiful diyas. In Amritsar, the Golden Temple is lighted with diyas and it surely is a beautiful sight, it also coincides with Sikh Festival Bandi Chor divas . In Rajasthan, specially Jaipur the pink city comes alive with streets and markets lighted with beautiful diyas is Rajasthani style.
Lohri, is a festival known for its feisty celebrations among the Punjabi community. It is, in essence, a deep veneration of nature gods for a bountiful harvest. Most popular in the agricultural belt of India namely, the Punjab, it has spread its wings to neighboring regions such as Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Delhi. Lohri festival in India celebrates the harvesting of rabi crops with a major ceremonial ritual of bonfire. Falling in mid-January, the auspicious occasion of Lohri coincides with the onset of ‘Magh’ month, which commences just a day after Lohri. This is also the time when people take a dip in the holy waters or water springs to welcome the month of ‘Magh’, hoping for an auspicious start. Besides, Lohri festival also marks the end of harsh winter, when the sun commences its movement in the favourable northern direction. Coincidentally, it is at the same time that regional harvest festivals such as Pongal, Makar Sankranti and Bhogali Bihu are held in different parts of the country with equal fervour.
In the evening, the front open space or even the courtyard of houses is prepared for bonfire. Family and friends do a ‘parikrama’ or circling around the bonfire as they make offerings of jaggery, sesame/til, peanuts, puffed rice and popcorn.
The convivial atmosphere during Lohri festival sets the mood for blending in with close relations and friends. The festival and the jovial Lohri celebrations give everybody a chance to widen their horizon and social circle. The sense of camaraderie among men and women folk is seen throughout the festival preparation and participation. On the whole, Lohri fosters a sense of fellowship, celebrates oneness and encourages people to rise above personal differences.
The Holi festival commemorates the victory of good over evil, brought about by the burning and destruction of the demoness named Holika. Holi got its name as the “Festival of Colors” from Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colors. People spend the day smearing colored powder all over each other’s faces, throwing colored water at each other, having parties, and dancing under water sprinklers. Bhang (a paste made from cannabis plants) is also traditionally consumed during the celebrations.
Holi is a very carefree festival that’s great fun to participate in if you don’t mind getting wet and dirty. You’ll end up saturated in water, with color all over your skin and clothes. Some of it doesn’t wash out easily, so be sure to wear old clothes. It’s also a good idea to rub hair oil or coconut oil into your skin beforehand, to prevent the color from absorbing.
The festival marks the end of winter and the abundance of the upcoming spring harvest season.Traditional Holi celebrations are the biggest at Mathura and Vrindavan, four hours from Delhi.
Special Holi events with music, rain dances, and colors are organized in large cities across India — particularly in Delhi and Mumbai. It’s possible to celebrate Holi with a local Indian family in Delhi and in Jaipur.
The myriad of these glorious festivals of India boast of the nation’s rich and varied culture and the religious sentiments of the people. This list of festivals in India should surely spark an urge to travel to different places celebrate.