As Siddharth Katragadda, a famous writer of the Indian origin puts it “The Greatness of a Culture can be found in its Festivals”, so, the greatness of a country like India can be examined by sparing a glance at the vivid and vivacious list of festivals in India. Such diverse cultures, culminating such varied festivals and that too under the name of a single country; such is the greatness of Indian culture. The wide spectrum of religions, occupations, and faiths in the country being the prime cause of such diversification, these festivals are celebrated with sheer enthusiasm and devotion. To comprehend and appreciate such plethora of festivals, some of these have been described below.
Most Famous Festivals of India
Diwali which is celebrated through the varied cultures of the country with vigor and enthusiasm, irrespective of different religions and societies. It is the most spectacular festival of India. Autumn marks the arrival of this festival and the preparation for the same begins much in advance with people decorating their houses and exchanging gifts. Also known as the festival of lights, this festival is celebrated by decorating the houses with lights, clay lamps, and candles.
The arrival of spring in India is marked with the revelers covered in bright colored powder as they celebrate Holi. Usually falling in March, the festival of Holi brings with it the celebrations where the merrymakers wish each other Happy Holi by applying ‘gulal’ or colored powder on each other’s cheeks. Savories, dance, music, and food are the other highlights of this festival.
This festival marks the end of the nine-day long festival of Naravratras. The day is commemorated as the day Lord Ram attained victory over Ravana, and therefore, this festival symbolizes the victory of good over evil. There are many different ways of celebration of Dussehra in India. As a celebration, the symbolic statues of Ravana and his brothers Meghnath and Kumbhkaran, are build and placed at different avenues to be burnt by an arrow of fire.
4. Ramadan/ Eid –Ul-Fitr
One of the major religious festivals of India, Ramadan is celebrated mainly by the Muslim sect of the Indian demographic. Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic calendar and is used as the period for fasting, prayers, introspection and religious contemplation. The end of Ramadan is celebrated with a three day festival of Eid-Ul-Fitr, where Muslims break their fasts by gathering together for prayers and celebration.
Among the most famous festivals of India, Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December each year. Celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, this festival is the time for religious and cultural celebrations for Christians. Usually celebrated by decorating the Christmas tree and exchanging gifts, this festival is known for merrymaking.
6. Ganesh Chaturthi
Celebrated with much fervor and excitement, the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi revels the homecoming of Lord Ganesh. One of the most colorful and exciting 10 day-long celebrations of the Ganesh Chaturthi is initiated with installing the idol of Lord Ganesh at home to bless the house, and its members with happiness and prosperity. At the end of the ten days, this idol is taken with much pomp and show to be immersed in water.
7. Durga Pooja
This festival is nothing less than a five-day-long carnival in Bengal with religious associations. Held in the honor of Goddess Durga, this puja is a festival which witnesses exuberant preparations for months in advance. Setting of decorative pandals and preparing for various cultural activities are a part of this festival.
One of the major festivals of the Sikhs, this festival is celebrated on the 13th of April each year. This festival marks the harvest of Rabi crops and therefore, is reveled heartily among the farming community of Punjab. Celebrated by performing traditional folk dances of the state, this festival has a great religious significance too.
This festival celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead and is among the most important festivals for Christians. Celebrated on the first Sunday falling between March 22 and April 25 every year, this festival is reveled with inexplicable enthusiasm, so much so, that this festival is celebrated throughout the preceding week of the festival itself. Easter eggs, bunnies, baskets and candy are a standard part of this event.
The biggest festival of the state of Kerala, Onam is a harvest festival that is celebrated all across the state by people of all communities. Celebrated as the initiation of the Malayalam calendar, this festival falls between August-September. The festival lasts from 4-10 days and elaborate feasts, folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, elephants, boats, and flowers, all are a part of this dynamic festival.
11. Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Dooj
Celebrated to cherish the bond between brothers and sisters, this festival is among the national festivals of India. Celebrated by applying saffron tilak on the brother’s forehead and tying a rakhi on his wrist, this festival holds impeccable importance for Indian brothers and sisters.
12. Budh Poornima
Celebrated by the devotees of Gautam Buddha, this festival commemorates his birthday. The festival falls in the Hindu month of Vaisakhaon on the day of the full moon. People celebrate this festival by preaching and discussing the life and teachings of Lord Buddha. to celebrate the festival, people worship decorated idols of Lord Buddha, eat simple, meditate and chant.
13. Krishan Janamashtmi
The legend of Lord Krishna’s birth and his triumph over evil is celebrated on this single day. On this pious occasion, devotees throng temples to offer their prayers and bhog to their beloved deity. Another one of the religious festivals of India, it is celebrated with complete devotion by Hindus.
Pongal is the four-day-long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu. The festival is celebrated as a thanksgiving to nature. Falling typically on the 14th or the 15th of January, this festival has different rituals for each of the four days. One of the famous festivals of India, it is celebrated with vigor and enthusiasm.
15. Maha Shivratri
This festival is an annual event in honor of the great Lord Shiva. The festival is celebrated on the 13th night or 14th day of the lunar month Maagha or Phalguna. The celebration of the festival includes keeping day long and night long fast by devotees, performing rituals and offering prayers to the traditional Mahashivalingam.
Bohag Bihu is one of the most important festivals of Assam. Beginning from the14th of April, this festival is observed for a period of seven days. Though the festival is only a week long, the celebration extends for a month. This festival has several rituals which are different for each of the days of celebration. Bihu dance is the specialty of this festival and is performed in different parts of the state on a regular basis for a complete month.
17. Chhath Pooja
This festival is celebrated in the devotion of the Sun God.The puja is observed to thank Sun God for his protection and to seek blessings from him for good health and happiness. Celebrated mainly in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, this festival is now gaining national recognition too.
18. Makar Sankranti
Celebrated on the 14th of January each year, this festival is one of the oldest traditions in India. This festival is celebrated all over India but with different names in different states. It marks the end of an inauspicious period and the start of the auspicious month.
One of the biggest and prime festivals of Leh-Ladakh, the Hemis festival marks the birth anniversary of Ladakhi spiritual leader Padmasambhava. Culminating on the tenth day of the Tibetan lunar month, this festival is carried on for two days. Masked dance performers and traditional Buddhist rituals are the highlights of the festival.
20. Losar festival
One of the major festivals of the state of Arunachal Pradesh, this three-day long festival is celebrated with sheer pomp and show. The festival has distinguished and defined rituals for each of the three days. The merriment is enhanced by visiting friends and tying of colorful flags on rooftops. Though the festival is for three days, the merrymaking can continue for up to a period of 15 days.
21. Hornbill festival
The 7-10 day festival is celebrated from the 1st of December each year and bears witness to all the major tribes of Nagaland. Exquisite costumes, colorful headgear, soulful war cries and warrior log drums are the highlight of this festival. One of the religious festivals of India, it is celebrated with great enthusiasm.
A truly Punjabi folk festival, Lohri is celebrated primarily by the Sikhs and Hindus of the Punjab region or origin. Having a trail of legends behind it, this festival is primarily a thanksgiving day for farmers, where the harvest of the Rabi crop is celebrated. The main celebration of the festival involves lighting a bon fire and throwing in foods like gajak, chikki, puffed rice, popcorn and sugarcane in it, to pay homage to roots.
This festival is celebrated by the women of north India for the safety and long life of their husbands. As a celebration of this festival, women dress up, apply henna on their hands and fast from sunrise to moonrise. The festival is a full day event with a plethora of vivid rituals.
The nine-day long festival culminates in the lunar month of Ashwin. Considered to be one of the most important festivals of Hindus, this festival is celebrated with extensive grandeur. Sharad Navratri marks the start of the festive season in India. Being one of the different festivals of India, this festival stands out.
Celebrated to seek blessings for a happy married life from Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, this festival holds considerable significance for Hindus. Reveled in different parts of the country, this festival is celebrated to commemorate the day on which Lord Shiva accepted Goddess Parvati’s love. As a ritual for this festival, women married and unmarried fast and worship clay idols of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Dressing up impeccably is also a part of this festival.
This festival celebrates the birth of Lord Ram and falls on the ninth day of the Hindu lunar year. Ram Navami usually falls in the month of March or April. Among the national festivals of India, this festival is celebrated with devotion and enthusiasm by Hindus.
27. Saga Dawa
One of the religious festivals of India, Saga Dawa is a major festival of Buddhists and is celebrated between May and June. Commemorating the enlightenment of Lord Buddha, this festival is celebrated in Sikkim by offering water, incense sticks, and dhog at the Buddhist monasteries. Chanting of mantras and turning of the prayer wheels are the other rituals of this event.
28. Dree Festival
Taking place on the 5th of July each year, this festival is the biggest festival of the Ziro valley and is celebrated to ensure a good harvest. The traditions of this festival include distribution of cucumber to everyone, as a symbol of good harvest. Other facets of the celebration include offering prayers to four gods, brewing and drinking of wine and savoring various local dishes.
29. Moatsu Mong
Again an agricultural festival of the northeast, Moatsu Mong festival is celebrated by the AO tribe of Nagaland to celebrate the completion of the sowing season. Cultural programs, cleaning of wells, brewing of beer and preparation of local savories are some of the highlights of the festival.
This festival marks the seed sowing season in Northeast India each year. Taking place on 15th of February each year, this festival is celebrated with the preparation of various delicacies, the performance of traditional dances and rituals of lighting fire to bless the seeds that are been sown.
One of the most important festivals of the state of Rajasthan, Gangaur is celebrated each year in the lunar month of the Chaitra (March-April). This festival celebrates the heavenly union of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and is considered as a symbol of marital happiness. In this festival, which is especially celebrated by women, clay idols of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati are worshipped and immersed in water on the last day of the festival. Celebrated with great fervor, processions, and decorations, this festival is among the famous festivals of India.
32. Losoong festival
This festival is celebrated each year in the month of December, to bring in the Sikkimese new year. Also a symbol of celebration for the year’s harvest, this festival is reveled by the Bhutia tribe and the Lepchas. The celebration of this festival includes folk dance performances, archery competitions, and drinking of the locally brewed wine.
33. Mahavir Jayanti
The festival celebrated to commemorate the birth of Lord Mahavir, this is one of the main festivals of the Jain community. Reveled with great fervor and devotion, this festival falls during the period of March-April. Processions, joint chanting of prayers and giving alms to the poor are some of the highlights this festival.
The Indian belief system is much deeper than the apparent picture of gaiety (though that is something not to be missed) and to truly understand the depth of such greatness, one should understand the exquisite Indian culture. The ideal way to do that is to witness these astounding festivals first hand, which portray the real essence and depth of the Indian belief systems. The spellbinding effect that festivals of India have is truly something to be experienced and shared.