Indian Festivals

India is a country of varied dimensions. It is an ancient civilization and an inheritor to a rich and diverse cultural tradition. The festivals celebrated across the length and breadth of the country present a fascinating kaleidoscope of its resplendent arts and crafts and tradition.Some festivals are of religious nature, others are linked with the lives of the people, change of seasons and harvesting. These colourful and vibrant festivals bind the people of the nation across various states and religions in a unique way and provide a spectacle that cannot be be experienced anywhere else in the world. Some of the main festivals celebrated in Indiaare:


Diwali

Diwali is perhaps the most well-known of all the Indian festivals.Celebrated twenty days after Dusshera, it is colloquially known as the "festival of lights". Diwali signifies different things to people across the country.In north India, Diwali is celebrated to mark Lord Rama's homecoming, his return to Ayodhya after the defeat of Ravana and his coronation as king. In Gujarat, the festival honors Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and in Bengal,it is associated with the goddess Kali. People light their homes with diyas and candles and sweets are distributed, which adds to the gaiety of the event. The Festival signifies the renewal of life, and hence it is a common practice to wear new clothes on the day of the festival. It also heralds the approach of winter and the beginning of the sowing season.


Dusshera

Dusshera marks the victory of good over evil, and though it is celebrated for different reasons in different parts of the country, this fact remains common to all. The festival lasts ten days, and most communities celebrate it with great fanfare. During the festival, there is staging of Ramleela, or the story of Rama, enacted by professional dance companies and amateur troupes. The last day of the festival culminates with the burning of effigies of Ravana, Meghnad and Kumbhkaran, to mark the defeat of Ravana. In Bengal, Dusshera is celebrated as Durga Puja. Idols of the goddess Durga are worshiped for nine days, and on the tenth day immersed in water. In Mysore,the festival is celebrated with caparisoned elephants leading a colorful procession through the streets of the city. Mysore Dusshera is famous through out the world and people throng to Mysore from all over the country and abroad to catch a glimpse of the grand celebration.


Ganapati/Ganesh Chaturthi

The annual festival in honour of Lord Ganesha, who, according to the Hindu Mythology is the god of auspiciousness, has been observed for at least 250 years. The modern history of the Ganapati festival dates back to 1894, when the Maratha politician and Indian nationalist, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, gave it a distinct political face by making it a grand public affair. The festival is observed for ten days during which people place idols of Lord Ganesha in their homes and Public Pandals. On the 11th day, the image is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing, to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual see-off of the Lord in his journey towards his abode in Kailash while taking away with him the misfortunes of all man.


As the brief spring warms the landscape, northern India cuts loose for a day of fun and general hilarity. The festival of Holi is celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March every year. Known as the 'Festival of Colours', originally the festival was celebrated to mark good harvests and fertility of the land. According to Hindu Mythology, the festival also centres around the legend of Prince Prahalad, who was saved from the hands of his demon father by Lord Vishnu himself. His father attempts to kill Prahalad, but fails each time. Finally, the king's sister Holika who is said to be immune to burning, sits with the boy in a huge fire. However, the prince Prahlada emerges unscathed, while his aunt burns to death. Holi commemorates this event from mythology, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation. This exuberant festival is also associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha, and hence, Holi is spread over 16 days in Vrindavan as well as Mathura - the two cities with which Lord Krishna shared a deep affiliation. Apart from the usual fun with coloured powder and water, Holi is marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and a general sense of vitality.


Raksha Bandhan

The annual "festival" of Raksha Bandhan, which is meant to commemorate the abiding ties between siblings of opposite sex, usually takes place in late August, and is marked by a very simple ceremony in which a woman ties a rakhi, around the wrist of her brother(s). The word "raksha"signifies protection, and "bandhan" is an association signifying an enduring sort of bond, and so, when a sister ties a rakhi around the wrist of her brother, she signifies her loving attachment to him. The festival has two famous legends associated with it. The first one centers around Rani Karnawati and Emperor Humayun. During the medieval era, Rajputs were fighting Muslim invasions. Rakhi at that time meant a spiritual binding and protection of sisters was foremost. When Rani Karnawati the widowed queen of the king of Chittor realized that she could in no way defend the invasion of the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, she sent a rakhi to Emperor Humayun. The Emperor touched by the gesture started off with his troops without wasting any time. The oldest reference to the festival of rakhi goes back to 300 B.C. at the time when Alexander invaded India. It is said that the great conqueror, King Alexander of Macedonia was shaken by the fury of the Indian king Puru in his first attempt. Upset by this, Alexander's wife,who had heard of the Rakhi festival, approached King Puru. King Puru accepted her as his sister and when the opportunity came during the war, he refrained from killing Alexander.


Ramzan Id/Id-Ul-Fitr

Coming with the new moon, the festival is a major festival for the Muslims all over the world and is celebrated with great zest in India as well. The festival marks the end of 'Ramadan' - a month when Muslims fast throughout the day and eat only at night Prayers, feasts and family get- together are the major highlights of the celebrations. It was during this month that the holy Koran was revealed. Eid means recurring happiness or festivity. Eid is celebrated in India with much enthusiasm and fervor and Muslims from all strata of life can be seen adorned in beautiful new clothes, visiting the mosques to attend Salatul Eid (Eid prayers). A very important aspect of eid is the charity, which all the Muslims are expected to extend to the needy.The first Eid of the year is known as "Eid Al Fitr". Al Fitr literally means breaking of fast. Thus Eid Al Fitr is celebrated on the first day of Shawaal, the tenth month in the Muslim calendar, to mark the end of a month long fast during the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is also a time of concentrated worship, reading of the Quran, purifying one's behavior,giving charity and doing virtuous deeds.


Christmas

Christmas is celebrated by Christians the world over to mark the birthday of Jesus Christ. This is the most important and the gayest festival of the Christians. In India also it is celebrated as a festival of goodwill and greetings. Dances, songs, Christmas trees, Santa Claus moving through the streets with his glittering colorful robes, glowing long white beard and shaking hand with children in the streets form the main attraction of this festival. Families get together around sparkling Christmas trees from whose branches hang numerous lovely gifts. During Christmas, Christians attend the Midnight Mass, and carols are sung by young as well as by the old. In India,carols are sung in different languages. The festival has now become a reason to celebrate for every one and is celebrated with equal fanfare and zealthroughout the nation.

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