Festivals of India

It seems that nearly every day is a festival day in India. Some of the major festivals that will take place during RIA/CE include:



'Nav' means 'nine' and 'ratri' means 'night'. Thus, 'Navratri' means 'nine nights'. There are many legends attached to the conception of Navratri like all Indian festivals. All of them are related to Goddess Shakti (Hindu Mother Goddess) and her various forms. It is one of the most celebrated festivals of Hindu calendar, it holds special significance for Gujratis and Bengalis and one can see it in the zeal and fervor of the people with which they indulge in the festive activities of the season. In older times, Navratri was associated with the fertility of Mother Earth who feed us as her children.
The first three days of Navratri are dedicated to Goddess Durga (Warrior Goddess) dressed in red and mounted on a lion. Her various incarnations - Kumari, Parvati and Kali - are worshipped during these days. They represent the three different classes of womanhood that include the child, the young girl and the mature woman. Next three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity), dressed in gold and mounted on an owl and finally, last three are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati (Goddess Of Knowledge), dressed in milky white and mounted on a pure white swan. Sweetmeats are prepared for the celebrations. Children and adults dress up in new bright-colored dresses for the night performances.
In some communities, people undergo rigorous fasts during this season that lasts for the nine days of Navratri. The festival culminates on Mahanavami. On this day, Kanya Puja is performed. Nine young girls representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped. Their feet are washed as a mark of respect for the Goddess and then they are offered new clothes as gifts by the worshiper. This ritual is performed in most parts of the country. With commercialization, the festival has moved on to be a social festival rather than merely a religious one. However, nothing dampens the spirit of the devout followers of Goddess Durga, as they sing devotional songs and indulge in the celebrations of Navratri, year by year.



Durga Puga -- begins October 20th


Durga Puja is the one of the most prominent festivals in the country. In Bengal, the Durga Puja is celebrated with great pomp and show. The grandeur of the Puja turns Kolkata into a new city during the last four days of the festival beginning from Maha-Shashti (the sixth day) till the day when the idols are immersed in the rivers, lakes, and seas on the evening of Dashami. This ritual is performed based on the belief that the Mother Goddess descends to the Earth on Shashti, the sixth day of the Pooja and returns to her abode on Dashami, the tenth day of the Pooja. The festival is also known by the names of 'Navratra' and 'Durgostab' in various parts of the country.
The festival of Durga Puja is celebrated for ten days including the last day when the idol of the Goddess is immersed in a sacred water body. The fresh and cool air of the pleasant winters, the clear skies, mildly fragrant Shiuli (a type of flower), the bountiful harvest in the fields and chanting of mantras and shlokas to worship Shakti, all collectively set up the scene for the ten-day long festival of Durga Puja. The preparations of cleaning and beautifying the homes, buying gifts for friends and relatives, and shopping for new clothes for the celebrations are all done and dealt with a good time before the festival. Mouth-watering delicacies are also prepared for the period of festivities.
However, Durga Puja festival is not merely religious in nature. With time, it has acquired the status of the biggest social event of the region as Bengalis use this time to socialize and make big plans for the four days of Durga Puja. Dances and performances are organized, while feasts and music take over the festive spirit of the city. It is also the time for the teens and youths to catch up on the latest fashion trends, designer clothes, trendy footwear, and catchy accessories. Businessmen certainly cash in on the festival offering sales, discounts, free gifts to customers, thereby further jazzing up the spirits of the people. Shopping sprees and traditional Bengali sweets help to loosen up the festive side of the people. In short, Durga Puja is not only for the transition from the dull to a life of fun and gaiety but also to share this joy and happiness with friends and relatives.



Dessehra -- October 24


Dussehra is a popular festival celebrated by Hindus all over India, albeit with different names. It is also known as Vijayadashmi ('Vijay' meaning 'victory' and 'Dashmi meaning 'tenth day), as it is believed that it was on this day that Lord Rama killed the demon-king, Ravana and rescued his abducted wife - Sita. In other words, it signifies the triumph of good over evil.
Bengalis celebrate Dusshera as a part of their main festival - Durga Puja. This day marks the end of Durga Pooja celebrations, the preceding nine days being collectively referred to as 'Navratri'. Vijayadashmi is dedicated to Mother Goddess Shakti, who incarnated in the form of Goddess Durga, a combined manifestation of the divine energies of the Holy Trinity - Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and all the other devatas, when they summoned her to kill the mighty demon known as Mahishasura and freed the world from his terror.
On Vijayadashmi, the idols of Goddess Durga are immersed into water, after the nine days of festivities. It is said that the people of the earth in the eastern state of West Bengal adopted Durga as their daughter and thus, she visits the home of her parents every year, during the last four days of Navratri, along with her sons Ganesha and Kartikeya, and daughters Lakshmi and Saraswati. She finally leaves for her husband's place on Vijayadashmi. Similar customs are seen in Orissa and Assam.
Although Dussehra is celebrated in different ways across India, the motive remains the same - to spread good cheer and celebrate the victory of good over the evil.



Karwa Chauth -- November 2


Karwa Chauth is celebrated mostly by the married women in North India. On this day, they observe a fast, praying for the long life, well being and prosperity of their husband. They break their fast in the evening, after moonrise. On this sacred festival, people come together and socialize with friends and family, exchange gifts and share home-cooked meals. It also provides an opportunity to all married women, to get close to their in-laws. Karwa Chauth is the festival which reflects joy, splendor, brightness and happiness of a married life.
The festival of Karva Chauth is symbolic of the unflagging loyalty of a wife towards her husband. Married women, old and young, begin their fast on the day of Karva Chauth, well before sunrise (around 4 am), and have food and water only after spotting the moon, which generally rises at about 8.30 p.m. The women strictly adhere to the guidelines laid down for the fast and give up food and water for one complete day.
In spite of being one of the toughest fasts, karva chauth is the most awaited festival of the year and is welcomed by married woman with great fervor. For a newly-wed woman, karva chauth is particularly special, as they get decked up in their bridal lehnga-choli. The things that symbolize and reflect the marital status of a woman, such as jewelry, bangles, henna, bindi, lehnga choli and many other traditional gifts are in high demand on this special occasion. Usually, women receive beautiful gifts from their husbands and relatives on this day, as a gesture of their love and care.



Dhanteras -- November 11


People worship Lord Yamaraj, the God of death, on this day and light a 'Yama-Diya' in the night to offer prayers to him to bless them with prosperity, well being and protection. They also purchase a new utensil, silver or gold coin or some other precious metal as a sign of good luck on the day of Dhanteras



Diwali -- November 13


Diwali is celebrated all over India with equal enthusiasm and zeal. The word 'Diwali' is the abbreviation of the Sanskrit word 'Deepavali', which means 'rows of lights'. One of the major Hindu festivals, it is celebrated to commemorate the victory of good over the evil, when Lord Rama defeated Ravana and rescued his wife Sita from his custody. It is predominantly a five-day festival, with a number of customs and rituals followed during each day. People prepare themselves for the festival weeks ahead by cleaning and decorating their premises.
Celebrated with vigor and gaiety by people of every religion, the magical effect of Diwali creates an atmosphere of joy and festivity. Innumerable lamps are lit on the roofs and windowsills of the houses, thus, giving a divine look to the whole scenario. It is said that Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth, roams the earth on this day and enters the house that is pure, clean and brightly illuminated. Therefore, people, before exchanging gifts and bursting crackers, offer prayers to the deity.
Young and old, men and women, all dress up in new clothes on this day to illuminate their home with diyas. The deities of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha are worshipped on Diwali, after which the people share sweets and gifts with their relatives and friends. Fireworks, which attract the kids the most, form the highlight of the festival. The festive mood extends to the couple of days following the main day of the festival. Deepawali symbolizes the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. It is the celebration of victory of good over evil - and the glory of light.



Kali Puja -- November 13


On the day of Deepawali, and the night, when the whole of India is immersed deep in the festive spirit and worshipping goddess Laxmi, another festival and celebrations for it take place with as much spirit and joy. This festival is Kali Puja. Dedicated to the worship of the first of the ten incarnations of the goddess Durga, Kali, the festival is celebrated on the new moon night of Kartik Amavasya in the Hindu month of Ashwin, according to the Bengali calendar.
The puja begins late in the night, and goes on through the night till dawn with meditation and chanting of mantras. Offerings of red hibiscus flowers, sweets, sweetmeats, and flowers are made to the Goddess. And on the night, people decorate their homes with lights and candles. Firecrackers, magic shows, and theatre also common on the Kali Puja.
Despite her fearful appearance, the relationship that devotes share with her is that of a loving and caring mother. She is considered a manifestation of supreme power; the deity of time and eternity. It's believed that worshipping her cuts down all impurities, consumes all inequity and the darkness within the devotees. Moreover, with her eternal blessings, all the sorrow, misfortunes, and sufferings are wiped clean. It is also believed that worshipping her destroys all evil, both, that lies inside and outside of her devotees.



Govardhan Puja -- November 14


The fourth day of Diwali celebrations is 'Padwa' or 'Varshapratipada'. In the North India, it is called as Govardhan Puja. This pooja is performed with great zeal and enthusiasm and in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In this pooja, there is a tradition of building cow dung hillocks, which symbolize the Mount Govardhan, the mountain which was once lifted by Lord Krishna. After making such hillocks people decorate them with flowers and then worship them. They move in a circle all round the cow dung hillocks and offer prayers to Lord Govardhan. Read on this article to explore more about the Govardhan Puja.



Children’s Day


Children's Day is to celebrate "childhood". On Children’s Day tribute is payed to all children in the world. India's first prime minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, was born on November 14. After his death in 1963, his birthday has been celebrated as Children's Day in India. Children's Day is not just a day to let the future generation have its say. It is a day to remember a leader who, in his quiet but determined way, laid the foundation to convert a nascent nation into a world power.
Apart from being known for his skills as a statesman, Nehru was also immensely fond of children. The more popular and famous of Nehru's pictures show him with children. In all the photographs, Nehru's joy at being with children is apparent. When he is not sharing pleasantries with them, the expression of intense concentration as he listens to them reveals his commitment and attitude to children. Children to Nehru were little adults in the making. Nehru, to children, is never the Indian political leader and prime minister. He is always Chacha Nehru - Nehru Uncle.
Children's Day is celebrated all over India, especially at the school level. There are also community activities with stress on children's involvement. The story also goes that he started to wear a rose on his jacket after a child pinned one on it. Children's Day is literally that. It is the day when children all over the country are pampered with goodies. From the schoolchild's point of view, the best thing perhaps is that it is a special day at school - they need not wear uniforms and are given sweets.



Bhai Duj -- November 15


Diwali, the vibrant festival of lights, brings with it a chance to revive relationships. The fifth day of the five-day festival is especially dedicated to honor the unique bond between brother and sister. Known as Bhai Dooj or Bhaiya Duj, it falls on the second day after Diwali, that is, on 'Shukla Paksha Dwitiya' in the Hindi month of 'Kartik'. Thus, Bhai Duj is the festival that marks the end of Diwali celebrations. This festival is popular in different regions with different names, such as 'Bhai-Dooj' in north India, 'Bhav-Bij' in Maharashtra, 'Bhai-Phota' in Bengal and 'Bhai-Teeka' in Nepal.



Muharram begins -- November 15


Muharram is observed by the Muslim community across the world in commemoration of the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammed's grandson, Imam Hussain along with his family and followers, who were killed in the Battle of Karbala in AD 680. The Prophet's son-in-law Ali, and Ali's elder son Hassan, are also remembered during this period as having suffered and died for righteous causes. Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar which marks the beginning of the new Islamic year. It is also one of the four months wherein fighting is strictly prohibited as the word Muharram has been derived from ‘haram’ which means “forbidden”.



Chhath Puja -- November 17 - 20


Muharram is observed by the Muslim community across the world in commemoration of the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammed's grandson, Imam Hussain along with his family and followers, who were killed in the Battle of Karbala in AD 680. The Prophet's son-in-law Ali, and Ali's elder son Hassan, are also remembered during this period as having suffered and died for righteous causes. Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar which marks the beginning of the new Islamic year. It is also one of the four months wherein fighting is strictly prohibited as the word Muharram has been derived from ‘haram’ which means “forbidden”.