To focus on the festivals celebrated in India. They have National, Religious, Social, Local festivals.
Onam is the most important harvest festival of Kerala a state of India and is an attraction for thousands of people within and outside the state. Ranging from four days to ten days, all the activities during this season are cantered around worshipping, music, dances, sports, boat races and good food. It is celebrated in the Malayalam month Chingam (ending of August and beginning of September.
Onam is a harvest festival, and celebrates the bounty of nature after a year of hard labour. Elaborate procession of Trichur and spectacular snake boat races mark the merry-making nature of the festival. Women dress up in new saris and heavy jewellery and make elaborate and intricate designs of 'rangolis' (with coloured rice paste) and 'pookkalam' (with flowers) in front of their homes.
Onam is a celebration of Ten days. People put flower mats in front of their houses, to welcome the King Mahabali.
There will be competition for the laying of flower mats; Keralites all over the world will be celebrating these ten days with pomp and gaiety. They will wear new dresses, will be visiting almost all temples which they can, they will be performing lot of dances like Thiruvathira kali Thumbi Tullal kathakali etc. to name a few and the most important thing is the grant lunch they will be having on the Thiuruvonam day. Which is also called the Fourth Onam.
Whatever may happen they will not miss the Grant lunch. There is a saying in Malayalam that "Kanam Vittu Onam Unnanam" which means, "We should have the Thiruonam lunch even if we have to sell all our properties". They give that much importance to the lunch on the Thiruonam day.
A long time ago, an Asura (demon) king called Mahabali ruled Kerala. He was a wise, benevolent and judicious ruler and beloved of his subjects. Soon his fame as an able king began to spread far and wide, but when he extended his rule to the heavens and the netherworld, the gods felt challenged and began to fear his growing powers.
Presuming that he might become over-powerful, Aditi, the mother of Devas pleaded with Lord Vishnu to curtail Mahabali's powers.
Vishnu transformed himself into a dwarf called Vamana and approached Mahabali while he was performing a yajna and asked for alms. Pleased with the dwarf Brahmin’s wisdom, Mahabali granted him a wish.
The Emperor's preceptor, Sukracharya warned him against making the gift, for he realized that the seeker was no ordinary person. But the Emperor's kingly ego was boosted to think that God had asked him for a favour. So he firmly declared that there is no greater sin than going back on one's promise. He kept his word. The Vamana asked for a simple gift — three pices of land — and the king agreed to it.
Vishnu in the guise of Vamana then increased his stature and with the first step covered the sky, blotting out the stars, and with the second, straddled the netherworld. Realising that Vamana's third step will destroy the earth; Mahabali offered his head as the last step.
Vishnu's fatal third step pushed him to the netherworld, but before banishing him to the underworld Vishnu granted him a boon. Since he was attached to his kingdom and his people, he was allowed to return once a year from exile.
Onam is the celebration that marks the homecoming of King Mahabali. It is the day when a grateful Kerala pays a glorious tribute to the memory of this benign king who gave his all for his subjects.
Hinduism as a religion is many-sided yet bound by a common search for Truth and to Hindus it means a way of life and a fellowship of faiths. With the advent of the Aryans, it originated as a simple form of worship of the forces of Nature, drawing in its system action in social organizations, local cults, deities’ diverse beliefs and modes of worship.
Nag-Panchami is an important all-India festival and is celebrated on the fifth day of the moonlit-fortnight in the month of Shravan (July /August). This is the time when serpents invariably come out of their holes that get inundated with rain-water to seek shelter in gardens and many times in houses. As such they pose a great danger to man.
Maybe therefore, snakes are worshiped on this day. Right from the times when mankind started acquiring some sort of culture, Sun and Snake have been invoked with prayers and ritual worship in most of the countries. In India even before the Vedic times, the tradition of snake-worship was in vogue.
Sravani is an ancient Vedic festival traditionally associated with the Brahmins on which day they change their sacred thread. Both Raksha Bandhan and Sravani are celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Shravan (August).
Rakshabandhan or Rakhi which is celebrated on a full moon day in the month of Sravan (August) is a day when brothers and sisters reaffirm their bonds of affection.
It is usually a festival of the Hindus though today people from different religions participate as well. Sisters tie colourful threads or rakhis on their brother's wrists. The brothers in turn promise to protect their sisters and give them gifts.
Around mid-August, on Shravan Purnima, Hindus all over celebrate Raksha Bandhan. "Raksha" means protection, "bandhan" means bound or binding. The festival is also known as Balev. Raksha Bandhan is celebrated in different forms in different areas and it is also known by the names like rakhi, rakhri and saluno.
Sisters tie a special band on their brothers' wrist on the day of Rakhi as a mark of affection. This thread, which pulsates with sisterly love and sublime sentiments, is rightly called the 'Rakhi'.
It is a way of telling your brother that you will never forget how he teased you about everything, yet fought with those who spoke a single word against you and how you bid him farewell with a smile, and only he saw those tear drops in your eyes.
DEEPAVALI-FESTIVAL OF LIGHT
Deepawali or Diwali, the most pan-Indian of all Hindu festivals, is a festival of lights symbolising the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness.
The word 'Deepawali' literally means rows of diyas (clay lamps). A family festival, it is celebrated 20 days after Dussehra, on the 13th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Asvin (October-November)
Continuing the story of Rama, this festival commemorates Lord Rama's return to his kingdom Ayodhya after completing his 14-year exile.
Twinkling oil lamps or diyas light up every home and firework displays are common all across the country. The Goddess Lakshmi (consort of Vishnu), who is the symbol of wealth and prosperity, is also worshipped on this day.
Dussehra (tenth day) is one of the significant Hindu festivals, celebrated with much joie de vivre in the entire country. The occasion marks the triumph of Lord Rama over the demon king, Ravana, the victory of good over evil.
Brilliantly decorated tableaux and processions depicting various facets of Rama's life are taken out. On the tenth day, the Vijayadasmi day, colossal effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnad are placed in vast open spaces. Rama, accompanied by his consort Sita and his brother Lakshmana, arrive and shoot arrows of fire at these effigies, which are stuffed with explosive material. The result is a deafening blast, enhanced by the shouts of merriment and triumph from the spectators.
It is spring time in India, flowers and fields are in bloom and the country goes wild with people running on the streets and smearing each other with brightly hued powders and coloured water. This is the festival of Holi, celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March every year.
Originally Holi is a festival to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land. There are many legends concerning the origin of this spring festival. The most popular among these concerns Prince Prahlad, the god-fearing son of the evil King Hiranyakasipu. Prahlad did not give up worshipping the god Vishnu in spite of fearful persecution by his father and his demon aunt Holika, who was deputed by her brother to kill young Prahlad.
Ultimately, when Holika, who was immune to death by fire, took Prahlad and entered a blazing furnace built for his destruction, it was the wicked Holika who was burnt to ashes by divine intervention, while Prahlad came out unscathed.
Before she died, she realised her follies and begged the boy's forgiveness. As his gesture of forgiveness, Prahlad deemed that her name would be remembered at least one day in the year.
JANMASHTAMI-BIRTH DAY OF LORD KRISHNA
Lord Vishnu is invoked in his human incarnation as Krishna on his birth anniversary in the festival of Janmashtami. The temples of Vrindavan witness an extravagant and colourful celebration on this occasion. Raslila is performed to recreate incidents from the life of Krishna and to commemorate his love for Radha. The image of the infant Krishna is bathed at midnight and is placed in a cradle. Devotional songs and dances mark the celebration of this festive occasion all over Northern India.
In Maharashtra, Janmashtami witnesses the exuberant enactment of the god's childhood endeavours to steal butter and curd from earthen pots beyond his reach. A matka or pot containing these is suspended high above the ground and groups of young men and children form human pyramids to try and reach the pot and eventually break it.
Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati is widely worshipped as the munificent god of wisdom. Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival in his honour and is celebrated in the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Started by Chhattrapati Shivaji, the great Maratha ruler, to disseminate culture and nationalism, the festival was given a new impetus by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak to spread the message of freedom struggle and to defy the British who had banned public assemblies. The festival infused the Indians with a sense of unity and revived their patriotic spirit.
To appreciate this occasion, one must go to Mumbai where preparations begin months in advance. Images of Ganesha are installed within homes as well as in places of assembly. Elaborate arrangements are made for lighting and decoration and Ganesha is fervently worshipped for about seven to ten days.
On the day of the Chaturthi, the last of the days dedicated to the elephant-headed god, thousands of processions converge on the beaches of Mumbai to immerse the holy idols in the sea. This immersion is accompanied by drumbeats, devotional songs and dancing.
Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti, the birth anniversary of the Buddha, is widely celebrated, on a full moon night in April/May. The Buddha was born on the full-moon day in the month of Vaisakh in 563 BC. He achieved enlightenment as well as nirvana on the same date.
It is also believed that Yashodara, the Buddha's wife, his charioteer Channa and even his horse Kantaka were born on the same day. On this day, Buddhists offer prayers in their temples. Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh and Bodh Gaya in Bihar are the main centres of celebration.
Makar Sankranti marks the commencement of the sun's journey to the Northern Hemisphere (Makara raasi), signifying the onset of Uttarayana Punyakalam, and is a day of celebration all over the country. The day begins with people taking holy dips in the waters and worshipping thesSun.
Traditionally, this period is considered an auspicious time and the veteran Bhishma of Mahabharata chose to die during this period. Bhishma fell to the arrows of Arjuna. With his boon to choose the time of his death, he waited on a bed of arrows to depart from this world only during this period. It is believed that those who die in this period have no rebirth.
For the people in the Indo Gangetic plain, the day begins with taking dips in the Ganga and offering water to the Sun God. The dip is said to purify the self and bestow punya. Special puja is offered as a thanksgiving for good harvest. According to folklore, girls who take the holy dip get handsome husbands and boys get beautiful brides.
Til and rice are two important ingredients of this festival. In the rice-eating belt of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, people have a special rice-centric meal on this day. Also known as Gangasagar Mela, on this day people come from all over India for a ceremonial cleansing in the river Hooghly, near Kolkata.
In Maharashtra, when two persons greet each other on this festive day, they exchange a few grains of multi-coloured sugar and fried til mixed with molasses and say "til gud ghya, god god bola" (henceforth, let there be only friendship and good thoughts between us).
In Gujarat, the pandits consider Sankranti an auspicious day to grant scholarships and certificates of merit to students who have successfully completed their studies in philosophy. In a Hindu household, new utensils are purchased and used for the first time. Brightly coloured kites dot the skies on this day.
In Karnataka, men, women and children attired in colourful tunics visit friends and relatives and exchange pieces of sugarcane, a mixture of fried til, molasses, pieces of dry coconut, peanuts and fried gram. The significance of this exchange is that sweetness should prevail in all the dealings. As part of the festival, cows and bulls are given a wash and the horns are painted with bright colours and decorated with garland, and are taken in a procession in the village to the accompaniment of pipes and drums. In the night a bonfire is lit and the animals are made to jump over the fire.
It is a big event for the Tamils and the people of Andhra Pradesh. The Telugus like to call it 'Pedda Panduga', meaning big festival. The whole event lasts for four days, the first day Bhogi, the second day Sankranti, the third day Kanuma and the fourth day, Mukkanuma.
One month preceding Sankranti is called Dhanurmasam and is also an auspicious period. People wake up early, take bath and go around the streets singing devotional songs. Houses are whitewashed and farmers clean their warehouses. Colourful rangoli (muggulu) are drawn in the front yards of every house during this month. These artistic floral designs are drawn on the floor with rice flour or fine powder from limestone. These patterns are decorated with marigold placed on cow dung balls. Colourfully dressed young girls go round them singing songs.
The main Jain festival of the year is Mahavir Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Mahavira, the founder of Jainism.
According to the Digambara school of Jainism, Lord Mahavira was born in the year 615 BC, but the Swetambaras believe that he was born in 599 BC. Both sects however agree that he was the son of Siddhartha and Trisala. Legend has it that he was conceived by Devananda, wife of a Brahmin named Rishabhdeva. It is believed that the gods, ingeniously, transferred the embryo to the womb of Trisala. It is said that the expectant mother had sixteen auspicious dreams before the child was born (only 14 according to the Swetambaras). Astrologers intepreting these dreams, stated that the child would be either an emperor or a Teerthankara.
This religious event is largely observed by the Jains by visiting sacred sites and worshipping the Teerthankara. The event holds special significance in Gujarat and Rajasthan due to the ancient shrines at Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat. Mahavir Jayanti is also celebrated at Parasnath Temple in Kolkata and at Pawapuri in Bihar.
Muharram is not a festival in the celebratory sense as it mourns the Karbala tragedy when Imam Husain, grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was martyred in the early days of Islamic history. It is observed in different ways in various parts of India.
Profusely decorated taziyas (bamboo and paper replicas of the martyr's tomb), embellished with gilt and mica are carried through city streets. Mourners beat their breasts lamenting and grieving over the murder, accompanied by drumbeats. Wrestlers and dancers enact scenes depicting the battle at Karbala and at each step young men beat their breasts crying "Husain! Husain!" in collective sorrow.
This tragedy is observed with great passion in Lucknow, in particular, as it is the centre of Shia culture and religious activities, and accordingly a large number of taziyas and the alams (standards of Hazrat Imam Hussain's army) are taken out all over the city. In places other than Lucknow, the taziyas are taken out and buried in the local burial ground known as the Karbala.
Besides Hinduism, India is also the home of innumerable other faiths and the religious and cultural diversity of this nation is manifested in the large number of non-Hindu festivals
The sizeable Muslim communities have their Ids in common with Muslims across the world. Id-ul-Fitr, Id-ul-Zuha and Id-i-Milad are the three festive occasions widely celebrated by Muslims in India.
Id is celebrated with great enthusiasm all over the country, and one can see Muslims of all age groups and from all stratas of society attired in new clothes, visiting mosques to offer namaaz.
The tombs of many Sufi saints attract devotees of all religious persuasions, especially during the urs or death anniversaries. The best known urs are centred at tombs in towns like Ajmer, Delhi, Manakpur, Nagore and Dongri.
Id-ul-Fitr (Ramzan Id)
Coming with the new moon, this festival marks the end of Ramzan, the ninth month of the Muslim year. It was during this month that the holy Koran was revealed. Muslims keep a fast every day during this month and on the completion of the period, which is decided by the appearance of the new moon, Id-ul-Fitr is celebrated with great eclat. Prayers are offered in mosques and Idgahs and elaborate festivities are held.
Christians in India celebrate their festivals broadly on the pattern adopted worldwide. However, some influence of local Indian tradition is evident among Syrian Christians who use elephants, umbrellas and traditional music as accessories to their festivities and celebrations. Christmas is a major event in all Indian Christian households and one can see Catholic Goa come to life at this time of the year.
The Carnival, preceding lent, is the most important event at Goa. Similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it is an extravagantly colourful occasion. A carnival parade, full of colour and zest, it is virtually a celebration of life itself.
On Easter, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as it is told in the Bible. This holy day celebrates the triumph of life over death.
Historically, the resurrection of Christ occurred at the time of the Jewish feast of Passover (called "Pesach" in Hebrew). In the early years of Christianity, Jewish Christians observed resurrection and Passover together on the 14th day of Nisan, the Jewish month roughly corresponding with April. However, Gentile Christians celebrated the resurrection every Sunday with a special emphasis on the Sunday closest to Nisan 14. To settle this difference, at the Nicene Council in A.D. 325, churchmen fixed the date of Easter on the first Sunday following the Paschal full moon. This is the first full moon after the vernal equinox, 21 March. This system is still followed today. Therefore, Easter Sunday moves between 22 March and 25 April.
The term "Easter" was first used when Christianity was introduced by the Saxons. Prior to this time the Saxons had held an annual feast in honour of the ancient Teutonic goddess of spring, Eostre. The name was transferred to the Christian observance of Christ's resurrection. Easter is universally a joyous, happy day.
Thanks to Indian High Commission for the materials-This information is used for the students to know about the festivals of India.
Pongal is regarded as a harvest festival of South India. It is one of the most important and popular Hindu festivals.
The four-day long harvest festival of Tamil Nadu,(South India) Pongal is all about thanksgiving to nature and takes its name from the Tamil word meaning "to boil" and is held in the month of Thai (January-February) it is celebrated from January 13 to 16 every year. The festival marks a period of plenty, peace and happiness. While each of its days has a special religious significance, most urban people celebrate second day as the main festival.
Pongal is the only festival of Hindu that follows a solar calendar.
On the first day known as Bhogi, people clean out their homes thoroughly and in the evening, all unwanted goods are lit in a bonfire.
The second day is Perum Pongal, the most important. It is also called Surya Pongal because people worship Surya, the Sun God and his consorts, Chaya and Samgnya. Women decorate the central courtyard of their homes with beautiful kolams, done with rice flour and bordered with red clay.
The third day, Mattu Pongal, is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands. Jallikattu, a violent taming the bull contest, marks this day. On the last day, Kanum Pongal, people go out to picnic. During the Pongal season, people eat sugar canes and decorate the houses with Kolam. 'Ponga' literally means overflowing and is named so because of the tradition of cooking the new rice in pots until they overflow, which is symbolic of abundance and prosperity.
The festival of Pongal is mainly associated with the rural people. People wish each other on this day. Pongal wishes are exchanged between family and friends, and there are celebrations within the family. As one stand on the threshold of the harvest season, everyone exchange Pongal wishes, hoping that it brings the harbinger of good luck, good fortune and good cheer. The festival of Pongal is held dear particularly by the farming community as it marks the end of harvesting season.
A Festival For The People, By The People And With The People
Considered to be a people's festival, the 'Pooram' is held at the Thekkinkadu Maidan outside the Vadakkunathan Temple in the Malayali month of Medam (April-May).
Beautifully caparisoned elephants in two processions representing the Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu temples, compete to create impressive sights and sounds. The celebration eventuates in the early hours of the dawn and continues till the break of the next day.
Each group is allowed to perform with a maximum of fifteen elephants and extensive efforts are made by each party to insure the best elephants of South India and the most colourful and artistic cloaks, several kinds of which are raised on the elephants during the display.
The commissioning of elephants and parasols is done while maintaining an utmost secrecy by each party to surpass the other. The mammoths decorated with gold ornaments, each ridden with three priests, are a splendid sight to behold.
Tourists can crowd at the maidan with their loved ones and see the elephants stand still, ears flapping nonchalantly. Soon a magnificent work of fireplay will enchant you as hundreds of cylindrical drums of the Chenda Melam orchestra rise to a deafning crescendo.
The procession of the Thiruvambadi Pooram to the grounds of Vadakkunnatha Temple and back is not only fascinating, but much more than that. Listen to the magical euphony of the 'Panchavadyam', a combination of five percussion and wind instruments, a joy to the ears that is to be felt to be described. The revelry continues all night with the Vadakkunathan Temple act as a backdrop in a blaze of coloured lights.
Origin and Significance, The fast of Karva Chauth is of particular importance to Hindu women as they believe it ensures the well-being, prosperity and longevity of their husbands. The origin of this festival was based on a very sweet and noble idea. Though this idea has lost its true sense as today the whole outlook of this festival has changed.
Long time back, girls used to get married at a very early stage, and had to go and live with their in-laws in other villages. If she had any problems with her husband or in-laws, she would have no one to talk to or seek support from. Her own parents and relatives would be quite far and unreachable. There used to be no telephones, buses and trains long ago.
Thus the custom started that, at the time of marriage, when bride would reach her in-laws, she would befriend another woman there who would be her friend or sister for life. It would be like god-friends or god-sisters. Their friendship would be sanctified through a small Hindu ceremony right during the marriage. Once the bride and this woman had become god-friends or god-sisters, they would remain so all their lives and recognize the relation as such. They would also treat each other like real sisters.
During any difficulty later in life, involving even the husband or in-laws, these women would be able to confidently talk or seek help from each other. Thus Karva Chauth started as a festival to celebrate this friendship (relationship) between the once-brides and their god-friends (god-sisters). Praying and fasting for the sake of husband came later and is secondary. It was probably added, along with other mythical tales, to enhance the festival. In any case, husband would always be associated with this festival, because the day of starting this holy friendship between two god-sisters was essentially the day of bride's marriage to him. Thus praying and fasting for him by his wife during a celebration of her relationship with the god-friend would be quite logical.
Thus, originally Karva Chauth is once a year festival to renew and celebrate the relationship between god-friends (god-sisters). It had a tremendous social and cultural significance once when world lacked the ways to communicate and move around easily.
August Bank Holiday: an English summer celebration
Until 1871, workers in England had very few holidays. Only Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day and Good Friday. It was impossible for ordinary people to move outside their local area. however, the development of the railway system between 1830 and 1850 and the introduction of Bank Holidays in 1871 allowed almost everyone to travel to the seaside on excursion trains just for the day.
The Bank Holiday in August was very important because the weather would usually be sunny and hot. Seaside towns like Blackpool, Scarborough, Clacton, Southend and Margate became important and grew bigger.
Very few people went abroad in the Victorian period.The Victorian entrepreneurs developed the seaside towns with piers and theatres and band stands.
At Blackpool, the famous tower was built. The Victorians loved to collect things on the beach, shells, seaweed, pretty rocks which they took home as souvenirs. They began to send postcards to their friends and relatives.