Indians love celebrating! Every little occasion from the harvesting of crops, welcoming the spring or rain, to seeing the full moon lends itself to joyous celebrations splashed with colors, music, folk dances and songs. Even the birthdays of divine beings are celebrated thus. The homes are neatly decorated, new dresses are worn, prayers offered to Gods, and lot of sweets are cooked.
Most of these festivals are common to most part of India however they may be known by different names in different parts of the country. Being a melting pot of religions, India celebrates a public holiday for festivals of almost all the major religions of the world.
Makar Sankranti/ Pongal: This harvest festivals are predominantly celebrated in the southern part of India. In Gujarat, Makar Sankranti is celebrated by the flying of kites.
Republic Day: Celebrating the anniversary of India’s establishment as a Republic 26th January 1950, all the state capitals resound with the beating of drums and parading of the army.
Vasant Panchami: This is a festival in honor of Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and learning.
Maha Shivaratri: This is a day of fasting dedicated to Lord Shiva, the third deity of the Hindu trinity.
Holi: This is one of the most exuberant and colorful of all festivals.
Jamshed-i Navroz: is the New Year’s Day for the Parsi community who adhere to the Falsi calendar and celebrate with feasting.
Mahavir Jayanti: is a major Jain festival and commemorates the birth anniversary of Mahavira, the 24th and last Jain Tirthankar.
Ram Navami: is the day of Rama’s birth and is celebrated as a day of great piety, with the chanting of prayers and the singing of ballads.
Baisakhi: The solar new year’s day is observed on this day throughout northern India and Tamil Nadu.
Easter and Good Friday: These Christian festivals are also celebrated with great enthusiasm in India.
Id-ul-Fitr or Ramazan Id: is a day of feasting and rejoicing as it marks the end of the end of Ramazan, the Muslim fasting.
May – June:
Buddha Purnimaa: The Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and his reaching nirvana are all celebrated on this day.
Festival of Chariot: Lord Jagannath’s great temple chariot makes its stately journey from his temple in Puri, Orissa.
Naga Panchami: This festival is dedicated to Ananata, the serpent whose coils Lord Vishnu rests between universes.
Raksha Bandhan: is an integral part of the Hindu family structure whereby a woman ties a rakhi or decorative thread on the wrist of her brother to remind him to protect her if the need arises.
Independence Day: The anniversary of India’s independence commemorates the day on August 15th. It is celebrated all over the country with meetings and flag-hosting ceremonies.
Janamashtami: The birth of lord Krishna, the eighth incarnation on earth of Lord Vishnu, is celebrated throughout India.
Id-ul-Zuha or Bakri Id: celebrates the sacrifice of Hazrat Ibrahim, who willingly agreed to kill his son at the behest of God.
Onam: Onam is celebrated Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Ganesh Chaturthi: This festival is dedicated to the popular elephant headed God, Ganesha. Pune, Madras, and Bombay are the important centers of celebration.
Ladakh Festival: Ladakh (in the mighty Himalayas) is a blend of various cultures- Central Asian, Tibetan, Northern India etc. Sports (polo and archery), its folk dances and songs, its age-old social and cultural ceremonies, its art and handicrafts, all come alive in a colorful kaleidoscope.
September – October:
Navaratri/ Dussehra/Durga Pooja: Navaratri, the Festival of Nine Nights, is celebrated in honor of goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. The tenth day, Dussehra, commemorates the victory of Rama, of the epic Ramayana, over Ravana.
Diwali or Deepawali: This is perhaps the happiest of Hindu festivals. Countless number of lamps are lighted at night, giving the impression that the stars have descended on earth.
Karva Chauth: The festival and fast of Karva Chauth is considered an important and auspicious day for married women. A married woman celebrates this day with great fervor and dedication, by observing a fast and praying for the long life of her husband.
Gandhi Jayanthi: A solemn celebration marking the birth date of Gandhiji, the father of the nation.
Gurpurab: The birth anniversaries of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism (October-November), and of Guru Gobind Singh, the last Guru (December-January)
Govardhan Pooja: A Hindu festival dedicated to the holiest of animals for the Hindus, the cow.
Guru Nanak Jayanthi: is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion.
Christmas is widely celebrated all over India and is especially interesting in Goa and Kerala, where some of the local culture has been absorbed into the festivities.
Special Local Festivals:
In addition to the festivals celebrated all over the country, there are local ones that are celebrations of special events like the New year, harvest, birthdays of saints, etc. Some are temple festivals, religious events accompanied by music, dance, and gaiety. In many temples, images are taken in procession in chariots pulled through the street by devotees. Most temple festivals are accompanied by village fairs, cattle, camel, or elephant fairs, and last three days to a month.
Alleppey Boat Races: Kerala’s backwaters are the picturesque setting for the annual snake-boat races held in the second week of August.
Pushkar Fair: The largest camel trading fair in the world is held in this small town in Rajasthan, which manages to attract world attention during this three day period.
Nagaur Fair: A major camel & cattle trading fair held in Nagaur, Rajasthan. This is a trading event with cattle & camels being sold or bought.
Kumbh Mela: Traditionally celebrated every 12 years, it is commemorated annually, usually on the banks of the Ganga & other holy rivers where large numbers of sadhus (holy men) gather.
Surajkund Mela: Held in the month of February in Surajkund, Haryana, it is the annual venue of India’s finest handlooms and handicraft fair where the heritage & skill of the Indian craft world is highlighted.
The Sonepur Fair: This fair held in Sonepur, Bihar, at the site dating back to the 6th Century BC, has become the venue for one of Asia’s largest cattle fair.
Sarkhej Fair: The Sarkhej Fair, the most important Muslim fair, is held at Sarkhej on the southern outskirts of Ahmedabad in Gujarat.
Khajuraho Fairs: Every month an Amavasya festival is held when a bazaar (haat) is put up where one can purchase various kinds of consumer items. The entertainment during these festivals includes tribal dances and puppet shows. People take holy dip in the tank and worship at the Matangeshwar temple. The Khajuraho Dance Festival, held in open-air theatre every year during March has renowned classical dancers perform every evening for a week. This festival of music and dance is the most important cultural event of India.