by Akshay Chugh
Image Source : Google.com
Being home to scores of festivals of all religions, any visit to India is incomplete without indulging yourself in the fun and fervor which are a trademark of all Indian festivals. Based on mythology and refined through the centuries of tradition, the method of celebration for each festival may differ across the different parts of the country but the same threads of morality, community, family and homecoming are woven across the fabric of all festivals of the country.
Below is the list of the 5 most unmissable festivals to complete your India visit:
1. Holi : The festival of colors represents India at its best. The night before the festival, people light huge bonfires to mark the death of Holika by a fire lit by her own hands (Holika Dahan). Holika was the sister of the evil king Kansa who commanded everyone in his kingdom to worship him as God. This command was defied by his own son Prince Prahlad who was a supreme devotee of Lord Vishnu. Incensed by his defiance and piety, the king commanded his sister who had been granted a boon of immunity from fire to take his son’s life which Holika complied by taking the prince on her lap and setting herself ablaze. However, in a twist of events, Holika herself burns to death and the Prince’s life is saved. Thus, Holi symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
Image Source :aajtak.intoday.in
The day of the festival (known as Dhulandi), people of all communities and walks of life gather together to play with dry and wet colors (and some water balloons!). Holi is a popular attraction for tourists and has become popular in the west thanks to the band Coldplay depicting it in one of its videos.
When –Holi is generally celebrated in the month of March, the exact date is arrived at through the Hindu calendar to mark the beginning of spring.
Where – Holi is celebrated all over the country but with especially more fervor in North India especially in the cities of Mathura and Vrindavan in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
2. Diwali : Another popular festival amongst tourists, Diwali is celebrated throughout the country to celebrate the homecoming of Lord Ram after 14 years in exile. As the homecoming fell on a new moon night, the people of Lord Ram’s kingdom lit lamps all over the path to guide his way home in the darkness. Thus, Diwali came to be known as the festival of lights.
Image Source : 1234diwali.com
The modern-day avatar of this festival is highlighted by the use of firecrackers. The essence of this festival remains family and homecoming. Households begin preparation for the festival weeks in advance by cleaning and decorating the house with lights and lamps, accompanied by preparation of delicacies.
When–Diwali falls between the months of October and November.
Where –It is celebrated all over the country.
3. Dussehra / Vijayadashmi : This festival celebrates the victory of good over evil – the victory of Lord Ram over the demon king Ravana and of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura and the victory of man’s good nature over his sins and desires.
It is celebrated differently in the northern and the eastern parts of the country. In the northern parts, it is celebrated as Dussehra which is marked by burning of effigies of Ravana and is preceded by dramatic enactment of the story of Lord Ram (Ramayana). In the eastern parts, it marks the end of Navratri (read below).
When –Dussehra falls between the months of September and October.
Where –Celebrated with great fervor in northern and eastern states of the country.
4. Navaratri/ DurgaPuja : The festival of 9 nights is centered around worshiping the different form of Goddess Durga which on the 10th night culminates into Durga Puja which celebrates the victory of the goddess over the demon Mahishasura.
Image Source: indianexpress.com
Every night a different form of the Goddess is worshiped and the prayers go late into the night. It is celebrated very differently in the different parts of the country – where the eastern states celebrate with setting up of temporary stages (Pandal) all over the city while the western state of Gujarat celebrates through folk dances of Garba and Dandiya.
When – In the month of September usually.
Where – Celebrated with great zeal in the state of West Bengal.
5. Ganesh Chaturthi: It is a 10-day festival to mark the birth of Lord Ganesha, one of the most revered Gods in Hindu mythology. Lord Ganesha is celebrated as the God of auspicious beginnings, prosperity and wisdom.
Image Source : Google.com
During this festival, idols of Lord Ganesh ranging from a few inches to 20-feet are installed in households and community sites and daily prayers are offered to the idols in the mornings and evenings culminating with daily aarti. At the end of the festival, the idols are brought for immersion into a body of water (lakes, rivers or the sea) with great fanfare.
When – In the months of August – September.
Where – All over the country but celebrated with the greatest fanfare in the state of Maharashtra.