India's most spectacular festival & one which marks the end of the season that opens with Dussehra, Diwali is also called the festival of lights as people illuminate their homes at night with garlands of lit candle or oil-lamps with fireworks being a major attraction. Diwali means many things to many people.
A festival unique to the state of Tamil Nadu. It is also known as the harvest festival. The cow is worshipped as the central theme of the celebration, homes are decorated with flowers & various jaggery-based sweets prepared.
ID UL FITR or RAMZAN ID (February)
An all India festivity celebrated among the Muslim community to mark the end of Ramzan month. Apudding, called "sevaiyan", is made.
VASANT PANCHAMI (February)
The onset of spring is celebrated in February with characteristic verve all over the country especially in Northern India. With the mustard folwers in bloom, it seems most appropriate that people dress in yellow.
GOA CARNIVAL (February-March)
A truly Goan celebration with a Portuguese flavour featuring continuous singing, dancing, loud music, lots to eat, floats and processions. This marks the period February-March before the beginning of the austerities of Lent.
The birth anniversary of Shiva, the Lord of Destruction, is celebrated all over the country with the god being propitiated in temples. People fast throughout the day & ritual prayers are conducted in temples at night.
The triumph of good over evil is celebrated at this unusual festival in March when during the first half of the day people throw coloured powders & water at each other. It is also traditionally the day when the hand of peace is extended to everyone & is especially loved by childern.
Chiefly celebrated in Rajasthan it marks the quest for marital happiness among women who pray to Parvati. On this day they carry idols of Shiva & Parvati through the streets while marching in gay processions.
RAM NAVMI (April)
Ram, the Hindu religion's most popular god, an incarnation of Vishnu, was born on this day in April & the event is traditionally celebrated in temples. People observe this day by fasting.
ID UL ZUHA or BAKR ID (April)
Muslim festivities are celebrated throughout the country. This day commemorates the sacrifice of Ibrahim who offered his sons to god, & whose death was replaced by that of goats sent by the Angel Gabriel. A procession of tazias is taken out of the city on this occasion.
RATH YATRA at Puri (July)
A monumental festival held in July at Puri, Orrisa (a similar, smaller but equally impressive celebration is held at Mahesh, Bengal) that commemorates the journey of Lord Jagannath from his temple to his summer retreat & back. The Jagannath (Krishna) idol is pulled in a giant wodden chariot that is pulled by hundreds of thousands of people participating in the festivities. The word 'juggernaut' is a corruption of the word Jagannath indicating the massive scale of this festival.
Celebrated in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh & Tamil Nadu, with decorated swings, flower decoration, motifs & a celebratory-style cuisine, Onam is the time to visit these states. Processions of caparisoned elephants & snakeboat races add a mark to southern festivity.
LADAKH FESTIVAL (September 1-15)
Ladakh. Nestled in the Western Himalayas where a confluence of cultures -- Central Asian, Tibetan, North Indian etc. meet. From 1st to 15th of September, its traditional sports (Polo & Archery), its folk dances & songs, its age - old social & cultural ceremonies, its art & handicrafts .... are all going to come alive in a colourful Kaleidoscope called ... The Ladakh Festival" to be held in the towns & villages of the two Districts of the region, Leh & Kargil.
An ancient tradition celebrated in August when sisters tie silk or brocade threads on their brothers wrists as sign of their affection. In ancient times this also marrked the protection of brother for his sister.
Lord Krishna is looked upon as a folk hero, and has always been regarded as being especially close to the common people with his childhood pranks of stealing butter & milk & casanova-like flirtations in his teenage years. His birth anniversary which is celebrated in August all over the country with temple festivities & the announcement of his birth at midnight which has his devotees rocking his cradle.
GANESH CHATURTHI (September)
The birth anniversary of Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, is joyous occasion for the entire country. Festivities in September are particulary marked in Bombay where during the immersion ceremony (when the idol is floated in the sea) traffic comes to a standstill. In Pune, a special three-day long tourist festival is organised. The festivities in South India boast their own distinctive, regional flavour.
Celebrated all over India, Dussehra marks the victory of Ram over Ravana, & the rescue of his wife Sita. All institutions are closed for the days of the festival. In North India gigantic effigies of the ten-headed Ravana & his brothers are set aflame with a bursting of crackers. Fairs are usually held on this occasion with lots to eat, buy & enjoy.
DURGA PUJA (September -October)What Dussehra is to the rest of the country, Durga Puja is to Bengal. Celebrated at the same time. This occasion commemorates the homecoming of the Goddess Durga. Her return home is marked by the immersion of her idols in running water.