JANUARY / FEBRUARY
Makar Sankranti - is the time of the year when the Sun enters
Capricorn. It's a time of great festivities throughout the nation
with people taking a dip in the holy rivers and seas. In Gujarat
particularly, it is the time to witness and extravaganza of
Kite flying in what has become an International Kite Festival.
Pongal - A festival of sweet preparation of rice, milk
and jaggery in south celebrated in Andhra as Sankranti, it is
a harvest festival observed for three days - Bhogi Pongal, Surya
Pongal and Mattu Pongal.
Republic Day - held on 26th January every year, this
is a National holiday that commemorates the establishment of
the Indian Republic in 1950. It's a grand military parade and
procession of colourful floats, dancers and so on.
Vasant Panchami - The Advent of Spring. A very important
festival of the Hindus, celebrated on the fifth day in the month
of Magha, is marked by the worship of Saraswati. It also marks
the advent of spring and the end of the long winter.
Floating Festival - held in Madurai in the State of Tamil
Nadu, marks the Birthday of a local 17th century rule. Its main
feature is the elaborately illuminated barge carrying decorated
temple deities at the Mariamman Teppakulam Pool amidst chanting
Nagaur Cattle Fair - is held in Nagaur in the State of
Rajasthan. Essentially an animal fair, it provides an opportunity
to participate in some of the local sports.
FEBRUARY / MARCH
Shivaratri - The Great Night of Siva Celebrated on the new moon
night in the month of Phalguna. This Hindu festival is dedicated
to Lord Shiva. Observed especially by married women to ensure
the long life of their husbands.
Holi - The Festival of Colour This colourful festival
of the Hindus, celebrated on the full moon day in the month
of Phalguna, heralds the advent of spring. Holi is the time
when people from all castes and social strata come together
forgetting all past differences and grievances.
Mardi Gras - is a 3-day festival held in Goa. The main
feature is the Carnival and the gaiety associated with it.
Ram Navami - The Birth of Lord Rama. This nine-day Hindu
festival, celebrated in the bright fortnight in the month of
Chaitra commemorates the birth of Lord Rama who was born to
annihilate the demon King Ravana. Ramanavami celebrates the
birth of Rama or Ramachandra
Mahavira Jayanti - is a National level festival that
marks the birth of Mahavira the 24th tirthankar (apostle) of
the Jains and the founder of Jainism.
Good Friday / Easter - is celebrated at a National level.
Kumbha Mela - the oldest and most important of the Hindu festivals.
It takes place every three years, at one of the four great holy
cities - Nasik (Maharashtra), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh), Prayag
or Allahabad and Haridwar (both in Uttar Pradesh). It is attended
by millions of pilgrims who take a holy dip in the holy rivers.
APRIL / MAY
Baisakhi - celebrated mostly in North India, West Bengal and
Tamil Nadu, this marks the Hindu Solar New Year.
Id-ul-Zuha - or Bakr-id is a Muslim festival celebrated
on a National level. It commemorates the martyrdom of Abraham
and is marked by the sacrifice of lambs.
Id-ul-Fitr - is a Muslim festival that marks the end
of the month of Ramzan, a month long period of fasting.
Urs - celebrated at Ajmer in the State of Rajasthan is
a 6-days religious cultural and commercial extravaganza dedicated
to a Sufi saint at the Dargah Sharif.
JUNE / JULY
Rath Yatra - The Festival of the Chariot Journey. This Hindu
festival, observed on the second day of the bright fortnight
of Ashadha, celebrates the annual visit of Jagannatha to his
birth place. Three colossal chariots are drawn from the Jagannath
temple by thousands of pilgrims. Similar festivals, on a smaller
scale, take place at Ramnagar (near Varanasi), Serampore (near
Calcutta) and Jagannathpur (near Ranchi).
JULY / AUGUST
Teej - Festive Procession of Parvati The festival of Teeja celebrates
the on set of the monsoon in the month of Shravana, after the
long and arduous summer. The day commemorates the event of Parvati
leaving the home of her parents as a bride and Shiva coming
to fetch her
Raksha Bandhan - The Festival of Brothers and Sisters
This festival of love between brothers and sisters is a major
Hindu festival which falls on the full moon day in the month
of Shravana . It is marked by sisters tying a protective amulet
on the wrist of their brothers
Amarnath Yatra - is a Hindu pilgrimage journey that takes
one to the Amarnath Cave in the Lidder Valley of Kashmir at
full moon. Pilgrims visit the place where Lord Shiva explained
the secret of salvation to his consort Parvati.
Independence Day - celebrated on 15th August every year
marks the day when India got her Independence. It's marked by
celebrations throughout the country. In Delhi the Prime Minister
delivers his annual address to the nation at the historic Red
Janmashtami - celebrated nation wide marks the birth
of Lord Krishna. It is a day of fasting, temple celebrations,
plays and folk theatres and colourful floats depicting the life
and times of Lord Krishna.
Onam - Linked to Bhagavata Purana, Vamana Purana and
the mythological story of king Mahabali and Vishnu in the form
of a dwarf, Onam is the colourful harvest festival of Kerala
heralding the lush green and floral beauty of nature.
Ganesh Chaturthi - celebrated mainly in the states Maharashtra
and Orissa, is dedicated to the elephant-headed God Ganesh.
Giant models of the deity are taken out in a procession and
immersed in the sea or rivers. It is a colourful festival and
worth visiting on the Day of Immersion at Mumbai.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER
Dussehra - is a nation wide 10-day festival that is celebrated
in different ways in different parts of the country. In the
north and particularly in Delhi it is marked by plays known
as Ram Lila that recalls the life of Rama and the episodes of
the Ramayana. On the 10th day effigies of Ravana the king of
Lanka are burnt amidst fireworks. In Kullu in the State of Himachal
Pradesh, the festival is marked by a colourful fair. In Bengal
and many parts of Eastern India it is known as Durga Puja and
on the 10th day idols of Goddess Durga are immersed in the sea
or the rivers. In South India it is celebrated as Navaratri
(festival of 9-nights).
Gandhi Jayanti - is a National holiday that marks the
birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation.
Durga Pooja - Durga, the warrior Goddess is worshipped
in colourful Puja pandals and the images are taken out in grand
procession to the sea or rivers where they are immersed amidst
chanting and singing
Diwali - is a nation wide festival that comes after 20
days of Dussehra. It is one of the most lively and colourful
festivals in India. In some parts of the country, it marks the
start of the Hindu New Year. In Eastern India, the goddess Kali
is particularly worshipped; elsewhere, it is Lakshmi, the goddess
of prosperity, who is venerated. Everywhere there are magnificent
illuminations and fireworks.
Guru purab - is a Sikh festival that commemorates the
anniversaries of the ten gurus, spiritual teachers or preceptors
Muharram - is a Muslim festival that commemorates Imam Hussain's
martyrdom. Tiger dancers lead processions of colourful replicas
of the martyr's tomb. It is a nation wide celebration particularly
colourful in Lucknow, the capital of the State of Uttar Pradesh.
Sonepur Cattle Fair - celebrated in the State of Bihar,
this is one of the largest cattle fairs in the world. It's a
month long fair held on the banks of the Ganga at the town of
Pushkar Mela - is an annual Cattle Fair held at Pushkar
in the State of Rajasthan. It's a colourful fair attended by
people from miles around. Camel races, acrobatics and folkdance
and music are some of its highlights.
Christmas - is a nation wide celebrated festival. It is
most exuberantly celebrated in Goa, Bombay and South India.
Note - besides the above festivals there are hundreds of
festivals and fairs, which are of regional significance, celebrated
with equal pomp and colour. The most authentic of these are
the following: (1) The Temple Festivals in South India, a
list of which if often available at the Government of India
Tourist Offices (2) The Monastery festivals at Ladakh in Kashmir
(3) The many regional festivals of Rajasthan
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