Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ramnavami :: Indian Festivals

Lord Vishnu is worshipped in his human incarnation as Rama, the divine ruler of Ayodhya, on his birth anniversary known as Ramnavami. Thousands of pilgrims converge in the temples of Ayodhya and Pondicherry, two places closely connected with the events of the Ramayana (the Epic describing the story of Rama), to participate in Ramnavami festivities. Colourful processions are held, which comprise brilliant floats of Rama, his wife Sita, Rama's loyal brother Lakshmana and Hanuman, Rama's monkey-general.

Deepawali :: Indian Festivals

Deepawali is a festival of lights symbolizing the lifting of spiritual darkness. It is a family festival which is celebrated 20 days after Dussehra. Continuing the story of Rama, this festival commemorates his return to Ayodhya after completion of his fourteen year exile and after his victory over the evil king Ravana. 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. This festive occasion also marks the beginning of the Hindu new year and Lord Ganesha, the elephant god, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshipped in most Hindu homes on the Deepawali day.

The occasion of Deepawali sees the spring-cleaning and white-washing of houses and decorative designs or rangolis are painted on floors and walls. New clothes are bought and family members and relatives gather together to offer prayers, distribute sweets and to light up their homes.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Holi :: Indian Festivals


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 a festival to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land, Holi is now a symbolic commemmoration of a legend from Hindu Mythology. The story centres around an arrogant king who resents his son worshipping Lord Vishnu. He attempts to kill his son but fails each time. Finally, the king's sister Holika who is said to be immune to burning, sits with the boy in a huge fire. However, the prince Prahlad emerges unscathed, while his aunt burns to death. Holi commemorates this event from mythology, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation.

This exuberant festival is also associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha, and hence, Holi is spread over 16 days in Vrindavan as well as Mathura - the two cities with which Lord Krishna shared a deep affiliation. Apart from the usual fun with coloured powder and water, Holi is marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and a general sense of abandoned vital

Dussehra or Durga Puja :: Indian Festivals

This festival commemorates the victory of the goddess Durga (an incarnation of Parvati, consort of Shiva) over the demon Mahisasura. It is also celebrated as a remembrance of the victory of Lord Rama (an incarnation of Vishnu) over Ravana, the king of Lanka who had abducted Sita, wife of Rama.

Dussehra is celebrated at the end of Navaratri, a nine-day festival. Images of Durga are worshipped during the Navaratri festival and stories related to the goddess and to the conquest of good over evil are told. Navaratri is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Gujarat, Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Prayers, devotional songs and colourful rituals mark the occasion of Navaratri and Dussehra. Ramlila is another exciting feature of this festival where the story of Rama, the God King of Ayodhyaya is depicted in a dance-drama form on all ten days of celebration.

On the 10th day i.e. the day of Dussehra, buffaloes representing the buffalo-demon Mahisasura are sacrificed to the goddess. The evening of Dussehra sees the burning of the colorful effigies of Ravana, complete with 10 heads and curling moustaches, and those of his son and brother. This spectacle is marked by setting off of a fusillade of fire-crackers and the triumph of good over evil is commemorated once again.

A Country Of Festivals

Someone once remarked that in India, there is a festival on every day of the year. There are innumerable national, regional, local, religious, seasonal and social festivities that give credence to this statement. This is not surprising considering the innumerable gods, goddesses, saints, gurus and prophets who are worshipped in India.

Festivals of India are characterized by colour, gaiety, enthusiasm, feasts and a variety of prayers and rituals. Foreign travellers are struck by the scale and multiplicity of the festivals that have evolved in the Indian society.

Major Festivals

* Dussehra
* Holi
* Deepawali
* Ram Navami
* Eid
* Christmas
* Guru Nanak's Birthday
* Janmashtami
* Good Friday
* Buddha Purnima
* Muharram
* Mahavir Jayanti

Other Festivals

* Shivaratri
* Pongal
* Deep Diwali
* Ganesha Chaturthi
* Rath Yatra
* Raksha Bandhan
* Onam
* Baisakhi