India is known as the country of festivals, and why not? We have got major festivals every month of the year. So as long as you’re in India, there’s always a reason to celebrate. As a country with people of many faiths and religions, wildly differing customs across states, and festivals of significance that vary across cultures as you go from one place to another within the country, it’s quite easy to see why India’s known as THE travel destination for festivals. While we have got probably hundreds of festivals when you count the regional ones that are celebrated by small communities, we most certainly do have festivals that are common to people all across the country. Here are 10 of the most popular festivals in India.
Also read: 12 Must Have Travel Experiences In India
1. Durga Puja, Navratri and Dussehra
Durga Puja is an annual Hindu festival that is celebrated in various parts of India including West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, and Tripura. It is also a popular festival in Bangladesh. It celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura, thus marking the victory of good over evil. It coincides with two other major festivals: Dussehra and Navratri. The celebration of Navratri is especially colourful in Gujarat, where it is accompanied by lavish and elaborate Garba dances for nine nights. The tenth day is the day of Dussehra, which is the day Lord Rama defeated Ravana.
2. Rath Yatra
Rath Yatra is an annual festival that is held with much pomp and fanfare at Puri, Odisha. The festival marks Lord Jagganath’s annual visit to his maternal aunt at Mausi Maa temple and then to Gundicha Temple. Celebrated every year on Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya, the three deities of Jagannath temple: Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra are shifted to Gundicha Temple in a grand procession on bright, colourful chariots drawn by devotees on the Bada Danda. While the Rath Yatra held at Puri is the oldest recorded celebration of the festival in the world (as mentioned in various Hindu puranas), the festival is also celebrated in many other parts of India as well as abroad.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Popularly known as the festival of lights, Diwali is the most popular Hindu festival and is celebrated across India by not just Hindus, but also Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. It celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over the asura King Ravana, and marks the return of Rama to Ayodhya after a Vanvasa of 14 years. Diwali is celebrated with the lighting of Diyas. People usually clean up their homes and decorate it for the festival, make sweets, and sometimes burst crackers (the use of which has significantly been reduced to curb air pollution.) Diwali is also especially important for business-owners, as it is widely associated with Goddess Lakshmi as well, who is goddess of prosperity.
Lohri is a popular festival in the Indian state of Punjab, and the North of India in general. which marks the passing of the winter solstice. It celebrates the end of winter, and welcomes longer days. Lohri is celebrated the day before Makar Sankranti. Traditionally, Lohri is a winter crop celebration. Additionally, it also refers to the legend of Dulla Bhatti, a war hero who lived during the reign of Emperor Akbar who saved little girls from being trafficked as slaves into the Middle East. The story of Dulla Bhatti is heard in many folk songs that are sung during Lohri.
5. Raksha Bandhan
Raksha Bandhan is an annual Hindu festival that is also one of the most popular festivals in India. It is celebrated every year at the end of Shraavana with sisters tying an amulet around their brothers’ wrist which signifies the brother’s duty to protect his sister. In exchange for the Rakhi, the sister usually receives a gift and a promise of safety.
Janmashtami, also known as Krishna Janmashtami or Gokulashtami, is an annual Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu, one of the the principal deities of Hinduism. Janmashtami is celebrated on the Ashtami or the eighth day of Krishna Paksha in Shraavana (which typically falls in the month of August or September in the Gregorian calendar.) It is celebrated with much splendor in Mathura and Vrindavan, the former believed to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna and the latter being the place where Lord Krishna is believed to have spent most of his childhood days. In Maharashtra, Janmashtami is celebrated with the making of Human Pyramids to break the “Dahi Handi” because baby Krishna is believed to have been extremely fond of dairy. Elsewhere, parents dress up their babies as Lord Krishna or his beloved Radha.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
As Christianity is the world’s largest religion by population, Christmas is not only one of the most popular festivals in India, but also the most significant festival for billions of people around the world. Christmas is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. While the actual birth date of Jesus is not known, in the fourth century the church decided upon December 25 as the day to celebrate Christ’s birthday as it coincides with the date of Winter Solstice in the Roman calendar. Christmas is generally associated with many customs including gift-giving and caroling, church services, putting up of christmas trees and lights, etc.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a Hindu festival that is observed to celebrate the arrival of Ganesh on earth from his usual abode of Kailash. To commemorate his arrival, his idols are placed inside homes and in public on several “pandals” where he is worshipped and is offered sweets, including “Modaks” which are considered his favourite. The festival is celebrated in many states across India as well as in many other countries. It is one of the most important festivals observed in Maharashtra where the celebrations last for over a week. When the time comes for Lord Ganesha to return to his home, his idols are immersed into water bodies (like a river or a lake.) His journey to the water bodies is carried out in large processions.
Also known as the festival of colours, Holi is one of the oldest as well as one of the most popular festivals in India. The festival is traditionally associated with many religious stories. It is seen as a festival celebrating the eternal if unfulfilled love between Krishna and his beloved Radha. It also celebrates the triumph of good over evil by commemorating the victory of Narsimha Narayana (the fourth avatar of Vishnu) over the ruthless king Hiranyakashyapu. Holi also marks the end of winter, and the beginning of the spring harvest season.
Also known as the festival of breaking the fast, Eid-Ul-Fitr is a festival celebrated by Muslims across the globe. In India, Muslims celebrate Eid by cooking sivvayan and kheer. It is also observed by families getting together. The elders give a sum of money known as Eidi to the children of the family. It is forbidden to fast on the day of Eid, and practising Muslims are required to help the needy as an obligatory act of charity.
Which of these most popular festivals of India excite you the most? Comment below to let us know!