Indian culture represents a colorful mosaic of various customs, fairs and festivals in which its citizens participate with complete faith and devotion. The secular nature of the country makes these festivals all the more numerous and enjoyable as the people of different religion and culture add new colors of joys, faith and enthusiasm to these festivals. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Indians celebrate more number of fairs and festivals than the total number of days in an year.
The different festivals celebrated in India represent the vast area covered by the country in terms of length and breadth and the different climatic regions in which it falls due to its expansion. Adding to the fact is the secular nature of the country where the state upholds and regards all the religions as equal. This in turn fills the citizens with enthusiasm to celebrate their festivals as per their faith-following with utmost fun and faith. There are few celebrations which are national in nature like Republic Day and Independence day representing the national integration and unity of the country. The New Year opens with the celebrations of Republic Day Parade in which all the three wings of the Defence display their capabilities in terms of technology, arms, ammunitions and warfare. The colorful tableaus from the different states of the country symbolize unity in the diversity of the country. Apart from the national days, there are different days accorded for the respect and reverence of the great personalities of the country. Gandhi Jayanti , the birth anniversary of the father of the nation (2nd October) and Children's Day,the birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru (14th November) fall under this category. The third category includes different religious festivals that are celebrated in India. Holi, Diwali, Eid, Bakrid, Christmas, Onam, Pongal etc are festivals representative of religious and regional diversity of the country. The awesome feature of these festivals is that the people cutting across the regional, cultural and religious line, participate with full enthusiasm all over the country. Various birth anniversaries of the deities and gurus are celebrated in India. While Hindus commemorate the birth anniversaries of their deities as Ram Navami, Maha Shivratri, Janam Ashtami similarly, the Sikhs remember their gurus on Gurpurab.
Festivals in India are guided by solar and lunar calendars or other calendars as followed by the sects. The Islamic festivals are celebrated according to the Muslim or the hijri calendar. The Islamic year commences with Awal Muharram. It is observed with attending religious lectures. Muslims observe a month long fasting which is completed with the celebrations of Eid-ul-fitr. The Jews rejoice on their New Year that falls on the 7th of September.
Adding to these festivals are the various Indian fairs in which people participate with their family and friends to disseminate joy and happiness all around. Fairs give an ideal opportunity for intermingling, making new friends, reviving old ties and sharing their happiness by coming together in their celebrations.
Famous Festivals of India
Although, the religious festivals of India are representative of different religions and faith practiced in the country, there are few festivals which maintain their national vigour and character. The festivals like Holi, Diwali, Onam, etc.are celebrated with equal faith, reverence and enthusiasm across the country.
Holi, the festival of colors, is celebrated mostly in north India. The festival becomes one of the main attractions of the tourists who are amazed to see the Indians celebrating the festival of colors in already colorful culture of the country. The occasion of Raksha Bandhan connotes a bonding of respect and security between man and woman. On the other hand, Diwali, a festival of lights is celebrated throughout India representing the win of Good over the Bad. Between these festivals of colors and lights, lie other festivals highlighting fasting, sacrifices, penance, giving alms to poor and needy thus creating bond between haves and have-nots.
There is another list of seasonal fairs and festivals that are celebrated across India. Teej, an occasion of strengthening relationship between husband and wife, is celebrated on the onset of monsoon. On the other hand, Ganguar and Baisakhi are celebrated during the harvest season. The similar spirits and occasions are celebrated in different parts of the country with different names like Ayyappa pooja in south India, Rongali Bihu in Assam celebrated during harvest season and expressed through native songs and dances.
Few festivals and fairs are location specific. The famous Dance Festivals of Konark in Orissa and the Khajuraho temples of Madhya Pradesh having majestic temples as background attract dancers from various parts of India who participate and showcase their classical dance talent during the festivals. The various art forms and dance forms reflect the cultural ethos of the country. These are the periods ideal for promoting cultural tourism in the country.
In Haryana, state situated in the western part of the country , every year Surajkund Crafts Fair is organized. This Fair brings a great platform for the artists, craftsmen, painters, weavers and sculptors from various parts of the country to bring to the life various form of arts and crafts transferred through ages of family tradition. The Fair in itself is a great learning experience about the artistic heritage of India.
India is probably alone country in the world where the business activities are interwoven with socialization processes. Cattle fairs organized in Pushkar city of Rajasthan and Sonepur in Bihar are such places where billion rupees business takes place amidst the environment of social celebrations and enjoyment. Trades, parades and race competitions are held for the camels, horses and cows. The entire fair is a big draw for the tourism industry.
Kumbh Mela of India is another such occasion where ocean of humanity comes out on the banks of rivers to celebrate their faith. Kumbh Mela is held once in every three years on the banks of river Godavari in Nasik, Shipra in Ujjain, Ganges in Haridwar or at the confluence of the three sacred rivers namely, Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati in Allahabad, successively. On the completion of 12 years, Maha Kumbh or the Completion of revolution, is celebrated at Allahabad. Similarly, during the festival of Dussehra, various fairs are organized during the nine days of celebration and people participate with much zeal and enthusiasm.
The scale of people participating in the Rath Yatra (Chariot Movement) at Jagannath Temple of Puri, Orissa is gauged by the fact that the word has found its place in dictionary to explain the greatness and largeness of any occasion. Rath Yatra is organized every year in the month of July in which Gods - Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra are taken from the temple and moved around the city, so that the people could be blessed by their Gods, to finally reach the Gundicha Mandir. The sounds of drums and enchantments creates a spellbound aura around the city.
Buddhist monastery of Hemis also organizes a similar religious festival on the tenth day of the sixth month of the Ladakhi calendar. The scale at which the monks, tourists and people from all over the world participate for the famous masked dances is equally large. The Hemis festival lasts for two days and is the largest monastery festival in all of Ladakh and Spiti. The adjoining hilly areas and localities replenish their supplies required for their subsistence for the next year.
The plethora of festivals,fairs and celebrations mixed with abundance of cultural colors and different hues provide a rich field for cultural tourism in the country. The rich experience extracted from the culture, art, architecture, traditions and various talents in dance and music remain as an unforgettable moments in the heart of the tourists and are cherished for the years to come.
With globalization and cross-cultural intermingling, many specific days celebrated in the western countries have also been added to the bucket of celebrations in India. Among these Father's Day, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day and Friendship Day are the main ones, although Indians are known to live these days on the daily basis for their lifetime.
The Carnival of Goa, a remnant of Portuguese heritage in India, essentially a spring festival is celebrated with no less joy and enthusiasm at the flaunting beaches of Goa. The celebration goes for three days and four nights in which there is songs, dances, merrymaking and joy all over.
To sum up the whole experience gathered from the celebration of various festivals and fairs in India in one word, it is spectacular. The process of celebration has become a way of life for the people of India. Right from birth to death, the different customs and traditions is weaved in such a way in the social fabric that it gives full scope of celebration for every small joy taking place in the lives of the people. Whether it is birth of a child, or coming into the motherhood, or marriage or death of the family member, there is occasion for social intermingling. On the other hand, with the change of seasons and dependant economic activities of the population, every change is celebrated in India. Even the economic activities are devised in such a way that the mood of celebration never fades away among the populace. It seems that on every occasion Man and God participate together to make the occasion all the more successful, peaceful and spiritual. Such a rich cultural and traditional heritage could only be experienced and could not be written in words. If someone really wants to experience aura of Indian festivals, one has to be a part of the celebration.
India is an ideal place for the festival tourism. The various agencies are incorporated to disseminate information on culture, traditions, customs and mores and different religions practiced in the land. The specific foods and delicacies could be enjoyed only during the festival seasons and varies from one place to other part of India. The items sold and purchased during the festivals are also unique in their own ways. The handmade items, potteries, bangles, handicrafts, cloth items etc reflect the ages of mastery of artisans and craftsmen. There is a huge demand for these products all over the world and one can get these items on really competitive prices during the festival celebrations. Probably this is the reason, Indians carry their colorful experiences and celebration to all the places they visit and reside.
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