|F R I E N D S O F I N D I A|
I N D I A N F E S T I V A L S
India has a rich and unique cultural heritage, and has managed to preserve its established traditions throughout history. It has always absorbed customs, traditions and ideas from both invaders and immigrants. Many cultural practices, languages, customs and even monuments are examples of this co-mingling over centuries. Famous monuments, such as the Taj Mahal and other examples of Islamic-inspired architecture have been inherited from the Mughal dynasty. These are the result of a syncretic tradition that combined elements from all parts of the country.
Indian society is largely pluralist, multilingual and multicultural. Religious practices of various faiths are an integral part of everyday life in society. Education is highly regarded by members of every socio-economic stratum. Traditional Indian family values are highly respected, and considered sacred, although urban families have grown to prefer a nuclear family system, owing to the socio-economic constraints imposed by the traditional joint family system.
Religion in India is a very public affair, with many practices imbued with pomp and vitality accompanying their underlying spiritual qualities.
A melting pot of many religions, India has a rich diversity of festivals, many of which are celebrated by all, irrespective of caste and creed. The most widely known and popular celebrations include the Hindu festivals of Diwali, Holi, and Dussehra, and the Muslim celebration of Eid. Sankranthi in Andhra Pradesh, Pongal in Tamil Nadu and Onam in Kerala are harvest festivals celebrated by people belonging to all religions in their respective states. Durga Puja in West Bengal, and Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra (during autumn) are two festivals which have social as well as religious significance.
Diwa-li- or Di-pa-vali(row of lights) is the Hindu "Festival of Lights". Diwali festival symbolises the defeat of evil and the lamps are lit as a sign of hope for mankind. It is one of the most popular and eagerly awaited festivals of India. It is celebrated for 5 consecutive days in the Hindu month of Ashwayuja which usually corresponds to the month of October or November. Hindus, Jains and Sikh celebrate Diwali and use the occasion to celebrate life and strengthen relationships. Celebrations focus on lights and lamps, particularly traditional diyas (as illustrated). Fireworks is associated with the festival in some regions.
Holi or Phagwah (Bhojpuri) is an annual Hindu spring festival. It takes place over two days around late March or early April on a Purnima (or Pooranmashi) Full Moon as per the Hindu calendar. It is also called the festival of color. On the first day, a bonfire is lit at night to signify the burning of Holika. On the second day, known as Dhulandi, people go around until afternoon throwing colors at each other and meet and have fun. A special drink called 'thandai' or bhang (Cannabis sativa) is also consumed sometimes, which actually contains small amounts of marijuana to make the festival more enjoyable. People invite each other to their houses for feasts and celebrations later in evenings. Rangapanchami occurs a few days later on a Panchami (fifth day of the full moon), marking the end of festivities involving colors.
Dussehra or Vijaya Dasami is an important Hindu festival. This day marks the triumph of Lord Rama over Demon king Ravana. On this day, Rama killed Ravana.It is celebrated by Indians every year in the Hindu Vikrami Calendar month of Ashwin (September / October).
Sankranthi is a festival that signifies the beginning of the harvest season for the farmers of India. Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious day for the Hindus, and is celebrated in almost all parts of the country in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion, fervor & gaiety. Lakhs of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar & Prayag and pray to Lord Sun. It is celebrated with pomp in southern parts of the country as Pongal, and in Punjab is celebrated as Lohri & Maghi. Gujarati's not only look reverentially up to the sun, but also offer thousands of their colorful oblations in the form of beautiful kites all over the skyline. They may be trying to reach upto their glorious God or bring about greater proximity with the one who represents the best. It is a day for which Bhishma Pitamah kept waiting to leave his mortal coil.
Makar Sankranti is the day when the glorious Sun-God of Hindus begins its ascendancy and entry into the Northern Hemisphere. Sun for the Hindus stands for Pratyaksha-Brahman - the manifest God, who symbolizes, the one, non-dual, self-effulgent, glorious divinity blessing one & all tirelessly. Sun is the one who transcends time and also the one who rotates the proverbial Wheel of Time. The famous Gayatri Mantra, which is chanted everyday by every faithful Hindu, is directed to Sun God to bless them with intelligence & wisdom. Sun not only represents God but also stands for an embodiment of knowledge & wisdom. Lord Krishna reveals in Gita that this manifested divinity was his first disciple, and we all know it to be indeed a worthy one too. No Sundays for the Sun, may be because one who revels in its very 'being', the very essence of his own Self, is always in the Sunday mood.