INDIA INFO: India - India - the land of festivals!

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India - the land of festivals!

In today's world, there is so much of monotony and pressure in everyone's life that every once in a while we all want to escape from it, and what better way to do so other than celebrating festivals. In fact our happiest childhood memories are more often than not, of celebrating festivals with family and friends. Who doesn't enjoy giving and receiving gifts, partying, enjoying and celebrating with the loved ones?!

Among all the countries of the world, India is the one with a large geographical area, supporting people from all communities and religions of the world. We celebrate festivals of each religion with equal zeal and vigor, and this also proves each time how our unity lies in diversity.

India's rich heritage has been built over the centuries and this has led to a huge variety in Indian life, soul and festivals. There is a great diversity in the Indian regions and these diversities have brought about an assortment of rituals and festivals too.

Each religion follows its own calendar for deciding the day on which the festival is to be celebrated. For example, the Hindu festivals are determined by the lunar Hindu calendar. Thus the dates of the Hindu festivals do not match with the solar Georgian calendar.

Since India has a large Hindu population, it is natural that most of its festivals are Hindu festivals. Since the Hindus personify nature and human feelings, they have about 3.3 millions gods and goddess, and thus a number of festivals to worship them. We often see that some festivals are more popular in a particular region. Chhat, for instance, is a festival chiefly celebrated in Bihar whereas Diwali is celebrated all over India.

The festivals which are celebrated throughout India are called national festivals, and the whole of India comes together to celebrate it. Diwali is the festival of Hindus but you won't find a single Muslim or a Christian child who stays at home when all his friends and neighbors are busting crackers at the local park!

Again do you think that on Christmas Eve, when all the churches and restaurants are dressed up for a long party, the people belonging to the other communities stay back at home and gaze at the festivities going on? No, not at all! They are out there partying as hard as, if not harder than their Christian friends! This is where the strength of India lies – in its diversity lies it unity.

Chronologically speaking, in the month of January, there is the festival of Sankranti or Makar Sankranti which is celebrated as Pongal in south India. There may be differences in the rituals that are observed but the essence behind the celebration is the same.

Few days after Sankranti, Asia's largest fair, Kumbh Mela, is organized. Thaipuram is also celebrated towards the end of January or beginning of February in Tamilnadu. In January end another festival, Muharram, is observed through out India.

Basant Panchami is celebrated in the northern regions to celebrate the advent of spring whereas in eastern India this day is celebrated as Saraswati Puja, by offering prayers to the goddess of learning and wisdom.

Immediately after Saraswati puja, the Indians celebrate Mahashivratri and Holi, the festival of colors.

April brings with it the occasion of Baisakhi and Ram Navami. It is celebrated with pomp in northern parts to celebrate the new crop season. The fields are lush with ripe crops and this again calls for celebration! Along this time comes Good Friday and Easter. These are national holidays and the whole of India comes together to observe these occasions.

Along the western coast of India, Ugadi (which is called Gudi Padua in Maharastra) is celebrated. Just after this, the whole India unites with the Jain community to celebrate Mahavir Jayanti together. Hanuman Jayanti is also celebrated at the same time in northern parts of India.

Ganesh Chathurti is the next festival which is celebrated to worship the Elephant God, Lord Ganesh. Around this time, they also celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna through Krishna Janmastami.

Amid all the fun and frolics sisters tie 'rakhi' on their brother's wrists on the day of Raksha Bandhen.

The Indians also know how to make the Gods want to leave their shrines and visit the town for a whiff of fresh air, by celebrating Rath Yatra. It is truly amazing the extent to which the Indians have personified their Gods!

Now, we all know how infamous the Indian monsoons are for snakes. Well, believe it or not, there is a festival to observe this too! Nag Panchami is celebrated to pacify the snake God. Onam is the next festival, which is celebrated in Kerala to welcome the famous king Mahabali and reincarnation of Lord Vishnu on earth.

During the months of September and October, the great national festival of Durga Puja is celebrated in West Bengal to welcome the Goddess as she comes to visit her mother's place, that is, the earth, from her husband's home in heaven. At the same time, Dussherra is celebrated in North India, and Ram Navami in West India, to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. In the states of Gujarat and Maharastra there are Dandia or Garba dance celebrations, known as Navratri. During this time, Guru Nanak's birthday is also celebrated, which according to the Gregorian calendar falls on 20th October.

Karwa Chauth is observed around the same time, when all married women keep a day long fast to appease the Gods so that they may grant a long life to their husbands.

Then there is a nation wide celebration of the festival of lights, Diwali, when everyone bursts crackers. On the diwali day, Laxmi Puja is also held in Hindu households. Somewhat between Chhat and Diwali lies the festival of Bhaubeej, which too is celebrated all over India.

Thus, the Indians keep celebrating festivals through out the year. Each festival has its own unique way of celebration and thus adds to the excitement and break the drudge of daily life. Not only does this make this beautiful land all the more appealing to the world, it proves, how the Indians are truly capable of innovating ways of celebrating the joyous occasion called  life!

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