Dates : Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the fifteenth day of Shravan, in July / August.

Legend : In the days when gods warred with the demons, the consort of Indra (the Puranic King of the Heavens) tied a rakhi (a silken amulet) around his wrist, by virtue of which, it is said, the god won back his celestial abode from his enemies.

Practice : Raksha Bandhan is celebrated in some parts of India as a festival to honour the sea god Varuna, where coconuts are offered to the sea Because of its three eyes, the coconut represents the three eyes of Shiva. As a mark of auspiciousness, coconuts are also broken at shrines and temples.

However, at most places, it celebrates the love of a brother for his sister. On this day, sisters tie rakhi on the wrists of their brothers to protect them against evil influences. In some places, before tying the rakhi, barley saplings are placed on the ears of the brother.

This is also the day set apart for Brahmins to change their sacred thread they wear.


Dates : 14 January every year.

Practice : Makar Sankranti marks the commencement of the sun's journey to the Northern Hemisphere and is a day of celebration all over the country. Wherever there is a body of water, people take a dip in the waters on this day and worship the sun. Also known as Gangasagar Mela, on this day, people come from all over India for a ceremonial cleansing in the River Hooghly, near Calcutta. In Gujarat, brightly coloured kites dot the skies, in celebration of Makara Sankranti.


Date : A family festival, it is celebrated 20 days after Dussehra, on the 13th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwin (October / November).

Legend/s : Deepawali or Diwali, the most pan-Indian of all Hindu festivals, is a festival of lights symbolising the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. The word Deepawali literally means rows of diyas (clay lamps).

This festival commemorates Lord Rama's return to his kingdom Ayodhya after completing his 14-year exile. Another view is that Deepawali is meant to celebrate the destruction of the arrogant tyrant Bali at the hands of Vishnu when the latter appeared in his Vamana (dwarf) avatar.

 Practice : 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-headed god, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is worshipped in most Hindu homes. Houses across the country are scrubbed till they are spotlessly clean, and whitewashed with fresh white paint. To enhance their new look, they are decorated with bright paper lanterns, diyas and flowers, while the girls of the house embellish the aangan (courtyard) and walls with traditional aesthetic designs and patterns called rangolis. New clothes are bought and the family gathers together to offer prayers, distribute sweets and light up their homes. Crackers and fireworks illuminate the sky and people pray for a prosperous coming year. In West Bengal, the Deepawali festival is celebrated as Kali Pooja and Kali, Shiva's consort is worshipped on this day.  



Dates : Celebrated in the month of August / September, Onam is an important festival of Kerala. It celebrates the bounties of nature and a year of good harvest. Ten days of feasting, boat races, song and dance are a part of the festivities.

Legend/s : Kerala's most colourful festival, Onam celebrates the mythical

King Mahabali and his golden rule. It welcomes the spirit of King Mahabali, and assures him that his people are happy and wish him well. The story says that gods feared the wise and good rule of Mahabali, the asura (demon) king, thinking that he might become too powerful. They sought the help of Vishnu or the preserver in the Hindu trinity, to curb Mahabali's power. Vishnu took the form of a dwarf called Vamana and approached Mahabali. Pleased with the dwarf brahmin's wisdom, Mahabali granted him a wish. The Vamana asked for three paces of land and the king agreed to it. Vishnu as the dwarf increased his size and with the first step covered the sky, blotting out the stars, and with the second, straddled the nether world. Realising that Vamana's third step will destroy the earth, Mahabali offered his head as the last step. He was pushed to the nether world but as Mahabali was so attached to his kingdom and the loved by his subjects, he was allowed by the gods to return once a year. Onam (Thiruonam) is celebrated on the day when King Mahabali comes from exile to visit his people.

Practice : Onam (Thiruonam) is celebrated as the day of Mahabali return from exile. The festivities begin ten days in advance and floral decorations (Pookkalam) adorn every home. Caparisoned elephants in a spectacular procession, fireworks and the Kathakali dances, are an integral part of the festivities. The Vallamkali (boat race) is one of the main attractions of Onam, and is best seen at Aranmulai and Kottayam. About a hundred oarsmen row huge and graceful odee (boats) with scarlet silk umbrellas. Their number denotes the affluence of the family owning the boat. Gold coins and tassels hang from the umbrellas. Oars dip and flash to the rhythm of drums and cymbals in each boat. In the evening girls perform the Kaikottikkali



Date : This spring festival is held in March-April in honour of Gauri, the goddess of abundance.

Legend/s : Gauri or Parvati is the wife of Shiva or the destroyer in the Hindu trinity. She is the symbol of virtue and fidelity and as such is the mythological role model of married women.

Practice : Gangaur is the most important local festival in Rajasthan. Girls dress up in their finest clothes and pray for a spouse of their choice, while married women do the same for the happiness and long life of their husbands. Although celebrated throughout Rajasthan with great enthusiasm, the celebrations in Jaipur and Udaipur have their own charm and attraction. The festival is also celebrated with great pomp and show in Bikaner, Jodhpur, Marathwara and Jaisalmer.

Girls worship the goddess throughout the preceding fortnight. Colourful images of Gauri, beautifully dressed and bejewelled are taken out in procession accompanied by the town band. A boat procession in Pichola is also taken out. Women balance brass pitchers on their heads and the lake adds to the gaiety of Udaipur celebrations. Thousands of people from the countryside come to take part in the procession of the Gangaur image from village to village. The tribal men and women have an opportunity to meet and interact freely and during this time, they select partners and marry by eloping. An unusual, romantic custom, which is sanctioned by the community.



Dates : March / April

Practice : Lord Vishnu is worshipped in his human incarnation as Ram, the divine ruler of Ayodhya, on his birth anniversary known as Ram Navmi. It is widely celebrated in Ayodhya and Pondicherry, two places closely connected with the events of the Ramayana, to participate in Ram Navmi festivities. In Ayodhya, thousands of pilgrims converge at the Kanaka Bhawan Temple. Colourful processions are held, which comprise brilliant floats of Ram, his wife Sita, Ram's loyal brother Lakshmana and Hanuman, Ram's monkey-general. Plays based on the Ramayana are also enacted. As the sun rises, a coconut is placed in a cradle and at midday (when Ram is said to have been born), a priest announces his birth.



Dates : The fifth day of Shravan, in July / August, is dedicated to snake worship.

Practice : The Naag culture is quite common in India. Snake charmers start gathering snakes, thereby saving the lives of the young serpents. Live cobras or their images are worshipped. Women worship Ananta the cosmic snake in temples. In Bengal, Manasa is worshipped as the goddess of snakes. Shiva is also worshipped since he wears snakes as ornaments. Snakes are feed milk and sweets, and released into the forests.



Dates : Dhan Teras takes place two days before Diwali, some time in October / November, in honour of Dhanavantri, the physician of the gods and an incarnation of Vishnu.

Legend : According to legend, when the gods and demons churned the ocean for Amrut or nectar, Dhanavantri emerged carrying a jar of the elixir.

Practice : On this day, new utensils are used. New dhan or some form of precious metal is bought as a sign of good luck. This is known as Lakshmi after the goddess, and is worshipped



Dates : The Kumbh Mela takes place every March. However, the major Kumbh Mela occurs once in 12 years.  

Legend : Legend has it that Lord Vishnu saved the elixir (Amrut) from the demons and gave it to the vassal gods, called Devas, in a pot. The Devas rested the pot at each of the four cities of Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik. This is the reason why this festival is celebrated only at these four places.

Practice : Kumbh Mela is the greatest riverside religious festival of Hindus that takes place once every three years. It attracts millions of devotees and visitors from all backgrounds. Scores of ash-covered holy men and sages known as rishis and sadhus, in all shapes and sizes, flock to the centre of the Mela. The festival is rotated between four holy places of Hindus. The Sangam at Allahabad is the holiest as three rivers - Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati converge there. Thousands of devotees take a holy dip in the river that is believed to purge them of their sin.



Date : Navratri or the nine nights sacred to the Mother Goddess are celebrated in the month of October / November.

Legend : It commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over a demon, Mahishasur. Endowed with power, by the blessing of Lord Shiva the demon started destroying innocent people. The gods invoked Goddess Durga and asked for her help. The goddess, astride a lion fought with the demon and cut off his head.

Practice : It is an occasion for vibrant festivities throughout the country.

During Navratri, devotees of Durga fast and pray for health and prosperity. Different manifestations of Durga or Shakti are worshipped every night. Devotees and young enthusiasts dance the Garba or Dandiya-Raas throughout the night, in keeping with the exuberant nature of this festival.

The Navratri festival celebrations at Ahmedabad and Baroda are famous throughout Gujarat. Here the evenings and nights are occasions for the fascinating Garba dance. The women dance around an earthen lamp while singing devotional songs accompanied by rhythmic clapping of the hands. In Punjab, Navratri is a period of fasting. In Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka dolls called Bommai kolu are placed and decorated. Goddesses' Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati are worshipped for three days. Gifts of coconuts, clothes and sweets are exchanged. Scenes culled from various stories in the epics and puranas are displayed.


Dates : All over India, Maha-Shivaratri is celebrated on February 25th.

Legend : On a moonless night in February every year, occurs the night of Shiva, the destroyer. This is the night when he is said to have performed the Tandava or the dance of creation, preservation and destruction.

Practice : Devotees of Shiva fast during the day and maintain a long vigil during the night. In temples all across the country, bells ring, sacred texts are chanted and traditional offerings of leaves and milk are made to the Shiva lingam, the phallic symbol of the god. According to ancient scriptures, Shiva manifests himself in the form of a huge flaming lingam known as Jyotirlinga on Shivratri. It is the duty of every worshipper to worship this lingam with at least one bilwa leaf.

To help the devout keep awake, stories or katha expounding the greatness of Shiva are organised, devotional hymns and songs sung and sacred texts recited.

Shiva is worshipped to release the worshipper from the cycle of birth and rebirth. In Kashmir, the festival is held for 15 days; the thirteenth day is observed as Herath, a day of fast followed by a family feast.


Dates : The Bengali New Year's Day is on April 14.

Practice : Naba Barsha begins with prabhat pheries (early morning processions), songs and dance to welcome the New Year. A dip in a river or tank is another essential feature of the day's ritual. With powdered rice, housewives make beautiful designs called Alpana on the floor of their houses.



Dates : Janmashthami takes place on eight day of the waning moon, in the month of Shravan, in August / September. Krishna is believed to have been born at midnight, and hence celebrations begin at this hour.

Practice : Lord Vishnu is invoked in his human incarnation as Krishna on his birth anniversary in the festival of Janmashthami. The temples of Vrindavan witness an extravagant and colourful celebration on this occasion. Raslila is performed to recreate incidents from the life of Krishna and to commemorate his love for Radha. The image of the infant Krishna is bathed at midnight and is placed in a cradle, amidst the blowing of conch shells and the ringing of bells. The place of pride in the jhanki is an idol of baby Krishna. This is placed on a cradle, which is rocked to recreate scenes from Krishna's infancy. Devotional songs and dances mark the celebration of this festive occasion all over Northern India.

In Maharashtra, Janmashthami witnesses the exuberant enactment of the god's childhood attempts to steal butter and curd from earthen pots beyond his reach. A matka or pot containing these is suspended high above the ground and groups of young men and children form human pyramids to try and reach the pot and eventually break it.

The state of Gujarat is the abode of Lord Krishna, his own land. The town of Dwarka comes alive, with major celebrations and hordes of visitors.

No other God in the Hindu pantheon, or for that matter in any other religion, is woven with the romantic tales that Lord Krishna does.





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