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Thursday, August 27, 2015

8 Popular Festivals in India

Being a highly spiritual country, festivals are at the heart of people’s lives in India. The numerous and varied festivals that are held throughout the year offer a unique way of seeing Indian culture at its best. The following popular festivals in India will provide you with a truly memorable experience.

1.  Diwali

Diwali is a five day festival that represents the start of the Hindu New Year. It's known as the "Festival of Lights" for all the fireworks, small clay lamps, and candles that are lit during the celebrations. These lights are said to represent the victory of good over evil, and brightness over darkness. The candlelight makes Diwali a very warm and atmospheric festival, and it's observed with much joy and happiness.


2.  Ganesh Chaturthi

The spectacular eleven day Ganesh Chaturthi festival honors the birth of the beloved Hindu elephant-headed god, Lord Ganesha. The start of the festival sees huge, elaborately crafted statutes of Ganesha installed in homes and podiums, which have been especially constructed and beautifully decorated. At the end of the festival, the statutes are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, and then submerged in the ocean.




3.  Holi

Holi is a two day festival that also celebrates the victory of good over evil, as well as the abundance of the spring harvest season. It's commonly referred to as the "Festival of Colors". People exuberantly throw colored powder and water all over each other, have parties, and dance under water sprinklers. Bhang (a paste made from cannabis plants) is also traditionally consumed during the celebrations. Holi is a very carefree festival that's great fun to participate in if you don’t mind getting wet and dirty.




4.  Navaratri, Dussehra, and Durga Puja

The first nine days of this festival are known as Navaratri, and are filled with dance in honor of the Mother Goddess. The tenth day, called Dussehra, is devoted to celebrating the defeat of the demon king Ravana by Lord Rama. It also coincides with the victory of the revered warrior Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura.

In eastern India, the festival is observed as Durga Puja. Huge statues of the Goddess are made and immersed in the holy Ganges River. The festival is an extremely social and theatrical event, with drama, dance, and cultural performances held throughout the country.




5.  Onam

Onam is a traditional ten day harvest festival that marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali. It’s a festival rich in culture and heritage. People strikingly decorate the ground in front of their houses with flowers arranged in beautiful patterns to welcome the King. The festival is also celebrated with new clothes, feasts served on banana leaves, dancing, sports, games, and snake boat races.




6.  Krishna Janmashtami/Govinda

Krishna Janmashtami, also known as Govinda, commemorates the birthday of Lord Krishna. An extremely fun part of the festival involves people climbing on each other and forming a human pyramid to try and reach and break open clay pots filled with curd, which have been strung up high from buildings.




7.  Pushkar Camel Fair

An astonishing 50,000 camels converge on the tiny desert town of Pushkar, in India's state of Rajasthan for the Pushkar Camel Fair. For five days, the camels are dressed up, paraded, shaved, entered into beauty contests, raced, and of course traded. It's a great opportunity to witness an old, traditional style Indian festival.




7.  Pushkar Camel Fair

An astonishing 50,000 camels converge on the tiny desert town of Pushkar, in India's state of Rajasthan for the Pushkar Camel Fair. For five days, the camels are dressed up, paraded, shaved, entered into beauty contests, raced, and of course traded. It's a great opportunity to witness an old, traditional style Indian festival.


  •  Kerala Temple & Elephant Festivals Essential Guide

    Kerala temple festivals are elaborate and exotic. The main attraction at these festivals is the elephants. Most Hindu temples in Kerala own elephants, the majority of which are donated by devotees.

    The festivals form part of each temple's annual rituals. They're often a tribute to the temple's presiding god, who emerges from inside the temple once a year. Each festival has a different set of legends and myths behind it, depending on the temple god.
    • When are the Festivals Held?

    From February to April/May, with each temple festival running for around 10 days. Shorter elephant pageants held at various temples typically last for one day.

    Kerala Tourism has a handy event calendar showing the dates of temple festivals and elephant pageants in Kerala for the forthcoming couple of years.
    • Where are the Festivals Held?

    At temples throughout the state of Kerala, in south India. The biggest and most colorful festival takes place at Vadakkumnathan temple in Thrissur and is called Thrissur Pooram. It happens during the Malayalam month of Medam (April/May). Another important festival not far from Thrissur is the Arattupuzha Pooram, which has around 60 elephants in attendance.
    • What Celebrations Take Place?

    While everyday temple rituals are modest, temple festivals take place on a grand scale and are a highlight on the social calenders of Kerala's population. The festivals feature large processions of bejeweled elephants, drummers and other musicians, colorful floats carrying gods and goddesses, and fireworks.
    • What Rituals are Performed?

    Detailed temple rituals are conducted by a tantri (the main temple priest) according to the temple god. Rituals involving the god statue in a Pallivetta (Royal Hunt) and Arattu (Holy Bath) are the focus of the festivals of some Kerala's major temples. During the Thrissur and Arattupuzha Poorams, gods from surroundings temples make their annual visit on elephant back to pay their respects to the presiding temple god.
    • What to Expect

    Plenty of crowds, elephants, noise, and processions. Music is an important part of the temple celebrations and the frenetic percussionists, of which there are plenty, manage to whip up quite a sound. Cultural programs, including classical music and dance performances, also take place.