India is the land of many religions, languages, cultures, and even dialects; however, along with these, it is also the land of festivals. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that India is nothing less than the world capital of festivals. These festivals help keep unity intact, spread love among different religions and cultures, and work as a rope that binds the whole country together.
Indian festivals are diverse and celebrated by people across the length and breadth of the country. They exist in higher numbers because there is hardly a religion in the world that doesn’t exist here, and diversity is the beauty of India. Moreover, this diversity has been celebrated via festivals for hundreds of years. This post is focused on knowing more about the festivals of India and how they are celebrated across this great nation. Let’s begin!
The festival of lights, “Diwali,” is the biggest festival celebrated nationwide. Also called the festival lights, it is celebrated in north India and in most of India to celebrate the return of Lord Rama (considered the incarnation of Lord Vishnu) to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile, where he killed the demon Ravana.
However, in several parts of South India, people celebrate it as the day when Lord Krishna defeated the evil demon Narakasura. The celebration of this festival happens on a grand scale as the people, especially in north India, burn firecrackers, exchange sweets, spend big on gifts, and pray to Goddess Laxmi. The occasion is looked upon as the perfect time to buy something expensive or start a new venture, as it is associated with prosperity.
Holi, another big festival in India, is mainly celebrated in north India. However, with migration happening, you will find some pockets of South India enjoying this festival. The reason you celebrate Holi is again related to the mythological story of Lord Vishnu’s incarnation Narsimha succeeding in killing Hiranyakashipu (Prahalda’s father) to save his dear devotee Prahlada. Generally, a pyre of Holika is burned, and people elaborate on this festival by playing with colors and water. Over the years, the festival has turned into an occasion where people from all religions celebrate this day to show affection toward each other despite being from different cultures, religions, and languages.
Onam is the biggest festival in southern India, Kerala, and the festivity lasts 10 days. People of Kerala believe that the famous Emperor Mahabali visits Kerala state every year during Onam. It is also an occasion to welcome the new harvest and the end of the monsoon. Generally, it falls either in August or September. Festivities include boat racing, cultural dance performances, prayers, cultural es, and the creation of pookkalam (a floral design).
4. Guru Purab
Moving to the festival of another religion, you cannot complete a list of great Indian festivals without including Gurupuyurab, which is the occasion of the birthday of the first guru and founder of Sikhism, “Guru Nanak Dev.” It is celebrated on the full moon of Kartik Maas, which generally falls in the month of November. This festival is celebrated across India because the Gurudawars are present in every state of the country. You will find even Hindus and even some other religious people visiting Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) and exchanging sweets and eating at langars (open kitchens that serve food). In Punjab, people burn firecrackers to celebrate this auspicious day.
Now coming back to South India, you cannot complete the list of the most famous Indian festivals without talking about Pongal, which celebrates harvest festivals and marks the auspicious beginning of Uttarayan. Pongal means “spilling over.” Its name comes from boiling rice until it overflows and becomes sticky. It is celebrated mainly in Tamil Nadu, a state in south India. It usually lasts four days, during which people show gratitude to nature. Besides drawing kolams, swinging, and cooking tasty Pongal food, people buy and wear new clothes to celebrate this occasion. It is the most popular festival, along with Pongal, in South India.
Durga Pooja is another important Indian festival, celebrated in some form in all parts of the country. This festival celebrates Goddess Durga’s victory over demon Mahishasura. And just as Diwali and Holi are considered the days when victory triumphed over evil.
It is also observed as a harvest festival and people pay homage to the goddess of life and creation as they consider it as a motherly force. People celebrate it with great enthusiasm, and it is also the biggest festival in West Bengal, the largest state in western India. The Durga festival typically lasts for nine days in West Bengal. On its final four days (Saptami, Ashtami, Navami, and Dashami), when people visit lovely pandals to welcome Mother Durga, the state remains closed.
However, in Tamil Nadu, celebrations take place on the final three days of Navratri (the nine nights). On these days, people celebrate and worship the three forms of the goddesses Durga, Saraswati, and Lakshmi. They exchange coconuts, gifts, and sweets to celebrate this occasion.
Among all the festivals of India, the list cannot be completed without mentioning Eid ul-Fitr, which is the major festival of Muslims. It is celebrated to mark the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. In India, it is celebrated much like in other parts of the world, where people go to mosques, offer prayers, do shopping, meet, exchange gifts, and dress traditionally. It is even more beautiful because you will see Muslims offering sweets to people of other religions, and even Hindus can be seen visiting their Muslim friends to enjoy the feast. However, aside from the variations in food and attire, you won’t notice many differences in how people celebrate this festival across the length and breadth of the nation.
This blog explains the top 7 Indian festivals and highlights the differences in how they are celebrated in south and north India. Some festivals, such as Pongal, are only celebrated in South India, while others, such as Holi, are celebrated with greater fervor in North India. Additionally, festivals, such as Eid ul-Fitr, are celebrated everywhere. However, one thing is common: people across this nation respect each other’s religion and culture and see festivals as the occasion to celebrate unity in diversity.