The word India paints a vibrant picture in one’s mind of its many festivals. A country where so many faiths coexist harmoniously, its iconic festivals are a way to celebrate the culture and heritage that adorns this magical land.
Gorgeous parades, serene hymns, carefree dancing on the streets, a play of bright coloured powders, delicious feasts and drums rolling, Indian festivals are truly overwhelming. And don’t think you will be simply observing - there’s nothing the locals love more than having travellers join the party. The Indian spirit of Atithi Devo Bhava i.e. The Guest is God transcends into festivals too.
This marks the start of the Hindu new year and generally falls in the month of October/November. Known as the ‘Festival of Lights’ locals decorate their homes with divas (oil lamps) to help the goddess of wealth find her way to their home. You will see stunning Rangoli patterns (floral or geometric designs created on the floor with coloured powder, flowers or rice) at the entrance of their homes to welcome the spirit of this festival.
With families coming together to feast and light firecrackers, during Diwali the country shines bright and is a treat to the eyes.
This marks the end of the holy month of Ramzan and is one of the most iconic Islamic festivals. After a month of fasting and purification of the soul and mind, Eid begins with a prayer and celebration with family and friends over a feast. Some also do a charity donation as a mark of gratitude. One of the best places to feel the spirit of this festival is in Jama Masjid in Delhi and explore the streets of Old Delhi in all its festival fervour.
Ganesha is the god of new beginnings and this day honours the re-birth of the elegant-headed God. He is the most revered and this festival is observed for 11 days. Usually held in the month of August/September you will see from large to small idols of the God adorned with jewellery and bright clothes. The idols are worshipped at home and in public spaces and on the 11th day the idols are paraded on the streets and immersed in water.
This is the most well-known festival among travellers. Bright coloured faces are synonymous with the word Indian festival.
This Festival of Colour called Holi, marks the end of winter and the upcoming spring harvest season. Locals use vibrant coloured powders on each other and the day is spent in sheer merriment. The colours of the powder however have a meaning attached to it. Red symbolises love and fertility; blue represents Lord Krishna; green represents new beginnings and yellow represents turmeric, a herb native to India.
It is derived from a Sanskrit word that translates ‘Nava’ as nine and ‘Ratri’ as night. This festival is dedicated to Goddess Durga and it symbolises good over evil.
It is celebrated in various ways across the country. Known as Durga Puja in Northeast, locals sing songs for the goddess. In the north and western parts of the country, devotees celebrate the festival by fasting and conclude it with Dussehra where the effigies of Ravana and his brothers are burnt. And in Gujarat locals dress up in flamboyant clothes and enjoy the traditional dance of garba or dandiya.
This festival has a beautiful history and story that will leave you spellbound.
This one celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, known for his joyful and loving nature. This festival is the biggest spectacle in Mumbai. You will witness teams of people making human pyramids with the aim of reaching and breaking clay pots filled with curd and butter.
There is an interesting story behind this display. Lord Krishna absolutely loved butter and curd, and would try to take it from homes, so the villagers would hang it out of his reach. The story goes that he got his friends into helping him climb up and reach it.
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