Every year a lot of festivals with different rituals are celebrated in Hindu religion for an aesthetic and spiritual fervor. The rituals of Hindu festivals form an integral part of Indian Hindu culture. This culture will continue to be followed with the same zeal and enthusiasm for centuries to come. The following are some of the most important festivals followed by Hindus in India. Though Hinduism is full of festivals and fasts, all events, major or minor have a deep meaning attached. Traditionally, Hindu festivals are also celebrated and observed in diverse modes reflecting the very richness of its culture. Major Hindu festivals include Maha Shiva Ratri, Holi, Dussehra, Rama Navami, Raksha Bandhana, Janmashtami, and Navaratri, Diwali / Lakshmi Puja etc. and various other numerous festivals.
Diwali one of the most ancient festivals has a special place among all festivals in India. People clean their houses around diwali with special enthusiasm to welcome the goddess lakshmi; they remove the dirt, old clothes, torn garments, etc. They have their houses whitewashed and freshly painted. Lighting lamps during diwali symbolizes the destruction, through knowledge, of all negative forces- wickedness, violence, lust, anger, envy, greed, bigotry, fear, injustice, oppression and suffering, etc. Diwali according to legend is mainly celebrated on the victory of Bali, king of demon by Vishnu to save god Laxmi from the prison. So, people on this day express their happiness by lighting their houses with burning lamps. The celebration of diwali starts from early morning where people get up early in the morning and tidy up their house with festoons, take oil bath. In the evening they place the earthern lamps filled with oil and fixed with the cotton wicks. They have special meals prepared on this occasion. Gifting sweet packets and other items are also part of the diwali customs. Children and elder people light up sparklers and flowerpots, the rockets and Vishnuchakras in the night sky like a thousand stars.
Pongal one of the most popular harvest festival honouring the sun god and the lord of rains, Indra.It also symbolizes a thanks giving festival for the plentiful paddy crop that the farmer has harvested during the mild winter months. It is considered very auspicious occasion when the sun transits the Capricorn sign heralding the advent of the suns northward tilt or uttarayana.Cleaning and white washing of every house a few days prior pongal is an indispensable ritual. The first day is dedicated to Indra who is called Bhogi.On this day old items that have outlined their utility are burnt in a bonfire during which children dance around it beating drums. Next day is the first day of the tamilian month known as "Thai' .On this day rangoli is done from a rice paste got from the newly harvested rice. The main ceremonial part of this festival is making of sakkarai pongal and after the ceremonial worship pongal is brought in a plantain leaf and offered to the sun god. The next day is the mattu pongal where we can witness typical race of the decorated bulls. The last day of the pongal celebrations is called as kanya pongal where different preparations of rice and curd are kept on the banana leaves and kept in open so that birds, squirrels and ants may also get the taste of newly harvested rice.
Dussehra or Dassera is a popular festival celebrated by Hindus all over India, albeit with different names. It literally means that which takes away ten sins. As with many other festivals it symbolizes good over evil. The festivities lasts for ten days and nights, the first nine nights are celebrated as Navaratri, dedicated to the worship of different aspects of durga in some areas and also of Laxmi or Saraswathi in others. It is also known as Vijayadashmi ('Vijay' meaning 'victory' and 'Dashmi meaning 'tenth day) as it is believed that it was on this day that Lord Rama killed the demon-king, Ravana and won over Lanka, his kingdom. Puranas also opined that in this day warrior Goddess Durga defeated and killed the buffalo demon Mahishasura.Each evening of the ten days the major events of the Ramayana story are enacted and on the final day three huge bamboo and paper effigies of ravana, Meghnanath and Kumbhkarna, stuffed with fire crackers, are set alight. They blaze and crackle in fiery splendour, till finally the huge figures fall.
Ram Navami the birthday of Lord Rama is a major Hindu festival celebrated all over the country by all sects of Hindu fold. Ram the seventh incarnation of Vishnu was born on the ninth day of the bright half of the lunar month Chaitra. Rama Navami being a major festival for Vaishnavites, it is also celebrated by worshippers of Shiva. During this day people observes fasting, visits temples to offer special prayers, takes religious processions and the special readings of Ramayana are also held. In Ayodhya, the birth place of Sri Rama, great celebrations great celebrations are performed and the temples are richly decorated. Since Ram was born at noon the pujas are performed singing various slokas, hymns etc.and ending with distribution of sweets and fruits. The more devout fast for nine days, from Ugadi to Rama Navami. The objective of the fast is not to ask for special favours of the deity but to seek perfection as a human being. The major significant part of the celebration is the Ramayana parayana.Hera usually a discourse on the Ramayana takes place by a pundit or a professional story-teller which lasts nine days, beginning on Ugadhi and ending on Rama Navami.
Makara Sankranti which normally falls on January 14th has special geo-agri-economical significance to people of Indian Sub-Continent. Astrologically this is about transition of Sun into Capricorn on its celestial path which significantly marks the beginning of the gradual increase of the duration of the day. Makara Sankrantiis also called Uttarayan Sankranti.On this day the devotees take a holy dip in the Ganga and other holy streams. It is generally the harvest festival. The festivities on this day begin right since early in the morning. After bath in the holy waters and giving alms people assemble to worship the Sun god. The main custom is to give daan of the things from the verandh of the house to the poor and then worship the sun god. This festival mainly signifies to enjoy or start a new life receiving the bright light from the sun and gain wisdom and spiritual knowledge. It is the day which marks the beginning of the auspicious time again for performing marriage and other ceremonies.
This is one of the most powerful and coourfull festival celebrated in India. Holi begins on Duwadashi which is the twelfth day of the waxing moon in the month of Phalgun.It is celebrated on Phalgun Purnima which comes in February end or early March.Holi is generally associated with Lord Krishna. On this day people start making preparation to start the great day. They sort out what is useless for them and dump those things on a particular spot close to their houses and this dump of old things is called as holi and set bon fire. On this day people prepare colourful water for playing holi.They rub 'gulal' and 'abeer' on each others' faces and cheer up saying, "bura na maano Holi hai".Holi for the people is a festival of joy revelery and of abandonment of all taboos and restrictions to forget the innumerable obligations that weigh us down and breathe the air of freedom.
Maha Shivratri generally falls on a moonless February night, when Hindus offer special prayer to the lord of destruction,Shiva.On the thirteenth day of the waning moon fortnight in the month of Phalgun falls this festival symbolizing the wedding day of Shiva and Parvati and the festival is observed for one day and one night only. Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva are sung with great fervor and devotion during the night of mahashivratri. The devotees spend the whole night in meditation, japa and reciting the shivmahima sttrotra.The lingam which is the symbol of the lord is worshipped with gangajal, milk, curds, honey and ghee. It is believed that one who utters the name of Shiva during Maha Shivratri with proper devotion is freed from all sins. On this day, a drink called Thandai is mostly drunk by all the devout for it is considered to be made from cannabis which is one of the favourite fruit of Shiva.Thandai consist of cannabis, almonds, and milk. Chanting the five syllabled Shiv mantra "om namashivya"bestows special merit on this day on the devotees.
Navratri is a festival for nine days during which we worship goddess of shakti. The beginning of spring and the beginning of autumn is two very important junctions of climatic and solar influence and this taken as a sacred time to worship the Divine Mother. The first three nights is commerated to worship the destructive aspect of the goddess durga and the next three nights involves the worshipping of protective aspect of Lakshmi and finally the last three nights the knowledge aspect of the Saraswathi goddess is worshipped.