India is a land of colourful and diverse cultures and the Indian festivals are the best instances to feel this. The festivals have been celebrated for hundreds of years with the same fervour and every aspect of them will amaze you. If you are visiting India, then you must take part in these festivals to understand this country, its people and the culture, as the famous saying goes, “The greatness of a culture can be found in its festivals”. You will have a breathtaking experience as you will meet people from different walks of life, who speak different languages, eat different food and wear different dresses coming together to celebrate these festivals.
Deepawali or, Diwali
Diwali is known as the festival of lights and it signifies the triumph of good over evil. It is one of the most famous festivals of India and on the day of Diwali, every house is lit up with diyas, candles and electric lights. The celebration of Diwali dates back to the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya, thousands of years ago and has continued since. After Lord Rama killed Ravana and returned to Ayodhya with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana after a 14-year exile, people of Ayodhya lit diyas (small oil lamps made of clay) to welcome their King. Today people celebrate this day as the victory of light over darkness by wearing traditional attire, decorating their houses, lighting firecrackers and distributing sweets.
Holi is known as the festival of colours. Rich or poor, North Indian or South Indian, everyone comes together to celebrate this festival and enjoy a day without any worries. There are two stories associated with the celebration of Holi. According to the first one, Prahlad was saved by Lord Vishnu from being burnt on a pyre, while his evil aunt Holika who wanted to kill him was burnt. According to the second story, a worried Krishna who thought that his love Radha would not accept him because of his dark blue colour, mischievously applied colours on her to make her look like him. While the first story signifies the defeat of evil at the hands of good and is still celebrated as ‘Holika Dahan’ or bonfire, on the previous night of Holi, while the second story adds the elements of mischief and love to the festival and is celebrated by throwing colours at each other. The colours that are used during the festival are both artificial and natural and can be used in a dry form or wet form by mixing with water. If you are in India during Holi, then you must visit Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. This town is the birthplace of Lord Krishna and the best place to celebrate Holi.
Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath
On this day, the town of Puri, Odisha is filled with devotees from all over the world. Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Krishna comes out of the temple along with his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra on his ‘rath’ (chariot) and is taken to the Gundicha Temple, and this journey is known as the Rath Yatra. Every year, the Rath Yatra is attended by nearly 4-5 lakh devotees, whose only wish is to catch a glimpse of the Lord during the yatra. The Rath Yatra brings people from all parts of the world together and all of them stand together despite having class and caste differences.
The festival of Mahashivratri, as the name suggests, is a celebration that goes on all night with Lord Shiva at its centre. Mahashivratri is celebrated for different reasons by people across the world. Many celebrate this night as the marriage anniversary of Lord Shiva and go to temples to worship him. For many, this is the night when Lord Shiva defeated all his enemies and for the ascetics, this night is the night of stillness. Some see Lord Shiva as Mahadev or, God of Gods while others see him as Adi guru or, the first guru of the world. The celebration of Mahashivratri lasts all night and people stay awake the whole night to worship their God. If you visit India during this festival, then you will witness temples decorated with flowers and lights and people wearing traditional dresses going to temples to worship the Lord.
Durga Puja is the most famous festival of Bengalis and is celebrated across the country with much enthusiasm. This festival celebrates the divine Adi Shakti in the form of Goddess Durga, who is also the better half of Lord Shiva. This festival also signifies the victory of good over evil. Mahishasura was an evil rakshasa who was extremely powerful and had the boon that he could not be killed by any male. Devi Durga was called upon by the Gods and was given weapons by them, which she holds in her ten hands. She went on to defeat Mahishasura and killed him and thus, saving the world from the evil. The capital city of Bengal, Kolkata is the best place to spend time during the Durga Puja.
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated across a period of eleven days and is one of the famous festivals of India. Lord Ganesha, son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, remains the centre of worship and celebrations during this festival. It is celebrated in a grand manner in the state of Maharashtra, as it is believed that Lord Ganesha can remove all obstacles from one’s life and help him in achieving success. Being a part of this festival will let you observe the Indian culture, traditions and people closely and have a better understanding of this beautiful and amazing country.
Onam is an annual festival of Kerala and people welcome this harvest season at the end of monsoon by celebrating this festival. This festival is celebrated for ten days and you can explore the tradition, the cultural fervour and colours of Kerala through the Onam festival. Earlier, during the Sangam period, Onam was celebrated for one month and it was organized by the people to show their honour to the Asura King Mahabali. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu visited this place during the Sangam period and he disguised himself as a poor Brahmin. He asked the demon king to grant him the three feet land and afterward, he covered the sky with his first two steps. Then the demon king Mahabali recognized him as Lord Vishnu and asked him to keep his last step on his head. Lord Vishnu granted him a boon and announced that people will celebrate and show their honour to the demon king Mahabali every year through the Onam Festival.
India has a lot to offer to the tourists who come from various parts of the world. Many of the visitors had a life-changing experience after visiting India, their way of looking at things changed forever and they ended up being a changed person. India has everything, from beaches to deserts, palaces to mountains, forests to forts and temples to skyscrapers and is a perfect holiday destination. But if you want to have a better understanding of the Indian people and their culture, then you must take part in these Indian festivals.