Hindu Festivals

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Hindus hold festivals to honour each of the thousands of Hindu gods and goddesses. Most of these festivals are local celebrations at the temples and honour specific divinities. A few festivals are observed by all Hindus, chiefly in their homes and villages. These festivals, which include Holi and Diwali, combine religious ceremonies with feasts, fireworks, parades, and other traditional amusements. Holi, the spring festival, is a boisterous celebration in which people throw coloured water at one another. During the festival of Diwali, which honours the goddess of wealth and beauty, Hindus decorate their houses and streets with lights. Hindu festivals are colourful, joyous occasions. They are celebrated either as private worship at a household shrine or as public neighbourhood festivals.

Everyone in the neighbourhood takes part in the public festival, but the celebrations at home are restricted to each family and close friends. Some festivals such as Raksha-Bandhan, Diwali, Navaratri, Dusserah, and Holi attract large crowds all over India.

Other festivals such as Durga-Puja, Saraswati-Puja, Naga-Panchami, and Ganesha Puja are more regional in their popularity. Every large temple celebrates the annual festival of the deity to which it is dedicated. At this time a replica of the main image is taken in a chariot procession, called ratha-yatra, through the town. The processions at Jagannath Puri and Udipi are famous for their colourful pageantry.

Navaratri is the Nine Nights festival dedicated to the goddess Shakti. On the eighth night, Durga-Puja is celebrated as a public festival in Bengal. On the day after Navaratri is Dusserah, the climax of the Rama-Leela festival in north India. It commemorates the exploits of Lord Rama, as described in the epic Ramayana. Twenty days after Dusserah, usually in October or November, comes the festival of Diwali, dedicated to Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi.

On the Raksha-Bandhan day, in August, women tie a silk thread round the wrists of their brothers to renew ties of affection. Holi is celebrated towards the end of the Hindu calendar year, with a bonfire and merry-making. People worship Saraswati in a public festival in Bengal. In August in western India, Hindus in rural areas worship live snakes on the day of Naga-Panchami.

In Maharashtra in western India, the Ganesha (or Ganapati) festival is celebrated for ten days in many towns and cities. A large clay image of the deity is installed in a temporary pavilion, and puja is offered morning and evening. Recitals of Indian classical music, folk song contests, and plays are arranged as entertainment. On the last day, images from the different localities are taken in procession to the local river, and immersed in the water.

Continue with Holi.....

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