Indian drama (theatre)
Diwali: The ‘Festival of Lights’ celebrated in October-November in all parts of the country, marks Rama’s return to Ayodhya after the 14-years’ exile. Its origin is also attributed to Lord Vishnu rescuing Goddess Lakshmi, from King Bali; and lord Krishna’s victory over the demon Narakasura. The celebrations include feasting and distribution of sweets and lighting of countless lamps. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is worshipped on this night.
Deshera/Navaratri: It is celebrated 20 days before Diwali in September – October every year in nearly whole of the country. The 10-day sequence consists of worship of the Goddess Durga (for celebrating her victory over demon Mahishashura) and presentation of highlights from the life of Lord Rama. It symbolizes the victory of virtue over evil.
Raksha Bandhan: Celebrated in two ways on the full moon day of Shravana (July-August). In the north, sisters tie an amulet on the wrist of brothers to wish them a happy and long life and seek their help and protection in times of need. In the south, especially for the Brahmans, it is the most important day for changing their sacred thread.
Holi: The festival of colours is celebrated on the first day of Chaitra (February-March). Bonfires are lit on the eve of Holi, and the event is known as the ‘Holika-Dahan’.
Vaishakhi: It is celebrated on the first day of Vaishakh and marks the beginning of Hindu calendar. Guru Gobind Singh founded Khalsa Panth on this day.
Shivratri: Shivratri or mahashivratri is dedicated to Shiva and is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight in the month of Magha (January-February). Most Hindus observe a fast and offer Bel leaves and milk to Lord Shiva.
Ramanavami: It is celebrated on the ninth day of Chaitra (March-April) as the birthday of Lord Rama, the incarnation of Vishnu. It is not only temple festivalbut also a household celebration.
Janmashtami: It is celebrated at midnight on the eighth day (ashtami) of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadra (August – September) as birthday of Lord Krishna.
Vasant Panchami: It is a spring festival dedicated to Saraswati (the goodness of learning). It falls on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of Magha (January-February).
Makar Sankranti/Pongal: In the North and Central (and Pongal in the South) India, it is celebrated on January 14, marking the beginning of Sun’s northward journey (Uttarayan). The masses take a dip in holy rivers and offer gifts to the needy.
Nag Panchami: The snake is worshipped on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of Shravana(July-August). This is based on a number of legends connected with Lord Vishnu, Shiva and Subramanya. The purpose is to seek protection from snake-bites.
Bhaiya Dhuj Or Tikka: It is celebrated in North India, on the day following Diwali. Women apply Tikka on their brother’s foreheads as a mark of protection from evil.
Teej: Dedicated to Goddess Parvati, it ccelebrates the beginning of the moon rains.
Karva Chauth: On this day which comes in Kartik (October – November) married women observe fast to wish a long life to their husbands.
Mahalaya: Hindus pray to their forefathers by offering water for the whole of the first fortnight of Ashvin (September – October). The fortnight is called Pitrapaksha.
Vata Savitri: Women observe this festival in Jaistha (May – June), under a Vata tree (banyan tree), in honour of the pious Savitri who won back her husband from Yama.
Govardhan Puja or Annakoot: This is celebrated on the next day of Diwali i.e., on the first day of the bright half of Kartika. This festival marks the importance of cow.
Ganesh Chaturthi: This is the most popular community and household festival of Maharashtra. It is celebrated on the fourth day of the bright half of Bhadra (August-September), the birthday of Lord Ganesha.
Rath-yatra or Car Festival of Puri: The car festival of Lord Jagannath is held at Puri (Orissa) in Asharh (June-July). The images of Jagannath, his brother Balaram and sister Subhadra are taken out in procession from the temple on three massive wooden chariots.
Vithoba Festival: It is celebrated in Maharashtra with a day’s fast each in April, July and November. Vithoba was believed to be an incarnation of Vishnu.
Onam: Kerala’s most important festival. Marks the return of king Mahabali from the nether world. Extensive floral decorations and feasting make the day.
Pooram: It is celebrated in May in Tirchur, Kerala. Elephant parade is the most distinguishing feature of the festival.
Kartikai : The kartikai festival, popular at several places in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and some parts of Kerala in the month of Kartik (October – November), is celebrated with illuminations in honour of appearance of Lord Shiva at the birth of the universe.
Lohri: Lohri is celebrated in Punjab- Haryana on the last day of the month of Paus. It marks the end of the winter. Bonfires are lit and sweets, corn, rice etc. are thrown in the fire.
Gangaur : Spring festival, dedicated to Gauri (Goddess of abundance). Processions are taken in Jaipur and Udaipur.
Akshya Tritya: A colorful fair of toys, it is celebrated in Gujarat.
Gudi Padva: A kite festival, it is celebrated in March-April in Gujarat and Maharashtra. It is the Maharashtrian New Year Day.
Bihu: It is an Assamese harvest festival. Buffalo fights are major attraction.
Pachul: A festival of flowers. Celebrated in March, September, October and December by the santhals of Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa respectively. Dancing, feasting and drinking make the ritual.
Lai Haroba: In Manipur, it is a celebration in honour of the forest deities.
Yaosang: In Manipur, dances in the moonlights are performed.
Moatsu: In Nagaland, the Ao Nagas celebrate their festival marking the fertility of the mother earth.
Hemi’s Festival: In Ladakh, it commemorates the birth of Guru Padma Ambhaya, mask dances are held in the courtyard of Hemi’s monastery in Leh. It is celebrated in all monasteries in Ladakh.
Vaisha Mangal: At Shantiniketan, it is a celebration of monsoon arrival.
Brahmostava: It is celebrated for 10 days in September in Tirupati, the seat of Lord Venkateswara (Lord Vishnu), in Andhra Pradesh.
Minjar: One of the most popular festivals of Chamba valley in Himachal, is celebrated in August.
Ras-lila: It is celebrated mostly in Assam and Manipur in Kartika (October – November) and at Vrindavana in Shravan (July-August). The lila depicts various episodes from the life of Lord Krishna.
Sarhul (flower festival), Mei Muri (crop festival) and Sohrai (harvest festival): Are three main festivals of the Santhals in Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa and are celebrated in March, September-October and December respectively. Dancing, feasting and drinking are the inevitable parts of the ritual .
Chhath: The Chhath festival is celebrated in veneration of the Sun God Throughout Bihar with as much zeal, devotion and enthusiasm as Durga Puja in Bengal. This is a festival of austerity and the devotees after six days of fasting and penance go to the nearest river and offer Arghya (oblation) to the Sun God once at sunset and again at Sun rise.
New year festivals:
In Andhra Pradesh, New Year’s day in called Ugadi, beginning of the Yuga. It comes in March-April.
In Punjab, the year starts with the first of Vaishakh, which coincides with the ripening of the Rabi harvest and Baisakhi (April 13).
‘Nava Varsha’ in Bengal started on the first of Vaishkh, and the people have their own era, the ‘Bengali san’.
The Kashmir saptarshi year starts with the vernal equinox but the lunastic New Year called Mel Lozar in Ladakh is celebrated as their New Year, Goru and Rangali Bihu, as a cattle festival when the animals are given jiggery and other delicacies.
The Kollum era, which is said to have started from the day Parsurama reclaimed Kerala from the sea, is followed mainly by Malayalees; Vishu (new Year’s Day) is celebrated with the kani or preparation of an auspicious omen the preceding night so that, it is the first ‘lucky’ thing one looks at in the morning. The Tamil’s New Year comes at the same time as Baisakhi.
Festivals of Muslims
Id-ul-Fitr: The happiest and the most festive Muslim occasion, Id-ul-Fitr comes at the end of the Islamic month of Ramzan during which Muslims fast every day. Every Muslim is required to offer Id-prayers but before doing so he is supposed to give fitr (alms) to the poor and the needy and wear clean clothes.
Id-ul-Zuhaor Id-ul-Agha or Bare-Id: It is another Muslim festival of great rejoicing, commemorating Hazrat Ibrahim’s exemplary devotion to Allah. This is celebrated on the 10th day of Zilhijia when the Haj celebrations at Mecca are rounded off by the sacrifice of goats and camels. In India, too, goats and sheep are sacrificed and prayers offered.
Muharram: It is essentially an occasion of grief and mourning and comes on the tenth day of the first Muslim month. It commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, grandson of the Prophet.
Urs: Urs are the occasions when death anniversaries of Muslimsaints are mourned. The most well known Urs are of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti at Ajmer, hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Chisti in Delhi etc. All Urs draw sizeable crowds of pilgrims.
Shab-e-Barat: Muslims believe that on this night, God registers the actions of men and dispenses their fate according to their deeds. Originally intended by holy Prophet as an occasion for prayerful vigils and fasting, this has developed into joyous festivalcelebrated with illuminations, fire works and crackers.
Festivals of Christians
Christmas: Most important festival of the Christians. It celebrates the birth of Christ on December 25.
Good Friday: Good Friday is a day of mourning because Jesus was crucified on that day.
Easter: Easter is celebrated on Sunday after Good Friday. It is marked by fearing and rejoicing to commemorate the resurrection of Christ, the victory of good over evil, of life over death.
Other religions’ festivals
Gurpurb: Gurpurbs or the birth anniversaries of gurus are treated as holy days by the Sikhs, but those of the first Guru and the last Guru are celebrated as festivals.
Buddha Jayanti: Buddha is believed to have been born on the full moon day of Vaisakha (April-May) and Buddha Jayanti is celebrated, according to tradition, to commemorate his birth as well as the day of his enlightenment.
Mahavira Jayanti: The festival falling in March-April marks the birth anniversary of the 24th Tirthankara Vardhamana Mahavira.
Nauroze : Nauroze is the most important festival of the Parsis and is celebrated on the 21st March each year. It is considered the parsi New Year only by one section of Parsis. On this day the Parsis worship at fire temples.
Gahambara :It is a parsi festival.
Thyagraja Festival: Thyagraja was a South Indian composer and saint and is celebrated for many Telugu songs he composed in praise of Rama. At Tiruvaiyaru about 13km from Tanjore, South Indian musicians gather at the composer’s memorial to sing in his memory.
Khajuraho Dance Festival: In Madhya Pradesh, an annual pageant of dances in the backdrop of the celebrated Khajuraho temples in held.
Konark Festival: In Orissa, it is a festival of music and dance with the Sun Temple as the background.
Carnival : Celebrated by Catholics for three days in Goa, it is marked by floats, processions, singing and dancing in the streets.
Taj Festival: This 15-day festival is celebrated at Agra to encourage tourism.
Sair-e-Gul-Faroshan ‘Festival of Flowers’ : A Unique festival of flowers, celebrated in September-October jointly by Hindus and the Muslims at Mehrauli, some 13 km from Delhi. Large palm-leaf fans (Pankha) decorated with flowers are taken out in a procession, with dancing. All the participants, both the Hindus and the Muslims, jointly go to the Dargah of Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki Sahib, sacred spot for the Muslims; and then to the Hindu Jog Maya temple.
Camel Festival: Held annually at Bikaner.
Kumbh Mela: It is the greatest of India’s periodical fairs. It is believed that Jayanta, the son of Indra, the Lord of Heaven, while running away with the Kumbh (Jar) or amrita (Nictar), rested at Nasik, Ujjain, Prayag and Haridwar. It is believed that a few drops of nectar fell at each of the four places making them sacred. The Mela is celebrated at each of these places every 12 years.
Pushkar mela: The fair on the banks of the Pushkar Lake in Rajasthan (Ajmer) is held in October-November. Pushkar incidentally happens to be the only place in India where Brahma temple is located and Brahma is worshipped even now.
Magha Mela: In the month of Magha (January- February)every year, a fair is held at the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the hidden Saraswati at Allahabad, in U.P.
India International Trade Fair: Held at New Delhi every year from 14-23 November, it is one of the best of the world and Indian fairs presented on a mammoth scale at Pragati Maidan.
International Flower Festival: In Sikkim, it is a tourist festival promoting the state’s flora, culture and handicrafts.
Jwalamukhi Fair: Held in the Kangra Valley where Goddess of volcano is worshipped.
Sipi Fair: Typical Himachali hill music, dances and bargaining for local handicrafts at Mashobra near Shimla are the highlights of this fair, held in Himachal Pradesh
Ganga Sagar Mela: In Bengal, millions congregate where the Ganga joins the sea for a holy dip.
Beating Retreat: At New Delhi, the bands of the services play to the martial tunes. Marks the finale of the Republic day celebrations.
International Mango Festival: at Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh), the king of fruits is felicitated at an orchard with sampling of different varieties of mangoes.
Kansa Fair: The fair is held at Mathura and Fathepur Sikri (U.P.) in October-November to commemorate the destruction of Kansa by Krishna and his brother Balram.
Sonepur Fair: Sonepur fair is the Asia’s largest cattle fair held at Sonepur (Bihar). This unique and historic fair begins every year on Kartik Purnima (November) and lasts for a fortnight.
Bhavnath Fiar: Held in Gujarat in the month of February-March. The highlights of the fair is the series of cultural programmes presented by leading exponents of bhajans, keerans, bhavai, folk songs and dances on all five days.
Sarkhej Fair: Also called Shah Ahmed Khaltu Fair, held at Sarkhej on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. It is the most important Muslim fair of Gujarat. It is held in July-August in the vicinity of the mausoleum of Shah Ahmed Khaltu Gunj Baksh, saint and mentor of the founder of Ahmedabad.
Surajkund Crafts Mela: It is India’s finest handloom and handicrafts fair held every year in the month of February at Surajkund (Haryana), 16 km away from the hub of Delhi.
Tarnetar Fair: Held in the first week of Bhadra (September-October) at Sundhernagar (Gujarat) in honour of Lord Shiva