Hinduism and Festivals

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India is a vast country with various castes, creed, and colour hence a large number of festivals are celebrated in India in honour of their gods and goddesses. Since many communities exist here; the ways and method of celebrating these festivals also differ from state to state. But, the basic form of the belief behind their origin, the traditions and the excitement of celebrations is still the same for years. However, since India has a majority of Hindus, there is a preponderance of Hindu festivals.

Cities or states are famous for the celebration of particular festivals e.g. Kolkatta (West Bengal) for Durga Puja, Mathura (Uttar Pradesh) for Holi and Janmashtami, Maharashtra for Ganesh Chaturthi, Kerala for Onam. Similarly, Muslim festivals of Id-ul-Zuha and Muharram are famous in Muslim community, Parsi festival of Jamshed Nav Roz in Bombay, Christian festivals in Goa and the Kaza festival in the Lamaistic strongholds of Ladakh, Lahaul and Spiti and Sikkim. In some tribal areas, the cult of Mother Goddess is more prevalent. However, the celebrations dissolve ethnic limitations and all religious groups merge into one, during such festivals.

Epigraphically evidences prove that festivals have been celebrated in India since Vedic times. The Aryans conquered India around 1500 B.C, and cultural integration with the local population took place. As time passed, some of their own gods lost importance and festivals in their honour died out. Later, certain pre-Aryan aspects of worship began to dominate. At the same time, the tribal people who had their own cults and worshipped serpents and other such entities and natural elements, came under the influence of the Hindus and started worshipping the Hindu deities.

Many local festivals were celebrated in villages and every village has its guardian deities. They were celebrated on fixed days and could be the gramadevatas (village deities), for protection or the grahadevatas (evil spirits) for appeasement.

Feasting has always been a part of festive occasion and the people in ancient times, like us, enjoyed them. During the festivals, whole nation gets vibrant and colourful as it resurrects itself from the repetitive and tiresome routine. Fun, get-togethers, special food and sweets, colours, crackers, loud music, dance and dramas though, are the characteristics of the festivals in India.

Hindu festivals
There are a number of Hindu religious festivals that are officially recognized by the government as "closed holidays" and the biggest of these occur within two blocks of time after the end of the southwest monsoon. Cuisine, dresses and ornaments, with the profusion of golden, red and yellow colors, cultural and traditional performances and music, chariot and car procession of the deities and interesting folklores are at the heart of Hindu festivals.

Muslim Festivals
The Pilgrimage to Mecca during the month of Dhu al-Hijjah, is compulsory once in a lifetime for every follower of Islam. The Islamic calendar followed by the Muslims started on the Hijrah. The migration of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Madina in 622 AD is called Hijrah. The beginning of Hijrah 1407 corresponds to the Gregorian year 1987(January). The months of Hijrah year are: Muharram, Safar, Rabbi-ul-Awwal, Rabi-us-Sani, Jamad-ul-Awwal, Jamad-us-Sani, Rajab, Shaban, Ramzan, Shawwal, Zil Qaid and Zil-Hajj (Dhu al-Hijjah. Islamic festivals mostly are religious.

Sikh Festival
s Guru Nanak founded Sikhism, youngest religion practiced in India. Sikhism started as a reaction to Hinduism that had become too ritualistic. The Granth Sahib is the central object of Sikh worship and ritual. The festivals of the Sikhs are mainly religious and they organize kirtans (hymn-singing), katha (discourse), ardas (supplication), karah parshad (consecrated food) and langar (free food distribution from the gurudwara kitchen). The Sikh festivals are based on a combination of the lunar calendar and the solar...
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