FESTIVALS OF INDIA
India is a land of colors and festivals. Perhaps no other country in the world can surpass India in the number of festivals and celebrations. There is no exaggeration in the saying that there are at least nine festivals in a week in India. In the plain-speaking language, every day in India is the day of the festival. Due to variety and diversity of Indian culture and people, the festivals are related to harvesting and national events; gods and goddesses; change of seasons; and mythical heroes and heroines. In this way, the Indian festivals serve social, religious, national, cultural and psychological purposes.
Festivals in India are the occasion when the members, of the family, gather together, invoke favors from elderly people and their cherished deities, exchange sweets, good wishes, and greetings. They also fast, pray, relax and rejoice on the eve of festivals. Some of the festivals are observed as closed public holidays on an all India basis. Almost all the festivals enthuse the people and reflect the country’s unity in diversity through their pageantry and fervor with which they are observed. Besides playing a social and religious role, the festivals are also a perennial source of recreation and communal harmony.
The social gathering in them provides mutual relaxation. Holi, Diwali, Dussehra, Janamashtmi, Raksha Bandhan, Ram. Navami, Buddha Purnima, Shivaratri, Baisakhi, Christmas, Guru Purba, Muharram, Id-ul-Nilad, etc. are the important festivals of India. Independence Day and Republic Day are our national festivals.
Holi is both a boisterous and colorful festival in the real sense of the term. It marks the advent of the spring season and the ripening of crops. This festival lasts for two days, On the first night, a bonfire is lit. The next day, men, women, and children throw colored water, powder, and perfume at one another in gay abundance. They embrace one another and offer sweets to visitors.
Diwali is called the festival of lights and illumination. The people worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity and light earthen lamps and candles to illuminate the dark night. The businessmen open new accounts on Diwali, It is celebrated to commemorate the crowning of Rama after his triumphant return from Lanka. The neighbors visit one another’s house and exchange greetings and sweets.
Dussehra marks the victory of good over, evil on this day, Prince Rama of Ayodhya had killed Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. The story of Ramayana is staged for ten days, The effigies of Ravana, the abductor of Sita, his brother Kumbhakarana and son Meghnad are burnt on Dussehra night. Dussehra is observed as the day of Durga Puja in West Bengal. Buddha Purnima marks Lord Buddha’s birth, nirvana and enlightenment special celebration are held at Buddhist temples on this day.
Christmas is celebrated on 25th December with great fervor by the Christians. New year’s day is also celebrated all over the country. Muharram is observed as the day of martyrdom Of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, The Mohammadans take out mourning procession with Tajias to the loud beating of drums Id-ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramazan. The people offer Namaz and give food articles and money in charity.
The Independence Day and the Republic Day are celebrated in state capitals with equal enthusiasm. All the above festivals create a feeling of integration and happiness among the masses Their socio-religious significance is great.
Diwali is one of the four most important festivals of India. It is celebrated in the month of Kartik on the Amavasya day soon after the rainy season. This festival of light is celebrated all over India. It marks the beginning of winter. At this time of the year, the crop of rice is almost ready.
Hence the farmer’s house wears a general look of prosperity. The rural folk clean their houses and make beautiful motifs on the wall depicting the goddess of Laxmi and lord Ganesha, who are the chief deities of this festival. While the people living in urban areas, clean and whitewash their houses. They also carry out minor repairs.
The roots of these festivals lie in a revered story of Lord Rama. It is said that the Lord returned to his home in Ayodhya after remaining in exile for fourteen years. During that period he defeated the demon Ravana, the king of Lanka, who had abducted Sita deceitfully. People of Ayodhya expressed their joy on the return of Rama by illuminating the city with earthen lamps. Since then, Diwali is celebrated with great rejoicing every year.
Not just mythology, this festival also has a medical significance. Diwali occurs soon after the season of the rains. Rain brings with it many water-borne diseases like malaria, diarrhea, gastroenteritis, etc. Besides rains are known to cause damage to houses and other property. After the people of the rain repair their houses and clean the dirt accumulated by the rainwater. This cleaning drives away the mosquitoes and other pests, thus making the houses free from any disease. And those who had fallen sick, rejoice for becoming well again.
Preparations for this festival start many days before the festival. On this day women prepare sweets and other special food. Men go out and buy crackers, toys made of sugar and Parched paddy, small earthen lamps, cotton for wicks, flowers and oil. They also buy small clay statues of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Laxmi. The houses are cleaned and white-washed and decorated with pictures and calendars. People wear new clothes and the houses and shops are illuminated with electric bulbs. candles and earthen lamps. Families gather around the decorated statues and pray for each other’s well being. They then light crackers, wish each other and distribute sweets.
The markets of the city are decorated with electric lights. There are great hustle and bustle in the bazaars on this day. The shops are décorated. Sweets display different varieties of sweets. Markets are full of people. They purchase various items needed for Diwali prayers. Children spend their pocket money on crackers. Elders buy gifts for everyone in the household. New clothes are purchased. The traders open new account books-on this day and close down old accounts. They perform special prayers before Goddess Laxmi, who is also considered to be the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. The people keep their houses open at night so that Laxmi may visit their house. Lord Mahavira attained Nirvana. Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Swami Rath Tirath died on this auspicious day.
However, only one bad custom, of gambling, mars this otherwise unique festival. People believe that by gambling on k. this day the Goddess of wealth will be pleased. But it is not always so and many people lose a considerable sum of money and become poor. Some people commit suicide. It is a pity that this festival is marred by such evil practices. People should give up gambling. That would maintain the purity of the festival. Diwali is the festival which is eagerly awaited by young and old alike.
The Dussehra is an important festival of Hindus. It falls in the months of October. It is celebrated all over India. It is celebrated with great pomp and show. It marks the victory of Ram over Ravana who had abducted Sita deceitfully.
Dussehra is chiefly known as the festival of warriors. It is celebrated in different manners across the country. In Bengal, it is celebrated with the prayers of Goddess Durga. While in the south, it is celebrated as the victory of good over evil.
A great fair is held on this day. It goes on for many days. Preparations start a day earlier. The effigies of Ravana, Kunlbhakaran, and Meghnad are prepared. Ram Lila is enacted during the nights. The life story of Ram is dramatized in these shows. His life is divided into many acts. One act a day is performed by the actors. Many people go and watch this Ram Lila. This goes on for nine days.
There is a general belief that any work that is started on this day will bring good luck. People belonging to the warrior clan clean their weapons and worship them. While girls, who had planted barley in their courtyards, take out these seedlings and put them over their brothers’ ears. For this, they are given a small gift or money. The shop-keepers decorate their shops. The market wears a festive look. The sweet sellers display their different varieties of sweets. The toy shops do good business of bows and arrows, which are children’s favorite for that day.
On the tenth day, there is a big fair. A large number of men, women, and children come to the fair. Even’ one is dressed in the best clothes. There is a number of stalls in the fair. The sweet sellers have a busy time. Puris and Jelebies are in great demand. People crowd around the kulfi and cold drinks stalls. Women and girls can be seen in large numbers around the chat stalls. Toy shops look beautiful. Earthen, wooden, plastic and metal toys are on display. Children buy balloons and toys. Every one enjoys himself/herself.
Towards the evening the fair is in a full swing. Many tableaux depicting the life and time of Lord Rama are on display. The actors of the Ram Lila, especially those who played the role of Lord Rama, Sita, Laxman, and Hanuman are taken out in huge processions and end in Ram Lila ground. The final act of the Ram Lila is enacted. There is a fight between Rama and Ravana. Ravana is killed. There is a great deal of rejoicing after this act. Then the tall effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghnad are set on fire. The crackers hidden inside these papers and bamboo effigies catch fire. They explode and make a great deal of noise. The effigies are reduced to ashes within no time. Thousands of people witness this spectacle.
soon after people begin leaving the ground. There is a heavy rush. It is difficult to find a way out. However, no one minds the rush. It is a day for joy for On this happy note, the festival of Dussehra comes to end.
THE FESTIVAL OF HOLI
Holi is known as the festival of colors. It comes in the month of Fagun. It means that Holi falls between the months of February and March. It is celebrated all over the country with great pomp and show. It marks the advent of spring and the end of winter.
The origin of this festival lies in an ancient mythological story. Once there was a young prince named Praha!ad. He was the son of demon king Hiranakashyap. His subjects were terror-stricken on account of his cruelties. He asked his subjects to worship him in the place of God. He had imprisoned many saints. His son disliked his attitude. He revolted against his father’s orders. Prahalad was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. His father did not like this. Therefore he ordered that Prahalad should be trampled under the feet of the elephants; thrown down the hills, made to clasp the burning pillar. His orders were carried out but Prahalad was saved (safe) every time. Therefore he asked his sister Holika to kill the child. Holika was blessed with a boon that fire would not burn her. So she sat in the fire with Prahalad in her lap. The fire burned Holika while Prahalad escaped unhurt. Lord Vishnu tore Hiranayakashyap to pieces with his sharp nails. The festival is celebrated in the honor of the safe escape of Prahalad and the end of evil.
Holi falls at the beginning of the harvest season. Therefore new ears of the corns are roasted in the fire and distributed as the prasad between family and friends.
A night before this festival, a big bonfire is lit. Women offer sweet’ and other prayer material to the fire. People then Play for a healthy and trouble-free year. On the day of Holi (Dulhandi) people smear ashes of this fire on their foreheads as a mark of respect of the fire and then go from house to house smearing color on one another. Children especially enjoy this festival. They play pranks and pour colored water on one another through syringes. The streets become slippery and the walls get disfigured.’ No passerby can remain dry.
Women prepare Goonjias, a sweet made of refined flour and sugar. and other salty delicacies. They offer these delicacies to the guests who come to greet them. There is also ritual to mix Bhang, a type of plant paste, in sweet drinks. By drinking it the people become merry. There is a lot of dancing and singing. The darker side of this colorful festival is that many people under the guise of playing pranks misbehave with women. Children also throw water balloons at the passers-by and the vehicles on the road. This has often resulted in many quarrels and accidents every year. Also, people use chemicals, paints and muddy slush on one another, which causes skin and eye ailments to many people. Sometimes permanent vision loss has also been observed.
The people carrying drums in their hands dance and sing their way through the streets. At certain places, ladies throw water on the menfolk or beat them with sticks. Holi is a national festival of rejoicing for the common man. It marks the era of mirth and joy everywhere.
It is true that Holi though started as a festival of joy has over the years become a festival that most people don’t look forward to. So let us pledge that when we play Holi the next year we will avoid all the dirty practices that are associated with it.
THE REPUBLIC DAY
India is now a free country. We had to fight for freedom. Many people laid down their lives. Many more suffered in jails. 1947. We won freedom on the 15th of August, our leaders decided to have a democratic form of Government. A new constitution was drafted. It laid down the rights and responsibilities of the people. It laid down how our country should be governed.
The constitution came into force on the 26th of January, 1950 and with it, India became a republic. It was a red-letter day in the history of India. Since then it is celebrated all over the country as a national festivaL This day is a vet)’ important because on the 26th January 1929, the Indian National Congress had passed a resolution on the bank of the Ravi river for complete independence of the country. In this way, this day covers a milestone towards our struggle for freedom.
Like every year this year also it was celebrated with great pomp and show in our town. The celebration started early in the morning. People went in groups around the city. They went about singing patriotic songs. These songs filled everyone with pride for their country. An official function was held in the police grounds. Tents had been pitched. There were many rows of chairs for the invited guests. A small raised platform had been constructed for the chief guest to take the salute from the parade.
People began to arrive in the early morning. They were dressed in their best clothes. The students were dressed in their uniforms. There were scouts and NCC cadets. The policemen wore their ceremonial dress. Everybody looked smart. They were all standing in rows of three’s.
At 9.30 a.m. the Governor of the State arrived. All stood up in his honor. [Ie went up to the platform. He unfurled the National flag. National Anthem was played. A guard of honor was presented. Thereafter the Governor made a shott and impressive speech. He urged the people to remain united and fight the divisive forces. He asked them to contribute to the development of the nation. He asked them to defend at all costs.
Thereafter the Parade started and went through the main roads of the city. Gates were put up at various places. People lined the roads and stood on their rooftops and balconies to catch a glimpse of the parade. There was great enthusiasm among the people. National tricolor could be seen fluttering from all the Government buildings and important places. Republic day had filled everyone with national pride.
In Delhi, the capital of India, the celebrations are held on a very grand scale at India Gate. The President of India takes a Salute. Then the troops of the three forces, various arms, and ammunition; colorful and cultural pageants of different states are shown, A huge procession consisting of elephant riders, troupes of dancers, scouts and girl guides, police contingents, tanks, radars, missiles, and other war equipment move along the route towards the Red Fort. At night, the folk dancers present their folk dances to the people. The chief government buildings are illuminated. The people re-dedicate themselves on this day and take an oath that they would safeguard the freedom of the country and shall keep up the Democratic set as long as they are alive.
THE FESTIVAL OF CHRISTMAS
All the Christian countries around the world celebrate the festival of Christmas with joy and enthusiasm.
In India too this festival is celebrated with gaiety. As India has a sizable population of Christians, the festivities of this festival are almost the same as Dussehra and Diwali. Christmas falls on the 25th of December every year. It is the date on which the Christians believe that Jesus Christ was born He was sent into this world to save mankind.
House and churches are cleaned and white-washed. They are decorated with flowers, banners, buntings, and crosses made of wood or.metal. The altars of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary are decorated with candles and flowers. A separate cradle is made for the infant Jesus in the courtyard of the church. All the Christians, young or old. rich or poor celebrate the festival Of Christmas. The shopkeepers who sell c.luistmas presents and Christmas cards decorate their shops with loy.s and beautiful pictures to attract the customers.
After the mid-might Mass or prayers at the church, the Christians go home and feast. They decorate their homes with colored lights and plant a Christmas Tree. A large branch of a tree is cut down and planted in one corner of the house. When the branch is decorated with little toys. Candles and electric bulbs are lighted on its twigs at night. The Christmas tree looks very bright and charming. At the foot of this tree they place gifts for each other.
The children sing songs in the night and offer prayers to God who sent Christ to remove all sins and sufferings from the earth. After the prayers, Christmas presents are sent to friends, neighbors, relatives, and well-wishers. Small children hang stockings near their beds because they believe that Santa Claus will come in the night and place gifts in it. People hold parties and dinners and serve delicious food before all to celebrate this occasion. They sing Christmas Hymns and Christmas Carols. They also sing and take part in music.
The festival comes to an end amidst fun and laughter. It teaches us the value of love and sacrifice. Last, of all, the people gather in the church to pray to God to grant them happiness in the coming year. Christmas day is observed as a national holiday in all Christian countries.
THE FESTIVAL OF ID-UL-FITR
Millions of Muslims throughout the world celebrate the festival of Roza Eid or sweet Eid or Eid-ul-Fitr with great religiosity. It is one of their most important festivals.
Before the actual festival, every devout Muslim fast for a whole month. This month is known as the month of Ramzan which is of great importance to the Muslims. They fast in this month so that their souls are purified.
The Muslims think that the month-long fast is a great blessing of God. They lead a pious life during their thirty days’ fast. They pray five times a day and give adults and food to the poor and needy. Fasting Muslims eat their meals at sehre which is before the sunrise. They break the fast at Iftar which is after the sunset. During the day they do not even drink water. On the last day of the month of Ramzan, Muslims eagerly wait for the moon to appear in the sky. The celebrations of Eid depend upon the appearance of the moon. Eid is celebrated on the next day of the moon sighting.
The Muslims make great preparations for the celebration of these festivals. All the Mohammedans irrespective of their status or age buy new clothes for themselves. They also buy new shoes and caps for the festival. They get mad with joy when the new moon is seen after their month-long fast.
The day of Eid is eagerly awaited by all. On this day markets are decorated. People wear new clothes and cloth caps on their heads. Everybody takes an early bath, rubs perfumes and proceeds to the nearby mosque or Eidd-gah to offer prayers of thanks to the Almighty God. They assemble in large number there. The Muslims believe that the greater the number of people, the greater are the blessings of God. They consider the voice of the people as the voice of God. After that, they embrace and congratulate one another saying ‘Eid Mubarak’. There is no distinction between the rich and the poor on this day. The spirit of brotherhood prevails in every heart.
After saying their prayers to Allah and embracing one another, some people go to the graveyards. They offer floral tributes on the graves of their friends and relatives. They pray to Allah to grant peace to their souls. At home, they take part in a grand feast. They also exchange fine dishes with their friends and relatives. Of all the festivals in the world and is perhaps the only festival that lays the greatest importance on sacrifice and purity of life. It teaches us the value of love, brotherhood, and sympathy. It also teaches us to be kind to all living beings. Fasts and alms give inner peace and happiness to the people.