Festivals of India

AUSH PUTRADA EKADASHI
There are two Putrada Ekadashis in a year. This one in observed on the eleventh day of Krishna paksha of the month of Paush. As in all ekadashis Lord Vishnu is worshipped, devotees keep fast and break the fast the next morning.

PAUSH PURNIMA
On this full moon day begins a month long period of austerity. In spite of it being winter devotees bathe in a river and give alms in charity while praying for spiritual liberation or moksha. It is most auspicious to bathe in the Ganga and the Yamuna and devotees gather at the Dasaswamedha Ghat in Varanasi and the Sangam at Allahabad.

GURU GOBIND JAYANTI
On this day Sikhs celebrate the birthday of their tenth and last guru, Gobind Singhji. He was born on 22nd December, 1666 but as his birthday is calculated according to the lunar Vikram calendar it can fall in December or January. On this day people go to pray at the gurdwaras, where the hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib are sung and people work for the community doing kar sewa. Devotees then share a community meal at the langar. Processions are taken out with nagar kirtan, singing of hymns and shows of martial arts.

LORD PARSVANATH JAYANTI
A tirthankar or ‘ford maker’ is a teacher who guides us from this world to the next. Lord Parsvanath is the 23rd tirthankara of the Jains and was born on this day in 877 BCE. He was the son of the king of Varanasi and became an ascetic at the age of thirty. He was called “Purisadaniya” or beloved of men and he attained nirvana on a mountain top in 777 BCE. This is the sacred Jain pilgrimage of Shikharji on the Parsvanath Hill in Jharkhand. The last tirthankara of the Jains was Vardhaman Mahavir.

Epiphany

Epiphany is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation to his disciples of Jesus Christ being the son of God. It commemorates the divine nature of Jesus Christ as it was manifest to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi, the three wise men who travelled to see the child Jesus. Also it celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by the preacher John the Baptist.

VIVEKANANDA JAYANTI

On this day Indians remember and celebrate the birth anniversary of the Hindu philosopher and monk Swami Vivekananda. Born Narendra Nath Datta in Calcutta in 1863 he became a devoted disciple of the saint Ramakrishna Paramhansa. A powerful orator, he introduced Hindu philosophy to the west. At a time when India was a colonised nation he travelled all across the country talking of nationalism and generated pride among us for our culture and civilization. He founded the Ramakrishna Mission that works for social welfare and this day is celebrated as National Youth Day.
LOHRI
This joyous harvest festival is celebrated in Punjab in the Hindu month of Magh, on the day before Makar Sankranti. On a cold winter evening people gather around community bonfires and throw puffed rice and corn into the fire while singing traditional Lohri songs. Then everyone shares in typical village snacks like gajak, gur, peanuts, phuliya and popcorn.

MAKAR SANKRANTI / UTTARAYAN
Sankranti is the day when the sun moves from one zodiac sign to the next one. Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious days of the year and it is celebrated in January on the day when the sun moves from the Dhanu Rashi (Sagittarius) to the Makar Rashi (Capricorn). The winter solstice takes place in December and now the sun begins its journey to the north of the Equator and this period is called Uttarayan.

Makar Sankranti is also the Tamil New Year, the first day of the Tamil month of Tai. It is celebrated as a harvest festival all across India – Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bihu in Assam and Lohri in Punjab. On this auspicious day devotees bathe in rivers and the sea; special foods are prepared and in places like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh the sky is bright with colourful floating kites.

In Rameswaram pilgrims welcome the Tamil New Year by taking a dip in the sacred confluence of the two seas, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal and there are special pujas at all the temples.

MAGHA MELA JANUARY –FEBRUARY
The Magh Mela is held in Allahabad in the years when the Kumbh or Ardha Kumbh is not being held there. Devotees gather by the thousands to bathe and pray to gain spiritual liberation or moksha. The mela is held through the month of Magh and it begins on Makar Sankranti and ends on Maha Shivaratri. There are a number of days for an auspicious bath at the holy sangam – the confluence of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna. The most auspicious bathing day across january-february are:

Makar Sankranti
Basant Panchami
Maghi Purnima
Maha Shivaratri

MAGH BIHU
Assam has three festivals connected to the paddy crop. In Rongali Bihu they celebrate the beginning of the sowing of the paddy. In Kati Bihu they mark the time when they transplant the rice sapling. Magh Bihu is the most important festival in Assam when people celebrate the paddy harvest with music, dances and feasting.

THIRUVALLUVAR DAY
Thiruvalluvar is a legendary poet and philosopher of Tamil literature who’s most famous composition is the book Thirukkural. Thiruvalluvar lived in the early centuries of the first millennium and was born in Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. He is revered for his philosophical writings that are a guide to morals and life. A giant statue of the poet now stands on an island off the coast of Kanyakumari.

PONGAL
This is a harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. It is held for three days with rituals called Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal and Mattu Pongal. On the first day people clean their houses and draw colourful rangoli patterns at their doors to welcome the gods. Next day they worship Surya the sun god and cook the rice dish called pongal in an earthen pot. On the third day people in villages worship their cows and there are cattle races.

ID MILAD-UN-NABI
In India this day is also called Barawafat, Id- e- Milad or Mawlid and the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad is celebrated on this day. The day falls in Rabi al-awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. On this day people gather at the mosques to listen to sermons and offer prayers. They decorate their homes and donate in charity. Food is shared with both guests and the poor.

SANKASHTI CHATURDASHI
The fourth day of a lunar fortnight is a chaturdashi when Lord Ganesh is worshipped. This chaturdashi falls in the krishna paksha of the month of Magh and devotees fast and pray and offer puja to Lord Ganesh.

SABARIMALA YATRA
The Ayappa Temple at Sabarimala, Kerala sees a huge yatra. The legend of Lord Ayappa says he was the son of Lord Shiva who was born in the royal family of the Pandalam clan. The temple dedicated to him stands on top of a hill in a forested area by the Pampa River. During the yatra pilgrims carry a bundle called irumudi on their heads that holds the offerings they will make to Lord Ayappa. They walk through the forest, past the Pampa River and then climb the 18 sacred steps of the temple with the irumudi on their heads and then break a coconut before the image. The yatra begins in mid November and continues till January. One of the most important days is Makaravilakku on Makar Sankranti when a sacred light called Makaravilakku is seen on top of a nearby hill 15 km away.

SUBHAS BOSE JAYANTI
Subhas Chandra Bose was born on this day in1897 and became a charismatic leader of India’s movement for freedom against British rule. Popularly called Netaji he joined the Congress Party and worked with Chittaranjan Das and Mahatma Gandhi. He was jailed many times by the British government and was a source of inspiration to freedom fighters. During the Second World War he formed the Indian National Army with Indian soldiers who had been taken prisoners by the Japanese and the INA marched with the Japanese and had entered Burma when the war ended in 1945.

REPUBLIC DAY
When India became independent on 15th August 1947 a Constituent Assembly was working on developing a constitution for the country. On 26th January 1950 India became a democratic republic with the inauguration of the Indian Constitution. The first Republic Day was celebrated on Rajpath in New Delhi in the presence of India’s first President Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. On this day India celebrates with a march past by the defence forces and a festive extravaganza of performing children, folk dancer and cultural floats.

SHATTILA EKADASHI
The eleventh day of every fortnight is called the ekadashi. On every ekadashi Lord Vishnu is worshipped by his devotees by fasting and performing special religious rituals. The Shattila ekadashi is observed on the 11th day of the month of Magh during the Krishna Paksha or dark fortnight. Devotees offer sesame seeds (til) in the rituals, do charity and feed the poor.

Jaya Ekadashi
This ekadashi falls on the 11th day of the Shukla Paksha, the bright fortnight of the month of Magh. On this day, with Lord Vishnu, his ninth avatar Lord Krishna is also worshipped. Devotees fast during the day and then stay awake during the night reading the Sahasranama, the thousand names of Lord Vishnu.

MAUNI AMAVASYA
Every year Mauni Amavasaya is observed on the moonless night, of Krishna Paksha of the month of Magh. On this day devotees observe silence or maun vrat before their prayers, then they pray to Lord Vishnu and take a bath in a river. Mauni Amavasya is one of the most important bathing dates for the Magh Mela at Allahabad. It will see the largest gathering of holy men of the various akharas of sadhus on the banks of the Ganga. They will arrive in magnificent processions for the snana.

VASANT PANCHAMI & SARASWATI PUJA
Celebrated on Panchami, the fifth day of the month of Magh, this beautiful festival welcomes the end of winter and the beginning of spring or Vasant Ritu. People wear yellow clothes to celebrate the new season when the flowers are in bloom and in the villages harvesting begins. In eastern India Saraswati, the goddess of learning is worshipped on this day. The images of Saraswati depict her wearing white garments, playing a veena and with her vehicle a swan beside her. She is the goddess of the Vedas and the deity of all the arts.

MAASI MANDALA UTSAVAM, MADURAI
This festival goes on for forty eight days at the Meenakshi Temple at Madurai. Six days are devoted to the god Vinayaka or Ganesha; six days to the god Kumar or Kartikeya and six days to the moon god Chandrashekhar. Images of the deities are taken out in procession along the second corridor of the temple hall called the Swamy Sannidhi. On the day of the Panchamoorthy festival the images are moved outside the temple and taken around the Chitra streets of the city for the next ten days.

HARIDWAR ARDH KUMBH
According to Hindu astrology The Ardh Kumbh Mela is held when the planet Jupiter enters Aquarius and the sun enters Aries. The Kumbh Melas celebrate the falling of drops of nectar from the pot or kumbh being carried by Lord Vishnu after the great churning of the ocean. The Purna Kumbh is held every twelve years in four locations – Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.

The main bathing or Snana dates are:

  • Makar Sankranti
  • Vasant Panchami
  • Magh Purnima
  • Mahashivaratri
  • Chaitra Amavasya
  • Chaitra Shukla Pratipada
  • Mesha Sankranti
  • Ram Navami
  • Chaitra Shukla Purnima

Ratha Saptami
This festival is celebrated on the 7th day of Shukla Paksha, the bright fortnight, of the month of Magh. From Makar Sankranti is mid Januray the sun moves northward to the northern hemisphere in the period called Uttarayan and on this day, Surya the sun god is worshipped. In images Surya is shown riding a ratha or a chariot drawn by seven white horses and he is said to ride across the sky every day. This day also symbolises the beginning of the harvest season.

Bhishma Ashtami
Bhishma Pitamah was the son of King Shantanu and the goddess Ganga and one of the heroes of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. At the great battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas at Kurukshetra, he was mortally wounded. Bhishma had the power to choose the time of his own death and he chose to die on Bhishma Ashtami. The Pandavas performed his last rites, the shraddha ceremony on Bhishma Dwadashi. Bhishma Ashtami falls on the eighth day and Bhishma Dwadashi on the twelfth day of the dark fortnight of the Shukla Paksha of the month of Magh. On these days people perform a shraddha puja for Bhishma and also worship their own ancestors.

CANDLEMAS
This festival is also called Presentation of the Lord and celebrates the occasion when in obedience to Jewish law Virgin Mary went to the Temple in Jerusalem with her newborn son Jesus. At the temple both were purified on the occasion. Candlemas is among the great feasts of the Roman Catholic Church and devotees attend mass at their church, join in prayer and light candles.

SHATTILA EKADASHI
The eleventh day of every fortnight is called the ekadashi. On every ekadashi Lord Vishnu is worshipped by his devotees by fasting and performing special religious rituals. The Shattila ekadashi is observed on the 11th day of the month of Magh during the Krishna paksha or dark fortnight. Devotees offer sesame seeds (til) in the rituals, do charity and feed the poor.

PRADOSH VRAT
This vrat, a sacred day of fasting, is also called Pradosham in South India and it is an auspicious day dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is observed on the trayodashis or thirteenth day of the lunar calendar of the shukla and krishna paksha. A pradosham falling on a Monday is considered even more auspicious and is called Soma Pradosham. Shiva devotees fast from sunrise to sunset and pray to seek the blessings of the god. The puja to Shiva is performed during the twilight period. These two Pradosh vrats fall just before the festival of Maha Shivaratri.

MAUNI AMAVASYA
Every year Mauni Amavasaya is observed on the moonless night, of Krishna paksha of the month of Magh. On this day devotees observe silence or maun vrat before their prayers, then they pray to Lord Vishnu and take a bath in a river. Mauni Amavasya is one of the most important bathing dates for the Magh Mela at Allahabad. It will see the largest gathering of holy men of the various akharas of sadhus on the banks of the Ganga. They will arrive in magnificent processions for the snana.

LOSAR FESTIVAL
This is a colourful festival ushering in the New Year celebrated in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh by the Moupa tribe. The merry making goes on for a fortnight with lively fairs where people gather for music, dances and feasts.

ASH WEDNESDAY
This is a day of fasting for Christians and the first day of Lent that begins forty six days before Easter. Lent is observed in memory of the time when Jesus Christ spent forty days fasting in the desert and where he endured temptations by Satan. It is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar for prayers, penance and almsgiving. Devotees go to church to pray and here the pastor applies ashes to their foreheads to signify an inner repentance.

VASANT PANCHAMI & SARASWATI PUJA
Celebrated on Panchami, the fifth day of the month of Magh, this beautiful festival welcomes the end of winter and the beginning of spring or Vasant Ritu. People wear yellow clothes to celebrate the new season when the flowers are in bloom and in the villages harvesting begins. In eastern India Saraswati, the goddess of learning is worshipped on this day. The images of Saraswati depict her wearing white garments, playing a veena and with her vehicle a swan beside her. She is the goddess of the Vedas and the deity of all the arts.

KUMBHA SANKRANTI
A sankranti is when the sun moves to the next zodiac house. On this day the sun transits from Makara Rashi (Capricorn) to Kumbha Rashi (Aquarius). It is an auspicious bathing day when people worship the sun god Surya and take a dip in sacred rivers. This sankranti is an important snana day at the Magh Mela at Allahabad.

RATHA SAPTAMI
This festival is celebrated on the 7th day of Shukla paksha, the bright fortnight, of the month of Magh. From Makar Sankranti in mid January the sun moves northward to the northern hemisphere in the period called Uttarayan and on this day, Surya the sun god is worshipped. In images Surya is shown riding a ratha or a chariot drawn by seven white horses and he is said to ride across the sky every day. This day also symbolises the beginning of the harvest season.

BHISHMA ASHTAMI & DWADASHI
Bhishma Pitamah was the son of King Shantanu and the goddess Ganga and one of the heroes of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. At the great battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas at Kurukshetra, he was mortally wounded. Bhishma had the power to choose the time of his own death and he chose to die on Bhishma Ashtami. The Pandavas performed his last rites, the shraddha ceremony, two days later on Bhishma Dwadashi. Bhishma Ashtami falls on the eighth day and Bhishma Dwadashi on the twelfth day of the dark fortnight of the Shukla paksha of the month of Magh. On these days people perform a shraddha puja for Bhishma and also worship their own ancestors.

PARIYANAMPETTA POORAM
This is a magnificent seven day festival held at the Pariyanampetta Bhagavathy Temple at Kattukulam in the Palakkad District of Kerala. The goddess Bhagavathy is worshipped on the seventh day of the month of Kumbam of the Malayali calendar. During the festival there is a procession of twenty one caparisoned elephants and traditional performances like drumming, puppetry and Kathakali dances.

GURU RAVIDAS JAYANTI
Guru Ravidas was a mystic and Bhakti saint who lived in the 15th century in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The son of a poor shoemaker he was a poet and social reformer who sang of the equality of man and against the boundaries of caste that are drawn by the priesthood. For Ravidas the worship of God was open to everyone as long as one prayed with a loving heart. He is said to be the guru of another Bhakti saint, the poetess Meera Bai of Chittor. He travelled across the land and today his devotees can be found in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra and his verses have been preserved in the sacred scriptures of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib.

MAGH PURNIMA
This auspicious full moon of Magh is another bathing day for snana at the Magh Mela at Allahabad. It is said that Lord Vishnu resides on the Ganga River at this time and listens to the prayers of people. So devotees fast, perform pujas and give to charity. This is also a day for pitru tarpan when offerings are made to one’s ancestors. Pitru tarpan rituals are also observed on Magh Purnima at Varanasi and Gaya in the north and Rameswaram and Kumbhakonam in the south.

VASANTHAM, MADURAI

This nine day Spring Festival is held at the famous Meenakshi Temple in the Velliayambala Mandapam. Images of Goddess Meenakshi Amman and her consort Lord Sundareswarar are taken out in procession along the Chitra streets of the city. On the day of Panguni Uthiram the Lord and the Goddess proceed to the Arulmighu Thiruvappudayar Temple and bless those who excel in their religious beliefs by sprinkling ‘rasa vadham’.

CHAPCHAR KUT
This harvest festival celebrated with fervour and gaiety welcomes the arrival of spring. The festival is one of the most important community celebrations in Mizoram and is held after the forest clearing operations by farmers called jhum. In Mizoram there are three Kut festivals every year, all connected to agricultural activities. Chapchar Kut is called the festival of happiness when various Mizo tribes congregate wearing their colourful traditional costumes. There are songs, dances and feasts, and among the dances is the Cheraw, the delightful bamboo dance where the women dance around long bamboo sticks being moved by the men.

UTHRALIKAVU  POORAM

This is one of the famous temple festivals of the state of Kerala. This is held at the Sri Ruthira Mahakalikavu Temple at Parithipura, Vadakkancherry in the district of Thrissur. The temple is dedicated to the goddess Kali and the festival is held for eight days in the Malayali month of Kumbham. There is a gorgeous parade of caparisoned elephants and also cultural programmes and religious ceremonies attended by thousands of devotees.

LOSAR
This is a colourful festival ushering in the New Year celebrated in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh by the Moupa tribe. The merry making goes on for a fortnight with lively fairs where people gather for music, dances and feasts.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY.

Celebrated every year on 8th March the International Women’s Day strives to gain respect and equality for women across the world. It also reminds people of the economic, political and social achievements of women. First celebrated in 1909 in New York, now it is recognised by the United Nations and the theme of 2016 is ‘Make it Happen’ that is being promoted in the social media as #Pledge for Parity.

PARIPALLY GAJAMELA
This festival celebrates Ganesh, the elephant headed god. It is held at the Sri Kodimootil Bhadrakali Temple in Paripally, Kerala where a parade of fifty caparisoned elephants carry images of the gods. They are accompanied by musicians playing the panchavadyam including various kinds of drums and flutes. Then people enjoy all night cultural programmes.

SHANI AMAVASYA

Shani or the planet Saturn is worshipped to seek his blessings and protection against life’s problems. Devotees keep fast on this new moon day in the month of Phalgun, praying for the welfare of their families. Then with the tarpan puja people make offerings to ancestors and pray for their blessings. People also take a dip in the river and worship the peepal tree.

RAMAKRISHNA PARAMHANSA JAYANTI

The saint Ramakrishna Paramhansa was born on this day in 1836 at Kamarpukur, West Bengal. Ramakrishna was a true tolerant spirit and believed in one supreme power. He said that all religions were the same and taught of human values. His greatest disciple was Swami Vivekananda who introduced the world to the tenets of Hinduism. The day is celebrated at the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple in Kolkata where Ramakrishna stayed and at Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission.

VIJAYA EKADASHI

This ekadashi falls on the eleventh day of the krishna paksha of the Hindu month of Magh. Devotees worship Lord Vishnu, chant the sahasranam that lists a hundred of his names, perform puja at sunset and keep a day’s fast. On this ekadashi some sannyasis keep a fast for two consecutive days.

PHULERA DOOJ

This joyous festival sees devotees singing and dancing in praise of Lord Krishna. Celebrated on shukla paksha, dwitiya of the month of Phalgun, the biggest celebrations can be seen at the Radha Vallabh Temple in Vrindavan and the Sri Krishna temple at Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. The deities are adorned with silks, jewellery and flowers and there are special pujas and bhog is given to the people.

AMALAKI EKADASHI

This ekadashi is observed on the eleventh day of the bright fortnight of the shukla paksha of the Hindu month of Phalgun. Devotees worship Parashuram the avatar of Lord Vishnu with fasts and the offering of the amalaki, the gooseberry fruit. It is an important festival at the Jagannath Temple in Puri, Orissa.

MEENA SANKRANTI

Sankrantis are days of fasting and prayers when in the Hindu zodiac the sun moves from one zodiac sign to the next. This is the last of twelve sankrantis of the Hindu calendar when the sun transits from Pisces (Meena) to Aries (Mesha). Devotees take sacred baths in rivers and say prayers to the rising sun at dawn.

THIRUNAKKARA ARATTU

This festival celebrates the bathing ceremony of Lord Shiva held on the first day of the Malayali month of Meenam. This ten day festival is held at the Thiru Mahadeva temple in Kottayam, Kerala. This is one of the oldest temples in Kerala and this annual festival has been celebrated for centuries. There is a gorgeous pageantry of caparisoned elephants and musicians and performances by Kathakali and Mayillattom dancers performing the peacock dances.

ARATTUPUZHA POORAM

This is among the oldest and most colourful of the Pooram festivals of Kerala. The Sree Sastha Temple is in the Arattupzha village in Thrissur district of Kerala. The celebrations are held by the bank of the Karuvannu Rriver and for seven day devotees worship Lord Ayappa. . The festival is called a ‘gathering of gods’ as it is said that one hundred and one gods and goddesses from the temples of nearby villages visit Lord Ayappa for seven days. During this gorgeous festival people gather from all aroundin thousands to watch the processions of caparisoned elephants carrying twenty three deities, the playing of the orchestra of five percussion instruments called panchavadyam and fireworks at night.

HOLI

This vibrant festival of colours welcomes the advent of the season of spring. It is held on full moon day in the Hindu month of Phalgun. This is in fact an ancient Aryan festival that began as a celebration of new harvests. All across India people throw coloured powder and water at each other, as they sing and dance with joy. The evening before is the ceremony called Holika Dahan when in villages, bonfires are lit in the open fields. Legends say this was the day when the female demon Holika was burnt while trying to kill Prahlad who was a devotee of Lord Vishnu.
Holi is also connected to the legend of Lord Krishna and his consort Radha and is celebrated with great fervour in the Vrindavan and Mathura region where Krishna spent his childhood. There is the famous Lathmaar Holi held in Barsana, Radha’s village, where women playfully hit the men with sticks.

HOLLA MOHALLA

This three day Sikh festival begins the day after Holi and it was started in 1701 by the tenth guru of the Sikhs, the warrior-saint Guru Gobind Singhji. It is held from the first day of the month of Chet of the nanakshahi calendar. The most famous Holla Mohalla celebration is held at the gurudwara of Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. There are colourful processions with horses, elephants, the Sikh holy men and lively demonstrations of martial arts. Also there are poetry and music recitals in the evenings.

JAMESHEDI NAVROZ

This day marks the beginning of the New Year in ancient Persia and present day Iran. It is also celebrated as the advent of spring. In India the Parsi community celebrates this day as a festival begun by the great sage Zoroaster himself. They clean their homes and decorate them with flowers and auspicious symbols like stars, butterflies, birds and fish. Pretty rangoli patterns are drawn at the doorways to welcome guests, who enter calling out “Sal Mubarak!” In the morning everyone visits the agiary, the Fire Temple, to worship and then go home to a lavish feast.

MAHARSHI DAYANAND SARASWATI JAYANTI

Dayanand Saraswati was a scholar of Sanskrit, a great philosopher and a Hindu reformer who founded the Arya Samaj. Born on this day in 1824 he taught of a pure form of Hinduism without rituals, priests or the worship of images. His movement went back to the teachings in the Vedas and he put it all down in his book Satyarth Prakash. Over a century ago Dayanand Saraswati spoke of education for all and of equal rights for women. He was also the first to speak of swarajya, that India was for Indians. One day this slogan would be popularised by Lokmanya Tilak to lead the freedom movement and many Arya Samajists like Lajpat Rai joined the struggle for freedom and the movement for popular education

MAHASHIVARATRI

This magnificent festival is called the ‘Great Night of Shiva’. It is said to be Lord Shiva’s favourite day and is the most important festival at all Shiva temples. It is celebrated on the 13th night and 14th day of the krishna paksha of the month of Magh. There are huge celebrations at jyotirlingam temples like at the Ramanatha Swamy Temple at Rameswaram and Kashi Vishwanath Temple at Varanasi. Shiva is worshipped with flowers, fruits and bilva leaves and devotees stay awake all night chanting the sahasra nama mantra of his thousand names.
 Legends say this is the day when Lord Shiva drank the poison that rose from the churning of the Ocean of Milk. He is called Nilkantha as this turned his neck blue. Another legend says that the river Ganga descended to earth through Shiva’s matted hair on this day. Varanasi also celebrates this as the wedding of Shiva and his consort Parvati.

SHIVARATRI AT RAMESWARAM
At the ancient Ramanatha Swamy Temple at Rameswaram it is a ten day festival with images from the various shrines being taken out in processions and all night prayers. There are also cultural festivals and religious discourses.

SHITLA ASHTAMI
This festival worshipping the goddess Shitla takes place seven days after Holi and is very popular is Rajasthan. It is held during the Krishna Paksha, on the eighth day of the month of Chaitra. The goddess Shitla offers protection against disease. People eat food prepared the day before and also cold food like curd and thickened milk. This is food also offered to the goddess as prasad.

Khordad Sal

PAPMOCHAN EKADASHI

Ekadashis are the eleventh days of the shukla and krishna paksha of each Hindu month. On these two days devotees worship Lord Vishnu, praying and fasting that the god would remove all their sins. They eat vegetarian sattvik food, pray and mediate and stay awake at night reciting the names of the lord. Papmochan is the first ekadashi fast of Chaitra, this falls in the krishna paksha. The second ekadashi, called Shukrodaya, falls in the shukla paksha.

GUDI PADVA & UGADI

The Hindu new year of Maharashtra is called Gudi Padva and the day is called Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. It is also said that Lord Brahma created the world on this day. It is considered among the most auspicious days of the year and new ventures are begun on this day. The biggest celebrations are in Maharashtra, where a green or orange banner (gudi) is placed in a metal pot marked by the sacred swastika. Houses are cleaned and decorated, people wear new clothes and after puja the prasad is of neem leaves and jaggery.

CHAITRA NAVARATRI

Navaratri is the nine days of the mother goddess, when the Devi and her nine forms are worshipped with prayers and fasting. The two most important Navaratris are the Vasanta (spring) and Sharad (autumn) festivals. The Vasant Navaratri is celebrated on the first nine days of the shukla paksha of the month of Chaitra and ends with Ram Navami. The Sharad Navaratri takes place in the month of Ashvin and coincides with Durga Puja and Dussehra.
During the Navaratri images of Durga are worshipped with Ganga water, mango leaves, coconut and devotees only eat specially prepared sattvik foods once a day. On ashtami morning, the eighth day, young girls are worshipped in a ceremony called kanya puja.

MANY FORMS OF THE DEV

The names of the Devi are many and each form has special qualities. One hundred names of the Devi are chanted in the shata nam mantra.
She is Parvati, Durga, Bhadra Kali, Jagadamba, Annapurna, Sarvamangala, Bhairavi, Chandika, Lalita, Bhavani, Mookambika, Shailputri, Brahamacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skand Mata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Maha Gauri, Siddhidhatri.

PURIM

Purim is a Jewish holiday to commemorate the freeing of the Jews from the ancient Persian Empire. Haman the royal vizier of the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes) plotted to kill all the Jews. His plan was foiled by Mordecai and his cousin Esther. Purim is celebrated as a day of deliverance with feasting and exchanging gifts. People give in charity, pray and listen to recitations from the Scroll of Esther.

SRI ADI SHANKARACHARYA JAYANTI

Adi Shankaracharya was one of the greatest Hindu philosophers who led a revival of Hinduism and this day is celebrated as his birth anniversary. Shankaracharya was born in Kaladi, Kerala in the 8th century CE and propounded the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta or non dualism where there is the unity of the soul (atman) with nirgun Brahman (supreme reality). Shankaracharya travelled across the Indian subcontinent to preach his philosophy and gained nirvana at Kedarnath, high in the Himalayas. He established four monasteries or mathas at Sringeri in Tamil Nadu; Dwarka in Gujarat; Joshimath in Uttarakhand and Puri in Odisha. Here other Shankaracharyas have followed him and the mathas continue to be centres of learning.
Mesha Sankranti

A sankranti is the day in the solar calendar when the sun enters the next zodiac sign. On this day the sun enters the Mesha Rashi or Aries. The day is called Sankramanam in south India and it heralds the Hindu New Year. Devotees pray, fast and give in charity.

BAISAKHI

The two days of 13th and 14th April see the celebration of the Hindu New Year in many parts of India. Baisakhi is celebrated with joyous gusto in Punjab with colourful fairs and the energetic dancing of the bhangra and gidda. This is a harvest festival held on the day the sun enters the zodiac sign of Aries. It is also an important occasion for the Sikhs as on this day in 1699 CE, Guru Gobind Singhji laid the foundation of the Sikh brotherhood called Khalsa Panth. There are processions carrying the sacred Guru Granth Sahib from gurdwaras.

VISHU, BOHAG BIHU, CHITHIRAI, NABO BARSHO.
This is the first day of the new year of the Hindus and it is also a harvest festival across the country. It is called Vishu in Kerala, Chithirai in Tamil Nadu, Bohag Bihu in Assam and Nabo Barsho in Bengal. Everywhere homes are cleaned and people wear new clothes and meet family and friends to wish them a happy new year.

In the south the doorways of homes are decorated with kolam patterns and there is the ceremony of the auspicious sight when people look at a tray of auspicious things like manuscripts, ornaments, cloth, flowers, coins and fruits. In Tamil Nadu the prasad is a pachadi of raw mango, jaggery and neem flowers symbolising sour, sweet and bitter to help us bear both happiness and sorrow with equanimity.

In Assam people gather wearing red and gold garments to dance and sing and there are fairs everywhere. In villages families celebrate a good harvest with feasts and music. In Bengal homes are decorated with pretty alpana patterns, special sweets like payesh and sandesh are prepared and people bathe in rivers and visit temples. Lakshmi the goddess of wealth is worshipped and businessmen open their new accounts for the year, called halkhata.

MAHAVIR JAYANTI

The most important festival of the Jains, on this day they celebrate the birth anniversary of the 24th Tirthankar, the great teacher and guide Vardhaman Mahavira. The day is called Mahavir Janma Kalyanak. It is celebrated on the 13th day of Chaitra of Shukla Paksha when he was born in Vaishali in 599 BCE. Mahavira laid the foundation of Jainism with its emphasis on gaining salvation through non violence, charity and penance. Images of Mahavira are given the ceremonial bath, the abhishekha and there are prayers and sermons at the temples.

PALM SUNDAY

This Christian festival is celebrated on the Sunday before Easter in the start of the Holy Week that ends with Easter. It is called a moveable feast as it’s based on the liturgical calendar and the date changes every year. The day commemorates the occasion of the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. Today devotees go out in procession carrying the branches of the palm or other trees to representing the palm branches that the crowds scattered before Christ and they attend mass at church.
 

Passover

This Jewish festival celebrates the freedom from slavery of the children of Israel. Over three thousand years ago Moses led the Jews out of Egypt ruled by the pharaohs. This is the story of the Exodus that is told in the Jewish Bible or the Old Testament. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan and lasts for seven or eight days. On the first day families gather for a special dinner called seder where they listen to the story of the Exodus and an unleavened bread is served during the meal.

Hanuman Jayanti

Hanuman, the loyal follower of Lord Ram was born on this day to Kesari and Anjani in the kingdom of Kishkindha. The day is celebrated on the 15th day of Chaitra of the Shukla Paksha. Hanuman is believed to be the son of Vayu, the god of the winds and is loved for his strength and loyalty. Devotees pray to him as sankatmochan, the deity who can help fight off a crisis in people’s lives.

MAUNDY THURSDAY

Also called Holy and Covenant Thursday this feast is celebrated by Christians on the day before Good Friday. It commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the twelve Apostles. People give in charity and there are prayers and mass at churches. Among the Roman Catholics there is the ritual of washing the feet of people by priests as Jesus had washed the feet of the Apostles.

Good Friday

Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity in 33 AD at Calvary in Jerusalem. Christians across the world remember his martyrdom for the welfare of humanity with fasts and prayers. It is a solemn day with masses held at churches with sermons and the singing of hymns.

Easter

On Easter Sunday Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. Some of the most beautiful celebrations are at the churches of Goa, where there are processions with the images of Christ. This period is called the Passion of Christ that begins with the forty day period of Lent with fasting and prayers by the faithful. The Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday, followed by Good Friday and Easter Sunday. In many western countries coloured Easter eggs are gifted in baskets with candy.

VARUTHINI EKADASHI

This ekadashi falls on the eleventh day of the Krishna Paksha in the month of Vaisakh. On this day devotees pray to Lord Vishnu’s fifth incarnation, the Vamana Avatar. They fast all day, sings hymns, chant Vishnu’s sahasranam mantra all night and give in charity to gain merit.

VALLABHACHARYA JAYANTI

This day is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Vallabhacharya who was a scholar, philosopher and preacher of the Bhakti faith in the 15th century. He was a greatly respected preacher in the Vijayanagar Empire of King Krishna Deva Raya in South India. Vallabhacharya followed the Vedanta school of thought and was a Vaishnava thinker who worshipped Lord Krishna and taught the Pushti system of religious rituals.

May

MOATSU FESTIVAL (NAGALAND). FIRST WEEK OF MAY
This is a harvest festival celebrated by the Ao tribe of Nagaland. After the months of hard work harvesting and sowing in the fields, people come out to celebrate in a three day festival called Moatsu Mong. It includes the ritual of Sangpangtu, where people sit and feast around a campfire. During the day time there are dance and music sessions.

MAY DAY

This is an annual celebration of the International labour movement and is also called International Worker’s Day. May Day is a holiday in eighty countries and celebrated by the socialist movement supporting the rights of workers. The day commemorates 1st May 1886 when a peaceful rally of workers at Haymarket Square in Chicago, USA was demanding an eight hour working day. The rally was bombed and faced the action of the police.

PARASHURAM JAYANTI

On this day devotees worship Lord Vishnu’s sixth incarnation, Parashuram Avatar. He is said to have been born on the third day of the Shukla Paksha of the month of Vaisakh. Devotees hope to gain merit through fasting and prayers.

Akshaya Tritiya

Celebrated on the third day of the Shukla Paksha of Vaisakh, this day is believed to be the most auspicious day of the year. Also called Akha Teej, on this day the moon, sun and Jupiter are in the mrigashira nakshatra and this is said to bring good fortune and prosperity. New ventures are begun on this day and people invest in precious metals.

SURDAS JAYANTI

This is the birthday of the 15th century Bhakti poet Swami Surdas. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna and composed unforgettable hymns in his praise. He wrote in the dialect Braj Bhasha. These bhajans collected in the books Sursagar, Sur-Saravali and Sahitya Lahiri are still sung in Hindu temples.

GURU AMAR DAS JAYANTI

On this day Sikhs celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Amar Das. He was the third Sikh guru after Guru Nanak and Guru Angad. He led a campaign against the caste system and continued with Guru Nanak’s system of Guru ka Langar. Even today, at gurdwaras people of every caste or religion are welcomed to a simple community meal that they eat together. He started the Sikh marriage ceremony called Anand Karaj and was against the purdah of women or the cruel tradition of sati.

GANGA SAPTAMI

Also called Jahnu Saptami this festival is celebrated on the 7th day of the Shukla Paksha of the month of Vaisakh. It is said that the River Ganga descended from heaven on this day after moving through the coils of Lord Shiva’s hair. All along the banks of the Ganga people bathe in the river and pray to her for her blessings.

SITA NAVAMI

Sita, the daughter of King Janak of Mithila and the wife of Lord Ram is said to have been born on the 9th day of the Shukla Paksha of the month of Vaisakh. It is exactly one month after we celebrate the birth of Ram on Ram Navami. Married women pray and fast on this day.

MOHINI EKADASHI

This ekadashi falls on the 11th day of the Shukla paksha of the month of Vaisakh. On this day devotees worship Ram the 7th avatar of Vishnu. It is said that the sage Vasistha asked Ram to observe this ekadashi to gain peace of mind. At that time Ram was searching for his wife Sita, who had been abducted by Ravan, the king of Lanka.

MOTHER’S DAY
On this day, all across the world mothers, motherhood and maternal bonds are honoured. It was started in 1908 by Anna Jarvis of Grafton, West Virginia, USA when she held a memorial to mothers at her church. It is always celebrated on the second Sunday of May when children give gifts and cards to their mothers and other maternal figures in their lives.

HAZRAT ALI’S BIRTHDAY

Muslims observe the birth anniversary of Ali Ibn Abu Talib or Hazrat Ali on this day. He was the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad and ruled the Islamic Caliphate from 656 to 661 CE. He was married to Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatima. Hazrat Ali was born in Mecca, migrated to Medina with Prophet Muhammad and was the first male convert to Islam.

NARASIMHA CHATURDASHI

Vaishnava devotees worship Narasimha, the fourth avatar of Lord Vishnu on this day. Prahlad a devotee of Vishnu was being persecuted by his father, the demon Hiranyakasipu. So on the 14th day of Shukla Paksha in the month of Vaisakh, Vishnu took the form of Narasimha and killed Hiranyakasipu.

The story of this avatar is a very interesting one. Hiranyakasipu had a boon from Lord Brahma that he could not be killed by a god, human or animal; not during day or night and not inside or outside a house. So Vishnu had to take the form of a half lion and half human. He appeared at dusk when it was neither day nor night and he sat at the threshold which was neither inside nor outside.

WORLD LAUGHTER DAY

Celebrated every year on the first Sunday of the month of May, the World Laughter Day was introduced by Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of the Worldwide Laughter Yoga movement. The movement encourages the healing properties of laughter and there are Laughter Clubs across the globe.

BUDDHA PURNIMA

This is the most sacred day of Buddhist around the world. Buddha Purnima is considered to be thrice blessed as on this full moon day in the month of Vaisakh Gautama Buddha was born, gained enlightenment and at his death, achieved parinirvana. He was born in the royal family of Kapilavastu, gained enlightenment under a Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya and then passed away at Kushinagar. Buddhists celebrate the day in a tranquil and peaceful manner with prayers and sermons. The Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya welcomes many devotees as also the viharas at Sarnath, where the Buddha gave his first sermon and at Kushinagar.

NARADA JAYANTI

On the day after Purnima in the month of Vaisakh Hindus celebrate the birth anniversary of Narada Muni. He is believed to be one of the seven great rishis and many hymns in the Rig Veda are credited to him. Narada Muni is a wandering sage and is always depicted holding the veena as he is considered the chief of the gandharvas, the musicians to the gods.

RABINDRA NATH TAGORE’S BIRTHDAY

All of Bengal celebrates the birth anniversary of poet and Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore on 25th Vaisakh. An extraordinary creative genius Tagore was a poet, musician, playwright, novelist and painter. There are cultural programmes with performances of his songs and plays and the most celebrated ones are at his family home at Jorasanko and at Rabindra Sadan in Kolkata.

VRISHABHA SANKRANTI

A sankranti is observed when the sun moves from one zodiac sign to the next. On this day the sun transits from the Vrishabha Rashi (Taurus) to Mesha Rashi (Aries). People bathe in rivers and also worship their ancestors through pitri tarpan. This day is also the beginning Jyeshtha, the second month of the Hindu calendar.

APARA EKADASHI

This ekadashi is observed on the eleventh day of the Krishna Paksha of the Hindu month of Jyeshtha. It is said that in the Mahabharata Lord Krishna explained the significance of this ekadashi to Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers. On this day devotees pray to Krishna, keep a fast to be cleansed of their sins so that they can gain moksha or salvation.

SHAB-E-MIRAJ

According to Islamic tradition this day commemorates a night journey taken by Prophet Muhammad in 621 CE. It was both a spiritual and physical journey in which he travels on the steed Buraq to “the farthest mosque” where he leads other prophets in prayer. Then he ascends to heaven where he speaks to Allah, who gives him instructions to take back to the faithful regarding the details of prayers. On this day people gather in mosques for prayers and join in feasts.

VAT SAVITRI PUJA

This day is dedicated to Savitri, the devoted wife who saved her husband Satyavan from death. She performed severe penance that impressed Yama, the god of death who then let her husband live. On this day married women pray for the long life of their spouses and the festival is very popular in Maharashtra. In Tamil Nadu and Karnataka it is called Karadaiyan Nonbu. On trayodashi, the thirteenth day of the Hindu month of Jyeshtha, women pray under a banyan tree. They pour ganga jal at its roots, tie the tree trunk with red thread and offer fruits as bhog.

SHANI JAYANTI

Shani is the planet Saturn, one of the navagraha, the nine sacred planets and the day Shanivaar (Saturday) is named after this planet. Hindus believe that the anger of Shani leads to misfortune. On amavasya, the moonless night of the Hindu month of Jyeshtha, the god is worshipped to gain his blessings and for good luck. Devotees fast to propitiate Shani, visit Shani temples and perform yagyas.

ASCENSION OF JESUS

There are five major milestones in the narrative of the life of Jesus Christ – Baptism, Transfiguration, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension. At Easter Jesus was resurrected after his crucifixion. The Feast of the Ascension is celebrated forty days after Easter as the day when Jesus was taken up to heaven by angels in the presence of the twelve apostles.

INTERNATIONAL ENERGY DAY

This day is observed across the world to educate people about the urgent need to conserve energy to save the world’s environment. There are meetings of global leaders, students and consumers on ways to conserve energy. Special programmes are held in schools to make children aware of the need to use energy well.

MAHESHWARI JAYANTI

The Maheshwari community belongs to the region of Khandela in Rajasthan and is part of the Marwari and Mewar communities. On the day of Mahesh Navami, on the ninth day of the shukla paksha in the month of Jyeshtha they worship Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati.

UNJAL FESTIVAL, MADURAI

This is a ten day festival at the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai and on the last day the triple fruit puja is performed. The abhishekham ritual is performed to the images of the goddess Sivakami Amman and Lord Arulmighu Nataraja on the day of Uthiram. The Nataraja image is then taken out in procession along the four Masi streets.

SHAB-E-BARAT
This sacred day is observed by Muslims on the 15th day of Sha’ban, the 8th month of the Islamic calendar. The faithful hold nightlong vigils and sessions of prayers. On this day devotees also pray for their ancestors, recite the Quran and seek forgiveness of Allah for past sins.

GANGA DUSSEHRA

The Ganga is the most sacred of the rivers of India. Legends say that at one time the Ganga flowed in heaven and she came down to earth because of the prayers of a king named Bhagirath. The Ganga flowed through the knotted hair of Lord Shiva and then appeared on earth in the Himalayas at Gangotri. This festival is celebrated as the day when the river appeared on earth and people gather at her banks to welcome it with flowers. In Varanasi they string long garlands and then take them out in boats to lay the flowers across her flowing waters.

SINDHU DARSHAN FESTIVAL

This festival celebrates the appearance of River Sindhu, or Indus which is one of the seven most sacred rivers of India. The Mansarovar Lake in Tibet is the source of the Indus which flows through the Himalayan state of Ladakh before entering Pakistan. During this festival waters from all the main rivers of India are brought to Ladakh and poured into the Indus. Also there are dance and music performances in Leh to celebrate the life and culture of the Ladakhi people.

SHIMLA SUMMER FESTIVAL

Set in the verdant valleys of the upper Himalayas, the town of Shimla is the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh. It has been a popular summer resort from the time of the British who made it their summer capital. The Shimla festival has been held since 1960 and this year it begins with a half marathon from the Ridge. Then the carnival will have a flower show, stalls selling Himachali handicrafts and cuisine, cultural programmes to highlight Himachali culture and even a rock band.

PENTECOST

This Christian festival is also called Whit Sunday and is celebrated fifty days after Easter Sunday. On Easter Jesus Christ had ascended to heaven. Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. It is also referred to as the ‘birthday of the church’. Devotees go to listen to sermons at their church, share festive meals and there are religious processions, prayers and vigils.

NIRJALA EKADASHI

This ekadashi falls on the eleventh day of the Shukla Paksha of the month of Ashadh. This is considered as the most sacred among all the ekadashi fasts. It is called ‘nirjala’ or without water as devotees not only fast but also do not drink any water on this day. Lord Vishnu is worshipped with all night prayers and the singing of bhajans. Also during the day devotees set up tents by the road side and offer cooling drinks to people.

FATHER’S DAY

Father’s Day is dedicated to all our fathers and the paternal bond. It is celebrated on the third Sunday of June and on this day children bring gifts to their fathers and there are sermons in churches about the role of fathers in the family. It began in the Unites States after the people had started celebrating Mother’s Day in the early years of the 20th century.

KABIR JAYANTI

Kabir was a mystic poet saint who lived in Varanasi in the 16th century and this day is celebrated as his birth anniversary. He is among the best known Bhakti poets of North India and his small poems called dohas are a part of people’s lives. Kabir said that all religions are the same and opposed the caste system saying everyone was born equal. Kabir was himself a weaver and a disciple of the guru Ramananda and said that we did not need religious rituals to reach God, just a heart full of prayers. Kabir composed his poetry in Avadhi, the spoken language of the region instead of Sanskrit so that everyone could understand it. His humorous and wise sayings remain relevant even today and his poems are still sung everywhere.

MITHUNA SANKRANTI

This day is the beginning of Ashadh, the third solar month in the Hindu calendar. This festival is very popular in the villages of Orissa where the season of the rains are welcomed with prayers to the goddess Prithvi, the goddess earth. Young girls play on swings, there are folk dances and special sweets called poda pithas are prepared with rice powder, molasses and coconut.

TRINITY SUNDAY

On the first Sunday after Pentecost Western Christianity celebrates Trinity Sunday. In Christian doctrine the Trinity is of three persons – God, the father; the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is considered to be a mystery of the Christian faith where God is viewed as three divine persons and yet they are “one substance, essence or nature.” On this day Christians celebrate and worship the Trinity through prayers and sermons at church.

GURU ARJAN DEV PUNYA TITHI

This day commemorates the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth guru of the Sikhs. He built the Harmandir Sahib, the Golden temple in Amritsar which is the most sacred pilgrimage of Sikhs. Guru Arjan Dev also compiled all the sacred writings of earlier gurus in the book Adi Granth which later became the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scriptures of the faith. On this day in 1606 the guru was executed by the orders of the Mughal emperor Jahangir who was angered by the popularity of the Sikh faith among the people of Punjab.

AMBUBACHI MELA, KAMAKHYA TEMPLE

The famous Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, Assam is dedicated to the goddess Shakti and it is one of the 51 shakti peethas, or seats of the goddess. According to Hindu traditions the shakti peethas are where parts of the body of the goddess Sati fell. Many aspects of the goddess are worshipped at the peethas and here it is goddess Kamakhya. This temple in the Nilachal Hills near Guwahati, Assam is among the oldest temples in India with religious traditions that go back thousands of years.

The Ambubachi Mela is celebrated during the Assamese month of Ahaar during the monsoons. This is the time when the Brahmaputra River is in spate and the festival celebrates the fertility of the earth through the blessings of goddess Kamakhya. During this month there is a huge gathering of pilgrims, sanyasis as baul singers perform at the colourful fair that springs up around the temple.

YOGINI EKADASHI

This ekadashi falls in the Krishna paksha in the month of Ashadh of the Hindu calendar. It is the ekadashi between nirjala and devshayani ekadashis. Devotees fast all day and the fast is broken the next morning. People pray to Lord Narayan with puja and arti and the pipal tree is worshipped.

CHAMPAKULAM BOAT RACE

This is the oldest and most popular of the eye-catching and popular snake boat races of Kerala. These races are called vallam kali and this race is held on the Pamba River in Alappuzha district on moolam day in the Malayali month of Midhunam. It celebrates the installation of the deity at the Ambalapuzha Sri Krishna temple in the 17th century. This boat race starts the season of boat races and is a test of endurance, speed and skill, as up to a hundred rowers in each boat bend over their oars and streak down the river to the shouts of the spectators.

SANKASHTI GANESH CHATURTHI

This fast is held on the fourth day after the full moon in the month of Ashadh. On this day Ganesh is worshipped with fasting and puja with devotees praying that he remove the difficulties and obstacles in their lives. The puja is held in the evening after sighting and praying to the moon.

SAO JOAO FEAST OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST

This festival is celebrated by Catholics in Goa and commemorates the birth anniversary of St. John the Baptist. Baptism is a Christian rite of sprinkling water on a person symbolising purification and regeneration. It was St. John who first baptised a young Jesus Christ in the River Jordan in Palestine. On this day processions are taken out and there is a parade of decorated boats in the streams of Goa. People wear tiaras of flowers to celebrate and all newly married couples are welcomed with a feast of Goan dishes.

JAGANNATH  RATH YATRA

Lord Jagannath, an avatar of Lord Vishnu is called the lord of the world. The legendary chariot festival at the Jagannath temple in Puri is one of the greatest festivals among Hindus. It takes place on the second day of the shukla paksha in the month of Ashadh of the Hindu calendar. The Rath Yatra begins at the Jagannath Temple from where three giant wooden chariots of Jagannath, his sister Subhadra and brother Balabhadra are pulled by devotees to the Gundicha Mandir. The chariots are taken back eight days later.

These eight days are said to be Lord Jagannath’s annual visit to the temple. People gather in lakhs on the avenue before the temple called Bada Danda to witness this magnificent chariot festival which has many ancient religious traditions going back to the 10th century. The Rath Yatra is locally called ‘Pahandi Bije’ and re-enacts Lord Krishna’s journey from Gokul to Mathura. This is the time that everyone can view the images of the three deities of the temple as they are taken out in the carved and decorated wooden chariots topped by brightly coloured cloth canopies.

RAMZAN BEGINS

Ramzan is the holy ninth month of the Islamic calendar when Prophet Muhammad received his first revelations of the Al-Quran. This month is also called Ramadan when the faithful across the world fast from sunrise to sunset and say their prayers. The fasting during the month of Ramzan is considered as one of the five pillars of Islam along with going on the pilgrimage to Mecca called the Haj. The Ramzan fasts begin and end with the visual sighting of the crescent moon. Ramzan is a celebration of discipline, self purification and self control when devotees do charity and recite the verses of the Quran.

ID-UL-FITR

This joyous day marks the end of Ramzan, the Islamic month of fasting. It is celebrated on the first day of the lunar month of Shawwal. In India people gather to say their prayers at mosques and break their fasts with bowls of sweet vermicelli – sewaiyan kheer. So it is also called the ‘sweet Id’ and the ‘sugar feast’. People wear new clothes, women decorate their hands and feet with delicate henna designs and everyone exchanges gifts. Children look forward to the small sums of money given to them called ‘eidi’. This is also the time to give in charity and greet each other with a happy embrace and smiling calls of, “Id Mubarak!”

FEASTS OF ST. PETER & ST. PAUL

This day is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church as a liturgical feast in honour of the martyrdom of the saints Peter and Paul. They were among the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ and were crucified in Rome. This day is also called the Solemnity of saints Peter & Paul. On this day the Pope places the pallium, a woollen cloak, around newly appointed archbishops of the church. In the Eastern Orthodox Church this feast marks the end of the Apostle’s Fast that begins on the second Monday after Pentecost and the faithful hold all night vigils.

THIRUKALYANAM  AT  RAMESWARAM. JULY-AUGUST 2016
 
The Thirukalyanam festival, celebrated every year in many South Indian temples, marks the marriage ceremony of the temple deity and its consort. At the Ramanatha Swamy Temple as Rameswaram Lord Shiva is worshipped as Ramanatha Swamy, the lord of Rama, and his consort Parvati is called Parvatavardhini. In the months of July and August, for seventeen days, the Thirukalyanam festival is celebrated with great pomp and ceremony when Lord Ramanatha Swamy marries Goddess Parvatavardhini.
 
The programme starts in the Tamil calendar month of Aashada Pagula Krishnashtami and ends on Siravana Suddham. It starts with the traditional marriage rituals and then the deities are taken out into the town in a parade during the Rishabha Vahanam, the chariot festival. Thousands of devotees gather in the streets to get a glimpse of the sacred chariot as it is drawn along to the beat of drums. There are religious rituals like Sayanasevai on the golden palanquin and cultural programmes like dance and music recitals and the recitation of shlokas from the Vedas and other sacred books.

AADI MULAI KOTTU, MEEENAKSHI TEMPLE, MADURAI (Aadi / July)
 
At the Meenakshi temple at Madurai there is a festival every month. In the Tamil month of Aadi the ten day festival is reserved for the worship of Meenakshi Amman only. The image of the goddess is taken out in a procession along the Aadi streets. Also there are special music programmes with nadeswaram recitals.

YURU KABGYAT

The ancient Lamayuru Monastery stands on a high Himalayas ridge 127 km from Leh in Ladakh. Buddhists from across the world travel here for the festival when a famous dance drama is performed by the monks. It includes the traditional chham masked dance performed to the beat of drums, long pipes and giant cymbals. Two characters in the dance are Yama the Lord of Death and Guru Padmasambhava who is called the second Buddha by Tibetans as he introduced Buddhism to the region. The dances are followed by offerings being made to the Buddha.
 
AMARNATH YATRA

The cave of Amarnath is in Kashmir north of Anantnag and every winter a snow Shivalingam forms in this cave. Then in summer pilgrims trek across a difficult mountain terrain and over glaciers to reach this cave which is at an altitude of 12,000 feet. It is considered one of the most difficult yatras of the land. This yatra begins at Srinagar with the Chhari Mubarak, a silver mace that is carried by the mahant of the Dasnami Akhara who leads the trek. It stops at Chandanwari and weaves past the Lidder River through a picturesque landscape

GURU HARGOBIND JAYANTI

Guru Hargobind was the sixth guru of the Sikhs and the son of Guru Arjan Dev. On this day in 1606 he became a guru at the tender age of eleven and the occasion is called gurgaddi divas. Guru Hargobind was a soldier-saint who began the tradition of the Sikhs as a martial people inspiring them to do heroic deed. He always carried two swords symbolising power (shakti) and prayer (bhakti). On this day Sikhs visit their most sacred shrine, the Gurudwara Harmandir Sahib at Amritsar and bathe in the sacred lake.

BHADLI NAVAMI

This day of prayers is observed on the ninth day of the Shukla Paksha of the month of Ashadh in the Hindu calendar. It is also called Bhatali Navami and Ashara Shukla Paksha Navami. Traditionally the chaturmas starts from the next day when for four months Lord Vishnu goes to sleep. So this is the last auspicious day for weddings before the period of chaturmas.

HEMIS FESTIVAL

The Buddhist monastery called the Hemis Gompha stands 40 km from Leh in Ladakh. It is the largest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh and was built in 1630. This festival celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava (also called Guru Rinpoche) who introduced Buddhism in Tibet. The Hemis Festival follows the Vajrayana School of Buddhism and is celebrated for two days. Monks perform mystic and colourful masked dances, called chams, in the courtyard of the monastery to the beating of drums, cymbals and playing of large horns.  Every twelve years the largest tanghka painting in the world is exhibited here during the festival. This painting that depicts the life of Guru Padmasambhava, is two stories high and is set with precious gems and pearls. 

CHATURMAS VRAT

Chaturmas are the four holiest months of the Hindu calendar and include Shravan, Bhadrapad, Ashvin and Kartik. As it is said that Lord Vishnu sleeps during this time this period is called the night of the god. Chaturmas will end on Prabhodini ekadashi. During this time devotees fast, pray, recite shlokas from holy books, visit temples and give in charity.

DEVASHAYANI EKADASHI

This ekadashi falls in the shukla paksha of the month of Ashadh in the Hindu calendar. This day marks the beginning of chaturmas, the four months during which it is said that Lord Vishnu goes to sleep. The god will wake again on Prabhodini Ekadashi in the month of Kartik. Devotees fast and pray, reciting the sacred names of Lord Vishnu to gain salvation.

GURU PURNIMA

Guru Purnima is celebrated on the full moon in the month of Ashadh of the Hindu calendar. This day is dedicated to the memory of the great sage and scholar of ancient India Rishi Vyasa who composed the epic Mahabharata and compiled the Vedas and Puranas. Hindus worship Vyasa who is called Adi Guru as the first guru and also show their reverence to their own teachers.

GURU PURNIMA AT SHIRDI

Guru Purnima, the day when we pay our respects to our guru is an important festival at the Sai Baba Temple at Shirdi. Sai Baba had allowed his disciples to worship him on this day even during his lifetime. He often said that it is only through the guidance of a guru that we can gain enlightenment. There are special prayers and processions on this day at Shirdi. The other two important festivals at Shirdi are Ramnavami and Vijayadashami when Sai Baba gained nirvana.
 
KAMIKA EKADASHI

This ekadashi is observed on the eleventh day, during the Krishna paksha, of the Hindu lunar month of Shravan,. Devotees pray to Lord Vishnu to free them from their sins and gain salvation. Lord Krishna is said to have praised this ekadashi to Yudhisthir, one of the Pandava brothers of the Mahabharata. People fast all day and night and then next morning offer prayers with flowers, fruits and sesame seeds.

VRAT SOMVAR

Lord Shiva is worshipped on Mondays by his devotees. During the month of Shravan they fast from sunrise to sunset on every Monday. Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati are worshipped with puja rituals of arati, the offering of flowers and fruits and the recitation of mantras and it is only after the puja that the devotee breaks the fast.

DAKSHINAYANA SANKRANTI

This sankranti is also called Karkat Sankranti as on this day the sun moves from the Hindu zodiac sign of Mithuna rashi (gemini) to Karkat rashi (cancer). This sankranti is called Dakshinayana as now the sun begins its journey towards the Southern Hemisphere. It will move northward again on Makar Sakranti in January. On this day devotees worship Varaha, the man-lion avatar of Lord Vishnu and perform religious rituals like pindadaan and shradh for their ancestors.

GURU HARKISHAN JAYANTI

Guru Harkishan was the eighth guru of the Sikhs. He was born on this day at Kiratpur Sahib in Punjab. He succeeded his father Guru Har Rai to the position of guru at the young age of six years. He was a guest at the home of Raja Jai Singh in Delhi when the city faced a smallpox epidemic and Guru Harkishan succumbed to the disease in 1664 at the age of seven. Today the gurdwara Bangla Sahib stands at the site in New Delhi where he spent his last days.

JAMAT – UL – VIDA

 
This is the last Friday of the holy month of Ramzan.  Muslims consider the Friday prayers as the most sacred and this one is considered especially holy. On this day people gather to pray at mosques as devotees bid farewell to Ramzan, the month of holy fasting that will end with Id ul Fitr. Jumat – ul – Vida is observed in Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh with great solemnity and devotion.

SHRAVAN AMAVASYA

The moonless nights of amavasya are when Lord Shiva is worshipped. The amavasya in the month of Shravan of the Hindu calendar is considered very auspicious when devotees fast, take a dip in the river and worship the pipal tree. They also perform religious rituals in the memory of their ancestors.

HARIYALI AMAVASYA
 
This auspicious day falls on the moonless night of the Hindu month of Shravan. Usually amavasya is the day that devotees worship Lord Shiva but during this one Lord Krishna is also worshipped. There are religious rituals performed with great pomp in the temples of Mathura and Vrindavan. Called a ‘green’ amavasya as the land has turned green in the rains, there are colourful fairs held in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh welcoming the monsoons.

HARIYALI TEEJ

This colourful festival welcomes the arrival of the monsoons with music, dance and women flying up in the air on swings. Celebrated with the greatest enthusiasm in the desert land of Rajasthan, it begins on the third day of the new moon of the month of Shravan. The goddess Parvati observed many penances to win Lord Shiva as her husband and it is said that on this day she went to his home for the first time. Women fast and then wear their finest clothes in many shades of green and join in group dances like the garba and dandia.

AAVANI MOOLAM AT MEENAKSHI TEMPLE, MADURAI
 
At the meenakshi Temple at Madurai the Aavani festival goes on for eighteen days inAugust. For six days the festival is devoted to the god Chandrashekhar and the next twelve days to the Panchamoorthi that are taken out in procession along the Aavani Moola streets. On the seventh day there is a coronation of Lord Sundareswarar and the miracles performed by the Lord of Madurai are enacted by the Sivachariars.

METEMNEO FESTIVAL
 
This colourful harvest festival is celebrated in Nagaland with great verve and enthusiasm. It begins after the millet crop has been harvested by the Yimchunga tribe. People gather to sing and dance and enjoy lavish feasts. It is also the time to forgive and forget as people give up their old differences with others. Many engagements between young boys and girls are arranged during this festival. Families also pray to the departed souls of their family members

SAWAN SHIVARATRI
 
The Hindu month of Shravan is considered especially auspicious for Lord Shiva. The Sawan Shivaratri falls on the chaturdashi tithi in the krishna paksha of Shravan. Many devotees fast on every Monday of the month and this is the Shravan Somvar Vrat. There are special pujas at all important temples like the Kashi Vishwanath at Varanasi and the Mahakaleshwar Temple at Ujjain. Devotees fast all day and worship the shivalingam doing the abhisheka with ganga jal and decorate with bilva leaves and red hibiscus flowers. Many devotees also worship goddess Parvati on Tuesdays and perform the Mangal Gauri puja.

NAAG PANCHAMI
 
This festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the shukla paksha of the month of Shravan. During the rains the snakes come out and as there is the fear of snake bite, they are worshipped by people.  In Hindu mythology the family of snakes or nagas plays an important role. For example the Sheshnaag shelters Lord Vishnu under its seven hoods and Lord Shiva always wears a snake around his neck like a necklace. On this day snakes are fed milk and rice.

KALKI JAYANTI
 
Kalki is the tenth avatar of Vishnu and is the final incarnation that is yet to come. It is said that at the end of this Kali Yuga, Kalki will come to destroy the world and the total annihilation of evil, so that there can be the re-establishment of Dharma. Kalki Jayanti celebrates the day he will appear on earth on the sixth day of the shukla paksha of the month of Shravan. Kalki is depicted as riding a horse with a drawn sword and is followed by all the signs of destruction – thunder and lightning, heavy rain and a harsh sun. Once he has destroyed the present world, Lord Brahma will start his cycle of creation again with a new Satya Yuga.

TULSIDAS JAYANTI
 
The seventh day of the shukla pasha of the month of Shravan is celebrated as the birth anniversary of the great poet and Bhakti saint Goswami Tulsidas. In the 15th century Tulsidas composed the Ramcharitmanas, a poetic version of the Ramayana written in Awadhi, a dialect of Hindi. Till then the Ramayana of Valmiki was read and as it was written in Sanskrit it had been monopolised by the priests. Tulsidas brought the story of Lord Ram to the people and even today devotees read the Ramcharitmanas every day. It is written with great devotion in exquisitely lyrical verse by a people’s poet. They say that every time the verses of Tulsidas are recited, Lord Rama’s greatest disciple Hanuman comes to listen.

VARALAKSHMI VRATAM
 
This festival day dedicated to the goddess Lakshmi is celebrated mostly in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. ‘Varam’ means to grant a boon and married women pray to Lakshmi asking for the health and happiness of their families. It is celebrated on a Friday before the full moon day of poornima in the shukla paksha of the month of Shravan. Women fast all day, decorate a metal pot, a kalash with flowers, paint rangoli and kolam patterns at the door of their homes and offer saris, jewellery and flowers to the goddess of wealth.

SHRAVAN PUTRADI EKADASHI
 
This ekadashi is also called pavitropana ekadashi. It falls on the eleventh day of the Krishna paksha of the month of Shravan and people fast all day and worship Lord Vishnu. People praying for children often observe this ekadashi. This is also the day when the five day Jhulan Yatra begins with the images of Lord Krishna and Radha being placed on swings and worshipped with flowers and incense as women serenade the deities with songs.

RAKSHA BANDHAN
 
On full moon day of Poornima of the month of Shravan falls the delightful festival that celebrates the love of brothers and sisters. Sisters re-affirm their bonds of love and affection by tying a colourful band, the rakhi, around the wrist of their brothers. A rakhi is considered a symbol of love and respect and are also tied on the wrists of soldiers going to war. Sisters perform an aarti with lighted lamps and put a tikka on the forehead of their brothers and feed them sweets as brothers reciprocate by giving them gifts.

KAJARI TEEJ
 
This is the second of the three Teej festivals and is celebrated a fortnight after Hariyali Teej. It falls on the Krishna paksha of the Hindu month of Shravan. The goddess Parvati is worshipped by women who pray for the welfare of their loved ones. It is also a celebration of the arrival of the monsoons and swings are tied to trees and girls fly upward to the clouds.

INDEPENDENCE DAY
 
For Indians 15th August 1947 is always a memorable day. On this day sixty eight years ago India gained freedom and became an independent, sovereign, democratic republic. Every year on this day people gather below the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi to listen to a speech by the Prime Minister of the country. The tricolour flag flies triumphantly over buildings and children celebrate by flying kites. In the cloudy, breezy monsoon evenings the sky is filled with the saffron, white and green squares of paper fluttering with joy and hope.
 
SIMHA SANKRANTI
 
Sankrantis follow the movement of the sun from one zodiac sign to the next. On this Sankranti the sun leaves the Karkat rashi (cancer) and enters the Simha rashi (Leo). Devotees take a holy dip in rivers and pray for salvation. On this sankranti Lord Vishnu, Surya, the sun god and Vishnu’s avatar Narasimha are worshipped.

NOVIDADES
 
In the month of Bhadra the people of Goa celebrate the harvesting season with the ritual of Novidade. Parish priests pick the first rice sheaves and after a colourful procession offer the first sheaves of rice to God at the altar of churches. People of all religions then pray, sing and dance and there are fireworks and feasts.

JANAMASHTAMI
 
This is Lord Krishna’s special day and his devotees welcome him with lighted lamps, songs, dances, processions and special displays of images. Also called Krishnashtami and Gokulashtami this popular festival is celebrated on the eighth day of the Krishna Paksha of the Hindu month of Shravan. It celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, the ninth avatar of Lord Vishnu and a hero in the epic Mahabharata. Krishna was born in Mathura and would rule in Mathura and then build the city of Dwarka.
 
The biggest festival is by the banks of the Yamuna River at Mathura and Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh where temples hold special pujas and raas leela dances are performed. It is also celebrated with much pomp and ceremony at the Dwarkadhish Temple at Dwarka. In Manipur it is the biggest celebration for members of the Vaishnava faith and in Maharashtra young boys climb up a human pyramid to break handis of dahi that are hung high above in the air.
 
PATETI NAVROZ
 
The Parsi community in India celebrates New Year on this day. People wear new clothes and clean and decorate their homes with rangoli. They burn incense sticks and sandalwood in censors. In the morning Parsis visit the Agiary temple to worship Ahura Mazda through the worship of the sacred fire. This is a day of saying prayers in thanksgiving called ‘Jashn’. A feast is prepared and people visit family and friends and share the feast and also give food to the poor.

AJA EKADASHI
 
This ekadashi fast falls on the eleventh day of the shukla paksha in the month of Bhadra. According to the Brahmavaivarta Purana Lord Krishna praised this ekadashi to Yudhisthira. It is also said that on this day Raja Harishchandra got back his wife, son and his kingdom after observing this fast. Devotees pray and fast to be freed from their past sins and worship Lord Vishnu.

KHORDAD SAL

Parsis celebrate the birthday of Prophet Zarathustra, the founder of their religion, Zoroastrianism. it is celebrated on the sixth day of the Parsi month of Farvardin when they go for prayers to the agiaries, the fire temples, wear new clothes and decorate homes with flowers.

JAMSHED-E-NAVROZ

The new year of the Parsis is called Jamshed-e-Navroz. It is the first day of the Zoroastrian calendar and commences with the vernal equinox. It is named after King Jamshed of Persia who first celebrated the new year day.

Today Parsi homes are decorated with auspicious symbols, people wear new clothes and visit the fire temples. Family members exchange gifts and an elaborate feast of traditional Parsi dishes is prepared, as everyone is greeted with “Navroz Mubarak!”.

TITHI OF SRI SHANKARDEVA

Srimanta Shankardeva was a 15th century Bhakti saint, scholar and religious reformer of Assam. Like Bhakti preachers Guru Nanak and Kabir he taught of equality and tolerance and inspired the unification of the region. He is venerated in Assam till today.

SAMVATSARI

Jains seek forgiveness on this day from all creatures they may have hurt, knowingly or unknowingly by thought, word or deed by uttering the words, “Micchami Dukkadam”. It is held at the end of the Paryushan Parva held from 14th-21st August.

AMONGMONG FESTIVAL

This joyous harvest festival is celebrated by the Sangtam tribe of Nagaland. This is the most important of the twelve festivals celebrated by the Sangtams and it is observed for six days. On the first day families worship their traditional deities and three cooking stones, praying for good harvest, good health and prosperity. Then everyone gathers for a festival of colourful dancing, folk music and lavish feasts.

MIM KUT. SEPTEMBER

This annual celebration is one of the biggest festivals of Mizoram. Mim Kut is a harvest festival connected to the growing of maize. People believe that their ancestors visit their homes so families gather to worship their ancestors, offering fresh vegetables, maize, bread, necklaces and clothes. The prayers are followed by dance, music and feasts and visits to local fairs.

MANARCAD PERUNNAL

This is the annual fiesta celebrated at the St. Mary’s Church at Manarcad in Kerala. Devotees come here to pray to Mother Mary and pray and fast for eight days, often praying in the church all day. The festivities end with a very unusual and grand procession with people carrying golden crosses and umbrellas in all the colours of the rainbow.

RADHASHTAMI

The birthday of Lord Krishna’s consort, Radha is celebrated a fortnight after his birthday of Janamashtami. The day is the eighth day of the shukla paksha of the month of Bhadra. The biggest celebrations are in the Brijbhoomi area of Uttar Pradesh around the towns of Mathura and Vrindavan. People wear flowers, dance and sing kirtans and bhajans in praise of Radha.

TEACHER’S DAY

This day is dedicated to all teachers in India and it is also the birthday of Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan who became the President of India in 1962. He was a philosopher, writer and teacher and when his students wanted to celebrate his birthday he requested that instead, they celebrate the role of teachers in their lives. On this day in many schools the senior students take on the work of teaching to understand the role of their teachers.

BHUVANESHWARI JAYANTI

The goddess Bhuvaneshwari is also called Adi Shakti and is an aspect of the great Mother Goddess Devi. The Mother Goddess has ten aspects called Dasa Mahavidya and Bhuvaneshwari is the fourth aspect. She is depicted as wearing the moon on her forehead as she is called the divine mother of the universe. This day falls on the dwadashi of shukla paksha of the month of Bhadra when devotees worship this consort of Lord Shiva with fasts and the recitation of shlokas.

ONAM
 
This rice harvest festival is celebrated in Kerala when the Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu and the Kerala king Mahabali are worshiped. Also called the rain flower festival, it is held in the month of Chingam of the Malayali calendar and at this time delicate flower carpets are created in homes, feasts called onadasya are prepared and people dance and sing. It is also the time of the legendary snake boat races called vallamkali in the rivers and backwaters of Kerala
 
The story of Onam
The mythology of the Onam festival is connected to the Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu and the asura king Mahabali who was a powerful ruler. Vishnu appeared before him in the form of a dwarf and begged for land that he could cover with three steps. Mahabali was famous for his generosity and he granted the wish. Vamana then took on the form of a giant, his first step covered the sky, his second the earth and so Mahabali offered his head for the third step and he was pushed down to the netherworld. During Onam Mahabali visits the earth again.

BHADRAPAD PURNIMA

Purnimas are full moon days and Lord Satyanarayan is worshipped on this day with fruits, flowers, sweets, betel leaves and vermillion. All purnimas are considered especially auspicious as they mark the division between the shukla paksha, the bright fortnight and Krishna paksha, the dark fortnight of the lunar calendar. The Bhadrapad Purnima is also called Madhu Purnima and devotees go to bathe in the river at dawn, pray and give in charity.

ANANT CHATURDASHI

This is the last day of the ten day Ganesh festival and the day when the idols are immersed in a river or sea. Falling on the 14th day of the shukla paksha of the month of Bhadra it is also a day sacred to the Jain community. On this day the Jains worship Lord Vishnu as Anant, the eternal lord.

PITR PAKSHA. STARTING

Hindus pay homage to their ancestors during these sixteen lunar days of the month of Bhadra. It starts on the poornima, full moon day after Ganesh Chaturthi. Some people perform the ritual of shraddha or tarpan with pujas and make offerings of food to Brahmans and the poor. Devotees spend their time in prayer and in reading the Bhagavat Purana and the Gita and no auspicious ceremonies are held during this period. The pilgrimages of Gaya in Bihar and Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu are considered very auspicious for the pitr tarpan rites. Lord Rama had performed the shraddha rites for Ravana, the king of Lanka at Rameshwaram

ARANMULA VALLAMKALI

This is the annual boat race festival held at the Sri Aranmula Parthasarthy Temple in the Aranmula District of Kerala. The exciting snake boat races are held during the time of Onam on the Pamba River and celebrate the establishment of the Krishna image in the temple. The snake boats, called palliyadams are a hundred feet in length and have a hood in front that resembles the hood of a snake. To the beat of drums and singing the boats race across the river in a breathtaking skill of rowing.

KANYA SANKRANTI

According to the Hindu solar calendar, on every sankranti the sun leaves one zodiac sign and enters the next. On this day the sun transits from Simha rashi (Leo) to Kanya rashi (Virgo). This sankranti falls in the month of Bhadra, the Tamil month of Purattasi and Kanni Masam of the Malayali calendar. On every sankranti people pray, fast, feed the poor and give in charity.

VISHWAKARMA PUJA

The Puja is held on Kanya Sankranti day in the Hindu month of Bhadra. In some regions it is celebrated on the day after Diwali. Lord Vishwakarma is the celestial architect, engineer and craftsman of the Hindu pantheon. It is said he created the first plough that gave us agriculture. He is also the builder of all the heavens of the gods, their vehicles and weapons and built the cities of Lanka for Kubera, the god of wealth and Lord Krishna’s Dwarka. Thus Vishwakarma is the special deity of people who work with tools and machines and is worshipped not just by architects, engineers and craftspeople but pujas are also held on factory floors. 

INDIRA EKADASHI

This ekadashi ritual falls on the eleventh day of the Krishna paksha of the month of Ashvin. As this falls in the pitr paksha period devotees pray for the salvation of their ancestors and for them to be freed from all their sins. Devotees fast and pray all day and only partake of a single meal the next day.

VISHWAKARMA PUJA

The Puja is held on Kanya Sankranti day in the Hindu month of Bhadra. In some regions it is celebrated on the day after Diwali.

Lord Vishwakarma is the celestial architect, engineer and craftsman of the Hindu pantheon. It is said he created the first plough that gave us agriculture. He is also the builder of all the heavens of the Gods, their vehicles and weapons. He also built the cities of Lanka and Lord Krishna’s Dwarka.

Thus Vishwakarma is the special deity of people who work with tools and machines and is worshipped not just by architects, engineers and craftspeople but pujas are also held on factory floors. 

GANESH CHATURTHI

Also known as Vinayak Chaturthi, this festival celebrates the birth of Lord Ganesha,the son of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati. The festival starts on Shukla Chaturthi in the month of Bhadra and goes on for ten days.

Lord Ganesha is the god of wisdom and brings prosperity and good fortune to his devotees. People always invoke him to ensure an auspicious beginning to any enterprise. Beloved across the country, he is the benign god who is worshipped first at every puja. 

The biggest celebrations take place in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa. In Mumbai giant images of the god are worshipped and then immersed in the sea. At this time people make the sweet modak which is said to be Ganesh’a favourite dish.

SARVAPITRI AMAVASYA

This is the last day of the Pitri Paksha that began after Ganesh Chaturthi. It falls on the moonless night of the month of Amavasya. It is also the day of mahalaya when the nine day navaratra and the puja of the goddess Durga begins. This day is considered very auspicious for the worship of ancestors and devotees perform pujas praying for their souls to gain peace and moksha.

ROSH HASHANAH

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and the two day celebrations begin from the first day of the Jewish month of Tishrei. The day is believed to be the anniversary of the creation by God of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. On this day a ram’s horn called the shofar is blown to announce the arrival of the New Year and sweets like apples dipped in honey are eaten for a “sweet new year”.

NAVARATRI

The sacred nine nights are dedicated to the Mother Goddess Devi, who is the shakti or power of all our deities. There are two Navaratris celebrated every year, one in spring and the other in autumn when people fast and pray for her blessings. In Gujarat they dance the dandiya and garba, in the rest of India special dishes are prepared and women sing songs in her praise.

The Devi is the consort of all the gods. She is Parvati and Durga, the consort and shakti of Lord Shiva. She is Lakshmi, the shakti of Lord Vishnu and Sarawati, the shakti of Lord Brahma. The nine most sacred forms worshipped at this time are of Durga, Bhadrakali, Jagadamba, Annapurna, Sarvamangala, Bhairavi, Chandika, Lalita and Bhavani. She is the generous Annapurna bringing food to people and the warrior goddess Durga battling evil, the ascetic Bhairavi and the gentle Lalita.

During these nine days and nights the many aspects of the Devi are worshipped, with the celebrations ending on Dussehra.

Navaratri is also the time when the great battle of the Ramayana took place at Lanka. It begins with the day when Rama prayed to Durga for victory. The Ramlila plays enact this great story during these nine days. In the Southern states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka Saraswati is worshipped on Navami day.

DURGA PUJA BEGINS

Sashti, the first day of Durga Puja falls in the month of September and the festival worshipping the warrior goddess Durga then goes on into the following month ending with Dussehra on 4th October. Sashti is the day when the idol of the goddess is established and life is breathed into it, followed by religious rituals welcoming her on earth for her annual visit.

GANDHI JAYANTI

Mahatma Gandhi is remembered by the nation on his birthday. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on this day in 1869 at Porbandar in Gujarat. He would lead India’s struggle for freedom from British rule and was called a messiah of non violence by the world. Gandhiji taught Indians the strategy of satyagraha or the struggle for truth where freedom fighters faced an armed opposition peacefully. This was his concept of ahimsa, non violence. Gandhiji also spoke of equality of all people, for religious tolerance and against the evils of the caste system. One day he would inspire leaders like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi. The United Nations has declared this day as the International Day of Non-Violence.

DURGA PUJA

The warrior goddess Durga is worshipped in Eastern India, especially in West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Tripura. Tradition says that she comes to visit her earthly home with her family. Beautiful images of the goddess, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Ganesha are worshipped for five days starting with Sashti and ending on Dasami which is celebrated as Dussehra. Cultural programmes are also held as people visit various puja pandals to worship the image of Durga.

Durga was created with the combined powers of all the gods to fight the demon Mahisashura. He had got a boon from Brahma that he could not be killed by any god or man, so a goddess was created and armed with all the weapons of the gods. Then Durga wet forth to face a powerful asura who could change his shape at will and after a long battle killed him with Shiva’s trident, piercing his chest when he had taken the form of a mahisha, a giant buffalo.

The most auspicious days of Durga Puja are the eighth day of Ashtami and the tenth of Vijaya Dashami. The tenth day is also the day when Lord Rama finally killed Ravana in Lanka and thus makes the day even more sacred.

DUSSEHRA

Dussehra is celebrated on the tenth day of the waxing moon in the month of Ashvin. It is the day when Goddess Durga kills the demon Mahishasura and Lord Rama kills Ravana. It is thus Vijaya Dashami – the tenth day of victory of good over evil. So on the last day of Navaratri the final act of the Ram Lila takes place as giant paper and tinsel effigies stuffed with crackers of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Indrajeet are set on fire and burst into flames, filling the sky with sparkling lights. One of the most gorgeous Dussehra celebrations is held at the palace in Mysore with processions led by swaying elephants and the palace decorated in lights.

NAVARATRI & DUSSEHRA AT RAMESWARAM

Navaratri is an important festival at the Ramanatha Swamy Temple at Rameswaram as Durga defeats the demon Mahishasura and Rama triumphs over Ravana in Lanka across the bay. It is celebrated for ten days in the Tamil month of Puratachi and ends on Vijaya Dashami day with special pujas at the temple.

BRAHMOTSAVAM AT TIRUPATI

The annual Brahmotsavam festival is held at the Venkateshwara Temple at Tirupati during the nine days of Navaratri. Lord Brahma worshipped Balaji-Venkateshwara at this time by the banks of the Pushkarini tank for saving mankind. The programme includes Garudotsavam, the Golden Chariot procession and Chakrasnanam.

YOM KIPPUR

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar and is observed as a day of atonement and repentance by Jews. For a 25 hour period people fast and pray and attend services at their synagogues. On this day there are five services and there are both public and private confessions of sins by the faithful. Jews believe that on Yom Kippur day one should pray, repent and give to charity.

PAPANKUSHA EKADASHI

Like an elephant goad or ankusha controls an elephant, this ekadashi is said to give devotees control over their sins. This ekadashi falls on the eleventh day of the krishna paksha of the month of Bhadra. As with all ekadashis, Lord Vishnu is worshipped with all day fasts, puja and the recitation of the Vishnu sahasranam, the shloka that gives the hundred names of Vishnu.

ID-UL-ZUHA

Id-ul-Zuha, also called Id ul Adha in Arabic and Bakr Id in India. This is celebrated at the end of the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Goats are sacrificed during this Id in remembrance of Prophet Ibrahim who was willing to sacrifice his son Ismail when God tested him. Muslims across the world celebrate by gathering for prayers at the mosque and greet family and friends. They give in charity, wear new clothes and prepare special dishes.

SHARAD PURNIMA

The first full moon in the month of Ashvin, it is also called Kojagori Purnima and goddess Lakshmi is worshipped in Bengal and eastern India. Women draw beautiful alpana designs on the floor with rice powder to welcome the goddess of wealth into their homes. In Uttar Pradesh, in the Mathura-Vrindavan region the Raas Leela is danced for Lord Krishna. One of the brightest full moons is visible on this day.

VALMIKI JAYANTI

The full moon or purnima of the month of Ashvin is celebrated as the birth anniversary of the poet saint Valmiki who composed the Ramayana. He is called Adi Kavi as he is the creator of the first great epic of India. A highway robber named Ratnakar met the sage Narada who told him the story of Prince Ram of Ayodhya. Ratnakar’s heart was filled with joy and he began to pray to Ram. He became so absorbed in his tapas that he stood in one spot for years and a termite hill of sand grew around his legs. In Sanskrit sand is called ‘valu’ and thus he got his new name – Valmiki and he wrote the first Ramayana in Sanskrit, filling it with lyrical rhymes and beautiful verses.

KARVA CHAUTH
Karva Chauth is celebrated on the fourth day of the krishna paksha in the month of Kartik. On that day Hindu women in north India fast and pray for the well being of their husbands. They fast all day till they have seen the moon rise in the sky. They dress in their wedding finery in silks and jewellery and worship the moon with thalis of sweets and lighted lamps.

KATI BIHU

The harvest festival of Kati Bihu is celebrated in Assam in mid-October. It celebrates the sowing of paddy and is a festival of joy and amity with women, wearing the tradional red and white mekhala saris, dancing special Bihu dances to the beat of drums and flutes. Two other Bihu festivals are held in a year– Bohag or Rongali Bihu in April and Magh or Bhogali Bihu in January.

TULA SANKRANTI

A sankranti is considered a very auspicious day as it marks the movement of the sun from one zodiac sign to the next. This sankranti the sun moves from Kanya rashi (virgo) to the Tula rashi or Libra. It is also called Vishuva sankranti and on this day farmers worship the goddess Lakshmi praying for rich harvests and prosperity in the future.

KORATTY MUTHY FEAST

This feast is held at the St. Mary’s Syro-Malabar Forane Church at the village of Koratty, Thrissur District, Kerala. This church, of the archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, is an important Marian pilgrimage and holds this annual grand feast when devotees of Mother Mary arrive from across the country. Devotees attend the mass at the church and pray to St. Mary making special offerings of poovankula, a type of plantain and also walking on their knees in a ritual called muttilizhayal.

GURU RAM DAS JAYANTI

Guru Ram Das was the fourth guru of the Sikhs and the father of Guru Arjan Dev. He was anointed as a guru in 1574 and for seven years he was active in creating an organised Sikh religion. He was a spiritual poet and many of his hymns are gathered in the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scriptures of the Sikhs. Among them are four hymns called Laava that are sung during the Sikh marriage ceremony called Anand Karaj. Guru Ram Das laid the foundation of the city of Amritsar and began the work on the golden temple of Harmandir Sahib.

RAMA EKADASHI

This ekadashi falls on the eleventh day of the shukla paksha of the month of Kartik. Lord Krishna praised this ekadashi day to Yudhisthira as a day to pray to Lord Vishnu for the freedom from sins and moksha. Lord Vishnu is worshipped on this day and devotees fast till the sunrise the next day.

DHANTERAS

Dhanteras marks the beginning of the Diwali celebrations. It honours Dhanvantri, the celestial physician of the gods who is said to have appeared on earth on this day. Our legends say that during the great churning of the oceans by gods and demons called Sagar Manthan, he rose from the waters bearing the amrita kalasha, the pot of immortality. In North India, on this day people buy articles for their homes and kitchen.

DIWALI

Also called Deepavali, this is the joyous and beautiful festival of lights. It is one of the most important festivals of Hindus when all India turns into a land of glowing lamps and candles. It is celebrated on the 13th lunar day, krishna paksha, the moonless night of amavasya, in the month of Kartik.

On this day Lord Rama with Sita and Lakshman returned to his kingdom of Ayodhya after fourteen years in exile. He had defeated Ravana, the demon king of Lanka who had kidnapped Sita. The people of Ayodhya welcomed their king by lighting earthen lamps to decorate the whole city.

Diwali also marks the end of the harvesting season in North India and people worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Some play cards, they clean and decorate their homes, light lamps and the air echoes with the sound of bursting crackers. Everyone wears new clothes and offer sweets and gifts to each other.

Diwali is a five day celebration. It begins with Dhanteras, the next day, often called Chhoti Diwali, is Naraka Chaturdasi, when Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakasura. The third day is Diwali. The fourth day is Goverdhan Puja and the fifth is Bhai Duj.

KALI PUJA

In Bengal and Assam the day of Diwali is when people worship the goddess Kali. This festival began in the 18th century in Bengal when a local ruler, Raja Krishnachandra of Navadwipa began a yearly festival to worship Kali. The festival is celebrated on the first moonless, amavasya night of the month of Kartik.

The puja goes on all night and the image of Kali and Lord Shiva is worshipped with red hibiscus garlands, oil lamps and incense as people stay awake all night. In Kolkata the biggest celebrations are at the temples at Kalighat and Dakshineshwar.

MAHAVIR NIRVANA

The day of Diwali is also a day of prayers and meditation for the Jains. The Jains worship twenty four teacher-saints called tirthankars. The great teacher Vardhaman Mahavir was the last tirthankar who preached in the 6th century BCE and he was a contemporary of the Lord Buddha. He gained moksha on Deepavali day, October 15th, 527 BCE at Pavapuri in Bihar. The day is called Deva Devali and it also marks the beginning of the Jain New Year.

GOVERDHAN PUJA

On this day, in the state of Uttar Pradesh people worship Lord Krishna and the hill called Goverdhan near Mathura. The legend says the people of the village of Gokul used to worship Lord Indra, the king of the gods after the monsoons but Krishna stopped them. An angry Indra sent a deluge of rain to drown Gokul but Krishna raised the Goverdhan hill with just his little finger and sheltered every one under this giant rocky umbrella.

GOVATSA DWADASHI

This religious ritual is performed on the tenth day of the Krishna paksha of the Hindu month of Kartik. On this day devotees worship and feed cows and calves. The day is also called pradosh vyapini tithi when devotees worship Lord Vishnu and after fasting all day partake of milk and milk products.

HIJRI. ISLAMIC NEW YEAR

The Islamic New Year is called Ras as-Sanah al Hijriyah. On this day in 610 CE Prophet Muhammad began his emigration from Mecca to Medina and this historic journey is called the Hijra. Muslims across the world remember this journey and celebrate this day as the New Year by visiting the mosque to offer prayers. This year, the day is the start of the Islamic year of AH 1435 and the first month of the Islamic calendar is the month of Muharram.

BHAI DUJ

On this day sisters pray for the long life and happiness of their brothers. Legends say that it began when Yama, the lord of death visited his sister, the river Yamuna. She was so delighted that she offered him a feast and welcomed him by putting a tilak on his forehead. Later, in the Mahabharata, Subhadra celebrated Bhai Duj with her brothers Krishna and Balarama. So on this day Hindu women offer food to their brothers and put a tilak on their forehead.

GYAN PANCHAMI

In this beautiful celebration to scholarship, on this day Jains worship knowledge. Celebrated on the fifth day after Diwali it honours the Jain holy books and commemorates the importance of knowledge. The holy books are brought out in temples, decorated with flowers and prayers are offered to them, especially by students and scholars. On this day everyone prays for guidance and wisdom through knowledge.

CHHAT PUJA

Chhat Puja is most popular in Bihar and is also celebrated in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. On this day people worship Surya, the sun god who is considered the source of all life on earth. It is an ancient Vedic festival and is also called Surya Sasthi as it is celebrated on the 6th day of Kartik. Chhat Puja is also a harvest festival when people keep fasts and head to the nearest river or pond to bathe, where they stand in the water to say their prayers. The offerings to Surya include baskets of fruits and sweets including thekua, a traditional Bihari sweet made of wheat.

JAGADDHATRI PUJA

Jagaddhatri is a form of Durga as the mother of the universe. Unlike Durga, Jagaddhatri is not a warrior goddess. Her image is similar to Durga but she has four hands instead of ten and does not carry any weapons. The festival is very popular in Bengal where it was started in the 19th century by Sarada Devi, wife of the saint Ramakrishna Paramhansa. It is celebrated on the ninth day of the shukla paksha of the month of Kartik.

DEWA MELA

Dewa Sharif in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh has the shrine of the Sufi saint Haji Waris Ali Shah. The 10 day fair starts with chaddars, ceremonial coverings of cloth and flowers being laid on the grave of the saint. This is a fair where people of every faith come to celebrate a tolerant and compassionate teacher. To read more, check out our website: www.daiwikhotels.com

GURU GADDI DIVAS

In the year 1708, the tenth guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singhji declared that after him there would be no more gurus. He said that from then on the final guru of the Sikhs will be the sacred scriptures Guru Granth Sahib and Sikhs should seek guidance from it. Guru Gaddi Divas is celebrated on the tenth day of the Krishna paksha of the month of Kartik when the Guru Granth Sahib was enthroned as the eleventh guru. On this day the Guru Granth Sahib is taken out of gurudwaras as devotees sing the hymns in a morning procession called prabhat pheri.

POMBLANG LEWDUH

This three day festival is celebrated by the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya. It is held in an area called the traditional House of the Queen. The daughter of the queen attends the celebrations where there are colourful Khasi tribal dances. People gather in new clothes and celebrate with feasts.

PHOOLWALON KI SAIR

This is a celebration of religious amity among people through the fragrant message of colourful flowers. This wonderful procession of lights, flowers and music takes place in the Mehrauli area of Delhi. It is said that the queen of the Mughal king Akbar Shah II made a vow and took flowers to the Jogmaya Temple and the Dargah of the Sufi saint Sheikh Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki. In this festival of flower sellers, people carry giant fans called pankhas made of flowers in a procession led by shehnai players from the temple to the dargah. At night there are dance performances and quawalli singing at the ancient Jahaz Mahal at Mehrauli.

FESTIVALS IN THE NORTH EAST IN NOVEMBER

A number of festivals are celebrated in the states of the North-East during the autumn season.Many of them are harvest festivals that members of the various tribes celebrate with feasts, music and dance. Among the Meities community of Manipur during Ningol Chakouba married women are welcomed at the home of their parents. It is a family reunion with lavish meals and gifts given to the daughters of the house. During Seng Kut Snem, the Khasis of Meghalaya celebrate their culture with songs, dances and plays. They also celebrate Ka Pomblang Nongkreng when they give thanks for the harvest to their goddess Ka Blei Synshar. In Mizoram Thalfavang Kut is celebrated before the sowing season begins with songs and dances. In Nagaland the Lotha tribe have the nine day harvest festivals called Tokhu Emong.

KALIDAS JAYANTI

This day is celebrated as the birth anniversary of the great poet and playwright Kalidas. He was born in the city of Ujjain in the 4 th century CE during the reign of the Gupta dynasty and wrote both plays and poetry in Sanskrit like the classic Meghdutam, Abhigyana Shakuntalam and Malavika Agnimitram that are now a part of world literature. On this day, all across India, there are cultural programmes, gatherings of poets at kavi sammelans and awards given to eminent litterateurs.

PARUMALA PERUNNAL

This is the annual feast day at the St. Peter’s & St. Paul’s Orthodox Church at Parumala in Kerala. This annual feast commemorates the death anniversary of Bishop Mar Gregorios Metropolitan, the declared saint of the Malankara Orthodox Church of Kerala. During the feast a grand procession is taken out with the image of the saint and there are prayers and religious rituals in the church.

RAMA EKADASHI

This ekadashi falls on the eleventh day of the shukla paksha of the month of Kartik. Lord Krishna praised this ekadashi day to Yudhisthira as a day to pray to Lord Vishnu for the freedom from sins and moksha. Lord Vishnu is worshipped on this day and devotees fast till the sunrise the next day.

TULSI VIVAHA

On this day Hindus in North India and Maharashtra celebrate the marriage of the tulsi (holy basil) plant to Lord Krishna. The tulsi is considered a symbol of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth who is the consort of Lord Vishnu. The plant is also called Vishnupriya as it is considered to be a devotee of Lord Vishnu and his avatar Krishna. In homes the tulsi plant in the courtyard is decorated with garlands and an image of Krishna placed next to it as prayers are said.

GURU NANAK JAYANTI

This festival celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism and one of the greatest Bhakti saints of India. He was born in 1469 in Talwandi in Punjab (now Nankana Sahib in Pakistan) and taught of love, equality and tolerance. At the Sikh temples, the gurudwaras, people of every faith are welcomed and everyone sits down to a communal meal called langar.

Guru Nanak put his teachings in beautiful poetry that he set to ragas and these songs are called shabad kirtans and they are still sung at the gurudwaras. His teachings are gathered in the sacred scriptures of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs do not worship idols; instead their prayers are said before the Guru Granth Sahib.

As Guru Nanak said there is only one god and wrote,
“There is one God. He is the supreme truth
He, the creator is without fear or hate
He pervades the universe. He is not born
Nor does He die to be born again.

On Guru Nanak Jayanti, dawn processions called prabhat pheris head out of the gurudwaras with devotees singing the shabad kirtans and there is non-stop reading from the Guru Granth Sahib called Akhand Paath.

The biggest celebrations are in Amritsar where the shrine of the Harmandir Sahib, also called the Golden Temple stands. A copy of the Guru Granth Sahib is carried in a procession. The procession is led by the Panj Pyaras, the five beloved ones, carrying the Sikh flag, the Nishan Sahib and people perform martial arts. At the gurudwaras devotees go to the communal langar to get the kara prasad, the sanctified food.

KARTIK PURNIMA

Guru Nanak was born on Kartik Purnima day, the full moon in the month of Kartik. Hindus worship Lord Shiva as they believe that on this day Lord Shiva killed the demon Tripurasura. Fairs are also held at many places and the most famous ones are at Pushkar and Pandharpur. The biggest celebrations are held at Varanasi which is considered Shiva’s own city. Here the day is called Deep Diwali as devotees bathe in the Ganga and then float lighted lamps in the river. Devotees offer food to the deities in temples in a religious ritual called Annakuta and the biggest collection is at the Annapurna temple near the Kashi Vishwanath temple. The food is later distributed to the poor. Kartik Purnima is also sacred to the Jains who visit the pilgrimage at Palitana in Gujarat. They walk up the Shatrunjaya Hill to the famous group of Jain temples that stand on the summit.

CHILDREN’S DAY

India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru enjoyed the company of children and he was called ‘Chacha Nehru’ by them. Nehru was born on this day in 1889 and this day is now celebrated as Children’s Day. There are special cultural programmes in schools, book fairs and melas are held all across India.

DAY OF THE COVENANT, BAHA’I FAITH

On this day in the 19 th century, Bahaullah, the founder of the Baha’i faith appointed his eldest son Abdul Baha as his successor. Followers of the Baha’i faith commemorate this day as the day he entered the Baha’i Covenant and it is called Jashn-i- Azam or the Greatest Festival in Persian.

KALPATHI RATHOTSAVAM

This is an annual chariot festival at the Sri Vishalakshi Sametha Sri Vishwanatha Swamy temple at Kalpathi village in Kerala. This temple built in 1425 is believed to be the oldest Shiva temple in the Malabar region and stands beside the Neela Bhagirathi River. The ten day event has Vedic rituals, cultural programmes and a magnificent procession of caparisoned elephants, chariots and dancers.

VRISHCHIKA SANKRANTI

Also called a Vishnupadi sankranti this is considered a very auspicious day. On this day the sun enters the Vrischik rashi or Scorpio from Tula rashi or Libra. Devotees worship the sun on this day, take a dip in a river and give in charity.

UTPANNA EKADASHI

This ekadashi falls on the eleventh day of the krishna paksha of the Hindu month of Agrahayana. On this day devotees pray to Lord Vishnu as Keshava, that is another name for Krishna, and fast till the next morning.

GURU TEGH BAHADUR PUNYA DIWAS

Guru Tegh Bahadur was the ninth guru of the Sikhs and this day commemorates the day when he was executed by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1675 in Delhi. Guru Tegh Bahadur spread the Sikh faith across North India and was a beloved guru of the Sikhs. After him his son Guru Gobind Singh would continue with his work.

THANKSGIVING DAY

Thanksgiving is celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Called l’Action de Grace in French it is a festival to give thanks for the new harvest. It was begun by the settlers whocame from Europe to live in the region. It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November with special dishes being cooked like roasted turkey and pumpkin pie.

RAM JANAKI VIVAH

This festival celebrates the wedding day of Lord Ram and Sita. It is held on the fifth day of the shukla paksha of the month of Magh. This festival is celebrated mostly in Uttar Pradesh. In towns like Ayodhya, which was the kingdom of Ram, temples are decorated, there are recitations from Tulsidas’ sacred text the Ramcharitmanas and scenes from the Ram Leela are enacted.

HORNBILL FESTIVAL

This annual festival, named after a bird, the Hornbill, is celebrated in Nagaland to encourage amity and understanding among the Naga tribes. Organised by the government of Nagaland this colourful festival celebrates the many social and religious aspects of Naga culture. It is held at the Naga Heritage Village near Kohima and there are displays of crafts, food, traditional games, music and dances.

KALBHAIRAV JAYANTI

This festival is also called Kalbhairav Ashtami as it is held on the eighth day of the krishna paksha of the month of Kartik. Lord Kalbairav is the fierce and destructive aspect of Lord Shiva and he is worshipped with day long pujas after which devotees remain awake for an aarti at midnight. Some of the most popular celebrations are held at Varanasi which the city of Shiva.

HANUKKAH

This festival of the Jews is also called the Festival of Lights. Celebrated for eight days it commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the second century BCE. It is held from the twenty fifth day of the Jewish month of Kislev. During this period a special candelabrum with nine branches called the menorah or hanukiah is lighted every day. People attend daily prayer services and families gather to exchange gifts and special dishes are cooked.

GEETA JAYANTI

This unusual festival celebrates a sacred book, the Bhagavat Gita that is read daily by millions of Hindus. It is held at Kurukshetra, the site of the great battle in the Mahabharata when Lord Krishna spoke the memorable words of this sacred scripture to the Pandava warrior, Arjun. These words of wisdom are enshrined in the Bhagavat Gita. Pilgrims gather from all across the world to bathe in the sacred tanks. There are recitations from the Gita, Bhagavat Katha readings, the singing of bhajans, dances, dramas and book exhibitions.

MOKSHADA EKADASHI

This ekadashi falls on the eleventh day of the shukla paksha of the Hindu month of Margashirsha or Agrahayana. Devotees fast for a day and worship Lord Krishna. This ekadashi is considered auspicious as it coincides with Gita Jayanti, the day when Lord Krishna spoke the words of the Bhagavat Gita to Arjuna in the Mahabharata.

AKHANDA DWADASHI

This festival is celebrated on the 12th day of the shukla paksha of the Hindu month of Margashirsha. On this day Lord Vishnu is worshipped through fasts and prayers for peace, happiness and the prosperity of the family. People keeping the fast end it by eating food made of cow’s milk, especially curd.

ID MILAD-UN-NABI

In India this day is also called Barawafat, Id- e- Milad or Mawlid and the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad is celebrated on this day. The day falls in Rabi al-awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. On this day people gather at the mosques to listen to sermons and offer prayers. They decorate their homes and donate in charity. Food is shared with both guests and the poor.

KARTHIGAI DEEPAM

This beautiful festival of lights is celebrated in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh during the Tamil month of Karthigai. During the month oil lamps called agal vilakkus are lit every evening to ward off evil and usher in joy and prosperity into a home. The most famous celebration takes place on top of the Tiruvannamalai Hills where a huge fire called Mahadeepam is lit that is visible from far away.

MARGASHIRSA PURNIMA

The Hindu month of Margashirsa is considered the month of dedication and the full moon day of purnima is especially auspicious. The moon is worshipped on this day and during the month devotees pray to Lord Vishnu, recite the Gayatri and Namo Narayan mantras. They take a dip in the river, spend time fasting and listen to the Satyanarayan Katha. It is highly auspicious to give to charity during this month as the givers gain great benefit for the act. On purnima night people visit temples and yagyas are held.

SRI DATTATREYA JAYANTI

On this day people worship the saint Dattatreya who is considered to be an avatar encompassing the trinity of the Hindu gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Dattatreya was the son of the sage Rishi Atri and became a wandering ascetic and a great teacher in the Maharashtra-Karnataka region where he is worshipped.

DHANU SANKRANTI

A sankranti falls on the day when the sun moves from one zodiac sign to the next. On this sankranti the sun moves into the Dhanur Rashi or Sagittarius. Devotees pray to the sun god Surya. This sankranti is celebrated with great piety in Orissa with prayers and pujas to Lord Jagannath. During this time at Baragarh they perform a play called Dhanu Yatra that depicts the story of Lord Krishna visiting Mathura.

CHRISTMAS

Christmas is the most important festival of Christians. It marks the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ, the founder of the faith. Some communities celebrate later like the Syrian Christians who celebrate Christ’s birth on 7th January. On this joyous day across the world, churches are decorated with lights and candles and have cribs with figures depicting the scene of Christ’s birth in a manger in Bethlehem.

People decorate Christmas trees, sing carols and attend mass on Christmas Eve night. Families gather at special feasts wearing new clothes and children wait for Santa Claus to come down the chimney bringing them gifts.’

CHRISTMAS IN GOA

The most famous Christmas celebrations in India take place in Goa. For the people of Goa Christmas is a time of joy, sharing and prayers. Celebrated by all communities the Goan traditions are a blend of Indian and Portuguese rituals. The preparations for Christmas begin weeks ahead as special sweets are prepared like neuros, dodol and babinca. Homes and churches are decorated with stars, tinsel and buntings. The nativity tableaux announce the birth of Jesus Christ and a jolly Santa Claus will be there in every market, often collecting donations for charity.

A week before Christmas the carol singers come around to serenade people and on Christmas Eve everyone gathers at the local church for the midnight mass. Next morning family and friends meet under the decorated Christmas tree and gifts are exchanged and everyone sits down to a sumptuous lunch. The Christmas season in Goa goes on till January 6th and the Feast of the Magi that celebrates the arrival of the three kings who followed a star and came to visit the baby Jesus.

BOXING DAY

In England the day after Christmas was traditionally celebrated as the day when needy people, servants and tradesmen were given boxes of gifts. It is also celebrated as the Feast of St. Stephens when boxes for donations kept outside churches are opened and the contents distributed among the poor. Boxing Day is a holiday in England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

ARUDRA DARSHANAM

On a full moon night of the Tamil month of Margazhi devotees celebrate the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva. He is Nataraja, the lord of the dance, whirling in an aureole of red gold flames called arudra. His dance symbolises the five activities of the god – creation, protection, destruction, embodiment and release. Celebrated mostly in Tamil Nadu the most important festival is at the Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram.

ZARATHOSHT DISO

The Parsi community commemorates the death anniversary of Zarathushtra on this day. He was the founder of the Zoroastrian religion and he is remembered on the eleventh day (Khorshed) of the tenth month (Dae) of the seasonal calendar. On this day Parsis pray to their prophet at home and also visit the agiary, the fire temple to hear discourses on the life of Zarathushtra.

NEW YEAR EVE

At the midnight hour of the final day of the Gregorian calendar the world celebrates the arrival of the New Year. There are joyous gatherings at hotels and restaurants, music and dancing as the seconds are counted to midnight. People also choose the New Year day to make resolutions on the way they will spend their lives.

SHAHEEDI JOR MELA

This mela is observed at the Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab in homage of the martyrdom of Baba Zorawar Singhji and Baba Fateh Singhji, the young sons of the tenth guru of the Sikhs Guru Gobind Singh. They resisted the attempt by Wazir Khan the governor of Sirhind to convert them to Islam. The mela opens with the recitation of the Akhand Path from the sacred scripture of Guru Granth Sahib. Devotional songs are sung on a nagar kirtan or procession from Gurdwara Fatehgarh to Gurdwara Jyoti Swarup. The community kitchen, the langar is run by the local villagers to provide meals to the pilgrims.

TANSEN SANGEET SAMAROH

Every year in December there is a gathering of musicians at the tomb of the legendary singer Mian Tansen at Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. This festival began in the 1930’s and pays tribute to Tansen who was the most famous singer in the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar. He sang in the dhrupad style and created famous ragas like Mian ki Malhar and Darbari Kanhra. During this musical extravaganza the programme of singers and artists playing musical instruments goes on day and night and senior artists are honoured with awards.