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15 Famous Festivals of India and the Stories behind them!


Festivals – What’s the first word that comes to your mind as you read this? Most probably, fun, holidays, get together, sweets, shopping, decoration or something similar. These common expressions clearly negate the scope of linking them with words like history, reason or mystery. From the much loved Diwali to the crazy Holi, India has got more than plenty of festivals to celebrate, keeping the calendar colourful all through the year. But have you ever wondered what makes these festivals so special worth celebrating for by millions of people?

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If the answer is no, then we bring you the tales and thrills connected to the most famous festivals of India with a complete guide to when and where they are celebrated. The reasons might give you celebration goals for the festivals of 2017!

1. Diwali

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Let’s begin with our much favourite festival of lights – Diwali! The most prominent among the Hindu festivals, Diwali arrives with an impish glee of decorating the houses and bursting the firecrackers with family and friends. With diyas and lamps glistening all around, it is one of the most awaited festivals by Indians.

When: 15th day of Kartika month (October/November).

Where: All over the country.

Why: Besides the legendary tale of the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhaya after 14 years of exile, Diwali is celebrated for various other reasons too! On this very day, Lord Vishnu rescued Goddess Lakshmi from the prison of King Bali. This is the reason we perform 'Lakshmi Pooja' on Diwali. Also, on the preceding day of Diwali, Lord Krishna killed the demon king Narakaasur and rescued 16,000 women from his captivity who further became his wives (yes, all of them).

2. Holi

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Holi, another famed name among Indian festivals list is celebrated with much fervor across the country. This playful mess of colours among the Hindu festivals is an open invitation to drench and dance merrily to welcome the spring.

When: Full moon day of Phagun month.

Where: All over the country but special attractions can be enjoyed at Mathura and Vrindavan (Uttar Pradesh).

Why: Apart from the popular story of Lord Vishnu saving his follower Prahlada from the evil Holika, we have got two more reasons of how the festival came into existence. As per the first narrative, a demon named Dhendha, infested the town of Ayodhaya. The residents set a heap of fire made of woods and cow-dung and danced around it abusing Dhendha. Unable to bear the abuse, the demon jumped into the fire and perished. As per the other tale, Lord Krishna felt doubtful of his acceptance by Radha because of his dark complexion. Playing a trick, he coloured Radha dark to make her feel like himself.

3. Dussehra

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Symbolizing the victory of good over evil, Dussehra is celebrated with a lot of pomp and show across different Indian states. From joyful fairs to entertaining 'ramleelas,' who would want to miss the enchantment all around? But to feel the spirit of this highlight of Hindu festivals, you must be aware of the right reasons of celebration.

When: 10th day of Ashwin month.

Where: Though celebrated all over the country, the fascinating spectacles of Dussehra at Kullu (Himachal Pradesh) and Mysore (Karnataka) are worth traveling to these places.

Why: We know that you know the prime reason for celebrating the festival. Marking the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhakaran are burnt on the occasion. But another reason you might be unfamiliar with is associated with Goddess Durga. The goddess defeated and killed the buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasur, on this day, who had received the boon of immortality from Lord Brahma.

4. Eid-Ul-Fitr

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Also known as Ramadan, it is one of the famous festivals of India. Muslims all across the country fast during the month of Ramadan from dawn to dusk. Allowing worshippers to concentrate their minds on faith and devotion, the holy book Quran asks the devotees to express gratitude, seek forgiveness and help the needy to mark the virtue of the festival.

When: 9th month of Islamic calendar.

Where: Though it is celebrated by Muslims all over the country, partaking the prayers at Jama Masjid (Delhi) and Dargah Sharif (Ajmer, Rajasthan) is an experience of the lifetime.

Why: It is believed that Ramadan is the month when the holy book of Islam, Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad by Allah. Celebrating the festival is a way to honor the Prophet.

5. Raksha Bandhan

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If you have yet not been a part of the festivals of 2017, you can set your celebration hopes on Raksha Bandhan as it is just around the corner. Honoring the relationship of brothers and sisters, the festival refers to a bond of protection where the sisters pray for the well-being of their brothers and the brothers promise to protect them against any evil.

When: Full moon day of Shravana month.

Where: Particularly in North, Central and West India.

Why: Though there are different legends narrating the origin, we will keep it to the most believed ones. As the tale goes, in a war between Gods and demons, Lord Indra was disgraced by the demon King Bali. Worried Indrani, wife of Indra consulted Lord Vishnu who gave her a holy thread to tie around her husband’s wrist which would protect him. Indrani did so and Indra defeated the evil. As per the other story, Bali prayed to Lord Vishnu with all his heart. The impressed Lord granted Bali a wish. Bali asked him to leave his abode in heaven and stay with him. Unable to bear the separation, Vishnu’s wife, Goddess Lakshmi tied a Rakhi to Bali and asked him to free Vishnu. Bali honored his sister’s request and granted the wish.

6. Gurupurab

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Gurupurab is another shining name among Indian festivals list. An eminence of Sikhism, it preaches the teachings of the Sikh gurus. People light up their homes with lamps and organize 'langars' (community meals) in 'gurudwaras' on the eve.

When: Full moon day in Kartika month.

Where: Celebrated by the Sikh community, especially, in Punjab.

Why: To mark the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the first of the 10 Sikh gurus.

7. Christmas

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Who doesn’t love getting gifts on Christmas? Yes, we all do! From decorating Christmas tree to getting candies from Santa Claus, Christmas has always been a happy memory of our lives. Known to be the birth day of Lord Jesus, the eve is observed on December 25th every year all around the world. But did you know that nowhere in the holy book of Christians, the Bible is the mention of this day?

When: December 25th.

Where: All over the country, but main attractions can be enjoyed in South India.

Why: No one knows the real birth date of Jesus. So why was December 25th chosen specifically? Well, there are many claims. Mary, the mother of Jesus was told on March 25th that her child would be someone very special. Adding nine months to this date, we get December 25th. As per the other theory, Winter Solstice and ancient Roman midwinter festivals took place in December around this date. As it was a time when people were in a merry mood, Christmas was aligned in the celebration league.

8. Pongal

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A popular harvest festival of South India, Pongal is celebrated as a thanksgiving ceremony for the year’s harvest. Pongal falls around Lohri, one of the other important Hindu festivals which is also celebrated marking the same purpose in North India.

When: Harvest season in January- February.

Where: Tamil Nadu

Why: Besides the thanksgiving reason, there is another reason for the celebration. Once Lord Shiva asked his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and ask the people to have a bath and oil massage daily and eat once a month. Mistakenly, Basava announced to eat daily and have a bath and oil massage once a month. Enraged Shiva cursed Basava, banishing him to live on earth forever, ploughing the fields and helping people produce food. That is why, cattle and harvest are associated with the festival till date.

9. Onam

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Another harvest festival of South India, Onam is a vibrant and colourful festival. Elaborate feasts, folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, elephants, boats and flowers all are a part of the 10 day long festivities.

When: Malayalam month of Chingham (August/September).

Where: Kerala

Why: The story of Onam is linked to the demon king Mahabali in whose reign the region witnessed a golden era of happiness and prosperity. In spite of his virtues, Mahabali was after all a demon who was always in the fight with the Gods. As the Gods tried to put an end to his reign, he asked for a boon leading to which he could visit the people of his kingdom annually to whom he loved so much. It is because of this reason that people of Kerala celebrate Onam to welcome their favourite king Mahabali every year.

10. Bihu

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Continuing the series of Hindu festivals of harvest, let’s talk about Bihu. Notably, there are three Bihu festivals, Rangoli Bihu, Kongali Bihu and Bhogali Bihu, celebrated thrice in a year as per the farming calendar.

When: January, April and October.

Where: Assam

Why: According to a myth, the three daughters of Lord Brahma had an unusual longing for sucking human blood. To quench their thirst, they went to Lord Shiva seeking his consent. Worried Shiva asked them to leave to a place where no human beings lived. On their way to search such a place, the sisters sang and dance. On reaching a place called Garuchar Rajya, inhabited by deities, the female deities joined in their merriment. With the joy of songs and dance, spring set in. It was at that moment when one of the sisters announced that Bihu would be an agricultural festival primarily celebrated by peasants where the produce will be shared by deities and human beings.

11. Hemis

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Hemis is an interesting name among Indian festivals list. The two-day religious fest attracts not only locals but tourists from different parts of the world. The locals get dressed up in traditional clothes and Chaam dance is performed by the priests wearing colourful masks and costumes. The masked dance represents the victory of good over evil.

When: 10th day of the Tibetan lunar month.

Where: Ladakh (Jammu & Kashmir)

Why: The festival is celebrated to mark the birth of Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism who is believed to have fought the demons for the safety of local people.

12. Maha Shivratri

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Popular among the Hindu festivals, Maha Shivratri is dedicated to Lord Shiva. From water to milk and 'datura' to 'bhaang,' devotees offer a range of items to Shiva’s idol and pray for their wellness. As Shiva is considered an ideal husband, unmarried girls fast at the eve to get a husband like him.

When: 13th/14th night of the month of Phagun.

Where: All over the country, but mainly in Mandi (Himachal Pradesh), Haridwar and Rishikesh (Uttarakhand), Ujjain and Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh) and Puri (Odisha).

Why: We all know the popular reason of Lord Shiva’s and Goddess Parvati’s marriage on Shivratri. But according to a legend, Shivratri is celebrated as the day when Shiva saved the world by drinking the poison that emerged from the ocean during 'Samudra Manthan.' As per the another tale, Shivaratri is the night when Shiva performs 'tandava,' the heavenly dance of creation, preservation and destruction.

13. Ganesh Chaturthi

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This among Indian festivals list is celebrated to honour Lord Ganesha, son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Celebrated with great enthusiasm, the festivities usually last for 10 days, ending with 'Ganesha Visarjan' where a procession is carried by millions of people and Ganesha idols are immersed in the water.

When: Fourth day of the month of Bhadrapada.

Where: Mainly in Maharashtra.

Why: The celebrations take place to honour Ganesha’s birth which has two legends associated with it. As per the first, Parvati created Ganesha out of the dirt of her body while having a bath. As per the other story, Ganesha was created by Shiva and Parvati on request of 'devas,' to be a 'vighnakartaa' (obstacle-creator) in the path of 'rakshasas' (demonic beings) and a 'vighnahartaa' (obstacle-averter) to help 'devas'.

14. Chhath Puja

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Chhath Puja observes the worship of Sun (considered God by Hindus) where people seek his blessings for prosperity. The fervour linked to the prayers is marked by fasting and taking dips in the holy water of River Ganga.

When: 6th day of the month of Kartika.

Where: Bihar

Why: While the exact origin of the Puja remains undefined, it is believed that Lord Rama and Goddess Sita, after returning from exile, observed a fast in the honour of Sun God and broke it at the dawn of the next day. Linking it to Mahabharata, some people believe that Karna, who is the son of Sun God offered his prayers while standing in the water for a prolonged period of time. Yet another story mentions about Draupadi and Pandavas who performed a similar 'puja' to win their kingdom back from Kauravas.

15. Bhai Dooj

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Bhai Dooj is another prominent name among Hindu festivals which is close to the heart of all sisters and brothers. Celebrated to honour and cherish the bond between the two, Bhai Dooj festivities include 'tilak' of brothers by sisters which is then followed by an exchange of gifts.

When: Second lunar day of 'Shukla Paksha' of the month of Kartika.

Where: Mainly in North India.

Why: Here again, we have two tales. As per the first, the two children of Sun God, Yama and Yamuna were separated from each other for several years. When they both met, Yamuna welcomed her brother with grand celebrations. In return, she asked that all brothers should visit their sisters on this day and all sisters should pray for their brothers’ well-being. Going by the second story, it is believed that Lord Krishna after assassinating the Narakasura demon went to his sister Subhadra who welcomed him with lamps, flowers and sweets, and marked his forehead with a holy protective spot. That is why, we follow the same ritual till date.

Now as you know the beliefs and myths of the most famous festivals of India, it’s time you celebrate the yet to come festivals of 2017 with an all new perspective followed by a revived zeal.
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