13 Most Popular Events And Festivals In India

India is truly a land of events and festivals! Such is the charm and grandeur of theirs that people from all across the world visit India to witness these events and festivals. Be it a Hindu or a Muslim, a Sikh or a Christian, in India there is something for everyone. After all, it is not for nothing that the country is known as the melting pot of all the cultures.

In India, more than hundred festivals are celebrated but out of them all, a few are celebrated pan India with much zeal and great fervour. India have one or other festival every fortnight that is either celebrated in homes in the form of festivals or Vratams for Gods, harvest festivals, seasonal festivals etc. All these festivals though not celebrated by all are celebrated in a specific area or region and binds the people of the society.

Festivals In India

So, without any ado, we would discuss a few popular festivals in India that you ought to witness, at least once in your lifetime. Here we go!

1. Makar Sankranti

The first festival of the year, Makar Sankranti is another grand festival of India. Celebrated on 14 January, it is famous for kite flying, especially in Gujarat. A kite flying competition is held in Gujarat annually where colorful kites are flown in the sky. Some people take a dip in the holy waters of Ganga to celebrate the beginning of a new year.

Also arriving in the first month of the new year, Lohri is celebrated at the time of harvest. Mark your calendars for 13 January as it is the day of Lohri. It is celebrated in Punjab with grandeur. People gather around a bonfire in traditional attires. Offerings are made to the bonfire, and then people dance to folk music. It is an auspicious festival. Lohri is one of the best winter festivals in India.

A popular festival in South India, Pongal is celebrated between 14 January and 17 January. It is a four-day celebration where the first day is a dedication to the lord of Fire. The second is for the Sun God. The third and the fourth day are for cattle and birds respectively. It is also a harvest-related festival celebrated in cold winters.

During this time, whole Tamil Nadu gets into a festive mood. Many events, games, race and sports are conducted during this time like Panai Odaithal, Ilavattu Kal Thookudhal, Jallikattu, Manju Virattu, Kolam Potti, Pattu Potti, Kozhi Sandal, Adu Sandai takes place.

2. Vasant Panchami

On the fifth day of Spring, vasant panchami is celebrated in many parts of India by worshiping Saraswati. She symbolises the constant flow of knowledge and wisdom and also represent the flourishing, multi coloured nature, which brings along the light of hope, joy, inspiration and prosperity. The bhog prepared is made up of 5 seeds like nodes of bamboo shoot, misri, nuts cardamom, lotus stems, lotus seeds.

The yellow colour holds a special impact on vasant panchami as it signifies the arrival of spring after a long winter. It is the colour of the bee, the blooming flowers which gives us joy, the colour of the sun which provides us with energy and the blooming fields of mustard during that period.

3. Maha Shivratri

Mahashivratri is a festival in the month of February/March. There are many legends associated with the festival but one of the most popular legend tells about the holy union of Shiva and Parvati into marriage. Mahashivratri is celebrated with a lot of zeal by devotees of Shiva throughout the country.

The celebration is a must watch in the city of Varanasi where a large procession is carried out and people are ecstatically drained in devotion of Lord Shiva. Varanasi or Kashi is the city of Shiva and the exuberant celebrations here are a testimony to the fact that Shiva resides in the spirit of the city of Kashi.

Shivarathri is an important festivals of Tamils and as Shaivism is highly followed by Tamils. During Shivarathri, many temples conducts Bharatanatyams and many folk dances such that people will be awake whole night and on the next day, Mayana Kollai festival takes place in villages. Mayans Kollai festival depicts the slaying up of the Mahishasura by Kali and this is enacted by people who dress up like Kali and perform Mayana Kollai.

4. Holi

It is known as the festival of colors and you can see people celebrating it with aplomb by firing colors over each other. It is one of the biggest festivals of India and the celebrations are very colorful. Holi is a festival usually celebrated in the month of March. It is a festival of colours and the celebration of Spring. The folklore attached to it is of Prahlad and his relentless devotion for Vishnu. Holi is celebrated in all parts of India but it celebrated with much fanfare and gusto in Northern parts of Country. Holi of Vrindavan and Barsana is famous for its unconventional style of celebration.

Known as a festival that is all about colours, Holi is a very popular festival wherein people forget all their grudges and cover each other in different vibrant colours, making way for love and strong bonds. Before the day of the festival, on Holi eve, Holika Dahan takes place which is a bonfire around which people dance and have a whale of a time.

On the day of Holi, people play with dry colours, wet colours, pichkari (water guns), water/colour filled balloons and whatnot. They end their day with some lip-smacking food.

5. Eid-ul-Fitr

This one is the biggest Muslim festival that is, again, celebrated pan India. Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of the religious month of Ramzan. People don the best of their outfits on this day. While the morning is dedicated to special community prayer, in the evening people visit their friends and relatives to exchange sweets. Elders give children or those younger to them Eidi which can either be money or gifts.

6. Rath Yatra

Millions of people gather from all over the world everyday, especially in the month of July to see Rath Yatra.

7. Independence Day

It is nothing but the celebration of freedom, as it is on this day, in 1947, that India got freedom from the shackles of the British rule. The highlights of this day are tableaus, parades, 21 gunshots, the speech of the Prime Minister from the Red Fort and Indian flag hoisting.

Apart from Independence Day, Republic day, one of the noted holidays in India, also evokes the feeling of patriotism in people. For the unversed, 3 years post-independence, in 1950, on this day, the Constitution of India came into being and India became a republic, after being under the British Raj for ages.

This annual event is observed with great pride and much excitement, annually. To celebrate this day, grand parades are held that start from Rashtrapati Bhavan and end at Red Fort, via India Gate.

8. Rakshabandhan

It is another beautiful festival in India where girls tie ‘Rakhis’ on the hands of their siblings or people they consider as their siblings.

9. Janmashtami

Another important religious festival of India, Janmashtami is a beautiful festival to witness, especially when you are on a pilgrimage tour in India in Vrindavan or Mathura. This day marks the birthday of the eighth avatar of Vishnu, Krishna. People, on this day, observe fast and, in the evening, celebrate the birthday pf bal gopal with much pomp and show.

While some do just the evening puja, others cut the cake, dress Krishna up in new clothes as well as seat him in a palanquin, decorate their homes and prepare scrumptious dishes to treat the family.

10. Ganesh Chaturthi

Vinayagar or Ganesha as he is called is one of the most favourite gods for Indians and as such his festival is also celebrated with great joy. In both houses and streets, he is worshipped. Every street in cities/towns and every village keeps his vigraham for 3 to 7 days and worship him and on the 7th day, Visarjan is done.

11. Dussehra

Another festival that is celebrated with panache in India is Dussehra. The festival symbolizes the victory of good over evil (Rama over Ravana). Also known as Vijayadashami, Dussehra is celebrated a day after Navratri, a religious festival of 9 days. On this day and a few days ahead of this festival, Ramlila takes place which is enacting the popular scenes and stories of Ramayana. This enactment concludes with Ravana Dahan, a ritual wherein the effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkaran, and Meghnath are put on fire.

This festival celebrates the death of Ravana, who was killed by Rama. Dasara is one of the few festivals that all Indians celebrate and every state does the festival in their own way and similarly, Kulashekarapattinam- a sea shore town in Tamil Nadu is famous for it's Dasara.

12. Diwali

This is undeniably one of the best events and festivals in India which is celebrated by one and all, no matter what religion, community or caste they belong to. Known as the festival of lights, Diwali is one of the important festivals for Indians and is celebrated with grandeur in India. It is celebrated generally in the months of October or November. The deity worshipped in this festival is Goddess Lakshmi. Diwali is observed with much pomp and show wherein earthen lamps and candles are lit, the houses are decorated with lights and Rangoli. Apart from that, friends and families also exchange sweets, dry fruits, and other expensive gifts.

People get in the festive mood by getting all decked up in new ethnic outfits ahead of the evening puja of Goddess Lakshmi and Ganesha. Trikkarthika is one of the ancient Dravidian festivals and currently only Kerala and Tamil Nadu celebrates it primarily. Tamilians call it Karthika deepam. Again this is both a cultural and temple festival celebrated by all Tamils and in the temple town of Thiruvannamalai and Palani.

In Thiruvannamalai, its a 10 day festival and during these 10 days, Shiva is belived to bless the devotees in 10 different Vahanams and 10 Ther's are pulled which all are massive in structure. On the 10th day, the family members of Parvatha Kulam (a particular community) climb the holy hill of Annamalai and in the evening they light a huge lamp that will glow for 18 days and can be seen as far of 50 Km radius.

People light their houses and temples with lamps and exchange sweets.Like Diwali, the main tradition associated with Karthika is lighting as much as lamps on earthen diyas. Prior to lighting lamps, the elder lady of the house has to offer a platter with brown rice, Jaggery balls, rice batter, coconut, avil (flatten rice/Poha), Pori (puffed rice) along with Sandal paste, ashes, kumkum to the goddess.

This platter has to be placed in the Kanimoola side of the house or the main door facing eastern direction. After placing this platter, two torch fires are lighten and placed at the entrance. Then the lighting of lamps starts.

Once all the lamps are lighten, the elder male and female of the house has to take the two torch fires and walk around the house, showing the lamp to each tree in the compound and touching it (as a token of love to Mother nature) as well as calling the name of the tree.

After this, the elder lady of the house offer Poovarasan Ada (steamed rice-jaggery balls cooked in Poovarasan leaves) to the goddess in the pooja room. Its not consumed that day, rather on the next day as prasad. Ladies do recite Lalitha Sahasaranamam and other devi scriptures in the evenings. In night also, the same mélange of tuber vegetables is taken.

On the next day morning, a detailed bath is taken in oil and a temple visit happens in morning. That whole day will also be fasting, but it has to be broken by night by eating some rice along with curd. Those families who have agricultural lands, will light torch fires in their farms at 4 corners of the plot.

With that, the traditions associated with Karthika ends. Apart from Kumanellore temple, the Chakkulathukavu temple in Alleppey celebrates Karthika with Thirupongala ceremonies where devotees offer Pongala (rice and jaggery cooked together) to Mother goddess. In Thrissur’s iconic Vadakumnathan temple, Karthika is celebrated in a big way as the belief is that Shiva of this temple rushes out to the Southern Gopuram to catch a glimpse of Meenakshi’s arrival.

In honor of this myth, huge lamps and campfires are made to mark the divine occasion. In Trivandrum, Travancore Royal family offers special poojas to Padmavati (Goddess Lakshmi in form of consort of Lord Padmanabha) who has a shrine near the Crown Room. Its the only occasion special poojas done for Padmavati in that temple. So as traditionally, several special ceremonies are organized in Kanyakumari temple which was traditionally a Travancore temple.

Trikarthika is more heavily celebrated in Central and South Kerala, particularly the districts of Kottayam, Idukki and Alleppey which were traditionally associated with the myths of Madurai Meenakshi’s arrival. Infact the famous Meenachilar river that flows in Kottayam district is officially named after Madurai Meenakshi, that symbolizes the reverence to the goddess in these areas.

13. Christmas

While this festival is celebrated across India, Christmas is celebrated the best in one of the most popular travel destinations in India, that is, Goa. This day is quite significant in Christianity as it marks the birthday of Jesus Christ. Christmas is so much fun that children and adults are equally excited about this festival.

On this day, families get to do everything together – preparing food, decorating home, the Christmas tree, and whatnot!

Now, that you have all the details about these festivals, experience the same as well as the culture and heritage of India in all its essence during your stay in the country.
Kalyan Panja