Numerous cultures have, over the centuries, made India a land of
perpetual festivals. They will take you for a holy dip in one of its numerous rivers, or
cover you with warm scented coloured water, swing you sky high, give you elephant or camel
rides, and invite you to joyous day and night-long singing, dancing and feasting.
,There seems not to be a single day, or any change in nature which the Indian calendar will not recognise as an occasion for the celebration of the beautiful mystery of Prakrati or nature, the mother of all creation. So it is that, in the South, the festival of Pongal, or Sankranti celebrates the harvest, and heralds the onset of summer, with its longer days and shorter nights. In North India it is the festival of Lohri, featuring dancing and celebrations around a bonfire, which marks the end of winter and welcoming of warmer weather.
Teej is a festival which welcomes the monsoon. It is celebrated mostly in Rajasthan, where the arrival or absence of the monsoon is of utmost importance. The festival is essentially celebrated by women, who dress in bright green clothes and ride improvised swings hung from trees.
Yet another harvest festival this one native to Kerala is Onam. Onam is widely known for the snake-boat races that are its most famous feature.
All these festivals are dedicated to the changes of season and to the harvest yet these are only a few of the better-known ones. But in India, where life is still closely associated with nature, it is not nature alone which is a cause for celebration. Beneath all this lies an active interaction between man and his environment, which is not merely confined to cycles of seasons and crops, but is also linked to man's higher invisible association with the Cosmos.
So, some festivals are dedicated to gods and goddesses and to their incarnations and reincarnations for example, Deepawali celebrates the return of Rama, Prince of Ayodhya, after fourteen long years of exile. But the festival is also dedicated to the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and -- in eastern India -- to goddess Kali, the consort of Lord Shiva. In India, both Christmas (celebrating the birth of Christ) and Easter celebrating his resurrection are also observed. The Sikhs celebrate the births of their leaders Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh, while Muslims observe Id and Muharram.
So if it seems as though every day in India is marked by some celebration, it must be remembered that it is the result of the inter-mingling of different communities and different religions. And it is this very intermingling of the people that makes India more than a collection of states.
SOME MAJOR FESTIVALS OF INDIA
(Since many of the dates of the festivals are decided by the phases of the moon, the dates mentioned above are only approximate. Dussehra and Diwali, for example, can vary by 10 days between one year and the next. The date of Id is often not finalized till the night before the tentative date, as it depends upon the sighting of the moon.)