Great Indian Festivals: Most Celebrated & Popular

Ever wonder what all the colorful decorations and delicious smells are during certain times of the year in India? Chances are, there’s an great Indian festival going on. India is a land of festivals, with vibrant celebrations happening almost every month. You’ve probably heard of some of the major ones like Diwali, Holi, and Eid. But there are many more festivals that are just as significant.

Have you ever wanted to immerse yourself in the colorful culture of India but didn’t know where to start? Look no further than experiencing one of India’s greatest festivals. As one of the most vibrant countries in the world, India has no shortage of celebrations, many of which have been around for centuries. Whether you want to dance in the streets during Holi, light up the night sky for Diwali, or feast with friends for Eid, there’s a party for every season. Over the next few months, you have plenty of opportunities to witness Indian traditions in all their splendor. Here are the top 10 Indian festivals you need to know about, from their historical significance to the best places to join in the festivities. Get ready to eat, drink, dance, and make memories that will last a lifetime!

1- Diwali – The Festival of Lights

great Indian festival

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a great Indian festival. Celebrated for five days, it symbolizes the victory of light over darkness.

a- History and Significance

Diwali originates from the Hindu epic Ramayana. It celebrates Lord Rama’s return to his kingdom Ayodhya after defeating Ravana. The people of Ayodhya lit lamps to welcome Rama, and this tradition lives on today. Diwali also honors the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

b- Time and Date

Diwali falls in either October or November each year, depending on the lunar calendar. The festival of lights spans five days, with the main Diwali night being the darkest new moon night.

c- Traditions and Customs

People light lamps called diyas, decorate their homes with colorful rangoli artworks and exchange gifts. Fireworks fill the air with light and sound. People also gamble, attend lavish parties, and eat delicious sweets like laddu and barfi.

d- Best Places to Celebrate

Some of the best places to experience this great Indian festival are Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Udaipur, and Varanasi. The streets and buildings become vibrant, lit up with millions of diyas and string lights. The festive spirit is truly magical!

Diwali brings people together through light, joy and prosperity. No wonder it’s one the most great Indian festival of all time.

2- Holi – The Festival of Colors

holi-celebration-great Indian festival

Holi is one of the most fun-filled and popular festivals of India. Celebrated in early Spring, typically March, Holi signifies the victory of good over evil.

a- History and Significance

This great Indian festival commemorates the story of Prahlad, a devotee of Lord Vishnu. According to legend, Prahlad’s father, the demon King Hiranyakashipu, wanted everyone to worship him but Prahlad continued to worship Vishnu. The king’s sister Holika, who was immune to fire, sat with Prahlad in a bonfire to kill him but she was burnt instead. Hence, Holi signifies the burning of evil.

b- Time and Date

Holi is mostly celebrated in March of every year. Holi, the festival of colours, is celebrated on the last full moon day or Purnima of the month of Falgun in Hindu calendar.

c- Traditional Custom

During Holi, people gather on the streets and celebrate by throwing colored powder and water at each other. It’s all about fun, frolic, and laughter. People also light bonfires the night before Holi and dance around them.

Delicious sweets like gujiyas and malpuas are made and distributed. Bhang, an edible preparation of cannabis, is also consumed.

d- Best Places to Celebrate

The best places to celebrate Holi are Mathura, Vrindavan, Barsana and Nandgaon in Uttar Pradesh, the birthplace of Lord Krishna. Celebrations here last up to a week.

So let your hair down, forget your worries and simply have a blast this Holi with colors, sweets, bhang and all-night dance! After all, that’s what the spirit of one of the most great Indian festival, Holi is all about.

3- Navratri – The Festival Honoring the Goddess Durga

great Indian festival- durga puja

During Navratri, Hindus honor the goddess Durga through fasting, worship, and celebration.

a- History and Significance

Navratri means “nine nights” in Sanskrit, and this great Indian festival is held in the autumn every year for 9 days and nights. According to Hindu mythology, the festival celebrates Durga’s victory over the demon Mahishasura. Each day of Navratri is dedicated to an incarnation of Durga.

b- Reasons for Celebration

Navratri celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Durga embodies the divine feminine force (Shakti) in the universe. Hindus believe Durga protects humanity from evil and misery by destroying evil forces like Mahishasura.

c- Time and Date

Navratri is celebrated in October around harvest time. The great Indian festival starts on the first day of the bright half of the lunar month Ashwin, which typically falls in September or October.

d- Traditional Customs

During Navratri, devotees fast, pray, and worship nine incarnations of Durga. Many visit temples, dress in colorful traditional clothes, dance, and celebrate with loved ones. A notable custom is the popular Gujarati folk dance called Dandiya Raas, performed with decorated sticks.

Navratri brings people together through faith, festivity, and community. By honoring the divine feminine, the great Indian festival celebrates the sacred power within each person and all of creation.

4- Eid Al-Fitr – The Festival Marking the End of Ramadan

great Indian festival-Eid-Al-Fitr

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims. After a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting, Eid al-Fitr is a joyous festival of breaking the fast.

a- History and significance

Eid al-Fitr originated in the early days of Islam. According to Islamic belief, the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan. Eid al-Fitr celebrates the completion of Ramadan and the renewal of bonds with friends and family.

b- Reasons for celebration

Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr with great fervor and merrymaking. After a month of fasting and religious contemplation, Eid al-Fitr brings opportunities for celebrations, gift-giving, and community outreach. Families come together to strengthen their ties, seek forgiveness and thank Allah for giving them the strength to fast.

c- Time and date

Eid al-Fitr begins with the sighting of the crescent moon marking the end of Ramadan. Celebrations last up to three days in most countries. Charitable acts like donating food and clothes to the needy are also common during this festival.

d- Traditional customs and rituals

On the morning of Eid, Muslims wake up early, dress in new clothes and go to the mosque for special Eid prayers. They greet each other with “Eid Mubarak” which means “Have a Blessed Eid”. Sweets and snacks are shared with friends and family. Children receive gifts and money from elders. The celebration continues with feasting, visiting friends and relatives, and in some places public parades and festivities.

Eid al-Fitr brings out the spirit of generosity, togetherness, and thankfulness in Muslims all around the world. After a month of sacrifice and devotion, Muslims celebrate this great festival with joy and cheer.

5- Ganesh Chaturthi

great Indian festival-ganpati

a- Time and date

Ganesh Chaturthi is a Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Lord Ganesha. It falls in the month of Bhadrapada, typically August or September. This great Indian festival lasts for 10 days, culminating on the day of Ganesh Visarjan.

b- Traditional customs and rituals

During this festival, colorful clay idols of Lord Ganesha are installed in homes and pandals. Pujas and prayers are offered, and hymns are sung in Lord Ganesha’s praise. Modaks, which are rice flour dumplings stuffed with coconut and jaggery, are distributed as prasad.

On the final day, a grand procession is taken out where the idols are immersed in water bodies while chanting “Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudhachya Varshi Lavkar Ya!”. This symbolizes bidding farewell to Lord Ganesha and the hope for his return the following year.

c- Best Places to Celebrate

Some of the best places to experience the grandeur of Ganesh Chaturthi are:

•Mumbai, Maharashtra: Watch the majestic Ganesh idols at Siddhivinayak Temple and Lalbaugcha Raja.

•Pune, Maharashtra: Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati is the most famous Ganesh mandal.

•Hyderabad, Telangana: Khairatabad Ganesh is renowned for its extravagant sizes.

Ganesh Chaturthi brings people together through devotion and community. The lively celebrations, delicious modaks, and festive spirit make it a memorable time of year, as well as a great Indian festival.

6- Christmas

great Indian festival

Christmas is one of the most popular festivals celebrated in India, especially in Christian communities.

a- History and Significance

Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the Son of God. It’s a time for giving gifts, decorating Christmas trees, singing carols, and spreading cheer.

  • Christmas is celebrated on December 25th each year according to the Gregorian calendar.
  • This great Indian festival is celebrated by decorating homes and churches, exchanging gifts, and organizing get-togethers.

b- Best Places to Celebrate

Some of the best places to experience the festive spirit of Christmas in India are:

  • Shillong, Meghalaya: Shillong has a large Christian population and is famous for its Christmas celebrations. The city is beautifully decorated during Christmas time.
  • Goa: Goa has a strong Portuguese influence and Christmas is celebrated with great pomp and show. The beaches are lit up and people attend midnight mass and feast on pork dishes.
  • Kochi, Kerala: Kochi has an old Portuguese heritage and Christmas here is a grand affair. The festivities start weeks in advance with Carol singing, cake mixing and revelry.

Christmas time in India brings people of all faiths together to spread joy and cheer. The festive spirit is hard to miss!

7- Pongal/Makar Sankranti

great Indian festival-pongal

Pongal, also known as Makar Sankranti, is a multi-day harvest great Indian festival celebrated in mid-January.

a- History and Significance

Pongal marks the beginning of the sun’s northward journey and the end of winter. It is celebrated for four days. This great Indian festival is a way for people to show their gratitude to the sun for a successful harvest.

b- Reasons for Celebration

The festival coincides with the ripening of crops in southern India. People celebrate the first day of the Tamil month “Thai” and the beginning of the sun’s six-month-long journey northward.

c- Time and Date

Pongal is celebrated from January 13 to 16 every year. This great Indian festival typically lasts for four days.

d- Traditional Customs and Rituals

On the first day, people clean their homes and decorate them with ‘kolam’ – floor designs made from rice flour. The second day is for worshiping the sun god. The third day is for bonding between brothers and sisters, who exchange gifts. The fourth day celebrates cattle that help farmers plow the fields. People dress up their cattle with flowers and bells and parade them to celebrate this great Indian festival.

e- Best Places to Celebrate

Some of the best places to experience Pongal are:

  • Tamil Nadu: The festival originated here. Major celebrations happen in Chennai, Madurai and Thanjavur.
  • Andhra Pradesh: Pongal festivities last for three days. People make rangoli, cook traditional food and fly kites.
  • Karnataka: Pongal coincides with Sankranti, a major harvest festival. People exchange sesame and jaggery sweets, donate clothes and feed cattle.

8- Eid-al-Adha

Eid-al-Adha, also known as the ‘Festival of Sacrifice’, is one of the most important Muslim festivals celebrated worldwide.

a- History and Significance

Eid-al-Adha commemorates the devotion of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God’s command. However, God intervened and provided a lamb for sacrifice instead. Eid-al-Adha honors Ibrahim’s devotion and God’s mercy.

b- Reasons for Celebration

Eid-al-Adha is a time for Muslims to strengthen their faith and spend time with loved ones. Families get together, exchange gifts, and share meals. Those who can afford to, sacrifice domestic animals, usually sheep, as a symbolic reminder of Ibrahim’s sacrifice. The meat is then divided into three parts: one-third is donated, one-third is given to friends and family, and one-third is kept for the family.

c- Time and Date

Eid-al-Adha is celebrated on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The date moves back about 11 days each year in the Gregorian calendar. In 2021, Eid-al-Adha will begin on July 20. The festival lasts for 4 days.

d- Best Places to Celebrate

Some of the best places to experience Eid-al-Adha are:

  • Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, where millions of pilgrims gather each year during the Hajj.
  • Istanbul, Turkey which hosts festive prayers, family gatherings and lavish meals.
  • Cairo, Egypt where Eid fairs, festivals and family meet-ups abound.
  • Dubai and Abu Dhabi in UAE which organize grand Eid celebrations, fireworks and events.

9- Guru Nanak Jayanti: History and Traditions

great Indian festival-guru nanak jayanti

Celebrating Guru Nanak Jayanti, the birthday of the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak, is an important festival for Sikhs around the world.

a- History and Significance

Guru Nanak was born in 1469 in Punjab. He spread the message of peace, equality and kindness through his teachings. Guru Nanak Jayanti honors his life and legacy. It is one of the most sacred festivals for Sikhs.

  • On this day, Sikhs visit gurudwaras (Sikh temples) to sing hymns, offer prayers and listen to kathas (stories) about Guru Nanak’s life.
  • The festival is celebrated on the full moon day of Kartik month, typically in November.
  • Sikhs decorate their homes and gurudwaras with colorful lights and candles. They also organize processions known as nagar kirtans.

b- Traditions and customs

  • The Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhism, is read continuously for 48 hours at gurudwaras.
  • Devotees wake up early, bathe and meditate. They recite hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib.
  • The langar or community kitchen offers free meals to everyone, regardless of religion or background.
  • People greet each other with “Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh” which means “The Khalsa belongs to God, Victory belongs to God”.

Celebrating Guru Nanak Jayanti is a wonderful way to honor diversity and spread the message of unity, compassion, and goodwill. May the teachings of Guru Nanak inspire us to be better human beings. This great Indian festival not only represent joy and cheer but also shows us the path of ultimate devine journey.

10- Mahavir Jayanti: Honoring Lord Mahavira and Jain Culture

great Indian festival- mahavir jayanti

Mahavir Jayanti celebrates the birth of Lord Mahavira, the 24th and last Tirthankara of Jainism. On this auspicious day, followers honor Mahavira’s life and teachings.

a- History

Around 2,600 years ago, Mahavira was born as a prince named Vardhamana. At age 30, he renounced worldly pleasures and became an ascetic. For 12 years, he practiced intense meditation and severe austerities. He attained enlightenment and became known as Mahavira, “the great hero”. He spent the next 30 years traveling, teaching about Jain philosophy – like non-violence, self-control and non-attachment.

b- Reasons for Celebration

Mahavir Jayanti is one of the most important festivals for Jains. They celebrate Mahavira’s teachings of truth, non-violence, celibacy and non-possessiveness. His message of conquering greed, anger, ego, deceit and lust remains eternally relevant.

c- How it’s Celebrated

Temples are decorated, prayers are offered and processions are held. Devotees visit Jain temples, meditate, fast and distribute alms and food. Many Jains choose to be vegetarian on this day. Some break a coconut to symbolize destroying ignorance and ego.

d- Best Places to Celebrate

Pilgrimage sites like Palitana in Gujarat and Shravanabelagola in Karnataka attract thousands of devotees. At Rajgir and Nalanda in Bihar where Mahavira attained enlightenment, special programs and yatras are organized.

Celebrating Mahavir Jayanti is a perfect way to learn from his teachings and follow the path of peace, truth and non-violence. By honoring his wisdom and message of universal brotherhood, we can make this world a kinder place.

Shared Values of Peace and Unity in Indian Festivals

Guru Nanak Jayanti and Mahavir Jayanti are two great Indian festivals that share common values of peace, unity and harmony.

Shared Values

These great Indian festivals promote acceptance of people from all walks of life. Followers come together beyond divisions of caste, class or religion. The underlying message is that everyone is equal and should be respected.

Guru Nanak, the first guru of Sikhism, spread the message of “Ik Onkar” which means “there is one God.” He taught people to lead an honest life filled with love, kindness, and humility. Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism, also preached non-violence, non-possessiveness and non-attachment.

The festivals celebrate virtues of compassion, generosity and goodwill. People distribute sweets and langar or community meals are organized where food is served to all people alike, reinforcing the value of equality and brotherhood.

Devotees reflect on lives of Guru Nanak and Mahavira to emulate their qualities of courage, wisdom and sacrifice. There are prayers, hymns and discourses on teachings of the gurus. People come together to gain inner peace through meditation and kirtans or devotional songs.

In conclusion, Guru Nanak Jayanti and Mahavir Jayanti strengthen the secular fabric of India by bringing together people across religious divides. They spread timeless messages of unity, kindness and moral uprightness which are much needed in today’s world. By following the teachings of these gurus, we can build a society filled with love and mutual understanding.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it—a quick overview of some of India’s most popular and great Indian festivals. From colorful celebrations of spring with Holi to spiritual fasting during Ramadan and Eid, India’s festivals showcase the diversity of cultures, religions, and traditions that make the country so vibrant. Whether you’re interested in the history, want an excuse to dance and feast, or are just curious to experience something new, India’s holidays have something for everyone. So next time you’re planning a trip or want to spice up your routine, consider partaking in one of these lively great Indian festivals. You’re sure to gain a new appreciation for Indian culture and make memories that will last well beyond the celebrations.

Author

  • Alpana Gupta

    Meet Alpana Gupta, an accomplished blog writer and publisher known for her insightful content and captivating writing style. With a passion for diverse topics, Alpana brings a unique perspective to every piece, creating engaging and informative articles that resonate with readers. Explore a world of knowledge and creativity through Alpana's expertise

Alpana Gupta

Meet Alpana Gupta, an accomplished blog writer and publisher known for her insightful content and captivating writing style. With a passion for diverse topics, Alpana brings a unique perspective to every piece, creating engaging and informative articles that resonate with readers. Explore a world of knowledge and creativity through Alpana's expertise

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