Festivals & Pilgrimage

Festivals of India

India is a vast dynamic, diversified nation of 133 Crores of people, religion, culture and places. With this many diverse people practicing their own religion & culture, its bound to have numerous festivals related to it. These vast variety of festivals celebrated throughout the country has earned India a deserving title for itself as “The Land of Festivals”. Maha shivratri, Kumbh Mela, Pushkar Fair, Raan Utsav, Durga Puja, Dussehra, Pongal, Onam – the list goes on. Each festival has a great impact throughout the year on the lives of the people, but there are some festivals whose impact are far greater to the entire nation and has made a different image for the Nation itself in the hearts and minds of the people all over the world.

Kumbh Mela​

Kumbh Mela is a significant festival cum holy pilgrimage for the Hindus. Interestingly, the mela is hosted at four sacred sites- Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain, and Nasik. It takes place at the banks of the rivers which flows through these places. The Ganges in Haridwar, the confluence of Ganges-Yamuna-Saraswati Rivers in Allahabad Shipra in Ujjain, and the Godavari in Nasik. The Mela happens at every site nearly one in every 12 years depending on the Luni-solar Calendar of the Hindus. Haridwar and Prayagraj (Allahabad) host ‘Ardha Kumbha Mela’ after six years of ‘purna’ Kumbha Mela. The bathing dates are also decided by Luni-solar Calendar. The dips of the ‘sadhus’ are called ‘shahi-snan’. The ‘sadhus’ make a grand procession to take the bath and it is truly a picturesque moment.

The word ‘Kumbha’ or ‘Kumbh’ has its mention in Rigveda and it translates to a pot or a jar or a pitcher in Sanskrit. The Vedic text says that it has a connection to the nectar of immortality. A major factor of this festival is taking a dip in the holy waters for atonement of mortal sins. Kumbh Mela sees one of the biggest conglomerations of people across the globe. This grand spectacle is marked with lots of celebrations and fairs. Sadhus or Gurus give out spiritual lessons, which people are mass-fed. The Kumbh Mela is arguably the greatest show on Earth. The year 2021 will host the next Kumbha Mela in Haridwar. Visit a Kumbh Mela; To find your shortcut to Nirvana.

Rann Utsav​

Utsav means Festival. This festival is held in Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India. In other words, this festival is held on the biggest salty desert in the entire world. The shimmering White Rann plays the perfect host for this festival. Dances, Music Carnival, Cultural programs and lot of more things happen in this White Desert Festival. Rann Utsav commences in the month of November and continues till Holi. The white desert under the full moon sky looks astonishing. Rann Utsav was started to boost up the tourism industry in Gujarat. You can live in the tents and enjoy the cultural art shows, camel rides, handicraft fairs, etc. This spectacular festival takes place in Dhordo village which lies approximately 85 kilometers from Bhuj. The area is famous for Bandini Sarees. The Rann Utsav was initiated in the year 2006 by our Honorable Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. This 100-day extravaganza turns the district of Dhordo into the ‘Tent City’. This unique festival takes place from the month of October to February.

Ganga Mahotsav​

Ganga Mahotsav is held in the banks of River Ganga in Varanasi. This event is popular by the name of Dev Deepavali. This event is held during Kartik Purnima or the full moon day. Millions of earthen lamps are lit on the steps of every ghat. The place looks absolutely stunning. Dev Diwali symbolizes the victory of Lord Shiva over the demon Tripurasur. Hence, the festival is also called Tripurotsav. The followers take a dip in the Holy waters of the Ganges. This is the most significant and a major ritual for the people of Varanasi, which is called the ‘Kartik snan’. Prayers are offered to Goddess Ganga along with flowers and diyas are set afloat on the water in the evening. The event looks magnificent and spectacular. The event of offering lit-up lamps is called Deepdaan. Not only the staircases but also the temples are gracefully decked up with lit-up diyas.

Durga Puja

Durga Puja is a yearly Hindu festival. It is mostly celebrated in West Bengal and the ad-joining areas of Assam & Odisha. Goddess Durga along with her children are worshipped in this festival. It is a festival where good triumphs over evil. According to Hindu mythology, Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu, and other lesser Gods made the warrior Goddess Mother Durga to kill buffalo demon Mahisasura. And hence this festival honours women empowerment. Mother or ‘Ma’ Durga is fierce and beautiful and she rides a lion. This Hindu festival is decided based on the Lunar Calendar. In the year 2020, Durga Puja will be celebrated from 22nd October to 26th October. The City of Joy, Kolkata is the major hub of this wonderful festival. It is said that each year Goddess Durga comes to her maternal home with her children in different modes of transport. Though Mahalaya is the first day of Durga Puga, the celebrations begin from Shashthi, the sixth day.

This grand festival consists of Maha Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami, and Vijay Dasami. Ma Durga has ten arms that carry ten deadly weapons. The pandals and idols are beautifully decorated. This fabulous festival is commemorated with different rituals, songs, and dances. On Mahalaya, the artisans and sculptors draw the eyes of Goddess Durga. This ritual is called ‘Chokkhu Dan’. Another ritual is the ‘Kola Bou Snan’. Kola Means Banana and Bou mean Wife. Kola Bou is the wife of Ganesh, Durga’s son. On that day the banana plant is taken to a nearby river for a bath. The entire festival is marked by such beautiful practices or rituals. Anjali is performed every day, though mostly the majority of the devotees perform it on Ashtami morning. Sandhi Puja is performed on Ashtami with 108 lotus and lamps. ‘Dhunochi Nach’ is also a special feature of Durga Puja. This magnificent festival ends by immersing the idols in water, and with a popular saying “Asche Bochor Abar Hobe”- the celebration continues again in the next year.

Onam

Onam is celebrated in Kerala for ten days. Thiruvonam, the tenth day of Onam, is the most important day of this festival. People decorate their houses with floral designs called ‘pookalams’. These flower carpets are mainly made with a special flower called Thumba. It is a small white flower and on the first day of Onam which is called Attam, the decoration is mainly made with this flower. They also cook a special feast called the Onam sadhya. Sadhya means banquet in Malayalam. Boat races are also held during this festival. Special boats called snake boats, take part in these races. The snake boat race is also called Vallamkali as paddled war canoes are raced here. This is such an enchanting feature of the festival. Onam is the national festival of Kerala.

Onam is celebrated to honour King Mahabali. Legends have it that the spirit of King Mahabali visits Kerala during Onam. Onam projects the colourful and beautiful beliefs and culture of Kerala. The festival is marked with Kaikottikkali dance and Puli Kali among others. Onam Kali, Thiruvathira, Thumbi Thullal, and Kummattikali are the other dance forms that are performed in Onam. These folk and traditional dances play an integral part of the festival. Onam will be celebrated from 22nd August till 2nd September in the year 2020. Onam is also known as Thiruonam. In fact, Thiruvaonam which translates into ‘sacred Onam day’ is the most important day of Onam and it is the second day. The third important day of the festival is called the Avittam. Vamana is the main God who is worshipped in this holy festival of Onam.

Pushkar Fair

Pushkar Fair or Pushkar Camel fair or locally known as Kartik Mela or Pushkar ka Mela is held in Pushkar, Rajasthan. Pushkar is situated on the central-east portion of Rajasthan, on the western part of the Aravalli Mountains. The upcoming fair is from 22nd November till 30th November. The fair commences with the camel races. As per the Hindu calendar, it starts in the month of Kartik and ends on Kartik Purnima. The Pushkar Camel Fair is one of India’s largest livestock fair. Trading of livestock takes place at the fair. Apart from it, it is also a pilgrimage for the Hindus. Many other unique events such as the longest moustache competition, tug of war with women and men’s team, bridal competition, ‘Matka phod’, camel races, etc. takes place here. Lakhs of tourists visit this fair every year. They can enjoy this fair with turban tying competition and a ride at the hot air balloon among others. Handicraft shops are put up. Rural sports competitions are held. Dances, songs, and other cultural programs brighten up the atmosphere. This mela is nearly 100 years old.

Pushkar Mela is the reflection of the vibrant colors of Rajasthan. The celebration occurs over 5-7 days. According to the Hindu legend, Lord Brahma jumped up from the Pushkar Lake on the full moon day and that is why innumerable pilgrims go for a swim in the Holy waters on the full moon day which is actually the main day. Originally the fair started off with the idea of cattle and camel trading. Today this sprawling event is an amalgamation of several activities such as snake charmers, musical bonanza, Ferris wheel, etc. Pushkar is easily accessible by land, air, and train. Buses are available from the major cities of Rajasthan. The nearest airport is the Sanganer Airport in Jaipur which is nearly 146 kilometers away from Pushkar. Pushkar has a Terminal Railway Station which is connected to Ajmer Railway Station. The distance between the two is 11 kilometers. Among other attractions the Camel race event has earned a different image for the festival itself.

The Festivals of India make the lives of the people enthusiastic and colorful. They bring the people of India together and unite them. These are the times when they open their hearts & soul to the foreigners & foreign nationals alike, and welcome them with open arms saying “Atithidevo Bhava”, syncing in with the communal harmony as they unitedly celebrate these festivals with pleasure and joyfulness.

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