“Unity in Diversity” is something that is very special about India. Indian culture is full of diversities, be it in language, religion, food or culture. What unite Indians despite of the diversities is their festivals. We Indians have festivals for every religion, which are celebrated with enthusiasm and zeal throughout the India irrespective of the religion. India is a land of festivals and festivals are the heart of Indian people’s lives. Following are the top 10 most popular Hindu festivals celebrated all over India.
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Onam is a 10 day festival being celebrated in the South Indian state of Kerala. Onam marks the return of the legendary king Mahabali. The ten days Onam fiesta brings out the best of Kerala tradition and culture. People decorate the front of their houses with beautiful flowers arranged in beautiful patterns known as “Onnapookkalam”. New clothes are bought for festival and variety of dishes is prepared. The first day of carnival is known as “Atham” and last is “Thiruvonam”.
9 Sri Rama Navami
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The birth of Lord Rama is marked by the celebration of Sri Rama Navami that falls on 9th day of the Chaitra month (March-April) according to Hindu calendar. Rama Navami is one of the most important of all Hindu festivals, as Lord Rama is known to be the seventh Human Avatar of Lord Vishnu. The nine day festival is sometimes also known as Sri Rama Navaratra. Devotees read the Ramayana and chant the holy the name of Lord Rama. Hindus also fast for nine days and “Ramcharitmanas” is recited at various places.
8 Maha Shivratri
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Maha Shivratri, which literally means “Great Night of Shiva”, is a Hindu festival celebrated on 14th day of Krishna Paksha Chaturdashi of Magha Month (February- March) every year, according to Hindu calendar. There are various mythological legends related to Shivaratri but the most accepted one says that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were married on this auspicious day. The day is honored by offering bael leaves or golden apple leaves to Lord Shiva. Most of the Hindus also Fast all day and chant “Om Namah Shivaya”.
7 Krishna Janmashtami
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Krishna Janmashtami or Krishnashtami is the celebration of the Lord Krishna’s Birth. The festival is celebrated on the 8th day of Krishna Paksha in the Bhadrapad (August -September) month of Hindu calendar. People generally observe fast on the occasion of Janmashtami and prepare delicacies made of milk products as offerings to Lord Krishna. Temples are decorated for the festivals and prayers are conducted at midnight, as Lord Krishna was born at Midnight.
6 Makar Sankaranti / Pongal
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Makar Sankranti is celebrated on 14th January every year in almost all parts of India. The festival has immense spiritual significance and marks the transformation of sun into Makar Rashi (Capricorn) on its celestial path. Makar Sankranti is also the festival of Harvest and marks the arrival of spring in India. It is celebrated as “Pongal” in Tamil Nadu and as “Lohri” in Punjab. It is a festival of Thanksgiving and the end of inauspicious phase that begins in the month of December according to Hindu calendar. Kite flying and Til Ladoos (Sesame Seed Sweets)are also important part of the festival.
5 Ganesh Chaturthi
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Ganesh Chaturthi, also famous as Vinayaka Chaturthi, honors the birth of Elephant headed God, Lord Ganesh, the son of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. The festival is celebrated from 4th to 14th day of bright fortnight in the Hindu Month of Bhadrapada (August-September). The festival is celebrated with the installation of Statues of Lord Ganesh in the homes and podiums. The Idol is then worshiped for 3 to 11 days and then immersed in the ocean or huge water bodies. Offering of special sweet called “Modak” is made to Lord Ganesh.
4 Raksha bandhan
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Raksha Bandhan is a festival that symbolizes the sacred relation between Brother and Sister. It is celebrated on the Full Moon day of the Shravan (July-August) Month of Hindu Calendar. Also known as Rakhi, Raksha Bandhan is a special occasion that is celebrated by tying a holy thread of protection by a sister to her brother around the wrist. Among all the mythological legends related to Raksha Bandhan, most famous is the one related to Queen Draupadi and Lord Krishna. Once when Lord Krishna was hurt during a war and was left with a bleeding finger, Draupadi tied a cloth, torn from her sari, to his bleeding hand, and in return Krishna promised to repay her debt in future. Similarly, by extending their wrist for Holy Rakhi, brother promises to protect his sister throughout his life.
3 Navaratri & Dussehra
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Durga Pooja for Eastern India and Navaratri for rest of India is a nine day festival celebrated by Hindus all over India. The tenth day of festival is known as Dussehra and is celebrated in almost whole of India in the Ashvina (September-October) month of lunar calendar. The first nine day of festival represents the celebration of the Goddess Durga or Amba. The tenth day, also known as “Vijayadashami” is celebrated to enjoy the victory of Lord Rama over the Demon King Ravana. During the Navaratri people fast for nine days and worshiping all the manifestations of Goddess Durga, who is also referred to as Devi and Shakti.
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Holi, the Festival of Colors, is celebrated to signify “the victory of good over evil”. The first day of this two day festival, starts with the “Holika Dahan” (Holika Bonfire), where people gather to mark the end of Holika by Prahlad-The devotee of Lord Vishnu. The second day of fiesta is known as “Dhulandi” and is celebrated by spraying Colors and water over each other. The festival is celebrated on fool moon night in Phalguna (February-March) month. Lot of mouthwatering delicacies is prepared and people go from place to place to enjoy the festival and play with colors.
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Deepawali or Diwali is the biggest festival of all Indian Festivals. Also recognized as “Festival of Light”, Diwali intend to “the victory of Light over Darkness”and Knowledge over Ignorance. During the five days of festival, houses are lighted with number of Diya (small clay lamps) and Fire crackers are busted. Each day of Deepawali has its own tale. The festivity Begins with Dhanteras followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, than Diwali on third day, Diwali Padva on fourth day and Bhai Dooj on last Day. Diwali has its significance as Lord Rama returned to Ayodhaya with his wife Goddess Sita and Brother Laxman from exile. The citizens of Ayodhaya welcomed them by lighting diyas all over their houses. The preparations for Diwali starts almost before a month as people clean and renovate their houses. Diwali also marks the beginning of New Year according to Hindu Vikrama calendar.