Festivals and Food
Concept: Festivals of India
India is a diverse country. People from different religions, castes, classes, and communities live together. Many festivals are celebrated all over India, but the unique thing is that despite being from different backgrounds, everyone participates in the celebrations.
Types of festivals:
The festivals in India are broadly classified into three groups—National festivals, religious festivals and harvest festivals.
The festivals that are celebrated everywhere in the country and are associated with official holidays are called national festivals. The national festivals celebrated in India are briefly described below—
1. Independence Day:
- India became an independent nation on15 August 1947, and for this reason, it is celebrated nationwide as Independence Day.
- On this day, the honourable Prime Minister of India hoists the national flag at the Red Fort in Delhi and addresses the nation in his speech.
- Students all over the country celebrate this important day in their schools by participating in parades, hoisting flags, wearing tricolour badges and singing the national anthem and other patriotic songs.
- Functions, talk shows, dramas and various cultural programmes are broadcast on television, allowing us to revisit the history and struggle for independence.
2. Republic Day:
- The Constitution of India came into effect on 26 January 1950, and since then, this day has been celebrated as Republic Day every year.
- Republic Day is celebrated at Rajpath in New Delhi in the presence of many dignitaries of India and other foreign countries.
- A special parade is displayed by all the divisions of the Indian Armed Forces like the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Airforce.
- Different states of India represent their cultural diversity in the parades performed at the Rajpath on this day.
- Republic Day is also celebrated in schools, and children participate in parades and flag hoisting to mark this special occasion.
3. Gandhi Jayanti:
- Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated every year on 2 October to mark the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.
- He was born in Porbandar, Gujarat and his original name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
- He strictly believed in non-violence and applied this principle to fight for freedom against the British government.
- Gandhiji greatly believed in equality and preached that everyone should be treated equally, irrespective of gender, caste and creed.
- Eminent freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose gave the title ‘Father of the Nation’ to Mahatma Gandhi for his dedicated struggle for India’s independence.
- Several freedom movements like the Dandi March, Quit India Movement, and Non-cooperation Movement were initiated by Gandhiji.
As India is a land of many religions, various festivals are celebrated throughout the year. Some of the very common religious festivals of India are described below—
- Diwali is called the ‘Festival of Lights’ and is celebrated all over India in the month of Kartika (mid-October to mid-November) as per the Hindu calendar.
- It marks the auspicious day of the homecoming of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after his fourteen years of exile.
- People decorate their homes with candles, diyas and colourful lights and make beautiful rangoli.
- Special offerings are made to goddess Lakshmi, the god of wealth and prosperity.
- People burst crackers and greet each other Happy Diwali.
- Different delicacies are prepared on this festive occasion like laddoos, gulab jamun, samosa, gajar halwa, etc.
- Holi is called the Festival of Colours and is primarily celebrated in North India on the full moon day of Phalguna (February-March) as per the Hindu calendar.
- A special ritual is performed a day before Holi, called Holika Dahan.
- According to the ancient Hindu legend, Holika was a demoness, and this ritual is done to signify the victory of good over evil.
- On this day people play with colours along with dancing and singing. It marks a day of love, joy and happiness.
- Special delicacies are made like gujiyas, thandai, laddoo, etc.
- Dussehra (also called Vijayadashami) is a major Hindu festival celebrated to mark the victory of Lord Rama over the ten-headed demon king Ravana.
- It is celebrated on the 10th day of the month, Ashvina (September–October), as per the Hindu calendar.
- People in northern India celebrate this festival by performing Ram Leela, a drama revolving around the life of Lord Rama.
- Effigies of the demon king Ravana along with his son Meghnada and his brother Kumbhakarna are stuffed with firecrackers and set ablaze.
- It signifies the victory of good over evil.
- Christmas is the most important festival for Christians all over the world.
- It is celebrated annually on 25 December to mark the birthday of Jesus Christ, the famous religious leader of Christianity.
- People decorate Christmas trees and their houses with stars, bells, colourful lights and other decorative items on this day. They keep the gifts for their loved ones under the Christmas tree.
- People visit the church, sing Christmas carols, exchange gifts and offer prayers.
- Children eagerly wait for Santa Claus to arrive with gifts and goodies.
- People make cakes, pies and roasts on Christmas day and enjoy a grand feast with their loved ones.
5. Guru Nanak Jayanti:
- On this auspicious day, the Sikhs celebrate the birthday of the first of the ten Sikh gurus, Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
- It is the most important festival of the Sikhs and falls on the Kartik Purnima (November) as per the Hindu calendar.
- The day is celebrated with processions and chanting of hymns.
- The holy book Guru Granth Sahib is recited for two successive days, called the Akhand Path.
- People visit the gurudwara and offer prayers.
6. Buddha Purnima:
- The Buddhists celebrate Buddha Purnima to mark the birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha, a religious leader, spiritual guide and founder of Buddhism.
- Every year, the date of this auspicious occasion differs but usually falls in April or May.
- Buddha Purnima is greatly celebrated at the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodhgaya in India.
- People offer special prayers at the Bodhi Tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment.
- People visit the nearby Buddhist monasteries to pray and observe various rituals to mark this holy day.
- It is one of the most important festivals of Muslims as it marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
- During the month of Ramadan, Muslims across the world hold fast from dawn to dusk.
- Eid ul-Fitr is celebrated on the first day of Shawwal, which is the tenth month of the Islamic calendar.
- On this day, people wear new clothes, gather in open spaces, usually near mosques, offer prayers, and greet each other by saying ‘Eid-Mubarak'.
- Elaborate feasts are planned that include many mouth-watering dishes like pulao, saalan, biryani, haleem, nihari, kebabs, seviyan, sheer korma, shahi tukda and phirni.
8. Raksha Bandhan:
- This festival celebrates the special bond between brothers and sisters.
- It is celebrated on the full moon day of Shravan (August) in the Hindu calendar.
- To mark this occasion, sisters tie rakhis (sacred threads) on the right wrist of their brother’s hands and pray for their long life and safety. Brothers, in turn, vow to protect their sisters and keep them happy.
- Gifts are exchanged between them, and sweets are distributed among family members.
These festivals are celebrated annually around the time of a region’s main harvest. The harvesting season is different in different parts of India, so the harvest festivals are celebrated at various times of the year.
- It is celebrated in Assam thrice a year—Bohaag Bihu in April, Maagh Bihu in January and Kaati Bihu in October.
- People make bhela ghor, a temporary community hall where people gather for a feast and mezi, a bonfire made with bamboo, hay and wood.
- In the bhela ghor, various delicacies are prepared with the newly harvested rice, like pitha.
- The celebrations include feasts, music and dancing.
- It is celebrated in Kerala for a period of 10 days.
- Traditional dishes consisting of nine or more vegetarian dishes are made on this day and served on banana leaves.
- Other activities include grand processions, boat races, songs and folk dances.
- Pongal is celebrated in Tamil Nadu, usually in the month of January, and is a four-day festival.
- It is celebrated after crops like rice, sugarcane, etc., are harvested.
- Some traditional dishes made during Pongal include Sakkarai Pongal, Khara Pongal, Payasam, etc.
- It is celebrated in April in Punjab and Haryana and marks the harvest season's beginning.
- People offer prayers and perform memorable songs and dances.
- Baisakhi is also celebrated in the states of West Bengal and Bihar in tune with their own local culture.
Dignitaries: Persons who are important because of their official positions.
Exile: When a person is banished from his native land for political reasons.
Ritual: A series of religious services conducted in a prescribed order.
Did You Know?
- Some festivals are unique to some specific states of India, like Durga Puja of West Bengal, Ganesh Chaturthi of Maharashtra, Chhat Puja of Bihar, etc.
- Harvest festivals are not only celebrated in India but also in other countries of the world—Rice Harvest Festival (Indonesia), Chuseok (South Korea), Olivagando (Italy), etc.