Festivals of India

October 15, 2020

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India has always gleamed with the honor of being a diverse country – be it geographical, cultural, ethnic, religious, environmental or political. That said, seldom does a day go by without a celebration in this country. All it takes is a quick web search and you’ll discover how celebration is in the DNA of every Indian – we’re either commemorating a religious festival, a day of national or historical significance, reveling in a seasonal or art festival, or even observing celestial events (yes, we do celebrate the phases of the moon!). India’s vibrancy can be credited to its people, wanting to honor their culture and heritage with sheer enthusiasm and devotion. Indian festivals are a true mosaic of people’s spirit of celebration!

If you look back at the Indian civilization era, you will find that multiple cultural and social activities were organized as a part of these festivities. These activities fostered communal harmony and brought a sense of unity among its people, which can be seen today as well. It is no wonder that tourists from all over the world visit the Indian peninsula to get immersed in its culture and celebrations. Apart from the cultural significance, every Indian festival also holds a true spiritual enlightening. For example, the festival of lights ‘Diwali’ is not just about lighting the external lamp, it is illuminating the inner-consciousness. Believing in your true self and celebrating life is what Indian festivals are truly about.

Here’s a round-up of some of the popular Indian festivals celebrated in the past months:

Eid al-Adha (July 21, 2020)

Eid-al-Adha, or the ‘Feast of Sacrifice’ is a festival celebrated by the Muslim community all over the world.  In India, it is commonly known as Bakra Eid or Bakrid, as the male goat – ‘bakra’ is the most popular animal for Qurbani in this subcontinent. It is also one of the most important festivals for more than 14% of the country’s population who are adherents of Islam.[1]

Post the morning sacrifice ritual, people greet each other with ‘Eid Mubarak’ and exchange gifts. A culinary fanfare of meat dishes is cooked, from traditional delicacies such as biryani, nalli nihari, kebabs, keema and many more which is served amongst family and friends. Sweet dishes such as sheer kurma, shahi tukda, zarda rice is also prepared to compliment the meat dishes.

A spread of Eid delicacies to tantalise your taste buds. 

Biryani

Kebabs

Sheer kurma

Images courtesy of Tamkeen Shaikh and Aneeza Gangani

Children are usually given Eidi or money as a token of love and blessings. While men proudly wear their traditional kurta pajamas or Pathani suits on Eid, women adorn their ethnic salwar kameez and shararas. Applying heena or mehendi is another important custom of this festival, where women paint their hands with intricate designs for enhanced beautification. Above all, people express their gratitude to God for all that they possess – family, friends and blessings.

Eid al-Adha in India withstands the spirit of brotherhood and compassion where neighbors come together irrespective of religious sects, caste and creed, to uplift the festive spirit and inspire us to create a just, harmonious and inclusive society.

Intricate mehendi designs on palms marked as an important custom on Eid al-Adha. 

Images courtesy of Rukaiya Madraswala

Janmashtami (August 29, 2020)

Janmashtami, or Gokulashtami, is one such Indian festival which is celebrated with much grandeur and fervor. One of the oldest festivals in India, Janmashtami commemorates the birth of Lord Krishna, who is believed to be the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the preserver of our world. According to Hinduism, Lord Krishna’s birth signifies the end of evil and the beginning of a new era of unified reformation.

The birth celebrations usually begin at 12:00 midnight with devotees visiting decorated temples, sharing traditional foods, singing devotional songs, organizing dance-drama acts called ‘Rasa Lila’ and offering their worship to baby Lord Krishna. Another popular tradition is the Dahi Handi (curd in an earthen pot) ritual, which mirrors the efforts by mischievous Lord Krishna trying to steal makhan (white butter) along with his group of friends during his adolescent years. This has now transformed into an adventure sport which is practiced most often in states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, along with the twin cities of Vridavan-Mathura in Uttar Pradesh.

A close-up shot of the breaking of the Dahi Handi with the local crowds cheering the Govinda from the street. 

A nail-biting moment when the human pyramid breaks the Dahi Handi.

Images courtesy of Heetej Kondkar

Onam (August 22 to 31, 2020)

Onam is a 10-day long annual harvest festival celebrated in the state of Kerala by the natives (Malayalees) regardless of religion, caste or creed. It commemorates the annual visit of a mythical king named ‘Mahabali’ who is believed to have ruled ancient Kerala and boosted its prosperous agrarian culture. With an array of traditional spreads, Keralites celebrate this festival with sports such as boat races (vallam kali), folkdances (thumbi thullal, pulikali and kummattikali and other intricate floor designs with flowers (pookalam).

A flower arrangement called pookalam is created to uplift the festive spirit and welcome the mystical king.

Images courtesy of Sandhya Verghese and Bijin Zachariah

Sadhya, or Onasadhya, is a sumptuous vegetarian meal cooked with a plethora of South Indian flavors. 

Images courtesy of Bijin Zachariah

Signing off with a quote from the revered Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, “You are invited to the festival of this world and your life is blessed.”

Himani Sharma is a Senior Account Executive based on our Mumbai team and supports our digital and planning team.

[1] 2011 census