India Fairs and Festivals

Festivals are a way to celebrate and rejoice in our rich cultural heritage, our traditions. They are the means to provide framework to our social lives and cohere with our family and loved ones. In India with her extensive caste system, a population of over one billion and house of every major religion of the world every other day is a festival of some sort or other be it national, seasonal [related to food supply and agriculture] or religious [more so]. Joint family system is the backbone of Indian Social Structure because of which festivals are a way of passing traditional and cultural intelligence and tutoring morals and principals to younger generations. Indian Festivals are usually dated consulting lunar calendars. Every festival in India has some history intertwined or a story [from past] to tell from Puranas or Kuran or other holy books which provides an understanding of the relevance of that festival. It is based on these stories that rituals are carried out for a festival. No matter how varied these festivals are religiously and how differently they are celebrated, all these festivals are a way of thanking God and convey the same message of love. Festival of Makar Sankranti or Pongal on 14th of January when sun transits in Makar Rashi marks the beginning of festivals in India every year followed by Vasant Panchami which marks the beginning of Vasant the Prince of all seasons. Goddess Saraswati the female deity of art, music and education is worshipped on this day and traditionally yellow colour is worn signifying the ripening of mustard crop. Another important festival during this season is Maha Shivratri on the thirteenth day of waning moon of Phagun when Hindu god Shiva and his wife Goddess Parvati are worshipped to bestow marital bliss to wedded and good life partners for unmarried. Holi on the full moon of Phagun though an ancient Hindu Festival is equally popular among other religions and is celebrated by all, holi is everything that is fun and frolic the celebrations start early in the morning where people form groups smear colour and love splashing coloured water on each other.

 The festivities thus started in the beginning of year go on and on throughout the year with Navratri, Ram Navami, Ugadi and Gudi Padwa im March and April. Vishu, Bihu and Vat Poornima in summers, Guru Poornima, Onam, Raksha Bandhan, Bonalu in July and August. Krishna Janamashtmi, Radha Ashtami and Ganesh Chaturthi in September. Navratri, Vijayadashami, Deepavali and Bhai Dooj in October and November. Chath, Kartik Poornima in November and Christmas and Pancha Ganpathi in December. Along with these other festivals of Id-E-Milad, Good Friday and Easter, Jamat-Ul-Vida, Id-ul-Fitr, Parsi New Year, Id-ul-Zuha, Muharram, Independence Day, Republic Day and Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti are also observed and celebrated with equal zest.

Some significant festivals as per the regional divide are:

  • Festivals of East India – Saraswati Puja, the day coincides with Vasant Panchami in north, celebrated in West Bengal, Orissa and Bihar, Rongali Bihu onset of Assamese New Year and coming of Spring, Rath Yatra in Jagannath, Raja Parva a four day celebration commemorating the beginning of agricultural year. Naukahi beginning of new rice season. Vijayadashmi celebration and worship of goddess Durga. Chhath in Bihar dedicated to Sun God and Prathamastmi in Orissa where women pray for the happiness of their eldest child

  • Festivals of North India – Lohri, in the month of Paush a day before Makar Sankranti, Makar Sankranti, Vasant Panchami, Mahashivratri, Holi the riots of colour, Vasant Navratri and Ashvin Navratri marked by 9 days of fasting by Hindus ending on Ram Navami the birthday of Hindu deity Lord Rama, Hanuman Jayanti, Sitalsasthi – the marriage day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Vat Poornima in the month of Jayeshta, and Karva Chauth where women pray for the prosperity of their Husbands, Guru Poornima the day devotees worship their guru, Mahalakshmi Vrata worship of goddess of wealth and prosperity. Raksha Bandhan, Krishna Janamastmi and Radha Ashtmi celebration of birth of Lord Krishna and the love of his life Radha. Deepavali literally means the row of lights the most important and pompous Hindu Festival

  • Festivals of South India – Pongal, the beginning of Tamil month the day celebrated with gusto through out the entire south India, Kavadi Attam the ceremonial worship of god of war lord Murugan. Ugadi in Karnataka and Vishu in Kerala beginning of Hindu New Year and celebrated on the same day as Gudi Padwa in West. Bonalu [worship of mother Goddess Yellamma] and Bathukamma in Telangana Region. Onam a ten day long celebration marked with flower carpets, boat races, and elaborate banquet lunches. Gowri Habba, Karthikai Deepam ancient Tamil Hindu Festival of lights

  • Festivals of West India – Holi the festival of colours and youth, Shimgo, a prominent festival of Konkani community of Goa. Good Friday and Easter. Gudi Padwa celebrated a first day of Hindu New Year. Ganesh Chaturthi on fouth day of waxing moon of Bhadrapada. Diwali the festival of lights. Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus

Other than these festivals numerous historical and religious fairs are also conducted every year adding to the vivacity of Indian social life and culture.

  • Tyagaraja Fair or Festival – First in the long line of fairs throughout the year is this musical fete celebrated every year in Tamil Nadu in remembrance of composer and saint Tyagaraja. Singers, poets-composers and musicians from across the country gather in Tanjore to be a part oh this melodious affair.

  • Ganga Sagar Mela – held every year in West Bengal this fair is organized where river Ganga and Bay of Bengal forms a nexus, people take dip in holy Ganges and perform special pujas and thanksgiving in honor of Sun God.

  • Nagaur Fair – this is the largest annual cattle fair held in Nagaur, Rajasthan where buying and selling of cattle takes place. Tug of war, camel races, cock fights during the day and folk dance and musicals from the desert at nightfall are other attractions of this fare.

  • Beneshwar Fair – an important tribal Bhil event this fair is held every year on the full moon night of February where thousands of Bhils assemble at the junction of rivers Mahi and Som in Rajasthan. Bhils are tribals and considered to be descendants of Hindu deity Shiva.

  • Surajkunj Arts and Crafts Mela – during the spring season at the backdrop of lake Surajkund, Surajkund mela is arranged every year from 1st – 15th February. Celebrated as a crafts mela designs of 50 best craftsmen and designers from India are at display. The crafts of wood, glass, metal, stone, textiles, bamboo and iron are displayed at 400 stalls. The mela is also popular for cuisines from across India in various food stalls.

  • Urs Ajmer Shariff – held every year at the tomb of Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, Rajasthan.

  • Sonepur Livestock Mela – yet another fair organized on the full moon day of Hindu month of Kartik this cattle fair is held in Sonepur Bihar where every and any four legged beast from elephants, camels, buffaloes, horses and goats etc. are traded. Celebrated with music, dance, magic shows, handicrafts and colorfully dressed merchants this fair is known for its exuberance.
  • Mela Hemis Gompa – celebrating the birthday of the founder of Lamaism the Padmasambhava this fete is organized every year at Hemis Gompa 50 kms away from Leh.

  • Pushkar Fair – dedicated to Lord Bhrahma this fair is held every year on the full moon day of Hindu month of Kartik. This is a religious fair and Pilgrims from across the nation come here to bathe in holy lake.

  • The Goa Carnival – an explosion of vibrant colors, fun and frolic this carnival is organized and celebrated every year by vivacious Goans before the solemnity at Lent. The celebration is marked with dances, parades, balls and feasting.

  • Kumbh Mela – the most significant religious affair in Hindu mythology, this mela is held at four pilgrimages every twelve years Haridwar, Nasik, Ujjain and Ahmedabad. Millions of Hindu pilgrims come from all over India and abroad to take a dip in holy river Ganga in Kumbh fair.

Apart from the above trade promotion organization of India organizes trade fairs all over the country. The most significant of these is the one held in Delhi every year from 14th – 28th November. Average foot fall per day on this fete is more than 50,000 visitors

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