India is known as the land of events and festivals – this is quite possibly because the country has many different religions, and not only does each religion have their own festivals but each different religion coexists harmoniously.
We’ve pulled together our ‘Top Five Festivals’ worth thinking about when you’re planning your next trip to India; along with our tips on where we think is best to celebrate them.
DIWALI – THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
Diwali is one of India’s biggest, and most certainly brightest, festivals which typically falls between October and November. The Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali, sees the whole of India light up to celebrate the victory of good over evil. The actual festival lasts 5 days but the preparations take weeks.
During Diwali, lights are kept on all night long and doors are open for as long as possible to welcome in the Goddess of Wealth (Goddess Lakshmi) who visits homes during this festival, bringing financial luck and wealth with her for the New Year.
Although Diwali is celebrated all over India we think the best places to celebrate this bright festival is Jaipur and Udaipur in Rajasthan.
MAHA SHIVARATRI – THE GREAT NIGHT OF SHIVA
Shiva is the third god in the Hindu triumvirate – he is responsible, alongside Brahma and Vishnu for the creation, upkeep and destruction of the world. Maha Shivarati is a major festival in Hinduism which is celebrated across the whole country annually in honour of God Shiva. It marks the remembrance of ‘overcoming darkness and ignorance’ in life and the world.
Lord Shiva saved the whole universe from a potent poison by drinking it all himself. So on this day, devotees show their respects by either fasting, bathing in holy waters, visiting Shiva’s temples, smearing their bodies with holy ashes, singing and dancing. Arranging a long procession from the river to the temple is also an important part of the festival.
The best place to celebrate Maha Shivarati is the Tilbhandeshwar Temple in south Varanasi. This is among the few places in India where people dance in processions.
HOLI FESTIVAL – THE FESTIVAL OF COLOURS
Holi festival marks the arrival of the spring and takes place over two days. It is the celebration of fertility colour, love and the triumph of good versus evil.
Who would want to miss the biggest paint and water fight in the world? Holi festival is the most colourful of India’s Hindu festivals which is celebrated in March. At this vibrant festival you’ll see people smearing each other with colourful powders and being drenched by water balloons, as well as seeing people light bonfires and effigies of the evil Holika (the devil).
Holi is a country-celebrated festival but we are bias and think the best places to celebrate the festival are Goa and Mumbai.
GANESHA CHATURTHI – GANESHA’S BIRTHDAY
The birthday of Lord Ganesha is celebrated for 11 days in a festival called Ganesha Chaturthi, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi. At the beginning of the festival, huge decorates statues of the elephant-headed god are erected on podiums, as well as in homes across India.
At the end of the festival, these statues are carried along the streets to be submerged into the rivers or the sea whilst the participates parade with song and dance, praising their elephant-headed god.
We’d recommend heading to Mumbai for the procession on the final day of the festival.
KRISHNA JANMASHTAMI – LORD KRISHNA’S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS
The birth of Lord Krishna – the god of compassion, tenderness and love – is celebrated by a festival called Krishna Janmashtami. Krishna was supposedly quite a mischievous child who loved milk and ghee so for this reason, Hindu women cook milk-based sweets and offer them to Krishna on his birthday.
One of the rituals held on this day is called Dahi Handi; where people fill a clay pot with buttermilk and hang it high above the ground. Then a group of trained men make a pyramid and attempt to break the pot with a blunt object. When they break it the buttermilk is spilled all over them, symbolizing their achievement through unity.
The best place to experience the festival first hand it is in Mumbai.