Holi – Festival of Colors
Hinduism: Holi is a colorful and joyous festival that welcomes Spring. It is dedicated to Krishna or Kama. Referred to as the Festival of Colors, Holi is celebrated by people throwing colorful powder and colored water.
Hindu New Year’s Day
Characteristic of the Indian cultural mélange, Hindus in various states of India celebrate the new year in their own ways. And not all of these fall on the same day! People light oil lamps. They decorate the house with pink, red, purple or yellow fresh flowers which are considered auspicious colors. Rangoli design is also made on the floor outside the house, a very attractive part of New Year decorations. People get up early in the morning, bathe and wear new clothes. The Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi and lord Ganesha are brought home and people welcome them by singing songs in their praise.
Vaisakhi Harvest Celebration
The Vaisakhi harvest celebration in countries such as in India is an occasion of dancing, singing, music, wearing of festive garments and religious praise.
Ramanavami, the birthday of Lord Rama, is one of the most important festivals of the Hindus, particularly the Vaishnava sect of the Hindus. On this auspicious day, devotees repeat the name of Rama with every breath and vow to lead a righteous life. People pray to attain the final beatitude of life through intense devotion towards Rama and invoke him for his blessings and protection.
Many observe a strict fast on this day. Otherwise, it is an extremely colorful ceremony, highly inspiring and instructive too. Temples are decorated and the image of Lord Rama is richly adorned. The holy ‘Ramayana’ is read in the temples.
Raksha Bandhan, (the bond of protection) or Rakhi is a Hindu festival celebrating the relationship between brothers, cousins and sisters. It is called Rakhi Purnima in most of India and is also celebrated in some parts of Pakistan. The festival is observed by Hindus, Jains, and some Sikhs.
In fact, the popular practice of Raksha Bandhan has its historical associations also. The Rajput queens practiced the custom of sending rakhi threads to neighbouring rulers as token of brotherhood. The central ceremony involves the tying of a rakhi (sacred thread) by a sister on her brother’s wrist. This symbolizes the sister’s love and prayers for her brother’s well-being, and the brother’s lifelong vow to protect her. The festival falls on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Shravan.
Krishna Janmashtami (Srikrishna Jayanti), is an annual commemoration of the birth of Krishna, the eighth incarnation of the God Vishnu.
Hindus celebrate Janmashtami by fasting and staying up until midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. Images of Krishna’s infancy are placed in swings and cradles in temples and homes. At midnight, devotees gather around for devotional songs, dance and exchange gifts. Some temples also conduct reading of the Hindu religious scripture Bhagavad Gita.
Navaratri is a festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durga. The word Navaratri literally means nine nights in Sanskrit, nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshiped. The tenth day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or “Dussehra.” Navratri is a very important and major festival in the western states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka during which the traditional dance of Gujarat called “Garba” is widely performed. This festival is celebrated with great zeal in North India as well.
The festival culminates on the 10th day with Dussehra, the victory of good over evil: of Lord Rama over the demon Ravan, and the Goddess Durga over a demon.
Goddess Lakshmi means Good Luck to Hindus. The word ‘Lakshmi’ is derived from the Sanskrit word “Laksya”, meaning ‘aim’ or ‘goal’, and she is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, both material and spiritual.
Lakshmi is the household goddess of most Hindu families, and a favorite of women. Although she is worshipped daily, the festive month of October is Lakshmi’s special month. Lakshmi Puja is celebrated on the full moon night of Kojagari Purnima.
Diwali, or Dipawali, is India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (or deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects us from spiritual darkness. This festival is as important to Hindus as the Christmas holiday is to Christians.
Diwali, celebrated in October or November each year, originated as a harvest festival that marked the last harvest of the year before winter. India was an agricultural society where people would seek the divine blessing of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, as they closed their accounting books and prayed for success at the outset of a new financial year. Today, this practice extends to businesses all over the Indian subcontinent, which mark the day after Diwali as the first day of the new financial year.
Indians celebrate with family gatherings, glittering clay lamps, festive fireworks, strings of electric lights, bonfires, flowers, sharing of sweets, and worship to Lakshmi. Some believe that Lakshmi wanders the Earth looking for homes where she will be welcomed. People open their doors and windows and light lamps to invite Lakshmi in.
Over the centuries, Diwali has become a national festival that is enjoyed by most Indians regardless of faith: Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs.