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Indian festivals - Diwali, Id-ul-fitr, Christmas, Pongal, Easter, Dussehra

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Pongal Festival
Pongal is a Harvest Festival, mostly celebrated in south India. Pongal in Tamil means "boiling over." Traditionally celebrated at harvest time, it is a celebration of the prosperity associated with the harvest. Pongal is celebrated by the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as well as Tamils worldwide, including those in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Singapore. The festival has been in practice for some 5,000 years. While Pongal is predominantly a Tamil festival, it is also celebrated in several other provinces with different names.
In Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Karnataka, the harvest festival Sankranthi is celebrated and cows and bullocks are gaily decorated and fed on 'Pongal' ( a sweet preparation of rice). In the evening, the cattle are led out in procession to the beat of drums and music. In northern India, Pongal is called Makara Sankranti. In Maharashtra and Gujarat, it is celebrated on the date of the annual kite flying day, Uttarayan. It also coincides with the bonfire and harvest festival in Punjab and Haryana, known as Lohri. People of all religion celebrate Pongal festival in India.

Id-ul-Zuha
This Muslim festival of sacrifice, Id-ul-Zuha (Arabic) or Bakrid in India is celebrated all over the country. On this day Muslims sacrifice a goat or Bakr (Urdu) to commemorate the sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim, who willingly agreed to kill his son at the behest of God. This festival coincides with the Haj pilgrimage in Mecca. Prayers are offered in the mosques and the sacrificial meat is then distributed after the Id prayers.

Muharram Festival
Commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the holy Prophet Mohammed, and observed by the Shi'ite Muslims, who take out processions of colourfully decorated 'Tazias', which are paper and bamboo replicas of the martyr's tomb at Karbala in Iraq. The processions are especially impressive at Lucknow. In parts of the South, tiger dancers--men painted over with stripes and wearing tiger masks--lead the procession.

Holi Festival
Holi or Phagwah (Bhojpuri) is an annual and popular Hindu spring festival. It takes place over two days in the later part of February or early March. As per the Hindu calendar, it falls on the Phalgun Purnima (or Pooranmashi, Full Moon). It is also called the Festival of Colours where men, women and children revel in throwing coloured powder and squirting coloured water on each other. Greetings and sweets are exchanged. In West Bengal, it is known as Dolyatra (Doljatra) or Boshonto Utshob ("spring festival").

Mahavir Jayanti Festival
The anniversary of the birth of Vardhamana Mahavira. The festival attracts pilgrims from all parts of the country to the ancient Jain shrines at Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat. Mahavira, also known as Vardhamana, is the last one in the galaxy of Twenty-four Teerthankaras (Jain Prophets). He was born in the year 599 B.C. and has been acclaimed as one of the greatest prophets of peace and social reformation that Bharat has ever produced. He was born to a pious couple, Siddhartha and Priyakarani or popularly Trishala Devi - who were deeply permeated with the philosophy of jainism preached by Parswanatha, the 23rd Teerthankara. Siddhartha was the king of Kaundinyapura on the outskirts of Vaishali (near Patna in Bihar).

Good Friday
Good Friday is the Friday before Easter or Pascha. It commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus at Calvary. Good Friday is a holy day observed by some Christians. Special prayer services are often held on this day with readings from the Gospel giving accounts of the events leading up to the crucifixion. Mainstream Christian churches view Christ's crucifixion as a voluntary and vicarious act, and one by which, along with resurrection on the third day, death itself was conquered.

Easter
Easter, also known as Pascha , the Feast of the Resurrection, the Sunday of the Resurrection, or Resurrection Day, is the most important religious feast of the Christian liturgical year, observed between late March and late April (early April to early May in Eastern Christianity). It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, which his followers believe occurred on the third day after his death by crucifixion some time in the period AD 27 to 33 (see Good Friday). In the Roman Catholic Church, Easter is actually an eight-day feast called the Octave of Easter.

Baisakhi
The Hindu Solar New Year Day. People bathe in rivers and go to temples to offer puja (worship). Baisakhi is of special significance to the Sikhs. On this day in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh organised them into the 'Khalsa', brotherhood of man. In Punjab, farmers start harvesting on this day with great fanfare. Villagers perform the 'Bhangra' folk-dance.

Buddha Purnima Festival
Considered to be the ninth avatar of Vishnu. Buddha Jayanti or Buddha Purnima is marked as the most important day, commemorating the three most significant events in the life of Gautama Buddha that occurred on the same day. His birth, enlightenment and death (nirvana), all happened in the month of Vaishak, on a full moon night in April/May. Thus, this makes the day - called Buddha Purnima Festival or Buddha Jayanti Festival- all the more sacred for Buddhists.

Khordad Sal Festival
Khordid Sal is the birth anniversary of Prohet Zoroaster. It falls on the sixth day of the Parsi month, Farvardin (sometime in August or September). On this day of Khordad Sal, the birthday of Prophet Spitaman Zarathusatra is celebrated symbolically by the Zoroastrians.

Janmashtami Festival
Janmashtami or Gokulashtami as it is popularly known in North India, is a festival full of joy and gaiety. It celebrates with great pomp and show, the birth of Lord Krishna who was born more than 5000 years ago in the 28th year of Dwapur Yug. It is one of the most celebrated festivals for Hindus not only in India but also, all over the world. Janmashtami is about the joy, people all over the world feel for their beloved Lord Krishna.

Onam Festival
Onam Festival falls during the Malayali month of Chingam (Aug - Sep) and marks the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali. Carnival of Onam lasts for ten days and brings out the best of Kerala culture and tradition. Intricately decorated Pookalam, ambrosial Onasadya, breathtaking Snake Boat Race and exotic Kaikottikali dance are some of the most remarkable features of Onam - the harvest festival in Kerala.

Durga Puja Festival
Durgapuja, over the years, has outgrown its religious connotations to a large extent as people all over the India celebrate it with gusto. There are various ways in which Ma Durga is worshiped. The rituals and customs vary due to vast difference in the culture of Indian States.Durga Puja is the most important festival of Bengalis. Durga Puja means more to us than just a religious festival. It is a celebration of life, culture, popular customs and traditions... it is a time for coming together, of reunion and rejuvenation, of the rebirth of our piousness and last but not the least, the season to love, to share and to care.

Dussehra Festival
Among the most popular of all festivals, it symbolises the triumph of good over evil. Every region observes this 10-day festival in a special way. In the North, 'Ram Lila' recitations and music recall the life of the legendary hero, Rama. Large fire cracker--stuffed effigies of Ravana, symbolising evil, explode to the cheers of thousands of spectators. In Kulu against the backdrop of snow-covered mountains, villagers dressed in their colourful best assemble to take out processions of local deities accompanied by music on pipes and drums. In Karnataka, Dussehra is celebrated with magnificent pomp and pageantry.

Diwali Festival
The festival of lights is one of the most beautiful of Indian festivals. It comes 21 days after Dussehra and celebrates the return of Rama to Ayodhya after his 14-year exile. Countless flickering oil lamps and lights are lit in houses all over the country making it a night of enchantment. Worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and fireworks and festivities are an essential part of the occasion.

Guru Nanak Jayanti
Also known as 'Gurupurab', it is the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak who founded the Sikh faith. For two days and nights preceding the festival, the 'Granth Sahib' (Holy Book) is read and on the day of the festival, taken out in a grand procession. The celebrations at Amritsar are especially impressive.

Id-ul-Fitr
Celebrates the end of Ramzan, the Muslim month of fasting. It is an occasion of feasting and rejoicing. The faithful gather in mosques to pray; friends and relatives meet to exchange greetings.

Christmas
Celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike with special enthusiasm. The bigger cities like Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta wear a festive look as Christmas bazaars and festivities are organised.
 


 
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