Every religion, every region has something to offer. They can broadly be divided into three categories-national or political, religious and seasonal.
Most Indian festivals have their origin either in religion or in the myths and legends of popular faiths.
Some are connected with the memory of venerable men and events and are, therefore, commemorative in nature.
They are intended to keep alive the memory of those days and people and inspire people to emulate their examples. Then there are festivals which punctuate the ever-changing seasons of the year.
National festivals like Republic Day, Independence Day, Gandhi Jayanti, etc. are celebrated with great patriotic fervour.
These days are declared as national holidays and are celebrated in different parts of the country and in State capitals with a lot of enthusiasm.
The nation’s capital, New Delhi witnesses one of the most majestic parades on Republic Day. People from all over the country start pouring in to Delhi to see the display of the country’s splendor.
Religious festivals and ceremonies are as varied as the people, their customs beliefs and faith. The Hindus, the mohammedans, the Christians, the Parsees, the Sikhs, the Buddhists, all have a large number of “festivals in the course of a year.
Dussehra, Diwali, Basant Panchami, Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Holi, Id, Mahavir Jayanti, Budh Purnima, Onam, Pongal, Naoroz, Easter and Christmas are some of the well-known Indian religious festivals.
Each of these is celebrated in a particular manner which becomes traditional arid, therefore, acquires the character of a custom.
For instance, Dussehra is celebrated all over the country, though in different ways. In northern India, it is observed as Vijaya Oashmi celebrating victory of good over evil, of Rama over Ravana.
In Bengal it is Durga Puja and has become more of a cultural festival of music, dance and drama. In Gujarat, it is Navaratra, or the festival of nine nights.
It is celebrated in temples and shrines of Goddess Durga in her manifestation of Shakti (Power) as Amba (Mother Earth). Navratra is identified with garba.
Diwali, the festival of lights is one of the gayest of all Hindu festivals. It is celebrated in a splendid manner in all parts of India in one form or the other.
Many commercial firms and businessmen close their yearly accounts on this day and open new account books. It is not only festival of illuminations but also of fireworks sweets.
Krishna-janmastami is one of the most colourful and popular Hindu festivals. It marks the birthday of Lord Krishan People celebrate it with daylong prayers and fasting and by taking ‘prasad’ at various temples at midnight.
The celebrations are most remarkable in and around Mathura where the Lord was born.
Baisakhi is another well-known festival. II marks the beginning of New Year among Hindus, just as ‘Naoroz’ which falls sometime in August- September is the Parsee New Year.
Hindus go for a holy dip in river Ganga or Jamuna on Baisakhi day. Fairs are held on the banks of these rivers and everybody enjoys with abandon.
Parsees, on the other hand, go the Fire temples and make offerings of sandalwood to the Holy Fire. They wear their traditional clothes and spend the day in feasting and visiting friends and relatives.
Id-ul-Fitr is an important Muslim festival and is celebrated to mark the end of Ramzar, was during the month of Ramzan that Holy Qjran’ was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed Muslims fast the whole month and break the fast on Id with fasting and merry making.
They go to Idgahs wearing new clothes and offer prayers. On Id, no beggar is refused alms as the practice of alms-giving has so special bearing in Islam.
Christmas is a festive occasion for Christians. Although, the festival is religious in nature, celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ many of the customs and celebrations are not religious.
A Christmas tree which is a small fir tree, is placed in the living room. It is decorated by the members of the family. Special Christmas puddings and cakes are made much in advance.
This is a special day for children who are led to believe that Father Christmas will bring them gifts. Children are very excited and wake up early to find that their stockings have been filed with presents.
Elders also exchange gifts with their friends and relatives, which are put on the Christmas tree one or two days in advance.
Then we have seasonal festivals like Basant Panchami.”It is celebrated in various ways throughout the country.
In Bengal specially, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped and children are initiated into the art of writing and reading.
People put on yellow coloured clothes, fly kites and eat special dishes of rice. This festival marks the end of winter and heralds the advent of spring.
Festivals have a great value and are indispensable to break the monotony of life. They offer a welcome break from the daily routine. The gaiety, joy of meeting friends and relatives give a new vitality and energy to everyone.
Poor also celebrated festivals, forgetting their worries for once. Besides, the religious and national festivals have a purifying effect on the mind and bring to the fore the value of piety, prayer, charity and other noble qualities.
They have a cultural and social value, and help not only to bring people together, but also keep traditions alive.
They help in acquainting the new generation with the cultural heritage of their country, and make them aware of the sacrifices made by great saints and leaders.
They ensure a sort of continuity of life by bringing to people’s mind the past glories of their race and nation.
Nevertheless, people should not indulge in pretentious display of wealth to attract attention. Festivals should be celebrated in a spirit of brotherhood with restrain and austerity.
There should not be any hooliganism and intolerance of other people’s faiths. Festive occasions should not be used to spark communal riots and disturb the harmony.
The very purpose of festivals is defeated when people resort to fanning the communal sentiments on such days.
Festivals are recanted to bring people together and inspire them to forget their narrow differences and welcome each other with open arms.