20 Famous Festivals Of India to Experience in 2023
India presents a fascinating mosaic of cultures, languages, and traditions. Each region, with its distinct identity, converges to form a harmonious blend of stories, rituals, and celebrations. Amidst this plethora of experiences, the Indian festivals stand out, acting as windows into the soul of this ancient civilization. They weave together not just the people but also their myths, legends, and everyday life. Here are 20 of its most celebrated festivals to witness in 2023:
A significant astrological event, Makar Sankranti is when the sun begins its northward journey, entering the zodiac sign of Capricorn. This transition, symbolizing the end of winter and the beginning of longer days, is celebrated with zeal across India. It's a harvest festival, with regions having their unique customs. From kite flying in Gujarat and Rajasthan to the preparation of traditional sweets made of sesame seeds and jaggery, the day promotes the message of peace and brotherhood. It also includes the practice of giving away old items and purifying oneself for a new beginning.
Celebrated predominantly in Tamil Nadu, Pongal is a thanksgiving festival dedicated to the Sun God. Spanning over four days, each day has its significance, from honoring cattle that aid in agriculture to paying homage to elders. The most recognizable tradition is the boiling over of milk and rice in an earthen pot, symbolizing abundance. This sweet dish, also named Pongal, is relished by families. Houses are adorned with 'kolam' designs, using rice flour, indicating prosperity.
Falling in the month of Magha (January-February), Basant Panchami heralds the onset of spring. Goddess Saraswati, symbolizing wisdom, art, and learning, is revered. Educational institutions hold special prayers, and students place their books and instruments in front of the deity. Yellow, representing vibrancy, is the dominant color. It's worn by devotees and used in foods like saffron rice.
A night dedicated to Lord Shiva, Maha Shivratri sees millions fasting and staying awake all night. Mythology narrates various tales, one of which is the night when Shiva performed the cosmic dance. Temples are thronged by devotees who offer milk, fruits, and flowers to the deity. This festival also symbolizes the divine union of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Marking the arrival of spring, Holi, the festival of colors, is one of the most enjoyed festivals in India. Legend speaks of the burning of the demoness Holika, signifying the triumph of good over evil. The night before the color play sees large bonfires lit. The next day, streets are awash with colors, water balloons, and joyous spirit. Traditional drinks and sweets like 'thandai' and 'gujiya' are savored.
A solemn day for Christians worldwide, Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Reflecting the pain and suffering that Christ endured for humanity's sins, churches hold subdued services. Many choose to fast or abstain from meat, reflecting on the ultimate sacrifice.
Baisakhi, deeply rooted in the agrarian culture of Punjab, is a time of bountiful harvest. Beyond its agricultural relevance, it resonates profoundly with Sikhs due to the historical establishment of the Khalsa order by Guru Gobind Singh. The air is thick with joy as locales break into the energetic steps of traditional dances like 'Bhangra' and 'Gidda'. Gurudwaras, the Sikh places of worship, come alive with soulful hymns and provide 'langar' — a hearty community meal, emphasizing the spirit of selfless service and community bonding.
Eid Ul Fitr:
Concluding the sacred month of Ramadan, Eid Ul Fitr is a day of jubilation for Muslims worldwide. The dawn witnesses communal prayers, gratitude, and a culmination of a month-long spiritual journey of fasting and reflection. Mouth-watering delicacies, notably the rich 'biryani' and sweet 'seviyan', grace the dining tables. Dressed in their best new outfits, Muslims reaffirm their bonds, giving Zakat (alms) to the less fortunate and ensuring the festivity is inclusive. Family gatherings and exchanges of greetings promote unity and brotherhood.
More than a tradition, Raksha Bandhan is a heartfelt celebration of the deep-seated love and bond between siblings. On this day, sisters lovingly tie a 'rakhi' — a symbolic protective thread, around their brothers' wrists, invoking blessings and praying for their long life and prosperity. Brothers, in turn, pledge their protection and express their affection with thoughtful gifts. The genesis of this festival is interwoven with various legends and stories from Hindu mythology, with one prominent tale recounting Goddess Lakshmi tying a rakhi to demon king Bali, emphasizing the festival's depth beyond mere biological relations.
Lord Krishna, the blue-skinned deity with a mischievous aura, holds a special place in Indian mythology. His birth, on Janmashtami, is celebrated with fervor and devotion. Across India, devotees fast until midnight, the believed birth hour of Krishna. The ambiance of temples is magnetic, with hymns and tales from Krishna's life. 'Dahi Handi', particularly popular in Maharashtra, sees enthusiastic youngsters forming human pyramids to break a pot suspended high above, mimicking Krishna's playful endeavors to steal butter.
A day etched in gold, August 15 signifies India's tryst with destiny. As the tri-colored flag unfurls, it's not just a piece of cloth soaring but the dreams and sacrifices of millions. Children dressed in white, parade at school grounds, patriotic songs in full rhythm. Delhi becomes the focal point with the Prime Minister's address, retracing India's journey and laying down future paths. The Red Fort, rich in history, becomes a symbol of India's resilient spirit.
This festival paints a picturesque canvas: boat races cutting through serene backwaters, men dancing in tiger face paints, and the air fragrant with the aroma of a grand feast. Onam recalls the legend of the wise King Mahabali, whose spirit is believed to visit Kerala annually. Homes beautifully decorated with flower 'rangolis' or 'pookalam' await his arrival. The sumptuous 'Onam Sadya' meal, laid on a banana leaf, is a gastronomic delight.
The elephant-headed god, Ganesha, beloved for his wisdom and benevolence, gets a grand birthday party. Streets are alive with processions, devotional songs, and dances. Communities come together to install larger-than-life idols, crafted meticulously over months. After days of worship, the idols are immersed in water bodies, a symbolic gesture of sending Ganesha on his celestial journey, with prayers asking him to return early next year.
For nine nights, India plunges into a spiritual trance. Different regions, varied customs but one unifying deity - Goddess Durga. From Gujarat's 'garba' dance to Bengal's 'Durga Puja', it's a blend of devotion and cultural exuberance. The stories of Durga's battles against evil are retold, and her strength is invoked in every household.
West Bengal transforms into an artistic wonderland. Every nook and corner boasts of 'pandals', temporary structures housing Durga's idol, each vying for uniqueness in design and theme. The rhythmic beats of 'dhak' (drums), the scent of incense, and cultural performances create an intoxicating atmosphere, culminating in the immersion of the idols.
The ten-headed demon king Ravana, symbolic of evil, meets his end at the hands of Lord Rama. This mythology forms the core of Dussehra. The effigies of Ravana, sometimes alongside his brothers, are stuffed with fireworks and set ablaze, symbolizing the victory of good over evil.
The darkest new moon night of the lunar month lights up with a million lamps. Celebrating Lord Rama's return to Ayodhya after his exile and his victory over Ravana, Diwali signifies the triumph of light over darkness. Homes and streets twinkle, sweets are exchanged, and a sense of goodwill prevails. It is one of the most celebrated festivals of India that includes exchanging gifts with loved ones.
Cementing the bond between brothers and sisters, this festival sees sisters applying a protective 'tilak' on their brothers' foreheads, praying for their long life. It's a day of nostalgic memories, laughter, and shared stories.
The birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, brings together Sikhs in a bond of brotherhood and devotion. The Golden Temple in Amritsar, resplendent in its glory, sees thousands paying their respects. The day's spirit is encapsulated in the 'langar' or community kitchen, where everyone, irrespective of their background, dines together.
The chill of December witnesses the warmth of festivity. Christmas, celebrating Jesus Christ's birth, brings joy worldwide. In India, churches are aglow with lights, carolers spread the festive cheer, and the aroma of plum cakes fills the air. The message of love, peace, and hope resonates in every heart.
India's vibrant festivals are not mere dates on a calendar; they are a profound reflection of its rich tapestry of traditions, beliefs, and shared memories. Each festivity, whether it be the jubilant Baisakhi, the heartwarming Raksha Bandhan, or the harmonious Eid Ul Fitr, tells a story of history, of faith, and most importantly, of human connection. These celebrations serve as beautiful reminders of the country's collective spirit and its core values of unity, love, and gratitude. Elevate the festive spirit by exchanging thoughtful gifts and make it seamless by opting for online gift delivery if you are far away from loved ones. Embracing these festivals means delving deep into the heart of India, understanding its essence, and experiencing the true meaning of cultural diversity and unity.