Festivals Of India: Unity In Diversity

General News | Feb-18-2021

Festivals Of India: Unity In Diversity

India is a country with a diverse culture, different ethnicities, and a rich heritage. Every citizen of India realizes the significance of the diversity of festivals in India. Numerous celebrations take place in India each year, with a wide variety of festivals. From Holi to Diwali, from Shivratri to Eid, each day is commemorated with a distinct attribute.

Most Indian festivals signify the importance of religious deities and an occurrence that marks the day as significant. Along these lines, there are festivals revolving around seasons, religious deities, and harvest, representing the festival diversity in India.

Festivals Signifying Religious Deities

  • Diwali: Hindus celebrate Diwali to signify the return of Lord Rama to his home after defeating the evil King Ravana and saving his wife, Goddess Sita. For all Hindus, Diwali holds great value in their hearts. People eagerly wait for this festival, especially kids who like to burn crackers honouring Lord Rama’s triumph.
  • Ganesh Chaturthi: Ganesh Chaturthi is another Indian festival of great significance, especially in Maharashtra and the five southern states. The festival marks the birth anniversary of Lord Ganesha. People celebrate the festival by placing idols of every size of Lord Ganesha in every nook and cranny. In some states, the festivities go on for as long as nine days.
  • Navratri: Talking about nine days, Navratri is another important Indian festival. Celebrated by Hindus across the world, the festival signifies the victory of Goddess Durga over the buffalo demon Mahishasur. The festival spans nine nights, during which many Indians observe fasting. On the last day of the festival, known as Vijayadashami or Dussehra, a figurine of Ravana is burned to mark the victory of good over evil.
  • Eid al-Adha: Bakrid, which is roughly translated as 'festival of sacrifice', is a big Muslim festival in India. God required the faithfulness of his servant. Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) was even ready to give up his son. This event is held with the purpose of remembering the willingness of brave women and men. Muslims conduct prayers and also sacrifice animals and give the meat to those who are needy. During the festival, the focus is put on how to become more compassionate, less selfish, and more generous, which are considered to be the basic principles of harmony.
  • Eid ul-Fitr: The Eid ul-Fitr, which is often referred to as the Eid al-Fitr, is a special festival that is celebrated by almost all Muslims in India, irrespective of their sectarian affiliations. It symbolises the end of a month that is considered holy, known as Ramadan in Islam. Muslim families foster common love, express gratitude, and celebrate togetherness by offering, receiving, and sharing gifts, as well as praying and eating similar cuisines. Through this holiday season, there is also a strong component of giving back to people who are worse off.
  • Christmas: It is the Christian community in India that commemorates Christmas, as it is a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. One of the most common scenes that can be found in both private homes and the public sphere is people putting up trees embellished with bulbs and other decorative pieces. Families get together to celebrate the holidays of the season by giving presents, singing carols, and having a special holiday meal or feast.
  • Durga Puja: The celebration of 'Devi Durga,' the Goddess of Devotion, and her defeat of 'Mahisasura,' the Buffallo-demon, is the theme of the Durga Puja, which is a major Bengali festival. There is an enormous display of colourful and elaborate processions, cultural performances, and feasting. It is traditionally characterised by the construction of temporary structures, or pandals, in which the idols of the goddess are meticulously built.
  • Janmashtami: On the auspicious day of Krishna Janmashtami, which is known as the birthday of Vishnu’s eighth avatar, Lord Krishna, the festival is marked by fasting and abstaining from intake, singing devotional songs, and reciting scriptures. The main aim of this festival (Janmashtami) is to celebrate the birth of Krishna, who is the most revered god in the Hindu religion. People show their devotion to God through attractive decorations as well as the creation of beautiful cradles.
  • Ram Navami: Ram Navami is a festival when Lord Rama is born, who is the seventh avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. Fasting, going to the temples, and recitation of poems from the Ramayana that narrate the Rama's life and heroic deeds are some of the ways people devote themselves.
  • Shivaratri: It is a Hindu festival to pay respect to Shiva, the most important deity, who is popular as the destroyer of the holy Trinity. Fasting, ritual practices, and prayer to Lord Shiva are all the devotees' ways to seek his blessing. The common acceptance is that Lord Shiva performed the dance of the cosmos on this date, which included three primary elements of the universe: creation, preservation, and destruction, respectively.
  • Holi: The Holi, or Festival of Colour, is a spring season celebration that welcomes the triumph of good over evil as well as the entrance of spring. This holiday consists of people dancing and having fun by throwing coloured powder and water at each other, as well as eating dishes that are associated with it.
  • Rakhi: The rakshabandhan emphasises the loving bond that links a brother and a sister together. A beautiful tradition that shows their love and protection for the brothers is rakhi. The girls tie the sacred thread around the brothers´s wrists. On the other hand, brothers promise to protect and care for their sisters. It is a day filled with traditional artistic exhibitions, gift-giving, and family- gatherings with extended families.

All the auspicious Indian festivals are celebrated in absolutely unique ways. On Holi, colours are thrown onto one another as a part of the celebration. And on Bhogi and Lohri, a bonfire is made to celebrate the festival. These diverse festivals in India celebrate the common theme of paying respect to the religious deities.

Diversity of festivals in India: Harvest Festivals

Festivals in India are not only celebrated as a sign of a religious sacrament. Sankranti is celebrated on January 15 to mark the end of winter and the commencement of the harvest season. Similarly, Baishaki is another harvest festival celebrated in Punjab. Onam is another harvest festival celebrated in Kerala. All these show the regional diversity of festivals in India.

•Pongal: Pongal is a four-day festival that is celebrated for harvest in Tamil Nadu. The depth of the festival is not merely for the performance of the sun god worship, but rationally, it is for the appreciation of the sun for a good harvest. One finds lots of rituals here, which include the prayer offered to the sun, kolam patterns around the structures, and rice with coconut milk and jaggery boiled in clay pots.

•Baisakhi: Baisakhi is a happy and joyous holiday that is observed in Punjab as well as in other areas of northern India. Furthermore, it not only celebrates the Sikh New Year but also commemorates Guru Gobind Singh's dedication to the Khalsa Panth. Spectacular processions with traditional folk dances such as Bhangra and Gidda are the activities involved.

•Lohri: This festival is celebrated in Indian states like Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh. It is similar to those in the winter harvest. Agni, the god of fire, is prayed to on this day. After that, a bonfire is lit. People dance around it, and their traditional dances are performed. Traditional songs are sung, phrases of mutual well-being are exchanged, and candy and nuts are served to the group.

•Makar Sankranti: Makar Sankranti, a festival celebrating the new harvest, is celebrated in various states across India. It is the time when the sun passes over the sign of Capricorn, which is the house of the zodiac. Along with the plethora of traditions, one of the most recurring is the flying of the kites, the eating of the festival sweets, and the bathing in the holy rivers.

•Onam: Onam is a chief harvest festival that takes place in the state of Kerala during a period of 10 days. The ceremony is set to not only greet but also celebrate the appearance of King Mahabali. Larger feasts, colourful floral decorations (Pookalam), traditional dance performances, including Kathakali, and sailing boat (Vallamkali) races also take place during the celebrations. Indeed, the highlight of the traditional Onam celebration is the dinner called the Onam Sadhya, which is a beautifully vegetarian dish served on banana leaves.

•Nuakhai ('First Fruits' or 'Homecoming'): It is a prominent harvest festival that is celebrated in Odisha, especially among people associated with agricultural activities. A cultural tradition is highlighted by an exhibition of the first harvest and prayers to the god. These activities are accompanied by eating, dancing, and participating in traditional performing arts. As for family material prosperity, sacrifices are offered by the people, whereby they eat indigenous food and pray for a favourable harvest.

•Magha Bihu (Assam): Magha Bihu, also known as Bhogali Bihu, is an important festival of the Assamese. The Assamese people celebrate this harvest festival with pride, with festivities marking the end of the harvesting season.

How does the diversity of festivals in India promote communal harmony?

In India, festivals like Eid and Christmas are celebrated with a sense of brotherhood among the Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and others. It is common to see people exchanging festive foods on these festival days. This signifies communal harmony in India.

Apart from these major festivals, the numerous tribes of the country celebrate hundreds of festivals, each distinct from the other. From honouring their deities to elements of nature and worshipping animals, these festivals are celebrated with enthusiastic energy.

Indian festivals play a vital role in maintaining the unity of society and the development of its social fabric. Festivals are used as a tool that different communities use to unite, go beyond their challenges and create an atmosphere where respect and understanding prevail.

Even if people taking part in such events belong to different ethnic, denominational and linguistic groups, this does not impede cohesion as the festival provides a forum for cultural concord.

1. The Celebration of Diversity: India, though famous for its varied, multi-dimensional culture dispersed throughout its geographical territory, accounts for festival diversity in India. One of the things that makes such festivals as Diwali, Eid, Christmas, Holi, and so on a true equaliser is that people of different faiths or cultures are all brought together under a single umbrella. The celebration of diversity reinforces a culture of inclusiveness and fraternalism among communities; thus, it achieves both of these ends.

2. Festivals Have a Common Theme: Holidays are times when neighbours, friends, and coworkers exchange greetings, sweets, and presents, irrespective of their religious or cultural aspects. Creating the bond and strengthening the human relationship can already be done by simple acts of kindness and companionship.

3. Participation in Festive Rituals: Many festivals have community rituals and ceremonies that are open to diverse spiritual truths. For example, during the festival of Diwali, the local people might lighten lamps, burst crackers, and, at the same time, distribute sweets to their neighbours, irrespective of their religion. This living with rituals of each other encourages us to evaluate and respect other people.

How does festival diversity in India encourage the economy?

Festivals like Independence Day and Republic Day are celebrated by everyone in the nation, irrespective of religious or cultural variations. All these festivals in India are bound to attract some business. Every year, thousands of businesses experience substantial growth during festival seasons. Businesses like gold, gifts, and sweets flourish during festival days.

  1. A Marketplace for Artists and Small Companies: At the festivals, artisans, craftsmen, and small business owners are able to showcase and sell their goods through means that provide that platform for them. Local producers may exhibit their products in art and craft fairs, melas, and exhibits that are organised to coincide with the time of the year when a festival is arranged. Through this medium, it becomes easy for the artisans to conservatively protect the traditional crafts and, at the same time, give them the possibility to exhibit them to interested buyers.
  2. A Stimulus for Agriculture and the Rural Economy: Harvest festivals, e.g., Pongal, Baisakhi, Onam, and Makar Sankranti, are a symbol of dignity for rural dwellers since they memorialise the fecundity that farming has bestowed on the people. Here, farmers get to learn and are applauded for their farming expertise through the show. Moreover, the people involved in farming and the rural economy benefit from the increased demand for agricultural crops that arises during the holiday season.
  3. The Promotion of Cultural Tourism: Festivals and celebrations are an inseparable part of Indian culture. They also add to the attraction of this country for foreigners interested in cultural tourism. Through festivals, both governmental and private organisations are involved in cultural tourism promotion and in amusing visitors with the country’s numerous rituals, music, dances, art, and food. Historic sites, museums, and other cultural companies receive a sum of money because of cultural tourism.
  4. Employment: Employment opportunities for a myriad of businesses ranging from retail, hospitality, transportation, event management, and manufacturing industries, and temporary jobs in manufacturing industries, come to the fore during the holiday season. The level of employment, particularly in urban areas, has also increased significantly.
  5. Promotion of Indian Brands: When referring to festivals in India such as Diwali, Holi, and Navratri, these are observed as symbols of Indian heritage and practices. Their novel roles add to the increasing strength of India's soft power and make the country a sought-after destination famous for its entrepreneurial spirit as well as its rich culture. The consequence of this is the rise of international investments and tourism.

 Finally, festival diversity in India significantly impacts the country's economy, as it is a major force that drives economic growth in the country, helps generate tourism in the country, supports small businesses, maintains cultural identity, and fosters employment in the country.

The Togetherness

Indian festivals bring out charm and excitement in people, and they celebrate that through gifts. And sweets are a natural part of happiness. It signifies a good event taking place.

A further reason why Indians honour the festivals is that families and friends gather around during that time. Not only family, but the diversity of festivals in India binds all the citizens of the country as one for the day. Stress escapes the minds of people, and they immerse themselves totally in the spirit of festivals. To see a country unite and celebrate their special occasions while respecting each other’s ethnicities is truly a wonderful sight.

[ Also read: Festivals v/s Lockdown Festivals ]

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