Important characteristics of Fairs and Festivals of India

Religious content:

  • Most of the traditional Indian festivals are socio-religious in content. Almost all of them are accompanied by religious rituals of one kind or the other. Every traditional festival has two aspects.
  • One is the worship, which is performed according to the specific religious norms. For example in Holi, Diwali or Ram Navami the Hindus worship their gods and goddesses at the individual or family level. In Id the Muslims go to the mosques to offer namaz (collective worship is an important aspect of their religion). Similarly, on Christmas the Christians go to their churches for religious services.
  • Secondly, participation in most of our festivals is not restricted to a particular community. Members of all the communities participate in the festivities attached to a festival. Holi, Diwali, Id, Muharram, Baisaki and Christmas involve all the people at one level or the other. Therefore, despite having strong religious content, our festivals represent our –commonness, forge our unity and encourage a social bond.

A Muslim celebrating Krishna Janmashtami.

Figure: A Muslim celebrating Krishna Janmashtami.

 

Seasonality:

  • Most of the festivals specific to the Hindus are seasonal in nature. Most of these, festivals announce the change in the season and mark the harvesting seasons.
  • All the seasonal festivals are celebrated during two harvesting seasons Kharif (August-October) and Rabi (March- April). Besides, spring season is another period of seasonal festivities
  • Some of the important season related festivals celebrated in India include- Lohri, Makara Sankranti, Pongal, Onam Baisakhi, Bihu etc
  • Holi and Baisakhi are primarily celebrated to mark the harvesting of new Rabi crop. Here wheat forms the centre of all rituals.
  • On the day of Pongal with the new crop ‘Shankarai Pongal’ (rice cooked in milk and jaggery) is prepared and distributed as ‘Prasadam.’

pongal celebrations

Figure: Pongal celebrations

 

Importance of other elements of nature in Indian festivals:

  • Since agriculture is one of the predominant features of Indian festivals, its closely related component cattle-worship is another important aspect of these celebrations. Ex: Cattles are worshipped during Pongal, Bihu etc

cattle worship during pongal

Figure: Cattle worship during Pongal

  • Fire worship is important feature of seasonal festivals- We get references of fire worship as early as the Harappan period (at Kalibangan). Magha Bihu (mid- January) celebrations are around bhelaghars (specially constructed structures of thatched grass and green bamboos). Men and women spend whole night in these structures. Bonfire is arranged. In the morning these bhelaghars are a symbol of fire worship

Evidence of fire worship at Kalibangan

Figure: Evidence of fire worship at Kalibangan

  • Snakes find mention in various mythological sources connected with various religions in our country. Snake worship is an integral part of these religions as well, even tribal religions accord primacy to snake worship in their lives. The festival of Nag Panchami is celebrated on the Panchami Tithi (fifth day) of the Shukla Paksha (as the moon waxes) in the month of Sawan or Shravan in India. It is celebrated across many regions in the country for the welfare of the family’s health and well-being.

Nag Panchami- an example of one of the animal related festivals in India

Figure: Nag Panchami- an example of one of the animal related festivals in India

 

A platform to maintain familial ties: The festivals celebrated in India across all religions provide a platform for maintaining and building the familial ties which is increasing coming under stress due to effects of globalization and westernization

A platform for sustaining Indian arts:

    • Celebrations during festivals in India entail livelihood opportunities for many artisans in the country. Ex: Idol makers during Ganesha and Durga pooja festivities.
    • These festivals also provide an opportunity for sustenance of folk arts in the country. Ex: Madhubani painting which is a major highlight of festivals in the Mithila region of Bihar; Kathakali is a chief attraction during the Onam festival; emphasis on Bhangra during the festival of Lohri.

 

Festivals and culture: From cuisine to dress, Indian festivals act as a conduit for the passing of century old traditions across different generations. Festivals are one of the main reasons why many rituals since the Vedic times have continued to flourish in India.

 

National calendar of India
  1. The Indian national calendar corresponds to the Julian year 78.
  2. It is also known as Saka era
  3. The national calendar based on the Saka Era, with Chaitra as its first month and a normal year of 365 days was adopted by the government from 22 March 1957 along with the Gregorian calendar
  4. Other types of calendars in India include: Vikram Samvat, Saka Samvat, Hijri Samvat and Gregorian calendar

national calendar