Festivals and Holidays of India

There are many holidays and festivals in
India. In my report I will explain what the holidays of Holi,
Diwali, Dussera, and Basanto commemorate. I will give
details about their dates and customs.

****************************** Holi: The Fire
Festival The Hindu Fire Festival, called Holi or Basaat is
celebrated in India on the fifteenth day of the Light Half of
the Moon, in the Hindu month of Phalguna (March). Holi is a
spring festival for Hindus. It is celebrated before the
monsoon, the great rainstorms which come each year. Holi is
a joyous holiday and is celebrated by Hindus of all ages.

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Boys and girls squirt water pistols, sometimes large pumps
filled with saffron or red-colored water. The Hindus favorite
colors are red, crimson and saffron. In Bengal, the Holi
festival is associated with the life of Krishna, a Hindu god. In
Bengal the colored powders are used without the water, for
the fun. Before indulging in a feast in honor of Holi, the
children change out of their sporty clothes that are covered
in red and put on fresh, clean garments. It is customary to
exchange gifts in honor of this spring festival.

****************************** Diwali: The Festival
of Lights The Hindu New Year, Diwali, is celebrated on the
last night of autumn, in October or November. It is a holiday
which is celebrated throughout India. It comes at the end of
the monsoon rains, when the weather is nice and mild, and
lasts for five days. For this holiday, daughters return to their
parents’ homes, houses are cleared, walls are decorated with
designs drawn in white rice flour water and then colored.

Business account books are closed and new ones are
opened ceremoniously, new clothes are worn and friends are
entertained. Before the festival, special food is prepared to
be offered in the Hindu temples. In preparation and in honor
of this festival of lights clay saucers are filled with mustard oil
and floating cotton wicks, giving a soft, glowing light to the
homes. These lights are called chirags, and are placed on the
window sills and rooftops of houses; along the roads, and on
the banks of rivers and streams. Women and girls who live in
the sacred city of Banares, take their chirags to the banks of
the Ganges River. They quietly light them and put them in the
river to float along the water. They hope for their clay boats
to float to the other side with the wicks still lit. If they remain
lit, it is a sign of good luck. The reason for the lights is to
direct Lakshmi; goddess of prosperity to every home. There
are a few versions of the origin of this festival. In the northern
part of India, it is associated with the autumn season and the
harvest. They believe that Lakshmi returns to the plains and
lowlands every autumn, after her stay in high country during
the summer months. She visits people’s homes on that night
and needs the light to guide her way. By assuring that she
reaches their homes they are assuring that their blessings will
be great and meaningful.

****************************** Dussera: The
Victories of Rama During the ten day Festival of the Divine
Mother a pageant is presented in every city, town or village
throughout northern India. The pageant is presented for two
hours each day, ten days in a row. This annual pageant is
called Ram Lila, based on the famous and sacred Hindu epic
Ramayana, which consists of 24,000 stanzas. The Ram Lila
shows some happening of the great epic that are well known
to all Hindus, adults and children. Every year the people in
India gather in the market places and watch the Ram Lila
with excitement as if they are seeing it for the first time.

Towns compete to see who will put on a richer display of
costumes and better music. The pageant’s story concerns
mainly the events in the wars between Rama, the seventh
incarnation of the Lord Vishnu, the Preserver, and Ravan,
the cruel demon with ten faces and twenty hands, who
threatened to conquer the earth below and the gods in
heaven. Rama’s forces were under the command of General
Hanuman, a monkey. Hanuman led great victories over
enemies of mankind and gods. The most exciting part of the
pageant is a battle scene with Hanuman. The ten day
pageant ends with the death of Ravana, who is burned in
effigy. An image of the dead demon is made of bamboo and
colored paper, and is placed on a platform and blown up
with fireworks. The audience stamps their feet and this
symbolizes victory for Rama over Ravana; good over evil.

****************************** Basanta: The First
Day of Spring On the first day of spring, in the Muslim
calendar, Basanta is celebrated. Basanta, which in Sanskrit
means yellow, is the sacred color of India and is the symbol
of spring. On this festival everyone wears yellow on parts of
their clothing. Hindu poets of ancient days wrote poems
about spring. Many of them were to Basanta, and in some
way connected the arrival of spring with Saraswati,
Brahma’s wife, the goddess of the sixty-four arts and
sciences. On this holiday, the family fasts until noon and then
they go to a field for a picnic lunch and enjoy the outdoors.

Offering of white mango bloom or any white flower is
brought for Saraswati. This begins the season when boys
and their fathers like to fly their flat tailless kites made of
colored tissue paper and bamboo.

****************************** CONCLUSION In
this report I learned much about India’s religious holidays. I
learned about the many Hindu gods and about India’s
people. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Millen, Nina, Children’s
Festivals From Many Lands. New York: Friendship Press,
1964. 2. Dobler, Lavinia, Customs and Holidays Around the
World. New York: Fleet Publishing Co., 1962. 3. Gaer,
Joseph, Holidays Around the World. Boston: Little, Brown