There is popular saying that there are more festivals in India than days in a year! Every region, every community has its own celebration. The people of India can truly overwhelm you on festive occasion. And festive occasions come ever so often.
There is ritual in even daily events, special days for women to wash their hair, weekly religious days on which a fast is kept, occasions when a vegetarian diet is prescribed, a time when buying new things for the house is not considered auspicious ...
A brides homecoming, the birth of a child, the first day of school, full moon nights...these become special occasions and family, friends and the neighbourhood participates in these events in a happy camaraderie. People gather together to sing and dance to celebrate these formal festivals. An exchange of gifts marks most occasions. People dress in festive best to prepare the best of the season. Houses are painted, women buy new ornaments, children play together. Ritual designs are painted before the entrance of the home and auspicious oil lamps lit.
Holi is one such festival, quite literally a symphony of colours. On this spring day, people hurl powdered and water colours 'on each other in a deep spirit of companionship.
The autumn festival of Diwali, celebrating the victory of good over evil, marked by illumination of homes and public buildings, and the joyous bursting of firecrackers, is one celebration that embraces all India in a festive mould. Sweets are exchanged, people wear new clothes and the festival is marked by a spirit of bonhomie.
Dussehra is celebrated in different ways in different regions. Caparisoned elephants lead an impressive parade in Mysore; mega-effigies of the demon king Ravana are set aflame in Delhi; the region's gods gather in the charming valley of Kullu in the Himalayas for ten days of celebration; and in Kolkata, Dussehra time is Durga Puja time when the goddess is propitiated in the major pandals, festive all-night cultural celebrations are held, and she is finally bid a tearful farewell at the culmination of ten days, with images being immersed in the waters of the Hooghly.
Festivals abound, Id is celebrated with traditional fervour, amity and exchange of gifts. A dish of seviyan is specially cooked and served on the occasion. And at Muharram, tazias of wood, bamboo and tinsel are made artistically and move down the streets of India in ceremonial processions.
And who can forget the pageantry of the impressive Republic Day Parade celebrations in Delhi? The birthdays of gods such a Shiva and Krishna and anniversaries of Sikh Gurus and national leaders too are celebrated with elegant ceremonies. In Puri, the Rath Yatra is a splendid occasion with a procession so huge it has given rise to the word juggernaut in the English vocabulary (from the god, Jaganath). Of course, as all over the world, Christmas too is celebrated with mass in churches, tinsel covered Xmas tree, special fare and an exchange of gifts and cards.
Celebrations occur round the calendar, and even traditional festivals take a unique aspect in India, making them occasions truly of great joy and fun.