Hindu Dharma almost certainly has a longer list of festivals than any other religious tradition, and there are considerable regional and denominational variations. Twelve of the more popular and widely celebrated events are listed below.
Festivals are generally times for celebration and remembrance. Other purposes are:
- To create a special atmosphere, diverting the mind from worldly concerns and joyfully focusing on spiritual matters.
- To invoke the soul’s natural qualities by creating an environment replete with auspiciousness and the abundant gifts of nature.
- To give people spiritual impetus and inspiration, which helps them perform their daily duties.
- To bring out the natural tendency for celebration with spiritual goals.
- To forge a healthy sense of belonging by peacefully bringing together individuals, families and communities.
Main Practices during Festivals
- Fasting and feasting
- Distribution of food (especially prasad)
- Giving in charity (to temples, saints, the poor, etc.)
- Visiting the temple
- Visiting relatives
- Glorification of God (kirtan, bhajan, story recitals, dance, drama)
- Manufacture and worship of temporary deities
- Taking temple deities in procession
- Wearing new clothes
- Decorating houses, streets and temples with fruits, flowers, leaves and banana leaves.
Types of Festivals
There are three main types of festivals:
1. Celebrating a significant event in the life of a deity e.g., Janmashtami is Krishna’s birthday.
2. Celebrating a significant event in the life of a holy person e.g., the birthday of a particular guru.
3. Seasonal festivities or customs, e.g., spring festivals like Holi.
Festivals in the first category have become more universal and widely celebrated.
Festivals in the third category are often exclusively regional, or regional variations of broader festivals e.g., Pongal in Tamil Nadu, which marks Makara Sankranti. Others, such as Holi, are celebrated internationally. Special days within the second category are often relevant only to a particular group (sampradaya) for whom the particular saint has significant relevance.
Twelve Important Festivals
The following is a list of twelve main festivals along with their corresponding deities worshipped.
|Makara Sankranti||January||Surya (Sun)|
|Maha Shiva Ratri||Feb/March||Shiva|
|Navaratri/Durga Puja||Sept/Oct||Shakti, Parvati|
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