Festivals and Fairs
The Goa Carnival is one of the leading social fętes in Goa. It is an exclusive festival owned by the Goans. The Portuguese who ruled over Goa for over five hundred years introduced the Goa Carnival. The carnival is held during the month of February for three days and nights, when the legendary King Momo takes over the state and the streets come alive with music and color. The merry making is followed by a weeklong event, which is a time of unbridled festivity and conviviality, which has been celebrated since the 18th Century. The evolution of the carnival can be traced to the Epicurean feasts of ancient Rome and Greece. These carnivals started in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies, and gradually became known for their singing, dancing and drinking. The carnival is presided over by King Momo, who on the opening day orders his subjects to party.
During the carnival, the streets in Goa are full of enthusiasm and joy. Everywhere visitors can see merry-making in different forms, viz, street plays songs, dances, and unrehearsed farces mocking the establishment which are performed before an ardent and responsive audience. Floats depicting popular lullabies and nursery rhymes make a capricious and colourful sight on the streets. There are three days of celebrations, cultural functions and competitions abound, and these competitions are judged by specially selected people. King Momo distributes the prizes to the winners. The contestants wear colourful costumes and luxuriant masks. Amidst the exorbitant dresses seen on the street are some made of sheer, transparent polythene. In the fun-filled ambience, people smear color on each other, instead of the flour, eggs, fruit and water which was used in earlier times.
The Goa Carnival is a time for entertainment and enjoyment for tourists from around the world. A whole lot of tourists irrespective of their nationality and social status participate in this mind-blowing festival. During this time, the hotels in and around the small state of Goa are filled with tourists. It is better to book a spot in advance for the carnival as the festival attracts thousands of tourists. The carnival is meant to be a feasting-drinking-merrymaking binge just before the austere 40 days of Lent. Huge parades are organized throughout the state with bands, dances and floats out all night on the streets, and grand balls held in the evenings. The carnival concludes with the famous red-and-black dance held by the Club National in Panaji on the final day.
Kumbha Mela (The Kumbh Fair)
Kumbha Mela is one of the largest religious gatherings in the world. Astrologers opine that the ‘Kumbh Fair’ takes place when the planet Jupiter enters Aquarius and the Sun enters Aries. It is a sacred Hindu pilgrimage that takes place at the four locations of India viz, Prayag, Allahabad (in the state of Uttar Pradesh) at the confluence of three holy rivers - Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati; Haridwar (in the state of Uttar Pradesh) where the river Ganga enters the plains from Himalayas; Ujjain (in Madhya Pradesh), on the banks of shipra river; and Nasik (in Maharashtra) on the banks of Godavari river. The pilgrimage occurs four times every twelve years, once at each of the four locations. Each twelve-year cycle includes the Maha (great) Kumbha Mela at Prayag, attended by millions of people, making it the largest pilgrimage gathering around the world. Kumbha Mela infers its name from the immortal - Pot of Nectar - described in ancient Vedic scriptures known as the Puranas.
The ancient root of the Kumbha Mela is described in the time-honoured Vedic literatures of India as having evolved from the bygone days of the universe when the demigods and the demons jointly produced the nectar of immortality. It is said that the demigods and the demons assembled on the shore of the milk ocean that lies in the heavenly region of the cosmos. The demigods and the demons made a plan to churn the milk ocean to produce the nectar of immortality. They then agreed to share the nectar equally once it was produced. The demigods, being fearful of what would happen if the demons drank their share of the nectar of immortality, forcibly seized the pot.
Wherever the demigods went with the pot of nectar, fierce fighting ensued. In an endeavour to keep the nectar from falling into the hands of the demons, the demigods hid it in four places on the earth, Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik. At each of the hiding places, a drop of immortal nectar spilled from the pot and landed on the earth. These four places are since believed to have acquired mystical power and attained the status of Hindu pilgrim centres.
Diwali is the most glamorous and fantastic festival of India. People from all walks of life, and of every religion, enthusiastically enjoy it. Its magical and radiant touch creates an atmosphere of joy and festivity all over India. It is also called as the festival of lights. The ancient story of how Diwali originated into such a widely celebrated festival is different in various regions and states of India. In the north, particularly in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar and the surrounding areas, Diwali is the day when King Rama's enthronement was celebrated in Ayodhya after his epic war with Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Diwali, one of the longest festivals in the Hindu year, is a time when everything in India comes to a standstill except family life, feasting and shopping. Diwali is considered auspicious for shopping, inaugurations of new homes, business deals or for starting any new ventures and projects.
Diwali is celebrated for three days. The first day of Diwali is Dhanatrayodashi or Dhanteras. Doorways are decorated with mango leaves and marigolds. Rangolis are drawn with different colored powders to welcome guests. The traditional motifs are often linked with auspicious symbols of good luck. Earthen oil lamps are arranged in and around the house. Because of these flickering lamps, the festival has acquired its name ‘Diwali’ meaning `rows of lamps'. On this day, people buy something for the house or some jewellery for the women of the house.
The second day or Kali Chaudas is also called Chhoti Diwali. The entire household prepares for the upcoming day of Diwali. On the dark new moon night of Diwali, the entrances to all homes are lit up and decorated with rangoli patterns to welcome Lakshmi, the radiant consort of Vishnu and the goddess of wealth and luster. Lakshmi Puja is performed on this day. Diwali is the last day of financial year in traditional Hindu business and businessmen perform Chopda Pujan on this day on the new books of accounts. The day ends with mega cracker bursting sessions which lasts for 5-6 hours. Every family spends thousands of rupees on firecrackers including sparkling pots, bombs, rockets etc.
Navaratri is a festival in which God is adored as Mother and Hinduism is the only religion in the world, which has emphasized to such an extent the motherhood of God. To celebrate a good harvest and to propitiate the nine planets, women also plant nine different kinds of food grain seeds in small containers during these nine days and then offer the young saplings to the goddess. During Navaratri, some devotees of Durga observe a fast and prayers are offered for the protection of health and property. A period of introspection and purification, Navaratri is traditionally an auspicious time for starting new ventures.
Navaratri is a festival that lasts nine days and nine nights. The most significant part of Navaratri is the setting up of an odd number of steps (usually 7, 9, or 11), and the placement of different idols of Gods on them. This setup is called a “Golu”. Generally, when people come to a person's house to see their Golu, they are given prasad (the offering given to God that day), kumkum (red powder), and a small bag of gifts usually containing a mirror, a comb, a small box of kumkum, and fruits. These are only given to girls and married women. This is chiefly a woman's festival.
During Navaratri, communities get together to dance and feast. In India, the most colourful and elaborate celebrations take part in Bengal, where huge idols of the goddess are worshipped. In Gujarat painted earthen pots with water or a lamp inside symbolize the power of the goddess. The flame symbolizes everlasting divine power whilst the fluid water is transitory. The Navaratri feasts are of great variety and delicacy, which are offered to guests and family during the nine days. Navaratri is a time for shopping for new clothes and new pots for women. It is an auspicious time to buy gold or jewellery and the gold markets are open late each night. Women dress elaborately each day for the puja or rituals and nightly dances. Navaratri is celebrated with sweets and snack items. One snack food, chundal (kaala channa), is made on all of the ten days.
International Kite Festival is one of the unparalleled festivals celebrated in India. The festival is held on the day of Makar Sankranti, i.e., 14th January every year at Jodhpur in Rajasthan and Ahmedabad in Gujarat. Makar Sankranti is a Hindu festival that is observed to mark the end of the chilly months of winters with the movement of sun into the northern hemisphere. This is the season when the skies are clear and the breeze seems pleasant which gets every body in an elated mood.
The three-day International Kite Flying Festival in Jodhpur is held at the Polo Ground. The sky looks absolutely beautiful with kites in myriad hues, designs and shapes of the kites being flown in the air. The Air Force helicopters release colorful kites from the sky while school children release colorful air balloons. The festival is parted into two sections, viz., the Fighter Kite Competition and the Display Flying. The kite flyers compete with each other displaying their skills in order to win the Fighter Kite Competition while the others calmly fly the kite exhibiting their beautiful kites for the Display Flying. Prestigious trophies are awarded to the winners of both the categories and every participant is offered dinner at an exotic venue.
The Grand Finale of the International kite Flying Festival in Jodhpur is held in the huge lawns of the Umaid Bhawan Palace. The finals of the Fighter Kite competition and Display Flying are followed by the prize distribution ceremony, thanks-giving ceremony and farewell dinner with the Maharaja of Jodhpur. The festival is attended and participated by a large number of people from India and abroad.
The Ahmedabad International Kite Flying Festival begins with the break of dawn and continues all through the day without intervals or breaks. The enthusiasm of the people is worth noting as they compete with each other in kite flying and shouting in excitement. The same passion continues even after dusk and nightfall when illuminated box kites can be seen in the sky. They can be found in series strung in line and are known as 'Tukkals'. Local kite flying festivals are held in other cities as well but International Kite Festival in Ahmedabad witnesses a large gathering of participants and observers from all over India and the world.
Ganesh Chaturti is the festival in which hindus all over the world celebrate the birthday of Lord Ganesh. Ganesh is also known by the names Ganapati, Ekadanta, Vinayaka and Heramba. Ganesh is depicted with an elephant's head on a human body and in the Hindu tradition; he is the son of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvati. He is known as the remover of obstacles and is prayed to particularly when people are beginning a new enterprise or starting a new business or on the beginning of a journey. Ganesh is also known as the patron God of traveling.
In places such as Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra (in India), the festival is celebrated for ten days and is a joyous event and regarded as a public occasion. In other places it is simply celebrated at home, hymns are sung, and offerings made to Ganesh. Sweets are also distributed because according to the Hindu legend, Ganesh liked them. During the Ganesh chaturthi festival, clay idols of Ganesha are specially prepared and most families in Maharashtra install an idol for periods varying from two days to eleven days. During the period when the idol of Ganesha is installed in a home, every morning and evening prayers (Aarti) are performed and hymns are sung. The singing of hymns is a popular event during this festival, especially for children. The hymns are sung to the clanging of small gongs (called jhanja), the sounds of which reverberate throughout the day.
The festival ends with the ceremony of immersion of the idols in the sea or rivers and wells. This ceremony, which is called Ganesha-Visarjan, which means immersion of Ganesha, is as popular as the festival proper. During the immersion ceremony, huge crowds move in a procession carrying idols of Ganesha towards the places of immersion. These processions, which take place with great fanfare, begin in the afternoon and continue until the late hours of the night. Although this festival is observed in all parts of the country, it is celebrated with maximum fervor in Maharashtra where it is celebrated both publicly and privately.
The festival of Holi is a spring harvesting festival, which is celebrated over two days after the full moon in early March every year. In the evening of the first day balefires are lit in public places and the next day people celebrate with festive vibrancies and wild abandon as they throw colored powder and water at each other. The second day is called Dhuleti or Rangapanchami, from the time when the festival was celebrated over five days. Harvested grains and coconut were offered as oblation to the fire in rejoicing at the fertility of the land.
Holi is celebrated publicly with great religious fervor and gaiety. Weeks before the arrival of Holi, young boys comb the neighborhood and collect waste-wood for the bonfire, lit at dusk. Holi is not categorically dedicated to any deity from the Hindu pantheon, as are other festivals like Mahashivaratri, Ramanavami, Krishnastami, etc. The legend usually associated with Holi revolves around the wicked king Hiranyakasipu whose only son Prahlad was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. The king assumed himself greater than the god, and hated his son's devotion. He tried to prevent his son from worshiping Lord Vishnu, with the aid of his sister Holika, who had a boon that made her immune to the effects of fire. But the plan backfired and Prahlad escaped unscathed while Holika was burnt to death.
In Vrindavan and Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, the festival is celebrated for 16 days in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna. Lord Krishna is believed to have popularized the festival by playing pranks on the gopikas here. The celebrations officially usher in spring, the celebrated season of love. Today Holi is an excuse for Indians to shed inhibitions and caste differences, for a day of fun. Teenagers spend the day flirting and bullying in the streets, adults extend the hand of peace, and people chase each other throwing brightly colored powder (gulal) and water over each other.
The festival's removes the air of evil spirits and bad vibes, and symbolizes the destruction of the wicked Holika, preamble begins on the night of the full moon.