India is a land of continuing festivals in continuous celebration. A secular tradition enriches the ordinary working man's year with a great number of festivals-holidays enjoyed in the extravagance of emotion.
Dussehra (October) is a ten-day long celebration epitomizing the victory of good over -evil, marked in north India by burning giant effigies of the demon King Ravana, his son and brother. in eastern India, Dussehra welcomes home the Goddess Durga, benevolent in her goodness, murderous in her wrath, and receives her like a beloved daughter, only to have her depart once again on the Dussehra or Vijaya Dasami day. And in yet another part of India, in Kulu, a wooden chariot with Raghunathji is displayed in a large meadow, with all local deities from surrounding villages coming to pay homage to the great one.
Diwali (October-November), a bejeweled night outlined in a million flickering candles in an explosion of firecrackers to celebrate the return of Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhy Ayodhya banished for fourteen years from his kingdom.To others, it is a day to spend in prayer to Lakshmi, goddess of wealth who showers gold on the faithful. In Bengal and the rest of eastern India it is the night for worshipping goddess Kali, the consort of Lord Shiva.
Holi (March) is a chorus in colors, a time to splash colored powders and water on friends and relatives, to celebrate all that is good on earth.
Id is a Muslim festival with men gathering at mosques in thousands and embracing one and all in a gesture of love, peace and goodwill. The Sikhs celebrate the birth anniversaries of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind singh, their spiritual leaders, by reciting the holy scriptures in gurdwaras and dining in langars.
Christmas is a time of great bonhomie and goodwill, a time when the spirit is the occasion, especially boisterous in Chennai, Calcutta and Mumbai.
Lord Jagannath's return to his kingdom (June-July) is occasion for the car procession at Puri and in Kerala, King
Mahabali visits his subjects on Onam, when avid snake-boat races are held. New rice and jaggery is cooked during Pongal in January.
Bihu festivals of the Assamese coincide with phases of agriculture activity. In Manipur, young and old join in reenacting the creation of the universe during Lai Haraoba.
Besides the traditional festivals, India has yet another exciting fare to offer to visitors- tourist fairs. In the wilderness of the Thar , the desert blossoms to pageants in sound, emotion and color. In Khajuraho, the temples come alive to the tinkle of ankle bells. Most of the state capitals and many cities are the venue for such festivals , each unique, presenting a treasured memento of tradition and heritage to the modern seeker.
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