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|Hindu Festivals - Hindu Holidays 2008
It's been said often enough that
Hindus celebrate everything. So they do. The birth of gods, death of
asuras, victory of the gods, marriage of the gods, the new year, new
months, full moons, new moons, harvests, birthdays, initiations,
marriages, deaths, anniversaries - you name the event, and it is reason
for music, dance, processions, and what have you.
And there is the religious bit lurking behind it all. The reasons for
this lie deep, in the origin of Hinduism as an organic religion. Its
followers have over time considered anything, animate or inanimate, to
be sacred and aspects of divinity.
That is also why even secular events like harvests take on religious
overtones, with the patron deity presiding over the festivities. As soon
as something happens, there is a kind of thanksgiving to the divine that
Apart from the universally celebrated festivals like Dussehra, Diwali
and Ganesh Chaturthi, there are others that are observed in specific
communities or geographical areas. Hindu holidays are also confined to
particular regions by the importance a certain god enjoys.
Worship of Kartikeya (as during the festival of Skanda Shashti) is
predominant in Tamil Nadu, where the god is considered a patron of the
region. Onam is a good example of a festival that is celebrated solely
by Keralites. Another interesting aspect of Onam is that it is perhaps
the only major Hindu festival that celebrates the reign of an asura
king, although a benevolent one.
The profusion of legends and the contradictions inherent in them is
reflected in festivals too. Travel around the country, and you will hear
people tell you a variety of legends involving different gods behind a
single festival. Besides, you will also find versions of the same
festival being celebrated under different names in different regions.
All this adds that facet of unending novelty and constant change to the
strikingly colourful kaleidoscope that is India. You might end up
thinking the thought: "The more things change, the more they remain
the same", which is something often said about India and its
With so many holy days and more than 20 major hindu festivals, the
calendar should be liberally sprinkled with them. But it isn't so. There
is a distinct festival season, which runs from late August through
December. This is when there is a fever of celebrations, with a string
of important festivals following one another in a rush.
But the major festivals are not the only ones that the people
celebrate. Browse through the Hindu almanac, and you will find a mention
of holiness or sacredness against almost every day of the year. Most of
the lesser festivals are lesser because they have a private rather than
public face. There are rituals for phases of the moon, solar and lunar
eclipses, days of the week, a person's auspicious star or zodiac sign.