Travel in India
Indian festivals tend to be sensual extravaganzas. But despite their flamboyance, most are deeply sincere at heart in this country where Bhakti (spiritual devotion) is part of the fabric of life. Here are insights into three of India's most significant festivals - the spring festival of Holi celebrated mainly in the north, Mumbai's Nuriel Purnima, and the queen of them all, Diwali, the festival of lights, celebrated by Hindus worldwide.
The first festival, Holi, marks the beginning of spring. With its long agricultural tradition, festivals marking the change of seasons are of central importance in India. Holi is celebrated predominantly in the north of the country and is also known as the Festival of Colours and the Spring Festival. It starts on a full moon day in the later part of February or early March.
For days before Holi, people gather wood to make a bonfire called Holika at major crossroads of the city. This bonfire is lit on the eve of Holi to incinerate an image of Holika, sister of demon King Hiranyakashyap. The next day is the main festival day. This is a very lively and colourful day when people spray and daub coloured water over each other.
Mumbai (Bombay) is one of India's major seaports so the monsoon winds are of key importance to the local fishermen. One of their major festivals there is Nariel Purnima which marks the end of the monsoon in August. This is the time that the fisherman can return to their fishing grounds
On Nariel Purnima, local Kolis or natives of Mumbai worship the Sea God, Varun. They also mark the occasion by painting their boats and floating clay oil lamps in the sea. As a final touch, they smash coconuts against the bows and make offerings of garlands to the sea. Their villages along the shore are lit up and much singing and dancing takes place.
The most eminent and touching of all Indian festivals is Divali, celebrated on the 13th day of the Hindu month of Ashwin which falls in October-November. Light is at the heart of this festival both in terms of oil lamps and fireworks and in light symbolising spiritual righteousness and the banishing of the darkness of ignorance. Diwali also marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year.
During this charming festival, people light up their dwellings with the twinkling oil lamps known as diyas. They also hand out sweets and gifts. The main deva or god or goddess worshiped on this day is Lakshmi, the symbol of wealth and prosperity.
Different parts of India have their own beliefs as to the origins of Diwali. For celebrants in northern India, Diwali marks the time when Rama returned home after a long absence.
Richard has over 20 years experience in the travel industry and writes for Cheaper than Hotels. Cheaper Than Hotels offers cheap India hotels http://www.cheaperthanhotels.com/India/.