National   Republic_dayCamelsRepublic Day is a national, secular holiday in India which takes place every January 26th. On January 26, 1950, India’s constitution was implemented and India became a republic.  Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of independence from England and the freedom fighters that fought for it are honored on this day. Republic Day is celebrated enthusiastically especially in New Dehli where a grand parade is held to celebrate their sacrifice.

Independence Day Flag

Independence Day Flag

Independence Day is a national, secular holiday in India which takes place every August 15th.  It celebrates India’s independence from British rule that occurred in 1947.  The Prime Minister gives a televised State of the Union address at the Red Fort in New Dehli.  There are many ceremonies honoring the flag.   gandhi Gandhi Jayanti is a national festival in India, celebrating the birth date of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who is unofficially called the “Father of the Nation”. Gandhi was born into a Hindu merchant caste family in Gujarat, on October 2, 1869.  He was schooled in law in London and first developed his idea of nonviolent civil disobedience fighting for the rights of the Indian community in South Africa. On his return to India in 1915, he organized peasants, farmers and city workers fighting for civil rights. Ganhdi became the leader of the Indian National Congress in 1921 and began waging national campaigns. Under his leadership, the party advocated for freedom from British Rule (Swaraj), women’s rights, religious pluralism, help for those living in poverty and an end to untouchability. He was admired for the simple way he lived in a self-sufficient residential community, wearing traditional clothing, vegetarian food, and fasting as a method of change. Ganhdi was assassinated on January 30, 1948 by a Hindu nationalist.

Religion – Hindu


Holi celebrates the arrival of Spring

Holi is a Hindu holiday celebrating the return of Spring and the triumph of good over evil symbolized by burning an effigy of the evil ‘Holika’ in a bonfire.  The second day of Holi is ‘Color Day’.  The purpose of this day is pure enjoyment and no one escapes being splashed with colored water or brightly hued paint powders. There are songs, dancing, food, and drink in excess.

Durga, the Universal Mother Goddess

Navratri or Durga Puja is a celebration of the Goddess Durga’s (the Mother Goddess) visit to earth where she wins victory over Mahishasura, the evil buffalo demon. The festival is usually celebrated during late September/early October yearly and lasts for 10 days. Durga is depicted sitting on a lion and carrying weapons in her many hands. The festival usually consists of fasting, community worship, and large temporary structures (pandals) of the Goddess moving through the city.  It ends with great celebration and a procession leading the idols to a nearby river where they are emerged so that the Goddess can return to heaven. The city of Kolkata has a particularly large Durga Puja festival.


The evil Ravana is destroyed!

The evil Ravana is destroyed!

Dussehra, also known as Vijaya Dashami, is a festival celebrating the victory of good over evil. It is the culmination of the Navaratri festival and can span 10 days depending on local traditions, usually sometime in October.  Hindus celebrate Dussehra by attending special prayer meetings and giving food offerings to the gods, both at home and in temples. Special foods are prepared and red tikas are painted on foreheads. Performances of the Ramilila are enacted depicting Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana, the demon king.  There are fireworks, bonfires and effigies of Ravana are burnt in the evenings.


Hema and Amitabh celebrate Karva Chauth

Karva Chauth is a festival which celebrates the institution of marriage, on the fourth day after a full moon, usually in October. The tradition was that married ladies dress in bridal colors of red or pink, henna their hands, fast all day, and pray for their husband’s long life, prosperity and well-being. This tradition originated with myth of Princess Veeravati who visits her parents on Karva Chauth. She becomes weak from fasting and faints. Her concerned brothers trick her into believing the moon has already risen and she breaks her fast. She is heartbroken when she receives word that her husband, the king, is dead. On her way back to the palace, Veeravati meets Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. They tell her that her penance is to fast on Karva Chauth. There is a happy ending to this tale, as the king comes back to life and they live happily ever after. The festival is most popular in North India and is also celebrated by the Sikhs. It includes a food hamper prepared by the mother-in-law to enjoy before sunrise on the day of Karva Chauth. In the evening, the women gather to perform puja (worship). The katha (story) in read and a sweet, water, candle, etc. is passed around. When the moon rises, the wife looks at the husband through a sieve, and takes water from him to break the fast and everyone enjoys a meal together. Nowadays, some husband’s also fast for their wife’s health and well-being.

Lord Ganisha

Lord Ganisha

Ganesh Chaturthi, which begins late in August or early September, is a celebration of the birthday of the Hindu god Ganesha.   Lord Ganesh, the elephant-heading god, is worshiped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. The festival runs for 10 days and it is believed that Ganesha actually graces the earth with his presence during this time.  This visitation ends when idols of Lord Ganesha are immersed in a body of water at the end of the festival. Playlist of Ganesh Festival Songs

Lights of Diwali

Diwali Golden Temple

Diwali, or the “festival of lights”, is the most important Hindu celebration of the year.  Also, known as Deepavali, it is a five-day festival held at the beginning of the winter season.  Traditions revolve around family activities performed at home and in the neighborhoods. Small clay lamps (diyas) are lit to represent the triumph of good over evil and one’s house is cleaned in order to welcome the goddess Lakshmi. Firecrackers explode everywhere because it is believed that this will drive evil spirits away. Sweets are made and shared with family and friends. Prayers are said for good fortune and wealth.

Makar Sankranti Festival

Makar Sankranti starts a week of festivals in India.  In each state, Hindus will celebrate the beginning of the harvest season, the end of the northeast monsoon in South India, and the return of warmer and longer days (spring). It is one of the few festivals held on a specific date each year (January 14). Hindus believe that this transition starts an auspicious pseason when sarced rituals, such as marriages, will be blessed. Hindus also consider it the festival of the Sun God, who represents divinity and wisdom.  Each region has traditions particular to their own culture, and some regions the harvest festival has a different name: Makara Sankranti in Goa, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, UP, Bihar and West Bengal, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Uttarayan in Gujarat, Lohri in Punjab.  Gujarat likes to fly kites during Uttarayan.

Lord Rama and his bride, Sita

Ram Navami is a Hindu festival celebrating the birthday of Lord Rama. This year it is celebrated on March 28, 2015. Rama is an avatar of Vishnu, the Supreme Protector. Rama appears on earth to rescue the abducted Sita. Rama embodies truth, morality, chivalry and virtue, and is considered the ideal son, husband, and king; while Sita, his wife, is an avatar of Lakshmi, and is considered all that is perfect in womanhood. Rama is thought to have been a tribal hero who actually lived in ancient India and whose adventures are found in the epic Ramayana (The Romance of Rama), by Valmiki. In the Ramayana, Sita is kidnapped by Ravana and Rama fights a war to liberate her. Rama kills Ravana and returns to Ayodhya, his birthplace. As king, he rules with peace, prosperity and justice (Ram Rajya).

Gudi Padwa



Religion – Muslim

Ramadan begins in Hyderabad

Ramadan is a month where Muslims are devoted to their greatest religious observance. This is a time of fasting and spiritual reflection held in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar each year. One of the five “pillars” of Islam, all Muslims who are physically able must fast from sunrise to sunset during the month to develop ‘self-restraint’. Ramadan is a time of family and community gatherings, increased charity, and devotion, such as prayer and reading from the Quran.

Eid ad-Adha New Delhi

Eid al-Adha, the “Festival of Sacrifice” which commemorates Ibrahim’s (Abraham of the Bible) willingness to sacrifice his promised son Ishmael, as an act of submission to God. God intervened and provided a lamb as a sacrifice instead. Muslims pray in large  congregations, and those who are able sacrifice their best halal domestic animal as a symbol of Ibrahim’s spirit. The meat is divided in three parts: one third for the family, one third for relatives, friends and neighbors, and one third for the poor. If a family doesn’t own livestock, a contribution is made to charity. The four day festival begins on the 10th day of the Islamic month of Ailhajj.

Religion – Buddist

Buddha Purnima

Buddha Purnima (or Vesak) is a Buddhist festival which falls on the day of the full moon in May. Buddhists visit temples where monks give talks and recite ancient verses. Some adherents wear white robes and eat only vegetarian foods, many donate to the poor, elderly and sick. Sometimes caged animals are set free. According to the website “Some temples display a small statue of Buddha as a baby. The statue is placed in a basin filled with water and decorated with flowers. Visitors to the temple pour water over the statue. This symbolizes a pure and new beginning”.


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