Every year a lot of festivals are celebrated in India. Different rituals mark every festival. These rituals are very important and are usually followed with an aesthetic and spiritual fervor.
The rituals of Indian festivals are being followed since the past several centuries in the same way that they used to several hundred years ago.
Festivals and Rituals form an integral part of Indian Hindu culture. This culture will continue to be followed with the same zeal and enthusiasm for centuries to come. The following are some of the most important festivals followed by Hindus in India.
It is believed that the world consists of nine elements - 'Panchamahabhurt' (the basic elements from which matter is made.) and four 'Antahkaran' (consciousness).
According to the Hindus, these nine elements are the nine forms of goddess Durga. She is believed to be the "Shakti". The same Shakti is known by different names or forms like 'Mahakali' (goddess with physical, strength & power), 'Mahalaxmi' (goddess of wealth and prosperity), and 'Saraswati' (goddess of knowledge).
These nine days are divided and devoted to these different forms of Goddess durga. Three days are dedicated for Durga. Three other days for Lakshmi. And three days for Sarswati.On the fifth day (Lalita Panchami), it is traditional, to gather all books, light a lamp and invoke Sarswati. On the eighth and ninth day, it is traditional to perform Yagna (sacrifice offered to the fire) to honor the Divine Mother. This is the reason behind the importance of the number nine of the famous Navarathri.'
Dipavali has a special place among all festivals in India. It is one of the most ancient festivals. Preparations for Dipavali start weeks ahead. Hindu's clean their households. On the last day of the month of Kartik many lamps (diyas) are lit.
During this festival goddess Laxmi is worshipped. According to the legend, Bali - (king of demon) controlled the whole world. He put goddess Laxmi, in the prison. So all the deities requested lord Vishnu so he incarnated as Vaman, and freed Laxmi from Bali's captivity. So, people on this day express their happiness by lighting their houses with burning lamps.
Vijayadashami is considered to be an auspicious day for the Indian householder, on which he worships, protects and preserves 'Shakti' (power). By worshipping the 'Shakti' according tot the methods as written in the scriptures, on these nine-days (Navratra) the householders attains the threefold powers i.e. physical, mental and spiritual, which helps him to progress in life without any difficulty.
Some nine lakh years ago Sri Ram had proceeded on his mission of killing Ravan, after attaining powers by the worship of goddess Shakti for nine days. The world knows that Sri Ram became victorious in this battle and Ravan was killed along with his whole clan. The victory of Sri Ram over Ravan symbolises the victory of virtuosity and morality over unrighteousness and immorality the victory of justice over injustice.
Hindus remember the great deeds of Sri Ram even today in the form of Ramleela and by burning the effigies of Ravan. By burning the effigies of Ravan the Hindus show to the world that no matter how powerful an immortal person is, it gets destroyed ultimately.
Ganesh Chaturthi Early in the morning after offering prayers, make a platform and place the idol of Ganesh on it. The worship of the idol happens in sixteen ceremonial methods. One should offers favorite food of ganesha like Laddoos. After the worship (pooja) one offers ladoos and other gifts to Brahmins. At night after moon rise one should worship the moon god and then offer water (Arghya).
The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with pomp. The idol of Ganesh is kept for either 1½, 3, 5, 7 or 9 days and is worshipped. Then the idol goes on a long procession and then is discharged into water (visarjan). This day of discharge is called Anant Chaturdashi.
Among the Indian festivals, Raksha Bandhan is an important and historical festival. According to the legend, Sachi, the wife of Indra tied a protective thread on the wrist of Indra. This protection thread had protected Indra from his enemies and he defeated his enemies. Ever since, this festival is being celebrated every year, on the full moon day, in the month of Shravan. This tradition now has changed to become a symbol of love bond between the brother and a sister. The sister ties this protective thread around his wrist and in turn, the brother takes the responsibility of the protection of the sister.
Ram Navami is celebrated in the Hindu month of Chaitra and on the ninth day of the bright lunar phase, to commemorate the birth anniversary of Sri Ram. The incarnation of Sri Rama is for showing humans he path of virtuosity and truth.
Rama is considered as an ideal in all types of relationships like, teacher-student, mother-father, Brother-sister in law, Husband-wife, friend-enemy. Incidents that happened with Rama may seem larger than life, but many believe that they are undoubtedly true.
Holi, which falls on the full moon day, in the Hindu month of 'Falgun', is the last major festival of the year. People celebrate this festival with enthusiasm and without making any discrimination between rich and poor, high and low.
In Sanskrit language, fried cereals are called 'Holka'. Holikotsav is named after it.
Holi is celebrated in the memory of Prahlad's victory over his father's sister named 'Holika'. Prahalad's father asked his sister Holika(she had a boon that fire couldn't burn her) to sit in the burning fire with Prahlad in her lap. But the opposite happened, Prahlad survived the fire but Holika was charred to death. Thus 'holi' is celebrated to mark the victory of virtue over evil.
Makar Sankranti usually is on the 14th of January every year. On this day the sun comes across the north of equator. Lord Surya it is believed begins His journey northward into the Makara Rasi in his dazzling chariot that has thousands of spokes and magnificent wheels, and is driven by seven horses. When he gets Makara Rasi it is beleievd that our lives are filled with light and there is no darkness. Even according to astrology, this period is supposed to be auspicious for activities like construction of the houses. This period so auspicious, that if a person happens to die during this period is supposed to attain moksha.