India is a vibrant and culturally rich country, where hundreds of festivals are celebrated throughout the year. Through the uncertain times we are living in, many of us can’t help but wonder what the future holds. For a country that celebrates so many festivals with so much pomp and bustle, how will we enjoy these in 2020? Indian festivals are grand celebrations that act as an opportunity to bring together family members living far away, as well as keep a society whole. Celebrated with zeal, enthusiasm and fervour, festivals of India are bound in ritual as well as fun activities. And no matter which religion dictates the rules, the one thing all the festivals have in common is the gathering of throngs of people. But looking at the current public health crisis that enforces social distancing, how will these celebrations change this year and in the future?
Here Is A Complete List Of Indian Festivals From June 2020 To July 2021
31 July—Eid-al-Adha Or Bakr-Id
Eid-ul-Adha is a major Muslim festival that celebrates the devotion of Ibrahim (or Abraham) and his willingness to sacrifice his son to God. It is often associated with the sacrifice of a goat, as before Ibrahim could sacrifice his son, God provided a lamb instead. This is why the festival is also popularly known as Bakr-Id. It’s known to be the second most revered Eid after Eid al-Fitr, and marks the end of the annual Hajj to Mecca. This Indian festival is a time of celebration and festivity that brings families together in Muslim communities across the world. Delicious food, Islamic tradition and a sense of belonging characterise Eid al-Adha.
3 August—Raksha Bandhan
This popular Hindu festival is meant to celebrate the sibling bond between brothers and sisters. On this day, sisters of all ages tie string charms, amulets or talismans, called a rakhi, around the wrists of their brothers. This is meant to be a symbol of protection that the brother promises the sister, while also gifting their sisters something precious to seal the deal. This beloved Indian festival is also celebrated by different religions, and is known for its mouth-watering sweets, an aarti or fire worship of the gods.
This annual Hindu festival celebrates the birth of Krishna, an avatar of the deity Vishnu. A fast is observed through the day, along with the chanting of prayers and singing of devotional songs. Communities might even organise dramatic enactments of the life of Krishna (called the Rasa Lila or Krishna Lila). Celebrated largely in north India, special vibrant festivities take place in regions such as Mathura (allegedly the birthplace of Krishna), and in Vrindavan, where he is said to have grown up. In western India, the day after Janamashmi is celebrated as Dahi Handi. Here, pots of yoghurt are hung high in the air, and groups of boys are challenged to form a human pyramid to break the pot. This is meant to reflect a legend about Krishna, who is said to have delighted in stealing yoghurt and butter from local cowherds.
16 August – Parsi New Year
As the tradition began some 3000 years ago, Parsi New Year is observed by the Parsi community all over the globe. Also known as ‘Jamshedi Navroz’ or just ‘Navroz’, this regional festival is celebrated on the first day of the Zoroastian calender’s first month, Farvardin. Mostly it is observed in Gujarat and Maharashtra where Parsis clean their houses and decorate it with flowers and Rangoli to make it look beautiful and welcoming for the visitors. After breakfast, they dress up in traditional attire and visit the Fire temple and perform a prayer called – Jashan. Milk, water, fruits, flowers and sandalwood are placed into the sacred fire as offerings to the Lord. The prayer is to express gratitude to the lord, for prosperity and forgiveness. On this day, delicious dishes such as moong daal, pulav, fish, sali boti and sweet ravo are prepared in Parsi homes for a hearty feast. Guests are welcomed into the homes with sprinkling of rose water and are offered faluda to drink.
22 August—Ganesh Chathurthi
Vinayak Chaturthi or Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most popular Indian festivals celebrated by Hindus. It is celebrated across most of the country, in the month of Bhadra (according to the Hindu calendar), which is some time between August and September. This colourful festival marks the birth of the elephant-headed God, Ganesh. This year, the 10-day long fiesta begins on August 22.
Ganesh Chathurthi is amongst the Indian festivals that are celebrated with the greatest pomp and show. Celebrations include sounds of beating dhols and chants of ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’ echoing across the cities of Mumbai, Goa, Pune and Hyderabad. On the tenth day, the idol is immersed in a water body.
The solemn festival of Muharram refers to the first month in the Islamic lunar calendar. This calendar is 11 or 12 days shorter than the solar or Gregorian calendar, which is followed by most countries. On the first day of Muharram, the Islamic new year is celebrated, while the 10th day is of most significance. While not all Muslims observe this occasion in the same manner, Muharram is primarily an Islamic holiday. For Shia Muslims, it marks a period of mourning, for Sunni Muslims, the day is celebrated as the victory of Moses over the Egyptian Pharaoh. Both communities observe a fast on this day, with Sunni Muslims observing a fast for an extra day, either before or after the day.
Shia Muslims mourn the death of Prophet’s successors and on the first sighting of the crescent moon, they recite verses from Quran, and break their fast with sweetened cold drink. They also wear black clothes in memory of Imam Hussain. They gather and arrange large processions during which the community cry very loudly and beat their chests in sorrow, to commemorate the sufferings of Imam Hussain and his followers. In some cases, some Shia sects fast for the whole month and also self-flagellate with sticks and rods on this day. Shia Muslims harm themselves in order to relive the sufferings of Husayn Ibn Ali while fighting against the oppressive regime of Yazid. Sunni Muslims observe the day as a festival during which they maintain calm and silence.
Celebrated annually with its origin in Kerala, Onam is one of the largest cultural festivals of the state. It is a traditional 10-day harvest festival to mark the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali. It’s celebrated as the monsoon bids adieu leaving the sky blue, fields green, and filling the hearts of people with happiness and a sense of bonhomie. During this grand celebration, the land of God’s Own Country turns into a riot of colours and shows off Kerala’s distinct medley of traditions and food.
Spanning nine nights (and 10 days), Navaratri is a festival celebrated throughout India in autumn and post-monsoon. One of the most popular north Indian festivals, Navratri is associated with the victory of good over evil, and is a celebration of the goddess Devi.
In northern, central and western India, it celebrates the battle between the god Rama over the demon king Ravana, with performances of the Rama Lila. It is synonymous with the festival of Dussehra that follows it. Especially famous are the Garba dances performed during the nine nights of Navaratri in Gujarat. In the eastern and northeastern states, Navaratri is more closely connected with the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura, culminating in the festival of Durga Puja.
24 October—Durga Puja
This is one of the most popular celebrations in the eastern states of India, and usually coincides with Vijayadashami or Dussehra celebrated elsewhere in the northern and western parts of the country. This Indian festival takes place over 10 days, with highly decorated idols, dancing, singing, food, and prayers. On the tenth day of Vijayadashami, the idols are carried to a body of water and immersed, accompanied by a procession with drum beats and chants.
Also known as Vijayadashami, the festival of Dussehra is celebrated at the end of Navaratri every year. While in the eastern and north-eastern states this day marks the end of Durga Puja, in other places in north India, effigies of Ravana (along with his son Meghanatha and brother Kumbhkarana), symbolising ‘evil’, are burnt with fireworks marking the victory of ‘good’.
Our list of Indian festivals in 2020 will not be complete without the festival of lights, Diwali. Celebrated across India, it is also known as Deepavali in the south. The five-day festival usually takes place a month after Dussehra and is meant to symbolise the spiritual victory of light over darkness, and good over evil. It is also said to be when the god Rama and his wife Sita returned to their capital Ayodhya (after the defeat of demon Ravana on Dussehra). Homes, shops and temples are all brightly lit, and people exchange delicious sweets.
30 November-Gurunanak Jayanti
This festival celebrates the birth of the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak, and is one of the most important events for the Sikh community. Celebrations last three days and gurdwaras are lit up during this time. Special langars (community meals) are also organised, and people celebrate with processions, a display of martial arts, singing hymns.
One of the most popular festivals all over the world, Christmas is a special time for India’s large Christian community. Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, churches and cities are lit up and decorated, with beautifully decorated Christmas trees in both homes and public spaces.
Almost every culture has festivals related to the harvest, where people pray to give thanks for their bounty. In India, the onset of the harvest season (also marked as the arrival of a new year) is celebrated with Lohri, celebrated mostly in western India. The vibrant festival usually falls on the second week of January and marks the beginning of a new farming season.
The festival is known for its lavish spreads of delicious food, gathering of families, and large community bonfires. After the sun sets, a bonfire is lit with people singing and dancing around it to Lohri songs. Food like gur rewri (a sweet made of sesame and jaggery), phulia (peanuts and popcorn) gajjak (a sweet made of sesame and sugar), sarson da saag (mustard greens) and makki di roti (corn chapatis) are eaten.
Also Read: A Guide To The Vibrant Festival of Lohri
14 Jan—Makar Sankranti
Widely celebrated across the country, mostly in north India, this festival marks the end of winter and the start of longer days. As it is a celebration of the sun, it is observed according to the solar cycle. This is unlike most Indian festivals which are set by the lunar cycle. Makar Sankranti, also known as Uttarayan usually has a fixed day (14 January), and the festivities include kite flying, bonfires, dancing, and eating delicious sweets.
Pongal is a festival corresponding with Makar Sankranti, and celebrated in parts of south India, particularly Tamil Nadu. Like Makar Sankranti, it is a harvest festival dedicated to the sun. Celebrations are spread across four days (usually 14-17 January), and include dances, bonfires, and cattle races, with houses decorated with rangolis (designs made with coloured rice powder).
16 Feb—Basant Panchami
Celebrated in late January or February, Basant Panchami is dedicated to the goddess Saraswati. It also marks the start of preparations for Holi, and the transition from winter to spring. In fact, the festival is supposed to take place exactly forty days before the start of spring. It is especially vibrant in Punjab, where people dress in yellow, like the flowering mustard fields, and take part in kite flying games.
This festival is celebrated annually in honour of the deity Shiva. While there is a Shivaratri (literally “the night of Shiva“) in every month of the Hindu calendar, this festival is a much grander affair. It occurs in late winter, before the arrival of summer, on what is said to be the night when Shiva and his consort Parvati were married. It is meant to symbolise the “overcoming of darkness and ignorance”, and is usually a solemn affair involving chanting of prayers and fasting.
Also known as “the festival of colours,” Holi is one of the most popular Indian festivals and celebrated across India and even the world. It is meant to mark the arrival of spring (and the spring harvest season), and the end of winter. Holi also marks the triumph of ‘good’ over ‘evil’ with the defeat of the demoness Holika. Religious rituals are performed in front of a bonfire, with the hope that ‘evil’ will be destroyed in the fire as Holika was. People also celebrate by throwing and splashing water and coloured powder on each other. Holi is celebrated very enthusiastically in north India and is a much more subdued affair in south India.
The Baisakhi festival is celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs alike. It welcomes the spring harvest season and the traditional solar new year. For Sikhs, it also marks the day when their tenth guru laid out the foundation of the Khalsa in 1699 and is thus also the first day of the Sikh new year. It is usually observed on 13 or 14 April, and with folk dances, such as giddha and bhangra.
Eid-ul-Fitr is a major festival for Muslims. It occurs after the sighting of the new moon that marks the end of the month of Ramadan. While Ramadan is spent in penance and fasting (broken after sunset with an iftar), Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated with prayers, colourful feasts, bazaars, and other festivities.
12 July—Jagannatha Rathyatra
Also known as the Chariot Festival, Jagannatha Rathyatra is celebrated every year at Puri, the temple town in Odisha, on the east coast of India. This unique Hindu festival takes the idols of three Hindu gods Jagannath, his older brother Balabhadra, and sister Subhadra out of their temples in a colourful procession to meet their devotees. The procession in Puri is known to be the biggest and the oldest Ratha Yatra in the world. The idols move from their home temple Gundicha to Mausi Maa temple located in what is believed to be their aunt’s home. The procession is huge, with colourfully decorated chariots, drawn by hundreds and thousands of devotees on the bada danda, the grand avenue to the Gundicha temple. After a stay for seven days, the idols return to their abode in Sri Mandira.
So, Which Of These Indian Festivals Are You Waiting For?
With the current scenario, it is tough to imagine what kind of grandeur and gathering we can expect with the festivals. But we hope that sometime in the future, we will be able to celebrate these Indian festivals with the same zeal and enthusiasm as we did once before. However, what is important is the attention this pandemic has brought to the way we celebrate festivals and how we might need to change by improving our hygiene standards and establishing a system of better crowd control. Therefore, the manner in which Indian festivals will be celebrated in the future needs a thorough examination to be changed for the better.