Festivals are very much at the heart of life here in India. Several of these occasions are scattered throughout the year, and provide visitors to our land with an excellent means of understanding Indian culture and for a time, feel at one with this highly spiritual nation.
Whether it’s your first time to India or you’re a seasoned festival-goer, here’s take a look at three which are well known worldwide and see when they will be taking place in 2014, in chronological order.
The ancient festival of Holi takes place over the two days of March 17th and 18th. Marking the end of the winter months and the beginning of spring, it is an occasion which has distant echoes in many other cultures throughout the world, when the grimmest of seasons begins to give way to a time of new life.
Essentially, the triumph of good over evil is celebrated, as portrayed by the burning of the demoness Holika by Prahlad, devotee of Lord Vishnu. This is represented in the lighting of bonfires. Colours and coloured powders are thrown over family and friends, as befits what is often called the Festival of Colours. With cheaper flights to India now available, it is easier than ever to travel around India and experience such fascinating cultural events.
Indian Independence Day
August 15th is a national holiday in India to commemorate its independence from British rule, which India gained in 1947 by the enlightened means of non-violent resistance. Cultural events take place, along with parades and flag-hoisting ceremonies. Indeed, the national flag is very much in evidence, but this is not just a celebration and restatement of nationalism, but of all things that comprise the essence of India’s vibrant nation. Perhaps the best place for the visitor to be is in Delhi, where thousands of kites are flown as a profound symbol of freedom.
One of the most globally recognised Indian festivals, Diwali, is a five-day festival which will commence on October 23rd. Warm, joyous and atmospheric, it is known as the Festival of Light and marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year. Candles and small clay lamps are lit the length and breadth of the land to represent the ascendancy of light over darkness and small gifts are exchanged. Fireworks are let off and there is a lot of joyous noise, but this rapturous occasion is perhaps best experienced in the welcoming warmth of an Indian home, a place where the real meaning at the heart of it all lies.
Light, colour and life are rejoiced throughout the year, right across India. What’s more, no two celebrations in any two places will be the same, so you really can discover the true diversity of this vast nation through its people and the way they celebrate!
Grace Marchland writes on exploratory travel for various websites, currently making her own journey through Nepal, Tibet and China.