From Makar Sankranti, to Diwali to Pongal, India is famed for its festivals. The bright explosions of color that come with Holi, the glowing lamps of Diwali and the pookalam set for Onam are unlike anything the Western world knows. So are the adorned elephants in a procession to the temple and the gold covered idols in towering pristine temples. But what makes these festivals and traditions so distinctive from those around the world?
The rich and vibrant festivals and traditions of India are a part of our diverse culture. Festivals in India revolve around Lord’s birthdays, traditional myths, seasonal changes, and much more.
Festivals are celebrated highlighting different parts of the local culture and vary across the different geographic regions of the country. The same festival is often celebrated in different ways across the country.
Hinduism in itself is unique compared to other religions for a varied number of reasons. Hinduism is noted as the world’s oldest existing religion, dated as far back as the 2nd millennium BCE. Hinduism does not have one founder or core doctrine that can be referenced. The religion is an assembly of religious, philosophical and cultural ideas and practices that originated in the country of India.
There is a vast number of reasons for why a Hindu tradition or festival varies so differently to those outside of India here is a look into how different the Indian world is:
This reason is quite simple yet it’s definitely worth mentioning. Hindu festivals are incredibly multicolored, with the radiant greens of leaves, the pristine white idols, the vivid red bhindis and exquisitely colored temples that tower over visitors. Nothing about a Hindu festival could be called drab; there’s even a festival dedicated entirely to it called Holi, in which one throws flamboyantly colored powders at fellow celebrators. Daily life in India is also fantastically colored, with the bright colors of henna, glossy buildings and pink cities, such as the one in Rajasthan.
Traditional Indian clothing is exceptionally different to the western style, but during a festival the differences are more strongly marked than ever. Even the youngest of children are picturesquely dressed in silks and nylons of varied hues. Girls from the ages of 3 to 16 are dressed in lehengas, cholis and patu pavadas, a brightly colored blouse and skirt set, usually with gold edging and boys wear kurtas. Throughout India sarees are worn by women on all occasions, but as a festival comes, they are suddenly adorned with embroidery, hand paintings and jewels. Men in South India wear a mundu on daily basis, but the edging will become gold in festivities. A dancer’s costume for celebrations is even more impressive, from the heavy headdresses of Kathakali to the thick anklet covered in bells for Kathak to the layers and layers of silk worn for Bharatanatyam to the tiger costumes of Pulikali. Make up is no mean feat either, all dancers wear thick kohl rimmed eyes, with an eye-catching red smile. Ornaments are worn by everyone be it dancers, musicians or ordinary festival-goers.
The amount of people attending Hindu festivals is staggering; tourists from all around the world have heard of the famous processions and ceremonies. Not only that but millions of pilgrims travel to various parts of India for festivals or temple visits, such as Kumbh Mela, which happens every once in 4 years and attracts millions of devotees from every corner of the country.
The sheer amount of festivals
India is famous for its festival. Which one, you ask? India has 55 festivals and counting and some festivals, such as Diwali, vary so much from state to state, that it might as well be considered a different celebration. Many Hindus have never even heard of some of them!
Family plays a huge role in Indian society. In a large Indian household in-laws, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents will all be present and everyone is supposed to work in harmony.
Wheat, Basmati rice and pulses are staples of the Indian diet. The food is rich with curries and spices, including ginger, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, dried hot peppers, and cinnamon. Chutneys — thick spreads made from fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, mint, cilantro and other herbs — are used in Indian cooking. Many Hindus are vegetarian, but chicken is common in main dishes for non-vegetarians. Food is often eaten with fingers or bread used as utensils. There is a wide array of breads served with meals, including naan, a popular flatbread or chapati.
Classical dances, which are classified as Indian classical dances and find a mention in the Hindu Sanskrit text 'Natyashastra', (a text of performing arts) are:
· Bharatanatyam from Tamil Nadu
· Kathakali from Kerala
· Kathak from North, West and Central India
· Mohiniyattam from Kerala
· Kuchipudi from Andhra Pradesh
· Odissi from Odisha
· Manipuri from Manipur
· Sattriya from Assam
The dances mentioned above are a complete dance drama, in which a dancer narrates an entire story, almost entirely through gestures. Such stories are mostly based on the vast Indian mythology. Classical dances in India are strictly classified as and performed according to the rules and guidelines written in the Natyashastra.
Indian classical music has two major traditions: the North Indian classical music tradition is called Hindustani, while the South Indian expression is called Carnatic. Hindustani music emphasizes improvisation and, while Carnatic performances tend to be short and composition-based. However, the two systems continue to have more common features than differences.
There is no official language in India, according to a Gujarat High Court Ruling in 2010, though Hindi is the official language of the government. The Constitution of India officially recognizes 23 languages. Many people living in India write in the Devanagari script. It is a misconception that the majority of people in India speak Hindi. Though many people speak Hindi in India, 59 percent of Indians speak something other than Hindi, according to The Times of India. Bengali, Malayalam, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil and Urdu are some other languages spoken in the country.
India has many great epics dating back many centuries in the form of stories, poems, plays and self-help guides. The two most famous Hindu epics are the Ramayana and Mahabharata, both of which contain thrilling tales of gods and demons, love and war and chariots and kidnappings. These stories have been told for thousands of years and play a huge part in Indian culture. The Ramayana tells the story of Rama, prince of a legendary kingdom, and follows his fourteen-year exile to the forest urged by his father King Dasharatha. The Mahabharata is the longest poem that has been written in Sanskrit. Both epics tell of good triumphing over evil and show the values of devotion, loyalty, sacrifice and truth.
Author: Gauri Paremal is the winner of the Article writing competition on the topic "What is unique about Hindu festivals and traditions?" conducted by Satyawahr on its first anniversary
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