India is a vibrant country with festivals of diverse religions, cultures, and beliefs. The land is one, but every part of it radiates with its own charm. Likewise, there are numerous festivals celebrated all over India. Each has a significant meaning, tradition, and cultural vibe attached to it.
Every part of the country is full of radiant festivals lightening the region with its glory. Learning about these festivals can give an insight into knowing the people and their culture. There is no other country in the world with as many festivals and cultures as India has. These festivals help in developing bonds by bringing people closer to each other and God.
In this article, let us take a deeper look into the best festivals of North India and best festivals of East India.
Festivals of North India
Northern India includes various regions ranging from the Himalayas to the plains. There are various cultural blends and historical significance that reflect in all of the festivals of North India. These are diverse regions with different cultural practices and beliefs. Some festivals of North India are celebrated on a wide scale and involve huge gatherings, delicacies, and celebrations.
Here are some major festivals of North India:
It is one of the festivals of North India known for its fun element. Holi is the festival of happiness, of forgetting old tiffs and mending broken or estranged relationships. It brings colors into all our lives along with colors on our faces.
Children and adults indulge in color games, water balloon fights. Kids use pichkaris or big water guns/pumps to drench each other in the colorful water. People look unrecognizable in dry/wet colors enjoying the Holi vibe and the amusement.
Story behind Holi
Holi also celebrates the victory of good over evil as Holika, the evil sister of king Hiranyakashipu, who tried to kill her nephew was burnt alive in the holy fire. Prince Prahlad was saved and thus the belief that god helps good win over evil was proved.
One evening before Holi, the sacred fire of Holika is ignited and people pray to kill all the jealousy, anger, pride, greed, etc. inside them in the holy fire. Various rituals are performed and the next day Holi is celebrated.
The famous phrase, “Bura na maano Holi hai,” comes from the friendly spirit of the festival. Holi is undoubtedly the colorful of all festivals of North India.
Related: Holi Whatsapp messages
It is one of the other major festivals of north India celebrated for 9 days. At the beginning of summer and at the beginning of winter i.e. two times in a year.
Navratri in October or November every year if followed by Dussehra celebration on the tenth day. Navratri is a great opportunity to witness various rituals and traditions of the Hindu culture. Infact, Navratri is one of the longest festivals of North India.
Story behind Navratri
Navratri is celebrated for various reasons, one of many is celebrating the goddess Durga and her strength. This is another example of the victory of god over evil.
A 9-day fast is observed and on the eighth or ninth day, a Yagnya is performed and is followed by Kanjak puja which celebrates girl child. Nine young girls are worshipped, their feet are washed. They are fed halwa puri and chana. They are also given little gifts like clips, hair bands, and tiffin boxes to carry the food home.
This day celebrated the wonderful creation of God i.e. girl child who is an incarnation of the goddess. Goddess Durga kills the asura (demon) as a punishment for his deeds. The tenth day is celebrated as the victory of Lord Rama over the king of Lanka in northern and central Indian states. It is called Vijayadashami or Dussehra.
Various fairs are set up all over India which enacts the story of Lord Rama also called Ram Leela on all the nine days. On the tenth day, the image of Ravan is burnt and with that, the evil is killed. In the fair various fun rides, cuisines, street food is served and bhajans are played. Various items are sold and games are played. No doubt Navratri is celebrated with joy as it is one of the major festivals of North India.
One of the most famous festivals of North India. Diwali is the festival of lights. On this day every year lord Rama is worshipped and the whole house is lit with diyas, colorful lights, and candles. Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi are also worshipped for happiness, light, and prosperity. Pooja followed by aarti of the deities is done. Every year new idols of god Ganesha and goddess Lakshmi are bought. New household items are also bought every year and the house is cleaned.
Story behind Diwali
Diwali is celebrated to mark the occasion of the return of Lord Rama, Goddess Sita, and prince Lakshman back to Ayodhya, his homeland after completely fourteen years of exile. He was sent to live in the forest for fourteen years to keep the honor of his father’s promise to his stepmother Kaikayi. During the exile, he also killed the king of Lanka for abducting his wife, Sita.
The day of his return was on Amavasya (no moon) and thus to welcome him back the whole kingdom was decorated and lit up. People light up their homes, exchange sweets and wear new clothes to celebrate this festival. No doubt people love Diwali as it is one of the major festivals of North India.
Diwali can also be called the festival of sweets. The sweet shops are most busy during this time. Many delicacies are made and people visit each other with gifts, chocolates, and sweets all evening. Sweets like gulab jamun, rasgulla, barfi, kaju katli, kala kandh, milk cake, etc are served to guests.
The streets are decorated with beautiful fairy lights. Various diwali melas (fairs) are also set up selling diyas of different shapes and sizes, lights, candles, clothes, and more. There are many games and rides for kids too. For all the obvious reasons, Diwali is one of the most loved festivals of North India.
Related: Surprising facts about Diwali festival
It is celebrated in the northern states of India and is one of the many harvest festivals celebrated in the North. It marks the end of winter and the harvest of rabi crops. It is the festival of North India celebrated in regions of Jammu, Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi.
A bonfire is lit up at night and people perform rituals including taking rounds of the fire (parikrama). The fire is considered sacred. Food items like popcorn, peanut with shell and puffed rice (murmure) are thrown in the fire. These items are considered as offerings to the sun god.
Story behind Lohri
Lohri is one of the major festivals of North India. People worship the sun god and for warmth after the cold winter. The pray for the crops and their successful harvest. The fire is lit for the sun god to please him. People pray for the dull and gloomy winter to end and for warmth to embrace the earth once again.
People start collecting logs of wood a few days before the festival. Lohri is celebrated just one day before the festival of Makar Sankranti. It is the festival of Hindus and Sikhs. People beat drums and dance around the fire. Music with a blend of Hindi and Punjabi songs fill the air. People wear new clothes and celebrate Lohri with a lot of zeal and expectations for the year ahead.
It is yet one of the major festivals of North India and North-Central India. The government spends a large amount of money on this festival as it takes place once in twelve years. It is celebrated based on the Hindu calendar.
The place where Kumbh Mela takes place is at river banks near Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain. These are pilgrimage sites where people come to from all parts of India. Hindus believe that taking a dip in the holy water of the Ganges will free people of all their sins.
Story behind Kumbh
Devotees ask for forgiveness for their sins and pray to God to purify their souls through the holy water of goddess Ganga. They also drink the holy water, chant mantras and worship the rivers. Ganga is the most sacred river in India. Taking a dip in the river Ganga is known to be a penance for their mistakes.
Many people go on a pilgrimage to Haridwar because the Ganga there is known to be the purest. People worship the river as it provides them with a clean and holy version of drinking water. It is fresh from the melted glaciers of the Himalayas.
The river extends to Uttar Pradesh and is further merged into many other rivers. Many fairs are also organized along with various educational and religious teachings from the pandits and sadhus.
Melas are also known for fairs which include trade fairs, art, and cultural fairs, and food. It is all over a delightful experience and everyone should visit the Kumbh Mela at least once in their lifetime. The crowded fairs are visited by lakhs of people every twelve years. It has colors, noise, fun, learning, and many other things. Kumbh is not just one of the festivals of North India, it is a global celebration too, as millions of tourists come and visit this huge event.
Also Read: Interesting points about Kumbh Mela
It is one of the major festivals of North India celebrated in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi. It is the celebration of the end of short winter days and the welcome of long warm days. The celebration of the harvest and the foggy winters is celebrated all over India and is known by different names and includes performing various distinct rituals.
Story behind Makar Sankranti
Sankranti celebrates the descent of the sun into another sign. During this festival, people take a dip into the holy water of the Ganges to free themselves for all their sins. Sweets are made of sesame, peanuts, etc. during Sankranti.
As India is traditionally a farmer’s land, this is believed to be that time of the year when the major work in the fields is over and it’s the time to celebrate. There are various gatherings, feasts, and more. It is celebrated the day after Lohri and is the major festival of the north India Hindus.
The Sankranti season is celebrated by various kite festivals like the one celebrated in Gujarat. The sky is full of vibrant kites, people have kite-flying competitions with each other. The kite flying makes this festival an enjoyment for not just adults but even children of all ages.
People wear new clothes and enjoy various delicacies. Just like Lohri, the sun god is worshipped on this day to bring warmth and prosperity to the earth and our homes.
Related: Makar Sankranti Quotes and Wishes
Married ladies observe a fast for the long life of their husbands. It is celebrated in the monsoon month and the season is also celebrated.
Story behind Teej
It celebrates the union of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva after a hard austerity by the goddess to worship the Lord. She was blessed to be his wife. This fast is also observed by unmarried girls to get a husband of their choice like the goddess.
Women dress up in the evening with heavy jewelry and lavish clothes. They put on kajal and wear makeup like a newly wedded bride and celebrate the occasion. Mehendi or henna is applied on the palms and nails are painted. Aalta or red color is applied on the feet which symbolizes their marriage. They perform rituals and worship the god and goddess. They pray for long lives for their husbands and their marriage life. At night, they break their fast by drinking water and having something sweet.
The savan ka Mahina is also celebrated, and people thank God to bless with good rains. Being the purest source of water, rain fills up the lakes and rivers and serves as drinking water. It also is a source of irrigation for the farms and saves water there. The crops grow and bloom in the abundant rainwater. This season brings life to the dried lands and leads to the flourishing of the crops. It is the green season and thus women dress up in green clothes and bangles to mark the occasion.
Festivals of East India
As India is a diverse country the festivals vary from region to region. East India comprises the regions of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, and Sikkim. These regions have widely different cultural beliefs and practices that reflect in the festivals of East India.
Some majorly celebrated festivals of East India are discussed here:
This is important among the festivals of East India. It is celebrated in all parts of eastern India, especially West Bengal. Durga pooja occurs at the same time as Navratri and Dussehra. It celebrates yet another victory of good over evil.
Story behind Durga Pooja
Goddess Durga punishes Mahishasur, the demon for his sins. She proves that women who are considered weak and fragile are not as weak as they think. Women can fight for themselves in the need of the hour and establish their worth.
Durga pooja is a sign of the strength of goddess Durga to all her worshippers. She had encouraged the belief that women are no less than men and are equally ferocious.
This is a ten-day festival just like Navrati and Dussehra, which are other major festivals of East India. People pray to the goddess and visit various statues of goddess Durga all over the city. They listen to the prayers, the chanting of the mantras, and enjoy various Durga pooja fairs.
Offerings are served to the goddess and then are given to the common people so that the goddess blesses them. Various sweets are served.
Rasgulla, the most popular sweet of West Bengal is made and served at this festival. People observe fast, dance, sing in the pandals. People dress up exquisitely and greet each other with many delicacies and gifts. It is one of the festivals of East India which glorifies women and her strength.
Women are considered to be the child of the goddess Durga. She is also considered the single source of all creation, and we seek her blessing for the earth and to fight against all odds and evils. She is known to be the epitome of bravery and strength.
Even Lord Shiva had to bow down in front of her to calm the Goddess. It signifies that women are born to care and love but that does not mean they will not fight against any injustice. All the other female goddesses are considered to be her children in the Bengali culture. This is one of the major festivals of East India that marks women power.
This four-day festival is one of the major festivals of East India. It is mainly celebrated in the regions of Bihar and Jharkhand. It is celebrated six days after the festival of Diwali.
Story behind Chhath Pooja
In this one of the major festivals of East India, the Sun God is worshipped. People thank him for the warm sunlight provided by him all year long and thus he helps the crops and the land to prosper. He is also worshipped for the safety and success of the family member and to fulfill other desires of the heart.
Chhath Pooja is a major festival where on the first day the meals are cooked using garlic and onions. Sendha namak or rock salt is used to cook all the meals. On the second day, the ladies observed full fast and in the evening a rice and milk (kheer) Prasad are cooked with jaggery. It is distributed to poor people.
The people who are fasting are allowed to have the Prasad while the moon is just arising. The people who observe fast sleep on separate beds.
On the third day of this one of the major festivals of East India, full fast is observed and the Sun God is worshipped in the evening. People walk barefoot to the ghats (river/water area) where sugarcane is used to set up the regions for people and to make it ideal/ comfortable for the worshippers. Folk songs are sung. People dip in the water five times and take five rounds. They hold fruit baskets and offer them to the setting sun. They also pour water to the sun god. People sleep on the ghat at night and pray all night.
On the fourth and final day of this one of the major festivals of East India, the first ray of the rising sun is worshipped by repeating the same set of rituals that were performed at night. Men and women both take part in fasting, setting up the ghats, and preparing the offering. After the pooja on the fourth day, in the morning the fast is broken and that completes the whole celebration.
It is one of the main festivals of East India celebrated in Jharkhand and Orissa. It is yet another important among the festivals of East India celebrated with a large-scale celebration. This beautiful festival of East India takes place during the peak summer months. Rath Yatra is a public event in which there are chariots all over the city of Jharkhand and Orissa. Rath is the Hindi translation of chariot.
Story behind Rath Yatra
People worship Lord Vishnu and his various incarnations on this one of the major festivals of East India. Lord Jagannath is one form of Vishnu which is built from wood. He is believed to be the creator of the whole universe. Along with him his brother and sister are also placed on the chariot. This chariot rode the main streets over a distance of 2-3 km. People walk along with the chariots and play drums and throw colors. They accompany the god on his journey from one temple to another. Millions of people come to witness and be a part of this yatra. Jagannath Puri temple is a famous temple of Lord Jagannath in Orissa. He is also worshipped as Lord Krishna in many other cultures.
Related: Jagannath Temple Facts
This is one of the beautiful festivals of East India. It is the celebration of spring. It is one of the major festivals of East India celebrated in Bengal, Bihar and other eastern regions. People welcome the warm and blooming season of spring. It is the most colorful season where we can see flowers blossoming into various shades. People wear the shades of spring and socialize with friends and family.
Story behind Vasant Panchami
Saraswati Pooja is also organized in which people play to the goddess of knowledge, creativity, art, and music to bless them in their craft. Students pray to the goddess to bless them in their studies and help them in the learning process.
We can now understand how major festivals of North India and festivals of East India promote the same thing and have the same beliefs on the ground level. The names of the festivals, the rituals, the gods, and goddesses are different but the core idea is the same in every festival. In India, more than half of the festivals celebrate the harvest seasons.
Major festivals of North India and festivals of East India also celebrate the conquering of evil and promote the idea of truthfulness, goodwill, and bravery. They also allow us to indulge in savoring our favorite dishes and sweets, besides celebrating our culture and strengthening bonds.