India is generally described as a Land of Festivals as it has hundreds of festivals – regional, local, religious, seasonal and socio-cultural. This is not unusual as India is a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-lingual society with people enjoying complete freedom of thought and speech. Thus, we find festivals of all major religions in the world celebrated here such as ‘Christmas’, ‘Good Friday’, ‘Diwali’, ‘Dussehra’, ‘Buddha Jayanti’, ‘Jamshed Navroz’, ‘Eid’, ‘Muharram’ and ‘Gurpurabs’, all celebrated in the spirit of harmony and national unity.
In India several secular or non-religious festivals are celebrated to mark different occasions. For instance, the harvest season brings the festivals of ‘Baisakhi’ and ‘Pongal-Sankranti’, while the spring season brings the colourful festival of ‘Holi’, ‘Gangaur’ and ‘Vishu’. Human relationship and love are also amply reflected in some festivals such as the ‘Raksha Bandhan’, which depicts the love of sisters for brothers and vice- versa or the ‘Karwa Chauth’, which is the observance of fasts by the Hindu married women for the well-being of their husbands.
Several states, cities, towns and even villages may also have their own characteristic festivals like Andhra Pradesh’s Bonnalu, Delhi’s Phool Walon Ki Sair, Rajasthan’s Teej, Orissa’s Rajrani or Assam’s Bogali Bihu. There are festivals for cattle such as Pushkar Festival, Sonepur Mela, Kolhaiya Mela and those for elephants such as Arat and Poorat festivals. There are also Mango festivals, sea food festivals, flower shows, kite festivals, balloon melas, handicrafts fairs and boat races.
Some festivals are associated with important historical or cultural places like the Khajuraho Festival, Taj Mahotsava, Nagaur Festival and the Vijayanagar Hampi Festival, while others pay tribute to renowned poets or writers such as the Thyagaraja Festival and the Kalidas Festival. There is practically a festival for every occasion. However, one thing is certain that all Indian festivals are marked by colour, gaiety, celebrations and feasts, coupled with faith and rituals.