Important Festivals

 

Hinduism almost certainly has a longer list of festivals than any other religious tradition, and there are considerable regional and denominational variations. Twelve of the more popular and widely celebrated events are listed below.

Purposes of Festivals


Janmastami celebrations at a temple in the UK.

Festivals are generally times for celebration and remembrance. Other purposes are:

Main Practices during Festivals

Types of Festivals


Ratha Yatra, originally from Puri and now celebrated annually in London and in other cities worldwide

There are three main types of festivals:

  1. Celebrating a significant event in the life of a deity e.g. Janmashtami is Krishna's birthday.
  2. Celebrating a significant event in the life of a holy person e.g. the birthday of a particular guru.
  3. Seasonal festivities or customs, e.g. spring festivals like Holi.

Festivals in the first category have become more universal and widely celebrated; the most important ones are Indian public holidays. Festivals in the third category are often exclusively regional, or regional variations of broader festivals e.g. Pongal in Tamil Nadu, which marks Makara Sankranti. Others, such as Holi, are celebrated internationally. Special days within the second category are often relevant only to a particular group (sampradaya) for whom the particular saint has significant relevance.

Twelve Important Festivals

The following is a list of twelve main festivals along with their corresponding deities and any related stories.

Festival

Month

Deity

Related Stories

Sarasvati Puja

January

Sarasvati

Saraswati curses Brahma

Maha Shiva Ratri

Feb/March

Shiva

Stories of Shiva

Holi

March

Vishnu (Narasimha)

Prahlad and Narasimha (and Holika)

Rama Navami

Mar/April

Rama

Ramayana, especially Rama's birth

Hanuman Jayanti

April

Hanuman

Ramayana, especially later episodes

RathaYatra

June/July

Jagannatha

The proud merchant

Raksha Bandhana

August

-

Indra wears a rakhi

Janmashtami

Aug/Sept

Krishna

Krishna's birth and childhood

Ganesh Chaturthi

Aug/Sept

Ganesh

How Ganesh received his head

Navaratri/Durga Puja

Sept/Oct

Shakti, Parvati

Durga kills Mahisha, and others

Dussehra

October

Rama

Ramayana

Diwali*

Oct/Nov

Lakshmi/Rama

Stories of Lakshmi/Ramayana

* Diwali usually spans five days and for many Hindus is the NewYear It includes a number of festivals, which some consider special days in their own right.These include (1) Govardhana Puja (worship of the sacred hill lifted by Krishna), (2) Annakuta (the offering of grains), (3) Go-puja (worship of the cow), and (4) Bratra-Dvitiya (sister's day).

Scriptural Quote

"Utsava means 'pleasure.' Whenever some function takes place to express happiness, it is called utsava. Utsava, the expression of complete happiness, is always present in the Vaikunthalokas, the abode of the Lord."

Bhagavat Purana

Quotes

My favourite festival is Janmashtami, because there are pizza tents with chips and because it's Lord Krishna's birthday.

Sachin Kumar (aged 11)

I like Navaratri the best because of all the dancing. My second favourite is Raksha Bandhan, when I tie a rakhi on my brother's wrist.

Dipika Patel