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India's MAY Festivities

India is well known all over the world as a country of cultural and traditional festivals as it has many cultures and religions. One can enjoy the festival celebration in India every month. As it is a secular country full of diversity in the religions, languages, cultures and castes, it is always crowded with the people involved in the fairs and festivals celebration. People from each religion have their own cultural and traditional festivals. Some of the festivals are celebrated by the people of all religions in the entire nation. Each and every festival is celebrated uniquely in different ways according to the rituals, beliefs and its significant history behind. Each festival has its own history, legend and significance of celebration. People of India celebrate their cultural festival with immense passion.

EID-UL-FITR

 
  People greeting Eid-ul-Fitr

According to the Islamic calendar, Eid-ul-Fitr is observed on the first day of the month of Shawwal. Muslims observe fast from dawn to dusk for a month and offer prayers. According to Islam, it is believed that the Holy Quran, which is the holy book of Islam, was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad during the month of Ramadan. Eid is a celebration for having a successful month of fasting, performing prayers, and refraining from all negative thoughts and actions. It is the time of offering religious devotion and observing discipline. Muslims wake up early in the morning and offer prayers before sunrise. They follow the tradition of wearing new clothes and follow Takbir. Prayers are performed in a congregation on Eid-ul-Fitr. Eid al-Fitr also known as, the ‘festival of breaking the fast’ is a joyous occasion that marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting for Muslims, when they abstain from food and drink between dawn and sunset. Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and Eid al-Fitr is significant in celebrating the end of a very intense month of fasting, prayer, self-reflection and charity. Eid is centred around celebrating the end of a month of fasting and spending time with family, friends and people within the community. Giving thanks to God is core, which is why on the morning of Eid, Muslims offer a special congregational Eid prayer. In the last days of Ramadan, the head of each family is obligated to pay a charitable tax, known as Fitra or Zakat Al Fitr, to help those who are less fortunate celebrate the occasion. Even when celebrating, Muslims must be mindful of families within the wider community who may be struggling, so no one is left out. Muslims dress up on Eid morning in their best, often brand-new clothes and many decorate their houses for the occasion. Muslims greet one another on Eid day by saying ‘Eid Mubarak’ which means ‘blessed Eid’ and also exchange hugs. This is to create a feeling of good will and unity. People also visit relatives throughout the day, enjoying food at every stop. In the weeks leading up to Eid, Muslims shop for new clothes and gifts. It is customary for Muslims to decorate their houses and dress up in their best attire on the day. For breakfast, Muslims indulge in rich dishes before offering congregational Eid prayers. Prayers are offered at the mosque or outdoor spaces to facilitate the large numbers of people attending. Families and friends then slowly gather together, throughout the day, to enjoy a rich, opulent feast, at which time loved ones also often exchange gifts and money.

AKSHAYA TRITIYA

 
  Priest chanting mantras on the occasion of Akshaya Tritiya

Akshaya Tritiya which is also known as Akha Teej is highly auspicious and holy day for Hindu communities. It falls during Shukla Paksha Tritiya in the month of Vaishakha. Akshaya Tritiya falling on a Rohini Nakshatra day with Wednesday is considered very auspicious. Akshaya Tritiya is believed to bring good luck and success. Most people purchase Gold on this day as it is believed that buying Gold on Akshaya Tritiya brings prosperity and more wealth in coming future. Being Akshaya day it is believed that Gold, bought on this day will never diminish and would continue to grow or appreciate.

INTERNATIONAL FLOWER FESTIVAL

 
  Gardens showcasing International Flower Festival

The rare show of exotic varieties of flowers, orchids and other plants native to Sikkim, a north east state. Held every summer during the peak flowering season, this is a spectacular event attracting people from all over India. The tiny state of Sikkim, famous for its flora which is in full bloom during March – May has around 600 species of orchids, 240 species of trees and fers, 150 varieties of gladioli, 46 types of rhododentrons along with a variety of magnolias and many other foliage plants. The main displays in the flower show are orchids, gladioli, roses, cacti, alpine plants, creepers, climbers, ferns, herbs, etc. Seminars and lectures are held by experts in the various fields. A food festival with Sikkimese delicacies is organized during the show. River rafting and Yak Safari are added attractions.

RABINDRA NATH TAGORE JAYANTI

 
  Rabindra Nath Tagore

Rabindra Jayanti is one of the most vibrant and important festivals of Bengalis. The day marks the birth anniversary of the great Bengali poet, scholar and novelist Rabindranath Tagore. Rabindra Jayanti is celebrated on 25th Vaisakhi every year. According to Gregorian calendar, Rabindra Jayanti falls on 9th May this year. Homage is paid to Rabindranath on this day with great fervour across West Bengal. All cultural activities are held at Jorasanko Thakurbari which used to be the poet’s residence. Music, skits, drama, traditional songs and dances are performed in institutes and theatres followed by the distribution of awards. Rabindra Jayanti through these programmes provides a platform budding artists and writers. The occasion creates a sense of cultural rejuvenation. Rabindra Sangeet which is a mixture of Indian classical music and popular folk is performed during this occasion. Rabindranath brought about a cultural reformation by creating art forms adhering closely to Indian classical arts. Every year, Jorasanko Thakurbari and Rabindra Sadan becomes the hub of all cultural activities during Rabindra Jayanti. The celebration continues from dawn to dusk. The occasion is celebrated with equal fervor in Shantiniketan, the university founded by Tagore. The festival is celebrated as joyfully as other in Kolkata.

BUDDHA PURNIMA

 
  Devotees praying on the eve of Buddha Purnima

Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti, the birth anniversary of the Buddha, is the most important festival of the Buddhists and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Buddhists consider the day to be more auspicious than any other day of the year. It is also believed that Yashodara, Gautam;s wife, his charioteer Channa and even his horse Kantaka were born on the same day. Gautam Buddha was born as a prince in 544BC in Lumbini, Nepal on a full moon day in the month of Vaisakh. When he was born it was predicted that the child would redeem the world. Even as a young prince he was touched by the pain and sickness of others. Later he renounced the world and became an ascetic. At the age of 35, he attained enlightenment on the full moon day of Vaisakh. He travelled far and wide preaching the truth and gained a large following consisting of scholars, sanyasis, rulers of states and others, thus forming the Buddhist community. On this day the followers of Buddha bathe and wear only white clothes. They gather in their Viharas for worship and give alms to monks. Prayers, sermons and non-stop recitation of Buddhist scriptures resonate in monasteries and viharas. The statue of the Buddha receives special attention everywhere, with people offering it incense, flowers, candles and fruits. Since Buddha attained enlightenment sitting under a Bodhi (Pipal) tree, special care is taken in watering and tending Bodhi trees. They light lamps around the trees and decorate with garlands and coloured flags. They reaffirm their faith in the five principles called ‘Panch Sheel’. The five principles are not ta take life, not to steal, not to lie, not to imbibe liquor or other intoxicants and not to commit adultery.

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