India has an unrivalled heritage influenced by a history that is several millennia old; the palaces are part of this cultural wealth. The palaces of Rajasthan (North West India), with their idyllic romantic setting, are the most famous; there are, however, several other ‘palatial treasures’ scattered here and there throughout the Indian continent … Here is my personal selection … Read More
Kartighai or Kartikai Deepam is a Hindu festival of lights that is mainly celebrated in Tamil Nadu, South India. It falls at the full moon (purnami) between mid-November and mid-December –the month of Kartikai in the Tamil calendar, when the moon is in conjunction with the constellation Kritika, the Pleiades. Read More
Originally from the state of Bihar, in north-east India, the festival Chhath Puja celebrates and thanks Surya and Usha, the sun-god and the goddess of dawn, sources of life and primordial energy. This tribute to the sun comes just after the festival of lights (Diwali) in October-November and is the occasion of elaborate rituals dating back to ancient India.
At the new moon in the month of Karthik (October-November) Hindus celebrate Diwali, one of their major festivals, also called the “festival of lights”. It symbolises the spiritual victory of light over darkness and of knowledge over ignorance.The name Diwali derives from the Sanskrit dipavali. Dipa means ‘lamp’ or ‘light’ and avali means ‘series’ or ‘lines’. So ‘diwali‘ means lines of lights. At Diwali Indian towns glow with thousands of lights, creating an absolutely magical, joyful atmosphere… Read More
Navaratri, along with Mahashivaratri, is one of the leading Hindu festivals, celebrated with great fervour throughout India. In Sanskrit, Nava means ‘nine’ and ratri means ‘nights’; the Navaratri festival lasts for nine nights and ten days. Its purpose is to celebrate the Universal Mother, or Shakti: the primordial and creative force. Read More
Shakti means ‘power’ or ‘energy’. It is a fundamental concept in Hinduism, which is often associated with the feminine principal and personified by Devi, Hinduism’s primordial goddess. The Shakti is venerated all over India and devotion culminates during the 9-day festival of Navaratri. Read More
Jainism derives from the Sanskrit verb ‘ji’, meaning ‘to conquer’. This refers to the battle that Jain ascetics must fight against material temptations. It is a religion that probably appeared around the 5th century BC. Its origins remain unclear, Jainism has no known founder but it was taught by enlighted teachers called ‘Tirthankaras’ (bridge-builders). There are 720 of them, but only the last 24 are venerated. Jain temples and Tirth (pilgrimage sites) are present throughout all India and they are distinguished by their refined architecture where the Tirthankaras are represented by naked statues, either standing or sitting in the lotus posture.
India’s culture, thousands of years old and one of the world’s earliest, has had time to develop a unique degree of cultural diversity. The best proof of this is to be found in India’s folk arts and its classical music and dance. Read More
Ganesha Chaturthi is one of the main Hindu festivals. It celebrates the birth of Ganesh, the famous elephant-headed god, son of Lord Shiva and the goddess Parvati. Ganesh is supposed to have been born on Shukla Chaturthi (the fourth day of the waxing moon) of the Hindu month of Bhadrapada (mid-August to mid-September). Ganesh symbolises wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. The festival is celebrated throughout India, but in some parts of the subcontinent, particularly in Mumbai (Maharashtra), it is the occasion for grand festivities. Read More
India is a pious country and religion plays an important part in the lives of most Indians. Ritual and worship are part of daily life and the vast majority of the population consider themselves members of a religion. This spiritual fervour has given rise to many festivals that punctuate the year, week by week and month by month, often celebrated with great fervour. Read More