Religious Festivals

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.

It would take several lifetimes to experience all India’s hundreds of festivals. See the Diary page for the dates and locations of Indian festivals.

Mahashivaratri | Navaratri | Durga Puja | Dusserha | Ganesha Chaturthi | Krishna | Diwali, Dev Diwali | Holi | Karthigai Deepam | Pongal | Attukal Pongal | Gangaur | Baneshwar Fair |


Maha Shivaratri literally means “the great night of Shiva”. It is one of the major Hindu festivals of India when Lord Shiva is glorified, worshipped and honored with sanctifying rituals throughout the night. Shivaratri is observed on the fourteenth night of the dark half of every month. The “big” Shivaratri is the most holy and falls around February-March…



Navaratri, along with Mahashivaratri, is one of the leading Hindu festivals, celebrated with great fervour throughout India. Nava means ‘nine’ in Sanskrit 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 force…


durga pujaDurga Puja

In some states of North India, mainly in West Bengal and its capital Kolkata, the great festival of Navaratri celebrating the Divine Mother is called Durga Puja or Durgotsava (Durga Festival). It marks the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. During the festival the city is up all night, decked in lights and embellished with temporary temples vying to be the most inventive and creative…


Dusserha kotaDusserha

Dussehra marks the end of one of the biggest Hindu festivals called ‘Navaratri’. This festival lasts for nine nights and ten days. Its purpose is to celebrate the Universal Mother, or Shakti: the primordial force. Vijayadashami is called Dusserha or Dasara in some parts of India, where it associated with Lord Rama rather than the Goddess Durga…


ganeshaGanesha Chaturthi

Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the main Hindu religious festivals. It celebrates the birth of Ganesha, the famous elephant-headed god, son of Shiva and the goddess Parvati. Ganesh symbolises wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. The festival is celebrated throughout India, but in some parts of the subcontinent, particularly northern Maharashtra (the Mumbai area), it lasts ten days and is the occasion for grand festivities…


dev diwali varanasiDiwali, Dev Diwali – festival of lights

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. At Diwali Indian towns glow with thousands of lights, creating an absolutely magical, joyful atmosphere…


radha-krishnaKrishna Jayanti

The Hindu festival of Krishna Jayanti or Krishna Janamashtami marks the birth of the dark-faced, flute-playing god Krishna, one of the most popular gods in the Hindu pantheon. Krishna is the symbol of love, devotion and joy, and is regarded as a spiritual teacher…


holi villageHoli, festival of colours

Holi is one of India’s best-known festivals, providing great material for photographers from all over the world. Its marks the beginning of spring and takes place at full moon in the lunar month of Phalgun (February-March). It is known as the festival of colours and also the festival of love, commemorating the divine love of Krishna and Radha…


karthighai deepamKarthigai Deepam – Tamil festival of lights

Karthigai 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…


Le pongal des vaches déborde en signe de prospéritéPongal – Thanksgiving to Nature

Pongal is the harvest festival, held in mid-January each year in thanksgiving to nature, the sun, the rain and working animals. Agriculture is of immense importance in India, so the harvest is a major event. It is believed that this celebration brings wealth and prosperity…


pongalAttukal Pongal

Attukal Pongal is a special version of the Pongal harvest festival that takes place each year at the Attukal Bhagavathy temple, 2km from Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) in Kerala. On the ninth day of the ten-day Attukal Pongal festival, nearly 3 million women converge to within a few kilometres of the temple – the largest gathering of women anywhere in the world. In the streets women of all castes and all social ranks prepare pongal together in small earthen pots on wood fires…



Gangaur is a colourful women’s festival that is mainly celebrated in Rajasthan. The word ‘Gangaur’ is derived from ‘Gana’, a term for Lord Shiva, and ‘Gauri’, referring to his consort Parvati. In fact the festival is mainly in honour of Gauri, symbolising conjugal happiness. Single women pray to Gauri to find a good husband while married women pray for a happy married life..


Chhath Puja

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…


baneshwar30Baneshwar Fair

Baneshwar Fair is a huge folk fair held in Dungarpur district in Rajasthan. The 5-day event, which is sometimes called the “tribal Kumbh Mela”, takes place in January or February on a small delta where the Som and Mahi rivers meet. It is primarily a religious festival, but it is also the annual get-together for Bhil tribal communities who come to pay homage to Shiva and Vishnu…



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