On any day of the year, it’s almost a guarantee that Hindus from some area of the world are observing a festival or holiday. Traditional Hindus consider anything animate or inanimate to be sacred, so when you combine that with polytheism (a religion that believes in several Gods) – there is much to celebrate!
Major Hindu holidays vary from region to region, as the faith is practiced slightly differently in certain areas. The lunar calendar determines when holidays are celebrated. Many of these holidays are based on the cycle of nature. They mark the change of the seasons, celebrate the harvest, and encourage fertility of the land. Others are dedicated to deities and gods. A wide variety of rituals are used during the various festivals and holidays, including worship, prayer, procession, magical and mystical acts, music dancing, eating, drinking and feeding the poor.
Two of the most important holidays that are recognized by most Hindus from all over the world are Holi and Diwali.
Holi is a popular festival that celebrates the beginning of spring and bids farewell to winter. The religious significance revolves around old Hindu mythology, but today Hindus consider it a boisterous and fun-filled festival. Devotees throw colored powders and scented water on each other to celebrate the colors of spring.
Holi is a time Hindus disregard their social norms and indulge in the merriment and energy of good humor. Social status, age and gender are not looked at during Holi – a good time is had by all. It is known as the celebration of the colors of unity and brotherhood and breaks the barriers of discrimination so that everyone looks the same and universal brotherhood is reaffirmed.
Diwali is the festival of lights that usually is observed for five days in the fall every year. This is a major Hindu holiday and marks the end of the harvest season where farmers give thanks for the bounty of the past year and pray for a good harvest for the following year. It is also a time to give thanks to the Goddess Lakshmi, who symbolizes wealth and prosperity, and marks the start of a new business year.
It is known as the festival of lights because candles and lamps are used in homes and often fire crackers on the street to signify the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. Illuminating lights symbolize the awareness of a person’s inner light and firecrackers are used to drive away evil spirits. Hindus celebrate in their homes with family and friends by wearing new clothes and sharing foods and sweets.
Utica’s Hindu Society recognizes other religious holidays and festivals throughout the year. Some of them include:
• Mahashivarati (Shiva Ratri) – usually in March, is a night sacred to the Lord Shiva.
• Rama Navami – usually in April, celebrates the birthday of Lord Rama.
• Dassera – sometime in September or October, signifies the victory of Lord Rama over the demon King
The above information is taken from The Association of Hindu Society of Utica, NY’s website.