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Maharashtra Festivals


Festivals and Fairs of Maharashtra:

The people of Maharashtra are vibrant and ready to enjoy and rejoice the various festivals that take place in the state. Festivals of all the religions and faiths are celebrated with equal fervour and joy. On festivals, the Marathi people wear new clothes, cook sweet meats and rejoice by playing, dancing and singing. Along with the festivals small villages have fairs for the deity, which has almost anything, from eating joints to small play theatres where people perform and loads of things on display and sale.

Although Maharashtra has majority of Hindu population, it celebrates other festivals by having an extra holiday. Mostly the schools and colleges are closed for all the festivals and Government offices are closed for a few important festivals.

Another peculiarity of the Marathi festivals is the sweets that are made. Mostly the Marathi women make sweets in the house and every festival has its typical sweet meat!

Gudhi Padava:

The Marathi year starts with the month of Chaitra of Hindu calendar that falls somewhere in March-April. The people tie flowers and leaves on their doors and they put a long stick with a vessel and decorate it with cloth, flowers to welcome the New Year. This is known as the Gudhi, which is also worshipped.

People consider this day to be auspicious and start new ventures and cook and eat good meals.

Ram Navami:

This is the second festival in the Marathi calendar and is celebrated for the birth of Legend Prince Ram’s birth. Devotees throng the temples to worship the God and give offerings and take blessings.

Easter:

The Christian festival, which rejoices the rebirth of Jesus Christ, 40 days after he was assassinated, is celebrated mostly in Mumbai and its neighbouring areas. The Christian community fasts for 40 days before rejoicing on this day. A mass is held in all the churches on this day to end the mourning. Shops are full with sweets and people are seeing buying them.

Bakri Id:

The feast of sacrifice, Idul-Adha, in India pronounced Id-ul -Zuha and popularly known as Bakri Id. The Muslim festival celebrates the unique sacrifice of Hazrat Ibrahim, who willingly agreed to kill his son at the behest of God. Namaz is read and Muslims sacrifice one animal per house or lane, whichever is possible on this day.

Maharashtra Din: On May 1st, 1960, the present state of Maharashtra came into existence. The Marathi speaking states were bound in to one territory and Mumbai became the capital of the state. Marathi songs of valour are sung and flags are hoisted on this day.

Then the festivals like the Buddha Jayanti, celebrating the birth of Lord Buddha and Mahavir Jayanti, celebrating the birth of Lord Mahavira comes. The Jain and the Buddhist communities arrange sermons and pray during these festivals.

A small festival rather penance is celebrated by the women of Maharashtra on the Wat Savitri day which falls in June.

Ashadhi Ekadashi:

This is a big Hindu festival in Maharashtra falling in the month of June – July. It is the 11th day in the month of Ashadh. This festival actually commemorates the starting of four pious months in the Hindu calendar. Also the actual festive season begins from this day onwards. Legend says that Lord Vishnu falls asleep on this day only to wake up four months later in the month of Kartik; i.e. October November. People fast on this day and throngs of devotees worship Pandurang, in Pandharpur on this day.

Nag Panchami:

With the onset of the Month of Shravan (August) comes the Nagpanchami. India believes in snake God and the Marathi worship it on this day. Actually it is the beginning of ploughing season and the snakes are requested to leave the fields so as their families are not destroyed. The farmers do not plough and normally religious people do not use any sharp edged weapon or cut anything on this day.

Independence Day:

!5th August of every year is celebrated as the Independence Day. It was in this day that India gained independence from the British rule in 1947. Flags are hoisted and the national anthem is sung. All the offices and mostly even the shops are closed as everybody celebrates this national day.

Pateti:

Mumbai has a huge Parsi community which celebrates its new year, which falls somewhere mid-August. The significance is that it was on this day that the Shahenshahi Zoroastrian community landed in India while migrating from Persia. The Parsees celebrate at the Agyari or fire temple, and the community bonds are strengthened through feasts and the meeting of friends and relatives.

Raksha Bandhan / Narali pournima:

This is the full moon day in the month of Shravan. On this day sisters tie a thread called Rakhi on the wrists of their brothers and the pray for their well being and the brothers inturn gift them and vow to take care of them. This festival is celebrated in a different way in Maharashtra, especially by the Koli or the Fishermen community of the Konkan region. On this day they offer coconut, (naral) to the sea God and ask his permission to start venturing out in the sea again after a gap of two months. Maharashtrians prepare sweets made of coconut on his day.

Gokulashtami:

It is the eighth day of Shravan in the period of weaning moon and is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Krishna. Legend says that lord Krishna was born in the middle of night on this day. Therefore there are celebrations in all the temples in the midnight. In Mumbai the next day there are ropes tied at a high altitude and a group is requested to burst the mud pot tied in the middle, forming a human pyramid. This is symbolic to the pranks played by Lord Krishna in his Childhood. This is called as dahihandi and is enjoyed by young and old.

Haratalika is another kind of fast that women undertake. They worship Lord Shiva and pray for their husband’s well being just a day before the Ganesh Chaturthi.

Ganesh Chaturthi:

Lord Ganesh, the patron deity of Maharashtra, is the God of wisdom. Preparations to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi - the fourth day of the month of Bhadrapad falling in September is celebrated the auspicious day when Lord Ganesh was born - begin with great enthusiasm all over the state. The festival begins with the installation of beautifully sculpted Ganesh idols in homes and pandals (large tents), colourfully decorated, depicting religious themes or current events. Though this festival is celebrated all over south, Maharashtra is famous for this Ganesh festival. Small Ganesh idols are brought in the houses and worshipped for ten days and then immersed on the idols on the 11th day in big processions with people shouting Ganapati bappa Morya, Pudhchya Warshi lawakar ya; which hail oh Lord and come soon next year. Maharashtra holds the uniqueness of this festival because there are public idol worships too. Every lane and by lane has a Ganapati of their own. The God is worshipped with holy chants and hymns and in the nights cultural programmes are organized. The festivity mood goes on for 10 days allover Maharashtra.  Pandals are erected and decorated with various themes. Devotees flood these pandals to have a glimpse and take blessings. In between these ten days there is another festival called the Gauri Puja. This also is celebrated by getting Gauri, form of Parvati, home and worshipping her for three days. For all these ten days, the people are in a festive mood. Roads and transport means are crowded. Sweet meats are cooked and devoured, and cultural functions and games are conducted and enjoyed. The zeal and festive mood only stops with the immersion of the Lord, in the sea or nearby rivers.

Navaratri:

Navaratri is a joyous festival which is celebrated every year by Hindus, during early fall season (occurs during late September and early October). The Goddess in the form of the Universal Mother is worshiped for nine nights and hence the name nava-ratri.' On the tenth day, the festival comes to an end. In many places in Maharashtra huge pandals are erected with the idol of the deity. The Gujarathis in Mumbai and elsewhere in Maharashtra dance all night on Garba, a traditional folk dance, or dandiya. Temples of the Goddesses are crowded as the people throng here to worship and pray for prosperity and well being of Human kind. Sweet meats are prepared. Some also keep fast during these nine days. In some places people perform the Ramleela that is plays based on the life of the epic hero ram, continuously for nine days.

Dasara:

The Navaratris end with a special puja called Vijaya Dashami. During the ten days of the Dasara festival (ten days and nine nights), it is common for Hindus to read and recite shlokas on the greatness of Mother Durga. Vijayadashami or Dasara celebrates the homecoming of Ram the hero of the epic Ramayana, after his victory over Ravan, the king of Lanka. Big effigies of Ravan, Kumbhakaran and Meghnad are made and burnt. In Maharashtra people exchange a type of leaf to each other and the young seek blessings from the elders. Sweets are prepared, new clothes are worn and new ventures are begun on this day.  

Deepavali/ Diwali: This is the mother of all the festivals. Celebrated for five days in Maharashtra, this festival of lights means triumph of the good over the evil. It falls in late October or early November every year and is celebrated by all with great enthusiasm. People specially buy new clothes, renovate or colour their houses. A variety of dishes, sweet and spicy, both are made. These home made dishes are then exchanged from one household t o another. People burn crackers and tie lanterns in front of their doors and women draw beautiful motifs called Rangoli in front of the thresh holds. Small mud lamps are illuminated in the night and the whole place looks like thousand stars dazzling around.

The first day is the Dhanatrayodashi that falls on the 13th day of the weaning moon in the month of Ashwin. This day is the day of Dhan, meaning wealth. All the sources of wealth are worshipped. The farmers worship their cattle and their weapons. Women buy something in metal, good for the house.

The second day is the Narak Chaturdashi. The legend says that on the previous night of this particular day Lord Krishna slayed demon Narak and came home early next morning. People wake up before sunrise on this day and have their bodies massaged with scented oil and take a head bath with a paste made of sesame, poppy seeds and sandalwood. This is  meant to wash away all the sins.

Lakshmi Pujan is the third day when the doorways are decorated to welcome Lakshmi Goddess of wealth. In the evenings people worship the goddess and also the wealth like the silver and golden ornaments that they have. Various sweets are prepared and fire crackers are burnt.

Padava is the fourth day and the first day of the Kartik Month. This day is important for daughters and wives when they are supposed to be gifted by their husbands and fathers. This is also beginning of the New Year for the Gujarathi community and an onset for beginning new businesses as well.

The last and the fifth day is the Bhau Bij. This is the day  for brothers and sisters. The sisters pray God for their brothers well being and apply kumkum on their foreheads. They prepare sweets for him and the brother gifts the sisters.

Thus this festival of lamps, Diwali, an ancient tradition, is celebrated through the length and breadth of Maharashtra. Everyone enjoys the goodies, the glitter and glamour, and the endless zest for living that suddenly grips people around this time. Nevertheless, there is much more to Diwali than feasting and merrymaking. Diwali is a hallowed tradition, not to be put in the shade by the lights. All in all these Diwali celebrations indicate the socio-religious bond that people share with each other. So celebrate the joy of lights and let the deafening roar of fireworks chase away the demons lurking in the dark.

Ramzan Id: The mood during Id-ul-Fitre (November) festive, for it marks the end of Muslim month of fasting, Ramzan, with the arrival of the new moon. Alms are generously distributed and namaz is read.

Christmas: A large number of Christian community stays in Mumbai and its nearby towns. But the Christmas is celebrated with fervour by all. Roads and trees are decorated; churches make small images of birth of Jesus Christ. Stars are hanged on the doorways and bakery shops are full with goodies. The midnight masses are attended by all, young and old and even by the people of various religions.

Makar Sakranti: Sankrant means the passing of the sun from one Zodiac sign to the other, normally falls on January 14th every year. This is probably the only festival in the Hindu calendar which doesn’t change its date. People exchange greetings and good wishes on this day, which marks the Sun's passage from the Tropic of Dhanu (Sagittarius) to Makar (Capricon). Sweet and crunchy ladoos made of sesame and jaggery are the favorite treats. People distribute the sweets saying g, eat sweet and speak sweetly!

Republic Day: India was announced as a republic country on 26th January 1950. This day is celebrated as a national holiday. Flags are hoisted in schools and all government organizations. The President of India hoists the flag near India Gate and India witnesses a big parade on this day.

Muharram: The Muslims observe a ten day mourning on the occasion of Muharram (February/March), commemorating the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Imam Hussein. Tazias of Hussein’s tomb are taken through the streets led by a procession of people self-flagellating themselves with no outward sign of pain, led by men chanting Ya Hussein, Ya Hasan.

Holi:

Each year, after a successful winter harvest, people get ready to welcome the spring with Holi - the festival of colours. This festival of colours is celebrated all over India with great fervour. In Maharashtra it is celebrated for two days. The first d ay is called the Holi or Shimga. Holika is goddess of fire. Large pyres are lit in localities. The Marathi believe that all the bad and evil is burnt in this fire. The next day is called as Dhulwad. Originally people used to play colours five days later on rangapanchami, but now Dhulwad has become festival of colours. People play with dry and wet colours all over Maharashtra. People of all the religions are involved in this festival. The exuberant display of colours symbolizes the advent of a colourful and prosperous spring season.



The dance and song festivals of Maharashtra:

The Banganga Festival: (Mumbai)

Every year, in January, a cultural extravaganza is organised at Banganga, where top artistes from around the country perform live classical music concerts. Cultural enthusiasts attend the festival and feast the soul as well as the mind as the sun sets.

The Elephanta Festival: (Elephanta Island, Mumbai)

In February Elephanta, a small island near Mumbai, is a favoured destination for culture lovers. In the tranquil destination surrounded by the sea, with Images and idols of Lord Shiva, this festival is unique. Every year, renowned dancers and musicians perform outside the caves, beneath a star-studded sky, to a select and appreciative audience. Special launch services and catering arrangements are provided for visitors.

Ellora Festival: (Aurangabad)

Against the dramatic backdrop of the Ellora Caves, surrounded by hundreds of sculptural and architectural splendours, is the Ellora Festival of Classical Dance and Music. Usually in March, this festival showcases the best talents and is a unique and charming way to experience the magnificent caves, imbibing centuries of history and culture. MTDC organises the Ellora Festival here in December, inviting in renowned artistes who display their virtuosity in music and dance.

Pune Festival: (Pune)

This festival takes place during the ten days of the famous Ganesh Chaturthi festivals in Pune. Pune festival is a celebration of art and culture, song and dance, custom and tradition. Originally started as a localised cultural event, this festival has over the years gained national and international stature and evolved into one of India's landmark cultural happenings. Events like classical dance and music recitals, a film and drama festival, automobile rallies and some traditional sports are a part of the festival.

Kalidas festival: (Nagpur)

Ramtek near Nagpur is famous for Kalidas and therefore this festival is organized in the honour of the great poet in November for two days. Plays, Dramas and dances are performed.