Festivals and Holidays

While holidays are celebrated under many different names and circumstances, their functions are essentially the same. They unite people, thus strenghtening the bonds of the family and community, providing relief from daily routine, and providing major source of recreation. Holidays are times of joyous social activity involving a display of best in dress and cooking. Many ancient rites have been carried over to present time and exist comfortably with contemporary rituals and secular observances. Maharashtrians have many festivals to celebrate with each having a special reason to celebrate. Following is a list of the holidays (with a bit of history behind it) that Maharashtrians observe according to the Hindu Calendar.

Please see Kalnirnay for this month's events.

Chaitra (Mar-Apr)

Gudhi Paadva (1 Chaitra) - This marks the beginning of Hindu calendar. People erect sticks outside their house which is tied with a cloth and some sweets.

Ramanavami (9 Chaitra) - Birthday of Lord Rama, the hero of great epic Ramayana, celebrated with readings of the epic and discourses of Rama's life and teachings.

Vaishaakha (Apr-May)

Akshayya Truteeya - Vaishaakh shuddh truteeyaa. In the Marathi calendar, 3 and 1/2 days in a year are considered as auspicious days on which you can buy gold, perform poojas etc. Of these 'saade teen shubha muhuurta', Akshayya truteeyaa is the 1/2 shubha muhuurta. The other 3 days are: Vijayaadashami, Gudhipaadavaa and Balipratipada during DiwaLii.

Maharashtra Day (1 May) - The day when Maharashtra attained statehood, and this homepage was created!

Mahavir Jayanti (13 Vaishaakha) - Birthday of Mahavira, the founder of Jainism. The main Jain Festival of the year.

Buddha Jayanti (16 Vaishaakha) - Buddha's birthday. He achieved enlightenment and nirvana on the same date.

JyeshhTha (May-Jun)

Wat Pournima - Is women's festival where women tie threads around a banyan (waD) tree and pray for the same husband in every birth (after Satyavaan-Saavitri's story).

Ashadha (Jun-Jul)

Aashadhee Ekaadashi -On this day, people go walking in huge processions to Pandharpoor singing the abhangas(chanting hymns) of Saint Tukaram and Saint Dnyaneshwar to see their God ViThhal. People usually fast on this day.

Shravana (Jul-Aug)

Naag Panchami (5 Shravan) - Snake festival in honour of the naga snake deities. This tradition started long ago when farmers honored snakes for protecting their farms from crop-eating pests.

Raksha Bandhan/Narali Purnima (15 Shravana) - Festival to honor the sea god Varuna. Brothers and sisters exchange gifts, the sister tying a thread as a rakhi, a symbolic bond, to her brother's wrist and brother vowing her protection.

Independence Day (15 Aug) - India's biggest secular celebration, on the anniversary of her Independence from Britain in 1947.

Gokulashtami (23 Shravana) - Riotous commemoration of Lord Krisna's birthday; terra-cotta pots filled with curd, milk-sweets and cash are strung from tenement balconies and grabbed by human pyramids of young boys.

Bhadrapada (Aug-Sept)

Hartaalika Poojan - one day before Ganesh chaturthi. Mainly women's festival. Idols of Hartalika representing Parvati are worshipped usually in the evening.

Ganapati Utsaav (4th Bhadraparda) - Festival dedicated to Lord Ganesh, the son of Shiva and Paravati. This festival is probably the longest of all, going on for ten days. The Samajic Utsaav(public celebration) was started by Lokmanya TiLak as a rallying point during freedom movement from the British Raj. Even to this day, there are huge public displays of Ganesh idols with Aarthi(song of devotion to God) and loud music and dancing by the devotees. This activity is most popular in Bombay and Pune, with Shrimant Dagadu Shet Halwai Ganapati in Pune being the main attraction of the Utsaav. People also install a Ganesh idol in their homes. On the tenth day, huge processions carry images of the God to be disposed off into the water, hoping for them to return early next year. 1995's festival is on Aug 29-Sept 8; in 1996, Sept 16-Sept 26; in 1997, Sept 6-Sept 15.

Gauri Poojan - During Gauri Pooja, two idols of the goddess Gauri are decorated and worshipped. (First day is 'sthaapana', second day is 'pooja', and the third is 'visarjan'.)

Ashvina (Sept-Oct)

Dussehra(Dasaraa) (1-10 Ashvina) - The festival associated with vanquishing demons, in particular Rama's victory over Ravana in the Ramayana, and Durga's victory over the buffalo-headed Mahishasura. People wash their vehicles clean on this day and decorate it with flowers and leaves of mango tree. Sweets are made. The young people distribute leaves of a particular tree which are of symbolic gold.

Kojagiri Pournima(15 Ashvina) - people celebrate during the night by playing different games and having feasts particularly 'masala milk'. People usually stay late in the night.

Kaartika (Oct-Nov)

Kaartikee Ekaadashi -celebrations are similar to AashhaDhii ekaadashii but on a smaller scale. People make dishes made up of saabudaaNaa, peanuts, sweet potato etc.

Dev DiwaaLii - is celebrated on Kaartik PourNimaa. 'tuLashiiche lagna'celebrating the marriage of tulasii with VishNuu is celebrated on this day by bursting firecrackers.

Diwali(Deepavali)(15 Kartika) - Five day Festival of Lights to celebrate Rama and Sita's homecoming in the Ramayana. It signifies the victory of good over evil. The festival is the time for family reunion. Women indulge in making all kinds of sweets and children enjoy themselves with fireworks. It is a custom to have a bath at dawn, wear new clothes, the lighting of oil lamps and bursting of firecrackers. The first day is Dhan Trayodashi. On the second day Naraak Chaturdishi. On the third day is Lakshmi Poojan on which people worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The businessmen keep their shops shut as a symbol of protecting wealth. The fourth day is Bali Pratipada. On the last day is Bhaubeej, when the sister asks the Lord for the well-being of her brother, who is her Protector. In return, the brother bestows the sister with gifts.

Margashirsha (Nov-Dec)

Datta Jayantee - Celebration of Datta, the three headed God born to Anasooya, wife of a Rish. One story claims Brahma, VishNu, and Mahesh(Shiva) went to test the chastity and loyalty of this woman and finally end up in being born as her child.

Pausha (Dec-Jan)

Natal (Christmas) (25 Dec) - The Christian festival for the birth of the Christ, the whole world celebrates.

New Year (1 Jan) - New year is celebrated according to Gregorian calendar.

Makar Sankranti (14 Jan) - This is the only festival which falls exactly on 14th of January every year. This festival marks Uttarayana(travel towards north pole) of the sun. On this day, people eat Tilachya Vadya(sesame seeds cake). Also, people bandy this sweet to each other and say "tiLguL ghya aNi god bola!"

Magha (Jan-Feb)

Vasant Panchami (5 Magha) - One-day spring festival in honor of Saraswati, the goddess of learning, celebrated with kite flying, yellow saris, and the blessing of schoolchildren's books.

Republic Day (Jan 26) -

Maha Shivaratri - Annivarsary of Lord Shiva's Tandav(Creation) dance, and his wedding anniversary. A festival of pilgrammage and fasting, especially at important Shiva temples.

Phalguna (Feb-Mar)

Holi (15 Phalguna) - People burn wood sugarcane and coconut outside their house. The sweet made for this occassion is Puranpoli. Believe me if you eat this thing, the taste will be unforgettable.

Rang Panchami (16 Phalguna) - Water festival held during Dol Purnima(full moon) to celebrate the beginning of spring. Expect to be bombarded with water, paint, colored powder and other mixtures.

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