25 Most Popularly Celebrated Festivals of India

Did you know that India has the most significant number of festivals in the world?

This is because India is the only country on this planet where four religions- Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were born.

The indigenous Hindu or Sanatan community celebrates myriad festivals every year. Thus, the history, theme and method of celebration differ from places to place.

Additionally, people who follow Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrians also celebrate their festivals from different places in India, thanks to the freedom of religion accorded by the Constitution of India.

The article presents some of the popular festivals of India, especially for those who wish to know in depth about it.

popular festivals of India

25 Most Popular Festivals of India

1. Diwali, the National Festival of India

Diwali the festival of light

In reality, Diwali is a series of festivals, beginning with Dhanteras- or the evening during which all homes are illuminated with festive lamps.

This festival of India is followed by Narak Chaturdashi or traditional slaying of a demon by Hindu deity, Lord Krsna.

Later, Lakshmi Pooja or Padva is celebrated to mark the beginning of a new financial year by traders and merchants.

In some parts of India, Diwali culminates with the celebration of Bhai Dooj- a day on which sisters honour their brothers.

In other parts, Diwali concludes after 18 days, with the Tulsi Lagn or the mythological wedding of the Tulsi (Basil) plant with sugarcane.

Significance-

  • Diwali or Deepavali is the indisputable king of Indian festivals which is celebrated all across the nation with great enthusiasm

Customs and Tradition-

  • Traditionally, Diwali entails illuminating all homes and offices with oil and electric lamps and unique lanterns. People attire themselves in new garments.
  • Traditional sweets are prepared for the day and sent to neighbours and friends. On Narak Chaturdashi, people awaken early to have a bath at dawn after massaging with oil.

When-

  • This national festival of India occurs in October or November, with dates finalised according to the Hindu Ashok Samvat calendar.

Where-

  • It is celebrated across the nation by people from Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain communities.

2. Kumbh Mela

kumbh mela

It is the world’s single largest gathering of humans with an estimated 30 million Women and Men attending this festival of India.

There are different variants of this Indian festival.

At Haridwar, pilgrims and saints bathe in some of the longest rivers in India; One of them is River Ganges while those in Nashik take a dip in River Godavari.

In Prayag, attendees bathe in the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the now underground Saraswati while in Ujjain, the ritual is conducted in river Kshipra.

Significance-

  • Kumbh Mela is the only Indian festival that features on the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Customs and Tradition-

  • According to traditions, Kumbh Mela begins with ritual bathing in rivers, especially before sunrise.
  • Later, attendees visit various Hindu shrines in the area, attend talks and lectures on spirituality.
  • Thanks to diverse regions where Kumbh Mela is held, traditional sweets and festive foods also differ vastly.

When-

  • Kumbh Mela is celebrated once in 12 years or alternatively at the four locations, every four years.

Where-

  • Kumbh Mela is celebrated at three places in India.
  • The main Kumbh Mela is held at Haridwar while others are held at Ujjain and Nashik.
  • It is also held at Prayag (Allahabad) and Kumbakonam at intervals of 12 years.

3.  Holi, the Festival of Colours

Holi

Holi is known as India’s festival of colours. It marks the summer solstice.

Holi is celebrated for over two days.

It also denotes cooling one’s body and brains with clean water.

Significance-

  • Holi heralds the beginning of the summer season in India.
  • It is an ancient festival that owes its origins to the gigantic agricultural society of India.

Customs and Tradition-

  • On the evening of the first day, wood, hay and other flammable material are ceremoniously burnt as a tribute to goddess Holika.
  • The bonfire signifies the burning of sins and undesirable influences from human lives.
  • On the second day morning, people engage in water fights and splash colour on one another.
  • These cheerful fight with coloured water signifies the end of enmity and grudges.

When-

  • It is celebrated in March every year and

Where-

  • It is popularly celebrated in all parts of India.

4. Raksha Bandhan

Raksha Bandhan

This is a festival held in India every year, during the Shravan month.

Raksha Bandhan is celebrated one day after the Narali Poornima

The band of rakhee symbolises love, dependency and protection as three primary duties of a brother to his sister.

Significance-

  • Strong bonds and dependency on brothers is highlighted during the Raksha Bandhan
  • Narali Purnima is celebrated as an occasion to pay respects to the sea that sustains their livelihood.

Customs and Tradition-

  • On this day, sisters tie a decorative silken thread or Rakhee on the right arm of their brothers.
  • Narali Purnima is a festival in which the Rakhee or silken band is tied to coconuts that are dropped into the ocean.

When-

  • Raksha Bandhan is celebrated every August or September, on the basis of the Hindu Ashok Samvat year.

Where-

  • People living on the coast generally celebrates Narali Purnima. Maharashtra, Goa and other southern state are included in this.
  • Raksha Bandhan is mostly famous in Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat,

5.  Navratri

Navratri

For nine days, the Hindu community in India observes the Navratri festival.

The word itself means nine nights.

In other states, variants of Navaratri celebrations are held on similar lines.

Significance-

  • The signification of the days when the goddess of protection and strength, Durga battled Mahishasura, a mighty demon.
  • During the battle, Durga was defeated nine times by the demon.
  • However, she reincarnated in other forms and continued the conquest.

Customs and Tradition-

  • During the nine days, women engage in special prayers and perform a dance called “garba’ and “Dandiya”.
  • The dance signifies the battle between Durga and Mahishasura.
  • Traditional sweets and savouries are prepared for the nine-day festival, and devout Hindus abstain from non-vegetarian food.

When-

  • Navratri is celebrated by the end of September and early October.

Where-

  • Traditionally, Navratri is celebrated with zest and zeal in Maharashtra, Gujarat, parts of Goa and Karnataka, Rajasthan, Punjab and West Bengal.

6.  Dussehra

Dussehra

The nine-day Navratri celebrations conclude as Dussehra or the 10th day.

The festival is also called Vijaya Dashami.

In modern day West Bengal, the festival is celebrated as Durga Pooja.

Significance-

  • It marks the day when goddess Durga finally defeated Mahisasura. Dussehra signifies victory of the good over evil.

Customs and Tradition-

  • Generally, devout Hindus will clean their homes and appliances.
  • Things they use for work- from pens to vehicles will be anointed with red paste and sandal as an honour.
  • In West Bengal, bulls are slain as a mark of respect to goddess Durga.

When-

  • Usually, Dussehra is celebrated in the month of October.

Where-

  • It is celebrated across most of the regions and states in India.

Also Read:15 Most Famous Historical Monuments Of India To Visit

7. Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesh Chaturthi is something which is celebrated all across India. This festival is celebrated at homes and in public places in various parts of the country.

This Indian festival is celebrated during the Shravan month of the Hindu Ashok Samvat calendar.

For the public, the event is held at open spaces where giant size Ganesha idols are placed and worshipped.

In all celebrations, the Ganesh idol is immersed in the sea or other water bodies, after long ceremonies.

Significance-

  • While Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations at home is a tradition that prevails since ancient times, public or ‘Sarvajanik’ events got impetus during the freedom struggle and were the brainchild of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a social reformer.
  • The motive behind this social gathering was to generate unity amongst the people.

Customs and Tradition-

  • Celebrations include bringing large clay idols of Lord Ganesha home and sanctifying them.
  • Feasts featuring traditional food are held during the course of the festival that ranges from half a day to 21 days.
  • The unique sweet called ‘Modak’ is usually prepared only during Ganesh Chaturthi.

When-

  • Ganesh Chaturthi is observed in August or September every year, depending upon the Hindu Ashok Samvat calendar.

Where-

  • This popular festival of India is celebrated majorly in Maharashtra, Goa and coastal parts of Karnataka

8. Buddha Purnima/ Wesak

Buddha Purnima

Buddha Purnima or Wesak is a festival of India which is popularly celebrated by the Buddhist community.

During Wesak, devout Buddhists visit temples.

They perform charity on the day to remind themselves and others of giving for the benefit of other humans.

Significance-

  • The festival marks the birth, enlightenment and life or Gautam Buddha.

Customs and Tradition-

  • They make simple offerings such as oil lamps, lotus flowers and incense sticks at the feet of a Buddha image.
  • Buddhists shun non-vegetarian food during celebrations and abstain from liquor or other intoxicants.

When-

  • Wesak is celebrated in the month of May and June, depending upon the country.

Where-

  • Mostly Celebrated by Buddhist communities in various parts of India and abroad.

9.  Onam

Onam festival of Kerala

Onam is a regional festival that now has international significance.

With a large number of people from Kerala living abroad, the festival now has international significance.

Significance-

  • Onam is also rightly called the Harvest Festival of South India: people celebrate it to mark the rich harvest after heavy monsoons typical to Kerala.
  • It also marks the return of the spirit of King Mahabali to Kerala to partake of the harvest.

Customs and Tradition-

  • To celebrate Onam, people from Kerala adorn their houses with flower garlands.
  • Exclusive design is made on floors of homes with flowers and petals.
  • A multiple course vegetarian meal is prepared for the day. Public performances featuring traditional songs and dances mark Onam festival.

When-

  • Onam is usually celebrated in September- October.

Where-

  • It is the state festival of Kerala in south India.

10.  Pongal

Pongal

Pongal means ‘boiled over’. It is a harvest festival of India celebrated in the southern region of India.

People generally observe the day with a holiday.

Significance-

  • It is known to be a “festival of harvest”.
  • The festival draws its name from an eponymous dish made with milk, rice, sugar and flavours.

Customs and Tradition-

  • On Pongal day, members of the Tamil community decorate their homes with flowers.
  • Thal Pongal, the festival includes preparing a sweet dish made of rice, milk and sugar.
  • Houses are adorned with unique designs made with flowers.

When-

  • It is celebrated every year in January by people from Tamil Nadu.

Where-

  • This regional festival of India is celebrated in the state of Tamil Nadu.

11.  Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti

The festival signifies the entry of the sun into the Capricorn orbit.

Significance-

  • Makar Sankranti also signifies the beginning of the winter solstice in India.

Customs and Tradition-

  • On Makar Sankranti, people across India engage in flying kites.
  • Competitions for kite flying are held across the country.
  • Special sweets made of hard-boiled jaggery and sesame seeds are prepared and distributed to friends and relatives.
  • Married women invite one another to their homes as an honour.

When-

  • This festival of India is celebrated in January every year when the mercury dips across the country

Where-

  • It is celebrated across India with fervour.

12.  Christmas

Christmas

Christmas, the international festival is celebrated by people from almost all faiths in India.

India is home to nearly 2% of Christians from various denominations including Roman Catholicism, Protestants, Anglican, Pentecostal and others.

The Christian community in India celebrates Christmas in various elegant ways.

Most common features of Christmas include attending the special mass held at churches between midnight of December 24 and 25.

Significance-

It marks the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem (now in Israel).

Customs and Tradition-

  • The festival also includes decorating homes and offices with a Christmas tree; star-shaped electric lanterns and other paraphernalia.
  • Christians in India celebrate this festival by preparing traditional festive sweets and distributing them among the underprivileged section of the society.
  • Sweets are also sent to friends and relatives.
  • The mascot, Santa Claus gives away gifts for kids that are left inside their stockings.

When-

  • In line with international celebrations, Christmas is observed in India on December 25 every year.

Where-

  • This festival is celebrated all over India.

13. Vaisakhi/ Baisakhi

Visakhi

Vaisakhi or Baisakhi is an important festival of the Sikh community. Hindus also celebrate Vaisakhi as the beginning of the traditional solar year.

Sikhs visit gurudwaras to perform menial tasks to remind others and themselves of the importance of humility in one’s life.

Significance-

  • The festival commemorates the formation of the Sikh faith itself.

Customs and Tradition-

  • Usually, Vaishakhi is marked by visits to temples and group prayers.
  • Traditional dances are performed by members of the Sikh faith. In addition, verses from Guru Granth Sahib are recited on the day at homes and temples.

When-

  • Vaisakhi occurs in March- April every year.

Where-

  • All over India by Sikhs and Hindus.

Also Read: Top 10 Heritage Sites in India To Visit

14. Eid Al Adha

Eid Al Adha

Eid Al Adha is the second most celebrated Islamic festival of India.

The festival traces its roots to the Jewish sacred texts. Abraham and his wife Sarah did not have a child, and God promised they would have one.

The child born to the couple was called Joseph. However, God asked Abraham to sacrifice Joseph but spared his life. Instead, a ram was sacrificed.

Significance-

  • It commemorates the would-be sacrifice of Yousuf, the son of Ibrahim at a mountain now located in the Middle East.

Customs and Tradition-

  • On the day, devout Muslims sacrifice a goat and sometimes a cow or buffalo to commemorate the primarily Judaic event.
  • Meat from the sacrificed animal is cooked in traditional ways.

When-

  • Dates of celebration vary according to the Islamic calendar.

Where-

  • In India, Eid Al Adha is celebrated by Muslims across the country.

15. Eid Al Fitr

Eid Al Fitr

Al Fitr is the most popular festival of the Muslim community of India.

Devout Muslims shun consuming water and food from sunrise (Fajr) to sunset (Maghreb).

However, Islamic tenets exempt sick adults, pregnant women and underage children from observing the traditional fast.

Children are also not required to fast. Adults attend prayers or Namaaz at mosques and special Tarawih prayers in the evening.

Significance-

  • This Indian festival marks the end of the 30 day fasting period called the Holy Month of Ramadan.

Customs and Tradition-

  • During the Holy Month of Ramadan, all healthy Muslim women and men are required to observe a Roza or fasting from sunrise to sunset.
  • Devout Muslims mark Eid Al Fitr by preparing Sheerkhurma- a sweet made with vermicelli, milk and fresh or dry dates.
  • Traditional meat-based and vegetarian dishes are prepared on occasion. Festivities usually begin after the dawn prayers (Fajr).

When-

  • As per Islamic traditions, Eid Al Fitr is declared on 30th or 31st day of the Holy Month of Ramadan, after sighting of the crescent of Moon. Dates vary according to the Islamic calendar.

Where-

  • It is celebrated with great fervour across the country by the Muslim community.

Also Read: Most Popular Independence Day Songs | Evergreen Patriotic Songs

16.  Ugadi/ Gudi Padva

Gudi Padva

Ugadi or Gudi Padva is beginning of the Hindu Ashok Samvat year.

In simple terms, it is the Hindu New Year.

Through prayers, celebrants invoke divine blessings for the New Year and future ventures.

Significance-

  • In Hindu traditions, it is considered a very auspicious day to embark on any new venture or undertake a project.

Customs and Tradition-

  • On the day, people tie a stick with an earthen pot and decorative saffron, yellow or red cloth on their windows.
  • Gudi Padva is celebrated by preparing special sweets and vegetarian food.
  • Some Indians buy gold and precious ornaments to mark the beginning of prosperity.

When-

  • It occurs in March- April every year

Where-

  • This festival of India is celebrated popularly in the state of Maharashtra and other southern parts of India.

17.  Karwa Chauth

Karwa Chauth

Karwa Chauth is an all-women’s festival.

The festival traces its origin to ancient times when men were forced to join armies of rulers for war.

Since mortality among soldiers was high, their wives observed a fast seeking safety of the spouse.

Women prepare for Karwa Chauth several days in advance. Nubile women join the fast and pray they find a good husband.

Significance-

  • On the day, women observe a fast for the longevity of their husbands.

Customs and Tradition-

  • Gudi Padva is celebrated by preparing special sweets and vegetarian food.
  • They buy traditional clothes, bangles, jewellery and cosmetics.
  • The fast is broken in the evening after a ceremonial ‘aarti’ of husbands and visit to temples.
  • Special sweets and dishes are prepared for the evening meal.

When-

  • Karwa Chauth is observed in the month of October every year.

Where-

  • It is primarily celebrated in the Northern region of India.

18. Easter

Easter

The second most significant festival of the Christian community in India is called Easter.

Jesus Christ made his first appearance after resurrection on Easter day.

There is some controversy among certain Christians overuse of the word “Easter”.

They consider the word originated from Ishtar- an ancient Mesopotamian deity of sex and fertility.

Significance-

  • Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his mortal remains were laid to rest in a cave near Jerusalem.

Customs and Tradition-

  • India’s Christian community celebrates with a special mass at churches. Easter eggs made of chocolate are distributed to children.

When-

  • It is held on April 23 every year.

Where-

  • Easter is also celebrated worldwide and some parts of India by Christians

19.  Guru Poornima

guru pornima

The ancient Hindu tradition of paying tributes to teachers is enshrined in the festival of Guru Purnima.

Observing the festival is considered as part of repaying the debt to one’s guru by proliferating the knowledge they impart.

Significance-

  • Buddhists observe Guru Purnima as a day to pay homage to their leader, Gautam Buddha while Jains do the same for Mahavir and Arihant.

Customs and Tradition-

  • On the day, prayers are held at temples to invoke divine wisdom.
  • Devout Hindus commemorate their teachers and knowledge on the day.
  • Some schools also hold Guru Poornima celebrations on their campuses.

When-

  • Full moon day, Purnima, in the Hindu calendar month of Ashadh (June or July)

Where-

  • It is primarily celebrated in all parts of India.

20.  Good Friday

Good Friday

Good Friday is a festival of sorrow. This festival is something which is not actually celebrated: It is observed.

A special mass is held at churches across the country.

The period is observed as mourning for the Messiah.

The Chalet of Divine Mercy, a special Novena observed for nine days starts on Good Friday and is held at churches and other venues from 3 pm.

Significance-

  • It marks the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified on a cross at Golgotha or Calvary, outside the walls of Israel’s current capital, Jerusalem.
  • It is considered as the most supreme sacrifice by any human since Jesus Christ gave his life to deprive Satan of his hold over humanity.

Customs and Tradition-

  • During the day, special services are held at churches across India. Devout Christians observe a 40 day partial fast and abstain from consuming non-vegetarian food for 40 days leading to Good Friday.
  • Crosses and images of Jesus Christ at churches, homes and offices are covered with black cloth for a period of three days.
  • Christians observe fast and lead an austere life from Good Friday to Easter.

When-

  • April 19 of every year is observed as Good Friday.

Where-

  • It is observed by the Christian community of India and rest of the world.

Also ReadTop 10 Unsung Women Freedom Fighters of India

21.  Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is a two-day festival observed by the Jewish community in India.

Significance-

  • It marks the beginning of the Tishrei- the first month of the Jewish calendar.
  • The day marks the creation of Adam and Eve by God according to the Sacred Torah, the holiest book of Judaism.

Customs and Tradition-

  • Jews in India celebrate Rosh Hashanah by lighting the traditional five-pronged candle stand, the Menorah.
  • A special meal that consists of Challah (bread) and apples dipped in honey is consumed.
  • Jews also visit synagogues to mingle with people of their community and exchange greetings for the New Year.

When-

  • Keeps on varying. Generally in the month of September

Where-

  • This festival of India is also celebrated worldwide.

22.  Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is the holiest festival of India which is celebrated by the followers of Judaism or the Jewish faith.

It is also called the Day of Atonement.

Yom Kippur is observed with a 25-hour fast by devout Jews as a mark of repentance.

Significance-

  • The day signifies asking forgiveness for sins from God. Yom Kippur is also an international festival.

Customs and Tradition-

  • Special services are held on the day at various synagogues across India.
  • Generally, this Indian festival is celebrated for two days.
  • It begins with fasting and concludes by consuming a rather austere meal to signify repentance.
  • Confessions of guilt are also made on the day

When-

  • The Jewish community of India celebrates the day. Yom Kippur occurs in September every year with dates depending upon the Hebrew calendar.

Where-

  • It is observed in Israel and other countries where Jewish people reside.

23.  Paryushana

Paryushana

Paryushana is referred to as Festival of Forgiveness by members of the Jain faith.

Significance-

  • It focusses on self-purification, introspection and forgiveness for the wrong deeds

Customs and Tradition-

  • Devout followers of the faith observe a fast- sometimes up to 30 days- as repentance for any sins.
  • Other than fasting, the festival of Paryushana is also marked by charity and prayers held at Derasars or Jain temples.

When-

  • This festival of India is generally in the months of August or September, with dates varying on the basis of the Hindu Ashok Samvat year.

Where-

  • This regional festival is famous in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra states where large numbers of Jainism reside. It is also observed in other parts of the country.

24.  Navroz/ Parsi New Year

Parsi New Year

Navroz or the Parsi New Year is a Zoroastrian festival that traces its ancient roots to Iran.

With the Zoroastrian community now settled across the world, it has become a global event.

Zoroastrians embark on celebrations in a slightly different way: they ‘shake the house”, meaning cleaning their homes in preparation for the new year.

Significance-

  • Navroz marks the vernal equinox and the beginning of the Spring season in many countries.

Customs and Tradition-

  • They don new dresses or ‘Sadreh’ and ‘Khushti’ during the festival while discarding old ones. Parsis in India offer special prayers at fire temples or Agiaris.
  • They also donate money, clothes and other items to the needy sitting outside fire temples.
  • In India, members of the Zoroastrian community visit old age nursing homes, orphanages and other institutions to celebrate the new year, by distributing cake and sweets.

When-

  • Nawroz is celebrated in March with dates varying on the basis of the Zoroastrian calendar.

Where-

  • This festival is celebrated with ardour across India.

25.  Gurparb

Gurparb

Gurparb is a significant festival of India for Sikh.

Smaller celebrations of Gurparb are also held around the year to mark birth anniversaries of various prominent gurus and leaders who helped Sikhism to flourish.

Significance-

  • It marks the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith.

Customs and Tradition-

  • Traditionally, Gurparb is celebrated by passing the Guru Granth Sahib, the holiest scripture of Sikhism between various readers at a Gurudwara.
  • On the day, special sweets and vegetarian dishes are prepared and distributed to underprivileged persons.
  • Sikhs also do lots of charity to some of these top-rated NGOs of India and small-scale local charity homes on the day of this festival, as a homage to the first guru.

When-

  • It is observed in the month of September every year.

Where-

  • This festival is celebrated with ardour across India.

Final Words

All Indian Festivals listed above are merely the tip of an iceberg.

India is home to various religions, histories, cult and followings. Hence, there is no dearth of festivals in this country.

People celebrate these festivals for various reasons. Each festival in India has a different charm.

Get the best experience of your life by celebrating some of these popular festivals of India in the region from where they are derived from.

Some of these festivals of India have flourished since ancient days. So, if you are looking for a reason to celebrate, you have 25 of them!

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