Thursday, April 12, 2007

Festivals Of Delhi

As the capital of a nation, with its pot-pourri of people, Delhi relishes its heterogeneous character and celebrates every festival with gaiety and abandon.

In India everything is celebrated, from harvests to the changing of seasons, from the triumph of a goddess battling evil to the love between a brother and his sister. Festivals are what give life its richness and colour. Through the sharing of a celebration, society continues with its traditions and, at times, even creates new ones. Through conquests and calamities India has held on to its culture. And inevitably every new generation falls under the spell of this medley of worship and rejoicing.

Republic Day: come 26 January and people line the streets to watch the Republic Day parade. As the president of India takes the salute on Rajpath, marching columns from the armed forces, tanks and missile carriers rumble past. Camels amble along, elephants come swaying, school children turn cartwheels and transforms the solemn occasion into a carnival. An exciting folk dance festival follows a day later at Talkatora stadium. The festivities end with beating the Retreat, a feast of martial music, at Vijay chowk on 29 January.

On 13 January, a rural festival, Lohri, invades the streets of Delhi and is celebrated with bonfires in parks and open spaces. Traditionally, Lohri marks the end of winter.

Basant Panchami: The biting winter winds continue till end January- early February when the Hindu festival of Basant Panchami welcomes spring.

Festivals, especially Hindu and Muslims ones, Follow traditional lunar calendars and their dates vary from year to year. The only way to list them is by season as has been done here. However, with most Muslim festivals, even the seasonal dates vary. Many Hindu festivals are related to Purunima and Amavasya which are significant days in the Hindu calendar. We have included colorful happenings unique to Delhi, as well a some of the more important religious festivals.

Statesman Vintage Car Rally is held in early February on a balmy weekend. Classic cars roll sedately out on to the roads, ambling off on a day trip to Sohna in the bordering state of Haryana.

Surajkund Crafts Mela is an annual fair which is held for a fortnight in February. Just beyond the borders of Delhi, in the state of Haryana, a traditional village fair is recreated with little thatched huts where craftspeople from all over India display exotic artifacts.

Holi: On the day of the full moon in the month of Phalguna, Delhi braces itself for a day of uninhibited revelry as Holi is celebrated with great vigour and joy. All morning people smer gulal often mixed with water on one another and dance to the beat of drums. There is a tradition in North India of consuming bhang on Holi. Pakoras and thandai, both laced with bhang are consumed with gay abandon in many households and community gatherings.

Outsiders are advised not to go into unfamiliar localities on the morning of Holi and to play only with those they know well as the revelry could get out of hand and rowdyism is known to creep in. The festivity end with lunch and is often followed by long hours of gambling.

Mahashivratri is celebrated on the amavasya night of Phalguna. It is said Lord Shiva danced the tandava nritya on this dark night. He is worshiped at temples with all night vigils and prayers. Unmarried women keep day long fasts so that Shiva may grant them good husbands.

In North India, the Hindu New Year is celebrated on baisakhi in mid-April just as the sun begins to get fierce and the dusty winds herald summer. Baisakhi is particularly important for Sikhs because it was on this day that Guru Gobind Singhji, the tenth guru, organized the Sikhs into a powerful brotherhood and called them Khalsa. Gurudwaras commemorate the day with the singing of Shahad Kirtan.

Id-Ul-Fitr is most often celebrated in this season. It marks the end of Ramzan, the month of fasting for Muslims. This day is also called meethi id, because of a special sweet delicacy, sevaiyyan, which is cooked on this day.

The Urs of Hazrat Nizamuddin is celebrated with fervour at his dargah. Devotees put flowers and chaddars on his grave. The nightssway to the singing of qawwalis, especially those composed by the medieval poet, Amir Khusro, a friend and disciple of the saint.

Ramnavami, the birth of Lord Rama, is celebrated on the ninth day of shuklapaksh in Vaisakha with readings from the Hindu epic, Ramayana, at temples, both large and small.

Buddha Purnima in the month of Vaisakha, commemorates not just Lord Buddha’s birth, but also his enlightenment and nirvana.

Mahavir Jayanti, the birth of Lord Mahavira who founded Jainism, is celebrated around this time with prayers and processions.

Muharram is observed with procession of emotionally charged devotees wailing and beating their breasts. Others rcount the story of Husain and carry elaborate paper, pith and tinsel replies of the tomb at Karbala called Tazias.

On 15 august, India celebrates Independence Day with the Prime Minister addressing the nation from Lal Qila’s sandstone ramparts. On this day, a tradition has evolved of people flying kites and the breezy evening sky is dotted with soaring squares of fragile, coloured paper.

On Sravana Purnima Rakshabandhan is celebrated. Sisters tie rachis or woven bands of tinsel and thread on their brother’s wrists as a pledge of love and receive their promise of protection and normally a gift or money.

Janmashtami is the celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna on the eight day of krishnapaksh in Sravana. Temples across the city are decorated with fairy lights and colourful exhibits on Krishna’s life. Laxmi Narayan Mandir has a special display which attracts huge crowds.

Id-Ul-Zuha is popularly known as bakr Id, the ‘feast of sacrifice’. /this is time for celebration for meat-eaters and a spirit of general bonhomie pervades among Muslims.

Phoolwalon ki sair is a festival unique to Delhi. It is celebrated in September in Mehrauli.

Navaratery, literally nine nights, commemorates the victory of goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasur. Navaratrey ends with Dussehra, also called Vijay Dashami, or the tenth day of victory. Through the nine days diligent Hindus in North India keep fasts all day long. The tenth day, Dussehra, is celebrated in different ways by people from different parts of country.

On Vijay Dashami, Rama is believed to have defeated Ravana. Huge effigies are made of Ravana, his brother Kumbhakarna and son Meghnath, filled with fire crackers and set on fire in community gatherings in open spaces all over the city.

Night after night, people watch the story of Ramayana re-enacted, and the magic never fades. Ram Lilas are organized in most neighbourhoods all through the nine days of Navaratrey.

Durga Puja is celebrated by Bengalis on the last four days of Navaratrey. Images of the mother goddess Durga, all fiery power and exquisite beauty, are worshipped with flowers, incense and the beating of drums. On Vijaya Dashami the idols are taken out in a procession to be immersed in the yamuna.

Around the same time, the vibrant Balloon Mela at safdarjang Airport celebrates adventure with huge exotic hot air balloons lazily floating across the sky.

Diwali, the festival of lights, falls on amavasya, the darkest night of Kartika. It is believed that on this day Lord Rama came home to his kingdom after a fourteen year exile and the city of Ayodhya lit oil lamps to welcome him. As dusk falls, streets turn into fairylands with shimmering garlands of lamps to and candles strung across balconies and windows. Sweets and gifts are exchanged between families and friends amidst the bursting of crackers. Doors are left open on Diwali because goddess Laxmi is supposed to enter homes and bring prosperity and good luck. With many small busieness establishment in North India, the financial calendar begins on Diwali when the new khata is inaugurated.

Guru Purab is the celebration of the birth of the Sikh Gurus, Guru Nanak. Nagar Kirtans are taken out through the streets and in the gurudwaras, granthees recite verses from the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs.

Delhi’s year of festivities and with Christmas and New Year’s Eve when there special programmes at most hotels and restaurants across the city. In Connaught Place, people step out at midnight to welcome the New Year with noise and revelry.

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