India is the land of fairs and festivals. Post-globalization, however, malls have substituted melas (fairs). Parties and feasts have become so common that several festivals have lost their sheen for the middle-class Indian. No doubt, there are festivals that we have become more aware of, thanks to their being beamed on our TV screens. But these are few and far between.
This book is an attempt to make us aware of India’s rich cultural heritage of fairs and festivals. They are still being celebrated by a large number of people. Some of the festivals are better known, in which case the book focuses on the places where they have a special significance. Besides, it embraces a large number of lesser known festivals, thus becoming encyclopedic in character. Also, there are state-sponsored festivals that promote art and crafts. A reading of this book will leave you more enlightened of the Indian cultural canvas.
Our country was alien to the concept of weekends until foreigners introduced it to us. But season-ends were very much a part of our culture. Crop cycles were punctuated by festive celebrations. In fact, fairs and festivals have been an integral part of India since time immemorial.
Some of these festivals are well known. Holi, Dussehra, Diwali and Makar Sankranti are celebrated across the country. But they take different forms in a country so huge and diverse. In Punjab, Holi finds its extension in Hola Mohalla, in which the Sikhs display their skills in martial arts. In Tamil Nadu, Karthigai Deepam Festival is believed to be an extension of Diwali.
Besides, there are a number of festivals that are lesser known, sometimes even unknown to people belonging to another region of the country. The Phulaich festival is celebrated in Himachal Pradesh to commemorate the ancestors. Kharchi Puja is celebrated in the Chaturdash Devata Temple at Purana Agartala in Tripura. And so on. Also, there are certain festivals like the Taj Mahotsav that the state sponsors to promote art and craft.
This book tries to follow an eclectic approach. Starting with the festivals of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal, it traverses the plains of the North before embracing the East and the North-East. It then runs through the heart of Central India, drops down through the West and finally covers the Dravidian territory, ending its journey down South in the state of Kerala.
We have tried to introduce each festival to you first. Next, we go into the legends/beliefs associated with it. This is followed by the specific details of the venue, time and manner of celebrations. To make the book user-friendly, we have also given some practical information — how to reach and where to stay.
This book is a humble attempt to familiarize you with India, the land of festivals. Hope it serves its purpose.
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