Indian Culture & Festivals
Festivals in India are combinations of religious ceremonies, semi-ritual spectacles, worship, prayer, 'Yatras' (Lit. processions - to set something sacred in motion and to extend its power throughout a certain region), music, dances (which, by their rhythm have a compelling force), eating, drinking, feeding the poor etc.
The original functions of these activities are clear from ancient literature and anthropological research: they are intended to purify, avert malicious influences, renew society, bridge over critical moments, and stimulate or resuscitate the vital powers of nature (hence the term utsava, meaning both the generation of power and a festival).
These festivals refresh the mood of the participants and help remind the mighty power of the unknown forces of nature, thus bringing entire communities together and creating harmony amongst them.
The importance given to each festival differs in different parts of the country. Some festivals are ardently followed in the north while they are almost unknown in the south. For instance, Navaratri is celebrated with maximum devotion in West Bengal as related to other parts of the country. Likewise, Holi is chiefly celebrated in the north, it is only theoretic in the south.
A few festivals, like Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Ugadi in Andhra and Onam in Kerala, and a few temple festivals are celebrated regionally.
India's festivals do not find a uniform implementation, though celebration of traditional festivals by pockets of migrants do find audience in the local natives. This is primarily due to the 'inclusive' nature of Hinduism.
Whatever the festival, it always has something to convey to its followers. All you have to do is have an questioning, yet open, mind; and the festivals will reveal a lot of secrets that nature holds for all of us, as they relate to the cyclical life of nature and as such prevent it from stagnating. They are always in line with natural phenomena like solstices, equinoxes, and phases of the moon and constellations. History is replete with mythological references that date back to over five thousand years - coupled with the fact that one needs persistent astronomical observations with accurate calculations in physics and mathematics to track astronomical phenomena - highlights the fact that Hindu festivals scientifically recognise nature's cycles and keep the physical and spiritual self in line with it. The festivals in India are living examples of the term "Sanaatana Dharma" that propounds the concept of living in harmony with nature.