Skip to main content

Festivals & Holidays

A festival can be any sort of community event that commemorates or celebrates something of value to the community. As such, these can be highly localized and extremely varied in the purpose of their commemoration or celebration. When such festivals achieve broad ethnic, religious, or national significance, they are more noticeable and have social projection. The origin of the English work ‘holiday’ suggests a religious origin or connection, but modern holidays can be both religious and civic or patriotic. A nation may sanction a number of holidays, whether religious or civic in origin, as days of special observance including a closure of public and even private institutions and granting time of work. Because of the religious diversity of India and the large number of holidays—especially Hindu ones—that are not fixed to the Gregorian calendar, the frequency and dates of Indian festivals and holidays can be overwhelming. However, they are certainly a vibrant and exciting part of any encounter with India.

Cultural Festivals
From the Indian Ministry of Culture’s site

Information on the Festival of Lights from the Society for the Confluence of Festivals.

Diwali Resources

Diwali Ideas and Resources
From the Virtual Learning Network of the New Zealand Department of Education.

Holi Hey
This documentary, by Mark Katz, from the Center for South Asia at University of Wisconsin – Madison, shows how the annual north-Indian Spring festival of Holi is celebrated in the city of Banaras (Varanasi, Kashi). A respected Banaras brahman, Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra, recounts several explanations for the Holi festival.

Holi, the Festival of Colors
Middle-school students can learn about the mythology and cultural practices one of India’s most widely celebrated festivals, Holi. The lesson is activity-based and meant to visually and textually introduce middle-school aged students to the colorful festival of Holi as it is celebrated across various parts of India. Although rooted mainly in Hindu religious mythology, its enthusiastic adoption across various religious sects attests to its popularity as a community event. The lesson encourages students to understand some of India’s cultural practices (namely the celebration of festivals and holidays) as very similar to their own, while still appreciating the ways in which they may differ. From the South Asia Institute, University of Texas at Austin.

Holiday Calendar
India has three key national civic holidays: Republic Day (Jan. 29), Independence Day (Aug. 15), and Gandhi’s Birthday (Oct. 2). This multi-year calendar from the National Portal of India includes both civic and religious holidays.

Indian Epics
with Dr. Pamela Lothspeich

Indian Religions
Hosted on the UCLA College of Social Sciences site.

Religious Festivals
From the Indian Ministry of Culture’s site.