Perhaps one of the most diverse countries in the world, India is home to several different communities and religions including Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Each of these communities has its own unique culture and traditions and it is these differences in culture that make India one of a kind. There are great variations in the customs and traditional beliefs and rituals across India and this can be seen between north and south India. The festivals, art forms, food, music, and clothing of people in the north and south India are distinct, and these distinctions can also be seen among various communities within the same state.
January is a month of auspicious celebration as India showcases its vibrant and diverse culture through religious and non-religious festivals and celebrations. January marks the start of the new year and the beginning of the festival season where each festival has its own significance and charm. It is through these festivals and celebrations that India displays the diversity among its people and the beauty of the country.
Here is a list of the top five Indian festivals to look forward to this January.
When: 9 January
Where: North India, mainly Punjab and Haryana
Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth Sikh Guru and all Sikhs are excited to celebrate his birth anniversary January 9, 2022. He was a spiritual master, poet, philosopher and warrior. He was formally installed as the leader of the Sikhs at the age of nine, after his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, was executed by Aurangzeb. This year marks the 355th birth anniversary of the most celebrated Sikh guru. Guru sahib’s birthday is celebrated with grand celebrations and people visit the Gurudwara to hold a special prayer for their Guru. Some people indulge in Seva and prasad distribution to celebrate the day. Rest share warm messages with family and friends.
When: 13 January
Where: North India, mainly Punjab and Haryana
Lohri is celebrated on 13 January each year with great flourish and excitement. The festival marks the end of the winter and signals the beginning of happy sunny days and the harvest season. Traditionally, families gather around bonfires in the evening and sing folk songs while dancing around the Lohri fire. People also throw foods like popcorn, puffed rice, peanuts, and gajak into the fire as ‘tributes’ to the gods in exchange for blessings. Lohri is also considered particularly auspicious for newlywed couples and parents with newborn babies.
Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan
When: 14 January
Where: Every part of India but is referred to by different names such as Pedda Pandugu in Andhra Pradesh and Magha Mela in parts of central and northern India.
Makar Sankranti is a festival that takes place on 14 or 15 January each year. The festival is important to farmers who harvest their crops and sow new seeds. On this day, people wake up early and may take a dip in the Holy Ganges before offering their prayers to the Sun God. Families then clean and decorate their homes to attract prosperity and good omens. Food plays a big role on this day as people make and exchange sweet dishes and it is also customary to eat khichdi and fly kites.
When: 14 to 17 January
Where: Tamil Nadu
Pongal, similar to Lohri and Makar Sankranti, is a festival of farmers celebrated in south India. The festival is celebrated over a four-day period where people offer prasad to the Sun God who is known as Pongal. The festival begins on the first date of the Tamil month ‘Tai’, also signalling the Tamil New Year. To celebrate, families decorate their homes with rangoli and cook the Pongal dish. It is also conventional to have bull fights and bird fights.
When: 26 January
Republic Day is one of three national festivals celebrated in India and marks the day when the Constitution came into power in India in 1950. Many programs and events are held on this day throughout the country, including a grand parade show organised by the Indian Army in New Delhi. Following the parade, all the different states of the country showcase their culture and tradition through visual representations. Flowers are then showered from the sky by the Indian Air Force in the colours of India’s national flag – orange, white, and green. The Republic Day Parade displays India’s diverse cultural history and the capabilities of its armed forces.
When: 1 November 2021 to 20 February 2022
Where: Great Rann of Kutch salt desert, Dhordo, Gujarat
This beautiful ongoing desert festival reflects the unique culture and heritage of the region of Gujarat at its best through folk dances, music, incredible displays of handicrafts, food stalls serving authentic, mouth-watering food native to Rann of Kutch, walks through the desert and storytelling sessions. The desert is most attractive during the chilly winter months of November to February bringing the festival to life through spectacular performances under the moonlight.
Asian Voice wishes a very happy festive season to all those who celebrate. Please stay safe and be well.