Also Called As: Id-Ul-Zuha
Religion: Islamic

Bakrid is celebrated with ritualistic fervour in Andhra Pradesh and in particular, the old city of Hyderabad. Bakrid is an important festival of Muslims falling in the last month of Islamic Calendar. It is also called as Id-Ul-Zuha, which coincides with the Haj pilgrimage at Mecca. The significance of the festival is the commemoration of the ordeals of Prophet Ibrahim.

The Significance
Significance of Id-Ul-Zuha or Bakrid lies in the offering of an animal in celebration of the festival Bakrid. As per the doctrine of Islam, sacrifice of animals signifies the sacrifice of the follower himself and his readiness to lay down his life, his interests and desires in the cause of the truth.

The Legend
According to popular belief, Prophet Ibrahim was put to a tough test by Allah to prove his faith. He was asked to sacrifice his son Ismail and without any hesitation Prophet Ibrahim blindfolded himself and made the offering on the Mount of Mina near Mecca. When Prophet Ibrahim opened his eyes, he was astonished to find a goat lying upon the altar and his son Ismail standing in front of him. Ever since, followers of Islam all over the world offer sacrifices on the festival day.

On this day devout Muslims of all ages offer special prayers at mosques in the morning. Muslims sacrifice an animal - a goat or sheep, divide the meat into three portions and distribute it among poor, friends and relatives and whatever remains is for the family.

Bakrid or Valla Perunnal also called Id Ul-Azha or the 'festival of sacrifice' is another Muslim festival celebrated by Shias and Sunnis alike in KERALA. Bakrid falling on the 10th of Dhul- Hajj, the last month of the lunar year (April) is celebrated to commemorate the willingness of Abraham to offer his only son as a sacrifice in obedience to God's command.

On Bakrid, people dressed in their best clothes proceed to Id-Gali, the open space set apart for public prayer. There are congregational prayer is held under the leadership of the Imam. At homes, ceremonial prayers and sumptuous feasts form part of the festival.



Buddha Purnima
Religion: Bhuddhist

Buddha Purnima means the 'full moon of the Buddha'. Called SagaDasa in Sikkimese and Vishakha Puja in the Thervada tradition, it is the most important of all Buddhist festivals. Commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha, the day is considered more auspicious than any other day of the year. Observed on the full moon day of the 4th month of the Tibetan calendar, corresponding to Vaishakha, it is a public holiday in India.

Gautam Buddha was born in 544 BC in Lumbini, Nepal. Buddhist mythology is replete with legends relating to his birth. According to a Tibetan belief, Buddha Kashyapa had prophesied that he would be reborn inhuman form. This would happen when the life-span of people living on earth became 100 years. His immortal incarnation would be called Buddha Shakyamuni and he would be a teacher to both the gods and humans. When the time was right, Buddha Kashyapa took the form of a six-tusked young white elephant and entered the body of Queen Mayadevi, wife of King Suddodhana of Lumbini, through the right side of her ribcage. Mayadevi carried him in her womb for ten months. One day, while strolling in her garden, she felt that she would soon give birth to her child. She grasped the branch of a Sal (Shorea robusta) tree and yawned. Immediately, amidst anaura of light, the child was born from under her right arm. He walked seven steps in each direction and the earth shook in homage. The child was named Siddhartha.

The celebration of this festival has been recorded by Fa-Hien. The rituals include prayers, sermons on the life of Gautam Buddha, continuous recitation of Buddhist scriptures, meditation by monks and devotees, and the worship of the statue of Buddha. Believers, who prostrate several times in front of the idol, make offerings of incense, flowers, candles and fruit. The Bodhi tree is also revered. Its branches are decorated with garlands and coloured flags. Rows of lamps are lit around the tree, and milk and scented waters are sprinkled on its roots. Good deeds are performed on Buddha Purnima with zeal, for it is believed that the blessings earned for a virtuous act performed on this special day are many hundred times greater than on other days. Buddhists free birds from cages, distribute fruit and clothes to the sick and refrain from eating meat. The mortal remains of the Buddha are taken out at the National Museum in Delhi for public viewing. Many people assemble there to offer prayers.

The entire month of Vaishakha is considered sacred, so special prayers are held on all its days in various monasteries. On Buddha Purnima, every sect of Buddhism in India observes some distinctive rituals. In the monasteries of Sikkim, the lamas are engaged in recitations of the scriptures from early morning lamps in front of the statue of the Buddha. The Maharani Buddhists organize a colourful procession of monks with gyalings and rabdungs. Kangyur texts are also read.

The Ambedkar Buddhists also organize a pageant, but they include a photograph of Ambedkar with that of the Buddha in their tableaux. Many seminars and lectures are held in which eminent people participate. The poor and needy are given food and money.

Religion: Christianity

The name Christmas is derived from 'Christ's Mass', the mass in honour of the birth of Christ. Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December every year, at the time of the winter solstice. Many regard it as the most important of all Christian festivals. It is a public holiday in India.

Christmas is a time for festivity. Prayers, merry making and sending cards are part of the Christmas rituals. The celebration begins with a midnight mass on the eve of the festival, as Jesus was born at midnight. This is followed by a morning service and a mass at midnight, in accordance with the decree of the Pope. To mark the event, churches and homes are illuminated with colourful lights and decorated with streamers of many hues. Some Indian Christians light oil lamps as well, perhaps because of the influence of the Hindu festival of Diwali. Many families make tableaux to depict the birth of Christ, using their imagination and creativity. Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus in a cradle of hay, sheep, shepherds and the angels are crafted to enact the event. A decorated fir tree, is also now synonymous with Christmas and often referred to as a Christmas tree.
Christmas celebrations in urban areas are very similar to those in the West. Streamers, lights, balloons and buntings are used to add a festive look to shopping centers. Special discounts, bargain offers and bonuses are offered to make shopping more attractive. Friends and relatives exchange presents. Santa Claus distributes gifts and sweets to children. Singing carols is also part of the ritual. It is customary for families to eat Christmas dinner together. Elaborate puddings, special cakes and wine are prepared. Roasted chicken takes the place of the stuffed turkey of the West, for the meal. In the coastal regions, people have fish.

In the tribal and rural areas of India, the menu is very different. Cakes made of rice flour and bananas form part of the ceremonial feast. As a gesture of goodwill, these confections are sent to homes which are in mourning. Women also make thekudas and namkeens. In some parts of southern India, payas is distributed among friends and relatives. Carol singing is also popular, but it is accompanied by rhythmic dancing. The dance forms vary from region to region. In the eastern states of Bihar, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland, it is customary to intersperse the feast with tribal dances.

Among the orthodox, the festival is commemorated by prayers and pacificator rites. Some sections of the Roman Catholics forsake eating meat during the period known as the Advent, from the first to the 25th of December.


Religion: Hinduism

Dasara (a.k.a. Dusharah)  festival is celebrated typically in October. The mode and the fervor vary by a great deal across the subcontinent. Shown above is a painting of the Dasara celebration in Mysore.

Different parts of India celebrate the festival in different ways. Some celebrate it as Navaratri, some as Vijaya-Dashami, and some as Dussehra, in worship of Goddess Durga or celebrating Rama's victory over Rawana. The celebrations vary from a day to nine days (for Navaratri) to a month (for Mysore Dasara). The following pictures depict some of the celebrations.


Also Known As: Deepawali,Deepavali,Divali
Popularly Known As: Festival Of Lights

Religion: Hinduism

Diwali, the festival of lights is an occasion for the invocation of the Gods of prosperity and plenty, is celebrated with great pomp and splendour all across India. The word Diwali is the shortened version of "Deepawali', which means a cluster of lights or an array of lamps. The festival is celebrated on the 15th day of Ashwin (October/November). This new moon night, or Amavasya as it is called is thus turned into a bright and colourful night. For most of the people it's a three-day celebration begins with the Dhan-Teras, on the 13th day of the dark half of Kartik, followed the next day by the Roop Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali in the 14th day, and by Deepavali proper on the 15th day Roop Chaturdashi/Choti Diwali The next day after Dhanteras is Roop Chaturdashi when it is ordained that the human form is kept clean, healthy and beautified in order to ensure the Lord's blessings as it is one's human duty to look after the bodily form given by God. The day dawns and the infectious excitement of Choti Diwali in the air. A ghee lamp with wicks in four directions is lit along with 16 smaller lamps and the house is readied for the main festival of Goddess Mahalakshmi the next day.

Deepawali - Row Of Lights
On Diwali, the number of lamps goes up to 26 to be lit at the place of the puja and Kuber the God of wealth. Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, Lord Indra, the repository of power and happiness, Lord Vishnu, the bestower of all wishes and Goddess Saraswati, the fountainhead of knowledge, are invoked along with Mahalakshmi. Sweets are distributed among the poor and not so fortunate ones, to share the bounty of the Goddess. The morning after, woman of the house are supposed to beat bamboo winnow-baskets outside the main door signifying that as the Goddess Mahalakshmi has come to stay in the house, there is no place for poverty. Beating and thrashing sounds are made to chase him away, singing a particular song.

Legends & Beliefs
The related tales about the reason for celebrating Diwali are several. The most popular one being the return and coronation of Lord Rama after a 14-year exile to Ayodhya after his victory over evil in the form of Ravana. According to other traditions, it is said that this was the day of that King Bali made the Paatal Lok his chosen land and so Lord Indra celebrated that fact that his Kingdom of heaven was saved. It is also believed that the souls of ancestors come to visit their homes on the new moon day of Diwali. Lamps are lit to guide the departed souls on their way to their homes. However, this mythology is associated with Deepavali only in parts of Western and Southern India; it is not known in the northern and eastern regions. In South India people take an oil bath in the morning and wear new clothes. They partake of sweetmeats and light fireworks, which are regarded as the effigies of Narakasura who was killed on this day.

Delicious homemade sweets are packed in decorative boxes and sent to friends and relatives along with wishes for along and prosperous life. Many people even prepare meals for the less fortunate, donate a part of their month's earnings to temples and pray well being for their families. Among the business class Diwali is the time of presenting employees with the gifts and bonuses in appreciation for their dedicated service.Shopkeepers closing their occasions or this time of the year, usually place their ledgers in front of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. Laksmi is believed to visit homes and shops that are well lit, families decorate their homes with flowers and paper chains. People don their best clothes, or buy new ones, children are given presents and sweets and season's greetings are exchanged through visits or Diwali cards. All in all these Diwali celebrations indicate the socio-religious bond that people share with each other. So celebrate the joy of lights and let the deafening roar of fireworks chase away the demons lurking in the dark.

Diwali in India is equivalent to Christmas in the West. Therefore it is also the time when people get the festival bonus to their salaries. It marks the beginning of the New Year for a large majority of Hindus, especially the trader community. Preparations for the festival begin many days prior to Diwali. It is time for a thorough cleaning of the house, for the belief is that Lakshmi will enter clean and nicely decorated houses. The scientific reason is that the monsoon is a time for insects and fungus to breed. With the end of the monsoon, homes need to be cleaned and painted, and belongings aired and dried before the onset of winter. The festival itself extends over about a week even though the most important day is the new moon day.


Religion: Christianity 

Easter is the oldest of all Christian festivals. It embodies the spirit of life for devotees, as they recall the widely believed Christian legend of the resurrection of Christ. Easter honors day and its brightness. It marks the transition from night to day, and from death to life. A time for joy and happiness epitomizing new beginnings, it rejoices at the spring harvest season.

According to the Bible, on the Friday after the Passover feast in Jerusalem, Jesus was sentenced to death at the instigation of some Jewish priests. They believed that he was misleading the people by telling them not to pay taxes to the emperor. They also accused him of falsely claiming to be the Messiah. Jesus was tried and crucified along with two criminals. After he was declared dead, a man named Joseph took his body down from the cross, wrapped it in a linen sheet and placed it in a tomb that had been dugout of solid rock. Some women from Galilee saw that the body had been placed in the grave without being anointed with any of the customary spices or perfumes. They went home and prepared the spices and perfumes. The following day was Sabbath, so they rested, in accordance with the decree of the Jewish law. Very early on Sunday morning, the women went to the tomb with the spices.

They saw that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb, but they could not find the body of Jesus inside. Suddenly, they saw two men in bright shinning clothes standing beside them. The men, who were angels, asked the women why they were looking for the body of a man who had been raised and was alive. The women ran to tell their families and the good news spread like wildfire. People rejoiced at the return of the son of god. As it is believed that the resurrection took place on a Sunday, the feast too is celebrated on a Sunday on varying dates between March 22and April 25 and is therefore called a movable feast. In India, Easter is observed on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox.


Celebration: Festival Of Colours
Religion: Hinduism

Holi is all about having fun, playing with colours and getting doped, all with the permission of the Gods. Holi heralds the end of winter and the beginning of the spring. It is a joyous celebration of the rejuvenation of nature, and renewed hope of happiness and peaceful coexistence. People throw coloured water and powders (gulal and kumkum) at each other and make merry. Singing and dancing add to the gaiety of the occasion. Holis Or Bonfires

The night before the full moon, crowds of people gather together and light huge bonfires to burn the residual dried leaves and twigs of the winter. Metaphorically though, the fire is meant to signify the destruction of evil - the burning of the 'Holika' - a mythological character. The heat from the fire is also a reminder that winter is behind and that the hot summer days are ahead. On the next day, people of all ages come outside and playfully drench each other with coloured water. Brightly coloured powders are applied on faces, and there is plenty of music, dance and sweets to fill the rest of the day. The exuberant display of colours symbolises the advent of a colourful and prosperous spring season. It's Association With Lord Krishna Holi is also associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha, the day begins with worshipping Krishna by lovingly smearing his idol with 'gulal' - the colours used to play Holi. This is a festival that is as much a gateway to celebrate the arrival of spring as much as it is a way to celebrate the season of love.

Holi is also an occasion for the celebration of the burning of Kama, the Hindu cupid, with the fire that emanated from Lord Shiva's third eye. But he was brought to life again when his wife, Goddess Parvati, implored Shiva for mercy. On The Day Of Holi Smearing colours on friends and dear ones is the basic idea of Holi, no one is spared. Both the young and the old enjoy throwing water balloons, dry colours, and washable dyes on anyone in sight on the day of the Holi. People go around in streets, with tin drums, armed with tonnes of colours and big syringes filled with coloured water and at the end of the day no one will even remotely resemble themselves.

Holi is also synonymous with bhang, which is consumed by many in the form of ladoos and ghols. One could get away with almost anything on this day; squirting coloured water on passers-by and dunking friends in the mud pool saying "bura na mano, Holi hai" (don't feel offended, it's Holi). Holi is the time when people from all castes and social strata come together forgetting all past differences and grievances.

The festival is a favourite with most Indians for being the most colourful and joyous of all. Every year it succeeds in bridging the social gap, between employers and employees, men and women. People visit homes, distribute sweets and apply gulal (colour) on each other, signifying the colourful and happy spring times ahead. They greet each other, embracing three times.

Apart from this usual fun with coloured powder and water, Holi is marked by vibrant processions, which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and a general sense of abandoned gaiety.

Religion: Islamic

Id-ul-Fitr means the 'festival of breaking the fast'. Fitr is derived from the word fatar meaning 'breaking'. Another connotation suggests that it is derived from fitrah or 'alms'. Certain Sunni Muslims believe that fitr comes from fitrat meaning 'nature' and Id-ul-Fitr is the celebration of god' smagnanimity in providing nature to man.

Celebrated on the first day of the new moon in Shawwal, it marks the end of Ramzan. In the morning everyone bathes, wears new or clean clothes, applies perfume, eats dates or some other sweet before walking to the mosque for Id prayers. Men wear white clothes because white symbolizes purity and austerity. On this day, according to the Quran, Allah has ordained a dole for every Muslim who is free and is inpossession of almsworthy capital. This charitable gift, called Sadaqah Fitr, is a dole to break the fast. It is to be given to a needy person as thanksgiving. Even one who has not kept the rozas is expected to give alms.

The amount to be gifted must be in excess of one's essential needs and free from all encumbrances of debt. Food grains or their cost are permitted to be donated. The Quran also specifies the grain and their quantities. A person should give 3.5 lb of wheat or its flour per head, or 7lb of barley per head or their cost.

Do Rakat Namaz is performed in the mosque. These prayers can be read anytime between sunrise and just afternoon. In India, it is customary to say them in the morning. Even women in purdah attend the namaz prayers in special chambers in the metropolitan cities. Id milans are part of the rituals in which people embrace each other three times, as is laid down in the Quran.

The festival originated when after proclaiming Ramzan as the period of fasting and austerity, Prophet Muhammad announced a day for celebrations to reaffirm the feeling of brotherhood.

Women prepare sweets at home .Sevian, or vermicelli cooked in sweetened milk, is popular. People then go for Id milans. Some people visit cemeteries and stay there for many hours, often even camping out overnight. This is perhaps to honour their ancestors and to be with their spirits. To a devout Muslim, Id is a time to forget all past grievances.

Makara Sankranti (Pongal)

Religion: Hinduism

This holy day marks the commencement of the Sun's northern course in the Heavens, known as the Uttaraayana patha. This turn in the Sun's course takes place at the point of time when it enters the sign of Makara or Capricorn. Interestingly, this is the only festival in Hindu calendar that follows a solar calendar and is celebrated on the fourteenth of January every year (all other Hindu festivals are computed using the lunar calendar).



Religion: Parsi, New Year

Navroj is the first day of the first month of the Zoroastrian year. Struggle for good against Evil With Humata (good thoughts), Hukta (good words) and Havarshta (good deeds).  Thus spoke Zoroaster, the great prophet of Iran to his followers who in India are known by the name of Pasis. "There is but one path, the path of ASHA. All other paths are false paths" - YASNA

Zoroastrian is monotheistic in its higher ideology having AHURA MAZDA as its Supreme Deity and AHRIMAN as a lesser power of evil, which continually retards the smooth progress of good-universe is conceived as a battlefield between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman. In this confrontation, Ahura Mazda will ultimately defeat Ahriman.

In the Zoroastrian religion, the theory of Re-incarnation does not exist FIRE is looked upon as a visible symbol of godhead and it is believed that the Sacred Fire was brought to earth from heaven by the prophet himself. In Zoroastrian temples that are known as Fire temples, fire is kept burning all the time. These temples are tended by Priests called Jozdalhregavs.

Over 3000 years ago Shah Jamshed of the Peshadian dynasty ascended the throne on "NAVROZE" - nav meaning new and roze meaning day. It was the day of the Equinox - a day when light and darkness stand equal on the scale of space and time when the length of the day equals that of the night. That particular day came to be known as Jamshed Navroz and is celebrated even in modern times with lot of feasting.

Navroz means spring when Mother Nature casts off everything that is old or super-flows and dresses herself like a young bride in every vibrant colour and hue, rejoicing in her own pure spiritual beauty. Thus Navroz is a new dawn in everyone's life.

Men, women and even children wake up early, bath and dress up in new clothes. They decorate the threshold and steps of their houses with coloured powders, light incense sticks and sprinkle sandalwood powder on live coals, kept in a censor. All this not only is auspicious but also is meant to purify the air.

Food plays a very important role as a significant part of all Parsi festivals. Parsi food is a delicious blend of West Indian and Indian cuisine. Parsis being non-vegetarian, fish, mutton, chicken, nuts, spices and fruits are bought a day before and a variety of dishes are prepared for the following day of Navroz.

For breakfast on the day of Navroz two special dishes are served. One is the "Ravo" made with Suji, milk and sugar and the other is fried vermiceli cooked in sugar syrup and sprinkled with raisins and lot of almond slivers. After breakfast all the family member go to the nearest Fire Temple or Agiary as it is called. In the temple a "JASHAN" - a thanks giving prayer is performed by the priest and each one of the assembled gathering offers sandalwood to the Holy Fire. As per the Parsi custom everyone has to cover their heads while praying inside the temple. Children put on cops of gold or silver brocade, men put on black velvet caps and the women pull their sari pallus over their heads. After the "Jashan" ceremony all people greet each other by saying "Sal Mubarak".

Lunch consists of Pulav, rich with nuts and saffron, fish in green masala and spicy chicken curries. In Parsi community besides all the delicacies, cooking plain rice and moong dal is a "must" on this Navroz day. Food packets and clothes are handed over to the poor Parsi families by the children of the family. Parsi children are thus taught to give and share with others.

Throughout the day on this festival of Navroz, there is much visiting of friends and relatives. Every visitor is offered some sweet and a glass of "faluda" - a sweet and chilled vermicelli and flavoured with rose essence. In all Parsi homes a silver tray is kept ready with roses, coconuts and kumkum for `tilak'. Rose water is freely sprayed on every visitor as he enters. By this time the artistic and coloured designs on the doorsteps are smudged and messy but no one pays attention in the hilarious mood of the festival.

Rakshabandhan (Rakhi) Festival
Religion: Hinduism / Secular

The brotherly duties and sisterly love are symbolized during the Rakshabandhan (ruk-shaa-bum-dha-na) festival in India. Women, old and young alike tie specially made threads and thread watches (rakhis) to their brothers to ensure their welfare, and protection from the evil.

The festival has evolved in the recent times and the symbolism has been changed to connote 'brotherly love'. The all male volunteers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (the RSS), engage in a large celebration, tying the rakhis to each other, symbolizing universal brotherhood. It is used by many girls to keep unwanted romantic advancements by boys also.

Religion: Secular. Mainly in Kerala

The Harvest Festival
Onam, the harvest festival is the most popular festival of KERALA. A festival that celebrates a happy blend of myth and reality, Onam is part of the cultural repertoire of every Malayalee.

It brings back nostalgic memories, carried on the wings of folklore, of a bygone Utopian era of prosperity, equality and righteousness, under the golden reign of Mahabali. Year after year, for centuries, the people of KERALA, irrespective of caste, creed or colour, join together to welcome back their vanquished king. The ten-day Onam festival falls in August-September, coinciding with the beginning of the harvest season.

The Legend
According to local belief, in a war that took place between the gods and the demons, the demons won. Deeply hurt by the defeat of the gods, Aditi, their mother prayed to Lord Vishnu to destroy Mahabali, the demon king.

Consequently, Lord Vishnu, in the guise of a Brahmin boy, Vamanan, went to Mahabali and asked him to grant him three steps of land. The wish was granted and Vamanan covered the whole land with his two steps and then he came back to the King asking him where can he place the third step.

The king to honour his word, offered his head as the third step. Vamanan pushed Mahabali deep down into the earth. Pleased by his honesty and generosity, the lord in turn granted him a wish that he could he could visit his kingdom and people on a particular day once a year.

The Festivity
Preparation of a floral carpet called "Athappookkalam" in front of houses, from the first day of 'Atham' to the tenth day of 'Thiruvonam' is part of the festivities, which is a symbolic gesture to welcome King Mahabali.

The state government conducts Tourism Week celebrations in connection with Onam, showcasing the gems of KERALA's culture. Onam resonates with Carnivals, Boat Races, Dance, Music and Feast.

A sumptious meal on plantain leaf and the traditional sweet dish of KERALA 'Payasam' etc are served in every house The pomp and pageantry of Onam reflects the Keralite's zest for all the beautiful things of life.

Celebrated By: Andhra, Karnataka, Maharastra
Marks: The beginning of the New Year

Ugadi is the New Year's Day for the people of Andhra Pradesh and also for the Telugu people all over the world. Those who live north of the Vindhya hills observe it as "Barhaspatyamana". People living to the south of the Vindhya hills observe it as "Sauramana" or "Chandramana".

A Unique Ritual
There is a peculiarity about the practices of the various sects of Brahmins; one who is not conversant with them finds it difficult to understand their meaning. Even though they are all Brahmins certain differences in their lineage may be traced among them. These become manifest in their distinctive calendars where the dates and months vary. Some have calculations according to the solar system, and others according to the lunar system; with the result that despite all being Brahmins the New Year differs among different sects. Thus there is a Telugu New Year's Day, a Tamil New Year's Day, and a New Year's distinct from these in the almanac of North India.

According to Chandramana, Ugadi is celebrated on the bright fortnight ('Shukla Paksha') of the first month ('Chaitra Masa') in the first season of the year i.e. Spring ('Vasanta-Ritu'). As all these important elements are present, this day has special significance marking the commencement of a New Year.

Ugadi is celebrated with festive fervour in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. While it is called Ugadi in Andhara and Karnataka, in Maharashtra it is known as "Gudipadava".

On Ugadi day, people wake up before the break of dawn and take a head bath after, which they decorate, the entrance of their houses with fresh mango leaves. The green mango leaves tied to the doorway signify a good crop and general well being. It is noteworthy that one uses mango leaves and coconuts (as in a 'Kalasam', to initiate any puja) only on auspicious occasions to propitiate gods.

People also splash fresh cow dung water on the ground in front of their house and draw colourful floral designs. This is a common sight in every household. People perform the ritualistic worship to God invoking his blessings before they start off with the New Year. They pray for their health, wealth and prosperity and success in business too. Ugadi is also the most auspicious time to start new ventures.

Special Delicacies
It is a season for raw mangoes spreading its aroma in the air and the fully blossomed Neem tree that makes the air healthy. Also, jaggery made with fresh crop of sugarcane adds a renewed flavour to the typical dishes associated with Ugadi.

In Andhra Pradesh, eatables such as "Pulihora", "Bobbatlu" and preparations made with raw mango go well with the occasion. In Karnataka too, similar preparations are made but called "Puliogure" and "Holige". The Maharashtrians make "Puran Poli" or sweet 'Rotis'.

Ugadi is thus a festival of many shades. It ushers in the New Year, brings a rich bounce of flora and fills the hearts of people with joy and contentment

Vinayaka Chaturthi
Religion: Hinduism

Ganesha Chaturthi is one of the most popular Hindu festivals. This is the birthday of Lord Ganesha. It is the day most sacred to Lord Ganesha and falls on the 4th day of the bright fortnight of 'Bhadrapada' (August - September). Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated throughout India, as well as by the devoted Hindus all across of the world.

Lord Ganesha-The Lord Of Power And Wisdom
Lord Ganesha is the elephant-headed God. He is worshipped first in any prayers. His names are repeated first before any auspicious work is begun and also before any kind of worship is begun.

He is the Lord of power and wisdom. He is the eldest son of Lord Shiva and the elder brother of "Skanda" or Kartikeya. He is the energy of Lord Shiva and so He is called the son of Shankar and Uma Devi. By worshipping Lord Ganesha mothers hope to earn for their sons the sterling virtues of Ganesha.

Lord Ganesha is very fond of sweet pudding or balls of rice flour with a sweet core. On one of His birthday He was going around house-to-house accepting the offerings of swat puddings. Having eaten a god number of these, He set out moving on His mouse at night, Suddenly the mouse stumbled as it had seen a snake and became frightened with the result that Ganesha fell down. His stomach burst open and all the sweet puddings came out. But Ganesha stuffed them back into His stomach and, catching hold of the snake, tied it around His belly.

Seeing this the moon in the sky had a hearty laugh. This unseemly behavior of the moon annoyed Him immensely and so he pulled out one of His tusks and hurled it against the moon, and cursed that no one should look at the moon on the Ganesha Chaturthi day. If anyone does, he will surely earn a bad name, censure or ill repute.

However, if by mistake someone does happen to look at the moon on this day, and then the only way he can be freed from the curse is by repeating or listening to the story of how Lord Krishna cleared His character regarding the "Syamantaka" jewel. This story is quoted in the "Srimad Bhagavatam".

Ganesha and His brother Lord Subramanya once had a dispute as to who was the elder of the two. The matter was referred to Lord Shiva for final decision. Shiva decided that whoever would make a circuit of the whole world and come back first to the starting Point had the right to be the elder. Subramanya flew off at once on his vehicle, the peacock, to make a circuit of the world. But the wise Ganesha went, in loving worshipfulness, around His divine parents and asked for the prize; of His victory.

The Decorations
At home, people decorate the floors of their houses with "Kolams" (designs) using rice flour. A fresh image of Ganesha in clay is made and worshiped on this day. A decorated umbrella is placed behind the idol. On a wooden plank, plantain leaf is placed and raw rice is spread over it. The idol is placed on the plantain leaf and decorated with flowers. Then the puja is performed, One hundred and eight different names of the Lord are repeated after the preliminary ceremonies and 108 different flowers are thrown in worship over them.

Different varieties of sweet puddings are prepared and offered to the Lord. Different varieties of fruits are also offered. After the puja people listen to the story of how Lord Krishna cleared His character regarding the Syamantaka jewel. Then they bow to the Lord to seek His blessings. Take fresh spiritual resolves and pray to Lord Ganesha for inner spiritual strength to attain success in all your undertakings.

After being worshipped for two days, or in some cases ten days, the idol is taken in a grand procession and immersed in the sea. Yudhisthira, the hero of the Mahabharata, Damayanti, the queen of the Nishada King Nala, Indra, the Lord of Heavens and even Krishna, the expounder of the Bhagavatgita are said to have devoutly worshipped Ganesha to obtain their desired ends.