This article contains a list of the most important Hindu festivals with a brief write-up on each. Dates of these important Hindu festivals for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 are also mentioned. The order in which the Hindu festivals are listed is the order in which they occur during the year.
Makar Sankranti: This is the festival of the Sun God. According to the Hindu calendar Makar Sankranthi marks the end of an inauspicious period which starts from mid December. It also signifies the end of winter and the start of the new harvest season. In many parts of India, this festival is celebrated by flying kites. Unlike most Hindu festivals that are based on the Lunar calendar, this festival follows a solar calendar. Hence it is always celebrated on the 14th of January. Because of the earth’s axis, the date of this festival changes every 80 years.
Dates: 14 Jan 2011, 14 Jan 2012, 14 Jan 2013, 14 Jan 2014, 14 Jan 2015.
Vasant Panchami and Saraswati Puja: This festival celebrates the start of spring. It is also a day to honor Goddess Saraswati who is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, wisdom, music and art. Goddess Saraswati has 4 hands that represent Intellect, Mind, Ego and Alertness. With two hands she plays the Veena (a sitar like instrument). In her third hand she holds a lotus which symbolizes knowledge and with her fourth hand she holds sacred scriptures.
Dates: 18 Feb 2011, 28 Jan 2012, 15 Feb 2013, 4 Feb 2014, 24 Jan 2015.
Maha Shivaratri: There are many tales about why Maha Shivaratri is celebrated. One popular tale is that according to legend, Goddess Parvati had asked Lord Shiva which was his favorite ritual, to which Lord Shiva replied that the thirteenth new moon night in the month of Maagha is his favorite day. Every since, that day is celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva. His devotees fast all day and keep a night long vigil. The Shiva Linga is washed with milk, honey, water and bael leaves. This signifies the purification of the soul.
Dates: 3 Mar, 2011, 20 Feb 2012, 10 Mar 2013, 28 Feb 2014, 17 Feb 2015.
Holi: According to legend, the demon king Hiranyakashipu had been granted a boon by Brahma that made him invincible. He disallowed the worship of Gods. His son Prahlada continued to worship Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu made may unsuccessful attempts to kill Prahlada. Holika was Prahlada’s demon sister. She too had been granted a boon as per which she could not be destroyed by fire. A wood pyre was created and Holika sat on it. Prahlada was ordered to sit on his sister’s lap. When the pyre was lit, to everyone’s amazement, Prahlada was unscathed, but Holika, who could not be destroyed by fire, ended up as ash. To celebrate this victory of good over evil, Holi is celebrated.
Holi is the festival of colors and traditionally people put color and water on one another. Bhang (cannabis) is also consumed.
Dates: 20 Mar, 2011, 8 Mar 2012, 27 Mar 2013, 17 Mar 2014, 6 Mar 2015.
Ram Navami: Lord Ram was the 7th incarnation of God Vishnu. Ram Navami celebrates his birthday.
Dates: 12 Apr 2011, 1 Apr 2012, 20 Apr 2013, 8 Apr 2014, 28 Mar 2015.
Hanuman Jayanti: Hanuman jayanti celebrates the birthday of Hanuman, the monkey God. Hanuman was the son of Vayu the God of wind. Hanuman is known for his strength and his unflinching devotion to Lord Ram and Sita.
Dates: 17 Apr, 2011, 6 Apr 2012, 25 Apr 2013, 15 Apr 2014, 4 Apr 2015.
Raksha Bandhan: Raksha Bandhan reinforces the special relationship between brothers and sisters. On this day sisters tie the Rakhi (sacred thread) on their brothers wrist and brothers reaffirm their promise to protect their sisters.
Dates: 13 Aug 2011, 2 Aug 2012, 21 Aug 2013, 10 Aug 2014, 29 Aug 2015.
Krishna Janmashtami: This festival celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna was born in a jail at midnight and was to be executed the next day by his evil uncle Kansa. Krishna’s father Vasudeva, managed to escape with Krishna and hand him over to his friends Nanda and Yashoda to bring him up.
As a child Krishna was very mischievous. He used to break the earthen pot in which his mother would store butter and milk. On Krishna Janmashtami, young men reenact this scene by forming human pyramids to break high-hanging pots of butter and milk.
Dates: 22 Aug 2011, 10 Aug 2012, 28 Aug 2013, 17 Aug 2014, 5 Sep 2015.
Ganesh Chaturthi: This 10 day festival celebrates the birth of Lord Ganesh who is the God of prosperity, good fortune and wisdom. Hindu’s consider it auspicious to invoke Lord Ganesh’s name before starting any new venture.
On the first day of Ganesh Chaturthi, idols of Lord Ganesh are brought and placed on an alter. These idols are worshiped and then immersed in a water body (sea, lake, river, etc). Depending on personal beliefs, the immersion can be done anytime during the 10 day celebration.
Mumbai experiences some of the most colorful and vibrant Ganesh celebrations. Large pandals (tents) are put up where devotees can come and pray. The farewell immersion into the sea is done with music and dance.
Dates: 1 Sep 2011, 19 Sep 2012, 9 Sep 2013, 29 Aug 2014, 17 Sep 2015.
Navratri: In Sanskrit, Navratri means nine nights. The nine forms of the Goddess Shakti/Devi are worshipped for nine nights and ten days. Navratri is divided into three slots of three days. For the first three days Durga (also known as Kali) who is the destroyer of evil is worshipped. During the next three days the goddess of wealth Lakshmi is worshipped. On the final three days, the goddess of knowledge, wisdom, music and art, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped. In the sequence in which this is written the nine goddess are worshipped on the nine nights of Navratri – Maa Shailaputri, Maa Brahmacharini, Maa Chandraghanta, Maa Kushmanda, Maa Skanda Mata, Maa Katyayani, Maa Kalaratri, Maa Mahagowri and Maa Siddhidayini.
Navratri is a joyous occasion to worship, feast, enjoy music and dance. The Garba folk dance and Dandiya (dance with sticks) are very popular in Western India.
Dates: 28 Sep 2011, 16 Oct 2012, 5 Oct 2013, 25 Sep 2014, 13 Oct 2015.
Dussehra – Vijay Dashami: Dussehra is celebrated on the day after Navrati. This is the day when Lord Ram defeated and killed Ravana. It symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
As part of the festivities, effigies of Ravana are filled with fireworks and in the evening these are burnt.
Dates: 6 Oct 2011, 24 Oct 2012, 14 Oct 2013, 4 Oct 2014, 22 Oct 2015.
Diwali and Lakshmi Puja: “The festival of lights” is one of the most important festivals of the Hindu calendar. It celebrates the return back to Ayodhya of Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman after 14 years in exile. According to legend, the citizens of Ayodhya lit earthen oil lamps along the way that Lord Ram took back to Ayodhya.
The five day festivities start off with Dhanteras during which business men start their financial year. It is also a day when families buy ornaments.
The second day, “Naraka Chaturdasi”, marks the victory of Lord Krishna over Naraka.
On the third day, Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped to ensure prosperity. This is the main day of Diwali.
The fourth day, “Annakuta”, also called “Shukla Paksha”, marks the day when Lord Krishna started the worship of Govardhan.
The fifth day, “Bhai Dooj” reinforces the bond between brothers and sisters. On this day Lord Yama visited his sister Yamuna.
Traditional lights are lit on all five days of Diwali and expect to hear the sound of fire crackers on all five days.
Dates: 26 Oct 2011, 13 Nov 2012, 3 Nov 2013, 23 Oct 2014, 11 Nov 2015.