India is a country rich in culture and steeped in tradition that dates back centuries. Ours is a secular country that believes in celebrating festivals of different religions with equal gaiety and fervour. What better time than the ongoing ten day festival of Ganesh Chaturthi to take you through a ‘colourful’ journey of the prominent festivals we celebrate in India!
Sweets stuffed in the mouth… drums beats filling up the air… people dancing with gay abandon… mass euphoria… Such is the magical charm of our festive celebrations. Let’s take a quick look at the role ‘colour’ has to play in our festivities. No prizes for guessing which one’s going to be the curtain raiser here!
This exuberant “festival of colours” welcomes the season of spring in the most colourful fashion. A dash of gulal here and some abir there… but that’s not enough! We love to own an entire palette (and a good stock at that) to smear several shades of colour on our friends and family. Colour water filled gubbaras and picchkaris are a must-have for kids desirous of drenching people for fun. This is one day when people shed all inhibitions and literally come out of their homes to revel in the festivities. Yes, it is a messy affair when you spend the entire evening scrubbing yourself hard but who cares!
The dates of these festivals fall very near to each other; at a gap of a day or two not more. In Tamil Nadu, they call it Pongal and you will find every house flaunting colourful rangoli creations at their doorstep – made from powder colours combined with colourful floral decorations to show off the creativity. Makar Sankranti is celebrated in the North with some parts of India, like Gujarat and Maharashtra, celebrating the kite festival. When you look up, all you will see is colourful kites of all shapes and sizes against the blue backdrop of the sky! Lohri is celebrated all over Punjab and its adjoining states. People wear bright coloured clothes and dance around massive bonfires.
The “festival of lights” is the main festival of Hindus and the revelries are very colourful at any part of the day or night. Colourful clay lamps in various shapes and designs, rangolis outside the homes, flower garlands, rich and glitzy bandhanwar or door hangings, multi-colour serial lights everywhere… and how can be forget the extravagant show of firecrackers teasing the limits of the sky!
The Puja thali is quite an attraction due to its colourful presentation… roli, kumkum, flowers, betel nuts, holy thread, dry fruits, kapoor, moli, incense sticks, gulal, abir, fruits, prasad, ghee, curd, turmeric powder, and various items depending on culture. Colourful floating candles and floral combinations are displayed as centrepieces in homes! The show of fireworks is spectacular and very ostentatious. Easily the most colourful and vibrant nights of the year with the entire stretch of the sky lighting up at quick intervals!!
Eid is a festival celebrated by Muslims to culminate the month long fasting of Ramzan. In areas where Muslim population dominates, you will find brightly lit shops and mosques with lighting in all colours. Men throng the mosques from morning wearing white clothes and traditional white caps; praying in uniformity and presenting a lovely picture. Green colour is symbolic of the Muslim culture and you find it used the most in the decorations. Women wear bright coloured clothes that have a lot of bling on them, mainly in gold colour.
The two day festival of Govinda celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna and colour has to play an important role in the festivities. Elaborate multi-colour floral decorations on swings for the Lord… display of Krishna’s heroics in the form of colourful jhaankis… and the dahi handi celebrations in the western part of the country where coloured water is sprinkled on the participants of the human pyramid reaching for the matka tied high… these are the hallmarks of Janmashtami.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival rich in colour in Western India. The festival is reminiscent of the famous Lalbagh Ka Raja, as they address the God in Lalbagh, Mumbai. Giant idols of the elephant God, Ganesha, are housed in colourful pandals. You will see colours of several shades when you look at the floral and food offerings made to the God in these pandals. Gulal is sprinkled around as people dance on streets when the idol is carried for immersion.
The most loved festival of the kids is also a very colourful one. Days before the festival, you can see the whole country painted a bright red. Several households have a colourful guiding star hanging at their doorstep or window. Symbolic of the chills in the weather and snow in several parts of the world, white is another colour that dominates the festivities. Tall and brightly embellished Christmas trees flock popular places of interest and you might also catch glimpses of the Santa Claus dressed in red and white in some of these. Ah! Those rich brown plum cakes and other X’mas goodies are quite a treat for the taste buds.
Besides, there are several other festivals celebrated in India that make use of colour really well such as Onam, Ram Navmi, Maha Shivratri, and Raksha Bandhan. Colours heighten the mood and the festivities give us a well-deserved break from the monotony of life to be with our loved ones.