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India is a land of festivals and fairs. These festivals are characterized by color, gaiety, enthusiasm, prayers and rituals. Some festivals welcome the seasons of the year, the harvest, the rains, or the full moon. A number of these festivals are common to most parts of India. However, they may be called by different names in various parts of the country or may be celebrated in a different fashion.
Festivals in the year 2011
Makara Sankranthi - January 14th Friday
Makara Sankranthi is celebrated in the month of 'Magha'.Sankranthi is a harvest festival and celebration of spring on the occasion of the 'ascent' of the sun to Uttarayana (the north).

During this festival, cows are washed,their horns painted and garlands hung around their neck. Pooja is performed to the holy cow.

People exchange pieces of sugar cane,sakkare acchu (designs made out of sugar),bella (jaggery) and yellu (til).This symbolises people being generous and kind to everyone.
Maha Shivarathri - March 3rd Thursday
Shivaratri means 'the night of Shiva'.Maha Shivaratri falls on the 13th (or 14th)day of Palguna Masa.This festival is celebrated in the name of Lord Shiva.

People observe a strict fast on this day.The festivity is during the night when Shiva Lingam is worshipped by washing it with milk, honey and curd. People also chant the mantra 'Om Namah Shivaya'and sing hymns in praise of Lord Shiva.
Holi - March 19th Saturday
Holi falls on a full moon day of Paluna Masa. This festival bring new hope for all the people as it marks the end of chilled winter days and the beginning of the summer.

Holi is a festival of colors. People enjoy throwing color powder and water colors at each other. Also people are seen singing and dancing in small groups.

It was on this day that Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashyapu was burnt into ashes when she tried to kill the child devotee Prahalad.
Ugadi - April 4th Monday
Ugadi has its derivation from two terms Yuga and adi. Yuga means era and adi the beginning. So,Ugadi is the beginning of the new era .It is the Hindu New Year.The important ritual on this day is 'Panchanga Sravanam' where the priest or the eldest member of the family reads the important happenings of the year from the new 'Panchanga'.

People take oil-bath and wear new clothes.Poojas are offered to Gods to seek blessings for success and prosperity in the new year.Another custom of Ugadi is the eating of 'Bevu-Bella' (Neem leaves - Jaggery).This symbolizes the bitter and sweet, the sorrows and happiness in life which has to be taken equally.
Ramanavami - April 12th Tuesday
Ramanavami is the celebration of birth of Lord Rama. Rama, the seventh incarnation of Vishnu was born on the ninth day of the bright half of the Chaitra (March - April) in Ayodhya, in the Treta Yuga, the Second Age. On this great day Lord Rama is prayed to and worshipped by his devotees by chanting Rama mantra and singing devotional songs.

Hindu houses are decorated with fresh mango leaves as 'Thorana' and colourful 'Rangolis are designed in front of the house. 'Kosambari' made out of cucumber, grams, etc and 'Panaka' a kind of lemon juice are specialities of this festival.
Nagara Panchami - August 4th Thursday
Nagara Panchami is a day dedicated for the worship of serpents.This is celebrated on the fifth day of full moon in Shravana month. Hindus worship serpent in the form of a deity. They have a belief that the earth is placed on the head of Adishesha or Vasuki, Vishnu, the God of Vaishnavas, has made Naga as his bed and thus Vishnu is Nagashayana. While Shiva, the lord of Shaivas, is Nagabharana, having used serpent as ornaments. Ganapathi also tied his belly with a reptile to symbolise the importance of control on senses.

Devotees search for the holes, little mounds raised by white ants or Nagabanas, where serpents tend to inhibit. They visit these places and place before it milk, banana and other food items.
Raksha Bandhan - August 13th Saturday
Raksha Bandhan is a festival celebrating the bond of affection between brothers and sisters. The day when the siblings pray for each others' well being and wish for each others' happiness and goodwill. As the name 'Raksha Bandhan' suggests, 'a bond of protection', Raksha Bandhan is a pledge from brothers to protect the sister from all harms and troubles and a prayer from the sister to protect the brother from all evil.

The festival falls on the Shravan Purnima (full moon day of shravan month) which comes generally in the month of August. The sisters tie the silk thread called rakhi on their brother's wrist and pray for their well being and brothers promise to take care of their sisters.
Janmashtami - August 22nd Monday
Janmashtami is celebrated every year on the 8th day of the dark fortnight that is also known as the Krishna Paksh. It is the celebration of birth of Lord Krishna.

Lot of bhajan singing, hymn chanting and poojas are performed this day. Devotees visit Krishna temples to seek his blessings.

Divine Krishna's idol is placed in the cradle and rocked while singing devotional songs. Fruits and sweets are offered to the Lord Krishna.
Ganesha Chaturthi - September 1st Thursday
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated on the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the god of wisdom and prosperity on the fourth day of 'Bhadrapada Maasa'.

On the day of the festival, the idol of Lord Ganesha is placed on raised platforms in homes or in elaborately decorated outdoor tents for people to view and pay their homage. Ganapathi is decorated with flowers and garlands. Variety of fruits, coconuts and Ganesha's favourite dishes like ladoo,kadabu,modaka,chakkuli are kept for 'Nyvedhya'.People perform pooja to the Lord by chanting 'Mantras',offering red flowers, 'Durva'(trefoil) blades and sweets.

Processions of Lord Ganesha is taken at the end of the day to immerse the holy idols in water. The festival ends with pleas to Ganesha to return the next year with chants and devotional songs.The celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi continue for five, seven, or ten days.
Vijayadhashami- October 6th Thursday
Navarathri and Vijayadasami are the festivals celebrated over a period of ten days.

The first nine days constitute the Navarathri festival. Navaratri, which literally means 'nine nights,' dedicates three days each to worshipping the Divine in the forms of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The ninth day is also the day of the Ayudha Puja. The Ayudha Puja is a worship of whatever implements one may use in one's livelihood.

The tenth day, though, is the most important; it is known as Vijayadashami, the 'tenth day of victory.'
Deepavali - October 26th Wednesday
Deepavali is celebrated on the 13th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwin (October / November).

As the name suggests, Deepavali is a festival of lights symbolizing the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. It celebrates the victory of good over evil - and the glory of light. This festival commemorates Lord Rama's return to his kingdom Ayodhya after completing his 14-year exile.

Homes are decorated, sweets are distributed by everyone and thousands of lamps lit to create a world of fantasy.
Let us pray that Lord Ganesha bestow His blessings on us
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