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Maharashtra  >>  Geography   >>  Festivals  >>  People & Cultures   >>    Map of Maharashtra  >>    Mumbai   >>   Aurangabad

FESTIVALS

The Maharashtrians are a vibrant, earthy people for whom life itself is a celebration. Small wonder then that all festivals in Maharashtra are celebrated with abundant fervor and enthusiasm. These times provide a unique opportunity to absorb Maharashtrian culture, with all its colorful customs, rituals and traditions. The song, music and dance that accompany almost every festive occasion add joy and excitement to the lives of the people from every walk of life.

These festivals attract world-renowned artistes - musicians, dancers, painters, sculptors, weavers - who come together to pay tribute to Maharashtra's rich culture and legacy.

The Maharashtrians are a hearty, festive people. The love for celebration is deeply ingrained in their culture and it finds expression through the various occasions on the Maharashtrian calendar. There is festivity all round the year and people cherish the good times with music, dance and delectable food.
 

Modern Festivals of Maharashtra

Ganesh Chaturthi
Lord Ganesh, the patron deity of Maharashtra, is the God of wisdom. Come August, preparations to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi - the auspicious day when Lord Ganesh was born - begin with great enthusiasm all over the state. The 11-day festival begins with the installation of beautifully sculpted Ganesh idols in homes and mandaps (large tents), colorfully decorated, depicting religious themes or current events. The Ganesh idols are worshipped with families and friends. Many cultural events are organized and people participate in them with keen interest. After ten exciting days comes the time to bid farewell to the beloved God. People take Ganesh idols in procession to the accompaniment of music and dance for immersion in the sea or nearby river or lake. Emotions run high as people chant 'Ganpati bappa moraya, pudhachya varshi lavkar ya' (Oh Lord Ganesh, please come back soon next year).


Lord Ganesh, or Ganpati as He is popularly called in Maharashtra, is among the most beloved of Hindu Gods. As Ganesh Chaturthi - his day of birth - approaches every year in August-September, so does the Pune Festival, a celebration of art and culture, song and dance, custom and tradition.

Originally conceived as a localized cultural event, the Pune Festival has, over the years, gained national and international stature and evolved into one of India's landmark cultural happenings. It is one of the few festivals that has been consistently and actively promoted abroad by the government of India, as a major tourist attraction.

Some of the country's internationally renowned artistes have gathered at Pune, and regarded it as a privilege to be invited to perform at the festival. While it has provided a unique platform for exponents of classical music and dance it has, keeping pace with changing times, also helped to promote modern trends in the performing arts, notably the dramatic arts and the traditional art of rangoli.

A rare treat, the week-long Pune Festival provides a feast of entertainment for visitors who can participate and revel in traditional and modern sports events, shop for exquisite textiles and handicrafts, relish the delectable cuisine and rejoice in the colorful customs of Maharashtra.

The Banganga Festival

Legend has it that Lord Ram, on his way to Lanka in search of his wife Sita, stopped on the hillock of Malabar Hill. His followers were worshippers of Shiva and they fashioned a shivalinga from sand and called it Walluka Ishwar - 'walluka' meaning 'sand' and 'Ishwar', 'the God'. Though surrounded by water, the people could not find fresh water to quench their thirst or perform daily puja. Seeing this, Ram shot a ban (arrow) into the ground and the fresh waters of the holy Ganga sprang from that spot. Centuries later, the Shilahara kings built a large and beautiful tank in stone, to store the water of the Banganga. Settlers through the ages built numerous, beautifully sculpted temples to various deities around the tank.

Every year, in January, a cultural extravaganza is organized at Banganga, where top artistes from around the country perform live classical music concerts. Cultural enthusiasts attend the festival and feast the soul as well as the mind as the sun sets.

The Elephanta Festival

In February Elephanta, a small island near
Mumbai, is a favored destination for culture lovers. It is the site of the Elephanta Festival, the tranquil abode of Lord Shiva, just one-and-a-half-hour's journey by motor launch from Mumbai. Once known as Puri or Gharapuri, the island was the proud capital of a powerful coastal kingdom. It was named Elephanta by the Portuguese, who took possession of it several centuries later, and found a monolithic stone elephant at the place they first landed.

The Elephanta caves are a showcase of legends created around Lord Shiva, beautifully presented here in all his splendor in the rock cave temples. Every year, renowned dancers and musicians perform outside the caves, beneath a star-studded sky, to a select and appreciative audience. Special launch services and catering arrangements are provided for visitors.

The Ellora Festival near Aurangabad

There was a time when the Gods grew bored in their celestial abode. They asked the Lord if they could visit the earth. That evening, He said they could, but on condition that they returned by dawn. The Gods set up a city at the place they fancied and, lost in their pleasures, they let time pass by. Since they failed to return by dawn, they were turned to stone - in the magnificent monolith called Ellora, the heavenly abode of the Gods on earth. MTDC organizes the Ellora Festival here in December, inviting in renowned artistes who display their virtuosity in music and dance. Surrounded by 1,400-year old caves and rock carvings, artistes perform in this magnificent ambiance to enchant the gods, goddesses and human lovers of art. The Kailas temple, sculptured out of one huge rock, is one of the most beautiful backdrops for an event such as this.

The Kalidas Festival at Nagpur

Kalidas was a great Sanskrit poet and dramatist, famous for his historical drama, Shakuntalam, and for the epic poem, Meghdoot. The Kalidas Festival brings back memories of the golden period of the Vidarbha region. Ramgiri, or Ramtek as it is popularly known today, is the place that inspired Kalidas and its beauty features predominantly in his literary work.

Every year, in November, some of the greatest exponents of music, dance and drama perform in the picturesque setting of Ramtek, celebrating its glorious heritage over two exciting days and nights.

Nag Panchami

In Hindu mythology, the cobra has a special significance and the earth, it is believed, rests on the head of 'Shesha' - the thousand-hooded cobra. Snake worship is an important ritual of the Maharashtrians, and on the festival of Nag Panchami, clay icons of cobras are venerated in homes. People offer sweets and milk to the snake deity and the day is celebrated with folk dances and songs, especially in the countryside. Snake charmers carry cobras in baskets and collect offerings from the public in the streets. A small village near Sangli, Battis Shirale, is famous for its snake catchers, and people throng the streets to watch the thrilling performances of expert snake charmers.

Narali Pournima

The full moon day of the month of Shravan is celebrated with characteristic fervor in different parts of Maharashtra and is known variously as Narali Pournima, Shravani Pournima, Rakhi Pournima or Raksha Bandhan. 'Naral' means 'coconut', and Narali Pournmia is thus called because offerings of coconuts are made by people to the sea-god on this day. Narali Pournima also marks the advent of the new fishing season and fishermen appease the sea-god before sailing out in their gaily-decorated boats. The festival is a day of singing and dancing.

Raksha Bandhan is also observed on this day. Sisters tie 'rakhis' or beautifully decorated threads on their brothers' wrists. The ritual renews the bond of affection between siblings and signifies the brother's responsibility of protecting his sister all her life.

Gokul Ashtami

The birth of Lord Krishna is celebrated on Gokul Ashtami or Janmashtami. Most devotees fast till midnight and when the birth of Lord Krishna is announced, they eat a festive preparation of rice, butter, yogurt, puris and potatoes. This meal, according to Hindu mythology, was relished by Lord Krishna and his playmates in Gokul. Another fun-filled ritual performed on this day is dahi-handi - clay pots filled with curd, puffed rice and milk are strung high up above the streets and groups of enthusiastic young men (and even women) form human pyramids to reach these and break them open, the way Lord Krishna and his friends would, after sneaking into the houses of gopis (milkmaids) to steal and eat butter.

Gudhi Padwa

'Gudhi' - the bamboo staff with a colored silk cloth and a garlanded goblet atop - symbolizes victory or achievement. Maharashtrians erect gudhis on Padwa, the first day of the Hindu new year. People welcome the new year with gudhi worship and distribute prasad comprising tender neem leaves, gram-pulse and jaggery. Gudhi Padwa heralds the advent of a prosperous new year and is considered as a shubh muhurat - one of the most auspicious days - by Hindus.

Pola
The harvest festival is celebrated by farmers all over Maharashtra. On this day bullocks, which are an integral part of the agricultural chores and consequently the village economy, are honored. They are bathed, colorfully decorated and taken out in processions across the village, accompanied by the music of drumbeats and lezhim (a musical instrument made of a wooden rod and an iron chain full of metallic pieces). Pola brings out an important facet of Hindu culture, which does not look upon cattle as mere beasts of burden, but treats them with dignity and gratitude.

Dussehra

According to the great Hindu epic Ramayan, Dussehra is the day on which Lord Ram killed Ravan, the evil king of Lanka. It is considered as a shubh-muharat - a very auspicious day - to start a new venture. It is a symbol of the victory of good over evil. People decorate the entrances of their homes with torans, flower studded strings, and worship the tools of trade, vehicles, machinery, weapons and even books. As the evening falls, the villagers cross the border, a ritual known as Simollanghan, and worship the Shami tree. The leaves of the Apta tree are collected and exchanged among friends and relatives as gold.

Diwali

Diwali or Deepawali means a row of lights. The most beautiful of all Indian festivals, Diwali is a celebration of lights. Streets are illuminated with rows of clay lamps and homes are decorated with rangoli (colored powder designs) and aakash kandils (decorative lanterns of different shapes and sizes). People rise at dawn, massage their bodies and hair with scented oil and take a holy bath. Diwali is celebrated with new clothes, spectacular firecrackers and a variety of sweets in the company of family and friends.

Dhanatrayodashi; Narakchaturdashi, Amavasya (Laxmi poojan), Balipratipada and Yamadvitiya (Bhaubeej) are the five days which comprise Diwali, and each day has a peculiar religious significance. This joyous celebration is, on the whole, symbolic of dispelling the darkness of misery and bringing the light of prosperity and happiness into human life.

Makar Sankrant

Sankrant means the passing of the sun from one Zodiac sign to the other. People exchange greeting and good wishes on this day, which marks the Sun's passage from the Tropic of Dhanu (Sagittarius) to Makar (Capricon). Sweet and crunchy ladoos made of sesame and jaggery are the favorite treats.

Holi
Each year, after a successful winter harvest, people get ready to welcome the spring with Holi - the festival of colors. Holis or bonfires are lit in the night and people gather to worship the fire-god, who is believed to burn away all evil. On the next day, people of all ages come outside and playfully drench each other with colored water. Brightly colored 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 colors symbolizes the advent of a colorful and prosperous spring season.


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