Festivals of Maharashtra
the centre of many religious and cultural traditions. In
Maharashtrian villages, life revolves around fairs and festivals.
In early January people celebrate Makar Sankranti, the
passing of the sun from Dhanu (Sagittarius) to Makar (Capricorn).
The sky is ablaze with colourful kites. Sweets flavoured with
sesame seed is an important item during this festival. In March,
the festival of Holi is
celebrated which is a winter harvest and the advent of spring.
People throw coloured water over each other and have great fun on
this occasion. This is an important festival celebrated all over
Gudhi Padwa is the new year
for the Maharashtrians. On this day people offer rituals, prayers,
prasad of neem leaves, gram pulse and jagerry and they buy new
clothes. Families erect a gudhi or bamboo staff, with a coloured
silk cloth and a bright garlanded goblet is hung on top of it.
During April, Mahavir Jayanti
is celebrated when thousands of Jains make pilgrimages to Bahubali,
where two Jain temples have been constructed one for the
Swetambara sect and another for the Digambara. Christians observe
Good Friday and Easter Sunday
around the same time. Buddha Purnima
is celebrated in May. Muslims celebrate
Bakrid in the same month and
Muharram is witnessed in June in remembrance of the
Prophet Mohammed on his death anniversary.
The full moon of Shravana is celebrated around August as
Rakhi Purnima and Raksha Bandhan.
In the coastal areas it is celebrated as Narli Purnima to appease
the sea gods. Fisher folk worship the sea and decorate their
boats, sing and dance, and make offerings of coconut. Raksha
Bandhan is celebrated on the same day in different parts of the
The most important Mahrashtrian festival is
Ganesh Chaturthi, in honour of Lord Ganesh. It is
the birthday of Ganesh - the elephant headed son of Shiva and
Parvathi. Ganesh is believed to be the harbinger of good luck who
removes all obstacles to success. He brings prosperity and keeps
natural calamities at bay in the lives of those who worship him.
This ten day festival begins with the installation of the deity,
who is then worshipped daily till the immersion on the final day.
Small Ganesh idols are installed in homes. Idols can tower 10m
high and weigh several tonnes. On the tenth day, serpentine
processions fill the streets and with the accompaniment of
drumbeats and music the image of Ganesh is immersed in the water.
Devotees chant 'Ganapati Bappa Morya' which means Ganesh, Daddy,
please come back soon next year.
Nag Panchami, the snake
festival, is observed at the village called Battis Shitale in the
Sangli district towards the end of August or early September. The
devotees collect hundreds of cobras, place them in earthen pots
and worship them to the accompaniment of folk dances and song.
Later they are carried in processions of bullock carts and
chariots. On the following day they are released into the fields
from where they were captured.
Dussehra and Diwali are
celebrated in October and November. Dussehra which is the
celebration of good over evil is an auspicious day for new
ventures. Tools of trade, vehicles and machinery are worshipped on
this day. Diwali which is the festival of lights marks the end of
one commercial year and the beginning of another. Homes are
decorated with oil lamps. A unique Maharashtrian touch is seen in
the akash kandeels or lanterns that are hung outside homes.
Bhaubij, the last day of Diwali, is similar to Raksha Bandan and
deals with the relationship between brother and sister