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What are the Major Hindu Holidays?

Hinduism celebrates a tapestry of vibrant festivals, each rich with tradition. Diwali, the Festival of Lights, symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. Holi, the Festival of Colors, heralds the arrival of spring and the victory of divine love. Navaratri venerates the goddess Durga's power. How do these holidays shape the cultural fabric of Hindu communities? Explore with us.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

In the Hindu faith, there are more holidays than there are days in the year, with adherents of this faith celebrating a wide variety of things with numerous festivals and commemorative events. Major Hindu holidays also vary from region to region, as the faith is practiced slightly differently in certain areas. The two most notable ones are probably Holi and Diwali, celebrated by most Hindus all over the world.

Holi takes place in March, celebrating spring and color. During this holiday, festive street parties take place in which people throw colored powder and water at each other. Each color has a particular religious significance, with many people using medicinal herbs in their balls of powder. Diwali, the festival of lights, takes place in late October. This festival is treated as a national holiday in India, and devout Hindus in other regions of the world may take Diwali off to celebrate with friends and family.

Diwali is the festival of lights that takes place in October.
Diwali is the festival of lights that takes place in October.

Some other Hindu holidays include days to celebrate the births of specific gods, like Shiva Ratri, commemorating the birth of Shiva in March, and Ganesha Utsava, a day in September to celebrate Ganesha. In August falls Krishna Jayanti, the birth of the god Krisha. Many people also celebrate Navarati, the feast of Shakti, which traditionally includes lots of dancing and partying as people celebrate the various aspects of the feminine.

During Holi, a festival celebrating color,  people throw colored powder and water at each other.
During Holi, a festival celebrating color, people throw colored powder and water at each other.

Events from Hindu mythology are also celebrated. In April, Hindus commemorate the birth of the Lord Rama, and towards the end of the year, they celebrate Dassera, the holiday which celebrates Rama's victory over Ravana. This holiday also marks the triumph of good over evil, and lasts for ten days in some parts of India.

In areas with a large Hindu population, Hindu holidays may be designated as community holidays, reflecting the fact that it will be difficult to get work done, and as a mark of respect to Hindus in the community. Because so many holidays are celebrated, communities usually pick several major dates, such as Diwali, Holi, and Dassera, to designate as official days off.

Pewter figurine of Ganesha, who is celebrated in September.
Pewter figurine of Ganesha, who is celebrated in September.

When working with people of the Hindu faith, it can be important to remember that different people place a different emphasis on different holidays. Asking for time off to celebrate usually reflects regional cultural traditions, not a desire to get out of work with a religious excuse. Many Hindus are also happy to talk about the holidays they celebrate with people who are curious.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most widely celebrated Hindu holidays?

Hindu deities.
Hindu deities.

Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is the most widely celebrated Hindu holiday, symbolizing the victory of light over darkness. Holi, known as the Festival of Colors, celebrates the arrival of spring and the victory of good over evil. Navaratri, a nine-night festival, honors the goddess Durga and her various forms. Maha Shivaratri is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and Krishna Janmashtami celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna. These festivals are celebrated with great fervor across India and in Hindu communities worldwide.

How is Diwali celebrated in Hindu tradition?

The Dassera holiday celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and lasts for ten days in some parts of India.
The Dassera holiday celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and lasts for ten days in some parts of India.

Diwali is celebrated over five days with various rituals. Homes and public spaces are illuminated with diyas (oil lamps) and colorful lights. Families perform Lakshmi Puja to invite prosperity and wealth, followed by fireworks, feasting, and the exchange of sweets and gifts. It's a time for cleaning and decorating homes, symbolizing the welcoming of good fortune and new beginnings. According to the National Geographic, Diwali is also significant for Sikhs and Jains, marking historical events in their traditions.

What is the significance of Holi in Hindu culture?

Holi signifies the triumph of good over evil, drawing inspiration from Hindu mythology, particularly the legend of Prahlad and Hiranyakashipu. It's a festive day to end and rid oneself of past errors, to end conflicts by meeting others, a day to forget and forgive. People pay or forgive debts, as well as deal anew with those in their lives. Holi also marks the start of spring, a season of hope and joy, and is celebrated by throwing colored powders and water, singing and dancing.

Can non-Hindus participate in Hindu festivals like Diwali and Holi?

Yes, non-Hindus are often welcomed to participate in Hindu festivals like Diwali and Holi. These festivals are cultural celebrations that many people enjoy regardless of their religious background. Participants are encouraged to learn about the traditions and meanings behind the festivals to celebrate respectfully. In many parts of the world, these festivals have become cross-cultural events that foster community inclusivity and understanding.

Are there any regional variations in how Hindu holidays are celebrated?

Hindu holidays are celebrated with regional variations across India and the world. For instance, in West Bengal, Durga Puja during Navaratri is the most prominent festival, while in Gujarat, the same period is marked by dance performances called Garba. Diwali in South India might focus more on Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, whereas in North India, it's also associated with the return of Lord Rama from exile. These variations reflect the diverse cultural landscapes and local traditions within Hinduism.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a CulturalWorld researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a CulturalWorld researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

SteamLouis

@turquoise-- It's kind of difficult to explain Dussehra (or Dassera) without explaining the different Hindu gods and the Ramayana, one of the most important epics in Hinduism.

In Ramayana, one story is the story of the victory of Lord Rama over Raavan (Ravana) who is the ten-headed evil demon. In the story Raavan kidnapped Sita, Rama's wife. So Rama, along with his brother Lakshman and friend Hanuman went after Raavan and eventually killed him.

So the celebration of Dussehra, is the celebration of good over evil. One of the main attractions during Dussehra celebrations in India is the burning of a huge paper Raavan to symbolize Rama's victory.

candyquilt

Another major Hindu festival and holiday that is celebrated at the end of summer/beginning of fall is Durga puja. It commemorates the deity Durga being victorious over a demon. I believe this is mainly celebrated in south India but I'm sure some people in the north celebrate it as well.

My family doesn't really celebrate this but I know about it because some of my favorite Bollywood actresses celebrate it every year. I know that Kajol always celebrates Durga Puja for example.

turquoise

Can someone tell me more about Hindu religious holiday Dassera?

I have several Hindu friends and I saw that they said "Happy Dassera" on our common social networking site just last week. I know they had a nice meal on that day but I don't know anything else.

yashtraveler

Some religions, like the Parsi Religion, have only one festival in the calendar. You can take the holiday as opportunity to get some time to spend for god or unlike others, enjoy the holiday at home. It's up to the person.

BigBloom

@Qohe1et

I think that the questions you raise bear witness to the free nature of Hinduism. The key holidays and gods can be measured in terms of how widely acknowledged and celebrated they are, and so we are not presented with a rigid set of rules or scriptures, but rather a great compendious library of volumes on the ideals of the faith.

Qohe1et

There are hundreds of thousands of Hindu gods and goddesses from various traditions all over India. This raises the question of whether the Hindu religion is centered around core beliefs or is a conglomerate of hundreds or thousands of smaller religions. If it was a uniform faith like Christianity or Islam, why were there never a centralized set of holidays?

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    • Diwali is the festival of lights that takes place in October.
      By: byheaven
      Diwali is the festival of lights that takes place in October.
    • During Holi, a festival celebrating color,  people throw colored powder and water at each other.
      By: TheFinalMiracle
      During Holi, a festival celebrating color, people throw colored powder and water at each other.
    • Pewter figurine of Ganesha, who is celebrated in September.
      Pewter figurine of Ganesha, who is celebrated in September.
    • Hindu deities.
      By: mkb
      Hindu deities.
    • The Dassera holiday celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and lasts for ten days in some parts of India.
      By: polesnoy
      The Dassera holiday celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and lasts for ten days in some parts of India.