India has a rich diversity of culture and tradition,
dominated by religious and spiritual themes. It's probably the only
country where people of so many different origins, religious
beliefs, languages and ethnic background coexist. There are 3 main
sub-cultures: North, East and South. Most of the ancient Indian
culture is preserved in the South which is famous for its classical
arts, such as Carnatic music and classical Indian dance. "Atithi
India's tourism ministry has started a programme to sensitise and
train participants of the tourism industry to show more courtesy and
to display sensitivity to the needs of tourists. It has named the
initiative Atithi Devo Bhavah, which is an ancient Indian dictum
meaning "Guest is a God". The term will develop as a brand, to
certify that a service provider ensures a certain minimum level of
quality. Look out for the badge or sticker with these words when you
are searching for taxi drivers, tour operators, etc
Hotels booking in 179 different cities and places of India
There are three
national holidays (Republic Day, Independence Day, and Gandhi
Jayanti) which occur on the same day every year. Most other
religious holidays occur on different days, because the Hindu and
Islamic festivals are based on their respective calendars and not on
the Gregorian calendar.
Here is a list of important holidays. The dates given are correct
for 2007. Not all holidays are celebrated with equal fervour, or
celebrated at all in all regions of the country. Different regions
might give somewhat different names to the same festival. Check the
state or city you are visiting for information on whether there will
be closures. To cater to varying religious practices, offices have a
list of optional holidays (called restricted holidays by the
government) from which employees are allowed to pick two, in
addition to the list of fixed holidays. This may mean thin
attendance and delayed service even when the office is officially
January 1 — New Year's day. Not an official holiday, but thin
attendance because of partying the previous night. Also Eid ul-Azha,
Islamic festival, might be an optional holiday.
January 15 — Makara Sankranti. Optional holiday, no disruptions.
January 20 — Muharram, Islamic new year. Might be an optional
January 26 — Republic Day. Celebrates the adoption of the
constitution and the day India became a republic. Big military
parades in major cities.
March 3 — Holi, the festival of color. On the first day, people go
to temples and light bonfires, but on the second, it's a nationwide
waterfight combined with showers of colored powder. This is not a
spectator sport: as a visible foreigner, you're a magnet for
attention, so you'll either have to barricade yourself inside, or
put on your most disposable clothes and join the fray. Alcohol and
Bhang are often involved and crowds can get rowdy as the evening
wears on. Street celebrations are rare in South India, though
private celebrations occur.
March 19 — Ugadi/Gudi Padwa. New year according to the Hindu lunar
calendar. Some religious observances, no major disruptions.
March 27 — Ram Navami. Birthday of Lord Rama. Some religious
observances, no major disruptions.
April 6 — Good Friday. Christian festival, may be an optional
April 14 — New Year per Hindu Solar calendar. Some religious
observances, no major disruptions.
May 1 — Martyr's Day / Labour Day. Holiday in most offices.
May 2 — Buddha Purnima, birthday of Buddha. Some religious
observances, an optional holiday.
August 15 — Independence Day - Celebrates the birth of independent
August 28 — Raksha Bandhan. Sisters tie the rakhi or the sacred
thread of love on their brothers' wrists and the brothers give gifts
and promises of protection in return. Holiday in Northern India.
September 3 — Krishna Janmashtami/Gokulashtami - Celebrates the
birth of Lord Krishna
September 15 — Vinayaka (Ganesha) Chathurthi - Celebrates the birth
of Lord Ganesha. The most important festival in Maharashtra.
Festivities go on for 10 days during which the idol of Ganesha (or
Ganpati) is worshipped at homes and every street corner. On the
tenth day (or earlier in some cases) it is ceremonially immersed in
the sea or a lake after being taken out in a lavish procession. A
sight to watch, but traffic is disrupted for those days in cities
like Mumbai and Pune.
October 2 — Gandhi Jayanti - birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. National
October 14 — Ramzan-Id/Id-ul-Fitr. Muslim religious observances.
Holiday in many places.
October 21 — Dussera/Vijay Dashmi/Durga Pooja/Ayudha Pooja - locals
worship the deity Durga and perform pooja for their objects of daily
use. Workers are given sweets, cash bonuses, gifts, new clothes etc.
It is also new year for businessmen, when they are supposed to start
new account books. The nine nights of Navratri before this comprise
the second most important festival in India. In some places like
West Bengal, it is the most important festival. There Goddess Durga
gets the same treatment that Ganesha gets in Maharashtra (see
above). In the north Ram Lila celebrations take place and the
slaying of Ravana by Lord Rama is ceremonially reenacted. In
Gujarat, the festival is celebrated by dancing to devotional songs
and religious observances like fasts extended over a period of 9
Diwali LightingNovember 9 — Deepawali (or Diwali) - Festival of
lights, celebrates the return of Lord Rama to the capital of his
kingdom, Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years. Probably the most
lavish festival in the country, reminiscent (to US travellers at
least) of Thanksgiving (the food) and Christmas (the shopping and
gifts) combined. Houses are decorated, there is glitter everywhere,
and if you wander the streets on Deepawali night, there will be
firecrackers going off everywhere including sometimes under your
December 20 — Eid ul-Azha, Islamic festival, might be an optional
holiday. (Twice in 2007, because the Islamic lunar calendar has only
December 25 — Christmas. Religious observances, holiday.
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