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Culture
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 Devo Bhavah"

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

Holidays

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 open.

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 holiday.
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 holiday.
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 India
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 holiday.
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 days.

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 feet.
December 20 Eid ul-Azha, Islamic festival, might be an optional holiday. (Twice in 2007, because the Islamic lunar calendar has only 354 days.)
December 25 Christmas. Religious observances, holiday.

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