India is the land of festivals, a colourful nation with joyous celebrations and interesting mythological legends. Harvest festivals are those that occur at the time of the main harvest of a particular region. Each of the 29 states of India celebrates its harvest festival at different times throughout the year, owing to the diversity in climate and difference in the staple crop of a region. Bihu, Pongal, Makara Sankranti, Lohri - the names and regions differ, but the significance of each is just one - to be thankful for the bountiful harvest. A substantial section of the Indian population is actively involved in agricultural practices. The first yield of their new crop is a cheerful time for them. It is a time for the celebration of the food grown. The farmers indulge in fun and frolic, and they are joined by the urban crowd as well, albeit in different ways. Let's take a look at some of the major harvest festivals of India.
Here is the list of 12 Popular Harvest Festivals in India
Celebrated in the second week of January, this signifies the end of the harvesting season in the country when farmers put down their tools and come together in joy and harmony. The Sankranti festivities are marked in different ways across north India such as through kite flying in Gujarat and parts of Rajasthan; Pongal in south India; a four-day long cultural harvest festival in India primarily celebrated in Tamil Nadu. It is a famous festival in the south when people pray for abundance in wealth and health.
One of the most popular harvest festivals of South India is Pongal. It is celebrated in mid-January every year and marks the beginning of Uttarayan-sun’s journey northwards. It is mainly observed in Tamil Nadu and lasts for about four days. The literal meaning of Pongal is “spilling over”, and it is so called because of the tradition of boiling rice in a pot until it starts to spill while people show gratitude to nature during the festival. Drawing of Kolam, swinging and cooking are essential traditions of the festival.
Baisakhi or Vaisakhi, the harvest festival, is celebrated with great enthusiasm to mark the beginning of the new spring and is celebrated in most of India as the new year by Hindus. It signifies the end of the harvest season in India, marking a time of prosperity for the farmers. Also called as Vaisakhi, it is a festival of tremendous joy and celebration. Baisakhi is especially significant to Punjab and Haryana, because of the large Sikh population who celebrate this festival with a lot of energy and vigour.
One of the, if not the most colourful harvest festivals celebrated in the world, Holi is representative of India’s essence and vibrancy. The beautiful cultural festival celebrated with colours and water in March is a unique festival marked all across the country. Celebrated across two days; the night before the colour playing family and friends gather to burn a bonfire to commemorate the sacrifice of Holika and the next day people come out and play with colours and water in the spirit of joy.
The joyous festival of Lohri is a celebration of the commencement of the harvest season. Mainly celebrated in Punjab and other parts of North India by Sikh and Hindu communities, the festival involves lighting a holy bonfire, feeding it, offering prayers, dance performances. The fire signifies passing of winters, the long nights and welcomes summer, the longer days. Celebration of Lohri marks the end of winter season. It is celebrated with the beating of Dhol, Nagadas, and singing of traditional Lohri songs.
Onam is a 10-day harvest festival celebrated in Kerala in the month of August - September. The festival is celebrated with grandeur. There are fairs and contests for people to indulge in. The floors are decorated with flower designs; there are dances for celebration and a snake boat race (Aranmula Boat Race) contest called Vallamkali is also carried out. The tenth or the last day of Onam is said to be most important and is one of the most popular manifestations of Culture of Kerala.
The most significant and important of all the cultural and vibrant celebrations in Assam is the Bihu festival. Marking the beginning of the agricultural season, Bihu brings the people of Assam together, irrespective of caste, religion, creed, gender or race. People of Assam rest their faith on their supreme God, Brai Shibrai, locally known as Father Shibrai. Celebrated somewhere around April, the Bihu harvest festival lasts for an entire month and is observed all across Assam with high spirits of appreciation.
Basant Panchami is a Hindu Spring harvest festival is either celebrated in January or February. The festival is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Saraswati. Saraswati Puja takes place on a giant level in the states of Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, and Assam. People eat yellow and wear yellow. In Rajasthan, people wear jasmine garlands whereas, in Uttarakhand, people also worship Lord Shiva and Parvati as the mother earth. The Sikhs conduct Langar to celebrate the yellow festival.
Nuakhai is an annual harvest festival in Odisha, celebrated to welcome the season's new rice. Celebrated a day after Ganesh Chaturthi, Nuakhai is the most auspicious and important social festival in Western Odisha and the neighbouring areas of Simdega in Jharkhand. It is celebrated in both domestic and community levels - while the festival brings people to their natives for customary greetings and meals in the urban places, the season in the rural counterparts runs through the entire month and is marked by prayers, community dances, and feasts.
The traditional occasion of Ugadi involves day-long festivities. The day is believed to be auspicious for starting new ventures. The fervour and enthusiasm with which the festival is celebrated mark its relevance even in today's time. The city drowns in different colours of rangolis and decorations. The festival welcomes a new start of life.
Wangala is an important post-harvest festival of the Garo Tribe, to mark the end of an agricultural year. It is a thanksgiving festival to the god of fertility, known as Misi-A-Gilpa-Saljong-Galapa. An extravaganza of a 100 drums, the festival is also known as the hundred drum festival. It is accompanied by the cries of a leading warrior, while boys and girls join him syncronising the dance steps with hand gestures. Celebrated from September to December, it marks the onset of Winter. During the festival, the sun god is worshipped with great Zeal with women dressed in colourful attire and men rhythmically drumming their traditional instruments.
Nabanna, translating to Nobo-Onno which means New Rice in Bengali, is a harvest festival of the state. Celebrated in the Bengali month of Agrohyon, the new rice is harvested, and farmers offer the first harvest to Goddess Lakshmi as a thanksgiving offering. Apart from this, the festival hosts a food mela called the Nabanna Fair where a Bengali cuisine called 'Pithe' is cooked and offered to everyone. There are other cultural events with dance and music during the festivities.
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