The transition day of Sun into the Capricorn
Makar Sankranti day is considered as the transition day of Sun into the Capricorn. It is observed each year on the day Sun enters the Capricorn zodiac which corresponds with the month of January as per the Gregorian calendar. It marks the first day of the sun's transit into Makara rashi. Makar Sankranti is celebrated in many states. It is a day of kite flying. Til (sesame seeds) gul (jaggery) meethai (sweets) are exchanged. Some celebrate with folk songs and celebrations.
Parsi New year
The Parsi New Year or Pateti is celebrated in mid-August every year.
Parsis follow the religion of Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest known monotheistic religions. It was founded by the Prophet Zarathustra in ancient Iran about 3,500 years ago. It was the official religion of Persia (now Iran) from 650 BCE until the rise of Islam in the 7th century. Facing persecution, many Zoroastrians migrated to other countries. They first landed in India in Gujarat. In Iran and other parts of the Middle East, Zoroastrians celebrate the Persian New Year using the Fasli/Bastnai calendar, which fixed the first day of the year on the Spring Equinox, usually March 21st. The Parsis in India observe the new year using the Shahenshahi calendar which does not account for leap years hence the New Year or Pateti has moved by 200 days from its original day of the vernal equinox. Parsis in India celebrate both these days as the New Year.
Durga Puja, West Bengal
Durga is worshipped in two forms - one the popular demon slayer form called ‘mahisasurmardini’ and the other ‘Uma’ the family woman, the mother of Shiva’s children and the daughter of Kailash Parbat.
Durga Puja is traditionally observed for 4 to 5 days when the Goddess visits her father’s home along with her children Ganesha, Lakshmi, Kartik, and Saraswati. Durga is urged by the Gods to kill a demon called Mahisasur (a demon who is half human and half buffalo). Legend has it that Mahisasur received a boon from Bramha who is pleased by his worship and dedication. The boon ensures that Mahisasur can’t be killed by anyone except a woman. Powered by this boon, the buffalo demon wreaks havoc through the realms of the world - Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld. He captures Heaven and drives the Gods out of their kingdom. So, the Gods appeal to the holy trinity, Bramha, Vishnu, and Shiva. Thus is born the Mahisasurmardini or the buffalo demon slayer. Shiva gives her his Trishul, Vishnu, his Chakra. The Goddess has ten hands and with ten weapons kills the buffalo demon and restores peace in the world.
The festival begins from Mahalaya, a week before the actual puja when the goddess starts her journey towards her father’s home along with her children. She travels in different vehicles like the jhula, the boat, and other forms. On this day, Bengalis observe a day of penance and remember the departed souls by taking a holy dip in the Ganges and giving a special offering tarpan to their forefathers. On the 6th day of Navratri called Mahasasti, the goddess finally reaches home and is ushered in with a special arti called bodhon like the one done to usher in a bride. Then the Durga puja begins and for the next four days different rituals like kolabousnan (bathing a banana tree), giving special lotus offerings, kumari puja or worshipping a non-mensurating female child, sandhi puja or special evening arti, sahoshropradip lighting of 100 earthen lamps on a banana leaf, etc are observed.
Photocredit : Ms Sarah Welch - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56747508
Onam is a harvest festival celebrated all over the state of Kerala. Spanning over ten days, Onam starts on Atham day and lasts till Thiruvonam (sacred Onam day). On the first day, a street parade is organised with caparisoned elephants, carnival floats, brightly dressed dancers and musicians, and other artistes. During the festival homes are decorated with exquisite floral carpets (Pookkalam), traditional art forms and games are seen everywhere and homes are cleaned and spruced up. The Vallam Kali Boat race is held during this festival featuring the unique snake boats. Elaborate feasts (Onasadya) are planned in every house which end with the desert payasam.