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10 Big Questions About Hinduism, Answered

2

What Are the Major Hindu Holidays?

firecrackers for Diwali
People burn firecrackers to celebrate Diwali at Shivajipark, Dadar in Mumbai, India. Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

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There are festive and important Hindu holidays year-round, although some are primarily celebrated in specific geographic regions of India or by devotees to a certain god or goddess. Hindu holidays follow the lunar calendar, so they can fall on different days and even months every year in the West.

First, there are a host of deity-specific celebrations that could include visits to temples dedicated to the specific god or goddess, the singing of special devotional prayers, dancing, all-night vigils and more. A few of these major celebrations are:

  • Shivaratri: a springtime festival in honor of Shiva, the divine embodiment of change and regeneration
  • Ganesha or Vinayaka Chaturti: an August/September holiday dedicated to the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune
  • Navaratri: a nine-night celebration observed five times each year, dedicated to female manifestations of the Divine, including the mother goddess Durga and Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, speech and the arts. Many of the rituals associated with Navaratri are attended exclusively by women.

Holi is a colorful and widely observed seasonal holiday. Celebrated throughout India by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddists, Holi is a joyous spring festival (February/March) that's celebrated by tossing colored dyes into the air and feasting late into the night in an atmosphere of unity and peace.

Perhaps the most popular holiday throughout India and the Hindu diaspora is Diwali or Deepawali, the Hindu festival of lights. During the multiday winter holiday, families light traditional clay lamps (or hang cheerful holiday lights) to commemorate the triumph of good over evil. They also gather in the homes of friends to share Diwali treats.

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