Spring is here. So are festivals of India to celebrate the harvest season. Communities in many parts of the country have already begun observing the onset of spring with colourful festivals and ceremonies. We bring you snapshots of some of the more popular events from across India.
Aoling – Nagaland
The first week of April saw members of the Konyak tribe in Nagaland celebrate the six-day long Aoling festival. It marked the beginning of a new year with the arrival of the spring season. The festival is celebrated after the end of the sowing season by members of the tribe who reside in Mon district. People participated in the festivities in traditional attire, including headgear and ornaments. Once deadly headhunters, members of the Konyak tribe now mostly practice agriculture.
Mopin – Arunachal Pradesh
This harvest festival is celebrated by the Galo tribe residing in the East Siang and West Siang districts of Arunachal Pradesh from 5-7 April. The main event is held in the state capital Itanagar but festivities are organised at many other places as well. The focus of one of the really interesting festivals of India is the worship of the Goddess Mopin to drive away evil spirits and help people become prosperous and happy. During the celebrations, people smear rice paste on their faces and enjoy home-made rice wine.
Shad Suk Mynsiem Festival – Meghalaya
Literally meaning the “dance of peaceful hearts” or “dance of joyful souls”, the Shad Suk Mynsiem festival is celebrated by the Khasi tribe in Meghalaya to mark the harvest season in April. The festival, that is a time to pay obeisance to God for a good harvest, sees colourfully attired men and unmarried women dancing to traditional musical instruments like drums, cymbals and pipes (trumpets).
Vishu – Kerala
Vishu is a harvest festival in Kerala that marks the completion of the spring equinox. As per tradition, people observe a ritual where seasonal fruits, flowers like Indian laburnum, rice, gold, silver, money and holy texts are arranged in front of a deity. This is supposed to be first sight of members of a family when they wake up. People wear new clothes and a grand feast or sadyais oganised during the day.
Puthandu – Tamil Nadu
The beginning of the new year is celebrated as Puthandu in Tamil Nadu. The day is marked by prayers, visits to family elders to seek their blessings and a vegetarian feast.
Poila Boishakh – West Bengal
15 April will mark the Bengali new year and will be observed by Bengalis all over the world. During Poila Boishakh, homes are decorated with traditional alpanaor rangoliand families pray for well-being and health. The day is celebrated with special food preparations, by wearing new clothes and seeking the blessings of the elders.
Baisakhi – Punjab, Haryana
No discussion about the festivals of India can be complete without mentioning Baishakhi, which marks the beginning of Vaishakh and is celebrated on 14 April. This is the most widely celebrated harvest festivals of Punjab. The day also marks the founding of the Khalsa, or the Sikh brotherhood. It is a day of feasting, folk music and Bhangra dance.
Grand celebrations are also organised at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
It is also widely celebrated in neighbouring Haryana, which also has a large agricultural community.
Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu – Assam
Bihu, the main festival of Assam, is celebrated three times each year. The biggest celebration, the Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu, will take place on 14 April. While the first day is is dedicated to taking care of cattle and feeding them, the festival sees prayers, special food preparations and Bihu dance performances to the traditional beat of drums.