India’s culture is over 10,000 years old. Many people have helped in its growth. Some of them like Shri Ram and Shri Krishna are considered as avatars in human form. You have already read about avatars. They fought for justice and dharma. Even to this day they are worshipped in countless homes throughout India and other parts of the world where Hindus live.
There were several others who helped in the growth of Hinduism. We celebrate their birthdays to honour and appreciate them. That is one reason for having utsavs. These men and women, some of them considered as devas and goddesses, are so numerous that a year is not sufficient to celebrate their advent on earth.
Shri Ram’s birthday is celebrated as Ram Navmi. His arrival in Ayodhya after defeating Ravan is celebrated as Dashera. Shri Krishna’s birthday is celebrated on Janmashtami. They are our epic heroes. You may wonder about what Dashera celebrates. The nine nights before the tenth day are celebrated as Norta or Navratri (nine nights). On the first three nights Durga, wife of Shiv, is worshipped. She defeated a lot of demons. Lakshmi, the wife of Shri Vishnu, is worshipped on the next three nights. She grants us wealth by removing all obstacles. Finally, it is the turn of Saraswati, the wife of Brahma. She is worshipped to get wisdom. Navratri is celebrated on a grand scale in Gujarat.
Bhagwan Ved Vyas, who composed the Mahabharat and edited the Vedas, is not forgotten. His birthday is celebrated as Guru Purnima. This is because he was the guru among gurus. All gurus are honoured on this day. Diwali, the festival of lights, marks the victory of good over evil. Diwali comes 20 days after Dashera.
According to the calendar that we follow the first festival comes in January. That is Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti when the sun enters the Tropic of Cancer – the northern hemisphere. People make donations. It comes every year on Januvary 14. Other utsavs fall on different dates of the western calendar.
Shivratri is another utsav which is celebrated throughout the country. People observe a fast on most of these utsavs. Holi and Raksha Bandhan are also celebrated by the Hindus.