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Monday, September 23, 2013

Mumbai Festivities Marks Indian Culture And Traditions

By Angie Picardo (Guest Writer)

Indian festivals are celebrated by varied cultures and through their special rituals add to the colours of Indian Heritage. Some festivals welcome the seasons of the year, the harvest, the rains, or the full moon. Others celebrate religious occasions, the birthdays of divine beings, saints, and gurus (revered teachers), or the advent of the New Year.
A number of these festivals are common to most parts of India. However, they may be called by different names in various parts of the country or may be celebrated in a different fashion.
Every celebration is centered around the rituals of prayer, seeking blessings, exchanging goodwill, decorating houses, wearing new clothes, music, dance and feasting.

Festivals are linked with traditional values, cultures and customs. These festivals depict the nature of human relationships and popular beliefs. Also, these festivals pass on past traditions to the present generation to make them aware of the associated rich culture and tradition. The most common festivals of the city account to Dusshera, Moharram, Shivratri, Christmas, Budha Purnima etc. which add more color and vibrancy to Indian culture. Festivals are generally celebrated either to honor religious occasions or to welcome various seasons of the year etc. 

Most of these festivals are common throughout the country but might be known by different names and marked by different rituals in different regions. Even though Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city, all the festivals are welcome with great vigor and color.

For instance, Mumbai has a great section of Parsi population and hence the Parsi New Year is celebrated with great passion. Ganesh Chaturthi is the major festival of Mumbai which lasts for ten days and is held during August-September. This festival is seen as a truly feisty celebration of the people of Mumbai. The festivals of Holi, Raksha Bandhan,Dusshera, Navratri and Diwali are the prime occasions for the Hindus, while Eid is celebrated with great fervour by the Muslims. Easter & Christmas are celebrated among Christians and non-Christians alike. 

Though associated with certain religions, in most of the cases, these festivals are celebrated beyond the specific religion, cast and creed. All the festivals have a lot to reveal about the religion, its history and related rituals. Apart from religious festival, Mumbai also hosts arts festivals like Elephanta festival, Kala Ghoda festival and Banganga festival. Tourists from all over the world travel to Mumbai to witness splendor and vigor of the people during the celebrations.

As Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city all festivals are celebrated with equal vigour. So in Mumbai there are festivities happening every month which is celebrated by every Mumbaikar. Mumbai celebrates every states festivals as its own. Now thats the spiirt of Mumbai.

Mumbai has traditional, religious, state and national festivals organized and celebrated in the city, depicting one or more aspects of human life, relationships or ancient traditions. Many of these festivals such as, Dasara, Mohurrum, Shivratri, Christmas, Budha purnima etc., are celebrated nation wide. Some of the popular festivals are briefed below. 

Banganga (Jan)
The Banganga Festival is a musical extravaganza organized by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation in January at the atmospheric Banganga tank at Walkeshwar. Top artistes from around the country perform live classical music concerts and cultural enthusiasts attend the festival and feast the soul as well as the mind.

Elephanta festival (18-19 Feb)
The Elephanta Island is the site of the magnificent Elephanta caves, containing beautiful carvings, sculptures, and a temple to the Hindu God, Lord Shiva. These caves are located at a distance of 11-km from Mumbai. 

In February Elephanta Island comes to fervour as the site of the Elephanta Festival. Organized by MTDC, every year, renowned dancers and musicians perform outside the caves, beneath a star-studded sky, to a select and appreciative audience. Special launch services and catering arrangements are provided for visitors.

EID Festivals
A considerable portion of Mumbai population is Muslim and Muslims in this city have a huge impact on the cultural and social makeup of the city. Mohammed Ali Road, Byculla and Abdul Rehman Street are popular areas where you see the Eid celebration is in full swing. Haji Ali Dargah, Mahim Dargah and Jama Masjid are some of the most celebrated mosques of Muslim heritage in the city where you can experience Mumbai Eid in its traditional splendor.

Christmas & Boxing Day
Mumbai has sizable Christian community particularly in areas like Colaba, Mahim, Bandra, Vile Parle and Santacruz Our Lady of Salvation Church at Dadar, Mahim Church near Mahim causeway, Mount Mary Church near Bandra Bandstand, Hoy Family Church at Andheri are some of the Christmas hotspots to celebrate this auspicious occasion. A thoroughly sparkling Mumbai with soft glow of candle light and street lighting provides a different specter of the city. Mumbai Christmas is attended and enjoyed across the communities irrespective of cast, creed and social strata making Mumbai a truly cosmopolitan city with great diversity of mass culture.

Gudhi Padava (Mar-Apr)
Gudhi Padava is the Maharashtran New Year's Day celebrated on the first day of Chaitra(Mar-Apr). This day marks the start of the Hindu solar year. It is a day of great festivity and rejoicing. People get up early and clean their houses, decorating them with intricate rangoli designs. Bamboo staffs (gudhi) decorated with silk cloths and topped with a brass goblet or kalash are erected. These are supposed to drive away evil from the houses.

Nariyal Poornima (Aug)
Nariel Purnima or coconut day in August marks the end of the monsoons and is celebrated by Mumbai's fisher folk. Boats are painted, little oil lamps lit and set afloat amidst the waves and carried in the boats, and coconut are broken against their bows as an offering to the Sea God and the seas are set afloat with garlands of flowers as the new fishing season begins. 

Raksha Bandhan is also celebrated on this day. On this day, sisters tie rakhi on the wrists of their brothers to protect them against evil influences. This is also the day set apart for Brahmins to change their sacred thread they wear.

Parsi New Year (Aug-Sep)
Pateti in August is the Parsee New Year, significant because it was on this day that the Shahenshahi Zoroastrian community landed in India while migrating from Persia. The Parsees celebrate at the fire temple, and the community bonds are strengthened through feasts and the meeting of friends and relatives.

Ganesh Chaturthi (Aug-Sep)
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in the month of Aug.- Sep., as the birth anniversary of Ganesha, the Hindu god of wisdom. The festival is so popular in Mumbai and the preparations begin months ahead. Images of Ganesha are installed and elaborate arrangements are made for lighting and decoration and celebrations are held for 7-10 days. The Chaturthi is the last day dedicated to the elephant-headed god, and thousands of processions converge on the beaches of Mumbai carrying the idols of Ganesha, to be immersed in the sea. This immersion is accompanied by drumbeats, devotional songs and dancing and marks the end of the festival.

Bandra Feast (Sep)
The feast day of Virgin Mary is celebrated in Bombay for a week beginning on a Sunday closest to the birthday of the Virgin Mary (Sep 8). The feast is held at the Basillica of Mount Mary in Bandra. A fair is held with huge Ferris wheels, amusements and rides, bands and shows. The devout trudges up the stairs of the church to light their candles.

Diwali (Oct-Nov)
Diwali, celebrated on the 13th day of the month of Ashwin (Oct-Nov), is a festival of lights symbolising the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. Twinkling oil lamps or diyas light up every home and firework displays are common all across the country. The goddess Lakshmi who is the symbol of wealth and prosperity, is also worshipped on this day. This festive occasion also marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year. Crackers and fireworks illuminate the sky and people pray for a prosperous coming year.

(About the Writer: Angie develops and manages products, content and marketing strategy for NerdWallet's Credit Card and Personal Finance Management teams. She was born and raised in the Bay Area, and is a graduate from University of California, Berkeley)