An Overview of Pilgrimages and Festivals in Hinduism

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Hinduism is one religion with quite a few pilgrimages and plenty of festivals each year. There are at least one or two festivals/holidays every month. As a polytheistic religion, these pilgrimages and festivals are in place for every god and goddess in Hinduism. Checking the calendar, each month except for December has one or two holidays. There are no holidays present in December or May.

Pilgrimage to the River Ganges

One important pilgrimage is the pilgrimage to the River Ganges where people bathe, drink and die in the Ganges. It’s the most sacred river in India as it’s known as “Mother Ganges”. In a sense, it can collaborate with Shinto as Mother Ganges can be considered as a goddess or a spirit that inhabits the river. But the Ganges is one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

There’s a large number of human pollutants that carry hazardous health risks. But nothing had been done about it. The leather industries have played a sizeable role in pollution due to chromium and other chemicals. But there’s a lot of raw sewage that makes its way into the Ganges. Of all the rivers in the world, it’s the most polluted. Yet at the same time, it’s the most sacred river.

Ganga Action Plan Enactment

The Ganga Action Plan was enacted in 1984 to build numerous waste treatment facilities. It’s slowly on its way to being purified. However, this is a pilgrimage that every devout Hindu hopes to accomplish once in life. A pilgrimage would be made to Benares which is the holy city.

It’s the equivalent to the Islamic holy city of Mecca, the Jewish holy city of Jerusalem, the Catholic holy city of the Vatican, and the Buddhist holy city of Lhasa. But, they also make pilgrimages to Allahabad for the winter solstice. Many areas of the Himalayas are visited as well.

Like other Asian based faiths, they go by the Lunar calendar instead of the Solar calendar. As a Buddhist, I can understand that as our holidays go by the Lunar calendar. But there is one that goes on the Solar Calendar which is “Makar Sankranti” which is celebrated January 14 where Hindus celebrate by dipping in the Ganges or any other river in India and then offers to the Sun god. But it’s not recommended to dip in the Ganges due to the polluted water.

Two days later, “Pongal” is celebrated. This is in preparation for the harvest season as Hindus gives thanks to the harvest.

Six days after Pongal is “Vasant Panchami” which is a celebration in honor of the goddess of wisdom and fine arts, Saraswati. In a sense, this is a celebration of the arts.

There are three festivals in total for January. There is one in February called “Maha Shivarati” where all devout Hindus fast for the day. This mainly applies to the followers of Shiva as this festival translates as the “great night of Shiva”. They also offer Bael leaves to the monuments of Shiva.

“Holi” comes on March 3 where this is a popular spring festival. Sixteen days later comes “Navratri” which is a festival of dance and warship.

March 27 brings forth “Rama Navami” where Hindus celebrate the birth of Rama.

There are two festivals celebrated on March 30: “Gudi Padwa” and “Ugadi”. Gudi Padwa is celebrated as New Year’s day. This is in honor of Brahma who created the world according to the Hindu texts. Ugadi is the same but it is for the Deccans as it’s translated as “the start of an era”.

“Hanuman Jayanti” is celebrated in early April as it celebrates the birth of Rama’s loyal follower, Hanuman.

“Vat Pournima” is celebrated on June 22 as it’s for women that pray for the prosperity of their husbands.

Hyderabad celebrates “Bonalu” in August as it celebrates the Mother Goddess.

There are other festivals in August, September, October, and November. May and December are left blank. There is Zatra which is observed every October to March which are pilgrimages at Hindu temples. The temples observe the festival once a year at different times.

Hinduism is one of many festivals and pilgrimages.

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