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Home » India Travel » Maharashtra » Fairs & Festivals
Maharashtra Festivals - Fairs
Makar Sankrati Diwali Ganesh Chaturthi Gokul Ashtami
Fairs and Festivals of Maharashtra
Maharashtra, the land of diverse culture and traditions, celebrates many traditional, religious, state and national festivals. Apart from the traditional and religious fairs and festivals, there are many state festivals organized by the MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation). These festivals involving dance, music and other events are specially organized for the tourists. Some of the popular festivals celebrated in various parts of Maharashtra are given below.
Makar Sankrati ( January )
Sankrant means the passing of the sun from one Zodiac sign to the other. People exchange greeting and good wishes on this day, which marks the Sun's passage from the Tropic of Dhanu (Sagittarius) to Makar (Capricon). Sweet and crunchy ladoos made of sesame and jaggery are the favourite treats.
Holi ( March)  
Holi, the festival of colors is celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March every year. This festival is not only celebrated in Maharashtra but all over the country with equal joy. This festival marks the end of winter season and the beginning of the spring season. It is also a celebration of the triumph of good over evil. All participate in this festival and play with colors. Dancing, singing and merry making are an integral part of Holi.
Gudhi Padava ( March – April )  
Maharashtran New Year's Day is celebrated on the first day of the Hindu month Chaitra ( March-April). This festival is known as the Gudhi Padava in Maharshtra. This day marks the start of the Hindu solar year. On the day of the festival people get up early and clean their houses, decorating them with intricate rangoli designs. Bamboo staffs (gudhi) adorned with silk cloths and topped with a brass goblet or kalash are erected. It is said that these staffs drive away evil from the houses.
Nag Panchami ( July)
In Hindu mythology, the cobra has a special significance and the earth, it is believed, rests on the head of 'Shesha' - the thousand-hooded cobra. Snake worship is an important ritual of the Maharashtrians, and on the festival of Nag Panchami, clay icons of cobras are venerated in homes. People offer sweets and milk to the snake deity and the day is celebrated with folk dances and songs, especially in the countryside. Snake charmers carry cobras in baskets and collect offerings from the public in the streets. A small village near Sangli, Battis Shirale, is famous for its snake catchers, and people throng the streets to watch the thrilling performances of expert snake charmers.
Nariyal Poornima ( August )
Celebrated in the month of August, the Nariel Purnima or coconut day is dedicated to the sea god Varuna. This festival marks the end of the monsoons and is celebrated by the fishermen of Maharashtra. The fishermen paint their boats and coconuts are broken against them as offering to the sea god. Little oil lamps are lit and set afloat amidst the waves and carried in the boats. Garlands made of flowers are also offered to the seas to mark the beginning of a new fishing season.
Parsi New Year ( August – September )
Parsi people celebrate their new year in August, which is also known as Pateti. It is an important festival because on this day the Shahenshahi Zoroastrian community arrived in India while migrating from Persia. This festival is celebrated at the fire temple and the Parsi community strengthens the bond through feasts, where they meet friends and relatives.
Gokul Ashtami ( August )
The birth of Lord Krishna is celebrated on Gokul Ashtami or Janmashtami. Most devotees fast till midnight and when the birth of Lord Krishna is announced, they eat a festive preparation of rice, butter, yogurt, puris and potatoes. This meal, according to Hindu mythology, was relished by Lord Krishna and his playmates in Gokul. Another fun-filled ritual performed on this day is dahi-handi - clay pots filled with curd, puffed rice and milk are strung high up above the streets and groups of enthusiastic young men (and even women) form human pyramids to reach these and break them open, the way Lord Krishna and his friends would, after sneaking into the houses of gopis (milkmaids) to steal and eat butter.
Pola ( August- September )
The harvest festival is celebrated by farmers all over Maharashtra. On this day bullocks, which are an integral part of the agricultural chores and consequently the village economy, are honored. They are bathed, colorfully decorated and taken out in processions across the village, accompanied by the music of drumbeats and lezhim (a musical instrument made of a wooden rod and an iron chain full of metallic pieces). Pola brings out an important facet of Hindu culture, which does not look upon cattle as mere beasts of burden, but treats them with dignity and gratitude.
Ganesh Chaturthi ( August – September )
The most important and popular festival of Maharashtra, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in the month of August - September. This festival marks the birth anniversary of Ganesha, the Hindu god of wisdom. The preparations for this festival begin months ahead. Idols of Ganesha are installed and detailed arrangements are made for lighting and decoration. The festival is held for 7-10 days. The last day of the festival is called Chaturthi, dedicated to the elephant-headed god. On this day the idols of Ganesha are immersed in the ocean or rivers, where thousands of processions meet. The immersion of idols is accompanied by drumbeats, devotional songs and dancing. This marks the end of the festival.
According to the great Hindu epic Ramayan, Dussehra is the day on which Lord Ram killed Ravan, the evil king of Lanka. It is considered as a shubh-muharat - a very auspicious day - to start a new venture. It is a symbol of the victory of good over evil. People decorate the entrances of their homes with torans, flower studded strings, and worship the tools of trade, vehicles, machinery, weapons and even books. As the evening falls, the villagers cross the border, a ritual known as Simollanghan, and worship the Shami tree. The leaves of the Apta tree are collected and exchanged among friends and relatives as gold.
Diwali ( October – November )
Diwali is a popular festival celebrated all over India with great pomp and gaiety. It is celebrated for five days marking the home coming of Lord Rama and his consort Sita. Th festival of lights symbolizes the victory of good and driving away of spiritual darkness. The highlights of the festival are little oil lamps or diyas decorating houses and crackers and fireworks which are the integral parts of this festival. The Goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi is worshiped on this day also marking the beginning of the Hindu New Year.
Banganga Festival ( January )
Organized by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), the Banganga Festival is a musical extravaganza celebrated every year in the month of January. The venue of this festival is the Banganga tank at Walkeshwar. Here reputed artistes from all over the country perform live in the classical music concerts. The festival is a delight for culture lovers.
Elephanta Cave Festival (February)
The Elephanta Festival is celebrated in the month of February every year and is organized by MTDC. The festival is celebrated on the Elephanta Island, which is the site of the brilliant Elephanta caves. These caves have beautiful carvings, sculptures, and a temple dedicated to the Hindu God, Lord Shiva. These caves are located at a distance of 11-km from Mumbai. Special performance by renowned dancers and musicians is the highlight of the festival.
Pune Festival (August - September)
The Pune Festival celebrated in the months of August - September is again organized by MTDC. This week long festival is a celebration of art and culture. The Pune festival is a unique festival that provides platform for the budding musicians and dancers. The festival also promotes modern trends in the performing arts, notably the dramatic arts and the traditional art of rangoli. Visitors coming to Pune can enjoy themselves by participating in the events and shopping exquisite textiles and handicrafts. Originally, the Pune festival was conceived as a localized cultural event. But as it has evolved, it has been actively promoted abroad by the government of India, as a major tourist attraction.
Kalidas Festival (November)
MTDC. The festival is celebrated over two exciting days and nights. Kalidas festival commemorates one of the greatest poets of all times, 'Kalidasa' (4th century AD). He was a brilliant poet who enriched Indian literature with his works of 'Abhijnanasakuntalam', 'Meghadootham', 'Raghuvamsam' and 'Kumarasambhavam'. Some of the greatest performers of music, dance and drama display their talent in the picturesque setting of Ramtek.
Ellora Festival (December)
Celebrated every year in the month of December, the Ellora Festival is organized by MTDC. The site of this festival is the Ellora caves near Aurangabad, where well-known artistes perform. These music and dance performances invoke a certain kind of vibrancy in the 1,400-year old caves and rock carvings. The beautiful Kaildas temple, sculptured out of one huge rock, provides a perfect backdrop for this event.
Other Festivals
Apart from these festivals, Maharashtra also celebrates many other festivals. Some of these are, Maharashtra Day celebrated to commemorate the formation of the Maharashtra State on the 1st of May. Other festivals celebrated with great excitement and enthusiasm are Makara Samkramana, Sri Ramanavami, Sri Krishna Janmashtami and Raksha Bandhan. These are some of the Hindu festivals celebrated with equal pomp and gaiety in the other regions of the country. Along with Hindu festivals, Muslim festivals are also celebrated like Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha, Milad-un-Nabi and Moharrum. Other than these festivals, Christian festivals like Christmas, Easter, Good Friday etc are also celebrated along with the rest of the nation. Buddhist festivals like Buddha Poornima and Mahaveera Jayanthi are also celebrated in certain regions of the State.

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