The Hindu festivals, fasts, rituals, holy baths and the observance of sacred days are part and parcel of the great cultural heritage of India. They are religious and social and a great source of spiritual and moral enrichment. They also lend zest, variety, colour and grandeur to an otherwise insipid, routine and care-worn day-to-day human existence. The Hindu festivals are more than what they appear to be. They are essentially a way of living and thinking in the course of existence, and as such bring their whole right to bear on the individual and the society.
Unlike the deities of the Hindu pantheon, the festivals are numerous and frequent, but basically religious, psychological and intimately connected with the change of seasons, though many of them have lost the history of their origin in the mists of the hoary past. With the passage of time they have undergone a process of transformation and evolution and many new festivals have been grafted upon the old ones.
A Hindu Festivals is generally characterized by fasting, ablutions, prayer, worship, austerities, vigils, vows, offering to the gods and holy men and such other activities of piety and devotion. A Hindu festival is, in fact, something more than a ‘festival’. It is cathartic in nature, and as a means of purification strengthens the spirit within. Their goal is to find enjoyment through renunciation and self-denial. They are more of an exploration of the colourful things of life, without being bound to or obsessed by them.
There is a single ‘Reality’, but it has many forms and names in relation to its multifarious functions, attributes, aspects and the form of fulfillment sought from it by the seeker. The same ‘Reality’ becomes Brahma in its creative aspect, Vishnu in preservation, Shiva in dissolution, Lakshmi or Sri in benignity, Kali or Durga as a fierce female energy and so on. What Lord Krishna says through Gita is the very same thing - ‘‘I am the ritual, I am the sacrifice, the oblation, and the herb. I am the prayer and the melted butter, the fire and its offering…. Even those who are devotees of other gods if they worship with faith are sacrificing to me alone, though not adhering to the rule.’’