January 14 Pongal:
This festival is associated with the annual cycle of the seasons. Pongal in the South and Sankranti in the North are celebrated to mark the withdrawal of the monsoons as well as the reaping of the harvest. Pongal festivities span several days. Like Divali, the advent of Pongal is associated with spring-cleaning and burning of junk, symbolizing the destruction of evil. Kolam decorations get very elaborate during this time of year, honoring Laksmi as manifest enlightenment. The newly harvested rice is ceremoniously cooked in a special pot on the floor and encouraged to boil over to signify abundance and in fact, the name Pongal means "boiling over".
January 26 Republic Day:
February 6 Vasant Panchami:
Vasant means, "Spring ". This is the great spring festival, falling on the fifth day of the month of Magh, the first day of spring. This festival is dedicated is to Saraswati, the goddess of spiritual understanding, learning and knowledge as well as (enlightened) word and speech. This holiday is sometimes referred to as Saraswati Day and is celebrated as Saraswati’s birthday. Hindu temples are full of activities on this day. The color yellow is given special importance on this day; people wear yellow clothing, decorate with yellow and eat yellow foods, symbolizing joy and harvest.
March 1 Maha Shivratri:
Owing to a special planetary conjunction, spiritual practices done on this day are considered to be especially auspicious and beneficial. There is a reference to this in one of the Puranas in which Shiva himself tells Parvati that this day is particularly dear to him, and that those who perform austerities on this day will find moksha (liberation). Maha Sivaratri falls on the 13th (or 14th) day of the dark half of Phalgun (February-March). The name means "Night of Shiva". Pujas and aratis take place all night long. This festival honors the marriage of Siva and Parvati as well as having other significant implications. At one time, when the 3 worlds were reduced to darkness, Parvati worshipped Siva with great devotion. Siva was pleased by her prayers and granted her a boon. She asked that henceforth, whoever worships the Lord on the Maha Sivaratri day with devotion, should be blessed and given ultimate salvation (moksha). There is another story in which Brahma and Vishnu are described as having an argument about who was supreme. Brahma declared himself to be the Creator of all and was thus was more revered. Vishnu claimed that he was the preserver and deserved more respect. At that moment a huge lingam, ablaze with flames appeared from nowhere. They decided to determine if the lingam had a beginning and end. Vishnu took the form of a boar and went to the netherworld while Brahma in the form of a swan ascended to the skies. Neither could ascertain the size. Both the gods were so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the lingam, that they forgot their quarrel.
March 18 Holi:
Holikotsava is a two-day festival that occurs in March. On the evening of the first day bonfires are lit. On the second day people throw colored powder at each other. It was on this day that Lord Siva opened his third eye and reduced Kamadeva (the god of love, Cupid or Eros) to ashes. This holiday also commemorates the story in which the sister of the demon king Hiranyakasyapu, who tried to kill the child devotee Prahlad by taking him on her lap and sitting on a pyre of wood which was set ablaze. Holika was burnt to ashes while Prahlad remained unscathed. Another story tells of an ogress named Dhundhi, who was troubling the children in the kingdom of Prthu (or Raghu) was made to run away for life, by the shouts and pranks of the mischievous boys. Though she had secured several boons that made her almost invincible, this – noise, shouts, abuses and pranks of boys – was a chink in her armor due to a curse from Lord Siva.
April 11 Sri Ram Navami:
This nine-day festival honors the birth of Lord Rama (Ramachandra), the seventh avatar of Lord Visnu who incarnated to destroy the demon king, Ravana. Sri Rama is identified with all the noble, righteous and virile qualities of heroic manhood. On this day, temples are decorated and the image of Lord Rama is richly adorned. Traditional worship begins with chanting Vedic mantras dedicated to Vishnu, and offering flowers and fruit to the god. Satsangs (public gatherings) are organized to commemorate the birth of Lord Ram. Excerpts from the "Ramacharitamanas", praising Lord Ram, are recited. People of all castes and creeds participate in these gatherings to listen to the stories.
July 13 Guru Purnima:
The full-moon day in July (Ashad) is the auspicious (Poornima) day when Guru Poornima is celebrated by worshipping past and present spiritual masters. 'Gu' meaning darkness and 'Ru' (rupa) denotes that which dispels darkness. The Guru is the Absolute given as a gift to you, on this day we formally acknowledge that gift. With devotion we bow to the Guru who is pure consciousness, truth and absolute bliss.
August 15 Independence day
August 20 Sri Krishna Janmastami:
Janmastami (also known as Krishnastami or Gokulastami) is a festival dedicated to Lord Sri Krishna and commemorates his birth. This festival occurs on the eight day (Astami) of a lunar fortnight hence the name (Krishna+astami). At midnight between the first and second days the 'birth of Lord Krishna is replicated with pomp and ceremony. Delicacies are prepared from milk and curds that Krishna loved. The popular ceremony of Dahi-handi (breaking a pot full of milk} takes place on the second day. Temples create extravagant and colorful celebrations on this day. The raslila is performed through out the festival reenacting various events from the life of Krishna and commemorating Krishna’s love for Radha. The image of Krishna as an infant is bathed at midnight and is placed in a cradle. Devotional songs and dances mark this celebration all over India.
This festival celebrates the birthday of Lord Ganesh, also called Ganpati is the "Remover of Obstacles" ("Vignaharta"). He strips away anything that will get in the way of your liberation. He is also responsible for placing obstacles in your path that are necessary for your evolution. Siva mandated that any endeavor that is taken on should begin by invoking Ganesha’s blessings. During the Ganpati festival a large number of images are made of all possible sizes, people keep them in their houses as a divine guest. The culmination of the festival occurs when the images are taken out and ceremoniously thrown into a river or the sea for immersion or "visarjan". A story from the Puranas is the basis for this tradition. Parvati spent much time alone because her husband, Siva was always meditating and performing austerities. One day in the midst of her loneliness she decided to create a child to give her joy. She made a human form out of clay and breathed life into it. A few years later she was bathing in the river and asked her son to guard the path and make sure that nobody interrupted her. On this day Siva came down from Mt. Kialash looking for his wife. Ganesh told him that he couldn’t pass and in Siva’s rage he cut the head off this boy for daring to tell him what he could and could not do. When Parvati came upon the scene she was mortified and informed her husband that he had just decapitated their son, whom Siva had never met. She insisted that he remedy the situation immediately. Siva turned to the nearest living creature, which happened to be an elephant, removed its head and placed it on the body of the boy, thus, Ganesh has the head of an elephant and the body of a man, stained red from the mud he was created from.
September 27 Navaratri Begins - October 5 Navaratri Ends:
Navaratri (nava = nine, ratri = night) is a festival devoted to the Mother Goddess. Three days of worshipping the Divine in the forms of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati precede the tenth day known as Vijayadashami, the 'tenth day of victory. Durga is invoked in order to surmount obstacles, Lakshmi is asked to bestow peace, abundance and prosperity, and through contemplation of Saraswati one gains knowledge and understanding, in reality, we are invoking the Shakti within ourselves. Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are not different entities, but facets of the singular Divinity.
October 25 Divali:
Divali or Deepaavali (The Festival of Lights) is celebrated on the 14th Day of the dark half of Aashwayuja to the 2nd day of bright half of Kaartik. Even the humblest of huts will be lighted by a row of diva lamps. Firecrackers light up the sky. Illumination (deepotsavas) reminds us of our inner divine flame that burns eternally. Meticulous care is given to cleaning the house and bringing light to every dark corner, this calls Laksmi into manifestation. The Puranas say that it was on this day that the Goddess Lakshmi, who emerged from the churning of the ocean of milk, married Lord Vishnu. Divali also signifies the victory of divine forces over the powers of darkness. The triumphant victory of Lord Rama and his return to Ayodhya celebrated on this day. The rows of lamps teach an important lesson about unity, one flame can light many other flames. The lights remind us to see and recognize the light of consciousness shining through out all of creation as an expression of divinity.