Path to Siva: A Catechism for Youth

64 How Do We Celebrate Festivals?§


A gleeful devotee has been showered with colored powders during the playful and joyous Holi festival. Such celebrations bring the community close and lift the spirit of all who participate.§


Hinduism is celebratory by nature. Hindus miss no opportunity to set mundane matters aside and join with family, friends, neighbors and strangers alike to feast and have fun, to renew the home and the heart and, most importantly, draw nearer to God. Festivals are perhaps more impressive and varied in Hinduism than in any other religion. The devout Hindu knows these are times of profound mysticism, when God and the Gods touch our world, revitalize our souls, lighten karmas and bless our families. Yet, festivals do even more than this. They are essential to the perpetuation of religion, periodically reigniting the spark of zeal and devotion in the community. They provide the spiritual public square where Hindus engage with one another to affirm shared values and enjoy life’s intersections. Before each celebration, vows are taken, scriptures are studied, pilgrimages are made and fasts observed in preparation. Such acts of intimate devotion bring the devotee closer to the Gods and keep him on the path to his inmost Self. As each festival begins, solitary worship becomes a collective ritual, with millions of people taking their places in a creative choreography. Every festival is special and unforgettable in its own way. Thus Hindus are reminded of their faith by the sounds, scents, colorful decorations and the wild medley of tastes laid out for the feast. Mind and emotions are saturated with Hinduism as sacred mantra prayers are intoned, the spiritual teachings are recounted by saints, and the Gods are praised in melodious bhajans. Each Indian village and each global community lends a little of its unique culture to how a festival is celebrated, creating almost endless variations. Recently, with the growing Hindu population outside of India, festivals have acquired an international dimension. What could be more entertaining, alive, vibrant and yet pious and rich in symbolism than a Hindu festival?§


GURUDEVA: Festivals are special times of communion with God and Gods, of family and community sharing and sadhana.… We strive to attend each major festival, when the shakti of the Deity is most powerful, and pilgrimage to a far-off temple annually.§