Hyderabad Festivals

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Hyderabad is a veritable melting pot of cultures, ethnicity and religion and nothing makes this more evident than the many festivals and celebrations that are being celebrated in Hyderabad annually. Four major religions can be found in Hyderabad: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism, although culture-wise, the Hyderabadis have developed a culture that is distinctly a mixture of Muslim and Hinduism. As such, most of the major festivals found in the city have a hint of both, especially Hinduism, which is still the most popular and practiced religion in the city.

The millions of Hyderabadis usually greet each festivity with fervor regardless of ethnicity, caste, or religion. The festivals celebrated can have their roots in religion although there are some that are decidedly modern, such as music festivals that are celebrated in order to raise cultural awareness and creativity among the people. These festivals are enjoyed not just by the Hyderabadis but by tourists as well, and are often reminiscent of the major festivals around the world. One of the more distinct features of a Hyderabadi festival is the marked increase in commercial activity and the markets and bazaars are usually decorated the purpose of the festivities.

The more well-known of these festivals include the following:

Ganesha Chaturthi

Also known as the Ganesha Festival, Ganesha Chaturthi marks the day in which Lord Ganesha, the son of the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati, is believed to grant his presence for all the devotees on Earth. In the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated on the month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chathurti, also known as the fourth day of the waxing moon period. In Gregorian calendars, it typically falls between the 20th of August and the 15th of September, and lasts for ten days. During the festival, idols of the god Ganesha are installed in colorfully decorated homes and temporarily erected structures. After the tenth day, they are immersed in holy water. This represents the cycle of creation and dissolution in nature.

Muharram

In the Islamic calendar, the Muharram is the first month and it is one of the four months of the year in which fighting is strictly forbidden. This festival commemorates the death and martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, who was killed in battle on 680 AD. The prophet’s son-in-law Ali and his son, Hassan, are also remembered during this time. As 40% of Hyderabad’s population is Muslim, this celebration is greeted with much fervor and joy, most notably by the Shia Muslims.

Diwali

Celebrated as the “Festival of Lights”, the Diwali is celebrated not just in Hyderabad but throughout the country. The festival occurs for five days, on the new moon between October 13 and November 14. It is celebrated as the homecoming of the Lord Rama after a 14-year exile, according to Hindu mythology. During the festival celebration, lights as well as firecrackers are lighted. There is also an exchange of gifts among loved ones.

Holi

Holi celebrates the triumph of ‘good’ over ‘evil’, represented by the end of winter gloom and the welcoming of the blossoming spring. It is celebrated near the end of February or early March. The celebration is one of Hyderabad’s most colourful, with bright red, pink, magenta, green and blue colors found everywhere on the streets. Holi starts on Holi eve, with the lighting of a bonfire. During this celebration, people rub abeer and gulal in each other’s faces, as well as throw some in the air to celebrate the arrival of the Spring Festival.

Bonalu

Bonalu had its origin in 1869, when Hyderabad and Secunderabad were plagued by an epidemic that killed scores of people. The citizens believed that the plague was the manifestation of the Mother Goddess’ anger at them. A Hyderabadi prayed to the Mother Goddess and promised that if he survived the plague, he would build a temple in her honour in Hyderabad. The Bonalu ritual was also started to ward off the goddess’ anger. In this ritual, the women makes an offering of food to the Mother Goddess which is later shared by family and friends as prasad. There is then a celebration of community feasts and colourful processions including the Ghatalu procession and a procession where the Mother Goddess is placed astride an elephant. At the end of the celebration, a Rangam ceremony is held, where a young girl in a trance predicts the future.

Dussehra

Another festival that signifies the triumph of good over evil is Dussehra where the people celebrate the death of the demon king Ravana by the hands of Lord Rama. The celebration lasts ten days, with the first nine days spent in the worship of the Godden Durga, and the tenth being the slaying of the demon lord. The festival is also associated with the festival of Bathkamma, a floral festival full of colours where women dress in their finest and arrange flowers in colorful pyramids.

Ugadi

Ugadi is celebrated as the Telugu New year and is held at the onset of spring. It marks the beginning of the Hindu Lunar calendar and it is believed that during this day, Lord Brahma started the creation of everything. During Ugadi, mangoes, new neem leaves, and fresh jaggery are used to make the Ugadi Pachadi, a delicious dish that is only made on this day.

Sankranthi

Sankranthi is the most important Hindu festival in Hyderabad and it is celebrated to mark the beginning of harvest season in India. It is spread over three days as farmers celebrate the harvesting of rice and other fresh crops. During the celebration, houses are decorated and guests and in-laws are invited to partake in sweets, while people dress up as characters in mythology. During the first day, people burn all old articles. On the second, the big festival is held. Finally, on the third, people partake on meat after the excessive consumption of sweets.

Rakhi

Rakhi is also known as Raksha Bandhan, and it is a special festival for brothers and sisters, celebrating the pure and sacred bond between them. During this festival, the sister ties a holy thread around the wrist of her brother. The thread is called a “Rakhi” which means “bond of protection” and it symbolizes love and care. During the festival, several kinds of rakhi are available in the market, ranging from the simple and sober string to rakhis made of silver or gold and studded with jewels.

Ramzan

A significant part of Hyderabad’s population are Muslims, and to them, no festival is as auspicious and as important as Ramzan, more commonly known as Ramadan. It takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is also the Islamic month of fasting. During Ramzan, Muslims fast for thirty days from true dawn until sunset. After the thirty days are over, the Eid is celebrated and everyone puts on their best or new clothes, a prayer is held in early morning, and it is followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends.

Those mentioned above are just some of the more popular festivals celebrated annually in Hyderabad, but there are more. It clearly shows the diversity of the Hyderabad culture and the various peoples that call the city their home.

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