Ancient Indian festivals
This article describes different festivals celebrated in ancient India as revealed by the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. like mountain festival of Raivataka, festival of Brahma, and the bamboo festival were mentioned in the epic Mahabharata. The epic Ramayana also mentions about several other festivals or events that led to modern day festivals like Divali (celebrated when Raghava Rama returned to Kosala Kingdom from Lanka slaying Ravana).
Festivals mentioned in Mahabharata
Festivals were a common feature of the religion of Yadavas. When they were at Surasena Kingdom, they worshipped the Govardhana Mountain, which is detailed in the Purana named Bhagavata Purana
The following is an extract from Mahabharata: - Within a few days of this, there commenced on the Raivataka Mountain, a grand festival of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas. It was the mountain-festival of the Bhojas, the Vrishnis and the Andhakas. The religion around that hill was adorned with many a mansion decked with gems and many an artificial tree of gaudy hue. The musicians struck up in concert and the dancers began to dance and the vocalists to sing. And the youth of the Vrishni race, endued with great energy, adorned with every ornament, and riding in their gold-decked cars, looked extremely handsome. The citizens, some on foot and some in excellent cars, with their wives and followers were there by hundreds and thousands.(1,221)
Another occasion of Raivataka festival is found at (14,59)
Adorned with many beautiful things and covered with diverse Koshas made of jewels and gems, the Raivataka hill shone with great splendour. With many golden poles on which were lighted lamps, shone in beauty through day and night. By the caves and fountains the light was so great that it seemed to be broad day. On all sides beautiful flags waved on the air with little bells that jingled continuously. The entire hill resounded with the melodious songs of men and women. It was adorned with many shops and stalls filled with diverse viands and enjoyable articles. There were heaps of cloths and garlands, and the music of Vinas and flutes and Mridangas was heard everywhere. Food mixed with wines of diverse kinds was stored here and there. Gifts were being ceaselessly made to those that were distressed, or blind, or helpless. There were many sacred abodes built on the breast of that mountain.
Brahma festival of Matsyas
Celebrated in Matsya Kingdom
Pandavas, while staying in the palace of Virata, witnessed a festival named after lord Brahma. This festival is still celebrated in Pushkar, Rajasthan, very close to the ancient Matsya Kingdom.
After three months had passed, in the fourth, the grand festival in honour of the divine Brahma which was celebrated with pomp in the country of the Matsyas, came off. And there came athletes from all quarters by thousands, like hosts of celestials to the abode of Brahma or of Siva to witness that festival. And they were endued with huge bodies and great prowess, like the demons called Kalakhanjas. And elated with their prowess and proud of their strength, they were highly honoured by the king. And their shoulders and waists and necks were like those of lions, and their bodies were very clean, and their hearts were quite at ease (4,13).
Bamboo festival of Chedi
Celebrated in Chedi Kingdom
Uparichara Vasu was a king of Chedi belonging to the Puru Dynasty. He was known as the friend of Indra. During his reign, Chedi kingdom contained much mineral wealth. It was abundant in animals and corn. There were many towns and cities in the kingdom. He possessed a very special chariot. He introduced 'Shakrotsava' festival in his kingdom in the honor of Indra. The festival involved planting of a bamboo pole every year, in honor of Indra. The king will then pray for the expansion of his cities and kingdom. After erecting the pole, people decked it with golden cloth and scents and garlands and various ornaments. (1,63).
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