Festivals of Gaya

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With its rich cultural blend, Gaya transforms into a colourful canvas of festivals. Festivals in Gaya paint the town with the hues of tradition. The festivals of Gaya are a living testament to India’s cultural heritage. The rituals and customs uphold religious significance and foster harmony between communities. Each festival in Gaya has its unique charm and embodies the spirit of unity in diversity. People from far away come to Gaya to participate in religious rituals and festivals. It enables them to learn about the history of the city through vibrant heritage displays, traditions, and stories unfolded by the rich festivals of Gaya.

List of the 10 Most Popular Festivals Celebrated in Gaya

1. Chhath Puja

The festival of Chhath Puja is celebrated with great pomp and show in the entire Bihar. It is a famous Hindu festival dedicated to the Sun god and conducted on the sixth day of the Kartik month in October -November. Devotees also celebrate this festival in April by the name of Chaiti Chhath. The devotees keep fast from dusk till dawn and offer prayers during the sunrise and sunset. They gather near the bank of rivers and water bodies to do Surya Namaskar and offer thanks to the Sun god for being the source of nourishment on Earth. After the fast, people eat a variety of sweets and mithai. As per the legends, Lord Rama and Sita observed fast and conducted Yagna for the Sun god after returning from Lanka. The best part of this festival is that people from any background can celebrate the Chhath puja as no priest is involved. It is all about praying to the omnipresent Sun god.

2. Buddha Purnima

Buddha Purnima (Buddha Jayanti) is a prominent Buddhist festival celebrated in Gaya with great enthusiasm.  It is an auspicious occasion for Buddhist devotees as it marks the Birth anniversary and the day of getting enlightenment of Lord Buddha. The festival falls in the Hindu month of Vaisakha on a full moon day between April and May. Hence, the day is also known as Vaishakha Purnima. On this day, Buddhist devotees visit the holy shrines of Lord Buddha to offer Prayer.  The Mahabodhi Temple celebrates Buddha Purnima with great joy. Many devotees visit the temple to light incense, pour water at the foot of the Bodhi Tree, meditate, and donate alms. According to a legend, a woman offered Kheer to Lord Buddha when he was starving due to hard penance. So, devotees also have Kheer to celebrate Buddha Purnima.

3. Pitru Paksha Mela

Pitru Paksha Mela is an iconic festival of Gaya. It is celebrated every year in September for 16 days to pay homage to the ancestors for their salvation. Devotees from far away come to Gaya to offer Pind Daan for the salvation of the departed souls of their ancestors. Pitru Paksha Mela is about praying for ancestors and freeing them from the cycle of birth and death. Devotees who have Pitru Dosha (curse of ancestors) also offer Pinda Daan to be free from the curse. During this time, devotees indulge in rituals like Shradh, Pind Daan, Tarpan, etc., for the salvation of the departed soul in the serene Falgu River. After the Pind Daan, they also offer a special prayer at Vishnu Pad for the deceased.

4. Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti (Uttarayan) is a famous Hindu harvest festival celebrated in Gaya and other parts of India. It marks the end of the winter and the beginning of the longer days. It is a very auspicious occasion for Hindu devotees. The time between Makar Sankranti and 40 Ghatis is lucky for any fortunate work. Those who do any work during these hours get good results. This duration is also known as Punya Kaal. This harvest festival is dedicated to Lord Sun as he enters Capricorn Rashi on this day. There is a story behind the origin of Makar Sankranti. As per the legends, Sankranti, a god, killed a demon named Sankarasur. Devotees take baths in the sacred rivers to absolve them from the karmic backlog. The festival symbolizes peace and prosperity. People distribute sesame, jaggery laddus, or Chikkis for peace and prosperity.

5. Sama Chakeva

Sama Chakeva is a beautiful festival celebrated in the first week of Kartik month in Gaya and other parts of Bihar, Nepal, Bengal, and Odisha. It is a lovely festival that fosters love between siblings and celebrates nature. Like Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Dooj, Sama Chakeva celebrates the relationship of a brother and sister. People also celebrate this festival to pay respects to the rare migratory birds coming from the Himalayas to the plains, including the Mithila region of Bihar.

According to a folk story, once there were two siblings, Sama and Samb. Sama was married to Chakeva. Both of them started living in an ashram in Vrindavan. One day, Samb and Chakeva were not at home. Meanwhile, Sama also went to the ashram to talk to sages. She returned the next day, but a person named Chugula lied that Sama had an extramarital affair with the sages and told this to Lord Krishna.

Angry Krishna cursed Sama to turn into a bird. Chakeva felt hurt after knowing the truth and prayed to become a bird. Samb also felt sad and prayed to Lord Vishnu to turn them into their human form. Lord Vishnu told Samb to do a ritual. Samb and the women of Mithilanchal made the idols of Sama, sages, Chakeva, and Chugula. They burn the mustache on the idol of Chugula. It is a symbol of expressing distaste for the gossip culture.

The ritual brought back Sama and Chakeva to human form. Today, people pay respects to the migratory birds as they consider them the avatars of Sama and Chakeva. It shows the lovely relationship between the brother and his sister. This festival gives a great message to protect and love migratory birds.

6. Shravani Mela

Shravani Mela is the longest religious fair in the world, celebrated for 30 days in July- August (Shravan Month). During this month, nearly 50-55 lakhs of pilgrims visit Baba Baidyanath Shivganga to purify themselves and enter Baba Baidyanath Temple to offer Ganga water to the Jyotirlinga. Devotees first visit Sultanganj barefoot, wearing saffron-colored clothes to collect Ganga water in their kanwars on their shoulders, and then visit Baba Baidyanath Temple to offer prayers. Their recitation of Bol Bam throughout the journey shows their immense devotion to Lord Shiva.

7. Holi

Holi is the most delightful festival of colours celebrated by the Hindu community in Gaya. It marks the arrival of spring after a long winter season. This fun-filled festival is celebrated in February -March (Phalguna month in the Hindu calendar). Like spring, a symbol of rebirth, inclusivity, and new beginnings, Holi also signifies inclusivity, reincarnation, and new beginnings.

People let go of negative energies and start afresh. Today, people smear colours on each other, play with water balloons, enjoy Holi delicacies like bhang and Gujiya, and mend broken relationships. People also participate in Holika Dahan. As per the legend, King Hiranyakashipu, a demon, got a boon that he could be killed neither by any human, animal, outdoors, indoors, weapon, land, water, air, or day or night. His son Prahalada was a devotee of Lord Vishnu.

The King began to give his son punishments for worshipping Lord Vishnu as he wanted everyone to worship him only. Prahalada’s aunt Holika had a boon not to get burned on fire. She tricked small Prahalada into sitting on a pyre in her lap, But Holika got burned, and Prahalada survived. Meanwhile, Vishnu took Narasimha’s Avatar and killed Hiranyakashyap with his lion claws. The festival of Holi is a celebration of good over Evil. The Holika’s fire is a celebration of victory from Evil.

8. Maha Shivratri

Maha Shivratri is celebrated in Gaya and all across India with great enthusiasm. It is a day that celebrates the great union of the forces of Lord Shiva and Devi Shakti. It happens once in every year from February – March. Devotees celebrate this day to seek the divine blessings of Lord Shiva and Devi Shakti. There are some interesting stories behind the origin of this festival. Legends say that on this day Shiva and Shakti got married. In Shaivism, It is said that Lord Shiva performed a heavenly dance of creation, preservation, and destruction on this day.  Devotees observe fast on this day to get a good life partner.

9. Diwali

Diwali is a festival of light, celebrated in Gaya and other parts of India with great fervour. It is one of the most auspicious occasions for the Hindu community. As per the legends, on this day, Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya with Devi Sita and brother Laxmana after 14 years of exile and the defeat of Ravana. The people of Ayodhya were so happy that they declared the day Deepawali. They lit lakhs of clay diyas to celebrate the arrival and victory of Lord Rama. You will see homes, shops, offices, markets, and other places decorated with lights and diyas. Diwali signifies the power of light over darkness. People pray to god to remove all the evil energies and darkness from their lives on this day.

10. Janmashtami

Janmashtami is a joyous festival celebrated in Gaya and other parts of India in the month of Shraavana of Bhadrapad (August- September) every year. It is an important festival for Hindu devotees. The day celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu. His maternal uncle, Kansa wanted to kill him. He also kept his parents in prison.  After Krishna’s birth, his father Vasudeva, was freed with the grace of Lord Vishnu for a day to carry infant Krishna to Gokul, where his foster parents Nanda and Yashoda would raise him with great care and love.

On this day, Devotees wash the Laddu Gopal (Infant Krishna) idol, decorate his Palki, and clothe him with new clothes to celebrate this auspicious day. Devotees also indulge in the fun sport of Dahi Handi. The sport portrays the childhood of Lord Krishna.

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