HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS IN INDIA
There are thousands of festivals and events in India. Many are local and held at different dates each year. Many holidays are set according to the lunar calendar. Some festival honor a deity at a particular temple. Others are associated with the agriculture cycle or a religious story or event. Many have some sort of procession along with music, art and food.
Buying land, opening a new business and moving into a new house is often marked as a special occasion. The opening of a new house is marked with special ceremony called grihapravesham
National Public Holidays: Makar Sakranti (January 14); Republic Day (signing of national constitution, January 26); Id-ul-Juha (movable date); Muharram (Islamic New Year, movable date); Holi (movable date in March); Ramnavami (birthday of Rama, movable date in March or April); Mahavir Jayanti (Birthday of Mahavir, movable date in April); Good Friday (movable date in March or April); Milad un Nabi (birthday of Prophet Muhammad, movable date); Buddha Poornima (birthday of Buddha, movable date in April or May); Independence Day (August 15); Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday (October 2); Dussehra (also known as Vijaya Dashmi, movable set of 10 days in September or October); Deepawali (also known as Diwali, movable set of five days in October or November); Id-ul-Fitr (end of Ramadan, movable date); Guru Nanak Jayanti (Birthday of Guru Nanak, November 26); Christmas Day (December 25). Many of these holidays are observed only by particular religions or in specific regions. The three holidays that are observed nationwide are Republic Day, Independence Day, and Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday.
Republic Day marks the date on which the Constitution of India was adopted on January 26, 1950. That day was chosen to honor the Declaration of Independence of India of 1930. A large military parade is held in Delhi, with army, navy and air force regiments dressed in their often outrageous-looking uniforms.
Hindu Calendar and Festivals
The ancient Hindus, Chinese, Egyptians, Babylonians all used 365-day calendars. The Hindu calendar and times scheme is rooted in the “Laws of Manu”, which states that the world was created and destroyed many times in cycles of 4000, 3000, 2000 and 1000 years. Some Hindus count the years beginning in 3102 B.C., the beginning of the Kali Yuga time cycle.
In the past Hindus used calendars bases on dynastic eras and also used the Kali Yuga time cycle. The "Kali" era is "a subdivision of the canonical mahayuga of 4,320,000 sidereal years and the yuga of 432,000 years. Other Indian schemes set dates from beginning with a battle or a calendar reform. All were complicated by local variations of dealing with the differences between the lunar and solar year." [Source: Daniel Boorstin, "The Discoverers"]
Most holidays are fixed in accordance with the Hindu lunar calendar. This calendar used is divided into 12 lunar months of 29 to 30 days. This calendar determines when harvest festivals, some temple festivals and the Hindu New Year are celebrated. Every 30 months an additional month is added to keep the calendar in sync with the solar year.
Hindu festivals are called "melas". They are often held on dates based in the Hindu calendar and are associated with seasonal changes. Festivals mix worship with having fun and are regarded as a time when caste distinctions are suspended and the emphasis is on creating a community spirit. There are large festivals celebrated nationwide such as Holi and Diwali as well as local festivals dedicated to regional deities and events important to a certain place.
The world largest gatherings are a series of melas (festivals) held on the Ganges attended by millions of Hindu pilgrims who enter the river in hopes of washing away their sins. There are four major melas: in Allahabad (Prayag), in Haridwar, in Nasik, and in Ujjain. Each one is held every 12 years, which means that one of four is held every three years. The one in Allahabad is by far the largest. It attracts over 50 million people. The others attract about 10 million each. See Kumbh Mela Below.
Closed and Restricted Holidays in India
There are a number of Hindu religious festivals that are officially recognized by the government as "closed holidays," on which work stops throughout the country. The biggest of these occur within two blocks of time after the end of the southwest monsoon. The first comes at the end of the ten-day festival of Dussehra, late in the month of Asvina (September-October) according to the Shaka calendar, India's official calendar. This festival commemorates Ram's victory over Ravana and the rescue of his wife Sita. On the ninth day of Dusshera, people bless with sandalwood paste the "weapons" of their business life, including everything from plows to computers. [Source: Library of Congress *]
On the final day of Dussehra, in North India celebrating crowds set fire to huge paper effigies of Ravana. Several weeks later comes Dipavali (Diwali), or the Festival of Lights, in the month of Kartika (October-November). This is officially a one-day holiday, but in reality it becomes a week-long event when many people take vacations. One tradition links this festival to the victory of Krishna over the demon Naraka, but for most devotees the holiday is a recreation of Ram's triumphant return with Sita, his wife, from his adventures. People light rows of lamps and place them on sills around their houses, set off gigantic amounts of fireworks, pray for wealth and good fortune, distribute sweets, and send greeting cards to friends and business associates. *
The other closed holidays associated with Hindu festivals include Mahashivaratri, or the great night of Shiva, during the month of Magha (January-February). This festival celebrates Shiva's emanation of the universe through his cosmic dance, and is a day of fasting, visiting temples, and in many places staying up all night to sing devotional songs. On the fourth day in the month of Bhadra (August-September) comes the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. Families and businesses prepare for this festival by purchasing brightly painted images of Ganesh and worshiping them for a number of days. On the festival itself, with great celebration, participants bathe the images (and in most cases permanently dump them) in nearby rivers, lakes, or seas. Janmashtami, the birthday of Krishna, also occurs in the month of Bhadra. *
There are a large number of "restricted holidays" celebrated by the vast majority of the population and resulting in closures of business establishments. Major Hindu events include Ramanavami, the birthday of Ram in the month of Chaitra (March-April), and Holi, celebrated at the end of the month of Phalguna (February-March), when people engage in cross-dressing, play tricks on each other, and squirt colored water or powder on each other. These primarily northern festivals receive varying amounts of attention in other parts of the country. A separate series of restricted holidays allow regional cultures to celebrate their own feasts, such as the harvest festival of Pongal in Tamil Nadu in mid-January, which celebrates the harvest and the sun's entrance into Capricorn. *
Life Cycle Events in India
Life cycle events are often celebrated with great fanfare in India. In the old days there were between 12 and 16 such events but now birth, the first hair cutting, marriage and death are the main ones that are commemorated. Ceremonies and rituals vary greatly depending on region and caste.
The first life-cycle event takes place when a woman is seven months pregnant when she is honored as the Mother Earth Goddess, with family members placing flowers in her hair and giving her bangles to symbolize fertility. Traditionally, a women was secluded for six to ten days after a birth and the first clothes given to the child were not new, a custom believed to have been tied to the high mortality rate.
On around the tenth day after birth a priest is summoned for a naming ceremony. The name is often selected in accordance with the child’s horoscope, with the priest “blowing” the name into the child’s ear and writing it on unpolished rice. Some families still hold a small celebration when a child eats solid food for the time. A bigger deal is made when children get his first haircut. A special barber is brought in for the task. Sanskrit verses are chanted as the hair is cut or shaved and the first hair is offered to the gods asa kind of sacrifice.
Traditionally nothing big happened on a person’s birthdays other than the first one, but birthdays are increasingly being marked with Western style celebrations by urban and middle and upper class families. A coming of age ceremony is still held in some areas for girls when they reach puberty. It traditionally meant that the girl had reached marriageable and was marked with the girl being presented her first sari. Hindus are not circumcised. Muslim are. After a big wedding ceremony individuals are often not honored again until their 60th birthday (60 marks the completion of a cycle of five 12 year period, an auspicious achievement). Sometimes a big celebration is held when a person reaches 80.
Hindu Festivals and Holidays
Baisakhi is April is New Year's Day on the Hindu calendar. It is celebrated with dancing and festivities all over northern India. New year marks the beginning of spring and the coming of the monsoon, which arrives in most India in May or June and lasts through the summer. Ramnavami in March or April is a celebration of Lord Ram's birthday. It is observed throughout the country. It is held in the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April). Janmashtami in August is celebrates the birthday of Lord Krishna throughout the country with procession, fasting and rituals at temples.
Shivaratri, or the night of Shiva, during the month of Magha (January-February), celebrates Shiva's emanation of the universe through his cosmic dance, and is a day of fasting, visiting temples, and in many places staying up all night to sing devotional songs. On the fourth day in the month of Bhadra (August-September) comes the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. Families and businesses prepare for this festival by purchasing brightly painted images of Ganesh and worshiping them for a number of days. On the festival itself, with great celebration, participants bathe the images (and in most cases permanently dump them) in nearby rivers, lakes, or seas. Janmashtami, the birthday of Krishna, also occurs in the month of Bhadra.
The Kali Festival in November features terra cotta images of the goddess Kali, holding severed heads, and hundreds of "pandals", fake buildings made of cotton stretched over bamboo. Some of the pandals are decked out in colored lights, and brightly painted with moving snakes, film stars and deities. Some cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make. In 1996, there were replicas of the Victoria Memorial airport that were over 30 meters long.T he festival features all night partying and fireworks. The climax is when the pandals are dragged in the streets to be destroyed by traffic and the images of Kali are dragged into the river.
Havan is the sacred nine day fire ceremony in December. During this ceremony village elders worship nine little girls which Brahmans believe are just like goddesses. The girls are given sweets, saris and money and their feet are strung with flowers as a symbol of female modesty. The festival honors the mother-goddess Matabai. Ram Lila is a month-long festival celebrating the marriage of Rama to his wife Sita described in the epic " Ramayana". Actors act out episode of the god's life, particular the story of Sita abduction by the demon-kings Ravana and Lanka and Rama's rescue with the help of the monkey-god Hanuman.
Holi (Festival of Colors) celebrates the destruction of the demon Holika and marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year. Originally a fertility rite, it is celebrated throughout India with the throwing of colored powder and water on friends and passers-by. People often wear yellow to symbolize spring and green to symbolize the earth. The celebration usually begins on the eve of Holi with a large bonfire to symbolize the killing of Holika and the end of the old year. The holiday is a chance to have a good time, let normal codes of behavior slide and make mischief.
In Rajasthan, men drink opium and perform stick dances. In central India, after drinking a liquid laced with hashish, boys heave cow dung at houses and men try to capture a bag of brown sugar on top of a pole defended by stick-wielding women who are not shy about whacking the men as hard as they can. In western India, people toss buckets of colored water on unsuspecting victims from windows, smear each other with colored powders and squirt one another with high powered brass squirt guns.
Holi is held at the end of the month of Phalguna (February-March). People also engage in cross-dressing and play tricks on each other. Dyes mixed in water are dropped on women at the Dauji Temple of Uttar Pradesh at a festival that celebrates the "passion of the Hindu god Krishna for his lover Radha. In the legend “gopi” (cowgirls) showered the couple with colorful flower petals." Holi is primarily a northern festivals and receive varying amounts of attention in other parts of the country. Holi is not that big in Tamil Nadu.
Ganesh Chaturthi on September is a 10-day Hindu celebration honoring the elephant-headed god Ganesha. In Bombay and Maharashtra there are large processions with huge crowds that immerse images of Hindu Gods in the Arabian Sea and lakes. Local competitions and other festivities are held. Celebrants often powder their faces and bodies in bright colors. Ganesh Chaturthi falls on the fourth day in the month of Bhadra (August-September). Families and businesses prepare for this festival by purchasing brightly painted images of Ganesh and worshiping them for a number of days. On the festival itself, with great celebration, participants bathe the images (and in most cases permanently dump them) in nearby rivers, lakes, or seas.
Half of Bombay's population turns out for the celebration. Ganesh idols are displayed in houses for ten days. Thousands of brightly painted imaged of Ganesh—made of plaster-of-Paris, wood, mud, coconut hair and spray paint— are paraded through the streets and placed in homes or special shrines. Most are relatively small but some are seven or eight meters feet high. The biggest ones sometimes belong to gangsters and are part of their efforts to win public goodwill. The festival climaxes at Chowpatty Beach where hundreds of thousands people gather, many of them dousing images of Ganesh in the water, "purifying the faithful and sending the Ganesh back to the realm of the gods." The day after celebration the beach looks like a battlefield, with images and limbs of Ganesh sticking out of the water and lying on the beach.
The Ganesh festival evolved into present form in the late 19th century as an expression of displeasure towards the British at a time when political rallies were banned but religious festivals weren't. At that time skits often had political messages as freedom fighters attempted to rouse the people. So many Ganesh images are deposited in the water that large numbers of fish die from toxins from the paint and an impermeable layer made by the plaster of Paris exists on the sea floor. Environmentalists have raised a fuss and argued that the practice should be stopped.
Dussehra in late September and early October is one of India's most colorful festivals. Also known as Navratri, It commemorates Ram's victory over Ravana, the demon king in the "Ramayana", and the rescue of his wife Sita—and celebrates the triumph of good over evil. In east India and Bangladesh it honors Durga slaying of the buffalo demon. Here, large images of Durga are paraded in the streets and immersed in a river on the last day. (See Durga Puja Below).
Dussehra is the ten-day festival late in the month of Asvina (September-October) according to the Shaka calendar, India's official calendar. On the ninth day of Dusshera, people bless with sandalwood paste the "weapons" of their business life, including everything from plows to computers. On the final day of Dussehra, in North India celebrating crowds set fire to huge paper effigies of Ravana.
In Delhi and other places in north India, plays are held that recall Rama’s defeat of the demon Ravana and the rescue of his wife Sita. The event climaxes with 80-foot-high paper-and-wood effigies of Ravana being paraded through the streets and consigned to flames. Some of the effigies have fireworks that explode in their eyes. At Kullu, in Himachal Pradesh, people dress as local deities from neighboring villages converge for a huge celebration. Caparisoned elephant processions are held in Mysore. Dussehra is primarily a northern festivals and receives varying amounts of attention in other parts of the country. It is not that big in Tamil Nadu and southern India.
Diwali (the Festival of Lights) in late October or early November is regarded as the happiest festival in India. It is a five-day event that climaxes on a new moon in the Hindi month of Kartick. Celebrated by most of India's people including Muslims and Sikhs, Diwali commemorates the homecoming of Lord Rama and his wife Sita to north India after the victory over Ravana, the demon-king of Sri Lanka in the epic "Ramayana". People light rows of lamps and place them on sills around their houses, set off gigantic amounts of fireworks, pray for wealth and good fortune, distribute sweets, and send greeting cards to friends and business associates.
Diwali (also known as Divali, Dipavali and Deepavali) is the biggest Hindu festival. It symbolizes prosperity and good will. People celebrate by inviting Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, into the house. Lamps are lit to drive out the demon Alakshmi and help Rama and Sita find their way home. The holiday is also linked with trade and the beginning of the financial year.
Like New Year's Day in the West, Diwali is a time to usher out the old and ring in the new. Small flickering lamps are placed in front of freshly-cleaned houses and clay lamps are sent drifting down the rivers and waterways. Markets are hung with tinsel. Sparklers, firecrackers, Roman candles and rockets are set off. Large fireworks displays are held. Puju is performed at homes and temples. People exchange gifts, give each other sweetmeats, and send Diwali cards to one another and party in the streets.
Affluent families enjoy lawn parties and the poor light up their sections of sidewalks with the few lamps they can afford. People pray for their troubles to end and for children to grow to be men and women. Outside the cities, villagers start the day by patching their houses with dung and mud, and fisherman gamble with cowrie shells. In the Punjab structures are outlined with oil lamps and people ask the gods for prosperity. Punjabi Sikhs and Muslims generally take part in the celebration.
Diwali falls in the Hindu month of Kartika (October-November). It is officially a one-day holiday, but in reality it becomes a week-long event when many people take vacations. One tradition links this festival to the victory of Krishna over the demon Naraka, but for most devotees the holiday is a recreation of Ram's triumphant return with Sita, his wife, from his adventures.
Novruz, Nowrouz, Nooruz, Navruz, Nauroz or Nevruz marks the New Year and the beginning of spring across a vast geographical area covering, inter alia, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. It is celebrated on 21 March every year, a date originally determined by astronomical calculations. Novruz is associated with various local traditions, such as the evocation of Jamshid, a mythological king of Iran, and numerous tales and legends. The rites that accompany the festivity vary from place to place, ranging from leaping over fires and streams in Iran to tightrope walking, leaving lit candles at house doors, traditional games such as horse racing or the traditional wrestling. Songs and dances are common to almost all the regions, as are semi-sacred family or public meals. [Source: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage]
In 2009 Novrus was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Children are the primary beneficiaries of the festivities and take part in a number of activities, such as decorating hard-boiled eggs. Women play a key role in organizing Novruz and passing on its traditions. Novruz promotes the values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families, as well as reconciliation and neighbourliness, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and various communities.
Novrus was selected for the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity because: 1) The element is a celebration consisting of various customs practised within the family and the entire community, including traditional games, culinary traditions, music, dance, oral expressions and crafts, and forms a fundamental part of the cultural identity of the communities concerned; 2) The inscription of the element on the Representative List would encourage inter- and intracultural dialogue and mutual respect among cultures, while strengthening the transmission of the element to future generations.
Muslim Holidays in India
The main Muslim holidays and festivals in India are: 1) Ramazan, the Muslim month of fasting (called Ramadan in much of the Muslim world); 2) Id-Ul-Fitr, the feast that marks the end of Ramazan; 3) Id-Uz-Zuha, a Muslim festival that celebrates the sacrifice of the Prophet Abraham; and 4) Ashura, a 10-day Muslim holiday that celebrates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Mohammed, is marked in Kashmir.
The annual festivals of Islam are based on a lunar calendar of 354 days, which makes the Islamic holy year independent of the Gregorian calendar. Muslim festivals make a complete circuit of the solar year every thirty-three years. The beginning of the Islamic calendar is the month of Muharram, the tenth day of which is Ashura, the anniversary of the death of Husayn, the son of Ali. The last day of Ramazan is Id al Fitr (Feast of Breaking the Fast), another national holiday, which ends the month of fasting with almsgiving, services in mosques, and visits to friends and neighbors. Bakr Id, or Id al Zuha (Feast of Sacrifice), begins on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah and is a major holiday. Prescribed in the Quran, Id al Zuha commemorates Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice Ishmael (rather than Ishaq — Isaac — as in the Judeo-Christian tradition) according to God's command, but it is also the high point of the pilgrim's ritual cycle while on the hajj in Mecca. All of these festivals involve large feasts, gifts given to family and neighbors, and the distribution of food for charitable purposes. [Source: Library of Congress *]
The "looting of the pot" is a ritual that takes place in Ajmer near Jaipur at a shrine for the Muslim saint, Khwaja Muni-ud-din Chisti. Rich Muslim pay for rice, sugar, coconut, barley and lentils, which are cooked in a large caldron. Followers of the saint dressed in heat-resistent clothing leap into the cauldron with buckets and fight for food, which is sold for small amounts of money.
The Ashura festival is a big Shiite ritual in Srinigar, Kashmir. On the tenth day of the Muslim month of Muharram (Ashura) participants take part in a procession in which symbols of Husayn are exhibited and worshippers beat themselves with their fists, cut themselves with knives and flagellate themselves on their backs and chests until they dripping with blood. During this festival Shiites fly black flags and imams tell the story of the brutal death Imam Husayn at the battle of Karbala to weeping worshippers.
During Ashura, devotees engage in ritualized mourning that may include processions of colorful replicas of Husayn's tomb at Karbala and standards with palms on top, which are carried by barefoot mourners and buried at an imitation Karbala. In many areas of India, these parades provide a dramatic spectacle that draws large numbers of non-Muslim onlookers. Demonstrations of grief may include bouts of self-flagellation that can draw blood and may take place in public streets, although many families retain personal mourning houses. Sunni Muslims may also commemorate Husayn's death but in a less demonstrative manner, concentrating instead on the redemptive aspect of his martyrdom. *
Mahavir Jayanti in March or April is celebrated at Jain temples throughout the country with processions and rituals. The holiday marks the birthday of Lord Mahavri, the founder of the Jain religion.
Once every 12 years, tens of thousands of Jains gather in Shravanabelagola to ritually pour hundreds of gallons of coconut milk, sacred water with sandalwood paste, turmeric and other sacred fluids on the thousand-year-old, 58-foot statue of Bhanwan Bahubali, the holiest shrine of the Jains. The statue has 26-foot-wide shoulders and 30-foot-long arms, and 9-foot-long and 2½-foot-high feet. It is carved from a sold piece of granite at the top of a 450-foot-high hill. It barely looks weathered after hundreds of years of exposure to the hot sun and monsoon rains. [Source: John Ward Anderson, the Washington Post ]
The whole festival is beamed around India live on state-run and satellite television channels. Vendors sell commemorative wristwatches with pictures of Bhagwan Bahubali on them and stalls display leather handbags and jackets (even though it is taboo for Jains to sell the skins of dead animals). The night before the ritual, Jains bid at an auction to see who will pour water down on the statue first. One year a paper merchant paid 1.5 million rupees (about $50,000) to be the first one to anoint the statue. Many Jains wearing turbans and gold-colored crowns throw fistfuls of money on the statue.
The most important annual rite is Samvatsarri, which is performed during an eight-to-ten day period called Paryusana-parva during the Shvetambra festival in which ordinary people abstain from eating certain foods and fast. The event climaxes with a confession to family and friends and a plea for forgiveness for all the creatures that may been harmed. One of the primary purpose of the festival is link the laity and the acetic community by allowing laymen to live like ascetics for a brief period of time. Jains also go on pilgrimages to Varanasi.
Sikh Holidays and Festivals
Baisakhi, on April 13, is one of the most important Sikh religious holidays. It commemorates the establishment of the symbols and rituals known as the Khalsa Panth in 1699 by the 10th and final guru, Gobind Singh. Temples hold 24-hour readings of Guru Granth Sahib. Men and women prostrate themselves in front of the holy scripture and collectively eat a meal of curry, lentils, potatoes, pudding and rice prepared in a huge vats that holds several hundred liters. The festival often features processions and kirtan devotional music.
Baisakhi also honors The Five Beloved Ones, the first five men initiated into the Khalsa Panth. At a fair Guru Gobind asked if anyone was willing to give their life for the Sikh cause. Five men volunteered. Guru Gorbind entered a tent with the five men and emerged with blood dripping from his sword. Everyone thought the men had been killed but in fact they had been initiated.
Other important festivals include the Martyrdom of Guru Arjan in May, the Celebration of the Guru Granth Sahb in August, Diwali and the martyrdom of Tegh Bahadur in November. Guru Nanak Jayanti in November marks the birth of Guri Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion.
Hindu Extremists Attack Valentines Day
Hard-line Hindu groups in India have been vocal in their objections to Valentine's Day celebrations. Parth M.N. wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “In India, young couples need to be on their toes this Valentine's Day. Merely expressing their love in public could lead to unintended marriage. Right-wing Hindu groups, continuing an annual campaign against what they see as an indecent "Western festival," have vowed to force marriage on couples attempting to celebrate the holiday. "If you are in love, you should get married," said Ashok Sharma, vice president of Hindu Mahasabha, a conservative Hindu religious organization with branches across the country. "Roaming around in public without marriage does not fit in Indian culture. If we find such young couples, we will get them married off." [Source: Parth M.N., Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2015]
“Hindu fundamentalists will be on the lookout for couples carrying roses or canoodling at malls and parks, news reports said. Another right-wing group, Bajrang Dal, reportedly plans to deploy priests in parks in the northern city of Lucknow to conduct shotgun wedding ceremonies as needed. Sharma said Hindu Mahasabha's campaign would not stop there. The group has formed teams to monitor social media for illicit professions of virtual ardor. "Anyone expressing their love on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp will be caught hold of," he said. What if unmarried couples who are found out on Valentine's Day are among the 20 percent of Indians who are not Hindus? Sharma said young males would have to sit through a "purification process" to become Hindu before being married.
The right-wing groups are ideological cousins of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a radical Hindu organization with close ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government. Allies of Hindu right-wing political parties have attacked couples on Valentine's Day and issued threats to restaurants, malls and clubs that attempted to mark the holiday. The threats have become commonplace. Hari Joshi, who heads the women's magazine Sujata, said young Indians were not taking them seriously. "These people are experts in stunts," Joshi said. "Sometimes they create unnecessary nuisance, but there is no fear among youths."
The hard-line groups have stirred controversy in recent months by attempting to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism at mass camps, on the grounds that all Indians are Hindus and that their ancestors had been forced to change their religion. Modi aides have said they oppose such forced conversions, which are against Indian law. Hindu Mahasabha has also called on prominent Indian Muslim actors, including Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, to convert to Hinduism if "they loved their wives," who are Hindus.
Indian authorities seem to be taking a dim view of the groups' plans. "Valentine's Day or any other day, no one has the right to do moral policing," Alok Sharma, police inspector general in the northern city of Meerut, was quoted as saying in the Times of India. Anyone who attempts to punish someone for celebrating Valentine's Day, he said, "should be ready to face legal action."
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated September 2018