Maharashtra has a perfectly juxtaposed image; it conjures up images of various states where people of all religions coexist. India’s second-most populous state is home to individuals from all cultures and walks of life. As one of India’s most multicultural states, festivals of Maharashtra are vibrant and serve as a shining example of cultural inclusion to the rest of the globe. Communities are seen interacting and enjoying a good time together in this cosmopolitan state, regardless of religion, caste, or faith. Festivals, which take place almost every month in the city, bring these individuals together. Maharashtrians take their holiday celebrations far too seriously, and they entirely immerse themselves in the joy of the festivities, which is a sight to witness.
1. Ganesh Chaturthi
Lord Ganesha is the most beloved deity in Maharashtra, and Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in magnificent style. Preparations for the auspicious day when Lord Ganesh was born began with tremendous zeal in August. It is an 11-day event that begins with the installation of colorfully painted Ganesh idols in houses and gigantic pandals reflecting religious and cultural themes.
Ganesh statues are revered, and several cultural activities are held. People crowd the massive pandals in order to catch a sight of their chosen God. Everyone looks forward to visiting friends and relatives to give prayers, share in the celebrations, and eat some excellent cuisine. It’s also an excellent opportunity to indulge in modaks (steamed rice-flour dumplings with luscious coconut and ghee filling), which are thought to be the Lord’s favorite dish. On the 11th day, it is time to wish Ganesha farewell. The idols are carried in a procession, accompanied by music and dance, to be immersed in the sea or a local river or lake. People are immersed in the spirit of dance and music during this procession, which depicts Maharashtra’s vibrant culture.
2. Nag Panchami
Nag Panchali, an important festival in Maharashtra, is held on the fifth day of the holy month of Shravan in honour of the Snake God Shesha Nag. Snake worship is an important practice in India, and cobras made of clay are revered in houses during this festival. It is mostly seen for two reasons. To begin, the nags’ (snakes’) habitation forms the bottom of the patal lok, and the nags’ blessings are sought for the family’s well-being. Second, the nags (snakes) protect the crops from mice and vermin, thus farmers pray to the nag-devta and express their gratitude. People provide sweets and milk sacrifices to the snake god. Snake charmers carry cobras in baskets and solicit contributions from the people on the streets. The day is commemorated with street dances and singing. People go to nag temples as well as Shiva temples because the nag is strongly linked with Lord Shiva.
3. Gudi Padwa
Gudi Padwa marks the start of a fortunate new year, and Hindus regard it as one of the most auspicious days. It occurs on the first day of the Lunar calendar, signaling the start of the new year. It is celebrated with tremendous fanfare and display throughout the state. Households are decked with garlands and rangolis, and a gudhi is erected outside the home to welcome wealth and good health. Gudhi is a victory emblem represented by a bamboo stick wrapped in a silk fabric. It is decorated with flowers and is given treats.
People celebrate the new year by worshiping the gudhi and distributing prasad to members of the community. Adults and children equally cook and enjoy sweet foods such as shrikhand and basundi. Many processions are held around the state to celebrate Maharashtra’s culture and customs. Thousands of people flock to view the festivities and participate in the festivities. This is one of the saade-teen muhurtas, and any new enterprise begun on this day is expected to be successful and prosperous. As a result, this day is regarded particularly fortunate for buying or moving into a new home, buying a car, establishing a new company, and so on.
4. Narali Pournima
Narali Pournima is celebrated in several parts of Maharashtra on the full moon day of the month of Shravan. During the monsoon season, the sea is hazardous for fishing, thus fishermen avoid it. The conclusion of the monsoon and the start of the new fishing season are marked by Narali Pournima, when fishermen placate the sea deity before sailing off in their gorgeously decked boats.
‘Naral’ means ‘coconut,’ and ‘Pournmia’ is the full-moon day when coconut gifts are presented to the sea deity. As the fishing season begins, the fishermen make offerings of coconuts and prayers to the sea-god, seeking his blessings to avoid any mishaps. On this day, coconut sweets are consumed. Narali Pournima also falls on the same day as Raksha Bandhan, a festival in which brothers promise to protect their sisters and sisters tie a thread around their brothers’ wrists as a sign of respect and affection.
5. Krishna Janmashtami
Gokul Ashtami, also known as Janmashtami, commemorates the birth of Lord Krishna. On the eve of Lord Krishna’s birth, devotees fast till midnight. Krishna-janma, the birth of Lord Krishna, is commemorated at midnight in temples and households with bhajans (devotional songs).
Gokulashtami is observed the next day. Devotees recall how the Lord loved butter and would go to tremendous lengths to get it. The dahi-handi is a ceremony conducted on this day in honour of the adored Lord. High above the streets, clay pots filled with curd, puffed rice, and milk are strung. After slipping into the residences of gopis to steal butter, groups of eager young people create human pyramids to reach up and smash them open, just like Lord Krishna and his associates. People swarm to observe these human pyramids and their attempts to smash the pot of butter.
6. Makar Sankranti
Makar Sankranti, also known as Uttarayan or Pongal in various areas of the nation, is the winter solstice holiday. It marks the beginning of spring, when the sun departs the southern hemisphere and begins its trek in the northern hemisphere. On this day, kites may be seen filling the sky, continuing the great history of kite-flying. To keep everyone warm, meals of gulachi poli (jaggery flatbreads) are cooked.
Small sweet sesame laddoos (balls) are specifically created on this day. People visit friends’ and relatives’ houses and say, “Til gul ghya ani god god bola,” which means, “Accept this til-gul and talk pleasantly.” It is a day when everyone resolves to put past feuds and disagreements behind and move forward with mutual love and respect. A pooja for newly married ladies and newborn infants is another typical cultural event. They are dressed in black and adorned with ornaments made of small sugary sweets, and everyone enjoys singing, dancing, and making merry.
7. Bhau Beej
Just as the country honours sibling love on Raksha Bandhan, this Maharashtra festival honours this particular bond on an additional day. It is a spectacular celebration of all the festivity and rivalry of this eternal friendship, celebrated on the fifth and final day of Diwali. Brothers are historically regarded as sisters’ guardians, and on this day, sisters welcome their brothers to their homes. A delicious supper of basundi poori, shrikhand poori, and other brother favourites is served. Gifts are given, and there is overall joy and excitement all around.
8. Ellora Festival
The Ellora caves, a UNESCO world heritage site, are one of the state’s most important historical landmarks. Ellora festival is a celebration of culture, classical music, and dance set against the stunning Ellora caverns. The performances at this big event, organised by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, are sure to captivate you. The Ellora festival honours the grandeur of Indian art and cultural traditions at one of the country’s most scenic and historical locations. There are also a number of stalls displaying the arts and crafts of local craftsmen and sculptors. Everyone interested in Indian arts, crafts, and rituals should go.
9. Ashadhi Ekadashi
Ashadhi Ekadashi, which is celebrated in honour of the great Hindu god Vishnu, is the finale of the epic Pandharpur chi Vari (Journey to Pandharpur). Pandharpur is a town in Maharashtra on the banks of the Chandrabhaga River that is said to be the home of Vitthal, a local version of the great God. Almost a month in preparation, millions of pilgrims embark on a foot journey to the holy city. It’s a sight to behold as millions of people pour into this little city, propelled solely by their trust in the Lord. The Warkaris (those who have completed this journey) chant holy melodies and live in extremely basic conditions during the journey, and the environment is one of profound dedication and mutual support, since everyone’s ultimate goal is to approach the Lord and fall at his feet.
People around the state fast and eat only basic foods as a remembrance of the Warkaris’ trek, as well as a symbol of loyalty and confidence in their Vithu Mauli (The Lord).
10. Mangala Gauri
The Mangala Gauri vrat is a very holy fast celebrated mostly by newly married ladies in Maharashtra. Special pujas are done in honour of Goddess Gowri on this day. To do this puja, women dress in traditional attire. By performing this ritual, women seek the blessings of Goddess Gowri for their husbands’ well-being and a happy married life together. On this day, women draw beautiful rangolis, and the pooja area is also nicely decorated. During this puja, married women offer 16 laddus to their sister-in-laws and mother-in-law, and then this Prasad is offered to a Brahmin. The devotees then light 16 wick lamps to perform aarti in front of the Goddess. On the following day of the puja, the idol of Goddess Gowri is immersed in a pond. It is said that once started, this puja should be performed for 5 years in a row for the peace and harmony of the family.
Bail Pola, like Lohri in North India, is a harvest festival celebrated by farmers throughout Maharashtra. It falls on Pithori Amavasya, the new moon day of Shravan’s holy month. Bullocks, which are an essential part of agriculture – essentially the backbone of it – are worshipped on this day.
They are bathed, decorated with ornaments, and paraded through the village, accompanied by music and dancing. The order in which the bulls are brought out into the village represents the farmers’ social standing.
12. Shivaji Jayanti
Chattrapati Maharashtra’s greatest king was Shivaji Maharaj. He was well-known for his bravery and brilliance. He built the groundwork for a Hindu kingdom that lasted over two centuries before being conquered by the British. All Maharashtrians hold him in high respect, and his birthday is commemorated as Shivaji Jayanti across the state.
Several pandals have been erected around the state to honour the great king. Actors or statues enact epic battles, the king’s wisdom, generosity, and courage. Processions are held to tell the stories of his greatness, and songs celebrating his bravery and kingship are sung. The state remembers their great king fondly and vows to emulate his qualities in their daily lives.
13. Kojagiri Purnima
Kojagiri Poornima, also known as Ashwin Poornima, is observed on the full moon day of Ashwin to commemorate the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the harvest season. Some think that Goddess Laxmi appears in various locations at night to keep people awake by playing games, dancing, singing, and generally having a good time. These occasions are typically honoured with community meals that include basic yet wonderful foods such as chilled milk and rice crackers.
The moon and the earth are said to be particularly near on this day, thus everyone is encouraged to remain up all night since the moon’s rays are claimed to have healing qualities.
14. Banganga Festival
The Banganga Celebration, a musical homage to Lord Ram, is a two-day festival conducted every year at Malabar Hills in Mumbai. The Indian Heritage Society and the MTDC are organising it (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation). This musical carnival honours and protects the state’s rich heritage. A cultural extravaganza is held in January at Banganga, where cultural enthusiasts can see some of the country’s top artists perform live classical music concerts. It also helps to raise awareness about the importance of preserving the rich cultural heritage of the Walkeshwar temple’s historical Banganga tank. Lord Rama is said to have stopped here in search of freshwater, and when he couldn’t find any, he shot an arrow. The location where the arrow landed on the ground is thought to be the exact location of the Banganga tank, which supplied Lord Rama with Ganges water.
15. Maharashtra Day
Maharashtra Day is one of the state’s most prominent holidays. The day is marked by parades, ceremonies, political speeches, and many types of public gatherings and private celebrations in honour of Maharashtra’s traditions and customs. Every year, a huge celebration is conducted in Shivaji Park in Mumbai, which is attended by the Governor. Maharashtra was established on May 1, 1960. The day is known as Maharashtra Day or Mahatashtra Diwas in the Marathi-speaking state. Maharashtra Day commemorates not only statehood but also the legacy and culture of the Maharashtrian people.Maharashtrians also commemorate Maharashtra Diwas by performing traditional Lavani performances – narration of poems penned by Marathi saints – and holding processions around the state. On Maharashtra Day, the state government and various commercial enterprises introduce new projects and programmes.
Suggested read – Folk Dances of Maharashtra, Colourful Expressions of Marathi Culture
Plan a trip to Maharashtra during these festival seasons to see the state in all its glory, with streets lit up with ruffles bringing people from all walks of life together.