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Updated by Joanna James on Jul 13, 2023
Headline for 5 South Asian Festivals You Don't Want to Miss- Immerse in Asian culture and traditions!
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Joanna James Joanna James
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5 South Asian Festivals You Don't Want to Miss- Immerse in Asian culture and traditions!

The South Asian region has strong spiritual roots and values that show expression through some of the most vibrant and interesting festivals across the globe.

1

Holi

There are many cultural festivals around the world and Holi is one that is celebrated in India and its sub-region. Holi takes place in March on the day of the full moon, according to the Hindu calendar. It is also called by other names such as "festival of spring", "festival of love" and "festival of colour". Holi symbolises the start of spring in India and the battle between good and evil. People gather around fires and perform religious rituals to pray and avoid evil influences. On the following day, people will congregate on the streets to throw colourful powders at each other. The fun and gaiety continue for days! Check out online sources such as Events and Festivals Blog for more information on this festival.

2

Loi Krathong

This is celebrated at dusk of the 12th month during the full moon on the Thai lunar calendar. Throughout Loi Krathong, people will adorn baskets and plant them with candles and flowers to drift them along the rivers. This practice is done to honour the water goddesses. At home, people will illuminate the night sky with lamps and colourful lanterns and set off fireworks. It's a colourful and happy event, which predominantly takes place in Thailand; but can be seen in countries like Myanmar, China, and Cambodia under different names.

3

Kandy Esala Perahera

It is among the grandest and most ancient pageants in South Asia, and its beginnings go back as far as the 3rd century BCE. Initially, the parade began as a ritual to placate the rain gods! The Esala perahera officially started when the sacred tooth relic of Gauthama Buddha was brought to the island in the 4th century CE. At present, the perahera is held in July and August and goes on for about ten days. The Sacred Tooth, enshrined in a golden casket of seven layers, is placed upon the decorated Magul Atha (the auspicious tusker) and paraded around the streets of Kandy. The main tusker enters last, whilst smaller elephants representing devalas (temples of gods) of the protective deities of Buddhism parade before the auspicious elephant. The elephants are accompanied by Kandyan dancers, drummers, whip crackers, and fire twirlers, adding pomp and grandeur to the festival!

4

Diwali

Diwali is the festival of lights and celebrates the arrival of Lord Rama and his wife Sita, following a prolonged exile of 14 years. It is the largest Hindu festival celebrated in India.
Diwali falls in October/November every year and goes on for 5 days, during which the streets, markets, and temples along the Ganges River in Varanasi get illuminated by lamps. The Gold Temple in Amritsar gets covered in light, while demon images are marched along the streets and scorched in Goa.

5

Vesak Festival

Vesak is celebrated in many Buddhist countries in Asia, typically in Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Burma, and Myanmar. The auspicious day marks the birth, enlightenment, and Parinibbana of Lord Buddha. Many countries celebrate the day by accumulating merit, such as providing alms to monks, visiting temples, listening to dhamma sermons, and releasing animals. In Sri Lanka, massive pandals are erected to depict the Buddha's previous life stories, while the homes and streets get illuminated with lanterns, lamps, and lights. Free food and drink stalls are also organised for all and sundry as an act of alms.