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Festivals of Bengal

The festivals in Bengal are many and varied. Here I provide a simplified list from the Bengali year 1409 as an example. Note that since most of the hindu, jaina, and buddhist religious festivals follow the luni-solar calendar (which approximately means it is celebrated at a given phase of the moon in a given season; actually the season changes slowly with a period of 24000 years), the vaiSNava religious calendar is a variation of the same, and the muslim ones the lunar one (which moves by about 11 days per year), instead of a solar one, the dates actually vary from year to year. This applies not only to the various festivals worshipping the gods, but also for the birthdays and deathdays of teachers and other holy personages; for some of the other personalities people use the bengali calendar, and for the rest the Indian National Calendar. Note that various astronomical coincidences necessary for some festival dates means that their precise dates in other years cannot be fixed from the information presented here: but a rough estimate is possible. Thus, for luni-solar ones, typically they will be at most about a month later, and not much earlier, than these dates (The effect is seen in some festivals appearing both at the beginning and at the end of this year). Similarly, the secular festivals often follow the Gregorian or the Indian National Calendar which is very similar; and hence the bengali date varies from year to year with a mean drift of one month every two millenia. The calendar used, if not the hindu religious one, is provided in parenthesis.

In the list below I have highlighted in bold is an idiosyncratic choice of ‘major’ festivals. That depends, naturally on my inclinations, someone else would probably have chosen a different set. The large number of regional fairs, worship sessions, and holy bathings, usually coinciding with the birth (AvirbhAva) or death (tirodhAna) of some local holy personage have been omitted from the list: even the important ones, when added over all regions, number in the thousands per year. Also omitted are the regular household worships, and the regular observations according to the different phases of the moon, and passage of the different planets leading to snAna and vratas. The undue influence of hindu tradition is because I belong to the hindu subculture of bengal.

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