There’s at least one festival or celebration happening every day in February, but we’ve focused in on the big ones and unbundled what happens to give you an idea of what’s going on, where and why. Want to know more? Read on.
Hooray! Spring is on the way. No surprises then that there’s a festival, Vasant Panchami, to celebrate the fact.
As well as welcoming the warmth of spring, Vasant Panchami celebrates the wisdom of Hindu Goddess Saraswati. In addition to this big event in the calendar, there’s also Guru Ravidas Jayanti, Shivaji Jayanti, Maharishi Dayanaid Saweswati Jayanti and Mahu Shivaratri to enjoy this month too.
Wondering what else is going on? Read our guide to February’s big religious festivals and celebrations below.
Vasant Panchami, 1st February
Vasant (or Basant) means spring, Panch means five and ami, in this day. Put it all together and you’ve got the fifth day of spring. This is the day dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, the arts, science and music.
Goddess Saraswati, the consort of Brahma, forms one part of the Tridevi (trinity) alongside Lakshmi and Parvati. On Vasant Panchami worshippers seek Saraswati’s guidance to remove ignorance and achieve enlightenment. Wondering what she looks like? Saraswati sits on a lotus, holding in her four hands a book or script, a garland, a pot for water and a musical instrument.
This is a special time for children, with adults assisting little ones write letters and words for the first time. Astrologers also advise that this is the best day to start something new.
Wear yellow, gift fresh yellow flowers and give sweet yellow rice or halwa as a prasad (gift / offering) and blessings are more likely to come your way.
Guru Ravidas Jayanti, 10th February
Guru Ravidas, a poet and saint of the Bhakti movement, is revered by Hindus.
Born in the 14th Century in Benaras, Varanasi, Guru Ravidas Jayanti (birthday) is a celebration of the birth anniversary of this saint.
Prayers and chanting in the morning, with devotees performing a Nagar Kirtin – a procession through the streets. The Shri Guru Ravidas Janm Asthan Mandir, Varansai, attracts pilgrims from right across India. President Narendra Modi came here in 2016 to perform puja.
Ramakrishna Jayanti, 18th February
A 19th century saint and yogi born into a poor, devout Brahmin family in West Bengal, Ramakrishna rose to become a priest at the famous Dakshineswar temple, which houses the Goddess Kali, in Kolkata. Swami Vivekanamda, one of Ramakrishna’s most famous disciples, is widely credited with bringing Yoga to the west.
Shivaji Jayanti, 19th February
The birthday anniversary of the legendary Shivaji, born in 1630. A warrior king and ruler of the Maratha Empire, Shivaji was a master tactician. He co-operated with and then went on to challenge the Aurangzeb, took on the Mughal Army and was eventually crowned the Chhatrapati (the monarch) at Raigad Fort, Maharashtra, in 1674.
Shivaji jayanti is massive in Maharashtra and its capital, Mumbai. Fly into the Mumabi and you’ll arrive at an airport named after Shivaji. The main station is the city is named after him too. And, in a few years, arrive by boat and the major landmark will no longer be the Gateway to India, but a statute of Shivaji, twice the size of Statue of Liberty.
If you are in Mumbai, Pune and anywhere else in Maharashtra for that matter expect to processions and speeches from politicians to mark the great Shivaji.
Maharishi Dayanaid Saweswati Jayanti, 21st February
The founder of the Hindu Reform Society, Arya Samaj, Maharishi Dayanaid Saweswati, was a Hindu religious leader who was a master of Sanskrit and vedic teachings. A wandering ascetic, he challenged what he called the superstitious and self serving practices of the Hindu priests.
Born in 1876, he also coined the phrase Swaraj, an India for Indians, later to be adopted by legendary freedom fighter, Lokmanya Tilak.
The 21st February sees the birth anniversary of a man the former President of India Radhankrishnan called, “one the makers of modern India”, celebrated.
Maha Shivaratri, 25th February
Maha means great, Shiva is, well, the one and only Lord Shiva, the great destroyer and Hindu deity, whilst ratri means night. Put that all together and Maha Shivarati means the great night of Lord Shiva.
This festival, a celebration of the end of darkness and ignorance, is a day and evening that devotees of Lord Shiva eagerly await.
A day of fasting and offerings in honour of the Lord Shiva, chanting “Om Namaha Shivaya” (salutations / welcome to Shiva) and yoga awaits. Shiva devotees will head to temples and take three lines of ash on their foreheads, representing purity, knowledge and patience.