A colourful and fervent region, one can find a year-round calendar of holidays and celebrations in South Asia. South Asia is home to many religions, with celebrations and holidays often having strong religious ties. Its significant cultural diversity means that there is no easy way to summarize the holidays of this region. Behind the larger iconic festivals, many ethnic and religious minorities practice their traditions in the background. It is beyond the scope of this piece to aptly include them all, instead this piece serves to briefly give an idea of the range of holidays observed in South Asia.
Given its cultural diversity, various festivals and holidays are celebrated across India – Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian festivals and holidays alike are all observed. One of the most internationally well-recognized is the Hindu festival, Holi – known as ‘the festival of spring’, ‘the festival of colour’ and ‘the festival of love’. However, three national holidays are recognised by the Indian state: Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August) and Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday (2 October).
Hindu festivals also have a significant place in the cultural life in Nepal. Perhaps the most-anticipated festival is Dashain, a Hindu festival spread over 15 days in September/October with a particular emphasis on family and community.
Sri Lanka enjoys 25 public holidays per year – a testament to its religious diversity. Vesak Poya, the Buddhist Festival of lights, celebrates the day Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and died on many years later with the hanging of white paper lanterns across the country.
Bhutanese holidays are rich in tradition. The Sakteng festival of the semi-nomadic Brokpas people showcases traditional Bhutanese clothing and drink, and like many other holidays in Bhutan, is centred around worship and performance.
Islamic, national and other religious holidays make up the list of celebrations in Pakistan. Falling on the 23rd of March, Pakistan Resolution Day or Republic Day commemorates the processes that made Pakistan the world’s first Islamic republic.