Which Indian Festival is closest to Thanksgiving?


Thanksgiving in India is about celebrating regional harvest seasons whereas in America it is a national festival celebrated by one and all: How about a taste of Indian thanksgiving?

The festival of thanksgiving marks the beginning of American holiday season followed by Christmas and New year celebrations. Thanksgiving festival in the US falls on the fourth Thursday of November and has been a national holiday which has been celebrated in the United States historically(since 1789).

It started as a harvest festival in the early days of North America, marking a truce between the immigrant settlers and the Native American tribes. Americans enjoy feasts with family and friends and eat more food on Thanksgiving dinner than on any other day of the year! Thanksgiving is also a time to remember blessings and being thankful for all the good things in life. The festivities include feasts, several parades and watching football etc. I wonder if there is a festival that comes close to the spirit of Thanksgiving in India?

I feel the harvest festival in India is similar to Thanksgiving in America. The festival of Lohri(Punjab), Ugadi (Karnataka), Makar Sankranti (Gujarat, Maharashtra etc.), Pongal (Tamil Nadu), Bhogali Bihu (Assam) and Onam (Kerala) are some of the popular festivals that come close to thanksgiving celebrations. Before readers get confused, I would like to bring to their attention that India is an ethnically and agriculturally diverse country and name of the harvest festival changes as per the region, but they are essentially related to the farming season. It is celebrated in different states of India with great enthusiasm and  marked by community feasts, cultural programs, songs and folk dances etc. It is also a time to thank the almighty for a good harvest season and to start another harvest year and pray for a good yield.

India has the largest number of holidays in the world and it has the most unique ones too. Some of these harvest festivals carry a rustic fervor typical to a region  with a variety of regional cuisines and different local dialects that change flavor in every state of the country. I wonder if some cool Indian entrepreneurs/travel sites can promote the “Harvest Season” as Indian thanksgiving season and introduce Americans to some unique harvest festivities in India.

There is no dearth when it comes to ideas for cultural exchange on festivities in both the countries, and it might be fun to see a bunch of Americans and Indian-Americans celebrate thanksgiving in different regions of India on a starkly different taste-palette. A different thanksgiving festival, of sorts?

What do you think? Share your festival-exchange ideas with me.

Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.

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