This year, Easter falls on Sunday, 16th April, 2017. It is a festival celebrated by millions of Christians in India and around the world.
Being a melting pot of different traditions, India also sees people of other religions enthusiastically joining Easter celebrations along with friends and neighbours. This festival is observed on the Sunday that follows Good Friday every year, which means it is a movable feast. Let’s take a look at the significance of Easter and how it is celebrated by people in various parts of India:
What Does Easter Signify?
The origins of Easter celebrations in India go back to the time of colonisation by the British rule as well as other European powers like the French and Portuguese. Easter Sunday is observed after the 40-day period of Lent during which Christians fast, pray and go through penance.
Easter marks the beginning of spring and celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. Christians believe that Christ defeated death and rose from the grave on the Sunday following the crucifixion, which is why Easter Sunday is celebrated.
Easter Celebrations In Different Indian States
Special prayers and masses, feasting and exchanging of gifts and Easter eggs are some of the ways in which Christian communities in India celebrate Easter. However, in some states like Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and the north-eastern states of Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, celebrations are held with more fervour than in other parts of the county. This is because these particular states are home to about 60 percent of the total Christian population in India. Here’s a look at how these states celebrate Easter:
This tiny state is known for the most extravagant Easter celebrations in India, traditions that have perhaps stayed on post the Portuguese rule in Goa. Churches all over the state are decked up and in the afternoon special prayers, sermons, services, and even processions are held. Among them, the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church in Panjim draws the biggest crowd.
One of the highlights of the day is the ‘Way of the Cross’ ceremony where devotees re-enact Jesus Christ’s march through Calvary on the way to the place of his crucifixion. A massive wooden cross along with an image of Christ is carried out in a procession from the church through the streets with hundreds of people in attendance.
There is a carnival atmosphere in Goa during Easter with songs, dances and street plays that go on for a couple of weeks. People bake special goodies like cakes, Easter eggs and bunnies, and chocolate for the occasion. There is also a ritual of exchanging colourful lanterns and the Holy Cross once the day’s church service is over. Families come together for meals and children have a gala time with all the baked treats and attractive Easter eggs on Easter Sunday.
• Location:In western India, with Maharashtra, Karnataka and the Arabian Sea as Goa’s borders.
• How to Reach: Dabolim Airport, about 30kms from Panjim, has daily flights to major Indian cities and some international locations; bus and cab services are available to reach Goa by road; two major railheads are Madgaon and Thivim.
• Official Language: Konkani
• Currency: INR
• Time Zone: UTC+05:30
• Climate: Tropical monsoon
• Food & Drink:Seafood dishes are popular along with pork dishes like Sorpotel, Xacuti, and Vindaloo. Feni is the local drink to try.
South Indian States
There is a considerable population of Christian communities in the southern part of India, and Easter is predominantly celebrated in the two states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
In Kerala, people observe the period of Lent from Ash Wednesday to Easter. After Sunday morning mass, they get back to eating non-vegetarian food, drinking alcohol and making merry. After the mourning on Holy Saturday, churches get packed with people at night to attend Easter Vigil during which new candles are lit to signify the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Sunday is spent in a quiet way with traditional Easter breakfast followed by dinner later on with the family when people indulge in local delicacies like appam, meat stew, egg curry, baked bananas and fresh toddy.
Churches all over the state observe Easter with special mass and festivities. The Sacred Heart Church in Chennai receives hundreds of visitors who come to light candles and sing hymns. Like in other parts of the country, people in Tamil Nadu also get together to celebrate Easter Sunday with feasting and merrymaking.
• Location:Kerala is located on the Malabar Coast, while Tamil Nadu lies to its south-east.
• How to Reach: Kerala has international airports in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Calicut with regular connectivity. It is well-connected to Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka by road. Trains are available to Kerala from various Indian cities. To reach Tamil Nadu by air, there are airports in Chennai, Tiruchirapalli, Madurai and Coimbatore. These cities are also well-connected by rail from all over India. Buses and cars are available for road journeys from neighbouring states.
• Official Language: Malayalam in Kerala; Tamil in Tamil Nadu.
• Currency: INR
• Time Zone: UTC+05:30
• Climate: Tropical in Kerala, while Tamil Nadu has dry sub-humid to semi-arid climates.
• Food & Drink:Seafood and meat is plentiful in Kerala’s cuisine and are eaten with rice. Appam, fish curry, rasam and banana chips are some popular dishes. In Tamil Nadu, rice is the staple ingredient and is eaten with curry. Sweet dishes to taste include Kuli Paniyaram and Chakkarai Pongal.
States In North-east India
Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram are the north-eastern states with resident Christian communities, and each state celebrates Easter Sunday in their special way with Easter eggs and goodies being common in all.
Midnight services at churches, prayers, exchange of greetings, and singing songs are some ways in which residents of Meghalaya celebrate the day of Easter. Churches also hold special programmes like choirs, Easter Sunday sermons and sunrise services. There are also candlelight processions, baptism of new-born babies, and eggs and bun hunts held on the day.
People in Nagaland head to the church on Easter Sunday where there are events like a vigil service and readings from the old and new Testaments. People also take initiatives to help the needy and distribute food among other activities.
Local churches in Mizoram too organise sunrise services to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the day is followed with special prayers, sermons and playing of hymns. Community feasts are held at some places for people to come together and celebrate Easter.
• Location: All three states are located in India’s north eastern region, with the major entry point in Assam.
• How to Reach: Gopinath Bordoloi Airport in Guwahati is the major one with regular flights from where one can travel to different states by road. There is an airport at Dimapur (Nagaland) while a helicopter service is available to Mizoram. The states are connected by roads to Assam and other neighbouring north-eastern states as well as to West Bengal. Assam and Nagaland have train connectivity to other Indian places. It is important to note that to enter Mizoram and Nagaland, Indians require an Inner Line Permit (ILP) while foreigners need a Protected Area Permit (PAP).
• Official Language: English (Nagaland); English, Khasi, Garo (Meghalaya); Mizo and English (Mizoram)
• Currency: INR
• Time Zone: UTC+05:30
• Climate: Mild to monsoon climates with heavy rainfall
• Food & Drink: Non-vegetarian food is popular in these states with pork being eaten all over. Jadoh (made from pork and rice) is the local favourite in Meghalaya. Try pork stew and Apong (rice beer) in Nagaland. Famous Mizo dishes include Bai and Koat Pitha.
While India doesn’t have annual Easter egg hunting traditions, special sweets and buying of Easter eggs are the order of the day. Most Christians have also adopted the tradition of getting together with friends and family for lavish lunch or dinner parties. After all, in India most festivals are about inclusive time with the family and loved ones— religion and age no bar.
Interested in visiting the different states of India to celebrate Easter?
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