‘Culture Transcends Borders’- these words stand true for many things including festivals. Western festivals like New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, etc. are now well celebrated by people in all parts of India. Though Halloween is not yet widely celebrated in India, it is slowly gaining momentum. Movies and pop culture have been the biggest reasons for the wide acceptance of Western cultures and festivals in India. Up till Halloween 2023, the popularity of this festival has been constantly growing. There are several reasons why this spooky festival is celebrated worldwide

Halloween 2023 Date

Just like every year, Halloween 2023 will be celebrated on 31st October 2023, i.e. Tuesday.  

About Halloween

Halloween 2023
Halloween celebrations
Image Credit: Evgeny Atamanenko

Halloween celebrations date back to almost 2,000 years in the past. Halloween celebrations were significant to honour the dead ancestors. The reasons for Halloween celebrations include the fact a gateway is believed to exist between the ‘dead and the living world’ for the day. Many believe that departed souls and ancestors come back to the living world. To honour the same people dress up in Halloween costumes, go trick-or-treating, pull pranks on one another and carve jack-o’-lanterns and light bonfires to ward off the evil spirits. However, with time the festival has become more about distributing candies, dressing up and hosting horror-themes parties. As of Halloween 2023, these practices have even spread in India, especially in urban areas. 

However, Indians might not be fully convinced with the celebration of ‘Halloween’ in particular,  they definitely are hooked on the idea of festivals that honour the dead. Surprisingly, there are a bunch of Indian festivals similar to Halloween. Even though the idea or reason behind the festivals might be the same, these Indian festivals do not follow Halloween like traditions.

Also Read: 6 Theme Parks For The Horror Fanatic In You

For Halloween 2023, learn about 5 Indian festivals similar to Halloween or ‘Desi Halloween festivals’. 

1. Bhoot Chaturdashi/ Narak Chaturdashi

Bhoot Chaturdashi/ Narak Chaturdashi
14 Diyas for the 14 Forefathers
Image Credit: AajTak Bangla

North India celebrates Narak Chaturdashi on the 14th Day of Krishna Paksha of Kartik month, I..e around November. The day is celebrated by observing a fast and doing pujas. Celebrations include calling upon 14 forefathers with rituals and prayers and then they are warded off. It is believed that these rituals help one get rid of their sins and their place in heaven or hell is decided.

The same day is observed as Bhoot Chaturdashi in West Bengal. The reason behind this festival is Bengal’s legacy of ‘tantriks’ and ‘black magic’. On this day, people honour Devi Maa with prayers and aartis. Ceremonies are also held to ask ancestors to descend on earth from the netherworld. 14 diyas are lit up all over the house so that these 14 ancestors don’t lose their way. 

These days fall right around the Diwali season in India. This means you get to experience the real festive essence of India with our India Tour Packages. Book cheap flight tickets online and experience the diverse festive spirit from one Indian state to another. 

2. Pitru Paksha

Desi Halloween festival- Pitru Paksha
Desi Halloween festival of Pitru Paksha
Image Credit: Gaurav Diwan

Another one of the Desi Halloween festivals, ‘Pitru Paksha’ is a 16-day festive period during, which Hindus remember their dead ancestors. The period generally falls between September and October. It has rituals revolving around appeasing the appetites of the forefathers by providing them with food and water. 

The reason behind celebrations of Pitru Paksha is that three generations of dead ancestors are believed to be residing in Pitru Loka, a realm between Earth and Heaven. According to mythology, the departed soul takes about 11 months to reach Yamaraj’s court and throughout the journey, it is deprived of food and water. With Pitru Paksha celebrations families make sure that their ancestors are taken care of by offering prayer services, meals, and daan to the less fortunate and temple priests. 

3. Shab-e-Baraat

Halloween 2023- Shab-e-Barat
Lighting Candles on Shab-e-Barat
Image Credit: India Today/Instaphotostory

For Muslims, the 14th and 15th of Sha’aban, the 8th month of the Islamic calendar, sees Shab-e-Baraat celebrations. On this day, followers of Islam pray to Allah and seek pardon for the offences and sins of the departed souls. Rituals include offering prayers at the graves of their relatives, making dishes like Halwa, Zarda, etc. and sharing them with friends, families and the less fortunate ones. It is also said that Allah writes the fates of everyone for the upcoming year based on their actions. 

Muslims all over the world, especially in South Asia and Central Asia celebrate this day with a lot of pomp and grandiosity. It is said that there is so much positivity in the air as people exchange ‘Shab-e-Baraat’ greetings and genuine forgiveness is answered by god.

Just like these desi Halloween festivals, many other countries celebrate festivals similar to Halloween. How about enjoying the festivities in a foreign country next time with our affordable International Tour Packages? Book your flights and affordable accommodation online in advance to avoid the festive rush. 

4. Bada Badua Daka, Odisha (Badabadiya Daka)

Bada Badua Daka
Bada Badua Daka celebrations at Jagannath temple
Image Credit: Bhubaneshwar Buzz

For the people of Odisha, Diwali celebrations include more than just lights. Odias observe the ‘Bada Badua Daka’ ritual. This is a special way for them to honour their ancestors and invite them to their homes. Homes are decorated with lights and lamps. A huge rangoli is made outside houses and it is adorned with religiously significant articles. A diya is lit in the centre and then people start praying towards the sky with a few jute sticks in their hands. They chant “Bada Badua Ho Andhaare Aasa, Aalua Re Jao”, meaning, “Forefathers, come in the darkness and go back along the lighted path”.This prayer is their way of inviting their ancestors to come down to earth for the night, protect them and leave in the night light. 

5. Gai Jatra

Halloween 2023- Nepal's Gai Jatra
Desi Halloween Festival- Gai Jatra
Image Credit: Rojen’s Collection

Nepal shares a lot of cultural aspects with India and one such holiday similar to Halloween is the ‘Gai Jatra’. This festival is for honouring the deceased relatives and has varied rituals in different parts of Nepal. The festival usually falls between August and September. Variations include people dressing up as cows, chariot processions with photos of the deceased, wearing costumes of gods and goddesses and comfort and safety rituals. 

This time of the year is really pleasant for a trip to Nepal. Along with the serene surroundings of Nepal, the eccentric festive vibe and easy travel facilities for Indians make it a top vacation choice from India. 

These were the 5 unique Desi Halloween festivals that India has been celebrating over the years. These Indian festivals follow an idea similar to Halloween like celebrations. However, unlike Halloween, these festivals do not centre the idea around ghosts and bad omens. 

Now that you are well aware of these Desi Halloween festivals, would you consider adapting them more rigorously? Tell us in the comments below how many of these festivals have you and your family celebrated in the past. 

More Festivities:

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