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Hindu Festivals

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Hindus around the world -- from South Asia to Britain and beyond -- observe many colorful holidays throughout the year. Recent festivals include the Ganesh Chaturthi, celebrating the birth of the elephant-headed deity, and Janamashtami, the birth anniversary of the god Krishna. The range of experiences at these celebrations runs from joyfully loud and spectacular to solemn and contemplative. Each devotee celebrates in a distinct, personal way even while joining the larger community. Hinduism is the world's third-largest religion; the majority of its one billion adherents are concentrated in India, but sizable communities exist all over the globe. I hope you enjoy these vivid, intriguing glimpses of Hindu festivals photographed over the past few months. [39 photos]

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Devotees carry an idol of Hindu elephant god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, into the water from Girgaum Chowpatty beach before immersing it in the waters of the Arabian Sea on the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, on September 11, 2011. Idols are taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by dancing and singing, to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual send-off of his journey towards his abode in "Kailash", while taking away with him the misfortunes of all mankind. (Reuters/Vivek Prakash)
Devotees carry an idol of Hindu elephant god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, into the water from Girgaum Chowpatty beach before immersing it in the waters of the Arabian Sea on the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, on September 11, 2011. Idols are taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by dancing and singing, to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual send-off of his journey towards his abode in "Kailash", while taking away with him the misfortunes of all mankind. (Reuters/Vivek Prakash)
An Indian girl wearing traditional attire poses for photographers as she along with others perform the Garba, a traditional dance of western Indian state of Gujarat, as part of preparation for Navratri festival in Ahmadabad, India, on September 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki) #
Devotees pray inside a temple at the Janmashtami Hindu Festival at Bhaktivedanta Manor on August 22, 2011 in Watford, England. More than 70,000 took part in the two day festival celebrating the birth of Krishna, in what is believed to be the largest Hindu festival gathering outside of India. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) #
A Hindu priest holds a traditional oil lamp as he performs prayers on the banks of the River Ganges in Allahabad, India, on June 17, 2011. Allahabad, located on the confluence of the Rivers Ganges and Yamuna, is one of Hinduism's holiest centers. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh) #
A Hindu devotee smokes marijuana after taking part in a "Bol Bom" pilgrimage in Kathmandu, on July 25, 2011. The faithful, chanting the name of Lord Shiva, run some 15 km (9 miles) barefoot to Pashupatinath temple seeking good health, wealth and happiness. (Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar) #
Indian youths make a human pyramid to reach and break the 'Dahi Handi', an earthen pot filled with yogurt, as they celebrate Janamashtami, the birth anniversary of Hindu God Krishna in Mumbai, India, on August 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool) #
Indian youths make a human pyramid to reach and break an earthen pot, celebrating Janamashtami, the birth anniversary of Hindu god Krishna in Mumbai, India, on August 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade) #
A Nepalese child sits near a giant mask of Bhairav during the Indra Jatra Festival in Hanuman Dhoka, in Katmandu, Nepal, on September 9, 2011. Indra is considered the Hindu god of rain and the week long festival marks the end of the rainy season. (AP Photo/ Binod Joshi) #
A friend applies makeup to a woman's face during the Teej festival in Kathmandu, on August 31, 2011. The festival is a three-day-long celebration that combines sumptuous feasts as well as rigid fasting. Through this religious fasting, Hindu women pray for marital bliss, the well-being of their spouses and children and purification of their own bodies and souls. (Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar) #
A man carries an idol of Hindu elephant headed god Ganesha to immerse it in the Arabian Sea on the fifth day of the ten day long Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, on September 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade) #
K. Surya Prakash, an Indian artist, puts the final preparations on an ecologically friendly idol of the Hindu God Lord Ganesh made from paper cups, at his workshop in Hyderabad, on August 29, 2011. Prakash made the 17 foot tall Idol, for the upcoming Ganesh festival starting September 1, by using 30,000 paper cups with help of five workers to create awareness by making ecologically friendly Ganesh Idols to minimize harm to the environment when they are thrown in the rivers. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images) #
Indian students of a Hindu religious school wrap themselves with saffron cloth after bathing on the occasion of Shravan Purnima in Allahabad, India, on August 13, 2011. Shravan Purnima, a full moon day, is an auspicious day in Hinduism. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh) #
Villagers stand along the ridge of the volcanic crater during the annual Kasada festival at Mount Bromo in Indonesia's East Java province, on August 15, 2011. Villagers and worshipers throw offerings such livestock and other crops into the volcanic crater of Mount Bromo to give thanks to the Hindu gods for ensuring their safety and prosperity. Other villagers stand below, hoping to intercept the more valuable offerings being thrown. (Reuters/Dwi Oblo) #
A girl dressed as Krishna poses at the Janmashtami Hindu Festival at Bhaktivedanta Manor on August 22, 2011 in Watford, England. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) #
Hindu devotees walk towards the Pashupatinath Temple for Shravan festivities to offer prayers to Lord Shiva, Hindu god of destruction, in Sundarijal on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on August 1, 2011. According to the Nepali calendar Shravan is considered the holiest month of the year with each Monday of the month known as Shravan Somvar when worshipers offer prayers for a happy and prosperous life. (Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu devotee dances with hooks inserted into his skin in the Adippura religious festival in the capital Colombo, on August 6, 2011. Tamils, who are mainly followers of Hinduism, are the main minority community in the island which is emerging from nearly four decades of ethnic conflict which had claimed up to 100,000 lives. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images) #
Two eunuchs share a laugh after performing at the Raksha Bandhan festival celebrations in a red light area in Mumbai, on August 12, 2011. During Raksha Bandhan, an annual Hindu festival celebrating the bond between sisters and brothers, sisters tie a sacred thread "Rakhi" around their brother's wrist for his well-being, in return for their brother's vow to protect them. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui) #
A man, wearing a mask of the Hindu god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, holds up a corn cob at a roadside stall on the fourth day of the ten-day-long Ganesh Chaturthi festival in the southern Indian city of Chennai, on September 4, 2011. (Reuters/Babu) #
A clay idol of the Hindu goddess Durga lies on the ground for drying at a workshop in Kolkata on September 6, 2011. The idols will be used during the Durga Puja festival from October 2-6, which is the biggest religious event for Bengali Hindus. Hindus believe that the goddess Durga symbolises power and the triumph of good over evil. (Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri) #
A boy carries a statue of the Hindu god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, as he arrives at the seaside in a taxi with his family on the fifth day of the ten-day-long Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, on September 5, 2011. (Reuters/Vivek Prakash) #
An idol of a demon stands under the foot of Hindu Goddess Durga, ahead of Durga Puja festival in New Delhi, India, on September 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup) #
A man dressed as Hindu monkey god Hanuman walks inside the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, Nepal, on September 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Niranjan shrestha) #
Nepalese Hindu devotees take a holy bath and preform rituals near the Gokarneswar Mahadev Temple at Gokarna, on the outskirts of Kathmandu to observe the Kuse Aunse, Father's Day, festival, on August 29, 2011. During the festival Nepalese Hindus from all over the country, whose fathers have passed away, come to the Gokarneswar Mahadev Temple to worship, take holy baths, and present offerings. (Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images) #
A black bull sarcophagus is set on fire during the Hindu Royal cremation of Anak Agung Rai Niang -- also know as the Pengabenan -- at Puri Ubud, on August 18, 2011 in Ubud, Bali. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #
A Nepalese devotee walks surrounded by trees on his way to a temple to offer prayers on the occasion of Janai Purnima festival, or Sacred Thread festival, in Kavre district, some 46 km (28 mi) east of capital Katmandu, Nepal, on August 13, 2011. On Janai Purnima Hindus take holy baths and perform their annual change of the Janai, a sacred cotton string worn around their chest or tied on the wrist, in the belief that it will protect and purify them. (AP Photo/Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi) #
Indian Hindu devotee of goddess Mahankali, M.Ramadass carries two limes in his seven-foot-long mustache as he poses during a Swarnalatha Rangam ceremony at the Sri Ujjaini Mahakali Temple in Secunderabad, on July 18, 2011. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images) #
Artisans work on semi-finished clay statues of Hindu goddess Durga in Kumartoli, the idol makers village of Kolkata, on August 22, 2011. Ongoing monsoon rain has made it difficult for artisans to finish idols on schedule, with the recent economic slowdown and high inflation adding to the difficulties of the idol-makers ahead of the festive season. (Dibyangsh Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images) #
Living Goddess Kumari attends the Changu Narayan festival in Kathmandu, on August 10, 2011. The Kumari, a young pre-pubescent girl who is a manifestation of a Goddess, is worshiped by both Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal. The Kumari emerges from her temple about 12 times a year for religious occasions. (Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar) #
A Hindu devotee offers milk to a snake as part of a ritual on Naag Panchami festival in Jammu, India, on September 2, 2011. The Hindu festival of Naag Panchami is a day dedicated to snake worship. (AP Photo/Channi Anand) #
Hindu pilgrims are carried on palanquins by Muslim bearers over a glacier near Amarnath Cave, 150 km (93 mi) from Srinagar, India, on July 28, 2011. At least half a million devotees make the pilgrimage to the icy cave which lies 4,115 m (13,500 ft) above sea level in Indian-controlled Kashmir amid tight security. Hindus worship a stalagmite inside the cave as an incarnation of the Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and regeneration. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri) #
Nepalese Hindu women dance after paying homage to Shiva, Hindu god of destruction, as they celebrate the Teej festival in Kathmandu, on August 31, 2011. The three-day long Teej festival, celebrated by Hindu women in Nepal and some parts of India, is observed by married women fasting during the day and praying for their husband's longevity, while unmarried women wish for handsome husbands and happy conjugal lives. (Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images) #
A dancer in body paint waits for his performance during festivities marking the start of the annual harvest festival of "Onam" in the southern Indian city of Kochi, on August 31, 2011. The ten-day-long festival is celebrated annually in India's southern coastal state of Kerala to symbolize the return of King Mahabali to meet his beloved subjects. (Reuters/Sivaram V) #
Nepalese people watch as a straw effigy of Ghanta Karna burns during celebrations of the Hindu festival of "Gathemangal", also known as Ghanta Karna, in Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on July 29, 2011. The Nepalese festival, which celebrates the defeat of the mythical demon Ghanta Karna ("bell-ears"), is celebrated by performing the legendary drama in the streets. (Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images) #
Indian devotee Swarnaltha (center), who undertook a vow of chastity and devoted her life to the Hindu goddess Mahankali, answers questions while allegedly in a state of trance during a 'Rangam' ceremony at the Sri Ujjaini Mahakali Temple in Secunderabad, on July 18, 2011. Swarnalatha Rangam is a ritual where it is believed that the goddess Mahankali enters the body of an unmarried woman and predicts the future. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images) #
Devotees drink traditional alcohol flowing from the mouth of a statue of the deity Swet Bhairav during the second day of the week long Indra Jatra festival in Kathmandu, Nepal, on September 10, 2011. Indra Jatra festival, which is celebrated by both Hindus and Buddhists, marks the end of the monsoon season and beginning of autumn. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha) #
A Hindu holy man gestures to the photographer at Kamakhya temple, situated on a hilltop, ahead of the Ambubasi festival in Gauhati, India, on June 21, 2011. (AP Photo/ Anupam Nath) #
Hindu married women perform rituals around a Banyan tree during the festival of Vat Savitri in Ahmadabad, India, on June 15, 2011. Vat Savitri is celebrated during the time of the full moon, when women tie cotton threads around a banyan tree and pray for the longevity of their husbands. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki) #
Visually impaired students form a human pyramid as they attempt to break a clay pot during celebrations on the eve of the Hindu festival "Janmashtami" in Mumbai, on August 20, 2011. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui) #
A Hindu holy man performs morning prayers after taking a dip in the River Ganges in Allahabad, India, on September 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh) #

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