Religiously, India is 80 percent Hindu, 14 percent Muslim, and only 2.5 percent Christian. Nonetheless, there are specific regions of India where large numbers of Christians have long lived, which faithfully observe Easter every year as one of the chief Christian holidays.
As in other parts of the world, Easter comes in late March or early April, depending on the way the calendar falls that year and on the traditions of the particular denomination. The Easter season, for many, begins with Lent 40 days prior to Easter Sunday, intensifies during the week preceding Easter, and culminates with a midnight service and the following Easter Morning.
Easter recalls the Resurrection of Christ after three days in the tomb, following his death on Good Friday. Holy Week begins, however, with Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem amid throngs shouting, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
On Maundy Thursday, the Last Supper is remembered, where Jesus washed the disciples’ feet and predicted his death. Forty days following Easter, Jesus ascended to Heaven, and 50 days following Easter, He sent the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Many churches hold special services on all of these days.
About 60 percent of India’s Christians live in three specific regions: various north-eastern states, such as Nagaland and Manipur, the western state of Goa, and the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Below, we look at what the tourist may find to do on Easter in each of these regions:
- Over five million Christians live in northeast India, and Easter prayer services and special church programs abound. In Nagaland, there is a tradition of gathering at the World War II cemetery for an Easter sunrise service. All are welcome to attend, and there are various churches that may be involved.
- In Goa, Easter is the time, not only of special masses and church services, but also of the famous Goa Carnival. There will be street dramas, singing, dancing, floats, costumes, and more to mark the festivities. Also look for flowers and Easter lanterns that are given at this time of year as gifts in Goa.
- In south India, in the state of Kerala, Christians make up 23 percent of the population. There are midnight services at St. Joseph’s Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church, and at almost every other church in the state. There are also feasts in many many homes and at community gatherings, featuring traditional Kerala Easter cuisine.