|There are said to be more festivals in India than there are days of the year.
No land celebrates life like India , with festivals like Holi, and fairs like Pushkar. Come drench yourself in the days and moments that glorify harvests, seasons, triumphs, joys, sorrows, battles, Gods, and kings. This is the land with 365 days of sound and 360 degrees of colour. Incredible India
In the month of Shravan , thousands of pilgrims make an arduous trek up to the Amarnath cave in the Kashmir
Himalayas. They come to worship the sacred ice lingam - a symbol of Lord Shiva, which is a natural phenomenon.
Buddha Purnima, which falls on the full moon night in the month of Vaisakha (either in April or May), commemorates
the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha, founder of Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world. Notwithstanding the summer heat (temperatures routinely
touch 45 degrees C), pilgrims come from all over the world to Bodh Gaya, the place where the Buddha attained enlightenment. The day is marked with prayer
meets, sermons on the life of Buddha, religious discourses, recitation of Buddhist scriptures, group meditation, processions, worship of Buddha's statue
and symposia. The Mahabodhi Temple wears a festive look and is decorated with colourful flags and flowers.
Celebration of this festival has been recorded by the Chinese scholar, Fa-Hien.
Mahavir Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Lord Mahavira (the founder of Jainism) is observed on the first
day of the month of Bhadrapad in April. It is the main festival of the Jain community, and Jain temples dedicated to Lord Mahavira are decorated with flags
for the occasion.
In the morning the idol of Lord Mahavira is given abhishek (a ceremonial bath). It is then placed in a cradle and taken in a procession around the neighborhood. Drummers, boys with silver staves and aarti lamps, bhajan singers, musicians, horses, elephants and tableaux depicting scenes from the life of Lord Mahavira form part of the pageant. The procession concludes with ceremonial prayers and meditation at a temple or huge ground reserved for the purpose.
This is the main festival of the Sindhi community, and celebrates the birth of their household deity. It is celebrated for forty days every year, generally from the 16th of July to the 24th of August. During these days, Sindhis perform the ritual of jyot jagana (lighting the lamp) on a big plate of bronze. There is a procession on the 40th day. Fairs are held and lots of people are invited for the celebrations.
The birth anniversary of Shiva, the Lord of Destruction in the Hindu pantheon, is celebrated in March. Shiva devotees fast through the day and stay awake through the night, praying. They offer up special food made from the fruits of the season, root vegetables and coconut. Special celebrations are held in the major Shiva temples at Varanasi, Kalahasti (Andhra Pradesh) and Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu).
Christmas, the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ, is celebrated by Indian Christians on December 25th
,in much the same way as it is celebrated by Christians worldwide.
The day is ushered in with midnight mass, sounds of carols fill the air, Christmas trees are brought home and decorated, gifts are exchanged with friends and family, diets fight a losing battle when confronted with tables groaning under the weight of mouth-watering goodies. All the major Indian cities wear a festive look. Shops and bazaars are decorated for the occasion and offer attractive bargains.
Christmas sets off a week of festivities, culminating with New Year celebrations on Jan 1st
Shias Muslims observe Moharram to commemorate the s hahadat (martyrdom) of Iman Hussein (Prophet Mohammed's grandson), who died at Karbala, while fighting for the cause of Islam. It is a day of mourning, observed on the 10th and 11th day of the month of Muharram, after sighting the moon. Tazias, glittering replicas of the Martyr's tomb, are carried in grand processions through the streets. The Tazias of Lucknow and Hyderabad are noted for their splendour. Devotees mourn by beating their chests. Some even inflict wounds on themselves in the process.
Diwali, also known as Deepavali, perhaps the best-known Hindu festival, marks the end of the festival season that opens with Ganesh Chaturthi. Diwali is celebrated throughout India , as well as in the Indian Diaspora worldwide. It usually takes place eighteen days after Dussehra in October/November. Diwali is called the "festival of lights", and the name itself means an array of lamps. Illumination is characteristic of Diwali - even the humblest of households lights small oil lamps, diyas, and places them around the house. The diyas are symbolic of the welcome given to Lord Rama, Prince of Ayodhya, on his return after 14 years of exile. Homes are given a thorough cleaning and rangoli designs (intricate patterns made of coloured powders or flowers on the floor) adorn the entrance. Everyone feasts on mithai (traditional Indian sweets) and as night falls, children celebrate with fireworks. South Indians start their day with an oil bath.
Diwali is celebrated for five continuous days and each day has its significance.
The first day is Dhanteras. The word dhan means wealth, and as such, this day has special significance for the rich mercantile community (especially of Western India). Women purchase gold, silver or new utensils.
The second day is Narka Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali . This commemorates the victory of Lord Krishna (divine) over the demon king Narakasur (evil). A traditional oil bath before sunrise is a must, especially in Maharashtra. The third day that of Lakshmi Puja or Chopda Puja, is regarded as the most auspicious. It is believed that on this day the Goddess Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu (the preserver in the pantheon of Hindu gods), roams around, showering her blessings on man, for plenty and prosperity. One of the most curious customs, especially in North India, is the practice of gambling on a large scale. It is believed that Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband, Lord Shiva, on this day and she decreed that whoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the ensuring year.
The fourth day, Padwa or Varshapratipada , marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya. It is the first day of a new year according to Vikram Samvat, the Hindu calendar, which started from this day. This day is regarded as the most auspicious to start a new venture.
The fifth and final day is called Bhaiya Duj in the Hindi-speaking belt and Bhau Beej in the Marathi-speaking community. Like Raksha Bandhan, it is a day for brothers and sisters, and on this day, brothers go to their sisters' houses for a special meal.
In South India and in the business community, Diwali is associated mainly with the Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth. In rural areas, it is celebrated mainly as a harvest festival. Diwali has the same importance for Hindus as Christmas does for Christians.
On this day in August, snakes are worshipped in West Bengal and Maharashtra, as symbols of energy, prosperity and virility. Milk and cooked rice are offered to snakes carried by snake charmers. Clay snakes are brought home, worshipped and immersed in the sea or river in the evening.
In South India, particularly in Kerala, snake temples are crowded on this day and prayers are offered to the stone or metal icons of the eternal cosmic serpent Ananta or Shesha.
Dussehra, or Vijay Dashmi, is celebrated in September / October, to commemorate the victory of Lord Rama, virtuous Prince of Ayodhya, over ten-headed Ravana, the evil king of Sri Lanka who abducted Rama's wife, Sita, and was subsequently vanquished in battle. Dussehra thus celebrates the victory of Good over Evil.
The nine days preceding Dussehra are known as Navaratri. During this period, the Mother Goddess (“Devi Ma”) is worshipped in all her forms - as Saraswati (consort of Brahma, the creator, and goddess of knowledge), Lakshmi (consort of Vishnu, the preserver, and granter of wealth), and Parvati (consort of Shiva, the destroyer, and the most powerful and complex of all the goddesses). People also worship the tools of their trade.
During the ten days of celebrations, Ramlilas (dance dramas enacting the story of Lord Rama) take place all over North India. On the last (tenth) day, effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkaran, and his son, Meghnath, are packed with firecrackers and burnt at sunset.
In Mysore, Dussehra is a grand occasion. The Mysore palace is illuminated for a month. Caparisoned elephants lead a colourful procession through the streets of the city. A torch light parade and many musical / dance events round off celebrations.
In Gujarat Navaratri is a community affair. Young girls, resplendent in traditional finery, dance away the night
doing the traditional Garbha dance or Dandiya Raas .
In Bengal, Dussehra is celebrated as Pujo. Each lcality erects a pandal with beautifully decorated idols of Goddess Durga.
In Himachal Pradesh, Dussehra is
celebrated with a week-long fair in the hill town of
. Deities are brought, in procession, from the little temples in the
hills to Kullu, to pay homage to the reigning deity, Raghunathji.
Pujo, or Durga Puja, is celebrated in
Bengal in September / October, at the same time as Navaratri in the rest of
. For 9 days, this splendid community festival pays homage
to the Goddess Durga, consort of Lord Shiva, whose annual visit is thought to
bring well-being and happiness. Almost every colony or locality erects pandals
(tents) and holds pujas (prayers) to worship beautifully decorated images of
Goddess Durga. Families visit relatives, everyone feasts and buys new clothes.
Because of Durga Ma's auspicious presence, no meat, wine or alcohol is consumed
during Pujo, and some people fast all through the festival. Many cultural
events are organized. On the final day, Bijoya, the idols are taken in
elaborate processions to be immersed in the river or the sea.
“Navaratri” means 9 nights, and
Navaratri, celebrated in the month of Ashwin (September / October), is the
longest Hindu festival. Different regions have different themes for celebrating
Navaratri, but the underlying commonality is the victory of good over evil.
, the 9 days are filled with continuous chanting from the great epic,
“Ramayana”, which tells the story of Rama, Prince of Ayodhya. Here, Navaratri
culminates in Dussehra or Vijayadashami, the day Rama kills Ravana, the evil
king of Lanka who abducted Rama's wife, Sita. Evenings see the enactment of
Ramlila, dance dramas on the life of Rama.
, Navaratri is celebrated as Pujo, a celebration of Durga, goddess of power and
vitality who is believed to take a new form on each of the nine days. Durga is
believed to have slain the demon, Mahishasura, on Dussehra. Rama is also said
to have worshipped the goddess, seeking her blessings in order overpower
Gujarat, Navaratri is a cultural festival.
Every night men and women of all ages dress up in all their festive finery, and
gather in courtyards to do the Garba and Dandiya Raas community dances. Many a
romance has sparked off at Navaratri garbas .
The Sunday marking the resurrection
of Christ is celebrated by Christians all across
. It is preceded by Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and
prayer from February to March that begins with Ash Wednesday and culminates in
Good Friday, the day of mourning when Jesus Christ was crucified. Easter eggs
and hot cross buns are some of the goodies distributed on Easter.
Onam, Kerala's most important
festival, heralds the harvest season. It is celebrated in the month of
September and brings ten days of prayers, feasting, and song and dance to the
state. One the second day of the festival, every home is decorated and brightly
lit. Friends exchange greetings and present each other with lengths of
auspicious saffron cloth.
According to legend, Onam is
considered to be the day when King Mahabali comes from exile to visit his
beloved people. At Trichur (Thrissur), caparisoned elephants take part in a
spectacular procession. This is followed by a magnificent display of fireworks.
Major attractions of Onam are the famed snake boat races along the backwaters
at Champakulam, Aranmula and Kottayam. About a hundred oarsmen in each boat row
huge and graceful odee (snake boats) to the rhythm of drums, cymbals and songs
praising Mahabali's reign. In the evening, cultural festivities are held
throughout the state with displays of the famed Kathakali, Kaikottikkali (the
clapping dance), and Mohiniattam dances.
The birth anniversary of Prophet
Mohammad is celebrated all over
with the reading of the Quran and religious discourses in the mosques.
This 3–day festival, celebrated from
January 13 to 16 (as the dates are calculated by the solar calendar, they never
change), originally marked the harvest festivities of the farming community, to
give thanks for bounteous crops. Today it has become one of
South India’s most popular festivals, the
equivalent of Makar Sankranti in the North, and is widely celebrated in the
states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
The word Pongal has two connotations.
It is the name of the special dish - rice cooked in milk and jaggery - made on
this day. It also means to boil over.
The first day, Bhogi Pongal, is
dedicated to Indra, the Rain God. The day is spent with family; homes are
thoroughly cleaned, a dish of rice and dal is ceremoniously prepared and
served. Surya Pongal, the second day, is dedicated to the Sun God. Elaborate
kolam (rangolis) are prepared at the entrance of homes. New clothes are won,
new utensils put into use, and new rice is made into pongal, cooked in pots
till it overflows. Worship of the cow marks the third day, Mattu Pongal. Cattle
are given a ceremonious bath, decorated with ornaments and fed sweetmeats.
Cattle races enliven the village festivities. Community meals are held at many
a place, using ingredients provided by the freshly gathered harvest.
, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjore a kind of bull fight - Jellikuttu - is held.
Bundles containing money are tied to the horns of the ferocious bulls, and
unarmed men try to wrest the bundles from them.
This magnificent festival is
celebrated in January, in
, Tamil Nadu, on the night of the full moon. Ornamented icons of the
Goddess Meenakshi and her consort, God Sundaresa, are taken out in a colourful
procession from the
to the Huge Mariamman Teppakulam. The icons are floated in the tank on a raft
decked with flowers and flickering lamps.
This 10-day long festival, honours
Lord Ganesh (son of Lord Shiva), the elephant-headed god of auspiciousness who
is worshipped as the remover of obstacles and the harbinger of successful new
beginnings. It is celebrated all over
in the month of August or September.
Ganesh Chaturthi has special
, where the nationalist Bal Gangadhar (Lokamanya) Tilak revived it as a way of
getting around the British restrictions on the assembly of people during the
freedom struggle. On the first day of the festival an idol of Lord Ganesh is
installed – big ones in a community centre, smaller ones in people's homes. The
idol is not dressed in clothes - clothes and jewelry are painted on the idol.
Puja (prayers) is performed. Small Ganpati idols, kept in homes, are normally
immersed after a day. The annual celebration comes to an end on Anand Chaudhas
, the tenth day after the installation. On this day all the idols are taken for
visarjan (immersion) in the sea or river, in a procession. People sing and
dance all the way and chant Ganpati Bappa Maurya Pudcha Varshi Laukrya (My dear
God Ganesha come back soon next year).
In Pune, a special three-day long
cultural festival is organized, with classical dance and music performances,
poetry recitations, folk dances, theatre and a film festival.
Also known as Id-ul-Fitr, this is
celebrated by Muslims immediately after the holy month of Ramadan, in
October-November. Some Muslims believe that the day marks the revelation of the
Quran, their holy book.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast during
the day, not even drinking water. The fast is broken only after sundown. On Id,
everyone bathes in the morning, wears new clothes, applies perfume, and eats
dates or some other sweet before going to the mosque for Id prayers. Men wear
white clothes symbolising purity and austerity. Women prepare sweets like
Sevian (vermicelli cooked in sweetened milk) and Shir Khurma (a special dish
with milk and dates). Family elders give Idi, presents of money, to youngsters.
Everyone is greeted with Id Mubarak (Happy Id). People go for Idmilans (meeting
friends and relatives).
The Ganga, largest of
’s rivers and the most sacred to Hindus, holds a unique
place in Indian consciousness. Regarded as a celestial river originating in the
heavens, she is worshipped as the mother who washes away all the sins of
mankind. Ganga Dussehra, held over the first 10 days of the month of Jyeshtha
(in June), celebrates Gangavataran - the descent of the
to earth. During the festival, devotees flock to Rishikesh, Haridwar,
Garh-Mukteshwar, Prayag, and
to meditate and take a holy dip. They take the river clay home to worship. In
Haridwar, Uttar Pradesh, aartis (prayer songs) are performed at twilight each
Lord Rama, Prince of Ayodhya, hero of
the famous epic, Ramayana, is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu,
the preserver in the Hindu pantheon. His birth anniversary is observed on the
ninth day of the waxing moon in the month of Chaitra (April). Ayodhya is,
naturally, the focus of great celebrations. The devout throng the temples here.
Celebrations begin with a prayer to
the Sun early in the morning. At midday, when Lord Rama is supposed to have
been born, a special prayer is performed. Devotional songs are sung in praise
of Rama. Rathyatras (chariot processions) of Rama, Sita (his wife), Lakshman
(his brother) and Hanuman (his devotee) are held from many temples. Devotees
gather in thousands on the banks of the sacred river Sarayu for a dip. Some
observe a strict fast on this day.
Gudi Padva, the Maharashtrian New
Year, celebrated in April, is considered one of the four most auspicious days
in the year when people start new ventures. It is believed that Lord Brahma,
created the world on this day and so he is worshipped at this time. Lord Vishnu
is said to have incarnated as Matsya, the fish, on this day. Prayers are
offered to a gudi – an arrangement made of a stick with an upturned pot
(originally silver, now any metal) on top around which a new cloth has been
wrapped. The gudi is garlanded with flower-shaped sugar lumps and is symbolic
of the banner that heralded valiant Marathas returning home, successful, after
war. New clothes are worn, and sweets made for the occasion include shrikhand ,
basundi , and jalebis .
St. Francis Day
St Francis Xavier was a Spanish
Catholic missionary who preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of
Asia. His body lies in a silver casket in the
Basilica of Bom Jesus in
Goa. Ceremonies to honor his death are
performed on December 3, the day of his burial. Earlier, every ten years, his
body used to be kept in a glass case, with the feet exposed, for all to see and
worship. In 1994, since the condition of the body had deteriorated visibly, the
Church decided to stop the exposition.
Guru Gobind Singh's Birthday
Sikhs celebrate the birth anniversary
of their tenth and last guru with large processions and special prayer meetings
at all gurudwaras.
Teej celebrates the onset of the
monsoon. Held every year during the Hindu month of Shravan (August), it is
popular among women in
North India, especially Rajasthan. Swings are
hung from trees and decorated with flowers. Women swing on them, dressed in
festive finery, singing songs in praise of Goddess Parvati, whose divine union
with Lord Shiva is considered exemplary. Sweets like ghevar and laddoo are
prepared. Young girls pray for good husbands and new brides for conjugal bliss.
The birth anniversary of Guru Nanak
Dev - the first (and founder) guru of the Sikh faith, is celebrated with great fervour on the full moon day of Kartika (in November). Also known as Jyototsava, it is
one of the most sacred festivals of the Sikhs. Akhand Paath , recitation of
Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, takes place in gurudwaras all over the
country, lamps are lit, the Guru Granth Sahib is taken out in procession, free
langars (meals) are arranged and prasad (holy food) is distributed.
Celebrations at the
, are particularly impressive.
This festival takes place in the
state of Tamil Nadu, in January, in the temples dedicated to Kartikeya or
Mariamman. Trenches of burning coal are laid out for devotees to walk over. It
has been seen that those who undertake this with faith, come away unscathed.
The festival is followed by singing and feasting which continues late into the
Jagannath Rath Yatra
Jagannath is another name for Lord
Krishna, and the Jagannath Rath Yatra observed in the month of Ashadha
(June-July) celebrates Krishna's annual visit from Gokul, to his birthplace,
at Puri, Orissa, is the main venue for celebrations, and millions of devotees
converge here every year in a spirit of almost hysterical devotion. Images of
Lord Krishna, his brother Balabhadra, and sister Subhadra, are taken in giant
wooden chariots to Gundicha Ghar, a temple about 3 km away. The chariots are
pulled by thousands of devotees. Many more accompany, in a procession. The
chariots are made anew each year, and their construction starts as early as
April. Jagannath's chariot, Nandighosa, is yellow in colour, 14 meters high, 10
meters square, and has 16 wheels. Balabhadra's chariot, Taladhwaja, is blue,
and has 14 wheels. Subhadra's chariot, Deviratha or Darpadalana, has 12 wheels.
When two months of Ashadha fall in
one year (this happens every 8 or 9 years), Rath Yatra is observed as the
festival of 'Nabakalebar'. The old deities are buried within the temple
premises and replaced by new deities, carved out of Margosa (Neem) trees.
A similar, but smaller, celebration
is held at Mahesh,
History has it that when the British
first observed the Rathyatra in the 18th century, they were so amazed that they
sent home descriptions which gave rise to the term 'juggernaut'.
This festival, held in April, marks
the beginning of the New Year in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. It is believed
that Lord Brahma, the creator in the Hindu pantheon, started his work of
creation on this day. The calculations of the great Indian mathematician,
Bhaskaracharya, proclaim Ugadi as the beginning of the New Year.
Ugadi marks the beginning of a new
Hindu lunar calendar. On this day, people wake up and take a head bath, after
which they Preparations for Ugadi start a week in advance, with the purchase of
new clothes and a thorough cleaning of homes. On the day itself, people rise
early (before the break of dawn). After a head bath, they decorate the entrance
of their houses with fresh mango leaves, pray for health, wealth, and success
in business in the New Year. Ugadi is considered the most auspicious time to
start new ventures.
Ugadi is strongly associated with the
jasmine flower. Its scent perfumes the air; it is woven into garlands and
offered to the gods, and braided into the long tresses of young girls. The
Flame of the
(a tree with scarlet flowers) is in full bloom during the season, signifying a
time of affluence and beauty.
Maharashtra, Ugadi is celebrated as Gudi Padva
Over 3000 years ago, Shah Jamshed of
the Peshadian dynasty ascended the throne on the Spring Equinox. His
descendants, the Parsi community, celebrate it as the New Year, the dawn of a
new day (Navroz literally means “new day”). It is celebrated, even today, with
prayers and feasting.
In homes, a special spread, Haft-Sinn
- the seven S's - is prepared. Seven is considered to be a lucky number and the
spread contains seven items that begin with “s” in Farsi: sabzeh (home grown
sprouts), samanou (wheat germ), sib (apples), sonbol (hyacinth), senjed (sorb
tree berry), seer (garlic), somagh (sumac). The table also holds seven foods
beginning with ' sh ' in Persian, sharab (wine), shakka r (sugar), shir (milk),
shirinberej (sweet meat), shirin (sweet), shira (syrup) and shahad (honey); a
copy of the Gathas (scriptures); a lit lamp; a mirror; a bowl of water with
live fish; a shallow earthenware plate with sprouted wheat or beans (for
prosperity); flowers (for colour); a gold or silver coin (for wealth); painted
eggs (for productivity); and sweets and rosewater in bowls (for sweetness and
happiness). These are meant to symbolize creation and to welcome spring.
Visitors to the house are first led
to this table. They are asked to smile into the mirror, so that they may smile
throughout the year. They are asked to look at the coin, so that they may have
wealth the whole year round. They are sprinkled with rosewater so that they
stay fragrant and healthy. After that, they are led to another table for a
Urs - Ajmer , Rajasthan
The Urs are held at
, Rajasthan every year, in May at the tomb of the Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin
Chisti, commemorating his symbolic union with God. Pilgrims of all faiths
gather here to pay homage. Qawalis (poems) are presented in the saint's honour
and mehfils (religious assemblies) and fatihas (mass prayers) are held.
Consecrated food is served to all from the large, steaming cauldrons that were
a gift from the Mughal Emperor, Akbar. Festivities continue well into the
night. At the huge fair - the largest Muslim fair in
- religious objects, books, rosaries, embroidered carpets and silver ornaments
are on sale.
Janma means 'birth' and ashtami means
'eighth day'. Janamashtami, celebrated in August / September, commemorates the
birth of Lord Krishna, believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu (preserver
in the Hindu pantheon), born to annihilate Kansa, the evil king of Mathura.
This festival is very popular in
North India, especially in Vrindavan and
(the places where Lord Krishna spent his childhood). People observe a daylong
fast, which is broken only at midnight, the time when Lord Krishna is believed
to have been born.
and homes are lit and beautifully decorated. Religious hymns and prayers are
offered all night long.
, Lord Krishna's birthplace, has 400 temples dedicated to him, and the
celebrations at the Dwarkadhish, Banke Bihari, Rangaji, Shri Krishna Balram and
Gopinath temples are especially noteworthy. Raslilas (dance dramas) are
performed to recreate incidents from the life of Lord Krishna and to
commemorate his love for Radha.
In Maharashtra, Janmashtami is the
time for the exuberant enactment of Lord Krishna's childhood endeavors to steal
butter and curd from earthen pots placed beyond his reach by his mother. A
matka (earthen pot) containing these (and a monetary prize) is suspended high
above the ground and groups of young men and children form human pyramids to
try and reach the pot and eventually break it.
, Janmashtami is celebrated with prayers, devotional renditions and offering of
fruits and special prasadams to Lord Krishna. In some houses, a typical tableau
of 'Gokulam' is laid out, with mud images of Devaki and Vasudeva (Krishna's
parents), little Krishna in a basket, a cow, and other things related to
Celebrated in April, usually on the
14th, Vishau is the New Year as per the traditional Malayalam
calendar. It is one of the most important festivals in the state of Kerala.
Traditional rituals usher in what is hoped will be another year of prosperity.
The Indian subcontinent hosts more
religious festivals than anywhere else in the world, but the Kumbh Mela is the
biggest and most mind-boggling of them all. It is, in fact, the largest single
gathering of humanity on the planet.
Historians claim the great mela was
founded by the eighth-century philosopher, Shankaracharya, who masterminded the
triumph of Hinduism in the subcontinent and called for a celebratory gathering
of all ascetics, sadhus, temple priests and monastic orders. Ancient Sanskrit
scriptures, however, tell a different story.
What happens at the Kumbh
India's saints, sages,
mendicants and fakirs come to the Kumbh city (this year,
and the nearby Trimbakeshwar ), as do lakhs of pilgrims. To watch the Kumbh
Mela processions is to witness the march of the ages. As the holy men pass by
on their many myriad conveyances - elephants, horses, palanquins, chariots,
cars, and camels - they transmit waves of powerful shakti (energy) to the
watchers. The palpable spiritual vibrations that pervade the entire atmosphere
The ambience is an unforgettable
blend of religion and culture. The sights include ash-smeared sadhus and infirm
pilgrims sustained only by faith. Sounds resound, like the chanting of hymns,
neighing of horses, trumpeting of elephants, grunting of camels, bellowing of
bulls, beating of gongs and drums, blaring of trumpets, blowing of conch shells
and chiming of bells. Heady smells of incense and flowers fill the air.
The main rite performed at the Kumbh
Mela is the ritual bath. It is believed that bathing in the
Godavari, also known as the Deccan Ganga, on
the auspicious days, during Kumbh, cures the bather of all sins and evils, and
Legend of the Kumbh
According to the Garuda Puran, once
upon a time, Sage Durvasa visited Lord Indra in Heaven and affectionately
offered him a garland. Lord Indra passed on the garland to Airawat, the
elephant, who crushed it under his feet. The furious sage cursed Lord Indra,
taking away all his riches, virtues and power. On learning this, the demon king
attacked Lord Indra, snatching away all his possessions. In the struggle
between the Gods and Demons, the demons were gaining. Seeing this, Lord Vishnu
(the preserver of the universe) advised Lord Indra to regain his lost powers by
acquiring amrit (the divine nectar of immortality) by churning the great sea,
Ksheer Sagar. Mighty mountain Mandarachal was used as a churn staff. The
formidable serpent king Vasuki became the rope to move the churn. Lord Vishnu,
in the guise of a tortoise, gave support from the bottom of the ocean and Lord
Brahma guided the churning from top. As the nectar pitcher (kumbh) emerged,
Lord Vishnu handed it to his winged mount, Garuda, to take to Heaven. As the
demons scrambled for the elixir, some of it spilled on earth at 4 places
thereby sanctifying them forever. These places were
(in the western state of Maharashtra, where the Godavari or Deccan Ganga
( a sacred city in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh) , Haridwar ( in
Uttaranchal, where the Ganges flows into the plains) and
( in Uttar Pradesh, where the
Ganges, Jamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers
meet). Garuda's flight took 12 days - 12 years in human time. That is why the
Kumbh is celebrated every 12 years, in rotation, at the above 4 locations.
In some versions of the story, it is
Jayanta, the son of Indra, who takes away the pot of nectar instead of Garuda.
Ananya means peerless. This week-long
festival held in August, true to its name, showcases the unparallel cultural
. Renowned artistes are invited to perform, in a
India's music and dance
history, against the backdrop of
's Purina Qila.
A rural festival celebrated in
on 13th April, Baisakhi signifies the beginning of a New Year for
the Punjabi community. It was on this day in 1699 that the tenth Sikh Guru,
Guru Gobind Singh, founded the Khalsa Panth (the Sikh brotherhood) and gave the
“5 Ks” (emblems of purity and courage) to his followers: kesh (unshorn hair),
kangha (wooden comb), karra , (iron / steel bangle), kirpan (sword) and kachha
(underwear). Sikhs therefore, celebrate this festival as a collective birthday
with all-night revelries, Baisakhi Di Raat (night of feasting) or fairs,
Baisakhi Da Mela. Prayer meetings and kirtans (singing of devotional songs) are
organized in gurdwaras (Sikh temples) across the country. After the prayer,
karah prasad is served to the congregation. The function ends with langar , the
community lunch made and served by volunteers. The holy book of the Sikhs,
'Granth Sahib' is taken in a procession, led by the 'Panj Pyaras' (five senior
Sikhs) who are symbolic of the original leaders. The main celebration takes
place in the gurdwara at Anandpur Sahib, where the order was formed. Other
major celebrations take place at Talwandi Sabo (where Guru Gobind Singh stayed
for nine months and completed the recompilation of the Guru Granth Sahib) and
at the Golden Temple in Amritsar (where water drawn from all the sacred rivers
of India is poured into the huge tank surrounding the temple).
In the rural areas, Baisakhi
signifies the harvest of the (main) wheat crop. Farmers give thanks for Mother
Nature's bounty and pray for a better crop next year.
Actually a collection of 3 festivals,
Bihu marks distinctive stages in the cultivation of paddy, the principal crop
of the state of
| Magh Bihu
|| Mid January
| Bohag Bihu
|| Mid April
| Kati Bihu
|| Mid October
Bohag Bihu is also called Rongaali
Bihu, the Festival of Merriment. True to its name, it ushers in a period of
enjoyment. The festival lasts for several days. The first day, Goru Bihu, is
reserved for cattle – cows' feet are washed, their horns and hooves are rubbed
with oil, and they are garlanded. The next day, Manuh Bihu, sees homage paid to
elders, relatives and friends, with a special meal of chira, curds and sweets.
The third day, Gosain Bihu, is dedicated to religious services. Games, sports,
special Bihu songs, dances, “ Bihu Kunwori” contests (dancing competitions) and
fairs are all part of Bihu celebrations.
This festival, held in January, in
, Rajasthan, is dedicated to the ship of the desert - the camel. The
festival starts with a magnificent procession of beautifully decorated camels.
There's plenty of Rajasthani culture on show too, to enchant those present:
music, dance and competitions.
"Kut" means festival in Mizo
parlance, and the state of Mizoram celebrates 3 of them: Chapchar Kut, Mim Kut
and Pawl Kut. All are connected with agricultural activities, and all are
celebrated with feasts and dances.
Chapchar Kut celebrates the arrival
of spring. The festival begins with Kut Puipate , the inauguration ceremony,
followed by the Then Katna , arranging of the dance groups in the stadium. Once
the Then Hnihna begins, elders, dressed in traditional costumes to represent
the various tribes of the region, take part in a fantastic procession called
Kut rore. This is followed by various tribal dances, the most important being
the Cheraw (bamboo dance). The function ends with the Then Thumna, an event
where local singers present traditional popular songs, with the cheering crowd
Dance & Music Festival
Started back in 1927 to commemorate
the anniversary of the
Academy, this month-long festival is
held from mid December to mid January in the city of
to celebrate (classical) Carnatic music and the dance traditions of
For lovers of Carnatic music, this is
a treat. Held at a number of venues around the city by various sabhas
(organizations), this cultural extravaganza sees more than 2,000 people take
part. There are vocal and instrumental music concerts, and solo and group
dances, with upcoming artistes getting a rare opportunity to perform along with
See the gracious city of
, in Andhra Pradesh, come alive with ghazal nights, qawalis,
mushairas, a pearl and bangle fair, and a food festival serving the best of the
city's famed cuisine.
This three-day extravaganza of
colour, music and festivity is held on the stretches of sand around the desert
citadel of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, in February each year. The fun and frolic
includes fire dancers swaying to traditional tunes, a turban-tying competition
and a Mr. Desert contest. The grand finale is a trip to the sand dunes to watch
folk dancers and musicians perform under the stars. A camel ride is a must!
Kolkata's largest Indian classical
musical event, the Dover Lane Music Conference is held in January every year at
Nazrul Mancha. It has been taking place for the last 25 years.
Elephants are the centre of
attraction at this festival held every Holi, in Jaipur, Rajasthan. They stride
majestically, parading their decorated trunks and tusks. The festival begins
with a procession of elephants, camels and horses, painted and gaily decorated
with glittering ornaments and embroidered velvets. The elephants greet
visitors, offer garlands to guests and walk past a jury of experts and
tourists, vying for the "Best Decorated Elephant" shield. The animals are
followed by lively folk dancers. Elephant races and elephant polo matches are
special attractions. The highlight of the festivals is a hilarious tug of war
between elephants and men. The Gaj Shringar exhibition displays everything
connected with the elephant - ornaments, textiles (jhoo), howdahs and
carriages, paintings, medicines and food. Tourists are encouraged to join in
the dances, mount the elephants and play Holi.
Nine nautical miles from the
megapolis of Mumbai, just across the harbour, is the Elephanta Island, home to
the Elephanta Caves, that date back to the 2nd and 6th century and are a UNESCO
World Heritage site. This turns into a huge open-air auditorium during the
Elephanta Festival held every year. The feast of dance and music, celebrated
under the stars is surely not to be missed.
This festival of dance and music is
organised in the splendid surroundings of the magnificent Ellora caves in
Maharashtra, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
If you love flowers, you should at
this spectacular flower show, held in the capital city,
, each year. A humongous variety of flowers and exotic plants are on
February heralds the carnival at
Goa. For three days and nights, the legendary
king Momo takes over the state and the streets come alive with colour. The
Carnival is a truly Goan celebration. That means it has a Portuguese flavour
with continuous singing, dancing, lively music, lots to eat, floats and
processions. The week long festivity marks the period February-March before the
beginning of the austerities of Lent.
pays homage to all teachers ( gurus ) on
the full moon ( purnima ) day of the month of Ashadh (July) . Students visit
their elders, teachers and guides, and show their appreciation and respect with
gifts of coconuts, clothes and sweets.
Guru Purnima dates back to the time
of gurukuls - places in ancient
, similar to boarding schools, where students stayed with
their gurus and their families, getting an education that included not just the
3Rs but also spiritual training. Guru Purnima is also known as Vyas Purnima in
memory of Ved Vyasa, the sage and guru who wrote the great epic,
'Mahabharatha', the 18 'Puranas' and classified the 'Vedas' of the Hindu
Dharma. Religious discourses and public readings of the Bhagwad Gita (the Holy
Book of the Hindus) are held.
The ruins of the magnificent city of
Hampi (353 kilometers from Bangalore), Karnataka, once the capital of the
Vijayanagar Empire (one of the greatest empires India has known) and now a
UNESCO World Heritage site, come alive during this extravaganza, held in the
first week of November. Dance, drama, music, fireworks, puppet shows and
spectacular processions . all combine to recreate the grandeur of a bygone era.
The ruins of stone temples, elephant stables, barracks and palaces offer a
fascinating glimpse into the lives of the people who once resided there.
The courtyard of Hemis Gompa
(monastery), the biggest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh, in the state of Jammu
& Kashmir, is the stage for this festival, which celebrates the birth
anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava, revered as a reincarnation of Buddha. The
colourful two-day pageant falls on the 10th day (Tse-Chu) of the Tibetan lunar
raised dais with a richly
cushioned seat is erected in the courtyard, and a small, finely painted Tibetan
table is placed here. Ceremonial items - cups full of holy water, uncooked
rice, tormas made of dough and butter, incense sticks - are placed on the
table. Traditional music is played, with four pairs of cymbals, pan drums,
small trumpets and large wind instruments.
Locals dress up in their finest
traditional garb for the occasion. Lamas (monks) perform splendid masked dances
and sacred plays to the accompaniment of cymbals, drums and long horns. The
head lama presides over the function.
Every 12 years, in the Tibetan Year
of the Monkey, the two-storey high Thanka depicting Padmasambhava, richly
embroidered with pearls and semi-precious stones, is displayed. The last
display was in 2004. A colourful fair, displaying some beautiful handicrafts,
is the special highlight of the festival.
The most lively of all Hindu
festivals is observed on the day after full moon in the month of Phagun
(sometime in March) according to the Hindu Lunar calendar. It heralds the end
of the winter and the beginning of the spring.
North India, in particular, goes wild, goes
wild, with people smearing brightly hued powders on each other and squirting
each other with coloured water from pichkaris.
Holi is also a harvest festival,
marking harvesting of the winter crop (rabi). Farmers celebrate Holi by
offering their first crop to Agni, the Fire God.
The night before full moon, huge
ceremonial bonfires are lit in a re-enactment of the legend of Holika and
Prahlad. Holika was the sister of Hirankashyap, the demon king of the Asuras.
He fancied himself to be the Supreme Being and ordered his people to worship
him. However, his son, Prahlad, an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu, refused to do
so. Holika had been granted a boon that provided her protection against fire,
so Hirankashyap asked her to sit on a burning pyre with Prahlad in her lap. She
did just that, but it was Prahlad who walked out of the pyre unharmed, while
Holika was burnt.
and Vrindavan, the places where Lord Krishna spent most of his childhood, Holi
is celebrated with great gusto - The Rang Gulal Festival is celebrated for over
a week with exuberant processions, songs, music and dance. In Maharashtra and
Gujarat, a grand procession of men soaked with
coloured water walks through the streets shouting Govinda Aala Re (here comes
Govinda). In Manipur, Holi is a six-day festival. In Anandpur Sahib,
Punjab, Sikhs celebrate a special festival,
Hola Mohalla, on the day after Holi. Mock battles and the display of the skills
of the Nihang Sikhs (traditional members of the Sikh army founded by Guru
Gobind Singh) are a key attraction of this unique festival.
This Sikh festival begins the day
after Holi, in March, and lasts for 3 days. It is celebrated at the sleepy town
of Anandpur Sahib (close to
Punjab. Sikhs from all over the state (and
outside) congregate at the Gurdwara Keshgarh Sahib, the place where the Khalsa
(Sikh brotherhood) was founded. Early morning prayers herald the event. A large
number of community kitchens offer langar (free food) to those present.
ressed in traditional costumes, the
Nihang Sikhs (traditional members of the Sikh army founded by Guru Gobind
Singh) delight those present with a display of their skills in archery,
fencing, tent pegging, bareback horse riding (standing erect on 2 speeding
horses) and shooting. Mock battles are enacted with enthusiasm and the area
resounds to the sounds of the firing of ancient cannons. Of course, this IS
Holi, so there's a lot of spraying each other with colour. A fair comes up
around the Gurudwara. Evenings are for cultural events, including music and
poetry competitions. The highlight of the last day is a long procession led by
the Panj Piaras which makes a round of all the gurudwaras in the area.
Held in Nagaland in December, this
festival pays tribute to the Hornbill - the most revered bird of the Naga
tribes. The festival showcases Nagaland's heritage in all its diversity and
The splendidly sculpted Hoysala
temples of Belur and Halebid in Karnataka, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are
the venue for this dance festival.
Held every summer during the peak
flowering season, this festival showcases the exotic flora of the tiny North
Eastern state of
. On display are flowers, orchids, gladioli, roses,
magnolia, cacti, alpine plants, creepers, climbers, ferns, and herbs. There are
seminars and lectures by experts. And, of course, momos and other delectable
Sikkimese delicacies. If you like what you see, why not plan a trip to
? The best time to go is from March to May, when the
plants (including 600 species of orchids, 240 species of trees and ferns, 150
varieties of gladioli, 46 types of rhododendrons) are in full bloom. Bonus
attractions are river rafting and the yak safari.
Mango lovers, like wine lovers, are
passionate about their favorites, and at this festival, you can savor the many
myriad varieties of the king of fruits and find out why. Cultural programmes
liven up the event still further.
's battle for freedom from
British Rule was long and arduous, and every year the country celebrates
Independence Day (15th August) with an outpouring of patriotism. The Prime
Minister gives a speech from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort in Delhi,
flag hoisting ceremonies and cultural programmes are held in all the state
capitals, restaurants serve special menus done in the colors of the flag
(saffron, white, green and blue) and little children sell flags to raise funds
for charity. Join in the fun and share our joy.
The 'yoga capital of the world',
Rishikesh, situated on the banks of the holy Ganges river in the foothills of
Himalayas, is the appropriate setting for this
annual festival. Yoga masters come from all over the world, every February, to
gives lectures, demonstrate and explore the major traditions of Yoga (Hatha,
Raja, Karma, Bhakti, Jnana).
The town has several Yoga schools and
ashrams, and most of these offer packages for 7 / 10/ 14 days, covering
meditation, pranayamas (breathing techniques), aasana (postures) practice, and
This ten-day long festival of dance,
drama and music showcases the arts and crafts, flora and fauna and marine life
of Port Blair, capital of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Aqua sports,
tele-games and parasailing are added attractions.
Only Sufi music is played at this
music festival associated with Hazrat Amir Khusrau, one of the great followers
of Hazrat Nizamuddin. Performers from all over the world perform. The festival
takes place in
in the last week of February.
Heritage International Festival
The Pink City of Jaipur, in
Rajasthan, always fascinating, becomes even more so during this festival,
spread over fourteen days in January and in locations difficult to find
anywhere else in the world. Events include exhibitions, seminars, sports,
children’s programmes and of course craft bazaars.
Also called Shad Nongkrem, this
colourful 5-day long event is the most important and elaborates festival of the
Khasi tribe. Held annually in November at Smit near Shillong, Meghalaya, it
gives thanks to the Goddess Ka Blei Synshar for a rich harvest.
An important part of this festival is
the Pomblang Ceremony, at which goats are sacrificed and offerings are made to
the ancestor and ancestress of the ruling clan and U-Lei Shillong (the deity of
Shillong peak). Sanctification of the tangmuri (pipes) as queen of musical
instruments, forms part of the ritual. After the religious rituals, on the
fourth day, Khasi men and women, dressed in traditional splendour, perform the
famous Nongkrem dance, with young women dancing within a protective ring formed
by young lads. The festival ends on the fifth day with a prayer for prosperity.
Ghoda Arts Festival
The spotlight of this festival, held
in the megapolis of Mumbai in January, is on fine, folk and performing arts and
ethnic cuisines. Events include movies, concerts, competitions, exhibitions,
food courts, street performances, workshops.
Maharashtra, is the venue for this festival,
dedicated to the great Sanskrit Poet Kalidas. Celebrated every November since
1995, it is a feast of Indian classical dance and music. Upcoming artistes
perform alongside experienced performers to make the festival a memorable
There's more to Khajuraho than erotic
carvings on temple walls, and this week-long festival of classical dances, held
in February/March each year proves it. All the classical dance traditions -
Kathak, Bharathanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri and Kathakali - are on
show, against the spectacular backdrop of the magnificently lit temples, a
UNESCO World Heritage site. Modern Indian dance has also been added recently.
The dances are performed by some of the best exponents in the field, in an
open-air auditorium, usually in front of the
dedicated to Surya (the Sun God) and the
dedicated to Lord Shiva, belonging to the western group. They bring alive the
former religious capital of Chandela dynasty, one of the powerful Rajput
Along with the renowned performers, a
number of craftsmen display their wares at an open market.
This takes place in Ahmedabad,
Gujarat, on Makara Sankranti (14th January),
the day when t he Sun enters the Makar Rashi (the zodiac sign of Capricorn, the
goat), starting its northward journey. Makar Sankranti is the day of the
equinox, when day and night are equally long. Hindus believe that those who die
on this day attain moksha , escaping from the cycle of birth and re-birth. T
thousands of colourful kites dot the skies as people vie with each other to win
community kite-flying competitions. Special kites have little paper lamps
attached and these fill the night sky with flickering lights. Special Gujarati
cuisine, exhibitions of handicrafts, and folk art enhance the festive spirit.
The floodlit Sun Temple of Konark in
Orissa, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of
's greatest architectural sights often described as a poem
in stone, is the backdrop for this festival of classical dance held every
December. Eminent dancers present their interpretations of various classical
dance forms - Odissi, Bharat Natyam, Manipuri, Kathak and Chhau - as t he sound
of ghungroo bells, flute and pakhawaj fill the air. A marvellous crafts mela
and delectable cuisine add to the festive mood.
Kurukshetra, Haryana, is the
battlefield of the epic Mahabharata, on which Lord Krishna gave Arjuna, the
Pandava prince, the advice enshrined in the Bhagwad Gita, the Holy Book of the
Hindus. It is believed that Lord Brahma created the universe from Kurukshetra
after performing a great yajna (sacrifice) here. Manu is said to have written
his Manusmriti here, and it the Rig and Sama Vedas (Hindu holy scriptures) are
also believed to have been compiled here. Lord Buddha and the Sikh gurus came
visiting. All-in-all, it is an ancient holy land associated with the origins of
The Kurukshetra Festival coincides
with Gita Jayanti, which celebrates the birth of the Gita. It is expectedly an
exhilarating and spiritual experience. Pilgrims gather to take a dip in the
sacred tanks of Brahma Sarovar and Sannehit Sarovar. Religious festivities
include week-long Bhagwad Katha (Story-telling sessions of the Gita), recital
of shlokas (sacred verses), dance dramas and deep daan at Brahma Sarovar. Free
medical camps, book exhibitions and recitals of bhajans (religious songs) in
the classical tradition are also organized.
A colourful kaleidoscope of cultures
- Central Asian, Tibetan, and North Indian - come alive in this festival held
in September in Ladakh, nestled in the
Himalayas. On display are traditional sports (polo and archery), folk dances and songs, age-old social and cultural
ceremonies, art and handicrafts.
on 13th January, Lohri celebrates the successful harvest of the Rabi crops - an
extremely important event in a predominantly agricultural community. It is a
community festival, and celebrated as one. Children go from door to door to
collect funds for community bonfires that are lit up in the evening. The
villagers gather around the bonfires and offer sweets, puffed rice, til
(sesame) and popcorn to the flames. The evening is spent singing, dancing, and
exchanging greetings with family and friends.
After Lohri, the biting cold of North
Indian winters begins to taper off.
Held in November-December, in
, the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh, this festival perfectly
captures the undying elegance and splendours of the ancient city formerly known
as Awadh. The arts, crafts, and above all, heavenly cuisine, are yours to
savour for 10 memorable days, bringing alive
's Nawabi past. Colourful processions, traditional dramas, Kathak
dances in the
gharana style, music concerts (sarangi / sitar recitals, ghazals, qawalis,
thumri), traditional village games ( ekka races, kite flying competitions, cock
fights) . just choose what you want to be entertained by and surrender.
Rajgir, the ancient capital of the
Magadhan empire in
Bihar, is held sacred by both Buddhists and
Jains for its association with the Buddha and Lord Mahavira. Every October, a
colourful festival of dance and music, is held here. Instrumental music,
devotional songs, opera, folk dance, ballet, the many myriad schools of
classical dance and music . all are on display.>Raksha
"Rakhi", as it is popularly called,
is celebrated in the month of Shravan (August) on the day of the full moon.
Literally meaning "ties of protection", it commemorates the bond between
brothers and sisters. On the morning of the festival, women of all ages put a
tikka of vermilion on their brother's foreheads, tie a ceremonial rakhi (this
may be a colorful thread, a simple bracelet, a decorative string or something
really fancy, made of silver and crystals) on their brothers' wrist(s), and
offer them mithai (sweets) after an aarti (prayer). The brothers, in return,
promise to love and protect their sisters, and gift them some money as a token
of their affection. The practice often extends more generally to people of the
opposite sex who are not biologically related. It has also been interpreted as
a pledge by the strong to protect the weak.
celebrates 26th of January, the day the constitution of
came into force. The evening before, the President addresses the nation. Medals
are conferred to recognise feats of exceptional bravery, on the part of members
of the armed forces in the field, as well as civilians, in everyday life. Then
comes the grand parade, from Rajghat to Vijaypath, with regiments from the
armed services marching in all their finery, followed by folk dancers, school
children who have won awards for bravery and floats with tableux from different
states. A foreign Head of State is invited to be the Chief Guest at this
impressive display of
's finest. The parade ends with a fabulous fly-past. The
"Beating the Retreat" ceremony held at sunset the next day, at Vijay Chowk,
marks the end of celebrations.
A huge variety of roses are on show
at this 2 day event, the biggest flower show in the country, held at the famous
Rose Garden at
Is a harvest festival when Laxmi, the
Goddess of prosperity, visits all homes to bring fortune and good luck to all.
Kojagiri, the special night, is celebrated with ice-cold, saffron-flavored
sweet milk, shared in the cool moonlight. The newly harvested rice is offered
to the gods and lamps are lit before the full moon.
The Sindhu Darshan Festival is
organised annually at Leh, the capital of Ladakh, in June. As the name
suggests, it is a celebration of the river Sindhu (also known as the Indus),
which originates from Kailash Mansarovar in
. As part of the celebrations, water is brought from other
mighty rivers in the country, and merged with the Sindhu river, thereby
establishing the Sindhu river as a symbol of multi-dimensional cultural
identity, communal harmony and peaceful co-existence. The festival is the
perfect time to visit the beautiful regions of Leh and Ladakh.
This ten day event, held at
, Uttar Pradesh, the city of the Taj, in February, is a celebration
of the arts, crafts, culture and traditions of Uttar Pradesh. Folk music,
shayari (poetry), classical dance performances, elephant and camel rides, games
and a food festival are the highlights of the festivities.
The great classical vocalist, Mian
Tansen, was one of the "nine jewels", in Emperor Akbar's court. His memorial in
is the venue for the annual festival of Indian classical music held in
November. Renowned singers regale audiences with mesmerizing sessions of
much-loved classical raagas . Before performing the singers chew the leaves of
a tamarind tree by the tomb - this is believed to improve the voice.
This festival, held in Nov / Dec,
Sikkim, and ends in Dooars,
the gateway to the neighboring
kingdom of Bhutan.
It includes a number of cultural programmes that take place in the lush
greenery of historic plains, tea gardens, rolling hills and dense forests.
The ceremonial welcome of spring,
this festival is celebrated in North India and West Bengal (especially in the
University town of
), in the month of Magh (February). The mustard flowers are in
bloom, and people dress in yellows, sing, dance, make merry and worship
Saraswati, the Goddess of learning.
Every year, during the Varshitap,
fast for one year. They fast alternate days and only eat twice the second day.
The Varshitap ends on the third day of the Hindu month Vaishakh.
This is celebrated in the month of
Magh , on 14th January, when the sun enters Makar Rashi ( the zodiac sign of
Capricorn, the goat ), starting its northward journey. Makar Sankranti is the
day of the equinox, when day and night are equally long. Hindus believe that
those who die on this day attain moksha , escaping from the cycle of birth and
Maharashtra, people eat til-gul , sweets made
of til (sesame) and jaggery. In
Gujarat, thousands of colourful kites dot the
skies as people vie with each other to win community kite-flying competitions.
In Punjab, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Lohri, and in
as Pongal. In West Bengal, the devout converge at the
in the Ganges delta, to take a holy dip at the confluence of the sea and the
Ganga. A large fair is held for three days
during this period.
Dancers and musicians from across the
country participate in this festival held at the UNESCO World Heritage site of
Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, in December-January, with Arjuna's Penance as its
Originally known as Maand Festival,
this is held in
, Rajasthan, and is devoted to the music and dance of the Marwar
region. Folk artists bring the myths, legend and folklore of the area to life.
The festival is held for 2 days on Sharad Purnima , the full moon, in October.
The city of lakes,
, in Rajasthan, is the venue for this festival, celebrated in April
during the Gangaur Festival. An exhilarating welcome to spring, it is an
audio-visual feast with Rajasthani songs, dances, processions, devotional music
and firework displays. A procession of colorfully attired women carrying images
of the goddess Gauri make their way to
. A procession of boats on the lake offers a fitting finale to the
at Modhera in Mehsana district,
Gujarat, dedicated to Lord Surya, the sun god,
acts as the backdrop for this festival of Indian classical dances, held every
year in January for three days. The festival seeks to present classical dance
forms in a milieu that is as close as possible to that in which they were
Nagaur Fair is one of the largest
cattle fair in the country, held annually between late January and early
February. Situated half way between
, Nagaur awakens with the thronging of cattle, horses and camels
accompanied by their colorfully turbaned
owners. There are about 25,000 camels on display as well as a large number of
horses and cattle.
The fair is renowned for trading in
cows, bullocks, camels and horses. People come from hundreds of miles away to
buy and sell. There is earnest bargaining between owners and buyers, and plenty
of fun and festivity. The camels are very highly prized and their owners take
meticulous care of them. The bullocks of Nagaur are renowned for their fitness
and attract a large number of buyers. There are horse and camel races as well
as dancing and singing.
Mirchi Bazaar (Red Chilly Market) is
the main attraction and wooden items, iron crafts and leather accessories as
well as local handicrafts, cloth and jewellary are available for sale during
the fair. Various games organised
during this four-day festival like tug-of-war, camel races, horse races, cock
fights, bull- fights etc. provide entertainment to the tourists and visitors.
In the evening, there are performances by folk musicians and dancers. The RTDC
puts up a
to provide accommodation for the tourists visiting Nagaur during the fair.
Held in Kolkata in December, this is
one of the largest theatre festivals in
. Drama troupes come from all over the country, and
neighboring countries too, to participate.
This 5 day festival which takes place
in the premises of the ancient Nataraja
temple of Chidambaram,
Tamil Nadu, pays special tribute to Lord Nataraja, the dancing Shiva. It is
held in Feb / March and begins on the auspicious occasion of Mahashivratri.
Leading dancers from all parts of
congregate and dance in the temple as an offering to Nataraja, while the carved
pillars depicting Lord Nataraja in 108 poses of Bharatanatyam look silently on.
The festival promote the message of "Unity in Diversity", conveyed in the
universal language of music and dance.
Cup Boat Races
Kerala's backwaters at Aranmula and
Kottayam, are the picturesque setting for the annual snake-boat races held on
the second Saturday of August every year. T ranquil lake fronts are transformed
into a sea of humanity, as over 100 oarsmen in each huge ( over 100 feet long)
snake boat vie for the prestigious Nehru Trophy, named after independent
's first Prime Minister. An estimated 2 lakh people watch, while
the beating of drums and cymbals, and songs add to the festive mood.
Preparations for the event begin several weeks in advance, and celebrations
continue long after, for the winning teams.
The Nishagandhi open-air theatre in
the palace compound at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, is the venue for this
classical dance festival held every April. Renowned dancers perform
Bharathanatyam, Mohiniattam, Kathak, Odissi, modern ballet and other folk
forms. Artist and connoisseurs of dance come from all over
to enjoy this cultural treat.
The delicately carved temples at the
UNESCO World Heritage site of Pattadakkal (the ancient capital of the Chalukyan
kings) in the state of Karnataka form the backdrop for this festival of dance,
held to celebrate this marvellous heritage.
This cultural pageant, held from 15th
to 17th August, in
Pondicherry, coincides with
's Liberation Day. The Park monument is brilliantly lit.
This fair is held at Pushkar town, 11
in Rajasthan for twelve days
annually during October- November. This cultural and trade cum religious fair
is an attractive and lively spectacle with Rajasthani men and women in
their colourful traditional attire, saffron-robed and ash smeared Sadhus
(holy men) and thousands of bulls, cows, sheep, goats, horses and camels in
richly decorated saddles. Perhaps the largest cattle fair in the world, it
attracts more than one lakh people, from all over Rajasthan as well as tourists
from different parts of
Trading of cattle, camel races and
dazzling displays of bangles, brassware, clothes, camel saddles and halters
make the fair colourful. Necklaces of glass beads from Naguar, pottery, printed
are all on sale here. Farmers, cattle traders and breeders buy and sell their
animals, leather whips, saddles etc. There are facilities for camel rides also.
This livestock fair coincides with
the climaxing of a religious celebration. Pushkar is among the five main places
of pilgrimage mentioned in the Hindu scriptures. It has a large number of
temples including one of the only two temples dedicated to Lord Brahma in
. Hundreds of thousands of devotees take a ritual dip in
the holy Pushkar lake on the day of the Kartik Purnima (full moon night of the
Kartika month) and worship at the Brahma temple (Jagat Pita Shri Brahma
Mandir). It is believed that Lord Brahma, the creator, wished to perform a
'yagna' following his long years of penance. During his sojourn
in search of a place for yagna, Brahma dropped a lotus from heaven which
. It was on the Karthika night that a drop of nectar fell in this
lake, thereby making it sacred. Pilgrims flock from all over
to be in Pushkar at this auspicious
time. They also believe that all the 330 million Gods and Goddesses are present
during the occasion.
The trading which involves a great
deal of bargaining between the cattle traders and the buyers add to the spirit
of the fair. Apart from the religious rituals and trading, people participate
in a number of cultural and sporting events. The variety of folk dances, dramas
and songs lend colour and melody to the atmosphere that is already charged with
excitement of the camel races and the cattle fair. The sweeping expanse of the
desert becomes dotted with thousands of camels, stalls and camping families.
The Rajasthan tourism Development Corporation has taken adequate measures to
facilitate convenient access of the fair site and to accommodate the fairgoers.
"Pooram", the two-century-old
festival held at the Vadakkunnathan temple in Thrissur, Kerala, in Apr / May,
is the most colourful of all the temple festivals held in the state. All the
temples in the state send their best elephants to participate. Bedecked with
golden headpieces coming down over the trunk, the elephants go round the temple
in a splendid procession t o the accompaniment of drums, pipes and trumpets.
Carrying ceremonial umbrellas and fanned by white whisks, 30 of these gentle
giants amble out majestically through the temple gate, to line up in 2 rows,
facing each other, in the open ground. An elephant in the center carries the
image of Lord Shiva. Each "team of elephants" has its own Panchavadyam
(literally "five instruments", i.e., conch, cymbals, trumpet and two kinds of
drums) orchestra. The umbrellas are unfurled to the beating of the drums and
cheering of the assembled crowds. Specially appointed judges award a prize for
the most spectacular display. The festival ends with a magnificent display of
fireworks that continues till dawn. Truly, you can call it a mammoth spectacle!
Veterans of Indian classical music
and folk dance hold audiences enthralled at this festival held in Nov / Dec
each year, in
, against the historic ruins of the Qutab Minar, a UNESCO World
Heritage site. Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, Ghazals, Qawalis, Sarangi, Sitar .
choose your event and look forward to a memorable evening. Spice it up further
with regional cuisines available at the food stalls at the complex.