Festivals of India
THE ELEPHANT MARCH | Where: Thrissur & Trivandurum
The Great Elephant March is celebrated with a large gathering of Indian tuskers touring around Kerala - all decked up and ready to be worshipped and pampered! Elephants are associated with the famous Hindu God with a trunk – Lord Ganesha, who is worshipped as the lord of wealth and fulfillment. Rather than being a religious occasion, the elephant march is a unique festive occasion, enjoyed by both locals and tourists in Kerala.
DESERT FESTIVAL | Where: Jaisalmer
The Desert Festival of Jaisalmer, as the name suggests, is held in the deserts of Jaisalmer, in January (or February) every year. Celebrated with a number of cultural events, camel races, folk music and dance shows, turban tying competitions etc, the festival brings to life the traditions of the nomadic desert life of Jaisalmer. The rich culture of the region is on display during this three day long colourful extravaganza. The festival attracts a large number of foreign tourists, who are intrigued by the unusual customs of the region.
INTERNATIONAL KITE FESTIVAL | Where: Ahmedabad
In India’s western state of Gujarat, the International Kite Festival is held in Ahmadabad on January 14, to coincide with the festival of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. It is a day when families and friends meet outdoors playing and competing against each other's kites. The people of Gujarat celebrate Uttarayan with a lot of enthusiasm and all business comes to a grinding halt for a couple of days. The festival lures expert kite-makers and fliers not only from major cities of India but also from around the world! A plethora of designer kites are also put on display. The festival is also a celebration to mark the end of winter.
PONGAL | Where: Tamil Nadu
Pongal, a huge harvest festival in southern India, is India's equivalent of Thanksgiving and is celebrated with much enthusiasm. The festival is an important one because much of the state relies on agriculture to generate an income. The most important part of the festival is cooking the Pongal dish, made out of boiled milk and rice, on the auspicious second day. Families gather to feast and dance.
BIKANER CAMEL FESTIVAL | Where: Bikaner
The Camel Festival is held in Bikaner in Rajasthan, every year in the month of December or January. It is a festival when the ships of the desert are seen at their best - camels fascinate tourists from all over the world!
The Bikaner camel festival is a spectacle of unusual camel performances including camel races, camel dances, and the bumpy, neck shaking camel rides. The festival starts with the procession of beautifully decorated camels, heading towards open sand grounds. The Camel Pageant is held on the first day where the camel owners show off their decorated camels. Competitions are held for best decorated camel, camel milking and the best camel hair cuts. Camel dance performances are also held, where camels display amazing footwork, dancing gracefully to the slightest direction of their drivers. Camel races also take place, with thousands of locals and tourists cheering the camels.
The evenings end with a rendezvous with the folk music and dances of Rajasthan. The jubilant, skirt swirling dancers, the awe inspiring fire dances and many other equally interesting performances entertain the visitors. The grand finale is a magnificent display of fireworks, illuminating the desert city of Bikaner.
REPUBLIC DAY PARADE | Where: New Delhi
In celebration of the Constitution of India being founded in 1950, a spectacular Republic Day parade is held in New Delhi on 26 January every year. The parade, which marches down Delhi's central Rajpath Avenue, features the three divisions of the armed forces (Army, Navy and Air Force) who showcase their strength and stride. It also includes traditional dance troupes from various regions of India, and culminates with a dramatic aero show by helicopters and other aircraft .
LOHRI | Where:Northern Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh
The festival of Lohri marks the day when the earth, farthest from the sun at this point of time, starts its journey towards the sun, thus ending the coldest month of the year. In January, the fields come up with the promise of a golden harvest, and farmers celebrate Lohri during this rest period before the cutting and gathering of crops. At this time, people, especially in the northern Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and parts of Himachal Pradesh, are busy making preparations for Lohri when they can come out of their homes and celebrate the harvesting of the Rabi (winter) crops and give in to relaxing and enjoying with traditional folk songs and dances around bon fires.
NAGAUR FAIR | Where: Nagaur
The picturesque town of Nagaur is home to the famous Nagaur Fair, Rajasthan’s second largest cattle fair held every year during the month of January or February.
Nagaur Fair is renowned for its cattle trading including cows, bullocks, oxen, camels and horses. Rajasthani villagers are seen wearing colourful turbans and flaunting their long moustaches. Regional crafts such as wooden artifacts, iron craft and leather accessories are available in abundance during the fair. Various games such as tug-of-war, camel races, cock & bullfights intrigue locals and tourists alike. The festival comes to life with folk music and dance performances by local village artists.
Flocked by thousands of tourists every year, the Nagaur fair is a unique experience - a spectacle of colours that signifies the true essence of Rajasthan, allowing you to experience the local lifestyle and blending yourself in the colourful culture of Rajasthan.
TAJ MAHOTSAV | Where: Agra
The Taj Mahotsav is a 10 day carnival held in the month of February every year, at Shilpgram, near the magnificent Taj Mahal, in Agra. The festival commences with a spectacular procession inspired by Mughal splendour, with elephants and camels, drum beaters, folk artists and master craftsmen recreating the glorious past of the Mughals. Taj Mahotsav offers a great opportunity for local artists to display their exquisite works of art and folk musicians and dancers to perform on stage for visitors. The festival is an intriguing journey into the customs and traditions and local lifestyle of the erstwhile Mughal era, enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
KHAJURAHO DANCE FESTIVAL | Where: Khajuraho
Khajuraho Dance Festival is held every spring in the town of Khajuraho, to celebrate the glory of the fascinating Khajuraho temples. This festival is a cultural extravaganza, celebrating Indian arts - dance and music learnt from generation to generation. The Khajuraho Dance Festival presents the best classical dances of India, performed by well reputed dance groups from around the country.
The Khajuraho Dance Festival takes place against the alluring backdrop of one of India’s popular historical destination, the erotic temples of Khajuraho. The festival, which has entertained audiences since 1975, showcases classical dance style from all over India. The dances are performed in the Western group of temples, mainly at the Chitragupta Temple (dedicated to Surya the Sun God) and the Vishwanatha Temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva).
DELHI GARDEN FESTIVAL | Where: New Delhi
Delhi heralds a spectacular flower show every year in February. The Garden Tourism Festival was first introduced in 2004. A variety of flowers and exotic plants are displayed here. Environment smelling with sweet fragrance and colourful bed of flowers is the pleasurable sight to people visiting Delhi’s Garden of the Five Senses.
SURAJKUND CRAFTS MELA | Where: Surajkund, in the Faridabad district
Into its 25th year this year, the Surajkund Crafts Mela showcases the finest handloom, handicrafts, and Indian cuisine. Surajkund becomes alive with the rhythm and beats of folk dances and riot of colors. Over 400 artisans display and demonstrate their crafts from all over India. There are also cultural programs, and an amusement zone for children.T he mela has a different theme every year.
KALA GHODA ARTS FESTIVAL | Where: Mumbai
The Kala Ghoda arts festival is a 9 day extravaganza that transforms Mumbai's Kala Ghoda Arts Precinct into an open air exhibition space and stage show. This vibrant street festival includes arts and crafts, exhibitions, seminars, dances, music, theater, heritage walks, and special events for children.
ELEPHANT FESTIVAL | Where: Jaipur
The Elephant Festival is a unique event held annually in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. As the name suggests, the Elephant festival is in honour of the Indian tuskers. Groomed to perfection, glittering in gold, row upon row of elephants catwalk before an enthralled audience. Elephant races, elephant-polo matches and a most interesting tug of war between elephants and men, are all part of this spectacular event.
Rajasthan isn't just all about camels and camel festivals. Jaipur, with its royal heritage, has plenty of prized elephants. On the eve of Holi each year, the elephants are groomed, decorated to perfection, and paraded around the city. During the festival, you can also catch a game or two of elephant polo! Apparently, the sport has quite a long and distinguished history in Jaipur. For added entertainment, don't miss the tug of war between elephants and people!
MEWAR FESTIVAL | Where: Udaipur
The Mewar Festival is celebrated to welcome the arrival of spring. The festival is celebrated in the romantic lake city of Udaipur and coincides with the Gangaur Festival. The highlight of the Mewar festival is a procession of Rajasthani women, dressed in colourful saris, carrying idols and images of goddess Gauri to the serene Lake Pichola. An unusual procession of boats on the lake, amidst loud chanting of folk Rajasthani ballads, offers an exhilarating finale to this splendid celebration. The festivities also feature cultural events where Rajasthani culture is portrayed through folk songs, dances, drama performances, and a colourful display of fireworks.
INTERNATIONAL YOGA FESTIVAL | Where: Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh
The International Yoga Festival is a must for anyone interested in yoga! With more than 400 people from over 30 countries, it's grown to become one of the largest yoga gatherings in the world. The festival offers yoga classes from world class Yoga teachers, evening discussions with some of India's leading spiritual leaders, and other events including vegetarian cooking classes and the Yoga Aid Challenge charity fundraise.
MAHA SHIVRATRI | Where: Shiva temples all over India
Maha Shivaratri, the Great Night of Shiva, is when Lord Shiva is believed to have performed his cosmic Tandava dance - the source of the cycle of creation, preservation, and destruction. Devotees worship Lord Shiva on this occasion to gain release from this cycle of death and rebirth. Most of the festivities take place throughout the night and devotees fast from sunrise, swim in the holy Ganges river, offer prayers at the temples, and chant devotional songs.
GOA CARNIVAL | Where: Goa
The colorful Goa Carnival, which started as a local feast by the Portuguese in the 18th century, has developed into the state's most famous event. During the festival, the streets come alive with parades, floats, music, and masked dancers. The carnival culminates with the Red and Black Dance - a formal ball in Panaji, where the dress code is red and black.
Holi – THE FESTIVAL OF COLOURS | Where: Across India, particularly in the north
Holi is commonly referred to as the "Festival of Colors". People exuberantly throw colored powder and water all over each other, have parties, and dance under water sprinklers. On the eve of Holi people light bonfires to mark the occasion and ward off evil spirits. Holi is a very carefree festival that's great fun to participate in if you don’t mind getting wet and coloured!
THRISSUR POORAM | Where: Thrissur, Kerala
Thrissur Pooram is the biggest and most colorful temple festival of Kerala. It is celebrated in Vadakkumnathan temple in the Thrissur district. The festival is famous for its unique decorated elephant procession (Kudamattom), which involves participation of elephants from various temples across Kerala. Apart from this splendid procession, other attractions of Thrissur Pooram festival include a spectacular display of colorful fireworks, parasol exchanges, an umbrella showing competition, and drum concerts. Lasting for 36 hours, the festival draws the largest crowds in Kerala, fascinating locals and tourists in the region.
The grandest of all Kerala temple festivals - the Thrissur Pooram features a procession of colourfully decorated elephants, drum concerts, ornamental parasol displays, and splendid fireworks. The festival is a huge cultural event that runs through the night with exuberant celebrations. Special viewing areas are provided for foreigners at the festival.
The Arattupuzha Pooram is a particularly large elephant pageant featuring around 60 elephants bearing brightly colored silk parasols. It's one of the oldest temple festivals in Kerala. Legend has it that on the day of the festival, 101 gods and goddesses from the neighboring villages visited Sree Ayyappan, the presiding deity of the Arattupuzha Temple. In addition one can also enjoy traditional art forms and scintillating fire works
GANGAUR FESTIVAL | Where: All over Rajasthan
One of the most important festivals in Rajasthan, Gangaur is celebrated to honor the goddess Gauri, a manifestation of Parvati (Lord Shiva's wife) who represents purity and austerity. This festival is predominantly for women. As part of the celebration colorful processions of bejeweled images of Goddess Gauri wind their way all over cities and villages, accompanied by local bands.
MEWAR FESTIVAL | Where: Udaipur, Rajasthan
An exhilarating welcome to spring, this festival is a visual feast with Rajasthani songs, dances, processions, devotional music and firework displays. It is celebrated in the romantic city of Udaipur during the Gangaur Festival. A procession of colorfully attired women carrying the images of Goddess Gauri makes its way to the Lake Pichola. An unusual procession of boats on the lake offers a fitting finale to this splendid celebration
RAM NAVAMI | Where: Allover India
The festival of Ram Navami marks the birthday of Lord Rama. It's celebrated in a religious manner all over India and extends to be a huge cultural event in Bangalore. Week long classical music and dance concerts are held at various locations around the city. Many places in North India host fairs in connection with the festival, culminating in spectacular fireworks on Rama Navami. Sacred places associated with Rama, like Ayodhya, Ujjain and Rameshwaram, draw tens of thousands of devotees.
BAISAKHI | Where: Throughout the state of Punjab
Baisakhi is a harvest festival, a Punjabi New year festival, and commemoration of the founding of the Khalsa….. all rolled into one occasion. Baisakhi is celebrated with a great deal of feasting, dancing, folk music, and fairs. A carnival atmosphere prevails in the area surrounding the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
TULIP FESTIVAL | Where: Srinagar, Kashmir
Spring is when Kashmir is at its most picturesque, and is also the season for flowering tulips. This special time of year is beautifully captured by the Tulip Festival in Srinagar, home to Asia's larges tulip garden. There are over 1.2 million tulips there. As well as this arresting sight, the festival features daily cultural programs, Kashmiri folk songs, sale of local handicrafts, and traditional Kashmiri cuisine.
PARO FESTIVAL | Where: Paro, Bhutan
Paro Festival is one of the busiest festivals in Bhutan. The dances are performed by trained monks and laymen wearing amazing costumes, experience the buzzing active lifestyle while visiting many historical sites in Bhutan. The dances are performed by trained monks wearing ornate costumes and impressive masks. At the Paro Festival, a large and beautifully appliquéd 'Thanka' scroll known as a Tongdrol is exhibited for a few hours, at day break of the final day of the festival, enabling the people to obtain its blessing, as this holy scroll 'confers liberation by the mere sight of it'
INTERNATIONAL FLOWER FESTIVAL | Where: Gangtok, Sikkim
The International Flower Festival held annually in May, in Gangtok in the state of Sikkim, is one of the most popular flower shows of India. This festival features exotic varieties of local flowers, orchids and other plants of Sikkim. During this time, the state of Sikkim blooms with about 600 species of orchids, 240 species of trees and ferns, 150 varieties of gladioli, and 46 types of rhododendrons, along with a variety of magnolias and many other foliage plants. The flora displayed in the Gangtok Flower Festival mainly comprises of climbers, alpine plants, cacti, herbs orchids, creepers, gladioli, ferns, roses, etc.
BUDDHA PURNIMA & BUDDHA JAYANTI | Where: Various Buddhist sites across India, particularly at Bodhgaya
Buddha Jayanti, also known as Buddha Purnima, celebrates the birthday of Lord Buddha. This is the most sacred Buddhist festival. Activities include prayer meets, sermons and religious discourses, recitation of Buddhist scriptures, group meditation, processions, and worship of the statue of Lord Buddha. At Bodhgaya, the Mahabodhi temple wears a festive look and is decorated with colorful flags and flowers. Special prayers are organized under the Bodhi Tree (the tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment).
MT. ABU SUMMER FESTIVAL | Where: Mt. Abu, Rajasthan
The Mt. Abu Summer festival is held every year during the month of May on Buddha Poornima. The festival kicks off with ballad singing, followed by regional folk dancing. The festival also offers sports such as boat racing on Nakki Lake, and a roller skating race. It concludes with fireworks display. The highlight of the festival is the Sham-e-Qawwali musical show, which features some of the most renowned qawwals from various parts of India.
GANGA DUSSEHRA | Where: Varanasi & Haridwar
Ganga Dusshera is a holy festival, devoted to the worship of the Holy River Ganges. It is believed that the ‘Gangavataran’ (the descent of River Ganges) took place at this time. On this day, holy places along the Ganges plain such as Varanasi, Haridwar, Rishikesh, hold special significance. A large number of devotees flock to numerous ghats located along the banks of River Ganges to worship and wash away their sins in the holy water. At dawn and dusk, the banks of River Ganges are lit up with thousands of earthern lamps and candles with priests performing holy rituals and worshipping the River Goddess.
SINDHU DARSHAN FESTIVAL | Where: Leh, Ladakh
The Sindhu Darshan festival is a celebration of River Sindhu or Indus. It is one of the world's longest rivers, and is the river that gave India its name. The festival aims to project the Sindhu (Indus) as a symbol of multi-dimensional cultural identity, communal harmony, and peaceful co-existence in India. It promises a kaleidoscope of Indian culture and an exciting array of performing arts.
URS FAIR AJMER | Where: Rajasthan
Held in the holy town of Ajmer in honour of the Sufi saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, Urs Fair is marked by special prayers offered at the mosque, and huge amounts of food offered from the large, steaming cauldrons that were a gift from Emperor Akbar. While quwallis are sung at night, the celebrations unite people of all faiths, and the complete town is decorated with buntings, and wears the spirit of festivity. It is an occasion for thousands of believers to congregate at the shrine and offer their prayers. All of Ajmer seems to take on a festive air and several programmes are organized to mark the festival.
HEMIS FESTIVAL | Where: Ladakh
The Hemis Festival is held every year in the Hemis Monastery, the biggest Buddhist monastery of Ladakh. It is celebrated on the tenth day of lunar month in the Tibetan calendar. The festival is celebrated in the commemoration of the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. Hemis festival is celebrated with a colourful fair displaying some of the most exquisite handicrafts of Ladakh region and the display of the two-story high 'Thanka' of the monastery. The Thanka is beautifully embroidered with pearls and semi-precious stones, and depicts Guru Padmasambhava –it is put on display once in twelve years.
The festival is also famous for the "devil dances" that constitute an important element in the social entertainment of Ladakhis. The major attractions are the masked dances, that depicts the victory of right over the evil.
MANGO FESTIVAL | Where: New Delhi
The Mango Festival is celebrated in India’s capital city, New Delhi, every year in the month of July. Held at Talkatora stadium, it is one of the most awaited fairs in the capital city. The festival also marks the advent of mangoes and presents more than 500 varieties of this king of fruits. Mangoes from different states of the country, are brought under one roof, where visitors can taste the summer fruit and learn more about each variety. Given the exotic seasonality of mangoes, the festival is a tasteful delight for locals and tourists visiting the capital region.
RATH YATRA | Where: Puri, Orissa
The great annual ‘Rath Yatra’ (i.e. chariot journey) of Lord Jagannath in Orissa commemorates the journey of Lord Krishna from Gokul to Mathura. For the rath yatra, three huge chariots - each with about a dozen wheels up to 7 feet in diameter - are ritually pulled through the streets, from the Jagannath temple to the temple of Gundicha Mandir. The raths are replicas of the Jagannath temple and each of them carries an idol - of Jagannath, of his brother Balbhadra and his sister Subhadra - to Gundicha Mandir, where they stay for a week before being taken back, again in the grand chariots, to the Jagannath Temple. It is an interesting and unusual sight to see the chariot journey taking places amidst crowds of thousands who gather around in honour of the auspicious journey.
GURU PURNIMA | Where: Across India
The full moon day on July 25th this year is celebrated in remembrance of the ancient sage Vyasa, who edited and wrote a number of holy Hindu scriptures. Celebrated as a special occasion of 'Guru Purnima' this day is also a day for thanking anyone who's taught you spiritual lessons in life. This day is of deep significance to the farmers, for it heralds a thanksgiving ceremony for the much needed monsoon.
NEHRU TROPHY BOAT RACE (SNAKE BOAT RACE) | Where: Alappuzha, Kerala
Nehru Trophy Boat Race (also referred as ‘snake boat race’) is an annual event organized in Alappuzha, Kerala. It is held every year on the second Saturday of August. The event is promoted as a major tourist attraction by the state of Kerala and draws a large number of domestic and international tourists. The first boat race was held in the year 1952 in honour of India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, hence deriving its name ‘Nehru Trophy Boat Race’. Each boat comprises of approx 150 men, of which 4 are helmsmen, 25 singers and 125 oarsmen. The most remarkable feature of the Boat Race is the depiction of great team spirit – the race displays the importance of being united and in harmony with nature. One of the most famous boat races of Kerala, Nehru Trophy Boat Race promotes unity and fraternity among people.
JANMASHTAMI | Where: Vrindavan & Mathura
Janmashtami, marks the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, one of the most popular Hindu Gods. The epicenter of the festival is Vrindavan and Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna. However, the Janmashtami euphoria spreads all across India. Festivities include various rituals being performed by followers. Temples all over India engage in various ceremonies and prayers in honour of Lord Krishna. The festival is celebrated all across the country with the chanting of shlokas, readings from religious texts, singing devotional songs and a number of dance and drama performances depicting the life of Lord Krishna.
TEEJ | Where: Rajasthan, particularly in Jaipur
The Teej is a much anticipated monsoon festival for women. It commemorates the reunion of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Women apply henna to their hands and feet, get dressed up, and parade around. Artists such as folk singers and dancers follow the procession. Caparisoned elephants, bullock carts, and chariots add to the delightful spectacle.
RAKSHA BANDHAN | Where: All Over India
Rakhi or Raksha Bandhan reflects the sweet and sour relationship of brother and sister and an opportunity for them to share and enjoy the bond of love between them. The ritual of Raksha Bandhan essentially includes tying of sacred thread (which is called 'Rakhi' or 'Raksha Sutra') by the sisters, on their brothers' wrist. After the ritual of tying Rakhi is over, the brothers would give their sisters some gift or money and promise them to help them whenever they need and protect them throughout their lifetime. You won’t see people celebrating on the streets, but if you see men with thread bands tied on their wrists you would know its the bro-sis day of ‘Rakhi’ in India!
EID UL FITR | Where: All Over India
Eid ul Fitr or the 'festival of fast breaking' is the most celebratory of all Muslim festivals. The festival is significant as much for its timing, as for its religious implications. It is celebrated after the long fasting month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic calendar). The festival of Eid ul Fitr marks the beginning of celebrations for a period extending over three days. Women prepare sweets at home and all Muslims are seen adorned with new dresses on this day. Eid ul Fitr is synonymous with joy and thanksgiving. Such is the spirit of this great festival that even a lot of Non-Muslims participate in Eid celebrations in India.
METEMNEO FESTIVAL | Where: Nagaland
The five-day harvest festival called 'Metemneo' is greatly celebrated by Yimchunger tribes of Nagaland in North-East India. The merriment involves worshipping agricultural equipments, performing tribal dances following rhythm of drum-beats and pampering their taste-buds with delicious tribal cuisines. The festival days are considered auspicious for organizing marriage ceremonies in the region, adding to the festive celebrations
ONAM | Where: Kerala
Onam is the biggest festival celebrated in the South Indian state of Kerala. Onam Festival falls during the Malayali month of Chingam (Aug - Sep) and marks the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali. Carnival of Onam lasts for ten days and brings out the best of Kerala culture and tradition. Intricately decorated ‘Pookalam’ floral decorations on the ground; elaborate grand meals called ‘Onasadya’; ‘Vallamkali’ fascinating boat races; decorated elephant processions and exotic dances are some of the most remarkable features of Onam - the harvest festival in Kerala. The beauty of the festival lies in it's secular fabric - people of all religions, castes and communities celebrate Onam, spreading the message of peace and brotherhood.
Kerala's Secular Pageant, Onam, celebrated in the month of August, is a special occasion which commemorates the return of King Mahabali (a powerful mythical ruler of Kerala), once again to his kingdom. Among the most colourful community festivals of India, Onam is specific to Kerala. It is celebrated as a secular state event by all locals, whichever religion they may belong to. Artistic flower patterns are designed in front of each home along with boat races held all over Kerala.
DURGA PUJA | Where: Kolkata
Durga Puja, the most important festival of Bengalis signifies the worship of 'Shakti' or the devine power. It is celebrated throughout India, but more so in the state of West Bengal, with Kolkata being the central hub of celebrations. Durga Puja commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. Temples are lit up with thousands of lights, earthen lamps and candles and carnivals are held to celebrate the festival and spread the joy. Singing, dancing, drama performances along with rich Indian delicacies and sweets mark the celebrations of Durga Puja.
The Durga Puja is celebrated in honor of warrior Goddess Durga. Elaborately rafted statues of Goddess Durga are installed in beautifully decorated podiums in almost every lane of Kolkata city during this festival. People flock to the streets to view the goddess statues amidst mesmerizing light shows, drumming, and aromatic food stalls. On the last day of the festival, the statues are paraded around the city before being submerged in the holy River Ganges.
GANESH CHATURTHI | Where: Mostly in Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Naidu and Andhra Pradesh
The eleven day Ganesh Chaturthi festival honors the birth of the beloved Hindu elephant-headed god, Lord Ganesha, worshiped by his devotees for his ability to remove obstacles and bring good fortune. The festival starts with installation of huge, elaborately crafted statutes of Lord Ganesha in homes and podiums, which are especially constructed and beautifully decorated. For ten days Lord Ganesha is worshipped with great religious fervour. The festival comes to an end with Lord Ganesha's statutes being paraded through the streets, accompanied by singing and dancing, and then submerged in the ocean.
Ladakh Festival | Where: Ladakh
Ladakh festival takes place annually from 01 - 15 September every year in Leh and the villages of Ladakh. The festival highlights the sports and culture of the region. It has plenty to offer tourists, including polo-match, music concerts, mask dances from the monasteries, motorbike / cycle expedition to Khardung-la, Thanka painting exhibition, archery, river rafting, and folk songs. A delightful cultural experience to enjoy in the Himalayas!
MARWAR FESTIVAL | Where: Jodhpur
The Marwar Festival is celebrated in the blue hued city of Jodhpur, in Rajasthan. A two day long event, the festival takes place during the full moon. The Marwar Festival is mainly dedicated to the folk heroes of Rajasthan. The festival features Rajasthani folk music, dance and drama performances, bringing to life the myth and legends of the region. The festival also holds various competitions including the regal games of horse riding and horse polo.
DUSSEHRA | Where: various places across India
The festival of Dussehra is an important celebration in many parts of India. It is celebrated with great fanfare in most parts of North India, some parts of south India, and in the form of Durga Puja in West Bengal. Dussehra is a popular Hindu festival, which marks the defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama. Dussehra also symbolises the triumph of warrior Goddess Durga over the buffalo demon, Mahishasura. To mark the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana and celebrate the joy, paper statues of Ravana are set on fire on Dussehra day, followed by carnivals held in the cities and suburbs. Celebrations are in the form of religious ceremonies, followed by carnival entertainment with rides and games, music, dance and drama performances, grand feasts and a lot of Indian sweets.
DIWALI | Where: various places across India
One of the most popular Hindu festivals, ‘Deepawali’ or ‘Diwali’, is celebrated to mark the homecoming of Lord Rama from exile. Also called the 'Festival of Lights', Diwali is symbolized by people lighting up their houses, shops, offices with lights, earthen lamps and candles. Lakshmi Puja is performed in the evening to seek divine blessings of Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth. After the religious puja ceremony, friends and family share a grand feast and sweets, followed by a splendid display of fireworks on almost every street of the country. Diwali gifts are exchanged amongst all near and dear ones.
GURU NANAK JAYANTI | Where: Amritsar
This event commemorates the birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion. Birth anniversary of Guru Nanak is widely celebrated throughout Punjab but especially so at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, one of the most popular shrines of Sikhs. The day of the festival sees the holy book Guru Granth Sahib being carried out of the temple in a huge procession, accompanied by religious music and drummers. The beautifully illuminated temple is an incredible sight to behold at this time.
NAVARATRI | Where: Across India
Navaratri is a nine day festival that celebrates the Mother Goddess in all her manifestations. Worship and fasting take place in the daytime, while the nights are reserved for feasting and dancing. The festival culminates with Dussehra, the victory of good over evil, on the tenth day.
ASHWA POOJAN | Where: Udaipur City Palace, Rajasthan
Known as the Worship of the Horse, this unique Rajasthani festival is grandly celebrated by the Mewar royal family of Udaipur, Rajasthan. It honors the special relationship between warrior and horse. See the royal horses being worshiped by the current head of the royal family, accompanied by the palace band. A highlight of the festival is the mouthwatering Rajasthani cuisine.
RAJASTHAN INTERNATIONAL FOLK FESTIVAL | Where:Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
The eclectic Rajasthan International Folk Festival, which is the first of its kind in India, showcases regional roots of music and arts. It is a heady fusion of interactive educational events, staged performances, and late night jam sessions. Performers include singers, dancers, instrumentalists and storytellers from various Rajasthani folk communities, as well as nationally and internationally recognized artists.
PUSHKAR FAIR | Where:Mehrangarh Fort, Pushkar
Pushkar festival, held every year in the month of October / November in Rajasthan, is world famous for its camel trading, cattle auctions and camel races along with traditional activities like folk music and dances, colourful village shops and eateries serving traditional delicacies.
Flocked by thousands of tourists every year, the Pushkar fair is a unique experience - a spectacle of colours that signifies the true essence of Rajasthan, allowing you to experience the local lifestyle and blending yourself in the colourful culture of Rajasthan.
The Pushkar fair also coincides with full moon day of ‘Kartik Purnima’ when thousands of devotees immerse themselves in the Holy Pushkar Lake. Witness the rituals and see the believers wash away their sins, understand the customs and traditions and experience a stay at desert camps within walking distance to fair grounds….with a visit to the fascinating Pushkar festival.
HAMPI FESTIVAL | Where: Hampi
The Hampi Festival is celebrated in the deserted city of Hampi (in Karnataka), once the capital of the historic Vijayanagar Empire. Every year, the city of ruins, Hampi, plays host to a festival of dance and music, known as the Hampi Festival or Vijaya Utsav of Karnataka. The Hampi Dance and Music Festival attracts some of the most distinguished artists from the field of art, dance, music and drama. Splendid performances by reputed artists, against the backdrop of the ancient city of Hampi, is a fascinating experience. Other attractions of the festival include magnificent fireworks, puppet shows and elaborate processions, bringing back to life memories of the bygone era.
ELLORA FESTIVAL | Where: Aurangabad
The Ellora Festival is held every year in the Ellora Caves, situated at a distance of approximately 30 km from Aurangabad, in the state of Maharashtra. Ellora festival is a festival of dance and music, showcasing some of the best talents of the region. Some of the most distinguished singers as well as dancers of the country participate in this festival, performing against the backdrop of the structural magnificence of the ancient Ellora caves. This is a unique time to visit Aurangabad and see the city sparkle in the lights and celebrations of the Ellora festival.
KOLAYAT FAIR | Where: Bikaner
The Kolayat Fair held in Kolayat, Bikaner is also called the 'Kapil Muni Fair'. This fair is observed on the banks of Lake Kolayat. On the day of the festival, devotees take a dip in the lake to wash away their sins. The 52 Ghats along the banks of Lake Kolayat, are lit up to sparkle with festivities. Devotees and pilgrims perform their religious rituals and offer prayers, sugar drops, sweets and milk pudding to the deity. With a serene finale at dusk, several oil lamps are lit and floated on leaves in the calm lake water.
GANGA MAHOTSAV | Where: Varanasi
Held along the banks of the holy Ganges River, this unique and mystical festival features cultural programs of classical Indian music and dance. The highlight of the festival is on the last day, when more than a million clay lamps are floated down the holy river Ganges at dusk amidst chanting of Vedic Hindu hymns.
CHHATH PUJA | Where: Banks of River Ganges
The north Indian festival, traditionally celebrated by the people of Bihar, has grown to be a big occasion in Mumbai as well. Chhat Puja is devoted to worshiping the sun. People flock to the holy river Ganges to offer prayers to the Sun God at sunset. Hymns and folk songs are sung, and women fast and pray for the wellbeing of their family and friends.
GURU NANAK JAYANTI | Where: Amritsar, Punjab
This event is a commemoration of Guru Nanak's birthday, the founder of the Sikh religion and is widely celebrated throughout Punjab but especially so at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the most popular shrine of the Sikhs. The day of the festival sees the holy book carried out of the temple in a huge procession, accompanied by music and drummers. The decorated and beautifully illuminated temple is an incredible sight to behold on this day.
CHRISTMAS | Where: various places across India
Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and conveys his message of love, tolerance and brotherhood. It's a celebration of humanity and mankind. Though Christmas is primary a festival of Christian calendar, it is celebrated as a universal festival through out India. Christmas is the most important festival of Indian Christians, but celebrated with equal joy by non Christians as well. In India, people decorate banana or mango trees instead of traditional pine trees. They also light small oil-burning lamps as Christmas decorations and fill their churches and homes with red flowers. Gifts are exchanged between near and dear ones, prayers are held in the church, followed by a grand feast. Unlike their western counterparts, Indians are not big turkey eaters; so, don’t be surprised to see a grand Christmas feast that is pure vegetarian! Although at most places turkey, chicken, lamb or fish will be served.
Goa remains one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in India. The state has a large Christian population, and its many beautiful old Portuguese style churches overflow with people and Christmas cheer. Christmas decorations and trees adorn houses, streets, and market places. Christmas carols are sung and many of the churches hold midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Beach parties also abound.
KOCHI CARNIVAL | Where: Kochi
Kochi Carnival is held in the last week of December, in Kochi, every year. Fort Kochi is decorated and tourists flock to this lovely port city to participate in the festivities. Inception of the Kochi carnival can be traced back to the Portuguese New Year revelry, held here during the colonial days.
Preparations generally begin months in advance for hosting the carnival, which involves unique activities such as Kalam Vara (floor drawing), tug-of-war, bicycle race, swimming in the sea, beach volleyball and a variety of north and south Indian dance performances. The highlight of the carnival is the massive procession led by embellished elephants accompanied by drums and music. Color white dominates the concluding 10 days of December, during the Kochi Carnival. The festivities and revelries continue till midnight of December 31st with fireworks marking the grand finale.
CAMEL FESTIVAL | Where: Bikaner
The Camel Festival is held in Bikaner in Rajasthan, every year in the month of December or January. It is a festival when the ships of the desert are seen at their best - camels fascinate tourists from all over the world!
The Bikaner camel festival is a spectacle of unusual camel performances including camel races, camel dances, and the bumpy, neck shaking camel rides. The festival starts with the procession of beautifully decorated camels, heading towards open sand grounds. The Camel Pageant is held on the first day where the camel owners show off their decorated camels. Competitions are held for best decorated camel, camel milking and the best camel hair cuts. Camel dance performances are also held, where camels display amazing footwork, dancing gracefully to the slightest direction of their drivers. Camel races take place on the second day, with thousands of locals and tourists cheering the camels.
On both days, the evening ends with a rendezvous with the folk music and dances of Rajasthan. The jubilant, skirt swirling dancers, the awe inspiring fire dances and many other equally interesting performances entertain the visitors. The grand finale is a magnificent display of fireworks, illuminating the desert city of Bikaner.
FEAST OF FRANCIS XAVIER | Where: Goa
This annual celebration is held in honor of Saint Francis Xavier, one of the greatest Christian missionaries to visit India. His mummified body is kept in a casket inside the captivating Bom Jesus Basilica in Old Goa, and every year people visit to pray on the anniversary of his burial. The festival, which lasts for several days before and after the feast and includes a large fair, is one of the most important Christian events in Goa.
MT ABU WINTER FESTIVAL | Where: Mt. Abu, Rajasthan
The cool, green hill settlement of Mt Abu in Rajasthan becomes vibrant during the annual Winter Festival which captures the spirit of Rajasthan tribal life and culture. Enjoy ceremonial processions, folk performances, fireworks, and competitions such as skating races, boat races, horse races, and tug-of-war. A mix crowd of locals and tourists alike make the festival enjoyable for all.
CHENNAI MUSIC FESTIVAL | Where: Chennai
This popular and much anticipated month long festival is often described as the world's largest cultural event. The Chennai Music Festival serves up a plethora of traditional south Indian music, dances and performances. Over 1,000 performances take place during the festival, along with music related seminars, discussions, and demonstrations.
MAMALLAPURAM INDIAN DANCE FESTIVAL | Where: Arjuna's Penance, Mamallapuram
The open air India Dance Festival is held against a background of rock sculptures in the beach town of Mamallapuram, just south of Chennai. The Dance Festival runs for a month and showcases a range of classical and folk dances from all over India. A dancers paradise, this dance festival brings the small coastal town back to life.