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Festivals in India

Festivals in India, are vibrant and exotic in every sense of the word and are celebrated with a lot of fervour by all religions and people of the country. Amidst the awe-inspiring architecture, the colour-filled marketplaces and the myriad topography of the various states, one also finds a host of fairs and festivals that are unique in themselves. The people of India celebrate each occasion, be it religious, at the time of harvest or to mark the change of season and give it a festive colour. Participating in these various fairs and festivals is truly a recognition of the importance of celebrating each act of life in all its entirety.

January

New Year day

When: 1 Jan

Highlights

New Year's Day ushers an occasion of universal celebration. It is an occasion when rejoicing bids farewell to the passing year with a grand welcome to the New Year. The time and celebration of New Year varies from region to region and religion to religion across the world.

Bikaner Camel Festival

Where: Bikaner (Rajasthan)

Highlights

It is a colourful spectacle of the beautifully decorated camels that fascinates the onlookers with their charm and grace. Several competitions are held, marked with typical Rajasthani colour, joyous music and lilting rhythms and gay festivities. The dates of the festival differ every year. The festivities advance to the open sand-spreads of the Polo Grounds, followed by camel races, camel milking, fur cutting design, the best breed competition, camel acrobatics, camel bands and so on. The camels display amazing footwork, dancing gracefully to the slightest direction of their riders.

Kerala Village Fair (Kerala)

When: Mid January

Where: In the lush green villages around Kovalam in Kerala.

Highlights

Traditional thatched houses are decorated during this ten-day long festival and are the venue for folk dances, music and festivities. This fair represents the nostalgic recreation of bygone era of rustic simplicity and ethnic charm. Astrologers, artisans and even sorcerers, provide the visitor a glimpse of Kerala's rich past. A typical Kerala village is recreated replete with the traditional Nalukettu houses, 'chayakkada' local teashops etc.

Kolkata Festival (West Bengal)

Where: The festival is held in Calcutta now known as Kolkata.

Highlights

The festival is full of fun and frolic and attracts the local crowd, as well as people from neighboring districts. It is held every year in the centrally located garden area of the city of Calcutta. Ethnic food stalls displaying Bengali cuisine and cultural events make this a lively occasion.

Modhera Dance Festival (Gujrat)

Where: The Sun Temple in Modhera, Gujarat

When: The festival is held every year in January for three days

Highlights

The idea is to present classical dance forms in an atmosphere they were originally presented in.

FEBRUARY

Nagaur Fair

Where: Nagaur in Rajasthan

Highlights

Nagaur bustles with life during the annual cattle fair, which is one of the largest in the country. Exciting games, tug of war, camel races and strains of ballads create a joyful atmosphere. The Fair is renowned for the trading of cows, bullocks, oxen, camels and horses, which takes place during the festival. Their owners are seen wearing colourful turbans and flaunting long moustaches. Wooden items, iron craft and leather accessories are available in abundance during the fair. Various games are organized during this four-day festival. The quaint town of Nagaur, one of the most picturesque of Rajput townships stirs to life during the Nagaur Fair. This cattle fair is the second largest in Rajasthan and is held every year during the month of Jan & Feb.

Baneshwar Fair

Where: Baneshwar near Udaipur in Rajasthan

Highlights

Baneshwar Fair is usually held in January/February during Shivratri in Baneshwar, near Udaipur in Rajasthan. It is primarily a tribal fair where Bhils from Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat join with their brethren in Rajasthan to worship Lord Shiva. Saffron is applied to the Shiv Linga in the morning after bathing and is followed with an aarti with incense sticks. Traditional folk songs are performed by the Bhils attending the Fair. Other villagers are also invited in the programmes that take place. Songs, folk dances, magic shows, and acrobatic feats are all part of the fair. Swings and merry-go-rounds add to the excitement of the villagers.

Desert Festival

Where: Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

Highlights

The Desert Festival is a 3-day extravaganza of colour, music and festivity, held at the golden city of Jaisalmer. Fire dancers swaying to traditional tunes, a turban tying competition and a Mr. Desert Contest are a part of the fun and frolic. The grand finale is a trip to the Sam Dunes where one can enjoy the pleasure of a camel ride and even watch the folk dancers and musicians perform. The high points of the festival are snake charmers, puppeteers, acrobats and folk artists. Camels, the lifeline of the desert, play a foremost role. Proud moustached villagers, dressed in their ethnic best come astride their picturesquely caparisoned camels to join in the camel dances and competitions of camel acrobatics, camel races, camel polo, tug of war and the like. The very rich and colourful Rajasthani folk culture is on show here when Rajasthani men and tall beautiful women dressed in their brightly coloured costumes and jewellery, dance and sing lingering ballads of valour, romance and tragedy. Traditional musicians attempt to outdo each other in their musical superiority.

Surajkund Crafts Fair

Where: Faridabad, Haryana

When: This delightful handloom and handicrafts fair is held annually at Surajkund from 1-15 February

Highlights

India's spectacular handloom and handicrafts fair is organised in a rural setting at Surajkund in the vicinity of New Delhi.At this annual fortnight long fair, crafts men from all over the country get together and bring along the age-old living arts & crafts of their various states. Visitors can see them at work and shop for some of the world's most treasured wares. . Skilled artisans from all over the country display the rich crafts tradition of India in the typical rural setting. Cultural programmes and rural cuisine are also part of this colourful fair.

Taj Mahotsav

Where : Agra, Uttar Pradesh

When: The Taj Mahotsav is a non-stop 10 day carnival held annually.

Highlights

The impressive festival commences with a spectacular procession inspired by Mughal splendour. Bedecked elephants and camels, drum beaters, folk artists and master craftsmen together recreate the glorious past of the Mughals.

It is a festive introduction to India and Uttar Pradesh in particular. India's extensive arts, crafts and culture are on display. Folk music, shayari (poetry) and classical dance performances as well as elephant and camel rides, games and a food festival, all form a part of the festivities. The Taj Mahotsav is truly India at her best with a glimpse of her rich heritage and extraordinary legacies.

Khajuraho Dance festival

Where : Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh

When: The week- long festival of classical dances is held every year in February/March

Highlights

Once the religious capital of Chandela dynasty, Khajuraho is now famous for it's enchanting temples and it's legendary Khajuraho dance festival held against the spectacular backdrop of the magnificently lit temples. This cultural festival highlights the richness of the various Indian classical dance styles such as Kathak, Bharathanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri and Kathakali with performances of some of the best exponents in the field. Modern Indian dance has also been added recently. It is held during the month of March from 6th to 12th. The dances are performed in an open-air auditorium, usually in front of the Chitragupta Temple dedicated to Surya (the Sun God) and the Vishwanatha Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, belonging to the western group.

Along with the renowned performers, a number of craftsmen display their crafts to the visitors. There is an open market where local articles are for sale. Khajuraho Dance Festival is conducted as a celebration of the cultural heritage of Khajuraho temples and preserving it for posterity.Over the years the festival has gained popularity among the tourists coming from within the country and abroad.

Goa Carnival

Where : Goa

When: The carnival is held in February for three days and nights.

Highlights

Among the many colorful feasts and festivals that are celebrated in Goa, the Goa Carnival is the most eagerly awaited event of the year. The Carnival is exclusive and unique to Goa, and was introduced by the Portuguese who ruled over Goa for over five hundred years.

According to history the festival astarted when the legendary king Momo took over the state and the streets came alive with music and color. Then began the weeklong event, which is a time of unbridled festivity and merry-making, which has been celebrated since the 18th Century.

The carnival is meant for feasting-drinking-merrymaking just before the austere 40 days of Lent. Huge parades are organized throughout the state with bands, dances and floats out all night on the streets, and grand balls held in the evenings. The carnival concludes with the famous red-and-black dance held by the Clube National in Panaji on the final day.

From being almost on the brink of decline, this three day festival of gay abandon and riotous revelry now attracts thousands of tourists to Goa from all over India & abroad, every year!

MARCH

March Elephant Festival

Where: Jaipur, Rajasthan

Highlights

Out of several festivals celebrated with elephants, the one which is widely participated by Indians and foreign tourists is the Elephant Festival celebrated in Jaipur during (March/April).

During the festival, Jaipur comes alive with elephants, dancers and musicians which draw visitors from all over the world. The most unique feature of this festival is that all the Elephants which take part in this festival are female Elephants.

The elephants greet the visitors, offer garlands to the guests and walk past the ramp before a jury of experts and tourists who select the best amongst them for the "Best decorated Elephant" trophy.

Elephant races and polo matches are special features. The tug of war between elephants and men is probably the most hilarious highlight of the festival.

MAY

Summer Festival

Where: Mount Abu, Rajasthan

Highlights

The Summer Festival is held at Mount Abu in Rajasthan every year in the month of June. The steep rocks, tranquil lakes, picturesque locations and the pleasant climate of Mount Abu make it an ideal location for the festival. The three-day festival is a feast of folk and classical music and a window to the tribal life and culture of Rajasthan. The festival begins with the singing of a ballad, which is followed by Gair, Ghoomar and Daph folk dances which enthral the spectators.

International Flower Festival

Where: Sikkim, North East India

Highlights

A rare show of exotic varieties of flowers, orchids and other plants native to Sikkim, a north east state. Held every summer during the peak flowering season, this is a spectacular event attracting people from all over India.The tiny state of Sikkim, famous for its flora which is in full bloom during March-May has around 600 species of orchids, 240 species of trees and ferns, 150 varieties of gladioli, 46 types of rhododendrons along with a variety of magnolias and many other foliage plants.

JUNE

Sindhu Darshan Festival

Where: Leh & Ladakh

Highlights

The Sindhu Darshan Festival is organised annually at Leh. People travel for a Darshan and Puja of the River Sindhu (Indus), which originates from the Mansarovar in Tibet. The Festival aims at projecting the Sindhu River as a symbol of multi-dimensional cultural identity, communal harmony and peaceful co-existence in India. It is also an opportunity for people from around the country and overseas to visit the beautiful regions of Leh and Ladakh.

As part of the celebrations, various groups from different states in India bring water from the other mighty rivers in the country in earthen pots and immerse them in the Sindhu River, thereby mingling the river water with other waters of the land. The festival promises a kaleidoscope of Indian culture and an exciting array of performing arts being brought together at an exciting place.

Rath Yatra

Where: Puri, Orissa

Highlights

This spectacular chariot festival celebrated for 8 days is held at the famous Jagannath Temple at Puri. Thousands of devotees flock to Puri during the occasion, as they believe that a glimpse of Lord Jagannath in his chariot gives salvation. Images of Lord Jagannath - the Lord of the Universe, his sister Subhadra and brother Balbhadra are taken out in a procession in three immense chariots.

The Jagannath Temple at Puri, Orissa is the venue for all celebrations. Several lakh people converge at Puri for this festival. An atmosphere of almost hysterical devotion prevails on this day and in earlier years devotees were known to have thrown themselves under the wheels of the chariot in the hope of obtaining instant salvation.

The Champakulam Boat Race

Where: Chanpakulam, Kerala

Highlights

This is the oldest and most popular snake boat race in Kerala, and is closely connected to the Sree Krishna Temple at Ambalappuzha. The race is held at the end of June or early July every year on the Champakulam Lake on the day of the installation of the deity at the Temple.

The festivities include spectacular water floats, decorated boats, the song of the oarsmen and the most thrilling Chundanvallom race. Chundans are a category of boats over 100 feet in length with raised prows. The foreign rulers first called them snake boats.

AUGUST

The famous Kerala Boat Race

Where: Alappuzha, Kerala

Highlights

The Nehru Trophy boat race is organized every year on the second Saturday in the month of August. The drum beats and boat songs called vanchipattu that complement these boat races, almost work the spectators and the oarsmen into a frenzy of activity and adds a sense of thrill to the entire boat race.

This was started in 1952 when India's first Prime Minister, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, visited Alappuzha, and inaugurated the function in which the gigantic snake boats with over 100 rowers in each raced one another. Today the Boat Race has grown into Alappuzha's single most important tourist event with boats being sponsored by different villages. Competition is severe as the boats with over 100 rowers in each, race to finish to the accompaniment of rousing music.

This adventure filled water sport is definitely worth a visit and attracts a large number of tourists from all over the world & India.

OCTOBER

Marwar Festival

Where: Jodhpur, Rajasthan

Highlights

The festival is celebrated in Sept-Oct in Jodhpur, the former capital of Marwar Province. The festival has on display the music and dance of the Marwar region. The spirited folk dancers assembled here, perform with gusto and entertain the audience with Rajasthani folklore.

The massive Mehangarh fort and the impresive Umaid Bhawan Palace which are symbols of might and valour of the Rajputs, make Jodhpur an ideal location for the festival. The festival is held for two days during the full moon of Sharad Purnima.

Rajgir Dance festival

Where: Rajgir, Bihar

Highlights

The colourful festival of dance and music is held at Rajgir, the ancient capital of the Magadha kings. Department of Tourism, Bihar organises every year, this vibrant festival of classical and folk dances at Rajgir - the land where the Buddha meditated and preached.

NOVEMBER

Pushkar Fair

Where: Pushkar, Rajasthan

Highlights

This fair is held at Pushkar town, 11 km from Ajmer in Rajasthan for twelve days annually in the month of 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 India and abroad.

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 India. Hundreds of thousands of devotees take a ritual dip in the holy Pushkar Lake on the full moon night and worship at the Brahma temple. Pilgrims flock from all over India to be in Pushkar at this auspicious time. They also believe that all the 330 million Gods and Goddesses are present at Pushkar Lake during the occasion.

Hampi Festival

Where: Hampi, Karnataka

Highlights

Organized by the Government of Karnataka, the Hampi festival includes Dance, drama, music, fireworks, puppet shows, spectacular processions, all combine to recreate the grandeur of the bygone era. The festival is held in the first week of November every year.

DECEMBER

Ellora Festival

Where: Ellora Caves, Aurangabad

Highlights

It is a festival of dance and music held December in the splendid surroundings of the world-heritage listed cave temple of Ellora, about 30km from Aurangabad, Maharashtra.

This festival showcases the best talents and is a unique and charming way to experience the magnificent caves, imbibing centuries of history and culture. The festival is organised by Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) where India's renowned artists (musicians & dancers) perform, with the caves forming a splendid backdrop.

Cochin carnival

Where: Kochi, Kerala

When: Last Week of December

Highlights

Cochin Carnival is a merry making festival attended by hundreds of people. The carnival is as old as the days of the colonial rule when the Portuguese New Year revelry was held during the same time.

Today, it has more of a party like atmosphere enjoyed by the youth. Games, competitions and illumination during these days give Fort Kochi a festive look. The highlight of the Carnival is the massive procession on the New Year Day.

Konark Festival

Where: Orissa

Highlights

The sun temple in Konark is famed as a world heritage site. The exquisite 'Natyamandir' or the 'dancing hall' of this 700-year old shrine is an architectural wonder with well-adorned sculptures in Odissi dance poses.

Konark Dance Festival is held in December in the beautiful backdrop of the Sun temples in Konark, Orissa. This world heritage sight formed way back in the 13 th century on the beach of Chandrabagha. The exquisite 'Natamandir' or the 'dancing hall' of this shrine is an architectural wonder.

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