#BestOfTravel Decoding India - One Festival At A Time

Photo of #BestOfTravel Decoding India - One Festival At A Time by anshul akhoury

I left my job in June 2017 and decided to backpack across India. Seeking an understanding on the culture, lifestyle and rituals across this country was not an easy task but I thought of giving an attempt.

In a few months, I understood that India is more complex than it seems. Despite this confusion, I ended up exploring a lot of festivals and how people across India live and never miss a chance to sing and dance showcasing this.

So let's go on a journey in 2018 across deserts, oceans, suburbs and so much more. This trip started covers the states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Bihar, Punjab, Gujarat and West Bengal. So shall we start the journey?

Uttarayan, Ahmedabad - Jan 2018

Uttarayan is celebrated on the occasion of the first day of sun's transit into the Makara (Capricorn) and marking the end of the winters. The local folks of Gujarat celebrate this festival in every corner of the world. They fly kites in the afternoon, dance on the tunes of Garba in the evening and then fly hundreds of sky lanterns in night.

Photo of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India by anshul akhoury

Desert Festival, Jaisalmer - Jan 2018

Photo of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by anshul akhoury

Rural Olympics, Kila Raipur - Feb 2018

The history of Rural Olympics is very interesting. I had first visited this festival in 2017 and loved it so much that I returned here again in 2018.

Photo of Kila Raipur, Punjab, India by anshul akhoury

Basantotsav, Shantinketan - March 2018

People don't know this but it was Rabindranath Tagore who came up with idea of spreading the culture of Holi with colors all over India. Before that, the festival was limited to a few places and every region had their own style of celebrating it.

Gudi Padwa, Mumbai - March 2018

The Marathi folks celebrate Gudi Padwa to mark the beginning of their New Year. Men and women dressed in their traditional attire. You'll see men and women beating huge drums, display of local culture and heroes is all over the place.

Jotiba Yatra, Kolhapur - March 2018

While backpacking in Maharashtra someone told me about a festival near Kolhapur where the entire temple complex is painted with dry colors of Gulal. The festival which sees people coming up with 50feet high Sasan Kathis and holding it on their shoulder or if you are more devout then on your head.

Turtle Festival, Anjarle - April 2018

Not a traditional festival but Anjarle Turtle Festival is a result of the people of Konkan and their zeal to protect the Olive Ridley Turtles. This effort has resulted in 100s of Olive Ridleys coming to beaches of Konkan to lay their eggs. Anjarle Turtle Festival is organized during the week when these eggs are supposed to hatch.

Charlie Chaplin Festival, Adipur - April 2018

People visit Bhuj to explore Kutch and be a part of gorgeous Kutch festival. I am still too poor to afford the costs of camping and traveling during the festival time. However, I ended up visiting Bhuj to see a small fan club celebrating the legendary comedian's birthday.

Photo of Adipur, Gandhidham, Gujarat, India by anshul akhoury

Festivals bring people closer and Uttarayan does the exactly the same. Friends and family gather on one of the designated rooftops where everyone brings food, drinks and snacks.

Desert Festival of Jaisalmer has a history which goes back to the year 1196. After Independence of India, this festival was given a status of one of the prime attractions of Rajasthan. Today this festival brings visitors from every corner of the world. Some of these visitors have come here multiple times just because of the warmth of the locals and the festival's vibe.

Photo of #BestOfTravel Decoding India - One Festival At A Time by anshul akhoury

Events like Turban Tying competition, Mustache competition and folk dances are the primary attraction of the festival. If you need a closer look into Rajasthan's heritage and culture then this is where you should be.

Kila Raipur rural olympics celebrates a lot of things. But most importantly, it celebrates Punjabiyat. The feeling of Punjab comes through the language, the food, the dance and the music. Kila Raipur gives you the feeling of being at the friendliest place in the world. Everyone is so happy here.

Losar, Bodh Gaya - Feb 2018

The Buddhist community celebrates their New Year in the month of January. While a majority of folks who wish to experience this festival go to Ladakh or McLeodganj, I on the other hand went to the place whee Buddhism originated.

Photo of Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India by anshul akhoury

Lord Buddha attained Bodhisatva under the Bodhi Tree which is still present in the Mahabodhi Complex. The followers of Buddhism visit Bodh Gaya from every corner of the world to offer their respects.

Photo of #BestOfTravel Decoding India - One Festival At A Time by anshul akhoury

But the prayers and the rituals are not what makes Losar at Bodh Gaya different. The eco friendly way of decorating the temple complex is something you won't find anywhere. This is the only temple complex that uses old plastic bottles and uses them as flowerpots. A learning experience for everyone who want to understand how to cut down plastic consumption.

Since then, Shantiketan has been celebrating the festival of Holi as huge cultural event. Dance and musical performances and happy people putting dry colors over everyone. The locals come here dressed in their finest traditional Bengali Attire and dance till their feet give up.

My fascination with this festival is because of dominated by the women it is. Gudi Padwa celebrates female power in the best way possible. The rallies are headlined by the women dressed in their traditional costumes riding Bullets. WOW!!!

The crazy vibe of this festival is amplified with people throwing pink gulal in the air. Soon the entire temple complex is colored in the pink. The faith speaks over everything because how else will people walk barefoot on the marble when the temperature of Kolhapur is itself 40 degrees.

The festival's aim is spread the knowledge about the conservation of Olive Ridely turtles. You'll find families and little kids standing in a line waiting patiently for these little hatchlings to arrive on the beach. Watching them take their first step towards the ocean makes you feel really calm and relieved.

The festival is organized in a small town of Adipur where hundreds Charlie Chaplin fans walk on the streets dressed like him .

Photo of #BestOfTravel Decoding India - One Festival At A Time by anshul akhoury

Again the happy vibes of this festival was so comforting that I didn't wish to leave the place. But then they cut a huge cake and the celebration ended with the promise of returning next year.

Exploring India is a feeling larger than life. A mixture of so many colors always finds a way to be happy and spread it. I am just waiting for the coming months and whatever surprises it is hiding.

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