Being the land of diverse races, religions, and culture and heritage, our country celebrates numerous festivals with immense faith and fervour. I wait for the new year, just so that I can enjoy Pongal in January, Holi and Easter in March and so on. Out of the hundreds of festivals that are celebrated in India by its diverse population, some are celebrated all over the country like Christmas, Diwali and Holi. On the other hand, there are some very region-specific festivals like Bihu, Ugadi, Chhath, and many others. The month of May is here, and the Goa Carnival, Pongal, Taj Mahotsav, Rann Utsav and Holi are already gone.
I don’t want to miss the festivities of the rest of the year, and I know you don’t want that either. Here is a little travel-festival calendar for whatever is left of 2016, for everybody to mark these days in their respective schedules, take time out and make the most of the festivities with friends and family in places which are best known for them. So, make it your wishlist for this year, and experience these amazing places at their festive-best!
Eid-Ul-Fitr – 07 July
Common belief is that Jama Masjid in Delhi has the best Eid celebrations in India, but try visiting Srinagar for Eid this time! Hazratbal, where the holy relic of Prophet Muhammad is believed to be enshrined on the bank of Dal Lake, is at its tranquil best during this time. The shrine in addition to the beauty of the lake and the calmness in all the hustle-bustle is an experience in itself.
Hemis Festival – 14-15 July
Hemis Gompa, the largest and richest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh plays host to the popular yearly festival day called Hemis Festival. During the festival, the locals get dressed-up in traditional clothes, and loads of jewellery and the Lamas perform the sacred masked dance, representing various characters such as demons, Guru Padmasambhava himself, Yama, the God of death and Guru Trapko, a wizard and slayer of demons, narrating stories of the triumph of good over evil.
Krishna Janmashtami – 25 August
This festival is different ways in different parts of the country. Mathura and Vrindavan gleam with decorations and prayers in houses and temples marking the birth and childhood of Lord Krishna and Raas Lilas being performed by people. Mumbai is another treat because of the dahi handi celebrations signifying natkhat Krishna’s childhood antics.
Ganesh Chaturthi – 05 September
The spectacular Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in all of Maharashtra, specifically Mumbai, include elaborately crafted statutes of Ganesha installed in homes and podiums, which are especially constructed and beautifully decorated. At the end of the festival, the statutes are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, and then submerged in the ocean. The city of Mumbai is all lit up and decorated and is the most beautiful at this time.
Onam – 13-16 September
Marking the homecoming of King Mahabali, people decorate the ground in front of their houses with flowers arranged in beautiful patterns for his welcome. God’s own country comes together to celebrate this harvest festival with much joy. On the fourth day of the celebrations, trained performers painted like tigers in bright yellows, reds, black and white, dance to the beats of musical instruments performing the Pulikali, literally meaning the ‘play of tigers’.
Durga Puja – 07-11 October
The most beautiful idols of Durga can be seen in West Bengal during these four-five days. Mouth-watering food, mesmerizing music, dramas and dances and bright decorations cover Kolkata and the beauty of this city during this time is unmatchable.
Dusshera – 11 October
The most beautiful celebrations of Navratri and Dusshera happen in Gujarat with night-long dances, sartorial excellence and colourful decorations. Another place to be in during Dusshera is Mysore where elephant processions take place through the city that’s lit with almost one lakh bulbs!
Diwali – 30 October
India is known all over the world for its celebration of Diwali, also known as the "Festival of Lights" for all the fireworks, small clay lamps, and candles that are lit during the celebrations. There is not one perfect place to visit during Diwali but the best places would undoubtedly be Jaipur for the decorations, Varanasi for the lights, millions of people and the Ganga Aarti, and Amritsar because it coincides with the Sikh celebrations of Bandi Chhor Divas.
Pushkar Camel Festival - 08-14 November
A seven-day gala affair in the sacred town of Pushkar, the annual Pushkar Camel Festival is known internationally for bringing out the different shades of the state of royalty, vibrancy and flamboyance. An unforgettable experience for all tourists, the art and culture of the place are the main attractions of this fair.
Hornbill Festival – 03-11 December
One will be amazed by the diversity that can be present in one state. There are different tribes in Nagaland, and each has its own art and craft, music, dance, etc. The largest cultural and tribal festival is hosted by Nagaland ever year to showcase its treasure of indigenous culture. The Festival of Festivals, The Hornbill Festival in Kohima is a feast for unique, tribal food-lovers!
Make sure you don’t miss out on any festivities and celebrations and book your tickets to these destinations.
Cover picture credits - Dhruv Khanna