Festivals of India
The Indian calendar is a
long procession of festivals. If you can find yourself in the right place
at the right time, it is possible to go through your visit with a festival
each day. The harvest festivals of the south, the immersion of
Ganesh in Bombay, the Car Festival of Puri, Snake Boat races in Kerala,
Republic Day in Delhi... every region, every religion has something
to celebrate. Below is a selection of the major ones.
JANUARY / FEBRUARY
Makar Sankranti -It's
a time of great festivities throughout the nation with people taking a dip
in the holy rivers and seas. In Gujarat particularly, it is the time
to witness and extravaganza of Kite flying in what has become an
International Kite Festival.
Pongal - mainly held in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and
Karnataka. A 3-days colourful Tamil harvest festival.
Republic Day - held
on 26th January every year, this is a National holiday that
commemorates the establishment of the Indian Republic in 1950. It's a
grand military parade and procession of colourful floats, dancers
and so on.
VasantPanchami - celebrated on a National level mainly in the
Eastern region, it is a Hindu festival dedicated to
the Goddess of Learning. It is marked by people wearing yellow
FEBRUARY / MARCH
Shivaratri - is
celebrated on a National level. It marks the wedding anniversary of
and his consort
It's a day of fasting for devout Hindus. Special celebrations are
held in Shiva temples throughout the country like Chidambaram,
Kalahasti, Khajuraho, Varanasi and Bombay.
Holi - celebrated mainly in North India, this is a very popular
festival of colours. It marks the advent of Spring. Lively and much
throwing of coloured water and powders marks this 2-day festival.
This festival is also associated with legends of Lord Krishna.
Mardi Gras - is a 3-day festival held in Goa. The main
feature is the Carnival and the gaiety associated with it.
Ram Navami - celebrated at a National level, marks the
an incarnation of Lord
and the hero of the epic
It's a 9-day festival of fasting and is marked by plays and folk
Mahavira Jayanti - is a National level festival that marks
the birth of Mahavira the 24th
(apostle) of the Jains and the founder of Jainism.
Good Friday / Easter - is celebrated at a National level.
Kumbha Mela - the oldest and most important of the Hindu
festivals. It takes place every three years, at one of the four
great holy cities - Nasik (Maharashtra), Ujjain (Madhya
Pradesh), Prayag or Allahabad and Haridwar (both in Uttar Pradesh). It is
attended by millions of pilgrims who take a holy dip in the holy rivers.
APRIL / MAY
Baisakhi - celebrated
mostly in North India, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, this marks the Hindu
Solar New Year.
Pooram - celebrated in Trichur, in the State of Kerala, it
marks the New Moon. The main feature of the festival is the spectacular
sight of large number of elephants carrying ceremonial umbrellas going
round the temple and the midnight fireworks display.
Id-ul-Zuha - or Bakr-id is a Muslim festival celebrated on a
National level. It commemorates the martyrdom of Abraham and is
marked by the sacrifice of lambs.
d-ul-Fitr - is a
Muslim festival that marks the end of the month of
a month long period of fasting.
Meenakshi Kalyanam - celebrated in Madurai, this
festival marks the marriage of goddess
(another name of goddess
It is a colourful 10-day temple festival wherein the deities borne by
colossal chariot are taken out on a procession.
Urs - celebrated at Ajmer in the State of Rajasthan is a 6-days
religious cultural and commercial extravaganza dedicated to a Sufi
saint at the
JUNE / JULY
Rath Yatra -
celebrated mainly at Puri in the State of Orissa, is one of the greatest
temple festivals in the honour of Lord
(Lord of the Universe), a form of
Three colossal chariots are drawn from the
temple by thousands of pilgrims. Similar festivals, on a smaller scale,
take place at Ramnagar (near Varanasi), Serampore (near Calcutta) and
Jagannathpur near Ranchi).
Teej - celebrated in
North India particularly in Rajasthan, marks the onset of the
monsoon. In Jaipur, processions of elephants, camels, dancers
etc are taken out. It is a colourful festival especially for women.
Raksha Bandhan - is celebrated mostly in North and West
India. It's a legendary reenactment of sisters tying colourful 'rakhis'
(bracelets or talisman) on their brother's wrists.
- is a Hindu pilgrimage journey that takes one to the Amarnath Cave in the
Lidder Valley of Kashmir at full moon. Pilgrims visit the place where
Lord Shiva explained the secret of salvation to his consort Parvati.
Independence Day - celebrated on 15th August every year marks
the day when India got her Independence. It's marked by
celebrations throughout the country. In Delhi the Prime
Minister delivers his annual address to the nation at the historic
Janmashtami - celebrated nation wide marks the birth of
Lord Krishna. It is a day of fasting, temple celebrations, plays and folk
theatres and colourful floats depicting the life and times of Lord
Onam - is a harvest festival of the State of Kerala. The main
feature being the spectacular snake boat races.
Ganesh Chaturthi - celebrated mainly in the states
Maharashtra and Orissa, is dedicated to the elephant-headed God
Giant models of the deity are taken out in a procession and immersed in
the sea or rivers. It is a colourful festival and worth visiting on
the Day of Immersion at Mumbai.
EPTEMBER / OCTOBER
Dussehra - is a
nation wide 10-day festival that is celebrated in different ways in
different parts of the country. In the north and
particularly in Delhi it is marked by plays known as
that recalls the life of
and the episodes of the
On the 10th day effigies of
the king of Lanka are burnt amidst fireworks. In Kullu in the State of
Himachal Pradesh, the festival is marked by a colourful fair. In Bengal
and many parts of Eastern India it is known as
and on the 10th day idols of Goddess
are immersed in the sea or the rivers.
In South India it is
(festival of 9-nights). Dolls in various forms of gods and goddesses are
arranged in built-up step called golupadi. Women of all ages are invited
for the pooja and small return gifts are given.
Durga Pooja - Durga,
the warrior Goddess is worshipped in colourful Puja pandals and the
images are taken out in grand procession to the sea or rivers where they
are immersed amidst chanting and singing.
Diwali - is a nation wide festival that comes after 20 days
of Dussehra. It is one of the most lively and colourful festivals in
India. In some parts of the country, it marks the start of the Hindu New
Year. In Eastern India, the goddess
is particularly worshipped; elsewhere, it is
the goddess of prosperity, who is venerated. Everywhere there are
magnificent illuminations and fireworks.
Pushkar Mela - is an
annual Cattle Fair held at Pushkar in the State of Rajasthan. It's a
colourful fair attended by people from miles around. Camel races,
acrobatics and folkdance and music are some of its highlights.
Christmas - is a nation wide celebrated festival. It is most
exuberantly celebrated in Goa, Bombay and South India.
Note - besides the above festivals there are hundreds of festivals
and fairs, which are of regional significance, celebrated with equal pomp