Being home to hundreds of cultures, ethnicities, languages and races, there is always a fair or a festival happening somewhere or the other in India. Festival holidays are celebrated almost every month for some reason or the other (Holi for the onset of spring, Raksha Bandhan for the brother-sister bond, Ramnavami, Krishnashtami and so on), winter festivals are the most enjoyed because of the pleasant weather as well as because most major festivals such as Dusserah, Diwali, and Christmas fall during the winter months. The best way to visit a place is in fact during the festival and fair season because that brings out the best out of that place and also changes the place into one great carnival. Apart from revealing the religious fervour, these festivals are also great times to showcase art, culture, dance, and music of the place. If you want to catch a true-blue Indian festival in all its splendour, get in touch with Xenia Cities for a tour package or a planned group tour of the best fairs and festivals of India.
Durga Puja, Kolkata
Durga Puja, or worship of the feminine power which triumphs over evil, is celebrated throughout the country but is in its best form in West Bengal. Kolkata literally comes alive during these ten days and the entire city turns into a canvas of beauty, art, and colour. Pandals are erected at different parts of the city to house huge idols of Mother Durga who is said to have fought with the dreaded demon Mahishasura for nine nights and finally conquered him on the tenth day. One can go around the city visiting these various stunningly decorated pandals, eating street food, shopping and enjoying dance performances at the venues. Truly, there is no better time to visit Kolkata than during the time of Durga Puja.
Diwali, Everywhere in India
Diwali, or the festival of lights, is another extraordinary festival celebrated everywhere in the country. This festival is also symbolic of the triumph of good over evil as it is believed that on this day, Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura and emerged victorious. Others believe that this is the day when Lord Rama finished his 14 years of exile in the forest and returned home to Ayodhya after defeating the demon king Ravana. It is also considered the first day of the new year in many states and Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped on this day to ask her for fill the house with good luck and wealth. Houses are adorned with oil lamps lit in small clay containers called Diyas, crackers are burnt and gifts are exchanged among family members and friends.
Pongal, South India
Pongal is the harvest festival since most of South India is dependent on agriculture. Since it is the time of harvest, special dishes are prepared using newly harvested rice, jaggery and sugar cane. One of the main dishes is the payasam which is a sweet dish made of rice, milk and jaggery. Special pujas are conducted at this time to remember ancestors. Oxen and cattle are worshipped in rural areas.
Ziro Festival of Music, Arunachal Pradesh
The Ziro Music Festival in the picturesque Ziro Valley of Arunachal Pradesh is one of the coolest events showcasing artists, bands and musicians from across the country. Usually spread over three days, the event allows visitors to stay in tents put up at the venue itself, enjoying the fun of the festival at all times. The festival is also attended by international bands.
Kite Festival, Gujarat
Kite festival in held for two days every year in January. It brings kiting enthusiasts from all over the world and is truly one of the unique and colourful festivals of India.
Hornbill Festival, Nagaland
This special folk festival was started to showcase exclusive Naga tribal traditions and customs to the world. Held at the Naga Heritage Village from 1st to 7th of December of every year, it aims to protect the distinctive cultures of the various tribes in the form of crafts, ceremonies, games, music, fashion shows, flower shows, dancing, archery, wrestling, musical concerts, food fairs and displays of hand-made products. One of the highlights is the Naga Morungs exhibition with stalls showcasing paintings, wood carvings and sculptures. It is also the place for various tribes to assimilate.
Carnival Festival, Goa
Usually held in the three days preceding Lent in February, the Goa Carnival dates back to the time when Goa was ruled by the Portuguese and later by the Catholics. The carnival is reminiscent of the Pagan and Greek carnivals but it now more or less secular. The first day is marked by a procession headed by King Momo followed by flocks of dancers, bands of troubadours dressed as fortune tellers, and funnily dressed people who participate in mock battles. The carnival ends with the famous dance where women in red top and black skirts and men in red shirts and black trousers dance with bands in a procession. There are several folk dances, music concerts, and processions held during these three days. A great time to soak in the cultural traditions of Goa.
Kashmir Winter Carnival or the Pahalgam Winter Fest
Held in February of every year, the Pahalgam Winter Festival is organised by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department to give a glimpse into Kashmiri culture. There will be village walks, forest walks and tonga (chariot) rides along with exhibitions of local handicrafts, street food, special shows from artists across the country.
Jodhpur Nagaur fair, Rajasthan
The eight-day Jodhpur Nagaur Fair is the second biggest fair in india and is held every year in the months of January or February. Also called the Cattle Fair of Nagaur, it is marked by the trading of lavishly decorated camels, bullocks, sheep and horses. There are also competitions like camel races, bullock races, cock fights and tug-of-war, activities like puppet shows, juggling, story-telling and magic and stalls selling spices, wooden crafts, camel leather accessories and iron-crafts.
Bodh Mahotsav, Bodhgaya, Bihar
The Bodh Mahotsav is a three-day carnival held in Bodhgaya during the months of January and February. A variety of programs such as fashion shows, music concerts, food shows, quiz competitions, gramin (village) haat and performances from various national and international artists will be held during those three days. Before the festival, a Gyan Yatra is organised wherein participants will walk from the Prga Bodhi caves in the Dhungeshwari hills up to the World Heritage Mahabodhi Mahavihara, 9 kilometers away, to trace Lord Buddha’s jouney to enlightenment.
Festa De Diu, Daman and Diu
The Festa De Diu is India’s longest music festival, starting in early December and ending around mid-February. The entire place is transformed into one big carnival with adventure zones, camps right on the beach, hot air balloon rides, bungee jumping and zip lines. This is also a great time to explore this tiny, picturesque island off the coast of Gujarat.
Tarpa Festival, Dadra and Nagar Haveli
The Tarpa festival is a folk dance and music festival held in Silvassa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, a tiny union territory close to Mumbai. The four-day festival is held in the month of December and is marked by cultural programs, competitions in swimming, boating, varli painting, tattooing, rangoli (colourful designs made on the ground using coloured powders), stand-up comedy and shayari (a unique form of poetry). The main attraction is the Tarpa dance, where the festival gets its name, and other unique dance forms of the Kokna, Varli and the Kolis tribal grups.
Rann Utsav, Gujrat
The annual Rann Utsav is a great carnival of dance and music celebrated in the white beauty of Rann, the boundless white desert. Unique events mark this carnival such as ATV rides, Camel Cart Excursions, paramotoring, yoga, meditation, folk music and dances. It is a great time to shop while taking in the local cultures and traditions. The best part is camping inside super-comfortable tents right in the middle of the desert, enjoying local delicacies in special tents that house restaurants as well as spas and wellness centres. Truly an amazing holiday!
Ellora Festival, Maharashtra
Organised by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, the Ellora Festival is a tribute to Indian classical dance and music forms. One can go back in time with the tunes played against the backdrop of the age-old caves and rock carvings which are sculptural and archaeological wonders.
Indira Gandhi Boat Race, Kerala
Held in the last week of December, the boat races are unique to Kerala but have grabbed the attention of the entire world. Usually held in the backwaters of Kochi or Ernakulam, the races are held among specially crafted boats which are ridden by four helmsmen, 25 singers and 100-125 oarsmen who row in unison to the singing. The snake boats are smeared with sardine oil for a smooth sail. There are strict rules followed for those who participate in these races and the preparations usually start months in advance because they are witnessed by thousands.
Maha Shiv Rathri, Varanasi
Maha Shiv Rathri is celebrated across the country but Varanasi or Benaras, is the hub of activity during this time. Held in February, the most significant part of this festival is day-long fasting and staying awake through the night. Religious fervour and devotion are almost palpable at this time as chants of the Panchakshari Mantha (Om Namah Shivay) and religious hymns can be heard in every part of the town. People from the surrounding villages come walking barefoot for almost 40-50 miles to have a darshan of the lord. The fast is broken the next morning with a special drink made of milk, almonds and cannabis, as it is believed that Lord Shiva loved cannabis.
Xenia Cities Group Tour Packages has special tour packages, group tour packages available. Get in touch to have a special time during any of these amazing festivals and carnivals in India.