Fairs and Festivals
Colorful mosaic of Indian festivals and fairs - as diverse as the land,
is an eternal expression of the spirit of celebration. Observed with
enthusiasm and gaiety, festivals are like gems ornamenting the crown of
Indian Culture. They are round the year vibrant interludes in the
mundane routine of life.
Every season brings along new festivals, each a true celebration of the
bounties of the rich traditions followed for time immemorial. That's not
all! The birthdays of Gods and Goddesses, saints and prophets, great
historical happenings and the advent of the New Year, all find
expression in colorful festivities. The same festival, though
celebrated differently in the various parts of the country, exhibits an
eternal harmony of the spirit of celebration.
Packed with fun and excitement, festivals serve as an occasion to clean
and decorate houses, to get together with friends and relatives and to
exchange gifts. New attire, dance, music and rituals- all add to their
joyful rhythm. It is a time for prayer, for pageantry and procession…a
time to rejoice, in celebration of life.
Bihu - Assam
Bihu or Bohag Bihu
is the biggest festival of the people of Assam. It is a festival that
transcends all religious and class barriers bringing people together in
a free and uninhabited manner. The Assamese observe not one but three
Bihus. Bohag Bihu, which is celebrated in mid-April, the Magh Bihu,
which is held in mid-January, and the Kati Bihu which is celebrated in
mid-October. The three are connected with the spring, winter and autumn
The first day of
Bohag Bihu is known as the 'Goru Bihu' and is reserved for cattle rites.
Household is cleaned, the cows feet are washed, oil rubbed on their
horns and hooves and some times they are decorated with garlands.
The next day is 'Manuh
Bihu' day; on this day homage is paid to elders, relatives and friends.
The Bihu meal is a special one consisting of Chira, curds and sweets.
The third day of
Bihu is sometimes called the 'Gosain Bihu' and is set apart for
religious services. Games and sports, special Bihu songs and dances,
Fairs etc are a part of the Bihu celebrations. These Bihu songs are
beautiful specimens of folk poetry set to lilting music and swinging
rhythm. The Bihu dance is a vigorous, captivating dance reflecting the
spirit of youth and vitality.
Bikaner Festival - Bikaner - Rajasthan
Dedicated to the indispensable ship of the desert, the festival starts
off with a magnificent procession of bedecked camels. 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.
Purnima - All over India
which falls on the full moon night in the month of Vaisakha (either in
April or May), commemorates the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha,
founder of Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world.
Notwithstanding the summer heat (the temperature routinely touches 45
degrees C), pilgrims come from all over the world to Bodh Gaya to attend
the Buddha Poornima celebrations. The day is marked with prayer meets,
sermons on the life of Gautam Buddha, religious discourses, continuous
recitation of Buddhist scriptures, group meditation, processions,
worship of the statue of Buddha and symposia. The Mahabodhi Temple wears
a festive look and is decorated with colourful flags and flowers.
Celebration of this festival has been recorded by the Chinese scholar,
Race - Kerala
annual boat race of Kerala begin in July at Champakulam. This festival
is known as ' Moolam Vallamkali'. Moolam signifies a Malayalam asterism
(star or Nakshathram), Moolam of the month Mithunam.
Chennai Dance &
Music Festival - Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Chennai music and
dance festival is a celebration of classical music and dance of South
India (Carnatic Music) held during mid December to mid January in the
capital city of Chennai. The festival is held at a number of venues
around the city by various sabhas or organizations.
The 'Margazhi festival of dance and music' started early back in 1927,
to commemorate the anniversary of Madras Music Academy every December
was later adopted by various organizations which held art festivals in
different parts of the city.
The city comes alive with the festival which has now developed into a
cultural extravaganza with more than 2000 participants. Performances
include Vocal and Instrumental music, Dance - solo and group, both by
junior and senior artistes. Even upcoming artists get a chance to
perform along with well-established artists. The music includes songs in
various South Indian languages like Tamil, Telugu and Kannada and
instruments like Flute, 'Veena' (a large string instrument) 'Goottuvadyam'
(similar to Veena but without frets), 'Nagaswaram' (pipe), 'Thavil'
(percussion instrument), 'Mridangam' (drum), and even 'Ghatam' (a mud
pot). Information about the tickets and the venues can be had from the
tourist office, Chennai.
Desert Festival -
Jaisalmer – Rajasthan
The Desert Festival is
a 3-day extravaganza of colour, music and festivity, held at the golden
city of Jaisalmer.
Gair and 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
Durga Puja - West
In West Bengal
Navratri is celebrated as Durga Puja where beautifully decorated images
of the goddess are worshipped in specially erected Puja Pandals.
Community pujas in Bengal are organised in every locality. Families
visit each other to share feasts. On the final day the idols are taken
in elaborate processions to be immersed in the river or the sea
Dussehra - All over
This Hindu festival is
celebrated all over India to mark the defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama.
Dussehra symbolises the triumph of good over evil. The 'Ramlila' - an
enactment of the life of Lord Rama, is held during the nine days
preceding Dussehra. On the tenth day, larger than life effigies of
Ravana, his son and brother -Meghnath and Kumbhakarna, are set alight.
In Himachal Pradesh, a week -long fair in the hill town of Kullu, is a
part of the Dussehra celebrations. From the little temples in the hills,
deities are brought in procession to the 'maidan' in Kullu, to pay
homage to the reigning deity, Raghunathji. In
South India the Mysore palace is illuminated for a whole month during
Dusshera and caparisoned elephants lead a colourful procession through
the gaily-decorated streets of the city. A torch light parade and dance
and musical events enliven the tranquil city.
Deepavali, perhaps the best-known Hindu festival, marks the end of the
season that opens with Dussehra. Diwali is celebrated throughout India,
as well as in Indian communities throughout the diaspora. It usually
takes place eighteen days after Dusshera in October/November. Diwali is
called the "festival of lights", and the name itself means an array of
lamps (Deep = Lamp, Vali =Array). Indeed, illumination is characteristic
of Diwali. The array of lamps are symbolic of welcoming Lord Rama back
to Ayodhya after his 14 years of exile, and the common practice is to
light small oil lamps, diyas, and place them around the house.
celebrated for five continuous days and each day has its significance
with a number of myths, legends and beliefs.
The first day is
Dhanteras. The word dhan means wealth, and as such, this day
has special significance for the rich mercantile community (especially
of Western India). Believing this day to be auspicious, women purchase
some gold or silver or new utensils.
The second day is
Narka Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali. This commemorates the
victory of Lord Krishna over the demon king Narakasur, or the divine
over the mundane. A traditional oil bath before sunrise is a must,
especially in Maharashtra.
The third day is the most important day of Lakshmi Puja
or Chopda Puja. This day is regarded as the most auspicious. It
is believed that on this day Lakshmi walks around and showers her
blessings on man for plenty and prosperity. One of the most curious
customs, especially in North India, is the practice of gambling on a
large scale. It is believed that goddess Parvati played dice with her
husband, Lord Shiva, on this day and she decreed that whoever gambled on
Diwali night would prosper throughout the ensuring year.
The fourth day is
Padwa or Varshapratipada, which marks the coronation of
King Vikramaditya. Vikram Samvat, the Hindu calender, was started from
this day. This day is regarded as the start of a new year according to
the Hindu calendar. This day is looked upon as the most auspicious day
to start any new venture.
The fifth and final
day is called Bhaiya Duj in the Hindi-speaking belt and Bhau
Beej in the Marathi-speaking community. Like Raksha Bandhan, it is a
day for brothers and sisters, and on this day, brothers go to their
sisters' houses for a special meal.
In South India and
in the business community, Diwali is more associated with Lakshmi, the
goddess of wealth and the consort of Lord Vishnu, the preserver in the
Hindu pantheon. In rural areas, it is celebrated mainly as a harvest
If there is one
occasion that is full of joy and jubilation for all, it is Deepavali.
Homes are spring-cleaned and decorated. Even the humblest of huts is lit
by a row of earthen lamps. Celebration is invariably accompanied by the
exchange of sweets and the explosion of fireworks. Multi-coloured
rangoli designs and floral decorations adorn the entrance of most homes.
South Indians start their day with an oil bath.
Diwali has the same importance for Hindus as
Christmas does for Christians
- All over India
The birthday of
Prophet Mohammad, is celebrated all over India with traditional
festivity and religious fervour. The Quran is read and religious
discourses are arranged in the mosques.
- Elephanta Island – Mumbai
This festival is held across the Mumbai harbour, on the
Island, near the world-renowned Elephanta Caves (A World Heritage Site).
This feast of music and dance, celebrated under the stars, transforms
the entire island into a large auditorium.
- Jaipur, Rajasthan
The Elephant Festival
is held every year during Holi, in Jaipur (Rajasthan). Here, as you
would expect from the name of the Festival Elephants are the centre of
attraction. During the festival, Jaipur comes alive with elephants,
dancers, musicians and draws visitors from all over the world. The
elephants stride majestically parading their decorated trunks and tusks.
The festival begins with a procession of elephants, camels, and horses,
painted and tastefully attired with glittering ornaments and embroidered
velvets, followed by lively folk dancers. The elephants greet the
visitors, offer garlands to the guests and walk past the ramp before a
jury of experts and tourists to select the best amongst them for the
"Best decorated Elephant" Shield. Elephant races and elephant polo
matches are special features. The tug of war between elephants and men
is probably the most hilarious highlight of the festival. The unique "Gaj
Shringar" exhibition displays everything connected with the
elephant-ornaments, textiles (Jhoo), howdahs and carriages, paintings,
medicines and food.
The tourists have an opportunity to mount the elephants and play Holi.
Participants dance with great vigor-the excitement rising to a
Ganesh Chaturthi -
Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala
Ganesh or Vinayaka
Chaturthi is dedicated to Lord Ganesh (son of Shiva), the elephant
-headed god of all good beginnings and success. The festival celebrated
as the birth day of Lord Ganesha, held annually in South India
especially with great fervor in Maharashtra, is a ten day long event.
On the occasion of
the Ganapati festival, a large number of idols are made of clay or metal
in all possible sizes sometimes even up to twenty feet. People buy them
and install them in their houses and worship the idol for one to ten
days, after which the idol are taken out ceremoniously, carried in a
procession through the streets of the town (especially in Maharashtra)
and immersed into the river, sea or well. The sea front at Mumbai,
packed with people, is a spectacular sight.
A cultural feast is
held to coincide with Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra especially at Pune.
Classical dance, music performances, poetry recitations, folk dances,
theatre and film festival are the main features of this festival.
Goa Carnival – Goa
February heralds the
carnival at Goa. For three days and nights the streets come alive with
colour. Held in mid February the weeklong event is a time for lively
processions, floats, the strumming of guitars, graceful dances and of
non-stop festivity. One of the more famous of the Indian Carnivals the
Goa Festival is a complete sell out in terms of tourism capacities.
Guru Parab –
anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev - the first or the founder guru of the
Sikhs, is celebrated with great fervour on the full moon day of Kartika.
Guru Parab, also known as Jyototsava is one of the most sacred festivals
of the Sikhs.
Nankana Sahib (the birth place of Guru Nanak now in Lahore), there is a
beautiful Gurudwara, and a holy tank or sarovar. On Guru Parab, a grand
fair and festival is held here, and Sikhs in thousand congregate here
from India and abroad. Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture, is
continuously read and recited in the Gurudwaras ('Akhand path') all over
the country, lamps are lighted, processions are taken out, free langars
(meals) are arranged and prasad (holy food) is distributed. Pandals are
set up in various places and 'prasad' is distributed. Guru Purab
celebrations at the
in Amritsar, Punjab is impressive.
Guru Purnima - All
Guru Purnima or
Asadh Purnima is a special day celebrated on the full moon (purnima) day
of the month of Ashadh, to pay homage to all teachers (Guru's). It dates
back to the time of 'gurukuls' or 'ashrams' of ancient India where
students used to get their education. It is also known as Vyas purnima
in remembrance of the great sage Ved Vyasa, the guru who wrote the great
epic, 'Mahabharatha', the 18 'Puranas' and classified the 'Vedas' of the
Hindu Dharma. The great sage is worshipped and pujas performed on this
day. Discourses are held in community gatherings to hear the readings of
the holy book, 'Bhagawad Gita'. Lamps are lit and meals served to
Holi - All over
Holi, the most
lively of all Hindu festivals is observed all over North India, which
falls on the full moon day in the month of Phalgun (March) according to
the Hindu Lunar calendar. It heralds the end of the winter and the
beginning of the spring and marks the rekindling of the spirit of life.
It is a festival of joy when all is forgiven and it is a time to break
The night before full moon, crowds of people gather together
and light huge bonfires to burn the residual dried leaves and twigs of
the winter. People throw coloured powders at each other and make merry.
People, young and old are drenched with colours being poured from atop
the houses, bursting balloons, or long pistons. Singing and dancing add
to the gaiety of the occasion.
In Anandpur Sahib,
Sikhs celebrate a special festivalHola Mohalla on the day after
Holi. The display of ancient martial arts and mock battles, are
part of this unique Sikh festival.
celebrations in Mathura and the small towns of Braj Bhoomi - the land of
Sri Krishna, are spectacular. The Rang Gulal Festival is
celebrated for over a week with exuberant processions, songs and music.
is the Lathmaar Holi of Barsana and Nandgaon.
Independence Day - All
day India attained freedom (15th August), Independence Day is celebrated
with flag hoisting ceremonies and cultural programmes in the state
capitals. The Prime Minister's speech at the Red Fort in Delhi is the
major highlight. The Delhi skylinen gets dotted with thousands of kites
taking to the sky this very day.
Janmashtami - All over
anniversary of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu is celebrated
with great fervour all over India especially at Mathura and Brindavan
where Lord Krishna spent his childhood. Temples and homes are
beautifully decorated and lit. Nightlong prayers are offered and
religious hymns are sung in temples. The priests chant holy mantras and
bathe the idol with Gangajal (water from the holy Ganges river), milk,
ghee (clarified butter), oil, and honey pouring all these from a conch
In Maharashtra, earthen pots of curd and butter are hung up
over the streets. Young men enacting an episode from Krishna's childhood
form human pyramids by climbing on each other's shoulders and try to
break these pots.
birthplace of Lord Krishna, has about 400 temples dedicated to him. The
main celebrations are held at the Dwarkadhish temple, Banke Bihari,
Rangaji, Shri Krishna Balram temple and Gopinath temple.
In South India,
Janmashtami or Gokulashtami, is celebrated with prayers, devotional
renditions and offering of fruits and special prasadams to Lord Krishna.
In some houses, a typical setting of 'Gokulam' is arranged with mud
images of Devaki, Vasudeva with little Krishna perched in a basket on
his head, a cow, besides other things related to Krishna's legends.
Festival - Khajuraho, Bundalkhand, Madhya Pradesh
Once the religious
capital of Chandela dynasty, one of the powerful Rajput dynasties of
Central India, Khajuraho is now famous for it's enchanting temples and
it's legendary Khajuraho dance festival. The week- long festival of
classical dances is held every year in February/March 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. 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 there for
sale. Khajuraho Dance Festival is conducted as a celebration of the
cultural heritage of Khajuraho temples and preserving it for the coming
Konark Dance Festival -
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.
This is the venue
of a joyous festival of classical dance and music which is held annually
on December. A host of celebrated dancers from all over the country
perform in the open air auditorium. The festival is a celebration of the
much appreciated Orissa, Bharathnatyam,
Manipuri, Kathak and
Chau Dance - a lavish feast for the eyes and ears. The sound of Ghungroo
bells, flute and Pakhauj gives it a festive mood. There is also a crafts
mela, with a variety of handicrafts and tasty cuisine during the
festival. The festival is jointly organised by Orissa Tourism and Odissi
Lohri - Punjab, Delhi
In the North Makar
Sankranti is called Lohri. Lohri is the time after which the biting cold
of the winters begins to taper off. On this day children go from door to
door to collect funds for community bonfires which are lit up in the
evening. Lohri is more of a community festival as people gather around
the bonfires and offer sweets, crisp rice and popcorn to the flames.
Mahashivratri - All
On this day, the
great night of the Lord Shiva, devotees stay awake throughout the night
offering prayers to Lord Shiva. They offer special food made from the
fruits of the season, root vegetables and coconut to the Lord. Special
celebrations are held in some of the major Shiva temples at Varanasi,
Kalahasti (Andhra Pradesh) and Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu)
Mahavir Jayanthi - All
The Jain community
celebrates the birth anniversary of the 24th and the last Tirthankara,
Vardhman Mahavir, the founder of Jainism. On Mahavir Jayanthi, Jain
temples are decorated with flags. In the morning the idol of Mahavira is
given a ceremonial bath called the 'abhishek'. It is then placed in a
cradle and carried in a procession around the neighbourhood. The
devotees make offerings of milk, rice, fruit, incense, lamps and water
to the Tirthankar. Pilgrims from all parts of the country visit the
ancient Jain Temples at Girnar and Palitana in
Gujarat on this day.
Mewar Festival -
welcome to spring, this festival is a visual feast with Rajasthani
songs, dances, processions, devotional music and firework displays. It
is celebrated in the romantic city of Udaipur during the Gangaur
Festival. A procession of colourfully attired women carrying the images
of the goddess Gauri make their way to the Lake Pichola. An unusual
procession of boats on the lake offers a fiting finale to this splendid
Nagaur Fair - Nagaur –
Nagaur bustles with
life during the annual cattle fair, which is one of the largest in the
country. The Nagaur bulls are renowned for their fleet footedness and
attract buyers from all over. Exciting games, tug of war, camel races
and strains of ballads create a joyful atmosphere.
Pongal - Tamil Nadu,
In South Sankranti
becomes Pongal. It is a celebration of the harvest, which is observed
for three days in January. Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal and Mattu Pongal,
are the three days of Pongal festivities on successive days. In certain
parts cattle races still enliven the village festivities. Pongal is a
colourful and traditional festival with many a ceremony devoted to
Tiruchirapalli and Tanjore a kind of bull fight called the
Jellikuttu is held. Bundles containing money are tied to the horns
of the ferocious bulls, and unarmed men try to wrest the bundles from
With ingredients provided by freshly gathered harvest,
community meals are held at many a place.
Pushkar Fair - Pushkar,
This fair is held at
Pushkar town, 11 km from Ajmer in Rajasthan for twelve days annually.
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.
Trading of cattle,
camel races and dazzling displays of bangles, brassware, clothes, camel
saddles and halters make the fair colourful. Necklaces of glass beads
from Naguar, pottery, printed textiles from Jodhpur and Ajmer are all on
sale here. Farmers, cattle traders and breeders buy and sell their
animals, leather whips, saddles etc. There are facilities for camel
rides also. 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 day of the Kartik Purnima (full moon night of
the Kartika month) and worship at the Brahma temple (Jagat Pita Shri
Brahma Mandir). 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.
Apart from the
religious rituals and trading, people participate in a number of
cultural and sporting events. The sweeping expanse of the desert becomes
dotted with thousands of camels, stalls and camping families. The
Rajasthan tourism Development Corporation has taken adequate measures to
facilitate convenient access of the fair site and to accommodate the
Rajgir Dance Festival -
Rajgir, the ancient
capital of the Magadhan empire in Bihar is held sacred by both Buddhists
and Jains for its association with the Buddha and Mahavir. Department of
Tourism, Bihar holds a colourful festival of dance and music, Rajgir
Mahotsav or Dance Festival every year in Rajgir. Be it instrumental
music, devotional songs, opera, folk dance, ballet or the many schools
of classical dance and music, geniuses in their own realms of
accomplishments, create an almost ethereal atmosphere. This festival
held during last week of October attracts tourists in large numbers.
Raksha Bandhan -
Sravani is an ancient Vedic festival traditionally associated with the
Brahmins on which day they change their sacred thread. Both Raksha
Bandhan and Sravani are celebrated on the full moon day of the month of
Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi the more popular of the two festivals,
is a Hindu sister's day when brothers and sisters reaffirm their bonds
of affections. Sisters tie colourful threads or rakhis on their
brother's wrists. The brothers in turn promise to protect their sisters
and give them gifts. Raksha Bandhan is celebrated in different forms in
different areas and it is also known by the names like rakhi, rakhri and
Republic Day - All over
day India became a republic, 26th of January every year is witness to a
colourful affair with soldiers marching in unison, followed by folk
dancers, school children and floats from different states.
The beating retreat
that marks the end of celebrations on the 29th of January is a moving
ceremony with military bands playing at Vijay Chock.
Festival – Leh
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 is a celebration of this river. 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
these pots in the Sindhu river, thereby mingling the river water with
other waters of the land.
The Sindhu Cultural Center was inaugurated a few years back as
well as the new office complex of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development
Council. This complex will be helpful in bringing out the unique culture
of the Ladakh region and its people. The facilities proposed at the
complex include an auditorium for seating 500 people, an open air
theatre, an exhibition gallery, a music room, a small library and a
souvenir shop where Ladakh handicrafts could be available to visiting
Taj Mahotsav -
Agra - Uttar Pradesh
A ten day event, the Taj Mahotsav at
is a culturally vibrant platform that brings together the finest Indian
Crafts and cultural nuances. Starting on 18th February each year in
Shilpgram, the Taj Mahotsav is a much awaited event. It is a festive
introduction to India and Uttar Pradesh. 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.