Spring in its full bloom and it is riot of colours everywhere- in nature as well on faces! one of the most awaited months of the year because of its festivities- festival of colours- Holi in the beginning and Chaitra towards the end. It is also last of the months of the pleasant weather before the summer strikes. Its already getting hot this time of the year. Don’t spare a chance to be around at any one of these places! My top 10 picks-
1. Festival of colours in Brij
Though there are many festivals around the world where people throw colours, waters, flowers, mud, tomatoes, oranges and what not on each other, but no celebration can be compared to the fervour of celebrating Holi in mythical land of Krishna. Though Holi is celebrated in almost all parts of northern and central India, but it is the spirit of tradition that draws thousands every year to Mathura-Vrindavan to feel and play the holi as it used to be when Krishna used to play with Radha. In this area, festival of colours starts many days prior to the actual Holi day and continues long after that. It seems that for weeks together, this land has nothing else to do then relive the tradition of playing with colours. From temples to every household, prepares for it and is part of it. This holi is played in all possible ways- with flowers, colours, water and even by women folk beating their male counterparts when men of Nandgaon go to play Holi with women of Barsana, a mythical representation of Krishna going to play Holi with Radha. Tourists from all over the world come to witness this unique festival.
When: 27 February-6 March 2015
Where: Barsana, Mathura
2. Check your Yoga quotient
When it comes to Yoga, India has many gurus—as many as we have cricket experts. With growing popularity around the world, yoga festivals are the flavour of the season. There are many international tourists who plan their India trip around such yoga festivals. Places like Rishikesh has many of these. One among these with an international repute is the annual International Yoga Festival organised by Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh. This year it presents a ‘truly’ International Yoga Festival grounded in the authentic origin of Yoga. Practise and learn from masters from the Traditional Yoga Lineages from India, as well as masters of International well known yoga schools & styles. During this one-week Festival, one will have the opportunity to participate in over 60 hours of Yoga classes from world-class Yoga teachers practicing multiple styles of Yoga including Kundalini Yoga, Power Vinyasa Yoga, Iyengar Yoga and Kriya Yoga. The International Yoga Festival explores the eight limbs of Yoga and how they apply to human lives whether one considers itself as Yoga student or not.The participants will also be blessed with the presence, satsang and divine words of ‘revered saints and spiritual masters’ from within India. Started in 1999, this is the 16th year for this festival. With more than 400 people from over 30 countries, it’s grown to become one of the largest yoga gatherings in the world.
When: 1-7 March 2015
Where: Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh
3. Pink city celebrates Gangaur
Gangaur is one of the most important local festivals in Rajasthan. In some form or the other it is celebrated all over Rajasthan. “gan” is a synonym for Lord Shiva and “gauri” or “gaur” stands for Goddess Parvati, the heavenly consort of Lord Shiva. Gangaur celebrates the union of the two and is a symbol of conjugal and marital happiness. Gangaur is celebrated in the month of chaitra (March-April), the first month of the Hindu calendar. This month marks the end of winter and the onset of spring. This festival is celebrated especially by women, who worship clay idols of “Gan” & “Gauri” in their houses. These idols are worshiped by unmarried girls who seek the blessings of Gan and Gauri for a good husband, while the married women pray for the good health and long life of their husbands. This worship which starts form the first day of the chaitra month culminates on the 18th day into Gangaur festival with a great religious fervour. On the eve of Gangaur festival, women decorate their palms and fingers with henna. The idols of Gan and Gauri are immersed in a pond or in a near by lake on the last day of the festival. A traditional procession of Gangaur commences form the Zanani- Deodhi of the City Palace, passing through Tripolia Bazaar, Chhoti Chaupar, Gangauri Bazaar, Chaugan stadium and finally converges near the Talkatora. The procession is headed by a old palanquins, chariots, bullock carts and performance folk artistes.
When: 22-23 March 2015
Where: Tripolia Bazar, Jaipur
4. Welcoming spring at City of Lakes
The Mewar Festival is celebrated to welcome the advent of spring. It coincides with the festival of Gangaur in Udaipur, and has a unique charm about it. Similar in tradition to Gangaur festival of Jaipur but different in its nature of celebrations.The women folk gather to dress the images of Isar and Gangaur and then carry them in a ceremonial procession through different parts of the city. The procession winds its way to the Gangaur Ghat at Lake Pichhola. At this point, the images are transported into special boats and immersed in the deep waters of the lake. Once the religious part of the festival is over, it is time for cultural events at Shilpgram where Rajasthani culture is portrayed through songs, dances and other programmes. During the days of festival, the whole city of Udaipur gets drenched in colors of festivity. Local markets and shops beautify their frontage with bright lights and decorations. Coinciding with the Gangaur festival, Mewar festival is equally significant for the women folk of Rajasthan. The festival is especially meant for women and offers the best time when they dress in their finest clothes and join the celebrations of the fest. The festival culminates with an impressive fireworks display.
When: 22-24 March 2015
Where: Lake Pichola, Udaipur
5. Annual festivities at Guruvayur Utsavam
Guruvayur, the Utsavam lasts for ten days. Beginning on the day of Pushya (the 8th asterism) in the month of Kumbham ( February-March), it ends after the Aarattu on the 10th day. Religiously, it is the restoration of divine Chaithanya. Brahmakalasam is preceded by the Utsavam. It is aimed at the purification and energisation of the powers of the deity. It is the last of the long series of rituals of kalasam and at the end, the flag will be hoisted heralding the Utsavam. Culturally, it consists of various processions, illumination and modest fire-works (this is a specialty of Guruvayur Utsavam that no explosives are used, unlike most of the other Kerala temples). All ten days, the place wears a festive look, streets dressed up with arches, festoons etc., houses freshly thatched and painted. Every shrine and building is tastefully decorated with lights, plantain trunks, bunches of coconut and arecanuts. Two Gopurams and the bahyankana (outer-courtyard) are elaborately decorated with illuminations and eye-catching electric displays. The lamps, deepasthambams and vilakku are all lightened. The Utsavam begins with Aanayottam, starting from Manjulal and ending at the flag staff.
When: 2-11 March 2015
Where: Guruvayur, the abode of Lord Sree Guruvayurappan, is located 29 kms north west to the cultural capital of the ‘God’s own country’, Kerala- Thrissur. Kochi international airport (Nedumbassery) is 80 kms from Guruvayur and the Calicut airport is 100 kms away. Guruvayur has got a railway station towards the east of the temple which is connected to the Madras-Mangalore main line at Thrissur.
6. Harvest festival of Chapchar Kut
Chapchar Kut is a harvest festival named after bamboo that has been cut, and is drying for burning and subsequent cultivation. The traditional bamboo dance performed by women (while men sit on the ground and beat bamboo sticks against each other), called cheraw, is a big part of the festival. Different styles of tribal dance performances take place amidst symbol clashes and beats of drums. There’s art, handicrafts, concerts, flower shows, and food as well. At the end of February, when winter starts receding, the Mizos prepare the land for fresh planting. There are few days of relaxation before the serious business of sowing starts and that is when the Chapchar Kut festival is celebrated with gaiety and fervour. A spring festival, this is the most important festival and the only one regularly observed during the first week of March in Mizoram. On this day people of all ages, young and old, men and women dressed in their colourful costumes and distinctive head gears and jewelries, assemble and perform various folk dances, singing traditional songs accompanied by beating of drums, gongs and cymbals. They dance in joyous celebration of life, each team displaying the best of its region. These are generally group dances with a lot of bonhomie and courting woven into them. Some dances are strictly martial danced by strong virile warriors with their weapons and trophies. One dance perennially popular is the Cheraw or the “bamboo dance” so called as long bamboo staves are used for this dance. This is the most colourful and distinctive dance of the Mizos requiring skill and an alert mind to perform. The other main dances performed during Chapchar Kut are Khuallam, Chheihlam, Chai and Sarlamkai. “Khual lam” is an auspicious dance performed by a group of dancers celebrating new beginnings. It is also a welcome dance for guests during community festivities.Exhibition and sale of indigenous Handloom and Handicraft products and other tourist attractions like flower show, food festival, musical competition and different traditional games are also organised during the Chapchar Kut festival
When: 6 March 2015
Where: Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram. Also Lunglei and Saiha
7. Goa’s version of Holi- Shigmo
Goa’s biggest spring festival, Shigmo, is the state’s version of Holi. It’s a Hindu festival that’s filled with bright decorations, singing, dancing, and colors. One traditional dance that’s often performed is the Ghode Modni martial arts horse dance. Shigmo parade is a street festival where vibrant colours and overwhelming celebrations lift the spirits of the entire state. It’s an experience you cannot afford to miss. This religious Hindu festival is filled with colours, music, dance and floats. In true meaning, it depicts the life of a Goan in elaborate folk performances by local men and women who dance tirelessly in huge processions along with the parade. Traditionally it was celebrated as spring’s biggest festival which honoured the homecoming of the warriors who had left their homes and families at the end of Dusshera to fight the invaders. Traditional folk dances and enactment of mythological scenes is the major highlight of this parade. Shigmotsav as they call it, is similar to Holi but it’s celebrated for 14 days in Goa. It is also a farewell to the winters. Traditional folk dances like Ghode Modni and Fugdi are performed on streets in massive troupes along the procession, showcasing the tradition of Goa. The shimmering floats with extensive lighting and sound effects move along with the parade gripping the attention of a huge crowd that aligns the streets of Goa.
When: 7-20 March, 2015.
Where: All over Goa, particular evenings in Panjim where a huge street procession is held with floats depicting Ramayana and Mahabaratha scenes, drums, and folk dancing. Celebrations are more authentic in rural areas. Expect plenty of authentic Goan cuisine and fenni (local alcoholic drink).
8. A festival for Olive Ridley turtles
Now that’s unusual. Spend a time at beach to show the commitment towards conservation of an endangered species. See newly hatched, endangered Olive Ridley turtles take their amazing march into the sea at the annual Turtle Festival. As well as this, you’ll get to sample traditional Indian village life by stopping over at local home-stays in the area (dormitory rooms only). Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) is a leading non-government organisation (NGO) in India, engaged in conservation of, education about and research on nature. In the year 1992, SNM started its work in the pristine region of Konkan on the western coast of Maharashtra state in India.Sahyadri started ‘Home Stay’ to host metro tourists at Velas in 2006 as a part of ‘Turtle Festival’. Turtle festival is an opportunity for metro-tourists to bid best wishes to the newly born sea turtle hatchlings while crawling towards their home. To ensure longevity of the project, Sahyadri also helped locals to form ‘Kaasav Mitra Mandal’ (Turtle Friends). Over the last 6 years, ‘Home Stay’ has received excellent support and guidance by locals, Gram Panchayat and the Forest Department. Sahyadri empowered villagers by starting Velas Homestay to host the tourists visiting during Turtle Festival. Total of 19 families have registered under home stay at Velas hosted almost 3,000 tourists in Turtle Festival 2012-13.
When: March 2015
Where: The turtle village Velas in Konkan region is almost 225 kms from Mumbai and around 120 kms from Chiplun. Its also 6 hours bus journey from Ratnagiri. Chiplun and Ratnagiri are on the Konkan railway main line.
9. A serene procession of canoes
In contrast to many of Kerala’s temple festivals where the focus is on elephants, the Attuvela Mahotsavam is a delightful water carnival. The Attuvela Mahotsavam, is unusually serene and delightfully quiet. The hordes of decorated small canoes accompanied by traditional temple music create a divine spectacle like the Goddess herself has descended to glide through the river waters to unite with her sister. A visual treat for the all the visitors. Attuvela Mahotsavam attracts thousands of people every year. During the festival, a procession of warmly illuminated canoes carry huge temple replicas through the water towards the temple. They’re accompanied by lots of colourfully decorated small canoes and temple percussion music. The Attuvela Mahotsavam is a water carnival. According to legend, it is the welcome ceremony for the Goddess of Kodungalloor who comes to visit her sister, the Goddess of Elamkavu. The Goddess Bhagavathy is the presiding deity in this small temple. During the two-day Attuvela, beautifully illuminated canoes, carrying a huge replica of the temple, sail down the waters accompanied by hordes of colourfully decorated small canoes and temple percussion music. The procession of canoes starts from Attuvela kadavu, 2 km away from the temple. is celebrated in the ‘Meenam’ month of the Malayalam calendar which falls during March-April in the Gregorian calendar.
When: March 22, 2015.
Where: Elankavu Sree Bhagavathy Temple, Vadayar, Kottayam, Kerala.
10. A garden so exclusive!
It can be called as one of the biggest private gardens in the world at one of the biggest private residence in the world. Nearly 10,000 Tulips in vivid colours are be the main attraction of annual ‘Udyanotsav’ which President Pranab Mukherjee recently threw open at Mughal Garden for public. Tulips have been in bloom since the last week of January and about 10,000 Tulips in vivid colours of red, orange and yellow mixed with red, pink, purple and white are expected to bloom in phases up to March 10. The Tulips have been grown this year in earthen pots as well as several beds in the Rectangular and Circular Gardens. People can visit the world famous gardens from the next day till March 15 barring Monday when maintenance will be carried out of the garden. Public will also be able to visit the Spiritual Garden, Herbal Garden, Bonsai Garden and Bio-diversity Park within the Estate. Roses are central to the fame of Mughal gardens and a permanent feature throughout the year. The garden has more than 120 celebrated varieties of roses who have their prime bloom is in February-March. The special roses include Green Rose and Angelique. Nearly 40 fragrant varieties include Belami, Black Lady, Double Delight, Eiffel Tower, Granada, Jadis, Mr Lincoln, Sadabahar and Taj Mahal. The Gardens include roses named Mother Teresa, Arjun, Bhim, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Jawahar and Dr BP Pal besides international celebrities with names like John F Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth, Mr Lincoln and Montezuma. Other rose varieties worth mentioning are Christian Dior, Happiness, Century Two, First Prize, Kiss of Fire, Iceberg and Granada. Unlike other gardens which grow a limited variety of roses but in large masses, the Mughal Garden features a large range of rose varieties in one place.
Flower Carpets in magnificent designs will also be on display in the Central Lawns revealing the skill and craft of the gardeners of Rashtrapati Bhavan. The dominant colour scheme of 2015’s ornamental flowers is yellow, red and orange. As in previous years, a small cactus corner is part of the Mughal Gardens display. On March 16, the garden will be exclusively kept open for farmers, differently abled persons including visually challenged persons, defence, para-military forces and police personnel.
When: Upto 16 March 2015
Where: Mughal Gardens, Rashtrapati Bhawan, Delhi
(some of the images have ben sourced from internet)