World through my eyes
Last month of the year. But brings most of the enjoyment. Colourful winter and much awaited Christmas and New Year holiday. Perhaps the most traveled time of the year. Many things to plan and enjoy. Travel for snowfalls in high mountains to a beach dive in faraway south. A good number of festivals to look upon and few of them are more than centuries old, while few others are new additions. But all of them are gem in themselves. Lets plan some ideas for you.
The Hornbill festival
The Hornbill festival held in the first week of December shows that with its stunning natural beauty and great cultural traditions, Nagaland can offer a rich fare to tourists. Nagaland, with its diverse tribal culture, is a land of festivals. A narrow strip of mountainous territory with rugged hills, emerald valleys, sparkling streams and a rich variety of flora and fauna, the 16th State of the Indian Union has salubrious climate throughout the year. It is bounded by Assam in the west, Myanmar in the east, Arunachal Pradesh in the north and Manipur in the south. Sometimes referred to as the `Switzerland of the East’, Nagaland represents unimaginable beauty, moulded perfectly for a breathtaking experience. For the adventurous, the State is an ideal place for trekking and jungle camping and offers limitless possibilities for exploring its lush sub-tropical rainforests, which are a treasure trove of medicinal plants. The 20-lakh-strong Naga people, by nature, are fun lovers, and life in Nagaland is one long festival.
Date: 1st to 10th December 2015
Getting there: By Air, the state has its airport in Dimapur, which is regularly serviced by major airlines. The city is linked to Kolkata by air. Indian Airlines operate regular flights to Dimapur. Tourists then have to travel to Kohima by road after reaching Dimapur. It takes 2 and a half hours to reach Dimapur by road. A good road network covers the state. The state capital Kohima is linked to Shillong and Guwahati, which are important cities in North Eastern India. First proceed to Dimapur and then travel to Kohima. For travelling by rail, the major railhead in the state is Dimapur, which is linked to Guwahati. Guwahati is in turn connected to the rest of the country by important trains.
Fest at Diu
Best time to enjoy one of the lesser known territories of India- Diu. Festa De Diu is the longest beach festival in Asia, spanning across three months, from December 2015 to February 2016. With concerts, carnivals, jam sessions and more than 300 artists such as Shreya Ghosal, Vir Das, Indian Ocean and Milind Soman set to perform, this beach festival is the epitome of fun and relaxation, a celebration of music, art and culture. Whole Festival is divided in different weeks for 12 fascinating weeks of performances. You can chose when you want to be there. Azure waters and picturesque surroundings make for an absolutely blissful experience at Festival Village. Tents which are a classic combination of luxury and comfort are pitched on the beach, with mouth-watering fine-dining options and relaxing spas as an added bonus. Many incredible adventures also await you. One can Enjoy a blissful balloon ride over the endless Arabian sea and tranquil Diu or feel the adrenaline rush as you jump into the Arabian Sea tied with a bungee or take in all the beauty of Diu as you glide between two cliffs through a zip line. Ilha de Calma is an island steeped in peace and tranquility. After a long day around the beach, you can check into a multitude of hotels that will only add to your serene experience. One can stay in luxury tents that are pitched on the serene beaches of Diu. This accommodation comes with free access to all performances. All the Luxury Tents are fully air-conditioned, with all the facilities you would expect in a 5-star accommodation. The tents comprise porches, king-size beds and TVs, along with a cosy sitting area inside the tent. There are two accommodation options for the Tents – Luxury Cottage and Luxury Cottage With Sea View.
Date: 1st December 2015 to 15th February 2016
Getting there: Diu has an airport at Nagoa which is connected by a daily flight of Jet Airways from Mumbai. Rajkot Airport also has multiple flights that connect major cities in India and Diu is only a short drive away. Air India is the official airlines partner of Festa De Diu, organised by Eastbound Tours and Travels Pvt. Ltf. From Monday to Thursday, they will have a direct flight from Mumbai to Diu during the festival. Nearest Railway Station is Veraval in Gujarat, which is 90KM from Diu. Major cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh), Dwarka and Thiruvananthapuram are directly connected to Veraval Railway Station. Moreover a meter gauge at Delwada is just 8 km from Diu. Daily, two trains connect Junagadh & Veraval to Delwada Railway Station. State run buses as well as some private buses serve Diu from Ahmedabad. The trip takes around 10 hours. Daily three sleeper-cum-seating buses run from Diu to Mumbai.
Tansen Samaroh, Gwalior
This is the largest and the oldest Samaroh of the Academy in the field of classical music despite the fact that it is a regular annual festival being continuously celebrated. This cultural festival is dedicated to the pillar of Indian classical music, the great Tansen. The place where this great musician lies buries, Tansen Tomb, in Gwalior is the venue of a music festival held annually. Gwalior is the place that has retained the rich classical music tradition and Tansen devotion to music laid to the foundation of what is known as the Gwalior gharana style with its unique dhrupad classical form. Khayal was also refined from the Gwalior gharana only. This festival is noted for its unique compositions in Indian classical style and forceful performances. Organized by the Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad, the Tansen festival of music, the event is a unique four day show for the music lovers of the country to experience the superb melody rendered by the great exponents of Indian classical music. The most prestigious Tansen honour (samman) for the long time devotion and contribution to Hindustani classic music is also awarded on this occasion.The history of the Samaroh shows that this used to be the most significant music festival of the Gwalior State. Later on it used to be organised by the Government of MP through its department of Public Information and now in continuation, it is being organised by the Academy of the department of culture in MP. The great and well-known musicians and music lovers of the country and abroad participate in the Samaroh to offer their musical tribute to the all-time great music Maestro Tansen. Since it is the only one and the oldest day night music festival, the Academy honours the senior celebrities and junior artists of the music on this occasion by including them in the Samaroh through their music of performance.
Date: 11th to 14th December 2015
Getting there: Gwalior is well connected to all parts of country. Gwalior airport has got daily flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Indore, Bhopal and Jabalpur. Gwalior is very well connected to major cities across India by direct train links. Gwalior is situated on the North-South corridor of National Express Highway. The festival venue Tansen Tomb is right in the heart of the city.
138 years of enchanting classical music
Shree Baba Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan” is the oldest festival of Indian Classical Music in the world. The vibrant voices of the vocalists, The soul stirring strains of Sitar, Santoor and Sarangi; the thundering sounds of Tabla and Pakhawaj; the cascading notes of Flute & Shehnai; the magic of Mohan Veena; the enchanting notes of Veena & Violin and the harmonious notes of Harmonium- all have touched the souls of enlightened audiences at Shree Baba Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan, year after year for the last 138 years.
This magnificent achievement has been made possible by the great musicians, the generous donors, the devoted audience and the dedicated ‘Harivallabh’ team. For some it is a matter of sheer devotion, for some it is a pilgrimage and for some it is a mission to preserve the best in Indian Classical Music, that attracts them to this Sangeet Sammelan and to receive the blessings from the great seat of music. Harivallabh shall complete 139 Years on 28th December 2014. The Government of India has recognized this festival as one of the National Festivals of Music. Drawing inspiration from Saint-musician – Baba Harivallabh, who started this Sangeet Sammelan in the memory of his Guru Swami Tulja Giri Ji, the Sangeet Sammelan has provided a platform where distinguished musicians could perform and give the best of their art and where anyone interested – initiated and uninitiated alike, could listen to them, free.
Date: 25th to 27th December 2015
Getting there: Festival happens at Devi Talab in city of Jalandhar in Punjab. Jalandhar is well connected to all parts of country through road and rail network. Amritsar is the closest airport.
Dance and heritage at Konark
The Annual Konark Festival, which is held in an Open Air Auditorium with the temple as the backdrop, showcase a magical parade of India’s classical and traditional dance forms. Eminent dancers and their troupe delight visitors in the wintry evening of early December with dramatic choreographies. Besides, the dance performances the visitors are treated in an Artist Camp to an exhibition of Odishan temple sculptures which are often described as poetry transcribed on stone. Sand Art exhibition is also another attraction for tourists. It is a festival of classical dances of India performed at the backdrop of the Sun Temple, Konark. Konark Festival was organised for the first time in 1989 in the Open Air Auditorium at Konark constructed with the financial assistance of Government of India. The festival is being organised for a period of 5 days i.e. from December 1-5 every year. Conceived as a festival of Classical Dances of India, the objective of Konark Festival has been to promote Konark as well as Odisha as place of tourist destination.
Thirty five km. to the north-east of Puri lies the World Heritage Monument, the Sun Temple of Konark. Twelve hundred craftsmen had toiled hard for 12 long years to erect this monumental wonder where 12 year’s revenue was spent. Modelled after the floating chariot of the mythical Sun God, the temple is a quintessence of imaginative craftsmanship of ancient Odisha. The temple architecture was designed as drawn by twelve exquisitely carved stone wheels and seven galloping horses. And the kings, queens, generals, foot soldiers, sages, priests, elephants, horses, courtiers and courtesans depicted on the walls and the panels with finesse open a window to the nostalgic times of medieval Odisha.
Date: 1st to 5th December 2015
Getting there: Konark is connected by excellent all-weather roads with Puri (35 kms) and Bhubaneswar (65 kms) which are also nearest Railheads. Nearest Airport is Biju Pattanaik Airport, Bhubaneswar. All types of tourist cabs are available from Bhubaneswar and Puri. Further tourist luxury coaches are being operated by Odisha Tourism Development Corporation.
Carnival time in Cochin
If there is one festival the whole of Kochi impatiently awaits every year, then it’s the Cochin Carnival held in the last week of December. Fort Kochi is decked up like a bride and tourists, not only from within the country, but also outside, flock to this lovely port city to participate in the revelry. The inception of the Kochi carnival can be traced back to the Portuguese New Year revelry, held here during the colonial days. Gradually, it evolved to take the form of what is today popularly called the Cochin Carnival of Kerala. Preparations generally begin months in advance for hosting the unique games, fairs and partying during the Carnival of Cochin. Dressed up in fancy dresses, everyone, children in particular, is seen bursting with enthusiasm. The highlight of the carnival is the massive procession on the New Year’s Day. Led by an embellished elephant accompanied by drums and music, the carnival is a moment to behold. There is also staging of different South and North Indian folk dances during the festivity. Colour white simply dominates the concluding 10 days of December, during the Kochi Carnival. All establishments in the city don white paper buntings. The available space on the streets host impromptu competitions and multi-faceted celebrations. Kalam Vara (floor drawing), tug-of-war, bicycle race, swimming in the sea, beach volleyball are some of the programs that take place during the Cochin Carnival at Fort Kochi. The festivities and revelries continue till midnight of December 31st with fireworks marking the grand finale.
Date: 25th December 2015 to 1st January 2016
Getting there: Cochin (Kochi), being an important centre for both trade and tourism in Kerala, is well connected by air, rail and road. A number of domestic and international flights operate from the Cochin / Kochi International Airport located at Nedumbassery. Trains running from the 3 railway stations in Kochi, namely Ernakulam Junction, Ernakulam Town and Cochin Harbor Terminus, connect it to all small and big towns and cities of Kerala and other parts of India.
Winter fun at Aravali’s only hill station
The Winter Festival is held every year during the last week of December. The festival celebrates the warmth and cheerfulness of the people of this quaint hill station, who welcome the tourist from the depth of their hearts. This three-day colourful festival is organised by the Rajasthan Tourism and Municipal Board of Mt. Abu. The hospitality of the people, their colourful culture and exotic location make this festival a never-to-be-forgotten experience. The festival begins with a ceremonial procession, which starts from the RTDC Hotel Shikhar. The procession gathers at the Nakki Lake Chowk followed by folk performances of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana’s folk artistes. The grand finale of the festival is made brighter by a display of dazzling fireworks on three days.
During the period of the Maharaja’s, Mount Abu was used as a place of leisure by the royalties and semi-royalties. The place presents an interesting contrast of British style bungalows and holiday lodges of the royals (Thikhana) with various tribal communities residing amidst the thick lush forest on the hills surrounding the region. The flora and fauna enjoys the adulation of the tourist to the fullest. The highest point of the Aravali is the ‘Guru Shikhar’ with a vast sanctuary that shelters a number of species like langur, wild boars, Sambar, leopards and many more along with a number of flowering plants and trees, which enhance the beauty of the whole scenery.
Date: 29th to 31st December 2015
Getting there: Nearest airport is Udaipur. Mount Abu is located on the broad gauge line between Delhi and Mumbai via Ahmedabad. Direct trains run to various destinations including Ajmer, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. Convenient bus services are from Ahmedabad, Ajmer, Baroda, Jaipur,Jodhpur, Mumbai, Udaipur.
Beating dance at Sunburn in Goa
Said to be the biggest outdoor dance party to hit India’s beaches, the Sunburn Festival is into its eight year this year. The festival features well known artists and DJs from the electronic dance music scene all around the world. Sunburn Goa acts as the perfect haven for those hoping to escape cooler climates and fully immerse themselves in world-class electronic music. Not only does Sunburn provide the perfect soundtrack to round-off the year, but festival goers can also let loose with a range of adrenaline powered activities such as bungee jumping, volleyball and zorbing, offering the ultimate holiday experience.It’s spread across three days, multiple stages, and numerous genres of music. Sunburn originated from the idea of a Electronic Dance Music Festival held in Goa, India. Inaugurated in 2007, Sunburn became a place of synergy of music, entertainment, sports, food, shopping and lifestyle that has attracted audiences from every nook and corner of the globe. Now in its ninth year, Sunburn has become the hottest dance music property in Asia! Making its debut city edition in the summer of 2012 in Mumbai, Sunburn took the same format to Noida & Colombo in October 2012.
Sunburn has expanded itself to set a new bar for “arena” format gigs with renowned international DJs, the most recent being Swedish House Mafia’s One Last Tour and Avicii’s debut in India marking the rise of a unique concept such as Sunburn Arena! In the past four years of existence, Sunburn has brought together renowned Indian and International DJs to entertain crowds of lakhs all around the year! With a variety of experiences to choose from, Sunburn caters to a wide Indian and International audience and highlights India as a Dance Festival destination to the world.
Date: 27th to 30th December 2015
Getting there: Event is held at Vagator beach in Goa. Vagator is located approximately a one hour drive from the Dabolim Airport. The nearest railway station is at Tivim. Other railway stations are at Margao and Vasco da Gama.
Folk and craft at Shilpgram
The Shilpgram Festival organised every year from 21st December to December 31st, attracts massive crowd creating a scene of rural market fair and festival with live performance of folk artist from different parts of the country. There are several huts constructed in the traditional architectural style using mud and local building material to reflect the geographical and ethnic diversity of the different states of west zone of India. Situated 3 kms west of Udaipur near the Havala village is the Centre’s Shilpgram – the Rural Arts and Crafts Complex. Spread over an undulating terrain of 130 bighas (70 Acres) of land and surrounded by the Aravallies, the Rural Arts and Crafts Complex is conceived as a living enthnographic museum to depict the lifestyles of the folk and tribal people of the West Zone. Within this complex, huts of the member states are constructed incorporating traditional architectural features of different geographical and ethnic groups residing within the West Zone of India comprising of five Federal States. One of the important objectives of Shilpgram is in the sphere of increasing awareness and knowledge of rural life and crafts, specifically, for the younger generation. Special emphasis is laid on workshops for children on arts, crafts, theatre and music. Anyone who loves shopping should make it a point to try and catch this impressive arts and crafts fair. Over 400 artisans and craftsmen from all over India come to set up stalls at the fair, which takes place in a sprawling artisans’ village set up by the government. Folk dances and cultural programs are also held as part of the festival. It’s a great way to experience rural India culture.
Date: 21st to 31st December 2015
Getting there: Shilpgram is on outskirts of Udaipur. Udaipur is connected to all major cities with air, rail and road connectivity. Udaipur airport has daily flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Jodhpur and Jaipur.
Get Magnetic at Alsisar
Newest addition to Rajasthan’s vastly growing music scene is Magnetic Fields Festival. Although it is largely a closed affair limited to only 500 guests. This is held at two stages in the restored 17th century Alsisar Mahal, in Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. This palace is now a heritage hotel. Lots of heavy metal music both from bands and DJs, traditional fashion, art and food will be on platter. Its a sort of fantasy carnival. Set in the pristine heritage village of Alsisar in Rajasthan, Alsisar Mahal is a battle hardened palace that has recently been renovated and refurbished into a luxurious hotel. Magnetic Fields is more than just a music festival, it’s a visual dream, a unique marriage of contemporary culture with Rajasthani heritage and hospitality. You will be transported through the looking glass into an intimate world with adventures, new experiences and memories waiting to be made. You can expect the freshest Indian sounds accompanied by some of the most exciting underground international stars alongside a cultural programme of local legends. Stretch in the morning and watch the new day come alive with yoga sessions; immerse yourself in treasure hunt, get better acquainted with the night sky in star gazing workshops, find your own little pocket of paradise and lose yourself in Bedouin dens; secret areas and feast on local delicacies given an alternative twist.
Earlier Alsisar Mahal was the residence of the Thakur of Alsisar. Alsisar Mahal is the most recent addition to Alsisar Group of Hotels which has now become an ideal base to explore not only the old historic capital of Jhunjhunu but also the whole painted region of Shekhawati. This majestic palace, spread over a lush 10 acre plot, is situated in village Alsisar which is 23 Km’s from district head quarter ‘JhunJhunu’ in Rajasthan. The regal magnificence of the Alsisar Mahal’s architecture and the splendour of its beautifully decorated interiors are just mesmerising; antique furniture, intricately carved poster beds and medieval delicate Rajasthani motifs on fabric recreates a flavour of luxury living for our guests.
Date: 18th to 20th December 2015
Getting there: Delhi or Jaipur are the closest options. Daily from Sarai Rohilla, New Delhi to Sadulpur Junction – just under 4 hours followed by 45 min taxi from Sadulpur to Alsisar. This is the recommended travel option! By road its 6 hours from Delhi via Gurgaon > Rewari > Narnol > Singhana > Chirawa > Jhunjhunu and 4 hours from Jaipur via Chomu > Sikar (take a bypass) > Nawalgarh > Jhunjhunu.