World through my eyes
First month of the new year. Month of new hopes, new beginnings. Chilling in the north and pleasant in south. Plenty of options to travel from skiing to sun bathing at beach. Many of the winter festivals are held in the month. Tradition of dance and music festivals continues to lure tourists at various places in the country. This month also has Makar Sakranti (14th January), considered to be one of the most auspicious days of the year and also an occasion of many travels and pilgrimages.
Sirpur is a historical town in Mahasamund district in the state of Chhattisgarh 78 km away from Raipur and 35 km from Mahasamund city on the banks of the river Mahanadi. The town of Sirpur (aka Shirpur) has been mentioned in ancient epigraphic records, dating back to the 5th to the 8th centuries A.D. The city was once the capital of the Sarbhapuriya and Somvanshi Kings of Dakshin (south) Kosala state. It was an important centre of Buddhist from the 6th the 10th century A.D. and was visited by Hieun Tsang, the 7th Century Chinese Pilgrimist and Scholar. Popular for its internationally acclaimed archaeological excavations, Sirpur has always been the grounds for celebrations. It has also retained its importance as pilgrimage site for the followers of Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism as well as for art lovers. Intricate carvings, elegant statues and highly innovative discoveries have made this land the perfect abode for art. All this makes it the most preferred venue for the wonderful Sirpur National Dance and Music Festival. It brings together artists from various platforms in a cultural extravaganza. Along with the dance and music festival, three important workshops based on folk dances, handicrafts and musical instruments of Chhattisgarh are organised. Painting competitions for school children are also conducted during the festival. This festival is supposedly country’s biggest national platform of this kind. It has also established its own unique identity and created a sense of international and national cultural amity. The Sirpur Mahotsav is becoming popular and it will soon become as renowned as Khajuraho and Konark dance festivals, drawing more people to Chhattisgarh. The 7th century Laxman Temple (dedicated to lord Vishnu) is considered as one of the finest brick temples of India with a stone doorframe. First discovered in 1872 by Lord Cunningham, the temple is famous for its interesting carvings.
When: 29-31 January 2016
2. Camel Festival, Bikaner, Rajasthan
January is just the right month for a desert spree, and Bikaner just the right place to see the ships of the desert. In the camel country Bikaner, these desert leviathans pull heavy cartloads, transport grain and even work at the wells. The Camel Festival begins with a colourful procession of bedecked camels against the red sandstone backdrop of the Junagarh Fort, the festivity advances to the open sand-spreads of the grounds, followed by the best breed competition, the tug-of-war contest, camel dance, acrobatics, etc. The camels display amazing footwork, dancing gracefully to the slightest direction of their trainers. Bridal, bridles, bejewelled necks, jingling anklets and long, lanky camel shadow on dusky sands cast a magical spell. Hundreds of tourists and thousands of locals and dignitaries revel in this man-and-animal affair organised especially for the tourists. The evenings close with a different tenor and tempo altogether: a traditional rendezvous of renowned artistes of Rajasthan and the local folk performers. The jubilant skirt-swirling dancers, the awe-inspiring fire dance, and the dazzling fireworks light up the fortified desert city of Bikaner. Bikaner is connected by rail and road with all the major cities. The nearest airport is at Jodhpur (243 kms.).
When: 9-10 January 2016
3. Kameng River Festival, Arunachal Pradesh
Kameng River Festival 2016 will roll out one of the India’s biggest white water rafting competition and angling. Much speculated event is believed to draw huge attention of both professional and amateur river rafters and anglers across the country. Kameng River Festival (KRF) 2016 will begin from 21st to 23rd January 2016, with ‘Explore the Unexplored’ as its theme, in association with the district administration. The festival is being sponsored by the Department of Tourism, Government of Arunachal Pradesh. The aim of the event is to promote the Kameng River brand, as most exhilarating river rafting destination in India and to sensitize the people on hospitality and tourist friendly behaviour. Three-day event will feature numerous adventurous and exhilarating events like paragliding, zip-lining, rappelling, and angling – both modern and traditional, including local fish-trapping, besides bamboo stilt walks, cycling to villages, greasy bamboo pole climbing, beach volleyball, archery, and paintball beside musical night. The festival, supported and sponsored by Department of Tourism Govt of Arunachal Pradesh, is attracting participations from domestic and international tourist besides local tourist. It is anticipated that about 2 Lakhs tourist are going to take part of this first ever Kameng River Festival which will be one of its kind in the state – The Land of Rising Sun.
When: 21-23 January 2016
Where: At Pacha Myorang, west of bank of Kameng River overlooking the beautiful Seppa town, East Kameng District, Arunachal Pradesh.
4. International Kite Festival, Uttarayan, Ahmedabad
Gujarat is vibrant with the Kite Festival (Makar Sankranti) which is celebrated with colors of joy, colors of life. The Kite Festival signify Gujarat’s ‘Cultural Strength’ and like the kites, Gujarat soars high to touch the skies to be the ‘best in the world.’ All over the State, in the Month of January, the serene blue sky with colorful kites look splendid and since morning to evening remains dotted with vivid splashes of color with kites in a variety of hues, shapes and sizes. The excitement continues with the onset of night. As the sun sets and darkness hovers over, youngsters continue competing each other in supremacy in the sky, now with the paper lanterns tied to their kite-strings. These lanterns known as tukkal swaying at the mild stroke of wind presents a lovely image while some try to cut off these tukkals and enjoy the fun. Makar Sankranti (Kite Flying Day) marks the end of a long winter with the return of the sun to the Northern Hemisphere. According to the Hindu astronomy the sun enters the zodiac of Makara (Capricorn). Hence, it is called Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. The special significance attached to the celebration of Makar sankranti, is Kite Flying. The gods who are believed to have slumbered for six long months are now awake and the portals of heaven are thrown open! Uttarayan is celebrated all over Gujarat but the excitement is high at Ahmedabad, Surat, Nadiad and Vadodara. Surat, especially is known particularly for the strong string which is made by applying glass powder on the row thread to provide it a cutting edge.
To be in any one of these places during this festival is to feel the heart and pulse of Gujarat and its people.On a night prior to the festival special markets are held and you need a gujju skill for bargaining and clinch a right deal in the crushing crowd of kite enthusiasts. Gujarat Tourism also hosts the International Kite Festival drawing crowds to witness the show of eminent kitists from many states and countries. This International Kite Festival is held at Ahmedabad , to coincide with the festival of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. People from all over the world display their exotic kites of various designs. It is a splendid spectacular show to see the sky with colourful kites, huge size and varied designs and shapes This gives the people of Ahmedabad the change to see the unusual kites brought by the visitors some of which are truly works of art. Cuisine and Crafts display are also enjoyed by the participants and spectators. The International Kite Festival in Gujarat has become a major tourist attraction.
When: 14 January 2016
5. Mamallapuram Dance Festival, Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu
Mamallapuram has retained its fame in stone, thanks to the great contribution of Pallava artisans. It is among the most outstanding examples of Dravidian art and architecture and a jewel in the crown of Tamil Nadu. In a land that is liberally strewn with some of the best in temple art, Mamallapuram holds its own, and stands as a silent yet eloquent witness to the glory of its creators.Unfortunately most of the work was left incomplete, and time and nature have also eroded the remains of this once great port. Yet, Mamallapuram’s wonders in rock leave visitors enthralled, conveying as they do, an impression of beauty and harmony. The monuments are floodlit at night and so it is possible to enjoy their beauty even after sunset. The Mamallapuram dance festival is conducted every year during Dec-Jan. It is a month long festival and dances take place during the weekends. Classical dances such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Mohini Attam, Odissi, Kathak etc., are performed by well-known exponents of the art. he dances are performed against the magnificent backdrop of the Pallava Rock Sculpture in the city of Mahabalipuram ,Tamil Nadu. Tthe Pallava Rock Sculptures provide an aesthetic touch to this cultural dance festival where the best folk dancers in India perform. The crowd gets a visual treat by the incredible performances of Indian folk dancers where artists perform beautifully decked up in the finest traditional attire representing the rich cultural heritage of the country. Mamallapuram is a popular beach resort and a culture front, especially for the tourists, who come from the world over who love to imbibe and soak in the rich traditions. This town beach is full of ancient monuments, sculptures, caves, monolithic temples and beaches. In Mamallapuram there is a Shore Temple that was built during the reign of Narsimha Varman of the Pallava dynasty in 8th century A.D. During the dance festival time the stones of temple begin to resonate with music and dance rhythms.
When: 20 December 2015 — 20 January 2016
How to reach: Chennai (58 km) is the nearest airport for domestic and international flights. Chennai is connected with all the major places in India. The nearest railway stations are Chengalpattu (29 km) and Chennai (58 km). From these stations one has to take road journey to reach Mamallapuram. Buses from here to Pondicherry, Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu and Chennai to Mamallapuram daily. Tourists can also hire taxis from Chennai.
6. Pangsau Pass Winter Festival will have flavour of North East
Pangsau Pass Winter Festival (PPWF) 2016 will be celebrated from Jan 20 next year, after a gap of two years. As per the official record, PPWF in its last edition was able to attract two lakh tourists in three days which is a first by any state tourism festival in the North East. There are nine or ten state festivals, of which PPWF is ranked second after Tawang Festival but in terms of tourist inflow, PPWF tops the list. The flavour of the festival will be same and better from earlier editions and all the tribes of eastern belt will be called to add more zest to the celebration. The ‘Pangsau Pass Winter Festival’ was first started in 2007 and was commenced in a befitting manner with support from the indigenous sources and since then there was no looking back, because, each year it began to grow bigger and better. Finally, 2 years later in 2009, the Arunachal Pradesh Tourism department took PPWF under its wing.
PPWF is normally designated as a global village as it conjoins all the diverse tribes of the North East and Myanmar to reveal their customs and culture in broader perspective. Amazingly, the cultural carnival has traversed all the social barriers, inspiring the secluded regions to celebrate the ethnic existences that strongly bond together all the distinct tribes with diverse cultures and different religious backgrounds.The Pangsau Pass is located in one of the most peaceful and eco-friendly territory, it is nature’s store house. As the odyssey of discovery penetrates the heart of ethnic extravaganza, spontaneously, amazing events begins to weave unforgettable memories.
When: 20-22 January 2016
How to reach: Pangsau Pass or Pan Saung Pass is 3,727 feet (1,136 m) in altitude, lies on the crest of the Patkai Hills on the India-Burma (Myanmar) border. The pass offers one of the easiest routes into Burma from the Assam plains through Jairampur town of Changlang district, Arunachal Pradesh. It is named after the closest Burmese village, Pangsau, that lies 2 km beyond the pass to the east in and around historical Stilwell Road. The Ledo Road (Stilwell Road) began at Ledo, the railhead, and passed through Lekhapani, Jagun, Jairampur (the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh boundary and beginning of Inner Line check gate), and Nampong before switchbacking steeply upwards through densely forested hills to the pass, 12 km away. The distance from Ledo to Pangsau Pass is 61 km.
7. Adoor Gajmela, first of the year
The picture of a huge tusker in all his adornment is something that catches the mind of all. If you are an elephant lover then don’t miss this wonderful elephant pageant at the Parthasarathy Temple in Adoor. Popular as Adoor Gajamela, the festival is part of the ten-day annual celebration held at the temple. Kerala’s first elephant pageant for the year, the end of the 10 day festival at Parthasarathy Temple features a procession of nine decorated elephants. Traditional art forms such a panchavadyam (a musical ensemble with five different types of instruments) accompany the parade.Hundreds of people throng the temple premises to witness this spectacle where nine tuskers come in their ceremonial attire to entice all. Parthasarathy Temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna, who is also known as Parthasarathy – the charioteer of Parthan, another name for Arjuna. Arjuna is one of the five Pandava princes, in the Indian epic Mahabharata.
When: January 20 2016
Where: Parthasarathy Temple, Adoor, Pathanamthitta district, Kerala
8. Jaipur Literature Festival
From modest beginnings in 2006, the Jaipur Literature Festival has grown into the largest literary festival in Asia-Pacific. It now claims to be the biggest free literature festival on the earth. With a host of literary figures jumping in the intolerance debate and returning their Sahitya Academy awards, this year’s festival is certainly going to have many heated discussions. In 2012, more than 100,000 people attended hundreds of sessions over the Festival’s five day duration. The Festival takes place in late January each year. Both Indian authors as well as those from abroad appear at the Festival. The sessions consist of readings, discussions, and questions and answers. It’s possible to buy the authors’ books and get them signed. In addition, there’s a range of stalls selling everything from food to handicrafts. There’s also an outdoor lounge bar, for relaxing. Music performances are held in the evenings, after the literary sessions are over. In recent years, the Festival has turned into quite a fashionable occasion, and attracts plenty of socialites from Delhi and Jaipur. Authors will discuss works related to topic. There will also be emphasis on poetry, the literature of Southeast Asia, and the seven states of northeast India. There will be live music events, heritage walks and much more.
When: January 21-25 2016
Where: At the historic Diggi Palace hotel in Jaipur. The hotel is located in Sangram Colony, Ashok Nagar, which is just off M.I. Road, around 10 minutes walk from the Old City of Jaipur. As Diggi Palace and its venues were overflowing in 2012, the music stage has been shifted to a different venue at The Clarks Amer lawns (around 15 minutes drive south of Diggi Palace).
9. Joydev Fair, Kenduli
For an unforgettable dose of West Bengal folk music don’t miss the Kenduli Mela, where the mystical wandering Baul musicians gather to perform. Dressed in saffron robes, and playing a distinctive instrument called the Ektara, they sing uniquely about life’s philosophy. Joydev-Kenduli is renowned as the birth place of great Sanskrit poet Joydev who flourished in 12th Century and composed the well known Geet – Govinda, a Sanskrit Lyrical poem. Annual- Mela is held in the village Kenduli in the last day of Bengali month Pous and first 2 days of Magh and is attended by thousands of pilgrims including Bauls. The word ‘Baul’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Batul’ which means ‘mad’. Baul philosophy emphasises love for all human beings as the path leading to divine love. The Joydeb-Kenduli mela (fair), held every year in West Bengal’s Birbhum district on Makar Sankranti in mid-January. It is a gathering of wandering minstrels (Bauls, primarily) like no other in India. Gathering in almost equal numbers are lay aficionados addicted to the Baul and Fakir ways of life. Joydev Mela is mainly a music festival but as the Poush Mela it attracts craftsmen from the whole region, mainly selling wooden kitchen supplies, handmade covers or cheap jewellery. During five days, the 3 000 inhabitants of Kenduli Village welcome thousand and thousand of pilgrims who come mostly to listen to the bauls, the Wandering minstrels, the Mad Ones, bearers of a unique musical tradition, included in the list of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO. The fair is held on the banks of the Ajay River which is not only of some historical interest – the fair celebrates the great poet Joydev on the day he is claimed to have taken a bath at the Kadaambokhandi ghat of the river around 800 years ago.
When: January 14-17, 2016.
Where: Kenduli village, around 30 kilometers from Shantiniketan in West Bengal.
10. Rajarani Music Festival
Entrancing performances by well-known Odissi and Hindustani vocal and music maestros bring alive the architectural beauty of the Rajarani temple at this festival. The temple, often referred to as the Khajuraho of the east, is famous for its elaborate erotic sculptured figurines. Celestial music, sublime surroundings and soothing climes of late winter—soul traverses to an elevated sphere leaving you utterly relaxed. Holidays are made with this kind of experience that creates a lasting mark in your mind. Rajarani Music Festival held against the backdrop of the 11th century Rajarani Temple in Bhubaneswar is such an evening of concerts: it’s relaxing, entertaining and uplifting. The city has a large assemblage of celebrated temples of which the Rajarani Temple is one of the most conspicuous. It’s remarkable for the absence any presiding deity in it. The temple is famous for its ornate deul or compass and the statues of eight Dikpals guarding the eight cardinal directions of the temple. To show case the glorious tradition of Indian classical music, the Rajarani Music Festival was conceived to be organised by the Department of Tourism in association with Bhubaneswar Music Circle.
The musical evenings are resplendent with excellent performances by the great maestros of Indian classical music creating an allegory of darbari gayans (musical performances in an Indian king’s court) of age old histories. Eminent instrumentalists and vocalists of India have rendered scintillating performance in this festival over the years.
When: January 18-20, 2016.
Where: Rajarani temple, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha