Summer in the northern part of India seems to be peaking a bit early. Such a weather instigates desperate search for cooler vistas. With annual summer vacations just round the corner, we bring you our choice of top ten ideas for the month of May- first of India’s traditional two months of summer vacations. Many festivals around and a few adventures to calm you down. Go ahead.
1. Malwa Festival, Indore, Ujjain
Celebrated with great enthusiasm, Malwa Utsav is one of the biggest and most spectacular events of Madhya Pradesh. The festival restores the age old culture and the tradition of India through its various classical dance performances and traditional music. Performers and entertainers from different parts of India charm the cities of Indore and Ujjain for a remarkable five day celebration of art, music, dance, drama and culture. Festival is organised first in Indore and then in Ujjain for five days at each place. One can say that the festival is a storehouse to the culture, spirit and the essence of the state. There is a huge gathering of locals and tourists coming from all parts of India and across the globe. Well-known artists, excellent performances, colourful ambience and a mélange of various programs form the prime highlights of the festival. In-addition, the festival also exhibits a rich display of art and craft workshops and one can savour the delectable cuisines of different variety. This year the Ujjain leg of the festival will be falling during the Simhastha, adding another colour to the occasion.
When: 5th-17th May, 2016
2. Kottiyoor Festival, Kannur
The Kottiyoor festival is unique as it involves two temples – Akkare Kottiyoor and Ikkare Kottiyoor, on the opposite banks of River Bavali. Situated in Kannur district, the annual Kottiyoor festival is celebrated for twenty-eight days and it falls during the months of May and June. Here, the Neyyattam ritual on the first day and the Thirukalasattu ritual on the concluding day are attended by hundreds of devotees. At Akkare Kottiyoor, there is no formal temple structure. The deity is believed to be a swayambhoo lingam (self-created idol of Lord Shiva) and is seated on a small heap of stones called manithara. The Akkare Kottiyoor Temple remains open only during the festival days. Nearest railway station is Thalassery which is about 57 kms from here.
When: 20th May 2016
3. Ooty welcomes the summers with flowers
Every May Ooty comes alive with the Summer Festival. The 120th flower show will be celebrated on May 27th 2016, around 200 countries national flowers will be displayed on this year show. Flower show is conducted every year in the month of may in botanical garden Ooty. In this festival large varieties of flowers are displayed and organised activities like floral arrangements, vegetable carvings, flower rangoli etc. The flower show at the Ooty Botanical Gardens, which will take place on May 27-29, is particularly stunning. This year, the special attraction will be 35 new varieties of Dalia. There will be nearly 15000 flowers of various types on display. The 58th fruit show in Coonoor will be on May 21-22. However, the vegetable, rose and spice shows organised annually during the first and second week of May has been cancelled due to Tamil Nadu assembly elections this year. Other activities include cultural events, boat racing and trekking. There is also a Dog show at South of India Kennel Club (SIKC). Ooty Botanical Gardens covers an area of 22 hectares.It is a treasure house of temperate flora, consisting of flowering trees, beautiful shrubs, colourful lilies, bulbous planets, enchanting orchids, curious cacti and succulents, pleasing pteridophytes, breath taking glass house plans and charming annuals with bright colours.
When: 27th-29th May 2016
4. Buddha Purnima at Bodhgaya
Buddha Jayanti, also known as Buddha Purnima as it falls on the full moon day, celebrates the birthday of Buddha. It’s the most sacred Buddhist festival. Actually Buddha Purnima is day of his birth, his enlightenment and his death as well, making it a very rare day. It’s the most sacred Buddhist festival. Activities include prayer meets, sermons and religious discourses, recitation of Buddhist scriptures, group meditation, processions, and worship of the statue of Buddha. Across all monasteries in India including major Buddhist pilgrim centres like Dharamshala, Sarnath and Bodhgaya and predominantly Buddhist regions such as Sikkim, Ladakh, and Arunachal Pradesh as well. At Bodhgaya, the Mahabodhi Temple wears a festive look and is decorated with colorful flags and flowers. Special prayers are organised under the Bodhi Tree (the tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment).
When: 21st May 2016
5. Simhastha Kumbh, Ujjain
This Kumbh Mela is one of four Kumbh Melas, held in different places in India, that are known as the largest religious gatherings on earth. The Simhastha Kumbh is an unrivalled celebration in India. The most popular legend regarding the origin of Kumbh Melas is the Samudra Manthan or ‘churning of the ocean’. Gods and demons competed ercely in the churning in search of the divine nectar of immortality. During this epic battle to capture the Urn (Kumbh) containing the nectar, drops of the precious liquid fell on four places – Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Nashik and Ujjain. The Ujjain Kumbh is celebrated when Jupiter ascends into sun sign Leo’s quarter or the Simha constellation of zodiac, which is why it is called ‘Simhastha’. The Simhastha is special in Ujjain as it is the seat of divine Mahakal – the Lord of all times. The ritual of bathing in the holy waters of Kshipra began on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April) and will continue on various dates until the full moon shows up in the following month of Vaishakha. There are nine bathing dates in May- 3rd, 6th, 9th, 11th, 15th, 17th and then on last three days of the festival- 19th, 20th & 21st May 2016.
When: April 22 to May 21, 2016.
Where: Shipra river, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
6. Summer festival at Mount Abu
The only hill station of the Aravali ranges welcomes tourists for the summer with a festival. The summer festival is held every year during the month of May on Budh Poornima. The festival celebrates the warmth and cheerfulness of the people of hill station, who welcome the tourists from the depth of their hearts. Mt. Abu Summer Festival kicks off with ballad singing, followed by regional folk dancing. The festival also offers sports such as boat racing on Nakki Lake, and a roller skating race. It concludes with a fireworks display. The highlight of the festival is the Sham-e-Qawwali musical show, which features some of the most renowned qawwals from various parts of India. The hospitality of the people, their colorful culture and exotic locations made this festival a-never-to-be-forgotten experience. The festival begins with a ceremonial procession, which starts from the RTDC Hotel Shikhar and gather at the Nakki Lake Chowk followed by folk performances of Rajasthan and Gujarat states. The grand finale of the festival display dazzling fireworks. This two day colorful festival is organized by the Rajasthan Tourism, Municipal Board, Mount Abu & District Administration. Both the days of festival are interesting because of various competitions that take place the whole day. Skating Race, skater’s Show, CRPF Band Show, Boat Race, Horse Race, Tug of War, Panihari Matka Race and Deepdan add to the excitement of the celebration.
When: 19th-21st May 2016
7. Moatsu at Nagaland
Moatsu Festival is celebrated by the Ao tribe of Nagaland. Moatsu is celebrated in the first week of May every year. Various rituals are performed during this period. The Aos observe Moatsü Mong after the sowing is done. The Moatsu festival provides the Aos a period of recreation and entertainment after the stressful work of clearing fields, burning jungles and sowing seeds, cleaning up the Tsubu (Wells) and repairs and construction of houses by elders of the Putu Menden, stretching over a week. This tribal festival is marked by peppy songs and dances. The whole festival with full of merry making and fun is observed only for three days from 1st to 3rd of May. During this festival one of the symbolic celebrations is Sangpangtu, where a big fire is lit and men and women sit around it. Men & women putting on the complete best attire and the womenfolk serve the wine and meat. The natural customary practice of the forefathers was competing in making the best rice-beer and rearing the best possible pigs and cows to be slaughtered during the festival. The women weave the best of traditional garments and adorn themselves with all their finery. They join the men in dancing, eating and drinking and composing warrior songs. Singing songs in praise of the lover and the village as a whole is done and the older men encourage the young people to be bold and heroic to defend and protect them from enemies as head-hunting was practiced during their fore-fathers time.
When: 1st-3rd May 2016
8. Love the nature at Matheran Green Festival
For the month of May, the lush vehicle-free forest of Matheran will come alive with this green initiative focusing on nature and conservation. This is India’s first forest festival. In the misty mountains of Matheran’s reserve forest, visionaries, makers and believers from all walks of life are joining hands with the real artist – nature, to create solutions with the common goal of leaving behind a better planet than the one we inherited. Architects, designers, artists, musicians, writers, directors, engineers and scientists will all join together to share their perspectives and contributions through different mediums. These include public art, photography, cultural performances, food, music, poetry and film. In addition, there will be tree planting and more than 50 different workshops. Matheran which means ‘forest on a forehead (of a mountain)’ is a hill station in the Indian State of Maharashtra. It is the smallest hill station in India located in the outskirts of major cities Mumbai & Pune. This is an eco-sensitive region, declared by Ministry of Environment & Forest, Government of India, is the only automobile-free hill station of Asia. Last year the festival was an five day affair. This year it has been extended for the whole month.
When: 1st-30th May 2016
9. Belief and adventure at Chardham Yatra
The most popular pilgrimage in India, Chardham yatra is going to begun in its full swing with the opening of doors of the famous Badrinath temple after a six-month winter break on 11th May. The doors of Gangotri and Yamunotri and Kedarnath shrines will be opened for pilgrims two days earlier on the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritiya on 9th May this year. With all the four shrines located above 10,000 feet in Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, the temple doors remain closed in October-November owing to low temperatures and heavy snowfall, and are reopened in April-May. The pilgrimage season of six months witnesses hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists travelling to Dehradun, Haridwar or Rishikesh for an onward journey to the four shrines, making it the economic backbone of Garhwal region. However, there was a dip in footfall in 2013 following the natural calamity in the region. According to government figures, while the number of tourists visiting the state in 2012 and 2014 stood at 2.84 crore and 2.26 crore respectively, the figures stood at 2.09 crore in 2013.
When: May-September 2016
10. Sipi Fair, SIpur, Shimla
One of the unheard festivals in the list and bit weird too, but great occasion to understand the local culture and flavour. Two kilometre from Mashobra, a Shimla suburb lies Sipur which is known for its centuries old Sipi Fair. The fair is named after Seep, a local deity. The legend has it that the temple existed here prior to the deity’s visit to this place. According to the locals the place commands profound religious and mystical significance. No one spends the night here. The depth of the faith can be gauged from the fact that the visitors even dust their clothes before returning to the homes so that even a minute particle of the dust, a property of Seep deity , is not carried away. The tradition to visit the Sipi Fair is centuries old. It also finds special mention in the periodicals published during British regime .The place earlier belonged to the erstwhile Koti state. The star attraction of this fair is deity’s visit from the nearby hamlet Deothi .The deity pays as much as three visits to this place throughout the year.The venue also become a makeshift market during the fair when the stalls of goods are decorated to attract the visitors.
When: May 2016