World through my eyes
This September month is special. Has some very different types of events in store. Top of them is Naroda festival in Ladakh in the north and in down south the last of season’s boat races in the month of Onam. Monsoon is still pretty there but to mark the beginning of the long Indian festive season we also have Ganeshotsav as well Ramlila from Ramnagar. There is lot more besides them. Choose your bit, while we have a look at them.
Lets start with Ladakh which has two reasons to go this month. First one is-
Naropa, Kumbh of Ladakh: It could be one of the reasons of the lifetime to visit Ladakh, whomsoever have missed it so far. Another one for all those who have. Billed as the “Kumbh Mela of the Himalayas” and “Ladakh’s Largest Buddhist Festival in History”, the Naropa festival takes place once every 12 years. It’s celebrated by the Drukpa Order of Himalayan Buddhism in honour of their 11th century patron saint, Naropa. The festival includes performances by prominent Himalayan artists and Bollywood celebrities, as well as an elaborate spiritual ceremony and public display of the holy Six Bone Ornaments that belonged to Saint Naropa.
When: September 16-22, 2016.
Where: Hemis Monastery, near Leh in Ladakh.
Ladakh Festival : This one is the yearly event. This year Ladakh festival will be continuing the spirit of Naropa. The main aim of organising this festival in the month of September is to extend the lean tourist season in the region and also to represent and propagate the rich cultural heritage of the area. The grand success of the festival and the tremendous response from both foreign and home tourists is due to the rich cultural heritage and variety of other attractive programmes like traditional Polo match and Village archery. The famous monastic dance in the monasteries including exhibitions of invaluable Thankas and other Ritual Instruments of the monasteries. The tourists have the opportunities to see the entire traditional cultural programme of the region like Traditional Folk dance and songs of different parts of Ladakh. The grand achievements of the Ladakh Festival are noticeable of the significant increase in the arrivals of tourists during the lean tourist season of the year.Ladakh festival is celebrated from 20th to 26th September, every year in Leh and its villages. The inauguration ceremony of the festival takes place in Leh on a large scale with a procession of several cultural troupes from different part of the region which traverses through Leh Market. There is dancing, singing, traditional music, people wearing colourful traditional Ladakhi dresses. It comes to end at the Polo ground. The festival is for 6 days with regular celebration in various villages including archery, polo, and masked dances from the monasteries and dances by cultural troupes from the villages. There are musical concerts too. Best part is, that this is one of the best time to go to Ladakh region, just before the onset of winter.
When: 20th to 26th September 2016
Where: Leh, Ladakh
Kerala is land of all seasons but we still have many reasons to visit ‘God’s own country’ this month. Last three of the season’s snake boat races will take place this month and also the all important festivals of all Keralites- Onam.
Aranmula Boat race: Last of Kerala’s boat races of the season. Aranmula has got a unique place when it comes to the cultural imaginings of Kerala. The boat race held annually on the Uthrittathi asterism (as per the local Malayalam calendar) during the Onam festival is one the cultural hallmarks of this land. Teeming with rich tradition and rituals immersed in splendor, the Aranmula Uthrittathi boat race is considered more of a ritual than a race. Legend has it that a devout Brahmin vowed to offer all the requirements for the Thiruvona sadya (the grand traditional feast on the day of Thiruvonam) at the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Once, the boat known as Thiruvona Thoni carrying these offerings was attacked by enemies. In order to protect the Thiruvona Thoni people from neighbouring areas sent their snake boats. Later on, this practice evolved into an offering to Lord Parthasarathy in the form of a snake boat race, held on the Uthrittathi day, which eventually became popular as the Aranmula Boat Race.
When: September 17, 2016
Where: River Pamba in Aranmula, District Pathanamthitta, Kerala
Getting there: Nearest railway station is Chengannur, about 11 km while nearest airport is Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, about 117 kms.
Payippad Boat Race: Two days before the Aranmula boat race, takes place this legendry boat race. This one is in the northern part of the state though in all famous Alappuzha district. A regatta to commemorate a legend associated with water. The legend is about the installation of the idol in the Subrahmanya Swamy Temple, Haripad. The legend says that the villagers once had a vision, which directed them to a whirlpool in Kayamkulam Lake where they discovered the idol of Sree Subramanya. Held annually on the Payippad River, this boat race is noted for the largest participation of snake boats after the Nehru Trophy boat race. The boat race is marked by synergy, speed and rigour. Thousands swarm to the banks of Payippad River to celebrate the event. So if you can’t make it to Aranmula, then try to be at Payippad. There is another biat race on the same day- Sree Narayana Jayanthi Boat race at Kumarakom, one of the best beach resorts in Kerala.
When: September 16, 2016
Where: Payippad backwaters in Payippad, District Alappuzha, Kerala
Getting there: Nearest railway station is Haripad, about 5 km while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 85 km from Alappuzha.
Sree Narayana Jayanthi Boat Race: The annual boat race at Kumarakom is different from the other famous boat races of Kerala like the Nehru Trophy race and the race at Aranmula. While the others are either ritualistic or competitive events, the Kumarakom boat race is held in remembrance of the great social reformer, Sree Narayana Guru’s visit to the village. Records say that Sree Narayana Guru, the great social reformer of Kerala, visited Kumarakom in 1903. He reached the village in a boat from Alappuzha, accompanied by a procession of boats. During the visit, the guru established a temple of Subrahmanya (Sree Kumara Mangalam Temple) in Kumarakom. Sree Narayana Guru’s visit is commemorated by the villagers, irrespective of caste or religion, during the annual boat race. The boat race is conducted on Sree Narayana Guru Jayanthi Day, which usually falls in August / September (the asterism of Chathayam in the Malayalam month of Chingam). A grand procession of country boats carrying the portrait of Sree Narayana Guru, from the Kumaramangalam Temple to Kottathodu, is held on this day. Around 55 years ago, this ritual paved the way for a boat race with Kottathodu as the venue.
When: September 11, 2016
Onam is festival of the year for everybody in Kerala. There are many occasions to mark the ten day festivities.
Athachamayam: A cultural gala that marks the beginning of the ten-day Onam festival in Kerala, is a rare chance to enjoy almost all the folk art forms of God’s Own Country. Athachamayam is conducted every year on the Atham asterism of the Malayalam month Chingam (roughly August/September), at the historical town of Thripunithura near Kochi, Ernakulam district. The festival, which is celebrated to commemorate the legendary victory of the Raja (King) of Kochi, is also an occasion to witness almost all the folk art forms of Kerala. A colourful procession, which is part of this festival, reminds the customary procession of the king along with his entourage to the Thripunithura (Thripoonithura) fort. This was also the occasion for his subjects to greet the king and see him very close. The procession, though without the king, still retains its majestic charm, and is conducted in a spectacular manner. Caparisoned elephants, varieties of folk art forms, floats, and musical ensembles together form part of the procession. Onam, the most popular festival of Keralites can be traced to the primitive harvest festival and also to the myth regarding King Mahabali – the benevolent ruler who brought peace and prosperity to Keralites.
When: September 4, 2016
Thiruvonam: Don’t you find it interesting that in spite of centuries that passed by, various rulers having ruled the land, the mythical King Mahabali enjoys a popularity that no other ruler can boast of! Yes, we are talking about the festival of prosperity and joy – Onam – the festival of Kerala. The greatest charm of Onam lies undoubtedly in the coming together of the Malayali folk to welcome the mythical king on his imaginary annual visit to the land. The ten-day long festival begins with atham asterism in the Malayalam month of Chingam and culminates grandly on the day of Thiruvonam. The households bubbling and bustling with energy is a sight reserved during Onam days. As per mythology, King Mahabali decided to leave for the nether world, failing to keep his promise given to Lord Vishnu who came in the guise of Vaamana. As for the delicacies of Onam one would wish it to go on and on. Payasam (the traditional Kerala dessert), the show-stopper among the Onasadya (the sumptuous feast) is itself of plentiful variety. It is very interesting to watch how kids make every festival their own. Children dart in the neighbourhood in search of flowers to make floral carpets (pookkalam) that adorn their courtyards. Traditional arts and games throbs the rustic ambience of villages. The inevitable swing is a unique feature of this festivity. There are many Onam special programmes conducted across Kerala including Kerala Tourism sponsored programs all over the state.
When: September 14, 2016
Where: All over Kerala
Getting there: Kerala has two international airports- Thiruvananthapuram International Airport at the state capital in south Kerala and Cochin International Airport in the northern part of the state.
Pulikali: Ever seen a procession of tigers on two legs? Well, we are not talking about any carnival inside the circus tents. The event takes place at the Swaraj Round in Thrissur district of Kerala. Pulikali, or the fun and frolic of tigers, is an event that has become synonymous with the festival of Onam in Kerala. The tigers are not real ones but men dressed and painted as tigers. As part of the performance, groups of local men would have their bodies and faces painted to resemble tigers. Apart from the true colours of a tiger, one would also come across other colours and patterns and even the facial features of lion on the bodies of performers. The make-up is time-consuming and it is quite a labour to undo the make-up, which is mostly done with oil paints. The theme of the performance is playing hide-and-seek with a hunter wielding a gun. The event generates a great deal of excitement both for the spectators from near and far and for the performers.
When: September 17, 2016
Not related to Onam but there is another reason to go to Kerala this month besides boat races and Onam.
Neelamperoor Patayani: ‘Neelamperoor Patayani’ is a spectacular event that falls in the Malayalam month of Chingam (usually August / September). Visiting Neelamperoor Palli Bhagavathy Temple during the time of annual patayani festival is a colorful treat to the eyes. The patayani celebration at this temple is said to have a history of around 1700 years. The word patayani literally means rows of army. Though patayani is performed in a number of other temples in Kerala, the one held at Neelamperoor is unique. Kettukazhcha (display of deftly decorated effigies) is what makes this festival stand out. A grand procession of huge effigies of swans and other legendary and mythical characters are brought in. The making of the effigies of swans is locally known as annam kettu. At night the ambience is set by a colourful procession carrying the effigies of mythological characters like Bhima, Ravana, and Yakshi, which is a spectacular sight.
When: September 29, 2016
Where: Palli Bhagavathi Temple, Neelamperoor, Alappuzha
There are few other events from around the different corners of India. Lets have a look at them as well.
Ganapati Bappa Moriya
The spirit of this festival is contagious. Biggest annual occasion for most of Maharashtra and Marathis elsewhere. It has been filmed so many times in Bollywood that it needs no introduction. Perhaps the most filmed festival after Holi in films. Of recently the constant media coverage of ten day celebrations has made many of those Ganesha temples popular among non Marathis as well, maybe it Siddhivinayak or Lalbaugcha Raja. But celebrities and celebrated temples have changes the complexion of the festival too much. To enjoy traditional festivities join a family celebration. This is the day when Lord Ganesha is brought home and given his seat for ten days’ pooja. Weeks or even months before Ganesh Chaturthi, artistic clay models of Lord Ganesha are made for sale by specially skilled artisans. They are beautifully decorated and depict Lord Ganesh in vivid poses. Also called as Vinayak Chaturthi this is the day when mythologically Ganesha was born. The main sweet dish during the festival is the modak, a dumpling made from rice flour/wheat flour with a stuffing of fresh or dry-grated coconut, jaggery, dry fruits and some other condiments.
When: September 5, 2016
Where: All your Marathi friends
Situated about 12 kms to the north of Pokhran, the village of Ramdevra known after Baba Ramdev, a Tanwar Rajput and a saint who took Samadhi (conscious exit from the mortal body) in 1458 AD. He had miraculous powers and his fame reached far and wide. Legend goes that five Pirs (saints) from Mecca came here to test his power and after being convinced, paid their homage to him. Since then he is venerated by Muslims also as Ram Shah Pir. The Hindus regard him as an incarnation of Lord Krishna. Near the village, there is a tank known as Ramsar tank which is believed to have been constructed by Baba Ramdev himself. A large step well, the Parcha Baori is also situated nearby. Baba Ram Dev believed in the equality of all human beings, both high and low, rich and poor. He helped the down-trodden by granting them their wishes. Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner constructed a temple around the ‘samadhi’ in 1931 AD. Rice, coconuts, churma and wooden horses (toys) are offered to Ramdevji by the devotees. A large fair is held here from Bhadon Sudi 2 to Bhadon Sudi 11 (August – September) which is attended by lakh of devotees who come in large groups from far and wide. Irrespective of their caste, creed or religious affiliations, these devotees throng the shrine dedicated to the saint. These groups organise night long singing of bhajans and kirtans to pay homage to Baba.
When: September 3-12, 2016
Where: Pokhran, Rajasthan
Getting there: Ramdevra village lies about 12 kms. from Pokhran in Jaisalmer district. Pokhran is connected to Jodhpur by a metalled road as well as by Rail. Ramdevra can be reached from Jodhpur and Pokhran by bus. Jodhpur has an airport.
EAT, DRINK, MERRY! at Ziro
Ziro Festival of Music is probably the most fun outdoor music festival in the country. So far ZFM has featured stellar acts from around the world including Lee Ranaldo & Steve Shelley (SONIC YOUTH -USA), Lou Majaw, menwhopause, Shaa’ir n Func, Whirling Kalapas, Sky Rabbit, Peter cat recording Co, Guru Rewben Mashangva among others. This edition will be over four days and will feature top indi acts from across the globe as well as the best folk musicians from the North East. Ziro is primarily home to the Apatanis – simple, friendly and hospitable people with an interesting culture and legacy. They are a non-nomadic, agrarian tribe who share a responsible relationship with nature. Apatanis cultivate permanent wet land cultivations instead of dry land cultivations which involves burning forests. Ziro valley is lush with paddy farms and is known for its unique paddy cum fi sh cultivation where using traditional irrigation methods, farmers rear fish in the knee-deep water. Keeping them company are the adorable, shy, and harmless Indian Bisons. All visitors – Indian and foreigners – to Arunachal Pradesh need special permits to enter the state. Indians need an Inner Line Permit (ILP) and foreigners require a Protected Area Permit.
When: September 22-25, 2016
Where: Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh
Getting there: Ziro is the district headquarters of Lower Subansiri district in Arunachal Pradesh (India) and is situated 167km from the capital, Itanagar. It is one of the oldest towns in Arunachal Pradesh in a valley at a height of over 5500 feet above sea level surrounded by misty mountains. The nearest airport is Tezpur. However, flights to Tezpur are often cancelled without reason. The best option is to fly to Guwahati and do the road journey. The nearest railhead is North Lakhimpur by Arunachal Express from New Bongaigaon. Direct buses are available from Guwahati, Itanagar and North Lakhimpur.
Glorious Ramnagar Ramlila
Varanasi has always been a magnet for the spiritual, the religious, for holy seers and for the hippies. During the ten days of the Dussehra, the city becomes famous for its Ramlila, often considered to be the one of the oldest and perhaps grandest ramlila in world. Fifteen kilometers from the main city lies Ramnagar, where the Ram Leela is enacted in a unique manner. Unlike the rest of the country, where the enactment is done on single stages, here in Ramnagar the whole town is transformed into a large Ram Leela ground, structures are built and different spaces represent different locations in the story. The whole Ram lila takes place over a month. For a month, Ramnagar is transformed into a giant stage for the story of Ram to unfold. Permanent structures and parts of the town within a five-kilometre radius are named after places mentioned in the epic, and different episodes of the lila are enacted at different venues every day. On most days, the Ramlila moves – the cast, the Kashi Naresh, audiences and all. Sometimes, the movement is within a larger venue. Sadhus coming to Ramnagar from all over the country during this time and reciting Ramcharitramanas are called Ramayanis and the audience follows the performers all over town. Even though thousands of devotees, bystanders, tourists throng the town during this month, it is incredible to note that most of the recital is done without the aid of any loudspeakers, electric lights or mikes, and the audience maintains a hushed silence throughout the Ramayani recital. Audiences move around from one location to another in order to see the one of its kind Ramlila. The crowd ranges from a few thousand for some episodes, up to a lakh for episodes like Ram and Sita’s wedding, Dussehra (when a 60-feet high effigy of the Raavan is burnt), Bharat Milaap, and the coronation of Ram (the most auspicious episode). On the day after Dussehra, Varanasi celebrates the Bharat Milaap festival, which commemorates Ram’s return to Ayodhya and his reunion with younger brother Bharat. This takes place at Nati Imli, and thousands of people flock and gather to see Ram meet Bharat. People wear tilak on their foreheads and garland the brothers. Watching the entire scene from the background every year is Kashi Naresh (former king of Varanasi) in his regal attire and finery.
Date: 15th September-16th October 2016
Venue: Ramnagar, Varanasi