A full moon and a month full of festivals

It is one of the most beautiful moons of the year. Correspondingly, this is one of the holiest month of the year- Kartik. Rich in festivals- including some world-famous ones on and around Kartik Purnima (full moon day). Interestingly these festivals are spread throughout the country. That also makes it one of the best months to travel. Weather generally remains clear and winter is yet to make some ground. Many people even like to travel to hills during this month to have some good views of snow-clad peaks in blue skies. For those who want a pretext, here is a list of top 10 travel moments of the month of November

The charm of Pushkar

Pushkar FairThe Pushkar Cattle Fair is one of the largest in India and the only one of its kind in the entire world. During the fair, Lakhs of people from rural India flock to Pushkar, along with camel and cattle for several days of livestock trading, horse dealing, pilgrimage and religious festival. This small town, becomes a cultural phenomenon when colourfully dressed devotees, musicians, acrobats, folk dancers, traders, comedians, ‘sadhus’ and tourists reach here during Pushkar fair. According to Hindu chronology, it takes place in the month of Kartika (October or November) beginning on ‘ashtmi’ 8th day of Lunar Calendar and continues till full moon (‘Poornima’). The camel and cattle trading is at its peak during the first half of festival period. During the later half, religious activities dominate the scenario. Devotees take dips in the holy “Sarovar” lake, as the sacred water is known to bestow salvation. This small town is transformed into a spectacular fair ground, as rows of make shift stalls display an entire range of objects of art to daily utility stuff. Decoration items for cattle, camel and women, everything is sold together. Small handicraft items are the best bargain for buying souvenirs. The camel and horse races have crowds to cheer. Camel judging competitions are quite popular with animal lovers. Each evening brings different folk dances and music of Rajasthan, performers delivering live shows to the roaring and applauding crowds. Pushkar fair has its own magic and it’s a lifetime experience for travellers. It has featured in numbers of travel shows, films and magazines. According to the Lonely Planet: “It’s truly a feast for the eyes. If you are any where within striking distance at the time, it’s an event not to be missed.”

When:  8th to 14th November 2016

Getting there: By Air, nearest airport is Jaipur, which is connected with major cities. A newly built air strip at Kishangarh can cater to small charter flights. Helipad at Ghooghra (Ajmer) and Devnagar (Pushkar) can cater to clients travelling by helicopter. Ajmer is well connected by Rail to all important cities. Pushkar is just 13 kms away from Ajmer.  Ajmer is also well connected to important cities of Rajasthan and country through roads and is on Delhi-Mumbai National highway no 8.

Rann Utsav at Kutch

Rann MahotsavGujarat never fails to amaze and its amazement lies in a celebration at the largest tent city situated in the heart of the Kutch District-The Rann Of Kutch. This celebration is rightly called the “Rann Utsav”. It is the most amazing tourist destination to travel to, with friends as well as family either on short weekends or on long sojourns. The Spectacular site of a glistening White Rann under the full moon along with various glimpses of Kutchi Culture, Handicrafts and outdoor activities make this desert carnival a perfect holiday destination. The Great Rann of Kutch, the Little Rann of Kutch and the Banni grasslands at the southern fringe, makes up for some 30,000 square kilometres of white lands, sweeping the Gulf of Kutch at one end, and the seat of the great Indus Valley Civilization on the other, falling in southern Pakistan. A cradle of craftsmanship, Kutch is known for its exquisite variety of weaving, patchwork, block-printing, bandhani, tie-and-dye, rogan-art and other ethnic styles of embroidery, pottery, wood-carving, metal-crafts and shell-work. The variety emerges from the enchanting terrain that provides a perfect backdrop to an extra ordinary fair. Perhaps because the landscape is so white and ochre, even a hint of colour adds a fascinating element to the rustic life of Rann. The staple food is khichdi (a sumptuous mix of rice cooked with pulses), kadi (A lightly-flavoured, yellow curry made with yogurt), rotla (A nutritious Indian bread made from black millet flour) and green chilli pickle. Wash it down with creamy, ice-cold chaas (buttermilk)! Round it off on a sweet note with jalebis (Indian sweetmeat) or go for dudhpak, a spiced milk and rice pudding although the range of mithais does not end with these.

When:  1st November 2016 to 20th February 2017

Getting there: The old, walled city of Bhuj is the most important town in Kutch and also the district headquarters. Bhuj is accessibly by Air, Train and Road. By air, Bhuj Airport receives flights from Mumbai. All the capital cities of India are more or less connected to Bhuj by railways. Bhuj has a well connected railway network and there are regular trains from different parts of the state. The city can be reached easily from places such as Ahmadabad, Delhi, Mumbai and many other cities by rail. National highway No. 8A connects Bhuj to Ahmedabad. There is regular bus service that connects Bhuj to the neighbouring cities. Buses from the neighbouring cities ply to Bhuj regularly. Journey to Bhuj by road is a beautiful experience with vibrant landscape around. Kutch is another 71 kms from Bhuj.

Ganga Mahotsav & Dev Deepawali at Varanasi

Dev DeepavaliGanga mahotsav is a festival only once of its kind, certainly doubles the attraction of this city of temples, Ghats and traditions. As classical music fills the atmosphere, a mystique seems to envelop the environs awating a mood both celestial and soulful. The classical music rendered by maestros indeed imparts an unforgettable flavour. The attraction of the five-day-long Ganga Mahotsav is its message of faith and culture, that increase with the daily Shilp Mela and the unique Dev Deepawali with innumerable ‘Diyas’ or earthen lamps in chain, lit by devotees and which floating down the river on the full moon night of Kartik, a spectacle both mystical and heart winning. Thus, on the final day (Poornima), which coincides with the traditional Dev Deepawali (light festival of the Gods), the ghats on the Ganga River glitter with more than a million lit-up earthen lamps. It is believed that Ganga nourishes the Varanasi civilization for long and it has been a great religious importance in the Hindu society. It provides the people a great sense of different identity and belonging. For the religious and cultural beliefs of the people to the River Ganges, a festival of Ganga Mahotsav is organized every year. People at Varanasi celebrate Ganga Mahotsav continuously for 5 days at the banks of the River Gange. The trend of celebrating the Ganga Mahotsav in the Holy city of India, Varanasi, tends to keep the importance of the Varanasi as a cultural, religious and traditional capital of the India. At this occasion, pilgrims celebrate the event by performing an Indian classical style music and dance. It provides an immense chance for tourists to see the real presentation of the Indian classical dance and music. Many of the great personalities of India have participated and performed their enchanting performances at the Ganga Mahotsav such as Ustad Bismillah Khan, Bal Murli Krishnan, Vilayat Khan, Pundit Chhanulal Misra, Birju Maharaj, Girija Devi, Sujat Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, Amjad Ali Khan, Zila Khan and Zakir Hussein. This festival attracts pilgrims and tourists from all the corners of the world.

When:  11th-14th November 2016

Getting there: Varanasi is accessible by all means- air, road and train. It has an airport with daily flights from Delhi. It is also on main Delhi-Howrah rail line. Road connectivity to all nearby cities- Allahabad, Lucknow or Patna is  also very good.

 A Tradition through the Ages at Sonepur

Sonepur FairThe annual Sonepur Fair in Bihar is an authentic rural fair that combines spirituality with elephant, cattle, and horse trading. It gets underway on the auspicious Hindu holy occasion of Kartik Purnima, when pilgrims take an early morning bath in the river, and continues for around three weeks. Street magicians, spiritual gurus, snack stalls, handicrafts, amusement rides, circus performers, and theater all create a carnival like no other. Apparently, the Sonepur Fair has ancient origins back to the rule of India’s first Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, who used to buy elephants and horses from it for his army. The Fair also commemorates the intervention of Lord Vishnu to end a great curse and long fight between elephant and crocodile in Hindu mythology. The elephant was saved, after bathing in the river and being attacked by the crocodile, by Lord Vishnu. Originally, the venue of the fair was Hajipur and only the performance of the puja used to take place at the Harihar Nath temple of Sonepur. However, under the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the venue of the fair got shifted to Sonepur. The temple of Harihar Nath is believed to have been originally built by Lord Rama, on his way to the court of King Janak to win the hand of Mata Sita. It is further said that Raja Man Singh later got the temple repaired. The Harihar Nath temple, as it stands today, was built by Raja Ram Narain, an influential person during the late Mughal period. Since Sonepur is situated at the convergence of the sacred rivers Ganges and Gandak, the Hindus regard it as a holy site. One of the purposes of the people visiting the Sonepur Cattle Fair, apart from the fair, is to take a holy dip at the convergence and pay respects at the Hariharnath Temple. Traditionally known as a cattle fair, while still wonderfully off the beaten path, the Sonepur Fair now has a more commercial focus with the aim of attracting both domestic and international tourists. In order to facilitate this, Bihar Tourism took over its organization, including tourist accommodations, in 2012. A new leaf in famous Harihar Kshetra Sonepur fair chapter has been added this year as the organizing committee has opened an account on Facebook for circulation of its events. The fair is scheduled to be inaugurated on November 4 and will be officially declared closed on December 4. While the Pushkar Fair in Rajasthan is famous for its camels, it’s the elephants that are the star attraction at the Sonepur Fair. They’re decorated and lined up on display in rows in an area known as the Haathi Bazaar (Elephant Market), and reportedly even raced. The special thing about it is that you can go up to the elephants and touch them, and even feed them.

When:  14th November to 13th December 2016

Getting there: Sonepur is easily accessible by Roadways and Railways. Moreover, it is only 25 kilometers from Bihar’s Capital Patna, which is well connected by Airways, Railways and Roadways to the other parts of the country. During the time of Fair, BSTDC also organizes Ferries from Patna to Sonepur.

Celebration of culture at Majuli

Majuli FestivalMajuli, the largest riverine island in the world, nestles in the lap of the mightly Brahmaputra. This is where the 15th century saint and fountain head of Assamese culture, Sankardeva, first established a Satra or neo-Vaishnavite monastery, born of insightful discourses with his spiritual successor, Madhabdeva. Its spans about 1,250 square kilometers but is gradually losing its terrain due to soil erosion and now only has an area of 421.65 square kilometers. Majuli is shrinking further as the vast Brahmaputra keeps getting bigger. The island is formed by the Brahmaputra river in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti river (a branch of the Brahmaputra), joined by the Subansiri River in the north. The island is about 200 kilometers east from the state’s largest city, Guwahati.  Majuli is enveloped in lush greenery and the flora, fauna and the natural scenery found there is breathtaking. The Majuli festival is one of the most popular festivals and is celebrated on the picturesque banks of the river Luit situated 1.5 kilometers from Garamur, the sub divisional head quarter of the island. It is celebrated during the month of November keeping in mind the climatic conditions of the region. The celebration takes place for 4 continuous days. The Majuli festival is an enlightening celebration where various the cultural aspects of the different communities living there are revealed and honored. This is the one place where the artists of such different communities gather to celebrate their unity amongst this diverse gathering. On this day, they put aside their differences and hardships in their life, share their love for music, dance, arts, crafts and food. Elaborate events are organized on this day and people from these various tribes living in India and all over the world congregate to celebrate their heritage and culture. Rasleela is also a three day festival held usually in mid-November. It celebrates the legendary love of Radha and Krishna and the devotion of the gopis to Krishna.

When: 21st to 24th November 2016

Getting there: Majuli is 20 kms fom Jorhat town. Buses ply regularly from Jorhat town to Neamati Steamer Ghat, the main ferry boarding point for Majuli. The entire journey takes about three hours, involving a half hour bus ride to Neamati Ghat, which has a few tourist information booths, lodging facilities and food stalls catering to transiting ferry-goers, and ferry ride to the southern tip of Majuli island. Though Jorhat remains the principal entry point, Majuli can be approached through Lakhimpur on the north and Dibrugarh on the east.

Guru Purab at Golden temple

golden templeAll those who can’t go to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan to pay homage to Guru Nanak at his place of birth, may still find solace at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The birthday of Guru Nanak Sahib- the founder of Sikhism- falls on Kartik Purnima (i.e. full moon day of month of Kartik in Hindu calender) and is celebrated with great enthusiasm by the Sikhs throughout the world as Guru Purab. This day is widely celebrated throughout Punjab but especially so at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the main shrine of the Sikhs. This is one of the most sacred festivals in Sikhism. Apart from Sikhs, Hindus and other followers of Guru Nanak’s philosophy also celebrate this festival. The festivities in the Sikh religion revolve around the anniversaries of the 10 Sikh Gurus. These Gurus were responsible for shaping the beliefs of the Sikhs. Their birthdays, known as Gurpurab (or Gurpurb), are occasions for celebration and prayer among the Sikhs. The celebration is generally similar for all Gurpurabs; only the hymns are different. The celebrations usually commence with Prabhat Pheris. Prabhat Pheris are early morning processions that begin at the Gurudwaras and proceed around the localities singing hymns. Generally two days before the birthday, Akhand Path (a forty-eight-hour non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs) is held in the Gurdwaras. The day prior to the birthday, a procession, referred to as Nagarkirtan,[6] is organised. This procession is led by the Panj Pyaras. They head the procession carrying the Sikh flag, known as the Nishan Sahib and the Palki (Palanquin) of Guru Granth Sahib. They are followed by teams of singers singing hymns and devotees sing the chorus. There are brass bands playing different tunes and ‘Gatka’ teams display their swordmanship through various martial arts and as mock battles using traditional weapons. The procession pours into the streets of the town. The passage is covered with banners and gates decorated flags and flowers, for this special occasion. The leaders spreading the message of Guru Nanak.

When:  14th November 2016

Getting there: Amritsar is one of the most important cities of north India, hence it has a high speed connectivity to other cities through road and train network. It has also got an airport which connects it through to major airports with direct daily flights.

A carnival for city beautiful

Chandigarh carnivalThe City Beautiful- Chandigarh is among the few Indian cities to have their own city carnival. For three days every November city is turned into a stage for fun and frolic. The stage is set for the another Chandigarh carnival at Leisure valley. Every year this carnival has a special theme. There are comedy shows, musical shows and rides. For music buffs, two mega-musical nights are held by renowned Bollywood singers and Punjabi artists are something to look forward to. The fair marks a highly innovative step taken by the Chandigarh administration that has over the years been a great promoter and contributor towards exposing and exhibiting the talent breeding in the city. An elaborate food court will take care of the visitors’ taste buds. Last year the theme was science fiction which drew a large crowd. Apart from Souvenir Shop and Le-Corbusier Centre, Vintage Car exhibition at Museum and Art Gallery are also a part of the Chandigarh Carnival. To give it a carnival feel, a parade is also held on the streets of the metro. The beats of Bhangra and Giddha force a many to shake their legs. A fun to be in the city on those days. All the three days of the Carnival are well planned and packed with numerous activities. Numerous competitions, events are present for every generation and taste of people. Over the years the carnival has become so popular that viewers come from far and wide to witness this mega event.

When:  25th to 27th November 2016

Getting there: Chandigarh is one of the most important cities of north India, hence it has a high speed connectivity to other cities through road and train network. It has also got an airport which connects it through to major airports with direct daily flights.

Celebration of ‘Vijay’ at Hampi

Hampi FestivalHampi Festival is the largest festival at Hampi. Generally they are scheduled for 3 days during the first week of November. Hampi Utsav, also known as the Vijaya Utsav, Festival of Hampi has been celebrated from the times of the Vijayanagar reign. Hampi being a World Heritage Site is a international tourist spot. This festival is attributes to the mega cultural extravaganza. Renowned artistes all over India come forward in bringing the grandiose days of the Vijayanagar Period to the present day. The rich culture of Kannadigas in the fields of dance, music and art thus showcased complement the beautifully carved ruins of Hampi. Bright colored handicrafts, leather puppets done by the traditional craftsmen of the past are reproduced with the same skill by their present generation. Musical instruments such as pipes and drums traditionally played vibrate the air with past grandeur. The Government of Karnataka promotes this festival every year to attract people all over the world to this magnificent land. This year as many as eight stages have been erected at various places – Virupaksha temple precincts, near monolith Sasivekal and Kadlekal Ganesh, opposite to Krishna temple, near Gayatripeetha, at Kamalapur and near Vijaya Vittala temple complex. Artistes of national and international fame, including Padma Bhushan Mallika Sarabhai, Padmashri Venkatesh Kumar, Narasimhalu Vadvati, Nagaveni Srinath, music directors Saleem Suleman, Rajesh Krishnan, Raghu Dixit and Benny Dayal are among those who would enthral the audience. Light & Sound show, which is being organised again after a gap of seven years near Elephant stables, Hampi by sky, being organised for the third year in succession, rural sports, particularly ‘Kusti’ (wrestling), magic show by Kudroli Ganesh, Poets’ meet will be the other special attractions during the festival. Light and Sound show will be staged from November 3 to 9, while the Hampi by sky chopper ride would be held till November 7.The celebrations attract are too much crowd for this otherwise low profile town to handle. So if you are planning to visit Hampi during these 3 days be prepared to face the associated troubles (overbooked lodges, overcrowded sightseeing, packed buses& trains etc).

When:  3rd to 5th November 2016

Getting there: There are only very few connections since there are not major airports. There are a number of options to reach Hampi. Gateway town to Hampi is Hospet , bustling town located very close to the Hampi ruins. This is the major travel hub from where one can get the travel connections. There are two airports near Hampi – Bellary and Hubli. But both are far from the Hampi site (needs at least 2-3 hours travel by road). There are good road and rail connections from Hospet to a number of major towns and cities around this part of India.

Gustor Festival at Thiksey

thiksey gustorThiksey Gustor is held on the 17th, 18th and 19th day of the 9th month of Tibetan lunar calendar every year. It is a traditional ceremony conducted in the monasteries of Gelukpa order of Tibetan Buddhism. During these  days of festival mask dances are performed by monks of the monastery wearing colorful silk brocaded robes and mask in different forms of Gods and Goddesses. The celebration end with the dismembered and dispersal of the Torma (Sacrificial Cake) by the leader of the Black hat dancers in a ceremony called “Argham” or “klling”. This sybolise the destruction of all form of evil. And also re-dnacts the assassination of the Tibetan apostate King Lang-Darma, by a Buddhist monk in the mid 9 th century. Thiksey is one of the biggest monasteries in Ladakh region and most popular among tourists after the Hemis monastery. Spon Palden Sherab with his Master Jangsem Sherab Zang, one of the six contemporary disciples of Lord Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, responsible for the dissemination of his teachings to the remote provinces founded Thiksay monastery in 1433 AD.The disciple of “Jamgon sokapa, Sherab Zangpo” of stod, first built the temple of Stkmo Lakhang at top the Thiksay Alley. Then Paldan Sharab nephew of Sherab Zangpo, founded Thiksay monastery. Here are sacred shrine and many precious to be seen. The successive reincarnation of Skabjay Khanpo Rinpoche act as in charge of the monastery.

When:  17th-18th November 2016

Getting there: Thiksey Monastery is located 19 kilometres from Leh, the capital town of Ladakh. It is situated on a hillock overlooking the Indus Valley with full view of the magnificent Stok range. It is located right on the main road towards Leh.

A festival of 100 drums- Wangala

wangala festivalThe Wangala is a Garo post-harvest festival that marks the end of the agricultural year. It is an act of thanksgiving to the sun god of fertility, known as Misi-A-Gilpa-Saljong-Galapa. A nagara (a special drum used for calling the people on solemn occasions) is beaten. The Wangala is an age-old practice by the ‘Songsareks’ or non-Christian Garos in all the villages of Garo Hills. However, the time and mode of celebration varies from village to village. But fast modernisation and the influence of Western culture has adversely impacted the Wangala, which is the cultural identity of the Garos. The social aspect of the Wangala Festival goes on in the villages for a number of days, with eating, drinking and merrymaking. This is the most popular festival of the Garo Hills, and is held in November, the precise date being fixed by the headman. The men and women dance in mirthful gaiety with the beating of drums, blowing of the buffalo horn trumpets and bamboo flutes. The men wear dhotis, half-jackets and turbans with feathers. The women wear colourful dresses made of silk, blouses and a head-wrap with feathers. The highlight of the festival is when 300 dancers and 100 drums descend on the field in all their splendour in celebration.

When:  10th-12th November 2016

Getting there: Festival happens at Asanang village which is 18 kms from Tura in Meghalaya. Tura is one of the largest towns in Meghalaya. Tura is situated in the western part of Meghalaya which is quite close to the National Border of Bangladesh. Main mode of transport is by road, there are no railways or any scheduled flights from Tura airport. From Guwahati, it is 221 km, through the National Highway 51. Day time Sumo and overnight bus services are available form Guwahati. There is a 3-days-a-week helicopter service available from Guwahati and Shillong, run by Pawan Hans. Capital Shillong is more than 320 kilometres away.

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9 thoughts on “A full moon and a month full of festivals”

  1. Very informative post on different festivals on India! Bookmarking this page and hoping to travel and attend these festivals soon!!

  2. Very informative and insightful post Upendraji. I’ve witnessed Diwali in Kashi and it’s beautiful. I want to visit the Rann Utsav and Puskhar fair sometime. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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