A month for the ‘magnetic sunburn’

Hope demonetisation has not affected your travel plans for the year end because coming months are full of lots of events and festivals. My post has already got a few days late due to many reasons. This month 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. Many things happening such as change in venue of Sunburn festival this year. Being already into month Konark festival in Odisha and Hornbill festival in Nagaland have already started but still lot many happenings to catch up. Still we have much lined up here:

The Hornbill of Nagaland

hornbill-festivalThe 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.

When:  1st to 10th December 2016

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.

A festival for legend Tansen

tansen-samarohThis is 92nd year of one of the oldest and most reputed music festivals in India. 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 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. This year there will be total nine music sessions. Seven of them will be held inside the complex holding Tansen’s tomb and tomb of Mohammad Ghaus. Eighth will be at birth place of Tansen in Behat at the banks of Jhilmil river. Ninth will be Goojari Mahal in the forth complex. This year musicians from Norway, Iraq, Israel, Belgium and Switzerland will also perform in the event. There will also be an exhibition of paintings and photographs.

When:  16th to 20th December 2016

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.

Festival of lights at Karthigai Deepam

karthigai_deepamThis is festival of lights of Tamilnadu. It is combination of two north Indian festivals- Deepawali and Raksha Bandhan or Bhai Dooj. Many festivals are celebrated at Arunachaleswarar temple in Tiruvannamalai throughout the year. Among them Karthigai Deepam is the most significant festival that is celebrated with pomp and gaiety at Arunachaleswarar temple.This Karthigai Deepam is celebrated as a ten day festival and it widely known as Karthigai Brahmotsavam. Karthika Deepam festival begins with the hosting of the flag signifying the commencement of the festival also known as Dwajaroghanam. In the morning and night Lord Arunachaleswarar will be taken out on the silver vahana for procession. The Panchamurthis (Panchamurthigal) are also taken out in the procession. The Panchamurthigal are Lord Ganapathi, Lord Murugan, Lord Sandeswarar, Lord Arunachaleswarar and Goddess Parvathi.These processions are carried out on different vahanas after the Deeparadhana is done at the kalyana mandapam. A festival celebrated by Hindus in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, Karthigai Deepam takes place in a particularly spectacular way. On the evening of Karthigai day, a huge fire lamp is lit high up on Mount Arunachala. Pilgrims come from far and wide to walk around the mountain, and to pray to Lord Shiva. It’s believed that Lord Shiva appeared as an endless flame of light before Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. Hence, oil lamps are lit in homes as well. Women try to make their homes look welcoming and fresh during this time. They wear new clothes and tidy up their homes to invite their brothers. The ideology of the festival is that “the sisters pray for their brothers’ well being and the brothers in turn, promise to safeguard the sisters in times of trouble. This festival also involves the lighting of lamps in the homes, temples and the workplace. The home looks heavenly with oil lit lamps everywhere. Children blow crackers and make merry with friends and family. This is like a family get-together. Indians want to be preset in their homes during this wonderful festival. They try to return to India from anywhere in the world to meet their parents, sisters and relatives. Many Vaishnavites in Tamil Nadu make sure to light the fire using the fruit of Maruda trees, a stick named Kavattaik kambu with cloth, rope made of cloth, saw dust and Konkani resin. Presenting elephant shaped lamps(Yanai vilakku) to their daughters for their prosperity and well being is a custom in most of the south Indian families. Such lamps symbolize their blessing towards the family. Karthigai Deepam is a fantastic festival of Tamil Nadu which the Tamils never want to miss out.

When:  13th December 2016

Getting there: Thiruvannamalai the world renowned abode of Lord Shiva is ideally located with ample access options by air, train and road. The nearest access via air travel to Thiruvannamalai can be through Chennai. Chennai is the nearest airport and it lies around 185 kilometres away by road. People coming from top metros in India namely Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, Bangalore and Hyderabad can take the air travel via Chennai.By road from Chennai the travel time is around 3.5 hours.

141 years of enchanting classical music

harivallabh-sammelanShree 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 140 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 141 Years this year. 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.

When:  23rd to 25th December 2016

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.

Sabrimala Pilgrimage in Kerala

sabrimalaSabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha temples in Kerala. The temple is situated on a hilltop (about 3000 feet above sea level) named Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta district, which is unique in many respects. The uniqueness gathers its voice, as the temple is open to all, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. There is a place near the temple; east to Sannidhanam, dedicated to the Vavar (a sufi and friend of Lord Ayyappa) which is called ‘Vavarunada’, an epitome of religious harmony. Another interesting fact is that it is not open throughout the year. It is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja, Makaravilakku and Chitra Vishu. It is said that the pilgrims have to follow fasting for 41 days to cleanse their minds before going to Sabarimala. The journey to the temple is to be taken through difficult paths in the forest as the vehicles can go only up to Pampa. Mandala pooja and Makaravilakku are the two main events of the pilgrim season. The temple stays closed during the rest of the year except for the first five days of every Malayalam month and during Vishu. Pilgrimage to Sabarimala begins from the 1st of Vrichikam, a Malayalam month coming in the middle of November (probably between 14 and 17). The most important day for Ayyappan is Makarasankranti Day, which is the 1st of Makara (a month of the Malayalam calendar). This day will fall between January 14 and 16.

When:  (Mandala Poja)15th November to 26th December 2016

Getting there: By Rail pilgrims can reach Kottayam & Chengannur by Rail and from there by road to Pampa. By air the pilgrims can reach Thiruvananthapuram or Nedumbassery by Air and from there by rail/road to Pampa. To reach by road KSRTC has started operating buses to Coimbatore, Palani and Thenkasi from Pampa for the convenience of the Sabarimala pilgrims. Besides, the Government of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka has been given the permission to operate buses to Pampa. A chain service exists between Pampa and Nilackal base camps.

Carnival time in Cochin

cochin-carnivalIf 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.

When:  11th December 2016 to 1st January 2017

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

winter-festival-abuThe 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.

When:  29th to 31st December 2016

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.

Sunburn at Pune this time

sunburn-festivalSaid to be the biggest outdoor dance party to hit India’s beaches, the Sunburn Festival is into its tenth year this year. But its getting away from beaches and we are getting a new venue this time. Sunburn, one of the world’s biggest music festivals, has just announced the new venue ‘Sunburn Hills’. India’s premier and the only leading electronic music brand is all set to move to a new venue in Maharashtra. On its 10th anniversary, Sunburn is looking at creating an array of experiences that would not only give dance music enthusiasts memories that last a lifetime but also redefine the way entertainment and live music is consumed in the country. Sunburn Hills, a privately owned 90 acre land at Kesnand on the Pune-Ahmedabad highway provides a perfect setting to celebrate the decade long dominance of brand Sunburn. Not only is it nestled amidst nature and has a breathtaking view of the city of Pune but is also well-connected to the main city with a drive time of 30 minutes to the venue. The strategically located venue will also provide a greener and pollution free climate that is fit for the Sunburn experience. The new venue is complete with excellent infrastructure along with health and safety amenities. The festival experience will be curated and programmed by various industry experts. Sunburn Hills will have one of India’s biggest campsites that will give every camper a true festival feel complete with after parties, marketplaces, workshops, flea markets, movie screenings, karaoke sessions, bowling among a host of other activities. Campout packages will be live on partner website www.cleartrip.com.

As a part of the 10th year celebration, Sunburn will provide added incentives including a cashless experience with the tech-equipped Sunburn Smart Band which will allow them to avail entry into the festival zone, purchase F&B and merchandise at the festival without the hassles of credit cards or cash. In addition fans can expect a world class experience with on-site camping options, the fan village, an extensive array of food courts, 40+ experience zones, flea markets, chopper rides, after parties among others. On the music side festival includes some of the biggest names from the dance music scene including dance music powerhouse Armin Van Buuren, Axwell ^ Ingrosso, Afrojack, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and the recently voted best LIVE act KSHMR, The power packed also line includes supporting artists like AJJA, Angerfist, Dannic, Mattn, Nucleya, Tom Swoon among others.

When:  28th to 31st December 2016

Getting there: Event will be held at Sunburn hills, Kesnand near Pune on Pune-Ahmedabad highway. Kesnand is located 20 KM towards East from District head quarters Pune. 26 KM from Haveli. 155 KM from State capital Mumbai. SO once you reach Pune, you can easily reach Kesnand.

Folk and craft at Shilpgram

shilpgram-festivalThe 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.

When:  21st to 31st December 2016

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

magnetic-fieldsNewest 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.

When:  9th to 11th December 2016

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.

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