This post is already late than it was really intended to because of poor health and usual month-end chaos of pending works. Monsoon has already peaked up in most parts of India. Its again the time of the year to enjoy two things specifically- boat races in Kerala and monastic festivals in Ladakh. But there is still much more besides this, and that includes many religious festivals, few cultural occasions and a couple of pilgrimages. Monsoons might soak you up but it is still a time good enough to travel and enjoy some fun-soaked moments. My top picks for the month. And as I said, I am already late to post this, hence I am excluding Hariyali Amavasya at Udaipur, which was on 2nd August and which in my opinion should have been the pick of the month, an excellent and enjoyable event to soak yourself in traditional south Rajasthan culture. Those would have been, there might had a fun of their life.
Nehru Trophy Boat Race
Come August and the placid waters of the Punnamada Lake become a track on fire. Held on the second Saturday of August every year, the time of the prestigious Nehru Trophy Boat Race is when the silence of the lake is sliced by the slashing oars of the pacing boats. Held on the second Saturday of August every year, the boat race is named after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. Hordes of people swarm the banks of the Punnamada Lake to relish this annual water regatta. The rhythmic and the synchronised way of rowing the majestic snake boats make it a rare spectacle. The ceremonial water processions, floats and decorated boats add to the beauty of the event. This is one such unique sporting event cherished by Keralites of all age groups. Apart from the locals, the spirit and enthusiasm that form part of the Nehru Trophy boat race is also shared by visitors from far off places. It is a sheer delight for the onlookers to watch the snake boats with 80 to 100 oarsmen aboard, who dip their oars in unison as the snake boat glides and cuts the water surface at a tremendous pace. And winning the race is a matter of pride and glory to each participating team and healthy rivalries are visible on the race day.
When: 13th August 2016
Where: Punnamada Backwaters, Punnamada, Alappuzha. Nearest railway station is Alappuzha, about 8 km while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 85 km from Alappuzha town.
Janmashtami at Mathura
Birth of Krishna, one of the biggest annual festivals in Hindu mythology and there can be no other place better to celebrate this than Mathura, considered to be place of his birth in the prison and Gokul (Vrindavan) where he was brought up. It’s a day of traditional fasting until midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. At that time there are huge celebrations in the temples with special pujas and prasadas. But the intensity and traditions of celebrations in Mathura-Vrindavan region are entirely different from rest of the country. At many place such as Nandgaon the celebrations will start as early as from Raksha Bandhan and will continue till Radhashtami. All households in the area will celebrate the day as birth of child in their own homes. At Gokul, next day after Janmashtami, there will be a huge celebration of Nandotsava in memory of the day when whole area came to know that a child is born to Nanda and Yashoda in Gokul. Best time to visit these places, to understand the culture and to soak into a very distinct celebration and festivities. Mathura is close and loaded with all type of staying options.
When: 25th August 2016
Where: Mathura/Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
Getting there: Mathura is less than two hours journey from Delhi and just an hours journey from Agra. It is on main rail route connecting Delhi to central and southern India. Many tourists will plan a trip to Mathura and Agra together.
Monsoon Festival at Saputara
Situated in densely forested plateau in the Sahayadri range, Saputara holds the distinction of being the only hill station in Gujarat. Saputara has been developed as a planned hill resort with amenities like hotels, parks, boat clubs and museums to ensure an enjoyable holiday for everyone in the cool of hills. The drive to Saputara is breathtaking with the serpentine road commencing from Waghai. The hill station is most enjoyable in the monsoon when clouds descend on the land. One can see brooks and streams flowing down the valley which makes for a spectacular haven for trekkers as well, as there are numerous forest trails. So every year there is a monsoon festival almost a month long to give you ample time to be part of the festivities. Tourists can enjoy Saputara at its best. One can hire services of a local guide to roam around. Echo point, Wagah Bari, Step Garden, Artistic village, Log huts, Saputara museum, Lake, Sunset point, ropeway are among the spots, one can enjoy. So go and breathe in the freshness of Saputara with is echoing green hues, lush with flowers, and watch the meditating rain drops sitting still on sloping leaves. Some of the thickest forest cover in the state of Gujarat envelops you. Drench yourself in nature and fun!
When: 11th August 2016 to 10th September 2016
Where: Saputara, Gujarat
Getting there: Nearest railway station is Waghai, which is 50 kms from Saputara city center. While nearest airport is Surat, almost 156 kms from here. Saputara is well connected through roads to major cities of state. Mumbai is just 255 kms from here via Nashik. Ahmedabad is 400 kms from here.
Another Kailash on Manimahesh Yatra
It’s very interesting that we consider it unsafe to go to hills during rains, but still most of the pilgrimages in hills do take place only during rains- may be it is Kailash-Mansarovar or Amarnath or Chardham or Chota Kailash. Almost all of them are related to mythical abodes of Shiva. Another one among the list is Manimahesh in Himachal. Manimahesh is a high altitude lake at an altitude of 13,500 feet. On the east of this lake is Kailash Mountain with an altitude of 18,564 feet. They both come in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. Every year there is a pilgrimage from Hudsor to Manimahesh Lake (15 kms). Earlier this Yatra used to start from Bharmaur, but since now Hudsor has become a road head, people have started walking on foot from Hudsor. There is no exact version of how this Yatra started, but it indeed is many centuries old. Bharmaur and Chamba are historical cities with versions dating back after 550 A.D. Temples in Bharmaur are architectural beauties. And Yatra is also a trekkers’ delight. Yatra normally starts on Janmashtami and ends on Radhashtami.
When: 25th August 2016 to 8th September 2016
Where: Hudsor (Bharmaur), Dist- Chamba, Himachal Pradesh
Getting there: Hudsor is 17 kms from Bharmaur and 82 kms from Chamba. Pathankot at distance of 220 kms is the closest convenient railhead, from where you can take buses to Chamba and then Bharmaur.
Swinging on Teej
If down south doesn’t interest you then there is one of the most colourful festivals of the season on up West-Teej. A festival to rejoice the colours, crisscross green-yellow lines, mehandi, rains and jhoolas (swings), Teej is celebrated mainly by the women folk of Rajasthan. Married women who idolize pravati for her devotion to her husband, Shiva, celebrate Teej. The rituals allow the women to pamper and enjoy themselves, to feast, to dress in the best of clothes and jewellery, and to look their stunning best. Antique gilt palanquins, bullock carts pulling cannons, chariots, and gaily decorated horses, camels, brass bands and groups of dances all from a part of this grand spectacle. The palanquin of Goddess Paravati is carried by eight men dressed in red. Though celebrations are held all over the state, it is particularly colourful in Jaipur where a procession winds its way on two days through the old Pink City. On the occasion of Teej, markets in Jaipur are stocked with trendiest women accessories and clothes. Most of the fabric clothes display ‘laheria’ (tie and dye) prints. Sweetshops keep different Teej sweets but ‘Ghevar and Feeni’ is the main sweet of the season. All over Rajasthan, swings are hung from trees and decorated with fragrant flowers. Women both married and unmarried love to swing on these swings to celebrate the ‘Sawan festival’.
When: 5-6 August 2016
Where: Jaipur, Rajasthan
Kajli Teej in Bundi
This is celebrated exactly a fortnight after the regular Shravan Teej. The festival of Kajli Teej is unique to the city of Bundi. A dazzlingly theatrical and lively event, it is held every year in the month of Bhadra (July-August). This week-long celebration filled with gaiety and fanfare pays homage to Goddess Uma by the seekers of marital bliss and love. Women wear colourful traditional costumes, new sets of bangles and decorate their hands with beautiful henna designs. A local fair is held nearby which is extremely popular with the rural folk around Bundi. Handicrafts such as traditional kataar, paintings, bangles, rural handicrafts and fancy eatables attract many people from Rajasthan, other parts of India and foreign shores.
When: 19-20 August 2016
Where: Bundi, Rajasthan
Korzok Gu-stor at Tso Moriri
The Korzok Gu-stor festival is held at the monastery and attracts many Chang-pa, the Tibetan plateau nomadic herdsmen. The festival lasts for two days (July/August) and ends with the dismemberment and dispersal of the ‘Storma’ (sacrificial cake) by the leader of the Black Hat dancers in a ceremony called ‘Argham’ (Killing). The ceremony symbolizes the destruction of evil and pays homage to the assassination of the Tibetan apostate King Lang-dar-ma, by a Buddhist monk in the mid 9th century. At the festival masks are worn by the dancers to represent the Dharmapalas (guardian divinities of the Buddhist pantheon), and the patron divinities of the Drukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The annual monastic festival is also held not only at Korzok but also at the Thuje in the Chungthan valley where the nomadic tribes fervently participate in the rituals. They not only make donations to the monasteries but also dedicate one son from each family to the monastery. It is said that the local nomads are so dedicated to Buddhism that opposite to their tents they allocate space to keep symbolic statue images of the Rinpoche, usually the Dalai Lama, along with the seven offering cups, in perfect harmony with their own folk (nomadic) religious deities and spirits.
When: 5-6 August 2016
Where: Korzok monastery, Tso Moriri Lake, Ladakh
Dakthok Tsetsu, Ladakh
Dak-Thok Tse-Chu is an important Buddhist festival of Jammu and Kashmir held sometime during the months of July and August. It is generally celebrated on the 10th day of the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. The Buddhists observe a number of Tsechu festivals which are mostly dedicated to Guru Rimpoche or Padma Sambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. The word Dak Thok means black rock in Ladakh. It refers to a cave chapel that is part of the Dak Thok monastery. The members of this sect are followers of Padma Sambhava or Guru Rimpoche. During the Tsechu festivals, these monks and the local people perform the Chham dances together. The dances depict various wrathful and compassionate deities and a variety of animals. The Tsechu is a popular festival. It is celebrated with much gaiety by people in the nearby areas, who participate in the festivities adorned in their finest clothing and jewellery.
When: 13-14 August 2016
Where: Dak Thok monastery, Ladakh
Sani Nasjal, Ladakh
Sani Naro-Nasjal is usually celebrated in the first week of August, between the 15th and the 20th of the sixth Tibetan month. It takes place during the blooming of the ‘Guru Neropa Flower’. Every year the statue of Naropa is unveiled in late July or early August on the eve of the Naro-Nasjal Festival. Lamas from Bardan Monastery perform masked dances as ritual offering. Sani Monastery is located next to the village of Sani where the Stod Valley broadens into the central plain of Zanskar in Jammu and Kashmir. It is about 6 km to the northwest of the regional centre of Padum, a gentle two-hour walk. Like Dzongkhul Monastery, it belongs to the Drukpa Kargyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, and is the only one of this order in Zanskar which has nuns. It is thought to be the oldest religious site in the whole region of Ladakh and Zanskar.
When: 17-18 August 2016
Where: Sani monastery, Ladakh