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TripAdvisor to become Facebook and Instagram of travel


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TripAdvisor is soon going to acquire a full-fledged social media avatar as good as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and FourSquare. It will create a social media platform for travel and makes restaurant critics, travel experts and influencers of every user. TripAdvisor unveiled a new site and mobile experience launching later this year. Currently in beta, the world’s largest crowd-sourced travel platform is evolving to become the most personalised and connected travel community, inspiring and empowering individuals with social assistive tools to plan and book better with relevant advice and information from people and experts they trust. During a preview event in New York organised for press on Sept 17, a demonstration of the new platform revealed that the new TripAdvisor will be optimised for mobile devices and take heavy cues from Instagram and Facebook.

Beta version of the new look

TripAdvisor has set out an ambitious strategy to transform itself into a social media platform for travelers. Users will be able to create personal profiles where they can post reviews, recommendations, photos and videos of hotels, restaurants, and attractions. While this feature already exists, the update will amp up the social media aspect, with users able to follow friends, influencers and major travel brands. Members will be able to save posts that appear on their travel feed, and, like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, social media validation will be possible with the addition of “Like” buttons. The new TripAdvisor expands its community beyond travellers to also include brands, social media influencers, publishers and friends. Travellers can follow and connect with individuals or content creators who share information that is relevant to their interests.

Complementing our more than 661 million reviews and opinions, TripAdvisor members will be able to create and view inspirational and helpful new forms of content including photos, videos and articles. The new platform is also being pitched as a space for content creation, for sharing content, and as a one-stop shop, where users can book their hotel directly from the site. Members will also have the ability to create “Trips,” which can be in-depth travel guides, itineraries or simple wish lists of things to do while traveling. Trips can be made private and saved for personal use or shared with the community to inspire and help others.  

Powered by the world’s first “travel feed,” TripAdvisor members will also be able to discover more relevant information faster when planning travel. Assisted throughout the entire travel planning process, members can draw advice and inspiration from their friends, family and trusted experts. When a member logs onto the TripAdvisor app or site, their homepage transforms into a personalised feed of information. When searching a particular destination, the feed automatically narrows the scope of the information displayed to that particular geographic location. For example, members planning a trip to Paris may see a food critic’s article on the best restaurant in the city, an influencer’s travel guide of “must-do’s,” and a friend’s review of a new hotel near the Eiffel Tower.

Steve Kaufer, CEO, introduces the new TripAdvisor travel feed on Sept. 17, 2018 in New York 

“TripAdvisor is poised to disrupt the travel industry once again as we create a more personalized and connected community,” said Stephen Kaufer, CEO & co-founder of TripAdvisor. “The new TripAdvisor is the one travel site that brings together social-assistive tools, amazing content and our existing booking capabilities to merge the joy of planning and discovery together into a single experience. We are assisting our members at each step of their journey as we become a more personalised, inspirational and useful TripAdvisor.”

A New, Valuable Audience for Brands and Publishers

While in beta, more than 500 social media influencers, well-known consumer brands, publishers and travel partners have joined the new TripAdvisor — with more being added every day. In addition to the many content creators joining the platform, TripAdvisor’s team of destination experts and TripAdvisor Media Group brands, including Smarter Travel, Cruise Critic and TheFork.com, will also contribute to the site experience through unique profiles. These partners have already started to create hundreds of pieces of inspiring and helpful travel content, grow their followers, and provide valuable feedback to improve the experience.

Members will be able to follow favorite brands like National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel Channel, Business Insider & Insider Guides, PopSugar, Great Big Story, Pandora Music, GoPro, Goop, NYC & Company (via their consumer-facing tourism website, nycgo.com), Nashville Music City, and The Knot, among many others. Members will also be able to follow leading social media influencers like television personality and restaurateur Giada De Laurentiis, as well as travel bloggers, like TravelBabbo.

TripAdvisor’s Impact on Travel and Tourism

TripAdvisor has unveiled its new site and mobile experience at a time when the company’s impact on the travel and tourism industry is massive and growing. Two recent studies show a growing reliance on TripAdvisor during the travel planning, booking (pre-trip and in-destination) and post-trip experience. According to a 2017 Oxford Economics Study, the TripAdvisor platform has influenced $546 billion USD (10.3%) of global tourism spend annually in the travel and hospitality industry as consumers sought our review content as a part of their decision-making process. A 2018 study from comScore found that 60% of people booking travel online went to TripAdvisor during the travel planning and booking process, and a full 74% of travellers used TripAdvisor when booking on hotel websites. The new TripAdvisor site and mobile experience is set to come out of beta and launch globally to the public later this year across all markets and languages where the company operates.

TripAdvisor covers approximately 7.7 million accommodations, airlines, experiences, and restaurants and provides travellers with the wisdom of the crowds to help them decide where to stay, how to fly, what to do and where to eat. TripAdvisor also compares prices from more than 200 hotel booking sites so travellers can find the lowest price on the hotel that’s right for them. TripAdvisor-branded sites are available in 49 markets, and are home to the world’s largest travel community of 456 million average monthly unique visitors, all looking to get the most out of every trip.

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Jump in the well… all for a bottle of feni!

Its Ganga Dussehra today (also tomorrow!). Many of us would be already in Varanasi or may be in Haridwar or Rishikesh to take part in one of the most important festival attached to River Ganges. People will be taking dip in the river and will be part of Ganga Arti in the evening. Well, quite straightforward in terms of rituals. But ever imagined a festival in India where men jump in wells to bring out, just a bottle of feni! Looks bizarre but that happens in Goa. Looks like a chill-out fun for scorching summers of June. But June has a lot more to offer.  Summer is at its peak in the north while monsoon has already struck in the south. It is still the vacation time for the most parts of India and hill stations will be packed of vacationers. Lot more to do then routine ‘queen of the hills’ trips and these include some offbeat events and festivals.

Ganga aarti at Varanasi

Ganga Dussehra at Varanasi
Well as I said it is Ganga Dussehra today. Though it is called as Dussehra, it has got nothing to do with traditional Vijayadashami, called as Dussehra commonly. It is called Dussehra as it falls on Dashami (tenth day) of Hindu month of Jyeshtha during the brighter nights (शुक्ल पक्ष). The Ganga Dussehra festival is celebrated to mark the time that the holy Ganges River descended to earth. A large number of pilgrims congregate alongside the holy river, to bathe in it and worship. Ganga Dussehra is also known as Gangavataran which means ‘the descent of the Ganga’. Usually Ganga Dusshra is celebrated one day before Nirjala Ekadashi. Ganga Dussehra is dedicated to Goddess Ganga and this day is commemorated as the day when Ganga was descended to the Earth to accomplish her mission to purge the cursed souls of Bhagiratha’s ancestors. On Ganga Dussehra devotees worship Goddess Ganga and take bath in Ganges. Taking bath in Ganges and offering charity. It is widely believed that holy dip in Ganges on Ganga Dussehra day can purge all type of sins. Devotees flock to Allahabad/Prayag, Garhmukteshwar, Haridwar, Rishikesh and Varanasi to take a holy dip. Ganga Dussehra celebrations are legendary in Varanasi. On Ganga Dussehra day thousands of devotees do Ganga Snan and participate in Ganga Aarti at Dasaswamedh Ghat. Ganga Dussehra should not be confused with Ganga Jayanti when the Goddess Ganga was reborn.

When: 3rd June 2017 (some people also say it is on 4th June)
Where: Ghats of Ganges, everywhere!

Summer Festival at Shimla

Summer Festival at Shimla
Another festival which is already on is the Summer festival at Shimla. Shimla is of course one of the India’s all time favourite hill stations. At a time when the holiday season is at its peak, there is a big festival to keep tourists in high spirits. This renowned event has been held regularly in Shimla since the 1960s. And now the dates have also been more or less fixed- 1st to 9th June every year. It features musical performances, some from famous singers, food and fashion. Plenty of local handicrafts are on sale too. The entire stretch of the Ridge road in Shimla comes alive with a riot of colors and a flurry of events like fashion shows, flower exhibitions, a sporting event for children and adults alike and a photography competition, among others. What sets the festival apart is its heartfelt dedication to showcasing the folk culture of the place. This year on the first day there were performers from Republic of Congo as well as many small time performers from Bollywood and Himachal Pradesh. Second night yesterday had performances from local artists. There is another week for the festival.

When: 1-9 June 2017
Where: Mall road, Shimla

Kottiyoor Festival at Kannur

Kottiyoor Festival at Kannur
Another festival due in coming week is at God’s one country- the evergreen Kerala. This one is quite different from usual elephant festivals of Kerala and it continues for no less than 28 days. Quite long! But the Kottiyoor Vysakha Mahotsavam is a truly mesmerising festival held amidst dense forest with the lush greenery and the gorgeous River Baveli forming a stunning backdrop. This festival in Kannur is conducted by two temples, Akkara Kottiyoor and Ikkara Kottiyoor situated on the banks of the River Baveli. The Akkara Kottiyoor Temple serves as the venue for the festival and is opened only during the festival days. The deity here is believed to be a swayambhoo lingam (self-created idol of Lord Shiva) and the temple is noted for its absence of a formal structure. Here the deity is placed on a raised platform made of river stones named manithara. The religious rituals and ceremonies are performed in thatched huts. The festival commences with the Neyyattam (pouring of ghee) ritual which is attended by hundreds of devotees. The celebrations start with the bringing of a sword from Muthirerikavu in Wayanad. An intriguing aspect of the festival is the Rohini Aaradhana where the priest embraces the swayambhoo Shiva linga as part of the ritual. One of the main ritualistic programs in this festival is Elaneer Vayppu in which tender coconut brought by the devotees is offered before the swayambhoolingam.  The festival concludes with Elaneerattam in which the collected tender coconut water is poured on the idol by the head priest.

When: 6th June-2nd July 2017
Where: Kottiyoor temple, Kottiyoor, Kannur. Nearest railway station: Thalassery, about 65 km Nearest airport: Karipur International Airport, about 160 km

Jagannath Rath Yatra at Puri

Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath
This is undoubtedly one of the most important events of the Indian festival calendar. The deities of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken out in a procession to Gundicha Temple and remain there for nine days. Then the deities or Ratha Yatra return to the Main temple. The return journey of Puri Jagannath Ratha Jatra is known as Bahuda Jatra. Deities are usually worshiped in the sanctum of the temple at Puri, but once during the month of Asadha (Rainy Season of Odisha, usually falling in month of June or July), they are brought out onto the Bada Danda (main street of Puri) and travel (3 km) to the Shri Gundicha Temple, in huge chariots (ratha), allowing the public to have darśana (Holy view). This festival is known as Rath Yatra, meaning the journey (yatra) of the chariots (ratha). The Rathas are huge wheeled wooden structures, which are built anew every year and are pulled by the devotees. The chariot for Jagannath is approximately 45 feet high and 35 feet square and takes about 2 months to construct. The artists and painters of Puri decorate the cars and paint flower petals and other designs on the wheels, the wood-carved charioteer and horses, and the inverted lotuses on the wall behind the throne. The Ratha-Yatra is also termed as the Shri Gundicha yatra. Since, many years now, simultaneous Rath Yatras are organised at many cities in India on the same day.

When: 25th June 2017
Where: Puri, Odisha

Sadhus at Kamakhya yemple in Guwahati, Assam, India during Ambubachi Mela Photo: Vikramjit Kakati

Ambubachi Mela of Goddess Kamakhya
Now this is bit unusual as you will probably not be able to recall any festival anywhere else which is held to celebrate the menstruation period of the goddess. This is very popular annual festival of the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati.  In this annual festival the temple remains closed for three days because these are the days of annual menstruation period of goddess Kamakhya. On these three days devotees neither worship nor read holy books. even farmers do not plough the land. Temple reopens on the fourth day, with a rush of devotees who come to receive bits of cloth that are supposedly soaked with her menstrual fluid. It’s considered to be extremely auspicious and powerful. One of the 52 shakti peeths, Kamakhya temple is also known for its tantric rituals. This particular festival is considered to be the haven for that. Devotees come from far off places to meet the Tantric Sadhus and take their blessings.

When: 22-25 June 2017
Where: Kamakhya Temple, Guwahati, Assam

Devotees offering namaz at Jama Masjid in Delhi

Time for some sweet seviyan on Eid
Holiest month for the muslim community world over. The ninth month of the Muslim calendar is known as “Ramazan” and is a time of fasting and prayer throughout the Islamic world. This month-long fast is done to commemorate what, according to Muslims, was the first Quranic revelation to Prophet Muhammad, and its observance is one of the Five Pillars of Islam- a list of the great deeds every Muslim ought do in his life to secure salvation. The month of Ramazan lasts 29 or 30 days, depending on the year, and its beginning date is based on local moon sightings. The “Iftar” is the time of breaking the fast, and it occurs right after the evening call to prayer. Since people fast all day, family and friends eat late-night meals during Ramadan. Non-Muslims can sometimes participate in these meals, and there will often be big street tents near mosques where free food is given out to the needy during Ramadan. Traditionally, Eid El Fitr marks the celebrations at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Its high time for some traditional delicacies.

When: 25th June 2017
Where: Jama Masjid, Delhi

Sao Joao Feast of St John the Baptist

Sao Joao Feast of St John the Baptist
This is the festival I was talking about. Catholics across the world celebrate the Feast of St John the Baptist on June 24. This day, they believe, John kicked around in his mother’s womb when Mary was visiting because he knew Jesus was going to be born soon after him and wanted to indicate how happy he was. Only in Goa do they celebrate by jumping into wells. Its for all those who love feni. The most popular festival in Goa, Sao Joao (the fertility feast of Saint John the Baptist), involves the interesting feat of men jumping into overflowing village wells to retrieve bottles of local feni alcohol. People break coconuts after praying, down feni in liberal quantities, and jump into the closest water body they can find. The artistically inclined make crowns of fresh fruit and wildflowers and one large garland for the local cross. There are also boat races, and singing and dancing. this one is made especially for the newlyweds. The festival involves the husbands getting drunk on the local feni alcohol and jumping into wells to impress their wives, adorning floral wreaths on their heads. The festivities take on a more surreal outlook if it rains while the ceremonies are still underway, which it often does. People revel in delectable food and music while witnessing one of the most quirky and eccentric, yet interesting round of celebrations in the coastal state.

When: 24th June 2017
Where: All over Goa

Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
This is another feast in Goa. The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul or Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul is a liturgical feast in honour of the martyrdom in Rome of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul, which is observed on 29 June. The celebration is of ancient origin, the date selected being the anniversary either of their death or of the translation of their relics. Goa celebrates this festival with religious fervour. The tradition of Sangodd is also seen in the Christian festival of Saint Peter and Saint Paul held on June 29 every year, by the fishing community particularly in Bardez taluka. The fishermen in the villages along the northern coast of Goa celebrate the festival in the monsoon. They tie their boats together to form rafts which serve as makeshift stages. On this stages miniature models of chapels or churches are erected. After a church service in the morning and a large feast, the festival of Sangodd is held. Tiatrs (local drama theatre), folk dances and music are performed before an audience who watch from the banks of the river. The Sangodd in the villages of Candolim and Sinquerim are well known. Here the rafts carrying the models slowly make their way down the river up to the Chapel of St. Peter. At each stop, firecrackers are set off and the entertainment on the stage begins. The origin of this celebration is unique to Goa. It is the celebration of the fisher folk community because St. Peter was a fisherman.

When: 29th June 2017
Where: Candolim, Goa

Festivals in Ladakh region

Its festival time in Ladakh region as well. Though Manali-Leh road is yet not open, but Srinagar-Leh  traffic has resumed.  And then there are flights always! There are a few festivals already in pipeline. A couple of them are monastic while couple of others are recent cultural additions.

Saka Dawa festival

Saka Dawa festival
The Saka Dawa or the Saga festival is celebrated on the 4th  month of the Tibetan calendar. It is the most revered day for Buddhist followers as on this full moon of this month, the Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and then parinirvana. On this very day, every year, the lamas of nearby monasteries change the Tarboche flag pole, that is located at the South of the mountain, Kailash Kora. It is believed that if after the pole is changed, it does not stand erect, it is not auspicious by Tibetans. The festival is celebrated all over Ladakh and many other areas in Tibet and Sikkim as well. Actually this is the festival which we know as the Buddha Purnima. But then we already had Buddha Purnima on 10th May this year. Then why Saka Dawa in this month? The explanation to this is that due to difference between Solar and Lunar calendars, there is sometimes a difference of a month between Buddha Purnima and Saka Dawa, as is this time. But both are essentially full moon days.

When: 9th June 2017
Where: All over Ladakh, Sikkim, Tibet

Yuru Kabgyat festival at Lamayuru monastery

Yuru Kabgyat Festival at Lamayuru
This is another monastic festival of the month. Yuru Kabgyat is a two-day festival that takes place in the month of July in the Lamayuru monastery, which is around 125 kms away from Leh.  During the festival, the monks perform mask dances, prayers and rituals in order to get away from any kind of disaster and for bringing in peace in the world. This  is a pre-historic monastery, which is called Yuru Gonpa by the locals. This festival is dedicated to Yuru Kabgyat and his mythical connection. This Gompa owes its origin to the Drikungpa branch of the Kagyudpa sect of the Tibetan Buddhism. This is actually one of the first monastic festivals of the season.

When: 21st June 2017

Sindhu Darshan Festival at Shey Manla

Celebration of Indus at Sindhu Darshan
As the name suggests, the Sindhu Darshan festival is a celebration of River Sindhu or Indus. Sindhu Darshan is celebrated in Shey Manla, located 8 kms away from the main city of Leh.  Indus is one of the world’s longest rivers, and gave India its name. Not an old festival though, this started as a rightist political statement and then slowly converted itself into a cultural event. It was first started in the October, 1997 and continues to be held every year since then, attracting large number of foreign as well domestic tourists. This is the time, when holiday season starts in Ladakh region. Festival adds to that. The festival aims to project the Sindhu as a symbol of multi-dimensional cultural identity, communal harmony, and peaceful co-existence in India. It promises a kaleidoscope of Indian culture and an exciting array of performing arts. There is also a symbolic salute to the brave soldiers of the country. At the time of the festival, the local artists from various parts of the country traditional dance performances.  People from all religions, castes and regions become a part of this  festival. This year, it would be the 21st Sindhu Darshan festival.

When: 23-26 June 2017
Where: On the banks of the river Sindhu near Leh, Ladakh

Silk Route festival in Nubra valley

Silk route Festival at Nubra valley
This is another recent addition to Ladakh’s cultural festival scene. Recognizing the potential of Sumoor (the model village of Nubra) village in playing central role in economic development through cultural tourism, the villagers started an annual village festival and subsequently realized that this festival needs to be developed and promoted with experts’ supervision and direction to make it more meaningful, momentous and beneficial.  The festival aims at influencing the present and future generations as well visitors from outside to relate to the village culture in a positive light. As such, the Silk Route Festival offers a unique tourism product through provision of the Ladakhi village cultural and traditional lifestyle in aspects of accommodation and hospitality, entertainment, arts and crafts and activities that will interest both national and international tourists. The accommodation and hospitality section of the Silk Route Festival mainly consists of different types of traditional food stalls, cultural programme, handicrafts and traditional sport such as archery to mention few.

When: 23-24 June 2017
Where: Sumoor village, Nubra Valley, Ladakh

SO! Where are you going next!!

Malwa Utsav starts in Indore but lot more to do this month!

Malwa Utsav started last night at Indore’s Lalbagh palace. There are still five more days to go and you can certainly catch some action. So has India’s most awaited yearly pilgrimage- Char Dham Yatra, which commenced on 28th April with opening of doors of Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines. But there are host of other events which can prompt you to some quick travel plans. With soaring temperatures, hill stations like Mount Abu and Ooty try to chill out with their annual festivals. Then there are a few church festivals also in Kerala, besides the all famous Thrissur Pooram. Here are some quick ideas for the month of May- first of India’s traditional two months of summer vacations. Time to pack!

Malwa Festival, Indore

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 at Lalbagh Palace in Indore. 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 more than 400 artists from 19 states will take part in the festival. This year the festival is being held under shadow of plastic ban imposed in Madhya Pradesh from 1st May and also new phenomenon of cashless transactions for the small shopkeepers.

When: 2nd-8th May, 2017

Where: Lalbagh Palace, Indore, Madhya Pradesh.

Thrissur Pooram

The grandest of all Kerala temple festivals this is more than two hundred years old. The Thrissur Pooram features a procession of around 30 colourfully decorated elephants and ensemble of 250 musicians. Other attractions include drum concerts, ornamental parasol displays, and fireworks. The festival is a huge cultural event that runs through the night with exuberant celebrations. Special viewing areas are provided for foreigners at the festival. The temple is a classical example of the Kerala style of architecture and has many murals and pieces of art. Majestic looking elephants adorned with ornate golden nettipattoms on their foreheads, the captivating beats of the thunderous music of the panchavadyam (five traditional instruments), spectacular fireworks, teeming millions intoxicated with the festive spirit – its all this and more that makes the world-famous Thrissur Pooram an unforgettable experience for any tourist.Had been in news recently for its treatment with elephants with issue even landing in court. Still, a festival worth a visit.

When: May 5, 2017

Where: Vadakkumnathan Temple, Thrissur, Kerala.

Ooty welcomes the summers with flowers

 

Photo: indiaeve.com

Every May Ooty comes alive with the Summer Festival. The 121st flower show will be celebrated on May 19th 2017, 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 19-21, is particularly stunning. There will be nearly 15000 flowers of various types on display. The 59th fruit show at Sim’s park in Coonoor will be on May 27-28. Vegetable show will be on 6-7th May, Rose show on 13-14th May and Spice show on 12-14th May 2017. 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: 6th-28th May 2017

Where: Ooty, Coonoor and surrounding areas.

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: May 10, 2017

Dhungri Fair, Manali

Hadimba temple is one of the most famous sight-seeing destinations at Manali in Himachal Pradesh. This mythological goddess from epic Mahabharata has this only temple to her credit in India. This temple is revered by locals and other ‘gods’ of the nearby villages alike. Every year her birth anniversary celebrations are held for three days in summers as per hindu calendar. More than a dozen ‘gods’ from the valley come here in procession to take part in the celebrations. Many events are held which make it a big cultural event. There is lot of dancing, singing, and sports activities. Whole of Manali will anxiously wait for this festival as they believe that after this festival normally tourist season will start peaking at this hill station. Many tourists from all over the world take part in this festival.

When: May 14 to 16, 2017.

Where: Hadimba Temple, Manali, Himachal Pradesh

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: 9th-10th May 2017

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 2017

Perunnal at Edathua Church

Nestled on the banks of River Pamba is the Edathua Church, a massive church that resembles the churches of medieval Europe. Established in 1810, the church is dedicated to St. George and is famous for the annual perunnal or feast which starts on the 27th of April and concludes on the 7th of May. During the perunnal, the statue of the saint, decked in gold, is taken out on a procession and is placed on the dais in the centre of the Basilica. The devotees turn up in hordes from far and wide to join in this procession and offer their prayers. Cultural performances are held on all days and a spectacular display of fireworks form an integral part of the festive occasion. Edathua Perunnal is actually one of three church festivals that takes place in Kerala during these days.

Photo: navrangindia.blogspot.in

Others are, Palayur Church Festival (6-7 May 2017 at St. Thomas Church, Chavakkad in Thrissur) and Puthupally Perunnal at St George Orthodox Church, Puthuppally in Kottayam District. Among these two the St. Thomas Church at Palayur near Chavakkad is believed to be one among the seven churches established by St. Thomas, the apostle of Christ. The annual festival at the church lasts for two days and is attended by thousands. With vibrant pageants, orchestra, and fireworks, the festival resembles the Hindu festivals held in and around Thrissur. Established in 52 AD and with a history spanning two millennia, the church is definitely worth a visit.

When: April 27-May 7, 2017

Where: St. George’s Church, Edathua, Alappuzha. Cochin International Airport is about 85 km from Alappuzha.

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 6th May. The doors of Kedarnath shrines will be opened for pilgrims three days earlier on 3rd 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: 28th April 2017 onwards

Sipi Fair, SIpur, Mashobra

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 2017

 

Where would you like to go this June!

This post is couple of days or more late, but still worth perhaps. Its the Monsoon time. Kerala will be receiving it in a few days, although it is already late by a week. Rest of India will be patiently waiting for its turn sweltering in humid heat until then. But it is still the vacation time for the most parts of India and hill stations will be packed of tourists. Besides the routine trips, have a look at the some of the other ideas for travel this month that I can recollect.

1. Boat race season kicks off at Champakkulam

Champakulam Boat raceThe snake boat race of Kerala or the vallamkali (boat race) is not just an event that lasts for a few hours or a day. Rather, it is a phenomenon the impact of which will last for a lifetime. In Kerala, the season of boat races starts with the famous Champakkulam Moolam Vallam Kali. The festival takes place on the placid waters of River Pamba at Champakkulam, a serene village in Alappuzha district. It is held on the moolam asterism in the Malayalam month of mithunam (roughly June/July). Since it is by far the largest sporting event in the world, the snake boat race is often considered to be the ultimate test of endurance, strength, speed and skill. On the day of the race, people, both locals and travellers from far and near flock to the river bank to enjoy the race.  As the sun comes straight on top of all gathered, boats in various categories like the chundan (snake boat), veppu, iruttu kuthichurulan and others from nearby regions assemble at the starting point of the race. Among these boats, the snake boats with its fascinating design are the cynosure of all eyes. The largest team sport in the world, the sheer grandeur of the vallamkali and the regal bearing of each of the mammoth snake boats need to be witnessed firsthand to be understood.

When: 20th June 2016

Getting there: Nearest railway station is Alapuzha, about 17 km, while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 85 km from Alapuzha town

2. Ambubachi Mela, Kamakhya

Women offering prayers during "Ambubachi" festival at Laxminarayan  Temple during Ambubachi Mela
Women offering prayers during “Ambubachi” festival at Laxminarayan Temple during Ambubachi Mela

Very popular annual festival of the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati. But it is unusual too. In this annual festival the temple remains closed for three days because these are the days of annual menstruation period of goddess Kamakhya. On these three days devotees neither worship nor read holy books. even farmers do not plough the land. Temple reopens on the fourth day, with a rush of devotees who come to receive bits of cloth that are supposedly soaked with her menstrual fluid. It’s considered to be extremely auspicious and powerful. One of the 52 shakti peeths, Kamakhya temple is also known for its tantric rituals. This particular festival is considered to be the haven for that. Devotees come from far off places to meet the Tantric Sadhus and take their blessings.

When: 22-25 June 2016

Where: Kamakhya Temple, Guwahati, Assam

3. Celebration of Indus at Sindhu Darshan

Sindhu_DarshanAs the name suggests, the Sindhu Darshan festival is a celebration of River Sindhu or Indus. It’s one of the world’s longest rivers, and gave India its name. Not an old festival though, this started as a political statement and then slowly converted itself into a cultural event. It was first started in the October, 1997 and continues to be held every year since then, attracting large number of foreign as well domestic tourists. This is the time, when holiday season starts in Ladakh region. Festival adds to that. The festival aims to project the Sindhu as a symbol of multi-dimensional cultural identity, communal harmony, and peaceful co-existence in India. It promises a kaleidoscope of Indian culture and an exciting array of performing arts. This year, it would be the 20th Sindhu Darshan festival.

When: 23-26 June 2016

Where: On the banks of the river Sindhu, Leh, Ladakh

4. Summer Festival, Shimla

Shimla_summerShimla is of course one of the India’s all time favourite hill stations. At a time when the holiday season is at its peak, there is a big festival to keep tourists in high spirits. This renowned event has been held regularly in Shimla since the 1960s. It features musical performances, some from famous singers, food and fashion. Plenty of local handicrafts are on sale too. The entire stretch of the Ridge road in Shimla comes alive with a riot of colors and a flurry of events like fashion shows, flower exhibitions, a sporting event for children and adults alike and a photography competition, among others. What sets the festival apart is its heartfelt dedication to showcasing the folk culture of the place.

When: 1-9 June 2016

Where: Mall road, Shimla

5. Ganga Dussehra at Varanasi

Ganga-DussehraThough it is called as Dussehra, it has got nothing to do with traditional Vijayadashami, called as Dussehra commonly. It is called Dussehra as it falls on Dashami (tenth day) of Hindu month of Jyeshtha during the brighter nights.The Ganga Dussehra festival is celebrated to mark the time that the holy Ganges River descended to earth. A large number of pilgrims congregate alongside the holy river, to bathe in it and worship. Ganga Dussehra is also known as Gangavataran which means ‘the descent of the Ganga’.  Usually Ganga Dusshra is celebrated one day before Nirjala Ekadashi. Ganga Dussehra is dedicated to Goddess Ganga and this day is commemorated as the day when Ganga was descended to the Earth to accomplish her mission to purge the cursed souls of Bhagiratha’s ancestors. On Ganga Dussehra devotees worship Goddess Ganga and take bath in Ganges. Taking bath in Ganges and offering charity. It is widely believed that holy dip in Ganges on Ganga Dussehra day can purge all type of sins.  Devotees flock to Allahabad/Prayag, Garhmukteshwar, Haridwar, Rishikesh and Varanasi to take a holy dip. Ganga Dussehra celebrations are legendary in Varanasi. On Ganga Dussehra day thousands of devotees do Ganga Snan and participate in Ganga Aarti at Dasaswamedh Ghat. Ganga Dussehra should not be confused with Ganga Jayanti when the Goddess Ganga was reborn.

When: 14th June 2016

Where: Ghats of Ganges, Varanasi

6. Holy month of Ramadan

Ramadan prayersHoliest month for the muslim community world over. The ninth month of the Muslim calendar is known as “Ramadan” and is a time of fasting and prayer throughout the Islamic world. This month-long fast is done to commemorate what, according to Muslims, was the first Quranic revelation to Muhammad, and its observance is one of the Five Pillars of Islam- a list of the great deeds every Muslim ought do in his life to secure salvation. he month of Ramadan lasts 29 or 30 days, depending on the year, and its beginning date is based on local moon sightings. The “Iftar” is the time of breaking the fast, and it occurs right after the evening call to prayer. Since people fast all day, family and friends eat late-night meals during Ramadan. Non-Muslims can sometimes participate in these meals, and there will often be big street tents near mosques where free food is given out to the needy during Ramadan. Traditionally, Eid El Fitr marks the celebrations at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

When: Starts 6th June 2016

7.  Sao Joao Feast of St John the Baptist

Sao Joao Feast of St John the BaptistCatholics across the world celebrate the Feast of St John the Baptist on June 24. This day, they believe, John kicked around in his mother’s womb when Mary was visiting because he knew Jesus was going to be born soon after him and wanted to indicate how happy he was. Only in Goa do they celebrate by jumping into wells. Its for all those who love feni. The most popular festival in Goa, Sao Joao (the fertility feast of Saint John the Baptist), involves the interesting feat of men jumping into overflowing village wells to retrieve bottles of local feni alcohol. People break coconuts after praying, down feni in liberal quantities, and jump into the closest water body they can find. The artistically inclined make crowns of fresh fruit and wildflowers and one large garland for the local cross. There are also boat races, and singing and dancing. this one is made especially for the newlyweds. The festival involves the husbands getting drunk on the local feni alcohol and jumping into wells to impress their wives, adorning floral wreaths on their heads. The festivities take on a more surreal outlook if it rains while the ceremonies are still underway, which it often does. People revel in delectable food and music while witnessing one of the most quirky and eccentric, yet interesting round of celebrations in the coastal state.

When: 24th June 2016

8. Pratap Jayanti in Mewar

Pratap MemorialMaharana Pratap (1568-1597 C.E.) was a Hindu Rajput King of Mewar in Rajasthan. Maharana Pratap belonged to the Sisodiya clan of Rajputs. He is revered and worshipped by many royal families in Rajasthan for his bravery and courage.Maharana Pratap is always held in very high esteem by the whole Mewar region. His birth anniversary (Maharana Pratap Jayanti) is celebrated as a full-fledged festival every year on the 3rd day of the Jyestha Shukla phase. The birth anniversary of Maharana Pratap is celebrated as per Hindu calendar. Maharana Pratap Jayanti (Birth Anniversary) is always celebrated with great enthusiasm in Udaipur and all places associated with Pratap such as Gounda, Chittorgarh and Kumbhalgarh. Actually, there are many historical places attached with Maharana Pratap’s life and death. Haldighati, Gogunda, Khamnour, Udaipur, Aravali etc. Every place has its own importance in Pratap’s life but Gogunda is the place where the historical Raj-Tilak (coronation) of Maharana Pratap was done. It means a lot to the followers of Pratap and even for historians. Gogunda, situated nearly 20 kms far from Udaipur is a place known for its dense tribal belt (kotra). Tribal in Mewar majorly come from bhil/garasia tribe and they have a close relation with the great Rajput warrior Maharana Pratap. A good time to visit Udaipur and share some of the history of the land.

When: 7th June 2016

Where: Gogunda, 20 kms from Udaipur,

9. Kundalini Shakti Festival, Kasol

Kundalini KasolKasol is located in picturesque Parvati valley in Himachal Pradesh. Off late Kasol has gained some reputation for particular festivals. Kundalini Shakti Festival is one of them. With a growing inclination among tourists towards Indian spirituality, this is turning out to be an event to watch. This is one not to miss for psy-trance lovers!  The lineup features more than 40 local and international artists spread over four days. There will be stalls as well. Well, the organisers say, “the kundalini shakti is the life force; it is the essential energy of existence. It is the hidden ingredient in life. It is what makes it all work.If you take the time to bring the light of the supra-conscious into your being, then automatically all blockages will go away. These are just ways of talking, there are no blockages, schematically.So let’s join this kundalini shakti festival to open your kundalini and generated through cultivating humility, purity, through meditation, selfless giving, and by studying with an advanced teacher on a personal level”. Interested! But remember, its not free. You need to buy tickets or have some passes.

When: 9-12 June 2016

Where: Kasol (Bhuntar-Manikaran road), Kullu, Himachal Pradesh

10. Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

Feast of Saints Peter and PaulThe Feast of Saints Peter and Paul or Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul is a liturgical feast in honour of the martyrdom in Rome of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul, which is observed on 29 June. The celebration is of ancient origin, the date selected being the anniversary either of their death or of the translation of their relics. Goa celebrates this festival with religious fervour. The tradition of Sangodd is also seen in the Christian festival of Saint Peter and Saint Paul held on June 29 every year, by the fishing community particularly in Bardez taluka. The fishermen in the villages along the northern coast of Goa celebrate the festival in the monsoon. They tie their boats together to form rafts which serve as makeshift stages. On this stages miniature models of chapels or churches are erected. After a church service in the morning and a large feast, the festival of Sangodd is held. Tiatrs (local drama theatre), folk dances and music are performed before an audience who watch from the banks of the river. The Sangodd in the villages of Candolim and Sinquerim are well known. Here the rafts carrying the models slowly make their way down the river up to the Chapel of St. Peter. At each stop, firecrackers are set off and the entertainment on the stage begins. The origin of this celebration is unique to Goa. It is the celebration of the fisher folk community because St. Peter was a fisherman.

When: 29th June 2016

 

Some cool travel ideas for this hot May!

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

Malwa-FestivalCelebrated 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

Kottiyoor-FestivalThe 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

ootyEvery 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-PurnimaBuddha 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

UjjainThis 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

Mt__Abu_SunsetThe 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

MoatsuMoatsu 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

Matheran Green FestivalFor 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

Char DhamThe 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

Sipi FairOne 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

 

Top 10 ideas for travel in India in May

These are tough times, when there is a big tragedy so close, as seen in Nepal. Wouldn’t it have been first choice for many of us to visit in summer vacations, had it not been for this earthquake! In this modest mood 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 boost the adrenaline. Go ahead.

  1. Escape the heat at Coorg Escapade

Coorg685A perfect one for those who love fitness and the great outdoors. Organised for the first time in 2014, the Coorg Escapade is set out to be India’s premier outdoor sports festival. Last year the Coorg Escapade was but was restricted to a 10K Trail run. This trail run took runners through coffee plantations, waterfalls and hills. Focus was on ensuring that it was a breathtaking experience for the runners. The encouraging response and positive post event feedback has given organisers the confidence to take this event to a whole new level. Hence comes the India’s first full fledged outdoor sports festival – The Coorg Escapade! This adventure filled and adrenaline charged weekend will see events such as Trail Running, Road Cycling, Mountain Biking, Kayaking and a few more. Almost all events are prize money based and aim is to tap local talent and make it one of the most challenging yet satisfying events in the country. Accompanying the events will be live music, food and a market selling local produce. Participants will be exposed to Coorg culture and hospitality and we hope you will be left wanting more.

When: 2nd-3rd May 2015

2. Ganga Dussehra at Varanasi

Ganga-DussehraThough it is called as Dussehra, it has got nothing to do with traditional Vijayadashami, called as Dussehra commonly. It is called Dussehra as it falls on Dashami (tenth day) of Hindu month of Jyeshtha during the brighter nights.The Ganga Dussehra festival is celebrated to mark the time that the holy Ganges River descended to earth. A large number of pilgrims congregate alongside the holy river, to bathe in it and worship. Ganga Dussehra is also known as Gangavataran which means ‘the descent of the Ganga’.  Usually Ganga Dusshra is celebrated one day before Nirjala Ekadashi. Ganga Dussehra is dedicated to Goddess Ganga and this day is commemorated as the day when Ganga was descended to the Earth to accomplish her mission to purge the cursed souls of Bhagiratha’s ancestors. On Ganga Dussehra devotees worship Goddess Ganga and take bath in Ganges. Taking bath in Ganges and offering charity. It is widely believed that holy dip in Ganges on Ganga Dussehra day can purge all type of sins.  Devotees flock to Allahabad/Prayag, Garhmukteshwar, Haridwar, Rishikesh and Varanasi to take a holy dip. Ganga Dussehra celebrations are legendary in Varanasi. On Ganga Dussehra day thousands of devotees do Ganga Snan and participate in Ganga Aarti at Dasaswamedh Ghat. Ganga Dussehra should not be confused with Ganga Jayanti when the Goddess Ganga was reborn.

When: 28th May 2015

3. Ooty welcomes the summers with flowers

ootyEvery May Ooty comes alive with the Summer Festival. The 119th flower show will be celebrated on May 15th 2015, around 200 countries national flowers will be displayed on this year show. Flower show is conducted every year in the mid 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.There is separate flower show for roses, held at rose garden.The rose tower is created using large varieties of roses, it is major attractions for flower lovers. This year, the festival at the souther Queen of Hills will start with a two day vegetable show at Kotagiri on May 2-3. There will be a spice show at Gudalur on May 8-9 and a rose show at the Ooty Rose Garden on May 9-10. The flower show at the Ooty Botanical Gardens, which will take place on May 15-17, is particularly stunning. The festival will conclude with a fruit show in Coonoor on May 23-24. Other activities include cultural events, boat racing (scheduled for May 12 on Ooty Lake), 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: 2nd-24th May 2015

4. Buddha Purnima at Bodhgaya

Buddha-PurnimaBuddha 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: 4th May 2015

5. Ultimate cycling challenge of MTB Uttarakhand

MTB-UttarakhandCycling Federation of India in association with Department of Tourism, Government of Uttarakhand is organising an MTB event from 6th to 14th May 2015. This eight day race starts at Nainital on the 7th May 2015 and will finish at Mussorie on the 13th May 2015 covering close to 600 Km. This race probably will be the longest MTB race in Asia and will have a prize money of Rs. 15-20 Lakhs depending upon the participation. This event will have 6 stages, while keeping a day off before the last two legs. It will have a halt at Almora, Gwal dam, Rudra Prayag, New Tihri, Chiryali Sore and finish at Mussorie. The trail for one day will be at Tihri Dam. A valid rider licence is required for the participation in the said MTB event. This will be a yearly event for which a Memorandum of understanding between the Govt. of Uttarakhand and CFI has been signed. The registration for the event will be limited to 90 participants on the first come basis and will be done at the CFI website. No entry fees and boarding lodging & local transportation will be provided by the organizers.

When: 6th-14th May 2015

6. Summer festival at Mount Abu

Mount AbuThe 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: 3rd-4th May 2015

7.  Moatsu at Nagaland

MoatsuMoatsu 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 2015

8. Love the nature at Matheran Green Festival

MatheranFor five days, the lush vehicle-free forest of Matheran will come alive with this green initiative focusing on nature and conservation. 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. The five day festival will be attended by Musicians and Bands like Neel Sarkar- Composer/ Guitarist, Dr. Benny Prasad- World record holder Musician from Bangalore who’s “world’s most travelled musician” in the world and Riddim Funktion Band (Kolkata). 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.

When: 21st-25th May 2015

9. Belief and adventure at Chardham Yatra

Char DhamThe most popular pilgrimage in India, Chardham yatra has already began in its full swing with the opening of doors of the famous Badrinath temple after a six-month winter break. The doors of Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines were opened for pilgrims on the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritiya; while Kedarnath temple was also opened earlier when even Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi made it here on trek. 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 March- April. 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 2015

10. Land a hand, support Nepal

NepalSince long Nepal has been India’s favourite neighbouring destination. A place for many as the first ‘foreign’ trip without a VISA or even a passport. In this time of crisis Nepal needs our support. The first logical reaction to a tragedy like this is of fear and avoidance. But with world crumbling around at this peak of the tourist season, what Nepal needs is to build again. It needs support by any means- physically, economically, psychologically. Himalayan tourism is Nepal’s bread and butter, and it needs people to lend a hand, not turn their face away out of fear.

When: May-June 2015