Tag Archives: Festivals

Traditional folklore and cool technology are woven together at Taiwan Lantern Festival

The 29th Taiwan Lantern Festival was officially opened, with the lighting of the lanterns in the Main Lantern area. The exhibition scale for this year’s festival reaches 50 hectares, making it the biggest lantern festival ever held in Taiwan. The exhibitions will feature the main lantern which depicts an indigenous child with a Taiwanese dog, portraying the theme of Loyal Auspiciousness. Besides this main attraction, the innovative designs area will showcase various exquisite traditional lanterns that embody traditional customs and auspicious themes; these are sure to dazzle people.

For the first time, full-field spotlights will be used to shine the latitude and longitude beams in the sky and present the Tropic of Cancer going through the mountains, sea and plains of Chiayi County. The design incorporates folk culture and will give people a brand new sensory experience. International tourists who visit the “2018 Taiwan Lantern Festival” and present their passport or relevant entry certificate from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on March 3-10 at the No. 1 Service Desk can receive a 2018 Year of the Dog DIY paper lantern, a limited edition gift and a voucher (valid from March 3-10), which they can use to access the Main Lantern Area to watch the light show.

On the 15th day of the first lunar month, the Lantern Festival, also known as the Little New Year, celebrates an important traditional folk activity for the Lunar New Year. Traditionally, residents celebrated by setting off firecrackers, displaying hand-held lanterns, and going to temples to look at beautiful lanterns. Amid the fun atmosphere, it’s also a time to wish for peace and prosperity for the country and people. Every year, during the Lantern Festival, throughout Taiwan, large and small scale celebrations are held. The biggest difference between the Taiwan Lantern Festival and the lantern festivals held in various counties and cities in Taiwan is that it integrates tradition and modernity.

Based on traditional culture, the Taiwan Lantern Festival each year uses the animal sign on the Chinese zodiac as the theme of the main lantern. It also pays attention to traditional customs in determining the location, construction and placement rituals. The Main Lantern’s base is designed based on the Chinese Eight Trigrams, which symbolises Taiwan’s traditional philosophy and culture. The Main Lantern lighting ceremony time is selected based on what is considered an auspicious moment. It also involves the traditional blowing of the whistle. (When the President lights the lantern, a team of people blow whistles 9 times, when the Premier lights the lantern, the whistles are blown 8 times and when the Minister of Transportation and Communications lights the lantern, the whistle is blown 7 times). In addition to that, drumming, and hitting the gongs precede the lighting of Main Lantern. And with traditional etiquette, and folk tales as the theme, we cleverly combine lanterns with scenario-based technology to create an ambilight-like scenery.

To bring refreshing results to the public, a number of initiatives have also been planned for the “2018 Taiwan Lantern Festival,” including the center of attention, the Main Lantern “Loyal Auspiciousness ” which for the first time will depict not only the zodiac animal of the year but also include a Taiwan indigenous child waving, so that spectators can feel as if the child is greeting them and sending them good wishes with a smile. With the vigorous development of mobile payments and the introduction of cashless bazaars, the public also can experience the convenience and friendliness brought by science and technology. In order to showcase Taiwan’s intention to promote the protection of the bay resources, the “Bayside Tourism Lantern Area” has also been established to demonstrate the unique vitality of Taiwan being surrounded by the sea. A National Palace Museum water lantern area has also been laid out, and set up a Lantern Festival environmental navigation area, an environmental live broadcast and digital carved water curtain projection.

Through years of constant innovation, the Taiwan Lantern Festival has become one of Taiwan’s premier folk festivals. It has been selected as one of the “World’s Best Festivals” by Discovery and praised by international media as a Disneyland without a roller coaster! Through the holding of the Lantern Festival, the development of various types of Lantern Festival celebrations in Taiwan will be further promoted and world-class lantern designing and making technology will be cultivated. Chiayi County sits in front of a mountain range and faces the sea. It is the only county in Taiwan that spans Alishan, Siraya and Yun-Chia-Nan, three major national scenic areas. In addition to enjoying the sunrise and sea of clouds on Alishan, visitors can also visit the villages of the Zhou indigenous tribe on the mountain, as well as the eco-rich Aogu Wetland, Ruili Scenic Area’s Yanziya, the Dongshi Fisherman’s Wharf’s famous White Sand Beach and eat delicious seafood, Fengtian Temple, which is dedicated to the worshipping of the Goddess Mazu in Xingang, and Bantou village cochin pottery village. Visitors also shouldn’t miss delicious local food such as Minxiong goose, Budai seafood, Dongshi oysters, Xingang peanut candy, and duck soup. Traveling to various tourist spots in Chiayi County during the day and enjoying the Taiwan Lantern Festival in the evening will surely be the best way to celebrate the festival.

In order to promote Taiwan’s unique activities, the Tourism Bureau Chiayi County of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has been highlighting the special festivals of Taiwan in the past few years. In addition to the continuous integration and marketing of the Taiwan Lantern Festival, and other Lantern Festival events, such as the Taipei Lantern Festival, the Kaohsiung Lantern Festival Art Festival, the New Taipei City Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, Miaoli Fire Side Dragon Festival, Tainan Yanshui Beehive Rockets Festival, and Taitung Bombing of Master Han Dan Festival, since 2013 has been promoting the “Taiwan Tourism Calendar” program, which integrates information on various large-scale special events in Taiwan, including the upcoming annual meeting of the world’s most beautiful bays in Taiwan (Penghu), the Taichung World Flora Exhibition (Taichung City), the 9th Asian Birdwatching Exposition (Chiayi County) and other international conferences and activities. Visitors from home and abroad are welcome to visit the unique and magnificent sightseeing activities of Taiwan’s folk festivals.

About Taiwan

Taiwan is located in the western Pacific Ocean 160 km (100 miles) off the southeastern coast of the Chinese mainland and is a convenient gateway to Asia for the Indian traveler.

FLIGHTS: A number of airlines such as China Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Southern and Thai Airways fly directly or with a stopover, in to the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the Kaohsiung International Airport and the Taichung International Airport from the Indian metros of New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata. Scoot Airlines also connects the cities of Jaipur, Amritsar, Lucknow, Chennai, Trichy, Kochi, Lucknow, Bangalore and Hyderabad with a stopover in Singapore to Taipei. The average flight time between India and Taiwan is of about 6.5 hours; and Taiwan is 2.5 hours ahead of India.

VISA: Indian Passport holders can enjoy Visa exempt entry into Taiwan for 30 days via an online system. The applicant must have at least one of the following valid or expired visas issued by UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand or any of the Schengen countries.

  • Valid resident or permanent resident card
  • Valid entry visa (may be electronic visa)
  • Resident card or visa that has expired less than 10 years prior to the date of arrival in Taiwan

Photo credits : Taiwan Tourism Bureau

Have you seen any lantern festival? How beautiful it was? Share your views in the comments section below.

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Desert to Desert : Old charm continues in New Year

Too late to come with the first post of the New Year! It is never too late!!

Chill is settling down and fog has engulfed almost whole of north India. Its snowing in the hills. Time to pack the bags for some adventure! If you need a reason than there are lot from cold deserts of Ladakh to deserts of Thar (although they will be equally cold this time). First month of the calendar year also comes with a number of festivals celebrating India’s dance and musical traditions. Not to be forgotten that this month also has Makar Sakranti (14th January), considered to be one of the most auspicious days of the year and also an occasion of many travels and pilgrimages. Here are my picks for the month.

Mukteshwar and Rajarani Festivals

Let’s start from Odisha. Mukteshwar Dance Festival (14-16 January), organised by Odisha Tourism is all about dance, especially Odissi dance. This festival is staged in front of the 1100-years-old Mukteswar temple in Bhubaneswar. Renowned Odissi dancers from around the world take part in this festival performing solo, duet and group presentations. Mukteshwar temple, one of the most prominent temples of Bhubaneswar, has been constructed in the style that is quite similar to the one used in the Kalinga School of Temple Architecture. The splendid Torana of the temple, an ornamental arched gateway, is very much reminiscent of the influence of Buddhism in Orissa. This temple is a very important part of cultural life of the people of Orissa as the architecture at the temple entrance is considered to be one of the most beautiful specimens of the Orissan School of architecture. This temple signifies the transitional phase of the architecture of Orissa between the initial and the later stages of Kalinga architectural style. The beautiful architectural works of the temple add to the splendour of the Mukteshwar Utsav. This festival should not be missed by the people who take interest in the traditional dance forms of India. This festival is followed by Rajarani Music Festival two days later. Mukteshwar festival is all about dance while Rajarani festival is about classical music.

Entrancing performances by well-known Odissi and Hindustani vocal and music maestros bring alive the architectural beauty of the 11th century Rajarani temple at this festival. To show case the glorious tradition of Indian classical music, the Rajarani Music Festival was conceived to be organised by the Department of Tourism in association with Bhubaneswar Music Circle.
Celestial music, sublime surroundings and soothing climes of late winter—soul traverses to an elevated sphere leaving you utterly relaxed. The musical evenings are resplendent with excellent performances by the great maestros of Indian classical music creating an allegory of darbari gayans (musical performances in an Indian king’s court) of age old histories. Eminent instrumentalists and vocalists of India have rendered scintillating performance in this festival over the years. The temple, often referred to as the Khajuraho of the east, is famous for its elaborate erotic sculptured figurines. It’s remarkable for the absence any presiding deity in it. The temple is famous for its ornate deul or compass and the statues of eight Dikpals guarding the eight cardinal directions of the temple.

  • When: January 14-16 & 18-20, 2018
  • Where: Mukteshwar & Rajarani temples, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha

Swathi Sangeethotsavam

Photo Credit : imalayalee.org

Continuing with tradition of music festivals, come January and the mighty pillars of the Kuthiramalika Palace in the Kerala’s capital city of Thiruvananthapuram will pulsate with the mellifluous notes sung at the Swathi Sangeetholsavam or Swathi Music Festival. This musical extravaganza lets you listen to the spellbinding compositions of Swathi Thirunal, the erstwhile Maharaja of Travancore. Organised every year to pay tribute to Swathi Thirunal, the concert celebrates the brilliant notes composed by this legendary maestro which continue to enthrall music lovers even now. A patron of music and a musician himself, Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma has to his credit more than 400 compositions in Carnatic music as well as Hindustani music. He set a new course and direction to the musical tradition of Kerala. The concert held in the Kuthiramalika Palace adjoining the famous Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, sees musical performances in both Hindustani and Carnatic styles. The musical festival which is attended by eminent musicians from across the country brings together those passionate about classical music and the experts as well. Entry is free.

  • When: January 4-13, 2018
  • Where: Kuthiramalika Palace, East Fort, Thiruvananthapuram

Adoor Gajmela, first of the year

Adoor Gajamela

Well, let’s still be in Kerala. The picture of a huge tusker in all his adornment is something that catches the mind of all. If you are an elephant lover then don’t miss this wonderful elephant pageant at the Parthasarathy Temple in Adoor. Popular as Adoor Gajamela, the festival is part of the ten-day annual celebration held at the temple. Kerala’s first elephant pageant for the year, the end of the 10 day festival at Parthasarathy Temple features a procession of nine decorated elephants. Traditional art forms such a panchavadyam (a musical ensemble with five different types of instruments) accompany the parade. Hundreds of people throng the temple premises to witness this spectacle where nine tuskers come in their ceremonial attire to entice all. Parthasarathy Temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna, who is also known as Parthasarathy – the charioteer of Parthan, another name for Arjuna. Arjuna is one of the five Pandava princes, in the Indian epic Mahabharata.

  • When: January 27, 2018
  • Where: Parthasarathy Temple, Adoor, Pathanamthitta district, Kerala

Arthunkal Perunnal

Kerala always loves to give you more. The Arthunkal Perunnal (perunnal meaning feast) is the annual feast of St. Sebastian held in the St. Andrew’s Forane Church at Arthunkal in Alappuzha. The event sees devotees from across the state throng the church to participate in the feast which is held in January every year. One of the main events during the feast involves a ceremonial procession wherein the statue of St. Sebastian is taken out from the church to the beach and back. Another intriguing event is the ceremony on the final day when devotees crawl on their knees all the way from the nearby beach to the church. Church built by Portuguese missionaries in a coastal hamlet near here is a model of religious harmony with a tradition of hosting Sabari pilgrims returning after worshipping Lord Ayyappa. Pilgrims from across the state visit the St Andrew’s Church at Arthunkal here and pay their respects to the idol of Saint Sebastian between the months of November and January during the Mandala and Makaravilakku season of the Sabarimala temple. Legend has it that one of the early priests of the church, popularly called Arthunkal Veluthachan (fair skinned father), was a friend of Lord Ayyappa. The visit of the pilgrims commemorates the bond they shared, especially as the priest was loved by the local people who believed he had healing powers.

  • When: January 27, 2018
  • Where: St. Andrew’s Forane Church, Arthunkal, Alappuzha. Nearest railway station Cherthala is about 8 km from here and Alappuzha is about 22 km from here.

But if you think that that is all from Kerala fo the month, than you are wrong. Actually there are lot more. Kerala Tourism has recently started another unique annual event- Utsavam which is a festival of traditional performing art forms of Kerala. It will be held from January 6 to 12 across Kerala. Simultaneously, from January 7 to 14 Vasantholsavam will be celebrated at Kanakakkunnu Palace in Thiruvanathpuram. It will be basically a flower show. Same Kanakakkunnu Palace will also host Nishagandhi Festival from January 20 to 26, which will be a seven day cultural fiesta.

Jaipur Literature Festival

Photo Credit: dumbbellsanddrama.com

Lets move from down south to west in Rajasthan. From modest beginnings in 2006, the Jaipur Literature Festival has grown into the largest literary festival in Asia-Pacific. This is the 11th edition of the festival this year. Both Indian authors as well as those from abroad appear at the festival. The sessions consist of readings, discussions, and questions and answers. It’s possible to buy the authors’ books and get them signed. In addition, there’s a range of stalls selling everything from food to handicrafts. There’s also an outdoor lounge bar, for relaxing. Music performances are held in the evenings, after the literary sessions are over. In recent years, the festival has turned into quite a fashionable occasion, and attracts plenty of socialites from Delhi and Jaipur. Authors will discuss works related to topic. There will also be emphasis on poetry, the literature of Southeast Asia, and the seven states of northeast India. There will be live music events, heritage walks and much more.

  • When: January 24-29, 2018
  • Where: At the historic Diggi Palace hotel in Jaipur. The hotel is located in Sangram Colony, Ashok Nagar, which is just off M.I. Road, around 10 minutes walk from the Old City of Jaipur. Since 2012, the music stage has been shifted to a different venue at The Clarks Amer lawns (around 15 minutes drive south of Diggi Palace).

Colours of desert in Rajasthan

Photo Credit: rajasthanvisit.com

There is lot in Rajasthan this month. January is just the right month for a desert spree, and Bikaner and Jaisalmer are just the right places to see the ships of the desert. In the camel country Bikaner, these desert leviathans pull heavy cartloads, transport grain and even work at the wells. Held on second Saturday-Sunday of January every year, the Camel Festival begins with a colourful procession of bedecked camels against the red sandstone backdrop of the Junagarh Fort, the festivity advances to the open sand-spreads of the grounds, followed by the best breed competition, the tug-of-war contest, camel dance,  acrobatics, etc. The camels display amazing footwork, dancing gracefully to the slightest direction of their trainers. Bridal, bridles, bejewelled necks, jingling anklets and long, lanky camel shadow on dusky sands cast a magical spell. Hundreds of tourists and thousands of locals and dignitaries revel in this man-and-animal affair organised especially for the tourists. The evenings close with a different tenor and tempo altogether: a traditional rendezvous of renowned artistes of Rajasthan and the local folk performers. The jubilant skirt-swirling dancers, the awe-inspiring fire dance, and the dazzling fireworks light up the fortified desert city of Bikaner.

Almost a fortnight later is Desert Festival at Jaisalmer (January 29-31, 2018). Its one of Rajasthan’s premier showcase festivals. Once a year, the empty sands around Jaisalmer come alive with a mesmerising performance on the sand dunes in the form of the Desert Festival. The festival, organised by the Department of Tourism around January-February, goes on for three whole days and lets you enjoy the rich and colourful Rajasthani folk culture. Rajasthani men and tall, beautiful women dressed in their best and brightest costumes dance and sing ballads of valour, romance and tragedy, while traditional musicians attempt to outdo each other to showcase their musical superiority. The high points of the festival are puppeteers, acrobats, camel tattoo shows, camel races, camel polo, traditional processions, camel mounted bands, folk dances, etc.

  • When: January 13-14 & 29-31, 2018
  • Where: Bikaner and Jaisalmer are connected by rail and road with all the major cities. The nearest airport is at Jodhpur (243 kms).

Tribal Kumbh at Beneshwar

From west of Rajasthan, now we move to south of Rajasthan. Almost 70 kilometre from Dungarpur in South Rajasthan, Beneshwar temple at Sabla is located at the confluence of three rivers- Mahi, Som and Jakham. This region is the tribal belt that stretched to neighbouring parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat as well. Every year this place is host to Beneshwar Fair. This festival, held on the full moon day or Magh Shukla Purnima, attracts a large number of tourists along with tribals from the region. On this pious occasion, Bhils travel all the way from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to take a dip at the confluence of three rivers. The number of people coming to the festival often crosses half a million, hence it is rightfully known as the Tribal Mahakumbh of ‘Vangad’ region. A true reflection of tribal traditions and culture. This place has got many mythological associations making it one of the most revered places of the region. There is a fair and a flea market as well. Even the erstwhile royal family of Dungarpur had close association with this festival.

  • When: January 27-31, 2018
  • Where: Beneshwar Temple, Sabla, Dungarpur. Dungarpur is the southernmost district of Rajasthan, accessible from Udaipur very easily or even Ahmedabad in Gujarat.

Similarly Nagaur in Rajasthan will also have its Nagaur Fair from 22 January to 25 January. Nagaur Fair is said to be second biggest fair in India. It is basically a cattle fair, where every year around 70,000 bullocks, camels and horses are traded. All traditional colours of Rajasthan are here at full display in dresses, shops, games and art forms. This fair is also known for its Mirchi Bazaar, which is said not be largest red chilli market in India.

Joydev Fair, Kenduli

Photo Credit: flickr.com

Now jump from west to east. For an unforgettable dose of West Bengal folk music don’t miss the Kenduli Mela, where the mystical wandering Baul musicians gather to perform. Dressed in saffron robes, and playing a distinctive instrument called the Ektara, they sing uniquely about life’s philosophy. Joydev-Kenduli is renowned as the birth place of great Sanskrit poet Joydev who flourished in 12th Century and composed the well known Geet – Govinda, a Sanskrit Lyrical poem. Annual- Mela is held in the village Kenduli in the last day of Bengali month Pous and first 2 days of Magh and is attended by thousands of pilgrims including Bauls. The word ‘Baul’  is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Batul’ which means ‘mad’. Baul philosophy emphasises love for all human beings as the path leading to divine love. The Joydeb-Kenduli mela (fair), held every year in West Bengal’s Birbhum district on Makar Sankranti in mid-January. It is a gathering of wandering minstrels (Bauls, primarily) like no other in India. Gathering in almost equal numbers are lay aficionados addicted to the Baul and Fakir ways of life. Joydev Mela is mainly a music festival but as the Poush Mela it attracts craftsmen from the whole region, mainly selling wooden kitchen supplies, handmade covers or cheap jewellery. During five days, the 3 000 inhabitants of Kenduli Village welcome thousand and thousand of pilgrims who come mostly to listen to the bauls, the Wandering minstrels, the Mad Ones, bearers of a unique musical tradition, included in the list of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO. The fair is held on the banks of the Ajay River which is not only of some historical interest – the fair celebrates the great poet Joydev on the day he is claimed to have taken a bath at the Kadaambokhandi ghat of the river around 800 years ago.

  • When: January 14-16, 2018
  • Where: Kenduli village, around 30 kilometers from Shantiniketan in West Bengal.

Uttarayan Kite Festival

Photo Credit: event-carnival.com

Well, looking around for other events on Makar Sankranti, lets come back to west. Gujarat is vibrant with the Kite Festival (Makar Sankranti) which is celebrated with colors of joy, colors of life. The Kite Festival signify Gujarat’s ‘Cultural Strength’ and like the kites, Gujarat soars high to touch the skies to be the ‘best in the world.’ All over the State, in the Month of January, the serene blue sky with colorful kites look splendid and since morning to evening remains dotted with vivid splashes of color with kites in a variety of hues, shapes and sizes. The excitement continues with the onset of night. As the sun sets and darkness hovers over, youngsters continue competing each other in supremacy in the sky, now with the paper lanterns tied to their kite-strings. These lanterns known as tukkal swaying at the mild stroke of wind presents a lovely image while some try to cut off these tukkals and enjoy the fun. Makar Sankranti (Kite Flying Day) marks the end of a long winter with the return of the sun to the Northern Hemisphere. According to the Hindu astronomy the sun enters the zodiac of Makara (Capricorn). Hence, it is called Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. The special significance attached to the celebration of Makar sankranti, is Kite Flying. The gods who are believed to have slumbered for six long months are now awake and the portals of heaven are thrown open! Uttarayan is celebrated all over Gujarat but the excitement is high at Ahmedabad, Surat, Nadiad and Vadodara. Surat, especially is known particularly for the strong string which is made by applying glass powder on the row thread to provide it a cutting edge. To be in any one of these places during this festival is to feel the heart and pulse of Gujarat and its people.On a night prior to the festival special markets are held and you need a gujju skill for bargaining and clinch a right deal in the crushing crowd of kite enthusiasts. Gujarat Tourism also hosts the International Kite Festival drawing crowds to witness the show of eminent kitists from many states and countries. This International Kite Festival is held at Ahmedabad , to coincide with the festival of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. People from all over the world display their exotic kites of various designs. It is a splendid spectacular show to see the sky with colourful kites, huge size and varied designs and shapes This gives the people of Ahmedabad the change to see the unusual kites brought by the visitors some of which are truly works of art. Cuisine and Crafts display are also enjoyed by the participants and spectators. The International Kite Festival in Gujarat has become a major tourist attraction.

  • When: January 14, 2018
  • Where: Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Modhera Dance Festival

We will still like to be in Gujarat. Psychedelic hues of red, yellow, green lights illuminating nooks and corners of intricately carved the Sun Temple of Modhera, during dark and breezy nights of January, create a Chiaroscuro effect of time and space! The Sun Temple of Modhera is a masterpiece of the Golden Age of the Solanki Empire, which hosts the annual Dance Festival and flaunts the glory and splendor of that era. The Modhera Dance Festival which is also prevalently known as the Uttarardh Mahotsavor Modhera Utsavis is one of the most famous celebration of art, music, dance and culture, in this part of the country. This unique occurrence showcases traditional dance forms of the region as well as acts as a platform bringing together the cultural ethos of other regions expressed in form of dance or nritya. Modhera, the temple of the Sun narrating the history and grandeur of its patrons, the Solankis, is an architectural marvel. This peerless temple space acts as a grandiose backdrop for the vibrant expression of dancers and aesthetic ethnicity of the country. Dance troupes and performers from all regions of the nation bring along a panorama of varied dance forms and styles, interlaced with the essence of their origins. The performers blend in the ambience and bring life to the sandstone figurines carved on the edifice of the temple, singing and narrating legends of times bygone. The three day festival of Uttarardh Mahotsavis is organised on third weekend of January every year by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TCGL), to venerate and celebrate the inherited treasure of performing arts of the country. The Modhera festival is an ideal opportunity to experience living heritage of Indian dance and music while traversing back in time sitting in the lap of golden history.

  • When: January 19-21, 2018
  • Where: The environs of the Sun Temple in Modhera act a venue and host of this enchanting festival. Modhera is located in the South-west of Mehsana District and is 25 km away from the town of Mehsana.

Gustor of Spituk

Spituk Monastery

Then as I promised, we move to cold deserts of north in Ladakh. Although this time is ripe to have a Chadar Trek, but there is lot more. Spituk is an interesting monastery, on the hill top near Indus about 18 kms. from Leh on Srinagar road. The Spituk monastery offers a commanding view of Indus. It has a totally new Gompa within the monastery as well as the old Gompa has also been restored meanwhile. It is constructed in a series of tiers with courtyards and steps. Higher up in the hill is a chamber which houses the enormous statue of goddess. Its face is covered and uncovered only once in a year during the festival time. Every year, on the 17th and 19th day of the 11th of the Bodhi month, the Gelukpa order of monks celebrate the Spituk festival known as Gustor. During the festival, the lamas wear the masks of religious deities and perform the dances, which is normally about good and evil and mythological stories related to the Buddhism. The Spituk Gompa was founded in 11th century by Od-De, the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub-od. The Gompa was named Spituk (exemplary) by Rinchen Zangpo, a translator came to that place and said that exemplary religious community would rise. Initially the Gompa was run according to the Kadampa school then during the reign of king Gragspa Bumide he converted it to Gayluk Pa order. Many icons of Buddha and 5 thangkas can be visited in this 15th century monastery. The Dukhang Hall is the largest building and has two rows of seats running the length of the walls to a throne at the far end. Sculptures and miniature chortens are displayed on the altar. There is also a collection of ancient masks, antique arms and fine thangkas. Higher up the hill is the Mahakal Temple, containing the shrine of Vajrabhairava. The terrifying face of Vajrabhairva is unveiled only at the annual festival in January.

  • When: January 14-15, 2018
  • Where: Spituk Monastery, Leh, Ladakh

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13 states, 20 festivals… you just can’t beat this November month!


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You just can’t beat month of November, not just because it is the month of my birth (just kidding!), actually because this is one of the most happening month of the year. Just imagine, every other Indian state has some kind of a festival this month. And, what a range… from music to dance to nature, flowers, cattle, fairs, religion, mythology, culture… and what not. This month has every aspect to relate with. Hence for all those with a penchant to travel just for any reason, here are plentiful to do that.

Even weather generally remains clear and winter is yet to make some ground. Many people even like to travel to hills during this month to have some good views of snow-clad peaks in blue skies. So the month had events and festivals lined up from states as far as and as diverse as Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Assam, Meghalaya and Manipur. And actually I am pretty sure that I am still missing a few other happenings from same states or might be other states. But isn’t this more than enough!

Well, I am already late to suggest as it is Guru Parab today, birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, founder of Sikh religion. Hence it is the most auspicious day of the year for Sikhs around the world. But it is also Kartik Purnima today, the full moon day of the month of Kartik in the Hindu calendar. It again is one of the most important day of Hindu calendar. A day to take holy bath in the rivers around. So many festivals are organised around this day.

All those who can’t go to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan to pay homage to Guru Nanak at his place of birth, still find solace at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The celebrations usually commence with Prabhat Pheris, the early morning processions that begin at the Gurudwaras and proceed around the localities singing hymns.

Kartik Purnima  is also the day of Dev Deepawali at Varanasi which is culmination of five day Ganga Mahotsav, which started on 31st October this year. Ganga mahotsav is a festival only once of its kind, certainly doubles the attraction of this city of temples, Ghats and traditions. As classical music fills the atmosphere, a mystique seems to envelop the environs awating a mood both celestial and soulful. On the final day (Poornima), which coincides with the traditional Dev Deepawali (light festival of the Gods), the ghats on the Ganga River glitter with more than a million lit-up earthen lamps. The trend of celebrating the Ganga Mahotsav in the Holy city of India, Varanasi, tends to keep the importance of the Varanasi as a cultural, religious and traditional capital of the India. At this occasion, pilgrims celebrate the event by performing an Indian classical style music and dance.

Chandrabhaga Fair

Chandrabhaga Fair (3rd to 5th November) at Jhalrapatan in Rajasthan is also linked to Kartik Purnima. It is held at every year at Jhalrapatan (6 kms from Jhalawar). The River Chadrabhaga runs here and is considered holy by the people residing in this part of Rajasthan. On the full moon night of ‘Kartik Purnima’, thousands of pilgrims take a holy dip in the river. The fair, held on the last day of Kartik, attracts devotees who bathe in the holy waters at this spot which is known as Chandravati. A big cattle fair which blends religion with commerce is held here. Livestock like cows, horses, buffaloes, camels and bullocks are brought from distant parts for sale. Ramganj Mandi is the nearest Major Railway Station (25kms), however local train between Kota and Jhalawar also available at Jhalawar railway station. Another world famous cattle fair in Rajasthan, Pushkar Fair also concludes on Kartik Purnima with a holy bath.

Kolayat Fair

Another fair in Rajasthan, the Kolayat Fair of Bikaner (2nd to 4th November) concludes today on Kartik Purnima. This fair holds great importance for the locals who eagerly await it. Tourists also experience a great time as the fair is celebrated on an expansive scale. It is also known as  ‘Kapil Muni Fair’. The pomp and show of the fair is not its only attraction as it also possesses great religious significance. A large number of devotees visit the fair to take a holy dip in the Kolayat Lake. It is believed that a holy dip can absolve them of all their sins.

Bundi Festival

Similarly Bundi Festival (6th to 8th November) starts immediately after Kartik Purnima. It includes several spiritual and traditional activities. It is a remarkable cluster of traditional art, culture and craftsmanship and visitors are left charmed by its magnificence. The program includes a colourful Shobha Yatra, arts & crafts fair, ethnic sports, cultural exhibition, classical music & dance program, turban competitions, bridal clothing, musical band competitions, and a sparkling fireworks display. Early in the morning, after the full moon night of Kartik Purnima, women and men clad in attractive colourful costumes light diyas or lamps on the banks of River Chambal and seek blessings.

Matsya Festival

Rajasthan also has another festival to its credit this month. The Matsya festival (25-26 November) of Alwar held in November over two days is the foremost of all fairs and festivals of Rajasthan. It is celebrated to glorify the prosperity, traditional values and colourful customs of the region. This festival is renowned for its colourful processions, cultural performances, an array of sporting events and impressive artistic exhibitions. The magnificence of Alwar’s numerous palaces and forts, lakes, hunting lodges, archaeological sites and thick forests, make it a delightful setting for a flamboyant celebration.

Sonepur Fair

But then there is another one of the most important and historical fairs of India, which commences in line with Kartik Purnima.  The annual Sonepur Fair (2nd November-3rd December) gets underway on the auspicious Hindu holy occasion of Kartik Purnima, when pilgrims take an early morning bath in the river, and continues for around four weeks.  Apparently, the Sonepur Fair has ancient origins back to the rule of India’s first Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, who used to buy elephants and horses from it for his army. The fair also commemorates the intervention of Lord Vishnu to end a great curse and long fight between elephant and crocodile in Hindu mythology. The elephant was saved, after bathing in the river and being attacked by the crocodile, by Lord Vishnu. Originally, the venue of the fair was Hajipur and only the performance of the puja used to take place at the Harihar Nath temple of Sonepur. However, under the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the venue of the fair got shifted to Sonepur. Since Sonepur is situated at the convergence of the sacred rivers Ganges and Gandak, it is regarded as a holy site. Traditionally known as a cattle fair, while still wonderfully off the beaten path, the Sonepur Fair now has a more commercial focus with the aim of attracting both domestic and international tourists. In order to facilitate this, Bihar Tourism took over its organization, including tourist accommodations, in 2012. While the Pushkar Fair in Rajasthan is famous for its camels, it’s the elephants that are the star attraction at the Sonepur Fair. They’re decorated and lined up on display in rows in an area known as the Haathi Bazaar (Elephant Market), and reportedly even raced. The special thing about it is that you can go up to the elephants and touch them, and even feed them. Sonepur is easily accessible by Roadways and Railways. Moreover, it is only 25 kilometers from Bihar’s Capital Patna, which is well connected by Airways, Railways and Roadways to the other parts of the country. During the time of Fair, BSTDC also organizes Ferries from Patna to Sonepur.

Moving further east from Bihar, Majuli island in Assam celebrates Majuli festival (21-24 November) every year in month of November. Majuli, the largest riverine island in the world, nestles in the lap of the mightly Brahmaputra. This is where the 15th century saint and fountain head of Assamese culture, Sankardeva, first established a Satra or neo-Vaishnavite monastery, born of insightful discourses with his spiritual successor, Madhabdeva. The island is about 200 kilometers east from the state’s largest city, Guwahati.  Majuli is enveloped in lush greenery and the flora, fauna and the natural scenery found there is breathtaking. The Majuli festival is one of the most popular festivals and is celebrated on the picturesque banks of the river Luit situated 1.5 kilometers from Garamur, the sub divisional head quarter of the island. It is celebrated during the month of November keeping in mind the climatic conditions of the region. The celebration takes place for 4 continuous days. The Majuli festival is an enlightening celebration where various the cultural aspects of the different communities living there are revealed and honored. This is the one place where the artists of such different communities gather to celebrate their unity amongst this diverse gathering.  Majuli is 20 kms fom Jorhat town. Buses ply regularly from Jorhat town to Neamati Steamer Ghat, the main ferry boarding point for Majuli. The entire journey takes about three hours, involving a half hour bus ride to Neamati Ghat, which has a few tourist information booths, lodging facilities and food stalls catering to transiting ferry-goers, and ferry ride to the southern tip of Majuli island. Though Jorhat remains the principal entry point, Majuli can be approached through Lakhimpur on the north and Dibrugarh on the east.

Wangala Festival

Farther in Meghalaya there is  Wangala Festival (8-10 November) – a festival of 100 drums. The Wangala is a Garo post-harvest festival that marks the end of the agricultural year. It is an act of thanksgiving to the sun god of fertility, known as Misi-A-Gilpa-Saljong-Galapa. A nagara (a special drum used for calling the people on solemn occasions) is beaten. The Wangala is an age-old practice by the ‘Songsareks’ or non-Christian Garos in all the villages of Garo Hills. However, the time and mode of celebration varies from village to village.  This is the most popular festival of the Garo Hills, and is held in November, the precise date being fixed by the headman. The men and women dance in mirthful gaiety with the beating of drums, blowing of the buffalo horn trumpets and bamboo flutes. The men wear dhotis, half-jackets and turbans with feathers. The women wear colourful dresses made of silk, blouses and a head-wrap with feathers. The highlight of the festival is when 300 dancers and 100 drums descend on the field in all their splendour in celebration. Festival happens at Asanang village which is 18 kms from Tura in Meghalaya. Tura is in the western part of Meghalaya which is quite close to the Bangladesh border. Main mode of transport is by road, there are no railways or any scheduled flights from Tura airport. From Guwahati, it is 221 km, through the National Highway 51. Day time Sumo and overnight bus services are available form Guwahati. There is a 3-days-a-week helicopter service available from Guwahati and Shillong, run by Pawan Hans. Capital Shillong is more than 320 kilometres away.

Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival

But capital Shillong is home to another landmark event this month. The second edition of India International Cherry Blossom Festival (8-11 November). It is not just India’s only cherry blossom festival but it is also said to be world’s only autumn Cherry Blossom Festival. India has a cherry blossom festival, this itself might be a big news for many across the world, but north eastern states are busy planting cherry blossoms and very soon, India will well be on world Cherry Blossom tourism map.

Manipur Sangai Festival

Something more from the north east and this from Manipur which celebrates Manipur Sangai Festival from 21st to 30th November every year. The ‘Festival’ is named after the State animal, Sangai, the brow-antlered deer found only in Manipur. It started in the year 2010 and has grown over the years into a big platform for Manipur to showcase its rich tradition and culture to the world. The festival is labeled as the grandest festival of the state today and helps promote Manipur as a world class tourism destination. Every edition of the festival showcases the tourism potential of the state in the field of Arts & Culture, Handloom, Handicrafts, Indigenous Sports, Cuisine, Music and Adventure sports of the state etc.

Thiksey Gustor

Moving back to north, there are two important monastic festivals from monasteries of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.  Thiksey Gustor is held on the 17th, 18th and 19th day of the 9th month of Tibetan lunar calendar (6-7 November) . It is a traditional ceremony conducted in the monasteries of Gelukpa order of Tibetan Buddhism. During these  days of festival mask dances are performed by monks of the monastery wearing colorful silk brocaded robes and mask in different forms of Gods and Goddesses. Thiksey Monastery is located 19 kilometres from Leh. It is situated on a hillock overlooking the Indus Valley with full view of the magnificent Stok range. It is located right on the main road towards Leh.

Also read: Thiksey is one of the most glorious monasteries of Ladakh

Chemday Wangchok

Then there is Chemday Wangchok, the most famous festival (16-17 November) of the Chemday Monastery. It culminates with sacred mask dance (Chams) and a great variety of rituals with amazing Vajrayana skills. Wangchok is dedicated to the protectors of the truth. Devotees pay homage here to Jakpa Melen, a protector of the Drukpa lineage and of many Ladakhi families and villages. Large thangkas unfold only for the festival. They are not painted but were created from silk, with garland of pearls and corals, under Gyalsey Rinpoche the Precious Prince of Ladakh, around 1770. Devotees pay homage to the Mandala (Khyilkor) of Mahakala (Gonpo Nagpo), the lord of the Wangchok Festival. This monastery is 40 kms east of Leh.

Mannarasala Ayilyam

Quick jump to down south and we have three festivals from God’s own country Kerala. Mannarassala Ayilyam (11the November) is one of the major festivals in the Mannarassala Sree Nagaraja Temple, a unique temple dedicated to serpent Gods with over 30,000 images of snakes along the paths and even among trees. The major festival in this serpent shrine is the Ayilyam festival that falls on the Ayilyam asterism in the Malayalam month of Thulam, which roughly corresponds to the months of October / November. The festival which sees thousands of devotees visiting the temple from far and wide is celebrated with much grandeur. One of the major highlights of the festival is the ceremonial procession in which all the serpent idols in the temple and the sacred grove are taken to the illam (the Brahmin ancestral home) that manages the temple. Unlike other temples, here the head priest is a woman. The chief priestess will carry the idol of Nagaraja, which is the presiding deity of the temple. Special prayers and offerings are performed at the illam. Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple is at Harippad in Alappuzha. Harippad railway station is just 3 kms from the temple while Cochin International Airport is about 115 km away.

Kalpathi Ratholsavam

Then there is Kalpathi Ratholsavam (14-16 November). Kalpathi is a traditional Tamil Brahmin settlement in Kerala. The temple dedicated to Lord Viswanatha or Shiva is believed to be 700 years old. The annual chariot festival usually falls in the month of November. During the festival days the entire Kalpathi will be teeming with devotees and visitors from near and far. Vedic recitals and cultural programmes render a unique ambience for the place. On the last three days, the three elaborately decorated huge temple chariots take the attention of all. Devotees would then gather to draw the chariots through the streets of Kalpathi village. It will be just one chariot that will be pulled on the first day, followed by two on the second and three on the last day of the festival. Sree Viswanatha Swamy Temple is at Kalpathi in Palakkad.

Sabrimala Mandala Pooja

There is also one of the most famous pilgrimages of India. The Sabarimala temple is located in the Sabari Hills, towards the east of Pathanamthitta District. The divine incantation amid the lush forests and grasslands and the thousands of people that visit this temple, irrespective of caste and creed, make it a very unique pilgrim destination. Lord Ayyappa is the presiding deity here. The annual pilgrim season to Sabarimala (15th November-26th December) begins with the Mandalakala season, which commences usually in the months of November-December followed by the Makaravilakku season during December-January. The temple at Sabarimala can be accessed via many traditional routes. Pamba is the main halting point on the way to Sabarimala. As per tradition a dip in the sacred river Pamba cleanses the pilgrims off sins and after that they proceed to the sannidhanam or the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Ayyappa. A truly riveting spiritual experience in the lap of pristine nature, Sabarimala has become a major destination of the faithful in India. Lord Ayyappa Temple, Sabarimala is in Sabari Hills in the Western Ghats in Pathanamthitta district.

Then there are two long season festivals. One among them is the Rann Utsav at Kutch from 1st November to 20th February.  Rann Of Kutch is the most amazing tourist destination to travel to, with friends as well as family either on short weekends or on long sojourns. The Spectacular site of a glistening White Rann under the full moon along with various glimpses of Kutchi Culture, Handicrafts and outdoor activities make this desert carnival a perfect holiday destination. The variety emerges from the enchanting terrain that provides a perfect backdrop to an extra ordinary fair.

Jal Mahotsav at Hanuwantiya

Taking leaf out of Rann’s book is Madhya Pradesh by organising Jal Mahotsav at Hanuwantiya. On the lines of Rann Utsav of Kutch Madhya Pradesh tourism has dared to do the unthinkable of bringing tourists to a location as remote as Hanuwantiya with nothing to lure them. Now Hanuwantiya is a hub for air, land and water adventure activities. Jal Mahotsav is in its third year now and gradually increasing its time span. For ten days two years back, it increased to one month last year and now 80 days (15th October-2nd January). The main attraction of Jal Mahotsav is water sports in its huge reservoir which will often look like a sea.  But there are aero activities too, like paramotoring, parasailing and ballooning. Swiss tents have been put up for the tourists at the Jal Mahotsav. There are houseboats as well. An exhibition focused on Narmada river besides food zone, craft bazaar is being organised. This year Jal Mahotsav specially targets the year-end tourists. Hanuwantiya is in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh close to reservoir of Indira Sagar Dam. Nearest airport is Indore around 130 kms away. It takes around four hours to reach Hanuwantiya from Indore. Nearest major railway station is Khandwa which is 48 kms from Hanuwantiya.

Kalidas Festival

There are two more cultural extravaganzas. First is the Kalidas Festival at Nagpur. After being discontinued in 2010, the much awaited Kalidas Samaroh was revived two years back. Although controversies haven’t stopped following it. A tug of war continued over organising the festival between Nagpur and Ramtek. Kalidas was a great Sanskrit poet and dramatist, famous for his historical drama, Shakuntalam, and for the epic poem, Meghdoot. The Kalidas Festival brings back memories of the golden period of the Vidarbha region. Ramgiri, or Ramtek as it is popularly known today, is the place that inspired Kalidas and its beauty features predominantly in his literary work. Every year, in November, some of the greatest exponents of music, dance and drama performed in the picturesque setting of Ramtek, celebrating its glorious heritage over two exciting days and nights. The festival aimed to recall the golden period of Vidarbha region. The celebration of Kalidas Festival is a tribute to Kalidas and his eternal contribution to the field of poetry. But then there was a decision to shift the festival to Nagpur. Now after lot of hue and cry this festival has been split between two cities. Nagpur is going to organise the event in name of Kalidas Festival from 17th to 19th November this year while Ramtek will organise Kalidas Lok Mahotsav on 27th and 28th January. Kalidas festival this year has been dedicated to two legendary vocalists of Hindustani classical music, Kishori Amonkar and Girija Devi, who passed away recently. Ramtek is one of the important pilgrim centres and tourist attractions of Maharashtra State. It has both mythological and historic importance. It is about 45 kms from Nagpur and is well connected by road and rail. Nagpur has direct flights from all major big airports. Trains ply on a regular basis between Ramtek and Nagpur

Lucknow Mahotsav

Another is celebration os Awadhi culture at Lucknow. Lucknow Mahotsava is a celebration of the Awadh culture (the culture of Lucknow of the yesteryears). The festival is organized by the state government and continues for ten days. Colorful processions, traditional dramas, kathak dances in the style of the famous Lucknow gharana, sarangi and sitar recitals along with ghazals, qawalis, and thumri are the prime attractions of this festival. The Fascinating city of Lucknow has ever been associated with a rich tradition of hospitality, exotic cuisine and architectural grandeur. Lucknow attained unparalleled heights of excellence in art, craft and culture during the period of Nawabs. Lucknow Mahotsava is organized every year in the month of November / December to showcase the rich cultural heritage of Lucknow. Mahotsava provides an opportunity to hundreds of awarded artisans from more than 20 states of India to display their exquisite handicrafts. The Mahotsava also provides a platform to upcoming talented artists and venue for sportsmen to revive traditional sports and events like Kite competition, Ekka Tanga race, Vintage Car rally etc.

Geeta Mahotsav

Last but not the least is a very recent addition to the north India’s cultural scenario- Geeta Mahotsav at Kurukshetra, celebrated from 17th November to 2nd December this year.

So, you see, as I finish writing, I have already compiled 21 festivals. And then, I have probably missed out Vijaya Utsava at Hampi (3-5 November), Food truck festival in Delhi (11-12 November) and probably few more. Include all of them and we are already pass 25 festivals for 15 odd states.

Do you still think you can beat this month?

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New Zealand celebrates Diwali with a Bollywood twist


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Diwali is not only celebrated in India but in many parts of the world and New Zealand left no stone unturned to have one of the best Diwali celebrations last weekend. Visitors were greeted with Bollywood dance moves, traditional music, authentic curries and a chance to enjoy and experience traditional and contemporary Indian culture.

New Zealand Police perform to Bollywood songs Munni Badnaam Hui and Chalti Hai Kya 9 se 12. Photo: Arthur Machado – Tourism New Zealand

Almost fifteen thousand people attended the annual Indian festival of lights at Christchurch. A group of six New Zealand police officers performed to famous songs of popular Bollywood Actor Salman Khan, such as Munni Badnaam Hui and Chalti Hai Kya 9 se 12. They also had a dance battle with an established dance group – Bollywood Dreams for which they underwent rigorous practice for two months.

39 Irish Step Dance group performing to Bollywood song – Slow Motion Angreza, from the movie Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Photo: Arthur Machado – Tourism New Zealand

The celebrations had other dance performances – one of which was 39 Irish Step Dance group and the other by Latin American Group – LatiNZone.  They performed on several trendy Bollywood songs which were received with immense appreciation by the Indian community present.

Latin American dance group performing to Bollywood songs. Photo: Arthur Machado – Tourism New Zealand

On asking about the festival and the varied performances, Thomas Shaji Kurian, Chairman of Diwali organising committee and Indian Social & Cultural Club (CHCH) Inc, said,The main focus of the celebrations is to ensure a seamless Indian cultural & Bollywood, food and Arts and Crafts experience to the wider community in Christchurch. Even in India (being so large with many different states with a diverse tradition) we do not get to see so many cultural and traditional performances under one roof and therefore this is a cultural treat even for the Indians. We also endeavour to involve the wider community to engage with the cultural and Bollywood performances. The popularity of the event built over 11 years has largely helped with roping in the wider community performance groups to engage with the festival.

Indian community in New Zealand celebrating the Diwali festival. Photo: Arthur Machado – Tourism New Zealand

A range of Indian food from 18 stalls kept hunger at bay, including south and north Indian dishes and traditional street food. Indian crafts such as lamp painting and Rongoli art works using coloured rice and flour were popular, as was the chance to dress up in traditional Indian clothing. Diwali celebrations concluded with firework displays, food stalls with assorted Diwali sweets, savouries and herbs, stalls offering henna paintings and people celebrating the conquest of light over darkness.

You can watch a video of the performances on my YouTube channel by clicking on the link below-

New Zealand in nutshell:

Tourism New Zealand markets New Zealand to the world as a visitor destination. In the year ending July 2017, 3.66 million international visitors arrived in New Zealand: an increase of 9.5% on the previous year. International tourism is New Zealand’s largest earner of foreign exchange, pumping over $14.5 billion into the economy and directly employing over 188,000 people.

Visa procedure: One may forward their application to the TT office in Mumbai or Delhi, which will then be directed to Immigration New Zealand. A visitor visa for New Zealand is processed within 15 working days.

Airline connections: Connecting flights to New Zealand are available on Singapore Airlines/Air New Zealand, Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines with stop-overs in their respective hubs.  New Zealand’s international gateways are Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

Domestic services: You can fly between all New Zealand cities and most major towns using domestic air services. Air New Zealand and Jetstar are the main providers. Their services are complemented by regional airlines, charter companies and scenic flight operators.

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Ten festivals to soak in Kerala this March

Kerala is always serene, always worth and always enjoyable. It remains almost same all the year round. And every time you can find a reason or two to go for a trip there. But this March there are not just one or couple, but ten reasons to go to different parts of Kerala. Apparently, there are perhaps more, but I have shortlisted ten for you. These are all temple festivals of Kerala. Temple festivals of Kerala are not like ones in the north. They are more elaborate and ritualistic. Most of them have elephants involved, which make them very beautiful. A great ensemble of Kerala’s culture. Choose yours…

Parade of offerings to Bhagavathy

chettikulangara_bharaniOne of the most vibrant festivals of Kerala, the Chettikulangara Bharani offers arresting visuals and showcases the cultural richness of the state. An annual event held at the Chettikulangara Temple during the Malayalam month of Kumbham (February-March), the festival is dedicated to Goddess Bhagavathy. The highlight of the festival is the spectacular Kettukazhcha where vibrantly decked up structures are taken out in a ceremonial procession. The therus (chariots) and kuthiras (horse motifs) as well as huge icons of Bhima and Hanuman, two Indian epic characters, are flaunted in front of the temple from the 13 karas (region) near the temple on the festival day. Kettukazhcha is an offering of the people to the deity. These majestic structures are architectural marvels and are a testimony to the architectural and aesthetic expertise of the people of this region. The parade of huge brightly decorated structures, with the bigger ones assumed as horses and smaller ones as chariots, produce a highly surreal visual and the joyous crowd accompanying the pageant is sure to leave lasting impressions on spectators.

Where: Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple, Mavelikara, Alappuzha. Nearest railway station is Mavelikkara, about 6 km away while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 85 km from Alappuzha.

When: March 3, 2017

‘Mela’ of alephants at Paripally

paripally-gajamelaParipally Gajamela forms part of the annual festival at the Kodimoottil Sree Bhagavathy Temple dedicated to Goddess Bhadrakali. The event witnesses parading of as many as upto 50 caparisoned elephants. Further, a host of cultural programmes are staged as part of this event on the temple premises. The elephants are paraded on the last day of the ten-day festival. Head off to Kodimoottil Bhagavathy Temple in the month of March to attend the Gajamela festival.

Where: Kodimoottil Bhagavathy Temple, Parippally, Kollam. Nearest railway station is  Kollam Junction, about 22 km away from Paripally while nearest airport is Trivandrum International Airport, about 45 km away

When: March 5, 2017

Elephant race at Guruvayur

guruvayur_temple_anayottamYou might have had goose bumps watching Usain Bolt running his way into the pages of world records. But ever seen a race where the participants are not the two-legged human beings but the four-legged giant jumbos, each weighing some 12,000 pounds? Now here is a chance for you to witness such an event. Guruvayur Anayottam (elephant race) as it is called in Malayalam marks the beginning of the annual Guruvayur festival, celebrated in the month of Kumbham (February-March) at the Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple in Guruvayur, district of Thrissur. The Guruvayur Temple is one of the most renowned and oldest of all temples in Kerala. Though the winning elephant will not get a gold medal, he will have the honour to carry the Thidambu (the replica of the idol of Guruvayoorappan) on all special occasions for one year.

Where: Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple, Guruvayur, Thrissur district

When: March 8, 2017

Pongala for Attukalamma

attukala_pongalA festival like no other, Attukala Pongala, the largest congregation of women in the state, is celebrated at the renowned Attukal Bhagavathi Temple in Kerala’s capital city of Thiruvananthapuram. The festival entered the Guinness records for being the largest single gathering of women for a religious activity. Only women are allowed to participate in the Pongala ritual. Pongala (literally means to boil over) is a ritualistic offering of a sweet dish consisting of rice porridge, sweet brown molasses, coconut gratings, nuts and raisins. The pongala is offered by the devotees in the belief that the presiding deity of the temple – the Goddess – popularly known as Attukalamma will be appeased. As the festival sees a huge influx of devotees, the crowd spills over to the major roads in the city and the festival has a whole city revelling in festive splendour.

Where: Attukal Bhagavathi Temple, East Fort, Thiruvananthapuram. Thiruvananthapuram railway station is about 3 km away while Trivandrum International Airport is about 5 km away

When: March 11, 2017

Procession of tuskers

chinakkathoor_pooramA grand procession of a fleet of 27 tuskers bedecked with caparisons- this sight of the gentle giants in richly ornate attire is the highlight of the Chinakkathoor Pooram held annually at the Sree Chinakkathoor Bhagavathy Temple in the district of Palakkad in north Kerala. The Panchavadyam or traditional Kerala orchestra and pandimelam which accompany the Pooram add the much-needed fervour to the festivities. Various art forms like theyyam, poothanum thirayum, kaalavela, kathakali, kumbakali, thattinmelkoothu are also performed adding to the festive spirit. For those yearning to watch this visual splendour of colours and art forms, Sree Chinakkathoor Bhagavathy Temple is the place to be.

Where: Chinakkathoor Bhagavathi Temple at Palakkad. Nearest railway station is Shoranur, about 20 km away, while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 103 km away.

When: March 11, 2017

Annual festival at Thirunakkara

thirunakkara-arattuThe annual 10-day festival at the Thirunakkara Temple draws to a close with the Thirunakkara Arattu ceremony. Usually nine caparisoned elephants take part in the Arattu procession which begins in the afternoon. Folk arts like Mayilattom (peacock dance), Velakali etc, are presented in the temple compound in the evening. A major attraction is the all-night Kathakali performances on the third and fourth days of the festival.

Where: Thirunakkara Mahadeva Temple, Kottayam district

When: March 15-24, 2017

When men are dressed up as women

kottangkulangara-chamayavilakkuA very unique festival. A gender bender of a festival where men cross dress, the Kottangkulangara Chamayavilakku celebrated at the Kottangkulangara Devi Temple in Kollam stands apart from the rest of the festivals in Kerala with this unique flavour. This novel event is part of a special temple ritual during the festival. During the festival night, men dressed up in women’s attire bearing traditional lamps will swarm the premises of the temple.  They will then move as a procession towards the temple to the accompaniment of traditional orchestra. This unique festival attracts hordes of crowds each year.

Where: Kottangkulangara Devi Temple at Kollam. Nearest railway station at Kollam is about 13 km while nearest airport is Trivandrum International Airport, about 71 km from Kollam town.

When: March 24-25, 2017

Where Duryodhana is revered

malanada-kettukazchaAt Poruvazhi Malanada Temple, tradition deviates. This is a temple which reveres and showers praises on an antagonist. Here, the worshipped figure is Duryodhana, considered a villain in the Indian epic Mahabharata. Another highlight at the temple is the absence of an idol or a sanctum sanctorum. Come March, and the Temple bears witness to one of the most spectacular events- Malanada Kettukazcha an eight-day festival celebrated in all pomp and gaiety. Richly decorated structures known as Edupu Kala and Edupu Kuthira are taken out to the accompaniment of the traditional orchestra of drums.  These huge structures may even be 70 to 80 ft tall as the making involves intense competition between the people of the surrounding villages. The majestic structures are then taken out on chariots or carried on the shoulders by the devotees. Cultural programs are also performed during the night and Kathakali based on the story ‘Nizhalkuthu’ is customary. This impressive procession which is celebrated with much zeal witnesses huge participation by devotees from far and near.

Where: Poruvazhi Malanada Temple, Adoor in Pathanamthitta district. Nearest railway station is Chengannur, about 30 km away from Malanada while nearest airport is Trivandrum International Airport, about 92 km from Adoor.

When: March 24, 2017

Temple on canoes

Attuvela-MahotsavamPicture this- A vibrantly decked up and illuminated replica of a temple drifting across the waters accompanied by an entourage of brilliantly decorated small canoes with the temple percussion music resounding in the background.  For those yearning to witness this spectacle head off to Elankavu Bhagavathy Temple during the Attuvela Mahotsavam. Attuvela Mahotsavam is a water carnival. Legend has it that it represents the welcome ceremony accorded to the Goddess of Kodungalloor who arrives to visit her sister, the Goddess of Elamkavu. The temple has Goddess Bhagavathy as its presiding deity. The cynosure of all eyes during the two-day festival is the huge replica of the temple sailing down the waters. This arresting procession of canoes starts from Attuvela kadavu, 2 km away from the temple.

Where: Elankavu Bhagavathy Temple, Vaikom in Kottayam. Nearest railway station is Ernakulam, about 30 km while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 50 km away.

When: March 29, 2017

Dance in the trance

kodungalloor-bharaniImagine the premises of a temple getting bathed in a sea of red as a flurry of oracles draped in vermilion cloth scurry around the temple wielding their swords, the highlight being the presence of hordes of women oracles dancing in trance alongwith their male counterparts. This intense event called kaavu theendal forms part of the annual Bharani festival held at the Bhagavathy Temple in Kodungalloor. A spectacle in itself, this festival has heavily decked up oracles dancing in divine ecstasy. The devotees too run along with the oracles as they circumambulate the temple in spiritual euphoria. Oracles, both men and women, from different parts of the State run around the temple and smite their crown with the sword, proclaiming their communion with the Mother Goddess. The devotees strike the temple rafters with sticks and hurl offerings over the roof and on to the inner quadrangle. The Kodungalloor Bharani is a spectacle in itself. The festival usually falls in the Malayalam month of meenam (roughly March/April) every year. The temple remains closed for a week following the festival. The temple still follows a ritual from the days of the yore wherein purification ceremonies, a custom which is believed to restore the sanctity of the temple, are performed after the ‘kaavu theendal.’

Where: Kodungalloor Bhagavathy Temple at Kodugalloor in Thrissur. Nearest railway station is Irinjalakuda, about 20 km while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 30 km.

When: March 30, 2017

 

5 reasons to go to Rajasthan in February!

Rajasthan is the land of rich history and heritage. To live upto its charm it celebrates in multiple forms all the year round. February is one of the most pleasant times to visit Rajasthan, even to the desert side. We give here five more reasons to visit Rajasthan in this month.

world-sacred-spirit-festival2

  1. Desert Festival, Jaisalmer, February 8-10, 2017

Desert Festival

Its one of Rajasthan’s premier showcase festivals. Once a year, the empty sands around Jaisalmer come alive with a mesmerising performance on the sand dunes in the form of the Desert Festival. The festival, organised by the Department of Tourism around January-February, goes on for three whole days and lets you enjoy the rich and colourful Rajasthani folk culture. Rajasthani men and tall, beautiful women dressed in their best and brightest costumes dance and sing ballads of valour, romance and tragedy, while traditional musicians attempt to outdo each other to showcase their musical superiority. The high points of the festival are puppeteers, acrobats, camel tattoo shows, camel races, camel polo, traditional processions, camel mounted bands, folk dances, etc.

2.  Nagaur Fair, Nagaur, February 1-4, 2017

Nagaur Fair

The Nagaur Fair is said to be the second biggest cattle fair in India. Held every year between the months of January and February, it is popularly known as the Cattle Fair of Nagaur as this is where owners gather to trade animals. Approximately 70,000 bullocks, camels and horses are traded every year at this fair. The animals are lavishly decorated and even their owners dress up with colourful turbans and long moustaches. Besides cattle, sheep, horses and even spices are traded. Other attractions include the Mirchi Bazaar (largest red chilli market of India), sale of wooden items, iron-crafts and camel leather accessories. Several sports are also held during the fair. These include tug-of-war, camel races and bullock races. Nagaur fair is also famous for its jugglers, puppeteers, storytellers, etc. Nagaur lies midway between Jodhpur and Bikaner.

3. Beneshwar Festival, Dungarpur, February 7-10, 2017

Beneshwar Fair

Beneshwar Fair is a popular tribal festival held in the Beneshwar Temple of Dungarpur. This festival, held on the full moon day of February or Magh Shukla Purnima, attracts a large number of tourists. On this pious occasion, Bhils travel all the way from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to take a dip at the confluence of three rivers- Mahi, Som and Jakham. In addition to this fair, the Vagad Festival is also one of the popular celebrations of Dungarpur. This festival showcases dance forms and music from the region. Holi, the popular Hindu festival, is celebrated here with tribal dances. Dungarpur is the southernmost district of Rajasthan, accessible from Udaipur very easily or even Ahmedabad in Gujarat.

4. Shekhawati Festival, Nawalgarh, February 9-12, 2017

Shekhawati Festival

For last 22 years Shekhawati has played host to one of India’s unique cultural festivals. The Shekhawati Festival involves not only every villager of this large province but also people from all parts of India and the world. While the main activity is centred around the huge Surya Mandal Stadium in Navalgarh, Shekhawati Festival is truly a celebration of the various aspects and locales of Shekhawati. The locals get a chance to exhibit their prodigious skills. Famed artists and craftsmen from every corner of Rajasthan use this festival as an opportunity to display their talent to the world. There are organised tours to the famed portals of famous Havelis, forts and temples of the region. For those seeking in-depth knowledge of arts and crafts of the region there are seminars and workshops. The Morarka Foundation who has been instrumental in the conception, design and organisation and patronisation of the Shekhawati Festival ensures that this is also a platform to reward the inhabitants of the region for their achievements of the year.

5. World Sacred Spirit Festival, Nagaur, February 13-15, 2017 and Jodhpur, February 17-19, 2017

World-sacred-spirit-festival

This festival is held in two cities- Jodhpur and Nagaur, one after another. This is actually a celebration of Sufi culture and traditions. The prestigious sites of the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur and the Ahhichatragarh Fort in Nagaur open their doors to an extraordinary sacred and historical musical journey. Lit by the sparkling incandescence of a thousand candles, magnificent, inherited and spiritual arts will carry you to the very origin of a tradition linked to those pilgrims of the past, travelers of the spirit, who brought to civilisation a sense of inspiration and meaning. The line-up of artistes for this year includes names like surbahar and sitar player Irshad Khan, folk singer, musician and storyteller Parvathy Baul and musician Mehdi Nassouli, Oud player and Composer Issa Murad, flute player Rishab Prasanna, tabla player Zuheb Ahmed Khan from Palestine, flute player Lingling Yu from China and musicians Samuel Cattiau and Quentin Dujardin. The festival will have musicians from the Orient, Africa and India. This festival started as a celebration to mark the Unesco World Heritage Award for conservation at the Ahhichatragarh Fort of Nagaur. Now it is into its 10th year. Musicians like Prem Joshua from Germany, Sahar Mohammadi from Iran, Dhrupad practitioner and performer Pelva Naik and sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan from India will also perform at the fest. Earlier this festival was known as World Sufi Spirit Festival but was later rechristened as World Sacred Spirit Festival.

Missing the chill! Chill out with these festivals

Missing the chill this year, isn’t so? Nevertheless, festivities are on. New year comes with a number of festivals celebrating India’s dance and musical traditions.  One among them Swathi Sangeethotsvam has already started last night. So, one might have plenty of options to travel from skiing to sun bathing at beach, but there is still always more to do. This month also has Makar Sakranti (14th January), considered to be one of the most auspicious days of the year and also an occasion of many travels and pilgrimages. Bringing you the selected few events for this month.

Mamallapuram Dance Festival

mamallapuram-danceMamallapuram has retained its fame in stone, thanks to the great contribution of Pallava artisans. It is among the most outstanding examples of Dravidian art and architecture and a jewel in the crown of Tamil Nadu. In a land that is liberally strewn with some of the best in temple art, Mamallapuram holds its own, and stands as a silent yet eloquent witness to the glory of its creators.Unfortunately most of the work was left incomplete, and time and nature have also eroded the remains of this once great port. Yet, Mamallapuram’s wonders in rock leave visitors enthralled, conveying as they do, an impression of beauty and harmony. The monuments are floodlit at night and so it is possible to enjoy their beauty even after sunset. The Mamallapuram dance festival is conducted every year during Dec-Jan. It is a month long festival and dances take place during the weekends. Classical dances such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Mohini Attam, Odissi, Kathak etc., are performed by well-known exponents of the art. he dances are performed against the magnificent backdrop of the Pallava Rock Sculpture in the city of Mahabalipuram ,Tamil Nadu. The Pallava Rock Sculptures provide an aesthetic touch to this cultural dance festival where the best folk dancers in India perform. The crowd gets a visual treat by the incredible performances of Indian folk dancers where artists perform beautifully decked up in the finest traditional attire representing the rich cultural heritage of the country. Mamallapuram is a popular beach resort and a culture front, especially for the tourists, who come from the world over who love to imbibe and soak in the rich traditions. This town beach is full of ancient monuments, sculptures, caves, monolithic temples and beaches. In Mamallapuram there is a Shore Temple that was built during the reign of Narsimha Varman of the Pallava dynasty in 8th century A.D. During the dance festival time the stones of temple begin to resonate with music and dance rhythms.

When: 21 December 2016 — 21 January 2017

Where: Chennai (58 km) is the nearest airport for domestic and international flights. Chennai is connected with all the major places in India. The nearest railway stations are Chengalpattu (29 km) and Chennai (58 km). From these stations one has to take road journey to reach Mamallapuram. Buses from here to Pondicherry, Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu and Chennai to Mamallapuram daily. Tourists can also hire taxis from Chennai.

Rajarani Music Festival

Rajarani FestivalEntrancing performances by well-known Odissi and Hindustani vocal and music maestros bring alive the architectural beauty of the Rajarani temple at this festival. The temple, often referred to as the Khajuraho of the east, is famous for its elaborate erotic sculptured figurines. Celestial music, sublime surroundings and soothing climes of late winter—soul traverses to an elevated sphere leaving you utterly relaxed. Holidays are made with this kind of experience that creates a lasting mark in your mind. Rajarani Music Festival held against the backdrop of the 11th century Rajarani Temple in Bhubaneswar is such an evening of concerts: it’s relaxing, entertaining and uplifting. The city has a large assemblage of celebrated temples of which the Rajarani Temple is one of the most conspicuous. It’s remarkable for the absence any presiding deity in it. The temple is famous for its ornate deul or compass and the statues of eight Dikpals guarding the eight cardinal directions of the temple. To show case the glorious tradition of Indian classical music, the Rajarani Music Festival was conceived to be organised by the Department of Tourism in association with Bhubaneswar Music Circle. The musical evenings are resplendent with excellent performances by the great maestros of Indian classical music creating an allegory of darbari gayans (musical performances in an Indian king’s court) of age old histories. Eminent instrumentalists and vocalists of India have rendered scintillating performance in this festival over the years.

When: January 18-20, 2017

Where: Rajarani temple, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha

Mukteshwar Dance Festival

mukteshwar-dance-festivalThis is another festival organised by Odisha Tourism just before the Rajarani Festival. While Rajarani Festival is all about classical vocal music traditions, Mukteshwar Festival is all about dance, especially Odissi dance. This festival is staged in front of the 1100-years-old Mukteswar temple in Bhubaneswar. Renowned Odissi dancers from around the world take part in this festival performing solo, duet and group presentations. Mukteshwar temple, one of the most prominent temples of Bhubaneswar, has been constructed in the style that is quite similar to the one used in the Kalinga School of Temple Architecture. The splendid Torana of the temple, an ornamental arched gateway, is very much reminiscent of the influence of Buddhism in Orissa. This temple is a very important part of cultural life of the people of Orissa as the architecture at the temple entrance is considered to be one of the most beautiful specimens of the Orissan School of architecture. This temple signifies the transitional phase of the architecture of Orissa between the initial and the later stages of Kalinga architectural style. The beautiful architectural works of the temple add to the splendor of the Mukteshwar Utsav. This festival should not be missed by the people who take interest in the traditional dance forms of India.

When: January 14-16, 2017

Where: Mukteshwar temple, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha

Swathi Sangeethotsavam

swathi-sangeethotsavamThe mighty pillars of the Kuthiramalika Palace in the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram are pulsating with the mellifluous notes sung at the Swathi Sangeetholsavam or Swathi Music Festival. This musical extravaganza, already started on 4th January, lets you listen to the spellbinding compositions of Swathi Thirunal, the erstwhile Maharaja of Travancore. Organised every year to pay tribute to Swathi Thirunal, the concert celebrates the brilliant notes composed by this legendary maestro which continue to enthrall music lovers even now. A patron of music and a musician himself, Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma has to his credit more than 400 compositions in Carnatic music as well as Hindustani music. He set a new course and direction to the musical tradition of Kerala. The concert held in the Kuthiramalika Palace adjoining the famous Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, sees musical performances in both Hindustani and Carnatic styles. The musical festival which is attended by eminent musicians from across the country brings together those passionate about classical music and the experts as well. Entry is free.

When: January 4-13, 2017

Where: Kuthiramalika Palace, East Fort, Thiruvananthapuram

Joydev Fair, Kenduli

kenduli_melaFor an unforgettable dose of West Bengal folk music don’t miss the Kenduli Mela, where the mystical wandering Baul musicians gather to perform. Dressed in saffron robes, and playing a distinctive instrument called the Ektara, they sing uniquely about life’s philosophy. Joydev-Kenduli is renowned as the birth place of great Sanskrit poet Joydev who flourished in 12th Century and composed the well known Geet – Govinda, a Sanskrit Lyrical poem. Annual- Mela is held in the village Kenduli in the last day of Bengali month Pous and first 2 days of Magh and is attended by thousands of pilgrims including Bauls. The word ‘Baul’  is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Batul’ which means ‘mad’. Baul philosophy emphasises love for all human beings as the path leading to divine love. The Joydeb-Kenduli mela (fair), held every year in West Bengal’s Birbhum district on Makar Sankranti in mid-January. It is a gathering of wandering minstrels (Bauls, primarily) like no other in India. Gathering in almost equal numbers are lay aficionados addicted to the Baul and Fakir ways of life. Joydev Mela is mainly a music festival but as the Poush Mela it attracts craftsmen from the whole region, mainly selling wooden kitchen supplies, handmade covers or cheap jewellery. During five days, the 3 000 inhabitants of Kenduli Village welcome thousand and thousand of pilgrims who come mostly to listen to the bauls, the Wandering minstrels, the Mad Ones, bearers of a unique musical tradition, included in the list of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO. The fair is held on the banks of the Ajay River which is not only of some historical interest – the fair celebrates the great poet Joydev on the day he is claimed to have taken a bath at the Kadaambokhandi ghat of the river around 800 years ago.

When: January 14-16, 2017

Where: Kenduli village, around 30 kilometers from Shantiniketan in West Bengal.

Pangsau Pass Winter Festival

pangsaupass2Pangsau Pass Winter Festival (PPWF) 2017 will be celebrated from Jan 20 next year, after a gap of five years. It was postponed last year just before the take off. Hopefully it will be there this year. As per the official record, PPWF in its last edition was able to attract two lakh tourists in three days which is a first by any state tourism festival in the North East. There are nine or ten state festivals, of which PPWF is ranked second after Tawang Festival but in terms of tourist inflow, PPWF tops the list. The flavour of the festival will be same and better from earlier editions and all the tribes of eastern belt will be called to add more zest to the celebration. The ‘Pangsau Pass Winter Festival’ was first started in 2007 and was commenced in a befitting manner with support from the indigenous sources and since then there was no looking back, because, each year it began to grow bigger and better. Finally, 2 years later in 2009, the Arunachal Pradesh Tourism department took PPWF under its wing. PPWF is normally designated as a global village as it conjoins all the diverse tribes of the North East and Myanmar to reveal their customs and culture in broader perspective. Amazingly, the cultural carnival has traversed all the social barriers, inspiring the secluded regions to celebrate the ethnic existences that strongly bond together all the distinct tribes with diverse cultures and different religious backgrounds.The Pangsau Pass is located in one of the most peaceful and eco-friendly territory, it is nature’s store house. As the odyssey of discovery penetrates the heart of ethnic extravaganza, spontaneously, amazing events begins to weave unforgettable memories.

When: 20-22 January 2017

How to reach: Pangsau Pass or Pan Saung Pass is 3,727 feet (1,136 m) in altitude, lies on the crest of the Patkai Hills on the India-Burma (Myanmar) border. The pass offers one of the easiest routes into Burma from the Assam plains through Jairampur town of Changlang district, Arunachal Pradesh. It is named after the closest Burmese village, Pangsau, that lies 2 km beyond the pass to the east in and around historical Stilwell Road. The Ledo Road (Stilwell Road) began at Ledo, the railhead, and passed through Lekhapani, Jagun, Jairampur (the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh boundary and beginning of Inner Line check gate), and Nampong before switchbacking steeply upwards through densely forested hills to the pass, 12 km away. The distance from Ledo to Pangsau Pass is 61 km.

Jaipur Literature Festival

jaipur-literature-festivalFrom modest beginnings in 2006, the Jaipur Literature Festival has grown into the largest literary festival in Asia-Pacific. It now claims to be the biggest free literature festival on the earth. This year festival completes a decade, hence it makes it more important for the organisers. In past nine years more than 1300 speakers have addressed the gathering and more than 1.2 million book lovers have been part of it. The Festival takes place in late January each year. Both Indian authors as well as those from abroad appear at the Festival. The sessions consist of readings, discussions, and questions and answers. It’s possible to buy the authors’ books and get them signed. In addition, there’s a range of stalls selling everything from food to handicrafts. There’s also an outdoor lounge bar, for relaxing. Music performances are held in the evenings, after the literary sessions are over. In recent years, the Festival has turned into quite a fashionable occasion, and attracts plenty of socialites from Delhi and Jaipur. Authors will discuss works related to topic. There will also be emphasis on poetry, the literature of Southeast Asia, and the seven states of northeast India. There will be live music events, heritage walks and much more.

When: January 19-23, 2017

Where: At the historic Diggi Palace hotel in Jaipur. The hotel is located in Sangram Colony, Ashok Nagar, which is just off M.I. Road, around 10 minutes walk from the Old City of Jaipur. As Diggi Palace and its venues were overflowing in 2012, the music stage has been shifted to a different venue at The Clarks Amer lawns (around 15 minutes drive south of Diggi Palace).

Arthunkal Perunnal

arthunkalThe Arthunkal Perunnal (perunnal meaning feast) is the annual feast of St. Sebastian held in the St. Andrew’s Forane Church at Arthunkal in Alappuzha. The event sees devotees from across the state throng the church to participate in the feast which is held in January every year. One of the main events during the feast involves a ceremonial procession wherein the statue of St. Sebastian is taken out from the church to the beach and back. Another intriguing event is the ceremony on the final day when devotees crawl on their knees all the way from the nearby beach to the church. Church built by Portuguese missionaries in a coastal hamlet near here is a model of religious harmony with a tradition of hosting Sabari pilgrims returning after worshipping Lord Ayyappa. Pilgrims from across the state visit the St Andrew’s Church at Arthunkal here and pay their respects to the idol of Saint Sebastian between the months of November and January during the Mandala and Makaravilakku season of the Sabarimala temple. Legend has it that one of the early priests of the church, popularly called Arthunkal Veluthachan (fair skinned father), was a friend of Lord Ayyappa. The visit of the pilgrims commemorates the bond they shared, especially as the priest was loved by the local people who believed he had healing powers.

When: January 10-20, 2017

Where: St. Andrew’s Forane Church, Arthunkal, Alappuzha. Nearest railway station Cherthala is about 8 km from here and Alappuzha is about 22 km from here.

Camel Festival

camel-festival-bikanerJanuary is just the right month for a desert spree, and Bikaner just the right place to see the ships of the desert. In the camel country Bikaner, these desert leviathans pull heavy cartloads, transport grain and even work at the wells. The Camel Festival begins with a colourful procession of bedecked camels against the red sandstone backdrop of the Junagarh Fort, the festivity advances to the open sand-spreads of the grounds, followed by the best breed competition, the tug-of-war contest, camel dance,  acrobatics, etc. The camels display amazing footwork, dancing gracefully to the slightest direction of their trainers. Bridal, bridles, bejewelled necks, jingling anklets and long, lanky camel shadow on dusky sands cast a magical spell. Hundreds of tourists and thousands of locals and dignitaries revel in this man-and-animal affair organised especially for the tourists. The evenings close with a different tenor and tempo altogether: a traditional rendezvous of renowned artistes of Rajasthan and the local folk performers. The jubilant skirt-swirling dancers, the awe-inspiring fire dance, and the dazzling fireworks light up the fortified desert city of Bikaner.

When: January 14-15, 2017

Where: Bikaner is connected by rail and road with all the major cities. The nearest airport is at Jodhpur (243 kms).

International Kite Festival

kite-festivalGujarat is vibrant with the Kite Festival (Makar Sankranti) which is celebrated with colors of joy, colors of life. The Kite Festival signify Gujarat’s ‘Cultural Strength’ and like the kites, Gujarat soars high to touch the skies to be the ‘best in the world.’ All over the State, in the Month of January, the serene blue sky with colorful kites look splendid and since morning to evening remains dotted with vivid splashes of color with kites in a variety of hues, shapes and sizes. The excitement continues with the onset of night. As the sun sets and darkness hovers over, youngsters continue competing each other in supremacy in the sky, now with the paper lanterns tied to their kite-strings. These lanterns known as tukkal swaying at the mild stroke of wind presents a lovely image while some try to cut off these tukkals and enjoy the fun. Makar Sankranti (Kite Flying Day) marks the end of a long winter with the return of the sun to the Northern Hemisphere. According to the Hindu astronomy the sun enters the zodiac of Makara (Capricorn). Hence, it is called Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. The special significance attached to the celebration of Makar sankranti, is Kite Flying. The gods who are believed to have slumbered for six long months are now awake and the portals of heaven are thrown open! Uttarayan is celebrated all over Gujarat but the excitement is high at Ahmedabad, Surat, Nadiad and Vadodara. Surat, especially is known particularly for the strong string which is made by applying glass powder on the row thread to provide it a cutting edge.

When: January 14, 2017

 

A full moon and a month full of festivals

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

The charm of Pushkar

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

When:  8th to 14th November 2016

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

Rann Utsav at Kutch

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

When:  1st November 2016 to 20th February 2017

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

Ganga Mahotsav & Dev Deepawali at Varanasi

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

When:  11th-14th November 2016

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

 A Tradition through the Ages at Sonepur

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

When:  14th November to 13th December 2016

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

Celebration of culture at Majuli

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

When: 21st to 24th November 2016

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

Guru Purab at Golden temple

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

When:  14th November 2016

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

A carnival for city beautiful

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

When:  25th to 27th November 2016

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

Celebration of ‘Vijay’ at Hampi

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

When:  3rd to 5th November 2016

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

Gustor Festival at Thiksey

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

When:  17th-18th November 2016

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

A festival of 100 drums- Wangala

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

When:  10th-12th November 2016

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

Some ‘lighter’ moments for inner self!

Festivities also serve the purpose of breaking the usual cycle of work and give time to rejoice and strengthen bonding with near & dear ones. It gives you time to reflect upon yourself. With so much of hatred and violence spewed upon everywhere around, festivals like this give chance to reflect on our inner self.

diwali-rangoli6

What I love the best is the moment when all the ‘diyas’ in the rangoli are lit to spread their glow in the colourful base. This symphony of colour and light is the most satisfying moment of the evening, more satisfying then any cracker… any sweet. Few snapshots from this Diwali.

A Chand Raat stroll at Jama Masjid on this Eid

This is the happier time after month of sorrowful fasting of Ramadan. Chand Raat brings joyful people to the market for shopping. It is also one of our favourite times to visit the Jama Masjid market to soak ourselves in the feeling of joy and compassion. A collection of images from this year’s visit to the Jama Masjid market, though it was not so crowded when we reached, but numbers had started ballooning by the time we packed-off.

Chand Raat1
Meena Bazar makes a beautiful view!
What will suit me better!
What will suit me better!
Which head are they going to fit!
Which head are they going to fit!
Time to relax!
Time to relax!

केदार नाथ अग्रवाल आधुनिक हिंदी कविता के सिरमौर कवियों में से एक हैं। ईद पर उनकी एक प्यारी कविता।
ईद मुबारक

हमको,
तुमको,
एक-दूसरे की बाहों में
बँध जाने की
ईद मुबारक।

बँधे-बँधे,
रह एक वृंत पर,
खोल-खोल कर प्रिय पंखुरियाँ
कमल-कमल-सा
खिल जाने की,
रूप-रंग से मुसकाने की
हमको,
तुमको
ईद मुबारक।

और
जगत के
इस जीवन के
खारे पानी के सागर में
खिले कमल की नाव चलाने,
हँसी-खुशी से
तर जाने की,
हमको,
तुमको
ईद मुबारक।

और
समर के
उन शूरों को
अनुबुझ ज्वाला की आशीषें,
बाहर बिजली की आशीषें
और हमारे दिल से निकली-
सूरज, चाँद,
सितारों वाली
हमदर्दी की प्यारी प्यारी
ईद मुबारक।

हमको,
तुमको
सब को अपनी
मीठी-मीठी
ईद-मुबारक।

This is the only place in the market for these and the volume seems to be astonishing-

Chand Raat10

Who cares for cholesterol when it is time of festivities-

Chand Raat11

For us it was Al-Jawahar this time, a change from usual Karim's
For us it was Al-Jawahar this time, a change from usual Karim’s
But the real test would be the taste of the sewaii on Eid
But the real test would be the taste of the sevaiyan on Eid

Till the Eid prayers in Eidgah and the special Eid Namaz at Jama Masjid, it was all fun in the market