Tag Archives: Jaisalmer

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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Surajkund Mela is on but much more to do this February

The month starts with Basant Panchami today and the day also marks the start of two premier yearly events in the NCR region- Surajkund International Crafts Mela 2017 started today at Surajkund in Faridabad on the Delhi-Haryana border. While in the heart of Delhi 19th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, India’s biggest theatre festival also started. These both are much sought for events by the art & culture enthusiasts.

Surajkund Mela
Surajkund Mela

Surajkund Mela comes right at the nick of spring. With dates fixed for every year (February 1-15) , it makes easier for travellers to plan. A marvellous mix of handicrafts, folk arts and folk dances makes it a crowd puller. With lots of food stalls representing different states, it has lot more to offer. Hosted by Haryana Tourism, this fair also has a large entertainment value. With Valentine Day coming towards the end of the festival, young ones from NCR find it tempting to have some funtime at Surajkund. Artists from many other states also actively participate. Craftsmen from Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other states display their art. Every year, a theme state is chosen for the Mela, which highlights the state in totality from its architecture to fine arts and crafts. Jharkhand has been chosen as the theme State for the 31st Surajkund International Crafts Mela-2017. The state will showcase its tribal heritage and culture.

Bharat Rang Mahotsav
Bharat Rang Mahotsav

19th Bharat Rang Mahotsav that started today will be there till 21st February. India’s biggest theatre festival hosted by National School of Drama will focus on entertainment, education, enrichment and enlightenment. There will be 12 participating countries and 16 Indian states, 94 productions in 23 languages and performances by 125 groups. Bharat Rang Mahotsav was established a two decades ago by the National School of Drama to stimulate the growth and development of theatre across the country. Originally a national festival showcasing the work of the most creative theatre workers in India, it has evolved to international scope, hosting theatre companies from around the world, and is now the largest theatre festival of Asia. The 19th Mahotsav will include several national and international performances, and various associated events in a wrap-around program. This year Bharat Rang Mahotsav travels to 5 more centres- Kurukshetra, Agartala, Patna, Pune and Hyderabad.

We have already read in the previous post about events in Rajasthan in February. But even outside, there are many reasons to travel this month.

Khajuraho Festival of Dances
Khajuraho Festival of Dances

Spring can be best time to visit Khajuraho, not only to see the monuments but also to witness the one of India’s premier dance festivals. Every ancient monument has a fascinating story to tell. But few match the mystery wrapped around the temples of Khajuraho. Once the capital of the great Chandela Kings, Khajuraho today is a quiet village of a few thousand people. It is also the setting of the Khajuraho Festival of Dances which draws the best classical dancers in the country every year, who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples. The seven-day extravaganza is a unique treat for connoisseurs from all over the world. This year it will be 43rd edition of this festival (20-26 February). The past and the present silhouetted against the glowing sun as the backdrop becomes an exquisite backdrop for the performers. In a setting where the earthly and the divine create perfect harmony – an event that celebrates the pure magic of the rich classical dance traditions of India. As dusk falls, the temples are lit up in a soft, dream-like ethereal stage. The finest exponents of different classical Indian styles are represented – Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, and many more. So while you can visit the monuments in day, be guest to dance festival in the evening.

India Art Fair
India Art Fair

India Art Fair, previously known as India Art Summit, is an annual summit of modern and contemporary art. India Art Fair is South Asia’s leading platform for modern and contemporary art and portal to the region’s cultural landscape. Founded in 2008, India Art Fair has become the bedrock of a now booming cultural community with connections to every level of the market. Building on these foundations, India Art Fair is expanding its programming to reflect South Asia’s immense diversity in the visual arts and to provide a platform for innovation across disciplines and exchange, throughout the region and the world. With a shared ambition to promote cultural discourse in South Asia, and provide a platform for these discussions, India Art Fair has developed platforms such as the Speakers’ Forum and Film Programme. This broad and exciting programme of lectures, screenings and conversations will engage a diverse range of stakeholders in the visual arts as well as cover a wide spectrum of artistic practices. This takes place from February 2-5 at NSIC grounds in Delhi’s Okhla Industrial Area.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

More for art lovers, Mumbai’s favourite cultural festival, the nine-day Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, is all set to kick-off, this year in partnership with HT (February 4-12). The KGAF calendar features dance, theatre, music and literature events, in addition to art installations, workshops, heritage walks and film screenings. For those looking forward to the diverse calendar of events, this festival hasn’t been soon enough. The festival is quirky and fresh, bringing to us the best of art and culture. The art installations are amazing; the literature events enriching. The nine-day festival adds to the beauty of the city, with its rich programmes. Kala Ghoda is a festival so rich and diverse, yet binding us together. Music performances are exemplary, with elite artists performing for the whole city. It captures the city’s culture and gives the new generation a chance to connect with it. An exciting line-up will feature discussions with 80 authors and storytellers across genres, from model-turned-author Padma Lakshmi to filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee and authors Ashwin Sanghi and Amit Chaudhuri, on everything from mythology to photography, poetry, the environment and Bollywood.

Sufi Sutra which is now Sur Jahan
Sufi Sutra which is now Sur Jahan

For music fans 7th edition of Sur Jahan will be held at Mohar Kunj, Kolkata on February 3 to 5, 2017. Interestingly, like the World Sufi Spirit Festival of Rajasthan, this festival has also changed its name fro Sufi Sutra to Sur Jahan. Any clues??? Anyway,  like previous years, it remains non ticketed festival and open to music lovers. Held in the first weekend of February every year with the motto of ‘Music for Peace, Music for All’, the event showcases international and national music teams, with cultural exchange workshops during the day and concerts in the evenings. The celebrations create the atmosphere of a carnival, with stalls by rural handicraft artists and folk performances. It is being held since 2011 and is now a permanent and much-awaited fixture in the city’s cultural calendar. Since its inception, teams from 22 countries and 12 states of India have participated in this annual musical extravaganza. Among the major attractions this year are the Ale Möller Quartet and Ellika Solo Rafael, both from Sweden, BraAgas of Czech republic, Virelai of Denmark and Otava Yo from Russia. Indian part will be represented by Punjab Qawwali, Bauls of Bengal and Folks of Bengal – an initiative of banglanatak dot com MusiCal supporting urban folk artists. The festival will also showcase Rural Craft & Cultural Hubs of West Bengal, an initiative of West Bengal government’s Department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Textiles (MSME&T) in association with UNESCO. Alike last year Sur Jahan is again traveling to Goa this year Feb 8-10.

Nasik Sula Fest
Nasik Sula Fest

But if you like music with some fun then Sula Fest is for you. Held every year in India’s wine capital- Nasik’s Sula vineyards, Sula Fest is the celebration of wine, music and food. The country’s most gorgeously situated, eagerly awaited Gourmet World Music Festival is back and this one promises to be even bigger and better! It also marks the fashion statement as is underlined as a sponsor like Vera Moda. This year is its 10th edition (February 3-5). This year there would be 120 artists performing on three different stages. From 12:30 PM onwards, SulaFest partygoers can expect a megamix of great music, wine, drinks, food, fashion and shopping in the idyllic environs of the winery’s beautiful open-air, Greek-Style amphitheater.

Fun in Goa Carnival
Fun in Goa Carnival

If you are more in the fun mood, than head to Goa for the carnival from February 25-28.  India’s answer to carnivals of Brazil, Caribbean and Europe. Carnival came to Goa with the Portuguese in 1510. This is the local version of the carnival celebrated worldwide before Mardi Gas. In the localised version parade is lead by local King Momo. This three day event is the place where all the colours of Goa come out in a glorious swagger and sweeps away the local as well foreign folks with its charm and charisma. Goa is almost synonymous with fun, music, food, entertainment and merry making and without any real doubt the only place in India that breaks away from the general image of the country as a conservative nation. It can be attributed to the historical fact that Goa was under Portuguese rule in the past and is still in its hang over. The Goa Carnival was started by the Portuguese rulers and since then it it has become an integral part of Goa. During the Carnival days Goa enters into a different zone of its own and become very crowded place. from every part of the world travellers come to enjoy the Goa Carnival. There is celebrations everywhere. Food and drinks are in plenty in accordance with live performances and multi-coloured processions. The scene of Goa Carnival resembles some fairy tale descriptions where people hop around in jovial mood with masks on, fireworks, fortune tellers, group of dancers and and above all happy people all around. Music swings into Goa Carnival quite naturally. The myriad facets of the Goan music compels any onlooker to jig with it. The stylish Spanish guitar, the casual drum beats and the soulful voice are enough to make you move your feet. It is a perfect gateway for everyone who is on the verge of a virtual breakdown in today’s dull, dreary and mundane world.

Kila Raipur Rural Olympics
Kila Raipur Rural Olympics

Looking for some serious fun in the games than head to Kila Raipur in Punjab for the Rural Olympics. It was in 1933. Philanthropist Inder Singh Grewal visualised an annual recreational meet where farmers from areas surrounding Kila Raipur could get together and test their corporal endurance. The idea gave birth to Kila Raipur Sports, the undisputed “Rural Olympics”. In over six decades the festival has grown from a toddler to a prancing, energetic youthful organisation. This pioneer rural sports festival has become an annual international event, which is normally held in the first weekend of February. A dynamic team of organisers – Grewal Sports Association – has taken yet again another pioneering step of giving rural women a break in sports. Today this festival of the rustics attracts more than 4,000 sportsmen and women, both of recognised and traditional sports. The three-day festival is witnessed by more than a million people. Besides, several million others watch it on television, read about it in newspapers and magazines. Whether you are in Punjab or in Toronto or in Southall, you will know the latest about Kila Raipur Sports. Its participants come from all over the globe. Since it takes several months for the immigrants in England, Canada or the USA to select, train and send their Kabbadi and Tug of War teams to this festival which of late has become a truly international, talks about destination KILA RAIPUR start much early. This year the three day olympics are from 17-19 February. Even though Punjab is in grip of election fever, people won’t let anything come between this fun.

Adoor Gajamela
Adoor Gajamela

But if you are of some religious type, than go to Kerala for Adoor Gajamela on 6 February. 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. 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.

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.

Leela Palace Udaipur is the best hotel in the country

Leela Palace, Udaipur
Leela Palace, Udaipur

Rajasthan seems to have developed a penchant for exquisite and exclusive hotels. No doubt, most of these hotels are a different class altogether which make them loved ones among those who are looking for something elite. As per TripAdvisor Travellers’s Choice survey for 2017 among the top 25 hotels in India, 9 are in Rajasthan and all the top three are from state with two among them from Udaipur. Actually City of Lakes Udaipur along with Pink City Jaipur have three hotels each in the list which is maximum for any Indian city. And interestingly, in this list there is also a mini competition among the big hotel chains that quite explains the Indian hotel industry scenario. Among the top 25 hotels eight belong to the Oberoi Group of Hotels and seven to Taj Group of Hotels. That leaves only ten of top 25 out of the fold and among these ten two are from Orange County, one from Leela Group and One from ITC’s Fortune group. Rest six are independent boutique hotels or resorts.

Lake Palace, Udaipur
Lake Palace, Udaipur

Owing to its history, most of the top hotels in Rajasthan are either heritage hotels or the modern hotels with heritage look and feel. Numero uno hotel in India as per 2017 TripAdvisor Travellers’s Choice is the Leela Palace at Udaipur. In a tough competition within the lake city, Leela Palace has established itself at the top notch. It was also voted most favourite leisure hotel of the country couple of years back by Conde Nast Traveller India readers. Umaid Bhawan Palace at Jodhpur is the second which was India’s top heritage hotel in 2014 in TripAdvisor travellers’s choice. At 3rd position in the list is arguably one of the most beautiful lake hotels in the world- Taj Lake Palace, again at Udaipur. Of the two Orange counties in the list, Orange county Coorg is at the fourth place. At 5th place is another city from Rajasthan- Jaipur through Oberoi Rajvilas. Oberoi has another property at 6th place, this time Oberoi Amar Vilas from Agra.

Orange Country Resorts, Kabini
Orange Country Resorts, Kabini

At no 7 is another of Orange county resort at Kabini, located in Nagarhole National Park which has been already included in National Geographic’s list of 25 best ecolodges in the world. On 8th is Wildflower Hall at Mashobra near Shimla which was sometime back, India’s best hill station hotel in TripAdvisor Travellers’s Choice. 9th is third entrant from Oberoi bouquet in the top 10- The Oberoi, Bangalore. Completing top 10 among all these biggies is Namah at Dhikuli in the Jim Corbett National Park region.

Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur. In foreground is the lake Pichola.
Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur. In foreground is the lake Pichola.

At 11th is the third hotel from Udaipur- Oberoi Udaivilas, which for long has been touted as the costliest hotel in India. Next one is also from Oberoi, its flagship hotel in Gurgaon. 13th is second entrant from the Jim Corbett National Park- Aahana, the Corbett Wilderness. 14th in the list is a comparatively new entrant from Rajasthan- Suryagarh near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. Built in a fort style on way to Sam dunes, this hotel is quickly rising up the ranks. 15th is Aveda Kumarakom in Kerala and next is a beautiful heritage property in Jaipur owned by, Oberoi again- Rambagh Palace. Then comes another Oberoi property- Oberoi Cecil in Shimla, a heritage hotel part of Shimla’s rich colonial history. The iconic Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai has been ranked 18th and at 19th is third property from Jaipur in the list- Jai Mahal Palace. Only property from Goa in the list- Taj Exotica Goa at Benaulim is on the 20th position.

Amanbagh at Ajabgarh
Amanbagh at Ajabgarh

Among the last five, at 21st is the only ITC property in the list Fortune, The Savoy at Mussoorie. The Tamara Coorg at Yavakapadi Village is on 22nd position. There is no Delhi hotel in the list but Gurgaon has second hotel- Trident at 23rd. On 24th is Vivanta by Taj at Madikeri. Completing the list is Amanbagh at most unlikely of the places- Ajabgarh in Alwar, Rajasthan.

Navigating through a fun-filled month of February

Its Spring time. This year we has less chill, still sing is always anticipated a lot. Time of romance and enjoyment. Carnival time at places around the world. With Basant Panchami and Valentine Day just falling within two days of each other, time for some of the best festivals for different tastes- whether it is dance, theatre, crafts, books or just fun. Presenting top 10 travel ideas for February, might not be in that order as each one of them has its own speciality. Go ahead…

1. DESERT FESTIVAL, JAISALMER

Desert-FestivalOnce a year in winter and in the middle of the continually rising and falling stark yellow sands of the great Thar Desert, the empty sands around Jaisalmer come alive with the brilliant colour, music and laughter of the Desert Festival. The festival is organized by the Department of  Tourism around January-February. The very rich and colourful Rajasthani folk culture is on show here for three days. Rajasthani men and tall beautiful women dressed in their bright costumes dance and sing lingering ballads of valour, romance and tragedy. Traditional musicians attempt to outdo each other in their musical superiority. The high points of the festival are – puppeteers, acrobats, camel tattoo show, camel races, camel polo, traditional procession, camel mounted band , folk dances, etc.  Proud moustached villagers, dressed in their ethnic best come astride their picturesquely caparisoned camels to join in the camel dances and competitions of camel acrobatics. Tug of war and Panihari Matka race are the events where visitors to the fair can participate and enjoy the thrill and taste of traditions. The turban tying competitions are big draws and laughter. The Mr. Desert competitions, which are focused around the length and style of moustaches and rustic physique wrapped in traditional costumes, many visitors.

When: 20-22 February 2016

2. KHAJURAHO DANCE FESTIVAL

KhajurahoEvery ancient monument has a fascinating story to tell. But few match the mystery wrapped around the temples of Khajuraho in central India. Once the capital of the great Chandela Kings, Khajuraho today is a quiet village of a few thousand people .It is also the setting of the Khajuraho Festival of Dances which draws the best classical dancers in the country every year, who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples. The seven-day extravaganza is a unique treat for connoisseurs from all over the world. The Khajuraho Festival of Dances draws the best classical dancers in the country who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples every year in February/March. The past and the present silhouetted against the glowing sun as the backdrop becomes an exquisite backdrop for the performers. In a setting where the earthly and the divine create perfect harmony – an event that celebrates the pure magic of the rich classical dance traditions of India. As dusk falls, the temples are lit up in a soft, dream-like ethereal stage. The finest exponents of different classical Indian styles are represented – Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, and many more.

When: 20-26 February 2016

3. KILA RAIPUR RURAL OLYMPICS

Kila-RaipurIt was in 1933. Philanthropist Inder Singh Grewal visualised an annual recreational meet where farmers from areas surrounding Kila Raipur could get together and test their corporal endurance. The idea gave birth to Kila Raipur Sports, the undisputed “Rural Olympics”. In over six decades the festival has grown from a toddler to a prancing, energetic youthful organisation. This pioneer rural sports festival has become an annual international event, which is normally held in the first weekend of February. A dynamic team of organisers – Grewal Sports Association – has taken yet again another pioneering step of giving rural women a break in sports. Today this festival of the rustics attracts more than 4,000 sportsmen and women, both of recognised and traditional sports. The three-day festival is witnessed by more than a million people. Besides, several million others watch it on television, read about it in newspapers and magazines. Whether you are in Punjab or in Toronto or in Southall, you will know the latest about Kila Raipur Sports. Its participants come from all over the globe. Since it takes several months for the immigrants in England, Canada or the USA to select, train and send their Kabbadi and Tug of War teams to this festival which of late has become a truly international, talks about destination KILA RAIPUR start much early.

When: 4-7 February, 2016

4. TAJ MAHOTSVA, AGRA

Taj-MahotsavThis 10 days long carnival is actually a vibrant platform that gives you information of India where you can find India’s rich arts, crafts, cultures, cuisine, dance and music. Taj Mahal is the most beautiful historical place of India which tells about incredible India. Taj Mahotsav is organized by UP Tourism and it is a source to increase Indian Tourism. This cultural bonanza was started in year 1992 and since then its grandeur has reached to greater heights. This festival also figures in the calendar of events of the Department of Tourism, Government of India. A large number of Indian and foreign tourists coming to Agra joins this festivity in the month of February. One of the objectives of this craft mela is to provide encouragement to the Artisans. It also makes available the magnificent work of art and craft at the most reasonable and authentic prices that are not inflated by high maintenance cost. About 400 legendary artisans from different parts of the country get an opportunity to display their exquisite works of art. To name a few among them  are the wood/stone carvings from Tamil Nadu, Bamboo/cane work from North East India, Paper mash work from South India and Kashmir, the marble and zardozi work from Agra, wood carving from Saharanpur, brass wares from Moradabad, hand made carpets from Bhadohi, Pottery from Khurja, Chikan work from Lucknow, silk & zari work from Banaras, shawls & carpets from Kashmir/Gujarat and hand printing from Farrukhabad and Kantha stitch from west Bengal etc. Apart from the exquisite craft work you can experience the majestic and magnetic performances by artistes from every walks of life. The soul-stirring performances will engulf you to the extent of casting a spell. Throughout the Mahotsav, one can experience a profusion of folk & classical music & dances of various regions, especially the Brij Bhumi, performed the way they used to be centuries ago. The experience is so enthralling that you would not stop yourself from joining with the folk dancers. Besides the folk, the Mahotsav also exhibit the performance from the world renowned artistes from classical, semi-classical and popular art forms. Beside being the right destination for the arts & crafts, the Mahotsav is also a delight for the connoisseurs of good food as it is the ideal place to pamper the taste buds of the visitors with endless varieties of scrumptious dishes. Some of the oldest exponents of the cuisine-art prepare the lip-smacking dishes. One can also relish the typical preparations from the interiors of Uttar Pradesh. Funfair is the biggest attraction for children in the festival. It is a complete family entertainment which offers thrill and amusement for every one. Teenagers and adults enjoy various rides and roller coaster while children are happy with small ride such as merry-go-round, Train-rides and Ferris wheel.

When: 18-27 February, 2016

5. BHARAT RANG MAHOTSAV, DELHI

BharatRangIndia’s biggest theatre festival hosted by National School of Drama. With 12 participating countries, 82 productions in 23 languages and performances by 125 groups, the 18th edition of the Bharat Rang Mahotsav will begin from February 1 here.This year’s edition has been conceptualised and designed with the theme of ‘Breaking Borders’ and will organise World Theatre Forum on this topic where theatre luminaries from all over the world and across the country will come together to interact with the audience. Bharat Rang Mahotsav was established a decade ago by the National School of Drama to stimulate the growth and development of theatre across the country. Originally a national festival showcasing the work of the most creative theatre workers in India, it has evolved to international scope, hosting theatre companies from around the world, and is now the largest theatre festival of Asia. The 18th Mahotsav will include several national and international performances, and various associated events in a wrap-around program.

When: 1-21 February, 2016

6. SULA FEST, NASIK

SulafestHeld every year in India’s wine capital- Nasik’s Sula vineyards, Sula Fest is the celebration of wine, music and food. The country’s most gorgeously situated, eagerly awaited Gourmet World Music Festival is back and this one promises to be even bigger and better! It also marks the fashion statement as is underlined as a sponsor like Vera Moda. This year is its 9th edition. Last year more than 12 thousand people participated in the two day event. From 12:30 PM onwards, SulaFest partygoers can expect a megamix of great music, wine, drinks, food, fashion and shopping in the idyllic environs of the winery’s beautiful open-air, Greek-Style amphitheater. The likes of Social, The Bombay Food Truck, Olive Bar & Kitchen and Woodside Inn will serve up great food to go with the wine. At the popular Soleil by La Plage, Chef Morgan Rainforth has prepared a special menu with organic produce from Sula’s very own farms, offering a sit-down gourmet dining experience like no other. Spicing up the weekend will be the SulaFest Bazaar with a selection of fun items for sale. Foot massages, tarot reading, grape stomping, and a variety of other activities is sure to add to that fest-feel. The popular Tasting Room and the new rustic Tasting Cellar is expected to be exciting as always, with special tours and tastings to be given to wine enthusiasts. Apart from wines from the vineyards of Sula, fest-goers can also enjoy a wide selection of libations from around the world by Sula’s import arm Sula Selections. Hardys are on board as a wine partner and Asahi Super Dry Beer, Cointreau, Grant’s Reserve, Jägermeister, Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey and Stolichnaya Vodka.

When: 6-7 February, 2016

7. SURAJKUND CRAFTS FAIR

SurajkundOne of the most awaited fairs of north India happens to be very close to Delhi. Comes right at the nick of spring. With dates fixed for every year, it makes easier for travellers to plan. A marvellous mix of handicrafts, folk arts and folk dances makes it a crowd puller. With lots of food stalls representing different states, it has lot more to offer. Hosted by Haryana Tourism, this fair also has a large entertainment value. With Valentine Day coming towards the end of the festival, young ones from NCR find it tempting to have some funtime at Surajkund. This year visitors at the upcoming Surajkund Mela will be able to take a joy ride in a helicopter and enjoy an aerial view of the fair and surrounding areas. State-run helicopter operator Pawan Hans says it will be offering joy ride services to the visitors at the Surajkund International Crafts Fare which begins February 1 at Surajkund in Faridabad (Haryana). Every year, a country is chosen to be the Partner Nation that showcases the best of its art, culture, traditions and heritage during the Mela fortnight. The craftspersons, cultural troupes and master chefs from Lebanon will present their talent and skills to enthrall the visitors at the forthcoming Mela. Artists from many other states also actively participate. Craftsmen from Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other states display their art. Every year, a theme state is chosen for the Mela, which highlights the state in totality from its architecture to fine arts and crafts. India’s youngest state Telangana has been chosen as the Theme State for the 30th Surajkund International Crafts Mela-2016. The state will showcase its tribal heritage and culture. A mobile app has been launched for the public, which can be downloaded for free on smartphones IOS (Apple) and Android operating systems.

When: 1-15 February, 2016

8. GOA CARNIVAL

Goa-CarnivalIndia’s answer to carnivals of Brazil, Caribbean and Europe. Carnival came to Goa with the Portuguese in 1510. This is the local version of the carnival celebrated worldwide before Mardi Gas. In the localised version parade is lead by local King Momo. This three day event is the place where all the colors of Goa come out in a glorious swagger and sweeps away the local as well foreign folks with its charm and charisma. Goa is almost synonymous with fun, music, food, entertainment and merry making and without any real doubt the only place in India that breaks away from the general image of the country as a conservative nation. It can be attributed to the historical fact that Goa was under Portuguese rule in the past and is still in its hang over. The Goa Carnival was started by the Portuguese rulers and since then it it has become an integral part of Goa. During the Carnival days Goa enters into a different zone of its own and become very crowded place. from every part of the world travelers come to enjoy the Goa Carnival. There is celebrations everywhere. Food and drinks are in plenty in accordance with live performances and multi-colored processions. The scene of Goa Carnival resembles some fairy tale descriptions where people hop around in jovial mood with masks on, fireworks, fortune tellers, group of dancers and and above all happy people all around. Music swings into Goa Carnival quite naturally. The myriad facets of the Goan music compels any onlooker to jig with it. The stylish Spanish guitar, the casual drum beats and the soulful voice are enough to make you move your feet. It is a perfect gateway for everyone who is on the verge of a virtual breakdown in today’s dull, dreary and mundane world. For this year Geovani Bosco Santimano has been selected as King Momo and is the chosen one to rule over the Carnival festivities scheduled in Goa between February 14 and 17. He will lead the Carnival float parades to be held in Panaji, Margao, Vasco and Mapusa.

When: 6-9 February, 2016

9. Sufi Sutra International Sufi Music Festival

SufiBack for the sixth year, this Sufi music festival is set to feature top Sufi and traditional folk musicians from Denmark, Iran, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal. Sufi music is qualified as “soul music” for Muslim mystics. It’s often used to transcend the physical realm into the spiritual one. There will be music workshops all day and free concerts all evening, as well as an exhibition. Sufi Sutra is an annual three day peace music festival held in Kolkata that brings about convergence of ideas on truth, harmony, peace and divinity. The cultural dialogues have developed mutual knowledge on world Sufi and traditional music and created scopes for performances to the visiting countries augmenting livelihood for the rural artists from India. Alike last year Sufi Sutra is again traveling to Goa this year Feb 10-11.

When: 5-7 February, 2016.

10. KALA GHODA ARTS FESTIVAL

Kala GhodaMumbai’s favourite cultural festival, the nine-day Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, is all set to kick-off on February 7. The KGAF calendar this year features dance, theatre, music and literature events, in addition to art installations, workshops, heritage walks and film screenings. This year’s festival also has a special section on urban design and architecture. Kala Ghoda this year has new elements in every section, and new venues and events. The opening ceremony will witness 70 dancers presenting a visual feast, based on the theme for the year — Sparsh [Hindi for Touch]. The venues this year include the historic Asiatic Library for literature workshops, while The Irish House will host stand-up comedy sessions. To reach out to more people, the literature and theatre sections will feature events in 20 different languages. The theatre fest is so grand and multi-lingual this year, we call it Rang Boli — a theatrical celebration of languages. This section will feature 51 performances. A new feature in the literature section is a long evening of prose that we have titled The Rampart Row Reading. It will be held at the Artists Centre gallery. For those looking forward to the diverse calendar of events, the return of the festival hasn’t been soon enough. The festival is quirky and fresh, bringing to us the best of art and culture. The art installations are amazing; the literature events enriching. The nine-day festival adds to the beauty of the city, with its rich programmes. Kala Ghoda is a festival so rich and diverse, yet binding us together. Music performances are exemplary, with elite artists performing for the whole city. It captures the city’s culture and gives the new generation a chance to connect with it.

When: 6-17 February, 2016

 

Why the last sunset of the year has to be so beautiful!

Why the last sunset of the year has to be so beautiful! I wonder. Sometimes its so magical that you don’t want to let the year pass by… Although it also sets the tone to welcome the new year with all positive vibes. It also reminds us about the beauty of life, however troublesome the years gone by would have been…

Sunset at Thar1

Photographing sunsets or sunrises is normally all photographers’ favourite pastime. They can do it almost endlessly at every dawn and dusk. So has been the case with me. And when the charm is to capture the last sunset of the year, then you don’t want to blink, just to click… click… click.

Sunset at Thar2

Sand dunes at Sam near Jaisalmer (almost 35 kms from city) in Rajasthan are actually known for their fascinating sunsets. Sunset here shows, how romantic even deserts can be.

Sunset at Thar3

Actually, Sam is among the few places in the country which have been associated with watching the last sunset of the year. Tourists flock to this place every 31st December.

Sunset at Thar4

Most of them stay at Jaisalmer and travel to Sam to watch sunset. But a few also choose to stay at Sam itself for some quite days as this place has a handful of luxury resorts with all facilities.

Sunset at Thar5

At evening people line up on these dunes with their eyes glued to western sky.

Sunset at Thar6

The initial haze clears and what you see is a full glory of nature.

Sunset at Thar7

One feels that, just before setting, sun steals the whole beauty of nature in its shades, capable of mesmerising everybody.

Sunset at Thar8

You blink and you find a new colour in front of you.

Sunset at Thar9

And here comes the touch-down moment.

Sunset at Thar10

It slowly weans away…

Sunset at Thar11

See the melting moments. You will often feel that there are only three constants in these frames- the camera, the serene desert and the TV tower seemingly standing adjacent to the setting sun and saying it goodbye…

Often after watching a sunset like this, you will having a feeling of hollowness & emptiness deep inside. You will not like to talk or speak a lot immediately afterwards. But slowly a content will fill you and a smile appears with a resolve to welcome the sunrise of the coming day… a new year… a new beginning.

Top 10 travel ideas for February

Its Spring time, although chill is still in the air. Time of romance and enjoyment. Carnival time at places around the world. Time for some of the best festivals for different tastes- whether it is dance, theatre, crafts, books or just fun. Presenting top 10 ideas to travel in India in February, might not be in that order as each one of them has its own speciality. Go ahead..

1. DESERT FESTIVAL

Desert-FestivalOnce a year in winter and in the middle of the continually rising and falling stark yellow sands of the great Thar Desert, the empty sands around Jaisalmer come alive with the brilliant colour, music and laughter of the Desert Festival. The festival is organized by the Department of  Tourism around January-February. The very rich and colourful Rajasthani folk culture is on show here for three days. Rajasthani men and tall beautiful women dressed in their bright costumes dance and sing lingering ballads of valour, romance and tragedy. Traditional musicians attempt to outdo each other in their musical superiority. The high points of the festival are – puppeteers, acrobats, camel tattoo show, camel races, camel polo, traditional procession, camel mounted band , folk dances, etc.  Proud moustached villagers, dressed in their ethnic best come astride their picturesquely caparisoned camels to join in the camel dances and competitions of camel acrobatics. Tug of war and Panihari Matka race are the events where visitors to the fair can participate and enjoy the thrill and taste of traditions. The turban tying competitions are big draws and laughter. The Mr. Desert competitions, which are focused around the length and style of moustaches and rustic physique wrapped in traditional costumes, many visitors.

When: 1-3 February 2015

2. KHAJURAHO DANCE FESTIVAL

KhajurahoEvery ancient monument has a fascinating story to tell. But few match the mystery wrapped around the temples of Khajuraho in central India. Once the capital of the great Chandela Kings, Khajuraho today is a quiet village of a few thousand people .It is also the setting of the Khajuraho Festival of Dances which draws the best classical dancers in the country every year, who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples. The seven-day extravaganza is a unique treat for connoisseurs from all over the world. The Khajuraho Festival of Dances draws the best classical dancers in the country who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples every year in February/March. The past and the present silhouetted against the glowing sun as the backdrop becomes an exquisite backdrop for the performers. In a setting where the earthly and the divine create perfect harmony – an event that celebrates the pure magic of the rich classical dance traditions of India. As dusk falls, the temples are lit up in a soft, dream-like ethereal stage. The finest exponents of different classical Indian styles are represented – Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, and many more.

When: 20-26 February 2015

3. SHEKHAWATI FESTIVAL

Shekhawati685The land of Havelis. The land of Frescoes. The land of Martyrs. The land of organic revolution in India. These are a few of Shekhawati’s many sobriquets. Joining the hallowed ranks of that list is yet another sobriquet-THE LAND OF THE SHEKHAWATI FESTIVAL. For the last 15 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.One of the unique aspects of this festival is the emphasis laid by the Morarka Foundation on the organic way of life. This must the only festival in the world where every participant and spectator including scores of villages from near and far are served organic food for all the 4 days of the festival. The food court with more than 50 food stalls serve only organic delicacies for the entire duration of the festival. Visitors get a chance to savour a entire range of Indian cuisine with the knowledge that the fare is completely organic. Tourists also get a chance to be amidst pristine pastoral environs and enjoy organic farm food at eco-tourism organic lunches. Here tourists from all parts of the world get a first hand experience of the entire process of growing and cultivating organic food even as they get a taste of the end product on their plates. The Aravallis run through this region and the presence of this rocky barrier comes as a surprise in this flat and arid landscape, dotted here and there with picturesque dunes and colourful Havelis. A peep into the culture of Shekhawati gives us insight into the life of everyday India, seen through the lens of art and architecture. It helps us understand the vivid tapestry of Rajasthani and Indian life as it was lived in the glorious days of yore and continues to date!

When: 5-8 February, 2015

4. TAJ MAHOTSVA

Taj-MahotsavThis 10 days long carnival is actually a vibrant platform that gives you information of India where you can find India’s rich arts, crafts, cultures, cuisine, dance and music. Taj Mahal is the most beautiful historical place of India which tells about incredible India. Taj Mahotsav is organized by UP Tourism and it is a source to increase Indian Tourism. This cultural bonanza was started in year 1992 and since then its grandeur has reached to greater heights. This festival also figures in the calendar of events of the Department of Tourism, Government of India. A large number of Indian and foreign tourists coming to Agra joins this festivity in the month of February. One of the objectives of this craft mela is to provide encouragement to the Artisans. It also makes available the magnificent work of art and craft at the most reasonable and authentic prices that are not inflated by high maintenance cost. About 400 legendary artisans from different parts of the country get an opportunity to display their exquisite works of art. To name a few among them  are the wood/stone carvings from Tamil Nadu, Bamboo/cane work from North East India, Paper mash work from South India and Kashmir, the marble and zardozi work from Agra, wood carving from Saharanpur, brass wares from Moradabad, hand made carpets from Bhadohi, Pottery from Khurja, Chikan work from Lucknow, silk & zari work from Banaras, shawls & carpets from Kashmir/Gujarat and hand printing from Farrukhabad and Kantha stitch from west Bengal etc. Apart from the exquisite craft work you can experience the majestic and magnetic performances by artistes from every walks of life. The soul-stirring performances will engulf you to the extent of casting a spell. Throughout the Mahotsav, one can experience a profusion of folk & classical music & dances of various regions, especially the Brij Bhumi, performed the way they used to be centuries ago. The experience is so enthralling that you would not stop yourself from joining with the folk dancers. Besides the folk, the Mahotsav also exhibit the performance from the world renowned artistes from classical, semi-classical and popular art forms. Beside being the right destination for the arts & crafts, the Mahotsav is also a delight for the connoisseurs of good food as it is the ideal place to pamper the taste buds of the visitors with endless varieties of scrumptious dishes. Some of the oldest exponents of the cuisine-art prepare the lip-smacking dishes. One can also relish the typical preparations from the interiors of Uttar Pradesh. Funfair is the biggest attraction for children in the festival. It is a complete family entertainment which offers thrill and amusement for every one. Teenagers and adults enjoy various rides and roller coaster while children are happy with small ride such as merry-go-round, Train-rides and Ferris wheel.

When: 18-27 February, 2015

5. BHARAT RANG MAHOTSAV

BharatRangIndia’s biggest theatre festival hosted by National School of Drama. With 12 participating countries, 82 productions in 23 languages and performances by 125 groups, the 17th edition of the Bharat Rang Mahotsav will begin from February 1 here.This year’s edition has been conceptualised and designed with the theme of ‘Breaking Borders’ and will organise World Theatre Forum on this topic where theatre luminaries from all over the world and across the country will come together to interact with the audience. Bharat Rang Mahotsav was established a decade ago by the National School of Drama to stimulate the growth and development of theatre across the country. Originally a national festival showcasing the work of the most creative theatre workers in India, it has evolved to international scope, hosting theatre companies from around the world, and is now the largest theatre festival of Asia. The 17th Mahotsav will include several national and international performances, and various associated events in a wrap-around program.

When: 1-18 February, 2015

6. DELHI BOOK FAIR

WorldBookFairClaimed to be Asia’s biggest book fair. New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF) held for the past 41 years, is now a major calendar event in the publishing world. NDWBF 2015 is scheduled from 14 to 22 February 2015 at the centrally located Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. The Fair is organized by National Book Trust, India, an apex body of the Government of India, under the Ministry of Human Resource Development. This year Singapore has been chosen as Guest of honour country. Singapore has long been known as a melting pot, and a crossroads of Asia. Fifty years after independence, how has this nation-state’s literature developed? Featuring authors who write in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil, illustrators of children’s picture books and graphic novels, as well as publishers of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and academic books, the Singapore Pavilion at the New Delhi World Book Fair will showcase how Singapore’s latest writing and illustration draws upon its multicultural roots to present a distinct Asian voice. Korea has been selected as the Focus Country in New Delhi World Book Fair. Korean Publishers Association would represent Korea as the Focus Country in New Delhi World Book Fair. The main slogan for Korea as the Focus Country in New Delhi World Book Fair 2015 is “Books opening the mind, Doors opening the Future.”  In the various cultural exchange based program, KPA will organize special exhibitions for Korean children’s books as well as traditional Korean culture, so that Indian publishers and visitors indirectly experience the development of Korean publishing industry, and also the lifestyle of Korean.

When: 14-22 February, 2015

7. SURAJKUND CRAFTS FAIR

SurajkundOne of the most awaited fairs of north India happens to be very close to Delhi. Comes right at the nick of spring. With dates fixed for every year, it makes easier for travellers to plan. A marvellous mix of handicrafts, folk arts and folk dances makes it a crowd puller. With lots of food stalls representing different states, it has lot more to offer. Hosted by Haryana Tourism, this fair also has a large entertainment value. With Valentine Day coming towards the end of the festival, young ones from NCR find it tempting to have some funtime at Surajkund. This year visitors at the upcoming Surajkund Mela will be able to take a joy ride in a helicopter and enjoy an aerial view of the fair and surrounding areas. State-run helicopter operator Pawan Hans says it will be offering joy ride services to the visitors at the Surajkund International Crafts Fare which begins February 1 at Surajkund in Faridabad (Haryana). Every year, a country is chosen to be the Partner Nation that showcases the best of its art, culture, traditions and heritage during the Mela fortnight. Lebanon is the Partner Nation for the 29th Surajkund International Crafts Mela-2015. The craftspersons, cultural troupes and master chefs from Lebanon will present their talent and skills to enthrall the visitors at the forthcoming Mela. Artists from many other states also actively participate. Craftsmen from Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other states display their art. Every year, a theme state is chosen for the Mela, which highlights the state in totality from its architecture to fine arts and crafts. Chhattishgarh has been chosen as the Theme State for the 29th Surajkund International Crafts Mela-2015. The state will showcase its tribal heritage and culture, which is still found well-preserved in the forests of Bastar. A mobile app has been launched for the public, which can be downloaded for free on smartphones IOS (Apple) and Android operating systems.

When: 1-15 February, 2015

8. GOA CARNIVAL

Goa-CarnivalIndia’s answer to carnivals of Brazil, Caribbean and Europe. Carnival came to Goa with the Portuguese in 1510. This is the local version of the carnival celebrated worldwide before Mardi Gas. In the localised version parade is lead by local King Momo. This three day event is the place where all the colors of Goa come out in a glorious swagger and sweeps away the local as well foreign folks with its charm and charisma. Goa is almost synonymous with fun, music, food, entertainment and merry making and without any real doubt the only place in India that breaks away from the general image of the country as a conservative nation. It can be attributed to the historical fact that Goa was under Portuguese rule in the past and is still in its hang over. The Goa Carnival was started by the Portuguese rulers and since then it it has become an integral part of Goa. During the Carnival days Goa enters into a different zone of its own and become very crowded place. from every part of the world travelers come to enjoy the Goa Carnival. There is celebrations everywhere. Food and drinks are in plenty in accordance with live performances and multi-colored processions. The scene of Goa Carnival resembles some fairy tale descriptions where people hop around in jovial mood with masks on, fireworks, fortune tellers, group of dancers and and above all happy people all around. Music swings into Goa Carnival quite naturally. The myriad facets of the Goan music compels any onlooker to jig with it. The stylish Spanish guitar, the casual drum beats and the soulful voice are enough to make you move your feet. It is a perfect gateway for everyone who is on the verge of a virtual breakdown in today’s dull, dreary and mundane world. For this year Geovani Bosco Santimano has been selected as King Momo and is the chosen one to rule over the Carnival festivities scheduled in Goa between February 14 and 17. He will lead the Carnival float parades to be held in Panaji, Margao, Vasco and Mapusa.

When: 14-17 February, 2015

9. Sufi Sutra International Sufi Music Festival

SufiBack for the fifth year, this Sufi music festival is set to feature top Sufi and traditional folk musicians from Denmark, Iran, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal. Sufi music is qualified as “soul music” for Muslim mystics. It’s often used to transcend the physical realm into the spiritual one. There will be music workshops all day and free concerts all evening, as well as an exhibition. Sufi Sutra is an annual three day peace music festival held in Kolkata that brings about convergence of ideas on truth, harmony, peace and divinity. The cultural dialogues have developed mutual knowledge on world Sufi and traditional music and created scopes for performances to the visiting countries augmenting livelihood for the rural artists from India. Last year Sufi Sutra travelled to Patna and this year its travelling to Goa (hosted by Kala Academy). Dhaka is also hosting Sufi fest on Jan 27-29 (organized by Blues Communication) and Delhi is also hosting Sufi festival on Feb 10-11 (hosted by ICCR).

When: 6-8, 2015. Workshops 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Concerts: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

10. KALA GHODA ARTS FESTIVAL

KalaGhoda685Mumbai’s favourite cultural festival, the nine-day Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, is all set to kick-off on February 7. The KGAF calendar this year features dance, theatre, music and literature events, in addition to art installations, workshops, heritage walks and film screenings. This year’s festival also has a special section on urban design and architecture. Kala Ghoda this year has new elements in every section, and new venues and events. The opening ceremony will witness 70 dancers presenting a visual feast, based on the theme for the year — Sparsh [Hindi for Touch]. The venues this year include the historic Asiatic Library for literature workshops, while The Irish House will host stand-up comedy sessions. To reach out to more people, the literature and theatre sections will feature events in 20 different languages. The theatre fest is so grand and multi-lingual this year, we call it Rang Boli — a theatrical celebration of languages. This section will feature 51 performances. A new feature in the literature section is a long evening of prose that we have titled The Rampart Row Reading. It will be held at the Artists Centre gallery. For those looking forward to the diverse calendar of events, the return of the festival hasn’t been soon enough. The festival is quirky and fresh, bringing to us the best of art and culture. The art installations are amazing; the literature events enriching. The nine-day festival adds to the beauty of the city, with its rich programmes. Kala Ghoda is a festival so rich and diverse, yet binding us together. Music performances are exemplary, with elite artists performing for the whole city. It captures the city’s culture and gives the new generation a chance to connect with it.

When: 7-16 February, 2015