Tag Archives: Jodhpur

Time to kick-off: game, music and fair!

It is the month of some of the biggest festivities of the year in north India specially. It is month of festival of lights Diwali and then Chaath Puja. But this year, this month is also special because of one of the biggest international sporting event to have ever hosted by India- the FIFA U-17 World Cup. This month also kicks off a chain of musical and cultural events across the peninsula, some of them the most memorable ones like Pushkar fair. A perfect time to make some quick travel plans.

Cheers for Football

It is indeed one of the biggest sporting events to be held in India. India is hosting the FIFA Under-17 World Cup India 2017 scheduled to be held at Delhi, Goa, Kochi, Guwahati, Kolkata and Mumbai from 6th to 28th October 2017 in which 24 teams, including India, will participate. A total of 52 games will be played to decide the winner of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017. For India significance of this event also lies in the fact that after this event we will have India’s only football team to have played a world cup. What more, many of the matches in the event will be played at most popular of India’s tourist destinations like Goa, Kochi, Guwahati, Mumbai besides capital Delhi. So, what an opportunity to see few budding top footballers from around the world along with some fanciest of destinations.

When: 6th-28th October 2017

Where: Delhi, Goa, Kochi, Guwahati, Kolkata and Mumbai

Enthralling music at RIFF

Jodhpur RIFF, ranked amongst the Top 25 International Music Festivals in the world, is back again this year to enthral music lovers. Begun in 2007, the Jodhpur RIFF brings together more than 250 Musicians and performing artists from across Rajasthan and around the world to celebrate their musical heritage and create new sounds through innovative collaborations, for five days in October each year. Timed to coincide with the brightest full moon of the year in north India, Sharad Poornima, Jodhpur RIFF features a series of spectacular concerts and events based in and around Mehrangarh Fort – voted “Asia’s Best Fortress” by Times Magazine. The Festival is a heady combination of Folk, Jazz, Sufi and contemporary music that transcend global boundaries.  Jodhpur RIFF includes performances by master musicians from local Rajasthan communities, sensational headline acts showcased each night on the Main Stage, and cutting-edge global dance grooves that will keep the party going late into the night at Club Mehran. Interactive daytime sessions for visitors, school children and families are staged against the breathtaking backdrop of the Fort.

This year at the festival you can meet the Bhil community from Banswara and get to know their music and tribal culture – with Malini Kale, then there are living legends like Bhika Khan Manganiyar and Ladu Ram Nayak; on the main stage will be Maand with Ghavri Devi Rao;Kamaycha Charm with Ghewar and Darra Khan; there will be a Musical Tapestry of Voices, Pipes and Strings with Ross Ainslie, Angus Lyon, Blue Rose Code, Asin Khan Langa and Smita Rao Bellur. n the desert lounge will be all acoustic, desert music and Qawaali from Rajasthan. On the 3rd day, 7th October there will be a show on the life and music of the Mir musicians of the Bikaner region. There will be an exclusive show by Nihal Khan Manganiyar and BabunathJogi. On the main stage will be Padharo Mahre Des Re – popular and rare songs of Rajasthan; Mexican Guitars with Paco Renteria; The High Road to Jodhpur – Scottish Shooglenifty/ Rajasthani Dhun Dhora collaboration featuring the Dhol Drummers of Rajasthan. In Club Mehran it will be Rootsy electronic grooves with DJs Victor Kiswell and Logeshan Moorgan. On day 4 there will be The Roundhouse Sessions – a Welsh-Indian collaboration of storytelling and music. On main stage will be Woodwind Vibes with Rajasthani maestros; Gypsy Jazz with Nicotine Swing, Afro-Chic Reggae with Rocky Dawuni. Finally there will be RIFF RUSTLE with Rajasthani and international percussionists, musicians and singers from Jodhpur RIFF 2017… and a superb ‘rustler”!

When: 5th-9th October 2017

Where: Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Another festival for the Marwar

Another musical extravaganza at Jodhpur, almost at the same time. Marwar Festival is held every year in memory of the heroes of Rajasthan. The festival is held in the month of Ashwin (September-October) in Jodhpur, for two days during the full moon of Sharad Poornima. Originally known as the Maand Festival, this festival features folk music centered on the romantic lifestyle of Rajasthan’s rulers. Organised by Rajasthan tourism and Jodhpur administration, this festival is devoted to the music and dance of the Marwar region and offers a good opportunity to see the folk dancers carrying pots on their heads and singers who assemble here and provide hours of lively entertainment. These folk artistes provide a glimpse of the days of yore, of battles and valiant heroes who still live on in their songs. Other attractions at the festival are the camel tattoo show and polo. The government Ummaid stadium, the historical clock tower in the midst of the old city and the sand dunes of Osian village provide the ideal venue for the cultural extravaganza – an integral part of the festival. On first day morning there is a procession from Ummaid stadium to the old city and back. There are various competitions during the day and the camel tattoo show by the BSF. In the evening there is cultural performance by the folk artists of Rajasthan at clock tower. Events on the second day take place at Osian village. Osian is an ancient town located in the Jodhpur. It is an oasis in the Thar Desert, and has been known as the “Khajuraho of Rajasthan” for its temples. It lies 69 km by road north of the district headquarters at Jodhpur, on a diversion off the main Jodhpur-Bikaner Highway.

When: 4th-5th October 2017

Where: Various places, Jodhpur

Classical Music and Dance at Soorya Festival

This is the year of 40th Soorya festival. You won’t believe that this festival will run for 111 days and in this edition again around 2000 artists from around the country will take part in this. Every year Thiruvanthapuram in Kerala reverberates with the sound of music of the festival. All music and dance aficionados will have treat at this festival and be exposed to the very best of Indian cultural arts. Held by the Soorya Stage and Film Society, a cultural society which promotes the arts vigorously, the Soorya Festival of Music and Dance presents varied dance performances by artistes showcasing different dance forms like Kathak, Manipuri, Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam. Renowned dancers from all over India perform at this festival. Music concerts are also held at this festival and well known proponents in the Hindustani and Carnatic style perform jugalbandis, vocal and instrumental soirees. Soorya has its Chapters in 36 countries in the world. Soorya also has it’s actively working Chapters in 60 Centres in India. Actually in first week of October Soorya organizes festivals in almost every big city of Kerala as well as in some other big cities of South India such as Chennai, Bangalore and Madurai. Festival has already commenced with an event called ‘Ammu: Saannidhyavum Saameepyaum’ which was a get together of 15 artists who have played the role of ‘Ammu’ the girl who played the central character in all shows directed by Soorya Krishnamurthy.

The first phase will be film festival from Sep 21 to October 10. The critically acclaimed film, Minnaminungu, directed by Anil Thomas, will be the inaugural film. The lead actor of the film, Surabhi Lakshmi, who also won national award for the same is also expected to attend the function. The dance and music festival will be held from October 1 to 10. As had been in previous years, K J Yesudas will perform the inaugural concert at AKG Hall at 6.45pm on October 1. Leading artists Meenakshi Sreenivasan, Rama Vaidyanathan, Nithyasree Mahadevan and Manju Warrier will perform in the festival. For the first time, Soorya festival will feature a Jugalbandi festival this year. The Jugalbandi festival will be held from December 6 to 9. Odissi-Bharatanatyam performance by Sandhya Manoj and Namita Bodaji, Mohiniyattom jugalbandi by Nair Sisters Veena and Dhanya, Mohiniyattom – Kuchipudi jugalbandi by Rekha Raju and Rekha Satish and Kuchipudi jugalbandi by Devi and Girish Chandra will be held. Jalsa Ghar, dedicated to Hindustani music, will be held at YMCA Auditorium from October 21 to 31. Hindustani vocalists Ramesh Narayan, Fayaz Khan, Manjari, Gayathri and Shahbaz Aman will be among the performers. ‘Meet the masters’ programme will be held from November 21 to 25. It will be a tribute to actor Om Puri and five of his films will be screened. The grand finale of the festival will be on Jan 11, 2018 when Chandu Menon’s masterpiece ‘Indulekha’ will be staged as a dance-music drama at Government school, Attakulangara.

When: 21st September 2017-11th January 2018

Where: Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

Gustor of Deskit monastery in Nubra

Deskit Monastery also known as Deskit Gompa or Diskit Gompa is the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery (gompa) in the Nubra Valley of Ladakh. It belongs to the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong Khapa, founder of Gelugpa, in the 14th century. Gustors take place at different monasteries at different time of the year. The festival takes place for two days. The celebration is to mark the victory over evils. The mask worn by the dancers represent the Guardians, Protectors and the Gods and Goddesses. The festival ends with the symbolic assassination of evils and burning of the effigy of evils. Deskit monastery also celebrates its Gustor festival. A major highlight of the celebrations is the resident Lamas performing sacred masked dances (or a ‘chaam’) accompanied by music from drums, cymbals and long horns in the monastery courtyard. These dances mark the victory of good over evil. A major highlight of the celebrations is the resident Lamas performing sacred masked dances (or a ‘chaam’) accompanied by music from drums, cymbals and long horns in the monastery courtyard. These dances mark the victory of good over evil.

When: 17th-18th October 2017

Where: Deskit Monastery, Deskit, Nubra valley, Ladakh. Deskit is 120 kilometres from Leh and just 7 kilometres before Hunder known for its sand dunes.

The charm of Pushkar

One of India’s favourite fair. The 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:  28th October to 4th November 2017

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.

 

Two temple festivals from down south in God’s Own country- Kerala:

A festival for serpent gods

The Aayilliya Mahotsavam at Sree Nagaraja Swami Temple at Vetticode falls on the day in the Malayalam month of Kanni, every year. The celebrations would start seven days prior to the Aayilliyam day. In these days, various special poojas, homas and kalasa poojas are performed so as to increase the deity’s power and the power to shower blessings on worshippers. To please the deity, high sounding instruments are played by a group of experts. The nadabrahma that flows through the pipes of Nadaswara experts, the Kombu and Kuzhal (wind instruments) that are played to the accompaniment of percussion instruments viz. Maddallam and Chenda and the magical notes of the Edakka and the Thakil would transform the devotees to a different level of devotional experience. Soon after this the Ezhunnallathu (ceremonial procession) would begin. It starts from the temple and proceeds to the Meppallil Illam at about 3 p.m. and after the poojas there, returns to the temple. By dusk, the famous Sarpabali begins and concludes by around 9.30 p.m. The temple will remain closed up to Brahma Muhoortha and after that the Shuddi Kriyas (purification rituals) will begin. This is followed by the abhisheka with tender coconut water from thousands of coconuts and pure milk. The festival will conclude with the daily poojas and Panchamritha Nivedhya.

When: 8th to 14th October 2017

Where: Sree Nagaraja Swami Temple, Vettikode, Alappuzha

Grandeur of Alpashi Utsavam

Held at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, the Alpasi festival is a grand festival celebrated with much fanfare and sees the participation of scores of people from across the State.The crowning moment of this magnificent festival is the aarattu ceremony or the holy bath of the deities in the sea. The aarattu procession starts from the temple and proceeds to the Shanghumugham Beach. It is, in fact, a magnificent sight to watch the procession which is escorted by the head of the Travancore royal family, bearing a sword. Thousands of devotees will throng to watch the procession which has an elaborate line-up of magnificently decorated elephants, mounted police and columns of armed police. This annual ritual which falls in October or November is one that should not be missed.

When: 19th to 28th October 2017

Where: Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, East Fort, Thiruvananthapuram

Now two more festivals from Rajasthan, this time from close to Udaipur-

Dance and grandeur at Ranakpur

Ranakpur, a village located in Desuri tehsil near Sadri town in the Pali district of Rajasthan welcomes you all to the “The Ranakpur Festival”.  It’s a splendid opportunity for the tourists to once again gain an insight into the life of people of Rajasthan with the onset of cultural and religious festivals one after another. Just like folk festivals in Jodhpur and Jaipur, the holy town of Ranakpur near Pali will also witness the Ranakpur Festival, a melange of Rajasthani folk performances and classical dances as well as renditions by renowned vocal artists and dance performers. Department of Tourism, Rajasthan, is organising this festival which comprises of holy chanting, cultural programmes, conventional Kathak performances and Classical Odissi performances. Besides, every morning at 8.00 o’clock a jungle safari is also organised for the guests of Ranakpur Festival. Some of the other attractions of this festival would be the food and craft bazaar where a great mixture of several cultures and amazing art & craft would be seen and experienced along with the arrangements for Rock Climbing. Beautifully sculptured Jain temples of Ranakpur mark the glory of this renowned place. Considered as one of the five holy places for the Jain community, these were created in the 15th century during the reign of Rana Kumbha. These are enclosed within a wall. The central Chaumukha [four faced temple] is dedicated to Adinathji. The temple is an astounding creation of architectural splendor with 29 halls and 1,444 pillars all distinctly carved, no two pillars being alike. For the tourism buffs a ride to the outskirts like ‘ Sadari’ – ‘Desuri’- ‘Ghanerao’- ‘Narlai’, will be found to be exciting.

Date: 6th -7th October 2017

Venue: Ranakpur, Rajasthan

Getting there: Ranakpur is just 90 minutes’ drive from Udaipur.  Udaipur is well connected with air, train and bus services from all major cities of North and West India. From Udaipur, one can hire a taxi or a bus for Ranakpur. 

A lantern festival for city of lakes

Lantern festivals have normally been popular in South East Asia, but now Indian cities also seem to be following the trend and evolving festivals of their own.  Among them is city of Lakes- Udaipur. Udaipur Lantern Festival is a unique concept by UdaipurBlog incepted 5 years back in year 2012 to celebrate the pious festivity of Diwali in Udaipur at a common place and sharing joy with others. The festival witnesses amazing live performances by Artists, Buzzing Bazaar that will bring Local Finds and Foods, Art Installations and Fun Activities. This year festival starts with games, food stalls and buzzing bazaar. Start with the local performances & Swaraag – A Indo Western Music Band. Begins the performances of the evening – Papon takes the stage. Music takes the evening – Performances by DJ Kavish. Festival ends with lighting of lanterns, this blissful ending of the fest with a hope of new start. The number of people attending the event has increased from 800 to 4500 in five years.

When: 15th October 2017

Where: Shouryagarh Resort & Spa, Udaipur, Rajasthan

 

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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.

October is all devotion & music!

India’s festive season officially underway and will continue for more than a couple of months. This is time for one big festival which is celebrated in various parts of India in various ways- from Bengal to Gujarat and Kullu to Mysore. Time for some devotional travel. Actually this also brings to start season of India’ some well-known music festivals. Let’s have a look at some of the top events for travel in this month.

Ramlila of Ramnagar at Varanasi

Ramlila of RamnagarThis is one of the holiest of Indian cities as per hindu mythology. Varanasi has always been a magnet for the spiritual, the religious, for holy seers and for the hippies. During the ten days of the Dussehra, the city becomes famous for its Ramlila, often considered to be the one of the oldest and perhaps grandest ramlila in world. Fifteen kilometers from the main city lies Ramnagar, where the Ram Leela is enacted in a unique manner. Unlike the rest of the country, where the enactment is done on single stages, here in Ramnagar the whole town is transformed into a large Ram Leela ground, structures are built and different spaces represent different locations in the story.  The whole Ram lila takes place over a month. For a month, Ramnagar is transformed into a giant stage for the story of Ram to unfold. Permanent structures and parts of the town within a five-kilometre radius are named after places mentioned in the epic, and different episodes of the lila are enacted at different venues every day. On most days, the Ramlila moves – the cast, the Kashi Naresh, audiences and all. Sometimes, the movement is within a larger venue. Sadhus coming to Ramnagar from all over the country during this time and reciting Ramcharitramanas are called Ramayanis and the audience follows the performers all over town.  Even though thousands of devotees, bystanders, tourists throng the town during this month, it is incredible to note that most of the recital is done without the aid of any loudspeakers, electric lights or mikes, and the audience maintains a hushed silence throughout the Ramayani recital. Audiences move around from one location to another in order to see the one of its kind Ramlila. The crowd ranges from a few thousand for some episodes, up to a lakh for episodes like Ram and Sita’s wedding, Dussehra (when a 60-feet high effigy of the Raavan is burnt), Bharat Milaap, and the coronation of Ram (the most auspicious episode). On the day after Dussehra, Varanasi celebrates the Bharat Milaap festival, which commemorates Ram’s return to Ayodhya and his reunion with younger brother Bharat.  This takes place at Nati Imli, and thousands of people flock and gather to see Ram meet Bharat.  People wear tilak on their foreheads and garland the brothers. Watching the entire scene from the background every year is Kashi Naresh (former king of Varanasi) in his regal attire and finery.

When: 15th September-16th October 2016

Where: Ramnagar, Varanasi

Music under the full moon

RIFF at JodhpurJodhpur RIFF, ranked amongst the Top 25 International Music Festivals in the world, is back again this year to enthral music lovers. Begun in 2007, the Jodhpur RIFF brings together more than 250 Musicians and performing artists from across Rajasthan and around the world to celebrate their musical heritage and create new sounds through innovative collaborations, for five days in October each year. Timed to coincide with the brightest full moon of the year in north India, Sharad Poornima, Jodhpur RIFF features a series of spectacular concerts and events based in and around Mehrangarh Fort – voted “Asia’s Best Fortress” by Times Magazine. The Festival is a heady combination of Folk, Jazz, Sufi and contemporary music that transcend global boundaries.  Jodhpur RIFF includes performances by master musicians from local Rajasthan communities, sensational headline acts showcased each night on the Main Stage, and cutting-edge global dance grooves that will keep the party going late into the night at Club Mehran. Interactive daytime sessions for visitors, school children and families are staged against the breathtaking backdrop of the Fort. The Jodhpur RIFF is a joint initiative of the Mehrangarh Museum Trust and the Jaipur Virasat Foundation. Gaj Singh of Marwar-Jodhpur is the Chief Patron of Jodhpur RIFF, while Mick Jagger, front man of the rock band The Rolling Stones is International Patron of Jodhpur RIFF. The festival has been endorsed by UNESCO as a “Peoples’ Platform for Creativity and Sustainable Development.”

When: 13rd-17th October 2016

Where: Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Getting there: Jodhpur is well connected by Air, Train and Bus services from all major cities of North India.

The Marwar extravaganza

Marwar FestivalAnother musical extravaganza at Jodhpur. Marwar Festival is held every year in memory of the heroes of Rajasthan. The festival is held in the month of Ashwin (September-October) in Jodhpur, for two days during the full moon of Sharad Poornima. Originally known as the Maand Festival, this festival features folk music centered on the romantic lifestyle of Rajasthan’s rulers. Organised by Rajasthan tourism and Jodhpur administration, this festival is devoted to the music and dance of the Marwar region and offers a good opportunity to see the folk dancers carrying pots on their heads and singers who assemble here and provide hours of lively entertainment. These folk artistes provide a glimpse of the days of yore, of battles and valiant heroes who still live on in their songs. Other attractions at the festival are the camel tattoo show and polo. The government Ummaid stadium, the historical clock tower in the midst of the old city and the sand dunes of Osian village provide the ideal venue for the cultural extravaganza – an integral part of the festival. On first day morning there is a procession from Ummaid stadium to the old city and back. There are various competitions during the day and the camel tattoo show by the BSF. In the evening there is cultural performance by the folk artists of Rajasthan at clock tower. Events on the second day take place at Osian village. Osian is an ancient town located in the Jodhpur. It is an oasis in the Thar Desert, and has been known as the “Khajuraho of Rajasthan” for its temples. It lies 69 km by road north of the district headquarters at Jodhpur, on a diversion off the main Jodhpur-Bikaner Highway.

When: 15th-16th October 2016

Where: Various places, Jodhpur

Getting there: Jodhpur is well connected by Air, Train and Bus services from all major cities of North India.

Classical Music and Dance at Soorya Festival

Soorya Dance and Music festivalThis is 40th year of an astonishing music festival. You won’t believe that this festival will run for 111 days and in this edition around 2000 artists from around the country will take part in this. Every year Thiruvanthapuram in Kerala reverberates with the sound of music of the festival. All music and dance aficionados will have treat at this festival and be exposed to the very best of Indian cultural arts. Held by the Soorya Stage and Film Society, a cultural society which promotes the arts vigorously, the Soorya Festival of Music and Dance presents varied dance performances by artistes showcasing different dance forms like Kathak, Manipuri, Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam. Renowned dancers from all over India perform at this festival. Music concerts are also held at this festival and well known proponents in the Hindustani and Carnatic style perform jugalbandis, vocal and instrumental soirees. Soorya has its Chapters in 36 countries in the world. Soorya also has it’s actively working Chapters in 60 Centres in India. Actually in first week of October Soorya organizes festivals in almost every big city of Kerala as well as in some other big cities of South India such as Chennai, Bangalore and Madurai. Already started with the performance of ‘Ganesham’ this festival will also see performance of legendary singer Yesudas who has performed in each of editions of the festivals since its inception. Incredible!

When: 21st September 2016-11th January 2017

Where: Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

Getting there: Thiruvananthapuram is well connected by Air, Train and Bus services from all major cities of India. It is also an international airport.

Durga Puja at Barisha, the oldest

barisha_pujaBarisha is renowned for the Durga pujas. It is a residential locality of Kolkata. Historically, it is one of the oldest boroughs in Kolkata. It was the abode of the great Sabarna Roy Choudhury family. Barisha is known today for being the home of the Indian Cricket idol Sourav Ganguly. The six Durga Pujas of the Sabarna Roy Choudhury family are world famous. The Aatchala Bari hosts the oldest Durga puja of Kolkata which dates back to 1610, when the first Jaigirdar of the Sabarna Family Lksmikanta Roy Choudhury started the family puja at Barisha, which was a prosperous village of his donimion. The other pujas of the Sabarna family at Barisha are those of Baro Bari, Mejobari, Kalikingkar Bhawan, Benaki Bari, and Majher Bari. The family also established other pujas like Chandi puja, Jagatdhatri puja etc. and also founded a large number of temples like the Annapurna Temple, Radhakanto temple, Dwadash Shiva Temples etc. The Barisha Rathayatra Utsav started in 1719 is one of the oldest in the city and is quite famous. There is also a Lord Jagannath Temple (at least 150 years old) at Sakherbazar. So this puja, go and worship the goddess at one of the oldest Durga pujas in Bengal.

When: 5th-11th October 2016

Where: Barisha, Kolkata

Getting there: Barisha is situated in the southwest of Kolkata about 10 kilometres from the city centre Esplanade. Although originally a separate village, it is now under the Kolkata Municipal Corporation The area starts from Vivekananda Women’s College in the north and is spread to Thakurpukur in the south. The Diamond Harbour Road and the James Long Sarani runs through the heart of Barisha.

Garba at Navratri in Gujarat

garba-navratri-celebrationGarba is a folk dance in Gujarat and Navratris (nine nights for the goddess) had been the platform to perform the dance. Garba has been a traditional dance form to please the goddess Durga (or Kali) in Gujarat and many adjoining areas. There had been many folk songs in which devotees are requesting the bird to fly to Kali’s temple and ask her to come as they are performing garbas. But off late with advent of mass media garba has become more of a popular dance and now you can’t imagine navratris in Gujarat without garbas. Young ones take special classes for these events to polish their garba dance skills. For those nine-ten days whole Gujarat seems to be doing grabs in the evenings. It has also become a huge travel event. Get there to actually feel the pulse.

When: 1st-10th October 2016

Where: Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and many more places in Gujarat

Pleasing the snake gods at Mannarasala Ayilyam

mannarasala-ayilyamMannarassala Ayilyam 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.

When: 24th October 2016

Where: Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple, Harippad, Alappuzha. Harippad railway station is just 3 kms from the temple while Cochin International Airport is about 115 km away.

Gustor of Deskit monastery in Nubra

deskit_gompaDeskit Monastery also known as Deskit Gompa or Diskit Gompa is the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery (gompa) in the Nubra Valley of Ladakh. It belongs to the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong Khapa, founder of Gelugpa, in the 14th century. Gustors take place at different monasteries at different time of the year. The festival takes place for two days. The celebration is to mark the victory over evils. The mask worn by the dancers represent the Guardians, Protectors and the Gods and Goddesses. The festival ends with the symbolic assassination of evils and burning of the effigy of evils. Deskit monastery also celebrates its Gustor festival. A major highlight of the celebrations is the resident Lamas performing sacred masked dances (or a ‘chaam’) accompanied by music from drums, cymbals and long horns in the monastery courtyard. These dances mark the victory of good over evil. A major highlight of the celebrations is the resident Lamas performing sacred masked dances (or a ‘chaam’) accompanied by music from drums, cymbals and long horns in the monastery courtyard. These dances mark the victory of good over evil.

When: 28th-29th October 2016

Where: Deskit Monastery, Deskit, Nubra valley, Ladakh. Deskit is 120 kilometres from Leh and just 7 kilometres before Hunder known for its sand dunes.

Grandeur of Ramlilas of Delhi

Vijayadashami in DelhiNow to the heart of the country. Delhi has a blend of Ramlila and Durga Puja. There are almost 1000 Ramlila and 250 puja pandals events are held in the city. Durga puja has been organised in the capital city before independence and the prominent ones are the pujas at Kashmiri Gate, Chittranjan Park and the New Delhi Kalibari. Delhi has been having Dussehra celebrations historically. Ramlila ground definitely has the largest congregation in the city, as the place gets its name exactly because of its Ramlila and Dussehra celebrations. Besides that, Subhash Maidan, opposite to Red Fort has another big Ramlila and Dussehra celebration. USP of Delhi’s Dussehra celebrations has been that, being national capital it gets maximum exposure. Both the biggest Ramlilas, one at Subhash Maidan and other one at Ramlila maidan get the high presence of celebrities, political bigwigs. Likes of Prime Minister and top political brass make it a point to be there at these two places on Dussehra and fire the customary arrow towards effigy of Ravana. Besides, these ramlilas are also known for presence of glitterati and who’s who of Bollywood. Actually, many of these ramlilas had been used earlier for promoting various films. Hence these stars provide an added attraction. There is also a marked difference between ramlilas of likes of Ramnagar and those in Delhi. While Ramnagar ramlila still holds its original style and presentation, those in Delhi are marked for their use of modern technology and innovations blending them very beautifully with ramlila performances. This is something liked a lot by the younger audiences, as it is always a challenge to attract new audiences for ramlilas especially in bigger metros.  Nevertheless, ramlilas in Delhi are a big draw among locals and visitors alike and are considered a must-see among top Dussehra celebrations of India.

When: 1st -11th October 2016

Where: Ramlila Maidan, Delhi

Dussehras of different hues 

Dasara in MysoreA festival so deep-rooted in our mythology is unique in the sense that it is celebrated in so different forms in different parts of country. Dussehra is marked as the victory of Good over evil, but the celebrations have taken various forms at various places. With underlying message the same in all of them, they all are worth a visit to understand the local customs, beliefs and rituals. Mysore Dasara is known for its sheer grandeur and participation. Mysore, or Mahishur as it was called in the past, traces its history back to the mythical past, when Goddess Chamundeshwari of Chamundi Hill, killed the wicked buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura. The city of Mysore has a long tradition of celebrating the Dasara festival and the festivities here are an elaborate affair and attract a large audience from all over the world. Another unique celebration from remote interiors of the country. The most important festival in Bastar is the Dusshera when all the deities from the surrounding villages unite at the temple of Danteshwari in Jagdalpur, the district headquarters. Unlike Dusshera in other parts of India, here it is not the celebration of return of Rama to Ayodhaya.  Dusshera in Bastar is devoted entirely to the goddess, Danteshwari Devi. Then, Kota in Rajasthan has a very popular Dussehra celebration as well, known for a mixed urban-rural ethos of this religious occasion. Located on the banks of the Chambal River, Kota celebrates a number of festivals. However, this festival of Dussehra bears a distinct appeal altogether. Here Dussehra fair is observed for 25 days. Then, after the whole country winds up the celebration of Dussehra by burning the effigies of Ravana, then the Dussehra at Kullu begins. The festival commences on the tenth day of the rising moon, i.e. on Vijayadashmi day itself and continues for seven days. The birth of Dussehra in Kullu lay in royal fads and it nourished on religious, social and economic factors and ultimately came to be well established, because of the inborn love of the hill- men for fun, frolic, displayed in community singing and dancing. Kullu Dusshehra is a beautiful amalgam of history, culture and customs. Another Dussehra in the hills is in the top list for its traditional style and culture. In the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, the Dussehra festival starts with the performance of Ramlila which is unique as it is based on the musical rendering of the katha or story of Lord Rama. It is based on the theatrical traditions set by Uday Shankar during his stay in Almora; these traditions were further enriched by Mohan Upreti and Brijendra Lal Sah. Almora’s Kumaoni style enactment has also been recognized by UNESCO as one of the most representative Ramlilas along with places like Ayodhya, Varanasi, Vrindavan and Madhubani.

When: 11th October 2016

Where: Mysore, Bastar, Kullu, Kota and Almora

 

Earliest sacrificers for sake of environment!

On the World Environment Day, one of the most inspiring stories of environment protection. Story of one of those rare incidents in the world, when people sacrificed their lives for the sake of the environment. A story that happened more than hundred years ago before the famed ‘Chipko Movement’ of Uttarakhand led by legendary Sundarlal Bahuguna. This particular story is from area just bordering India’s great Thar Desert in Rajasthan. This story is from close to Jodhpur, from a place made famous by that infamous episode of Bollywood actor Salman Khan and others hunting a black buck and then finding themselves under the wrong side of law.

A place where sights like this are common and so pleasing-

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This is story of Khejadi Kalan, a village 25 kms from Jodhpur on the Sardarsamand road where on a monsoon day almost 190 years before 363 people laid their lives to save trees. A memorial at that place is the reminder of that heroic story. An incident unparalleled in environmental history and what more, that historic movement was led by a woman Amrita Devi Vishnoi.

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Vishnois of this area are firm believer of protecting every life including trees. That is how Salman Khan landed in trouble when he along with his fellow actors hunted down a blackbuck. Since there are no predators or big wild cats here in this area, hence the deers and especially the blackbucks have a free run here. You can see them running everywhere around.

But the Vishnois of this area are equally sensitive to the plant life. Thats how that historical event took place. The then king of Jodhpur Abhay Singh ordered cutting down of Khejadli trees to get prepare limestone for the construction of his fort. He asked his minister Girdhar Bhandari to get the wood. But the local Vishnois will not let them do that. Vishnois of 84 villages got together to challenge the King’s order. They decided that they will embrace the trees and won’t leave them even if their heads are cut down. And, they actually laid their lives, not just one but 363 of them. When the news of this people’s revolution reached the king, he had to bow down. He then ordered a total prohibition of cutting down trees in the land of Vishnois. The tradition still continues.

People in this region are so much sensitive about tress that although they are hindus, they bury their dead because they will not like to burn wood with dead bodies on the pyres. The martyrs of that revolution were also buried and there is a memorial at that place today. Peacocks and the blackbucks welcome people in the area, although not many tourists coming to Jodhpur go there or even know about it. Seldom their operators or hotels will tell them about this place. But it is something not to be missed when visiting Jodhpur.

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Very close to Khejadi Kalan is another village Guda Vishnoiyan, which has now been converted into a eco tourism spot. This place has rich density of black bucks because of a big pond, which is also home to many migratory and domicile birds and turtles.

Peppy in mother’s lap – Langurs in Mandore

Well, this post was always on cards, ever since I did my other posts on langurs of Ranthambore some time back. There were two immediate provocations (inspirations I should say). One was a post from fellow blogger Mukul Chand on Langurs and second one an invite from the #Indiblogger to take part in the #IndiMarathon. I fully agree with Mukul Chand that langurs are a photographers’ delight and I have photographed them a lot, at many places. This post is about langurs of the Mandore Garden complex in Jodhpur.

Ruling the Roost!!
Ruling the Roost!!

Ancient name of Mandore was Mandavyapura and it was capital of Marwar till the foundation of Jodhpur in the middle of the 15th century. However existence of the old fort on the hill is traced back to 4th century.  Well, will discuss the history and architectural importance of Mandore in some other post. But Langurs are the important feature of Mandore Gardens.

Mandore gardens are home to these playful grey langurs. There is no concrete local word on how, when and why langurs made this complex as their home. But there is a large number of them since very long. The present generations of locals have been seeing them since they opened their eyes. In most parts of Rajasthan, actually you will find these Hanuman Langurs in large numbers as opposed to rhesus macaques (pink-faced monkeys) found more towards central parts of the country. People feed these langurs regularly and when hungry, they don’t hesitate to check travellers baggage at will (mostly if unattended). But they don’t look as aggressive as macaques of NCR region. They are more friendly. You can find them feeding vegetables carelessly.

But it has been always a delight to capture the innocence of the young ones in their mother’s lap. You can see that in the images above. So lively, so jubilant and so peppy! They are so oblivious of things happening around and just enjoy the own world (as do all the little ones across the planet). It was my field day photographing them.

Top 10 ideas for travel in India in October

Monsoon has more or less retracted from the whole country and now is time for some serious fun and fest. India’s festive season officially is about to underway and will continue for more than a couple of months. October starts with an extended weekend owing to Gandhi Jayanti. But there is much more that one can do in this autumn, especially in the later half of the month of October. Let’s have a look at some of the top ideas for travel in this month.

Ramnagar Ramlila, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Ramnagar ki RamlilaOne of the holiest of Indian cities as per hindu mythology, Varanasi has always been a magnet for the spiritual, the religious, for holy seers and for the hippies. During the ten days of the Dussehra, the city becomes famous for its Ramlila, often considered to be the one of the oldest and perhaps grandest ramlila in world.  Fifteen kilometers from the main city lies Ramnagar, where the Ram Leela is enacted in a unique manner. Unlike the rest of the country, where the enactment is done on single stages, here in Ramnagar the whole town is transformed into a large Ram Leela ground, structures are built and different spaces represent different locations in the story.  The whole Ram lila takes place over a month. For a month, Ramnagar is transformed into a giant stage for the story of Ram to unfold. Permanent structures and parts of the town within a five-kilometre radius are named after places mentioned in the epic, and different episodes of the lila are enacted at different venues every day. On most days, the Ramlila moves – the cast, the Kashi Naresh, audiences and all. Sometimes, the movement is within a larger venue. Sadhus coming to Ramnagar from all over the country during this time and reciting Ramcharitramanas are called Ramayanis and the audience follows the performers all over town.  Even though thousands of devotees, bystanders, tourists throng the town during this month, it is incredible to note that most of the recital is done without the aid of any loudspeakers, electric lights or mikes, and the audience maintains a hushed silence throughout the Ramayani recital. Audiences move around from one location to another in order to see the one of its kind Ramlila. The crowd ranges from a few thousand for some episodes, up to a lakh for episodes like Ram and Sita’s wedding, Dussehra (when a 60-feet high effigy of the Raavan is burnt), Bharat Milaap, and the coronation of Ram (the most auspicious episode). On the day after Dussehra, Varanasi celebrates the Bharat Milaap festival, which commemorates Ram’s return to Ayodhya and his reunion with younger brother Bharat.  This takes place at Nati Imli, and thousands of people flock and gather to see Ram meet Bharat.  People wear tilak on their foreheads and garland the brothers. Watching the entire scene from the background every year is Kashi Naresh (former king of Varanasi) in his regal attire and finery.

Date: 27th September-27th October 2015

Venue: Ramnagar, Varanasi

Classical Music and Dance at Soorya Festival

Soorya Dance and Music festivalFor ten days every year Thiruvanthapuram in Kerala reverberates with the sound of music. All music and dance aficionados will have treat at this festival and be exposed to the very best of Indian cultural arts. Held by the Soorya Stage and Film Society, a cultural society which promotes the arts vigorously, the Soorya Festival of Music and Dance presents varied dance performances by artistes showcasing different dance forms like Kathak, Manipuri, Bharta Natyam, Kathak, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam. Renowned dancers from all over India perform at this festival. Music concerts are also held at this festival and well known proponents in the Hindustani and Carnatic style perform jugalbandis, vocal and instrumental soirees. Soorya is a leading stage and film society, functioning with its headquarters in Trivandrum, the capital of kerala, the southernmost state of india. Soorya has its Chapters in 36 countries in the world. Soorya also has it’s actively working Chapters in 60 Centres in India. he main activities of Soorya include screening films of artistic excellence, presenting film directors and holding their retrospectives, organizing seminars and discussions, conducting festivals of music, dance, talk, video, theatre, painting, photography. Actually in first week of October Soorya organizes festivals in almost every big city of Kerala as well as in some other big cities of South India such as Chennai, Bangalore and Madurai.

Date: 1st-10th October 2015

Venue: Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

Getting there: Thiruvananthapuram is well connected by Air, Train and Bus services from all major cities of India. It is also an international airport.

Ramlilas of Delhi

Vijayadashami in DelhiNow to the heart of the country. Delhi has a blend of Ramlila and Durga Puja. There are almost 1000 Ramlila and 250 puja pandals events are held in the city. Durga puja has been organised in the capital city before independence and the prominent ones are the pujas at Kashmiri Gate, Chittranjan Park and the New Delhi Kalibari. Delhi has been having Dussehra celebrations historically. Ramlila ground definitely has the largest congregation in the city, as the place gets its name exactly because of its Ramlila and Dussehra celebrations. Besides that, Subhash Maidan, opposite to Red Fort has another big Ramlila and Dussehra celebration. USP of Delhi’s Dussehra celebrations has been that, being national capital it gets maximum exposure. Both the biggest Ramlilas, one at Subhash Maidan and other one at Ramlila maidan get the high presence of celebrities, political bigwigs. Likes of Prime Minister and top political brass make it a point to be there at these two places on Dussehra and fire the customary arrow towards effigy of Ravana. Besides, these ramlilas are also known for presence of glitterati and who’s who of Bollywood. Actually, many of these ramlilas had been used earlier for promoting various films. Hence these stars provide an added attraction. There is also a marked difference between ramlilas of likes of Ramnagar and those in Delhi. While Ramnagar ramlila still holds its original style and presentation, those in Delhi are marked for their use of modern technology and innovations blending them very beautifully with ramlila performances. This is something liked a lot by the younger audiences, as it is always a challenge to attract new audiences for ramlilas especially in bigger metros.  Nevertheless, ramlilas in Delhi are a big draw among locals and visitors alike and are considered a must-see among top Dussehra celebrations of India.

Date: 12th -22nd October 2015

Venue: Ramlila Maidan, Delhi

Mysore Dasara, Mysore, Karnataka

Dasara in MysoreOn top of the list for its sheer grandeur and participation is Mysore Dasara. Mysore, or Mahishur as it was called in the past, traces its history back to the mythical past, when Goddess Chamundeshwari of Chamundi Hill, killed the wicked buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura. This event that marked the victory of Good over Evil is the inspiration behind the Dasara festivities. Mysore’s most famous festival is the 10 day Dasara, when the entire city gets itself up to celebrations that include a majestic procession, dance, music, varieties of cultural activities and a torch light parade. Mahishasura is the demon from whose name, the name Mysore has been derived. The city of Mysore has a long tradition of celebrating the Dasara festival and the festivities here are an elaborate affair and attract a large audience from all over the world. Festivities were first started by the Wodeyar King, Raja Wodeyar I (1578-1617 CE) in the year 1610. It was during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III in the year 1805, when the king started the tradition of having a special durbar in the Mysore Palace during Dasara, which was attended by members of the royal family, special invitees, officials and the masses. The Mysore Palace is lit up on all the 10 days of Dasara.  On Vijayadashami, the traditional Dasara procession (locally known as Jamboo Savari) is held on the streets of Mysore city. The main attraction of this procession is the idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari which is placed in a golden howdah on the top of a decorated elephant. This idol is worshipped by the royal couple and other invitees before it is taken around in the procession. Colourful tableaux, dance groups, music bands, armed forces, folklores, the royal identities, decorated elephants, horses and camels form a part of the procession which starts from the Mysore Palace and culminates at a place called Bannimantap, where the Banni tree (Prosopis spicigera) is worshipped. According to a legend of the Mahabharata, Banni tree was used by the Pandavas to hide their arms during their one-year period of Agnatavasa (living life incognito). Before undertaking any warfare, the kings traditionally worshipped this tree to help them emerge victorious in the war. The Dasara festivities would culminate on the night of Vijayadashami with an event held in the grounds at Bannimantap called as Panjina Kavayithu (torch-light parade).

Date: 12th -22nd October 2015

Venue: Mysore, Karnataka

Bastar Dussehra, Jagdalpur, Chattisgarh

Tribal Dussehra in BastarAnother unique celebration from remote interiors of the country. The most important festival in Bastar is the Dusshera when all the deities from the surrounding villages unite at the temple of Danteshwari in Jagdalpur, the district headquarters. Unlike Dusshera in other parts of India, here it is not the celebration of return of Rama to Ayodhaya.  Dusshera in Bastar is devoted entirely to the goddess, Danteshwari Devi. The festival involves participation of all the major tribes of Bastar. Bastar lies in Dandakaranya region, where Lord Rama is believed to have spent fourteen years of his exile; yet the Dussehra here has nothing to do with Lord Rama or the Ramayana and has a distinct identity of its own that is unique to anywhere else in India. Instead of rejoicing and celebrating in the traditional style, the tribals celebrate Dussehra by hailing Devi Maoli (Bastar’s native deity, the elder sister of Devi Danteshwari, family goddess of the ruling Kakatiya family) and all her sisters. Bastar Dussehra is replete with historical facts and cultural legacies. Dussehra is celebrated by the Raj family for ten days, a period where arms gifted by their family Goddess are worshipped with ardent devotion. A unique tradition is the formal handing over of the charge of the state’s management to the Diwan in the presence of the Zamindars and other noted people of Bastar region. A lot of history and lore is attached to the Dussehra festival in this part of the country. The origin of Bastar Dussehra goes back to an event in the 15th century A.D. The Kakatiya ruler (descendants of Chalukya Dynasty) King Purushottam Deo visited Jagannath Puri temple for worship and came back as ‘Rath-pati’, which means he could from then on mount the chariot as he had the necessary ‘divine permission’ for it. This tradition has withstood the test of time and is being maintained till date – it is now celebrated with all fervor as the 500-year-old festival of Bastar. Interestingly, earlier it was a Hindu festival, but later the tribal customs and norms were assimilated into the festivities. For ten days, the king (as the high-priest of Devi Danteshwari) gives up his office and worships the goddess Danteshwari full-time. Local versions of the Ramayana, including the banishment of Lord Rama for fourteen years and his victory over Ravana, abound in Bastar region. The celebrations too are culturally rich. On the tenth day, the chief of Bastar is symbolically kidnapped in his sleep by Muria tribesmen and taken to their settlement in village Kunharbokra. In the evening, the chief, seated on a huge rath, is slowly taken towards the town. Bhatra tribals have a special role to essay in this ceremony – armed with bows and arrows they make way for the rath. Each tribe has a set role to play in the ceremonies. The rath is always exclusively constructed by the Saoras tribesmen. The iron nails used in the wooden rath are made by Lohars, blacksmiths. The ropes for dragging it are prepared and supplied by Parja tribesmen. Its construction is supervised by the Dhakada people. Before the rath is actually used, it is fervently worshipped by members of the Khaki caste. The girl who gets possessed in the temple of Kachhingudi Devi always hails from a weaver family. The musical band is played by the same caste year after year. The Bastar Dussehra is surely a study in tradition and influenced by local myths as well as religious beliefs as none other festival in the country. The pristine tribal culture is maintained to the core and age-old beliefs are adhered to with extreme sanctity.

Date: 12th -22nd October 2015

Venue: Jagdalpur, Bastar, Chattisgarh

Kota Dussehra, Kota, Rajasthan

Kota DussehraKota in Rajasthan has a very popular Dussehra celebration as well, known for a mixed urban-rural ethos of this religious occasion. Located on the banks of the Chambal River, Kota celebrates a number of festivals. However, this festival of Dussehra bears a distinct appeal altogether. The whole area boasts an attractive during this festival. This festival is celebrated all over the country but the Kota Dussehra is quite unique for it is more than just the beginning of a festive period.  More than 75 feet tall effigies of the demons Ravana, Kumbhakarana and Meghnad are burnt on Dussehra day to symbolise the victory of good over evil. Usually these effigies are filled with crackers. A young child dressed as Lord Ram is made to shoot an arrow of fire at Ravana and the huge figure is burnt. Villagers gather here dressed in multicoloured clothes to offer prayers to Lord Rama and to celebrate his victory over Ravana. Prominent artistes from all over the country are invited to participate in cultural programmes who enthral the huge audience with their performances. Rich in courtly splendour and age old traditions, the Dussehra festival here is marked by a glittering procession which attracts thousands from the surrounding villages. Like all festivals in Rajasthan, it provides a good opportunity to the traders to display their attractive wares to the rural and urban buyers. Small effigies of Lord Ram, Sita and Lakhsman are very common works of sculpture. The Dussehra Fair of Kota, popularly known as Dussehra Mela, is the most important event in the cultural calendar of the city. The history of this Dussehra fair goes back to 1723 AD. History tells that the celebration of Dussehra was started in the reign of Mahrao Durjanshal Singh Hada. At that time various religious programs at different temples were the main event of the ceremonies. Apart from this tradition of processions with royal splendour and the “Darikhana”, a royal meet of different Thikanedaars at the Palace, also started in the same period. During the State time the period of Dussehra festival was 3 days and the height of effigies of Ravan and his family was between 20 to 25 feet. This tradition was continued by the other Hada rulers. But the credit of making this religious event more attractive and colourful goes to Maharao Ummed Singh II (1889-1940 A.D.) Since then the festivities have changed manifolds. Now the Dussehra fair is observed for 25 days. The height of the effigies of Ravan and his family has been raised to 75 Feet. Along with religious programs, many cultural programs have also become part of this astonishing event. On Vijayadashmi, somebody representing the erstwhile royal family shoots an arrow toward the effigy of Ravan which depicts the death of Ravan by the hands of Ram. More than 1 Lac people from Kota and nearby villages reach Dussehra Maidan to witness this event. From the next day onward the series of cultural programs starts. Prominent artists from all over the country are invited to participate in various cultural programmes. The events include kavi sammelans, Sindhi cultural programme, bhajan sandhya, Rajasthani poets meet, cultural show by schoolchildren, Rajasthani folk music and dance programme, all-India mushaira, Punjabi programme, qawwali night, etc. An interesting mixed cultural event of a nature of a semi-urban fair.

Date: 14th October-8th November 2015

Venue: Kota, Rajasthan

Kullu Dussehra, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh

Kullu DussehraNext in the list is another culture from the north. After the whole country winds up the celebration of Dussehra by burning the effigies of Ravana, then the Dussehra at Kullu begins. The festival commences on the tenth day of the rising moon, i.e. on Vijayadashmi day itself and continues for seven days. The birth of Dussehra in Kullu lay in royal fads and it nourished on religious, social and economic factors and ultimately came to be well established, because of the inborn love of the hill- men for fun, frolic, displayed in community singing and dancing. Numerous stalls offer a varity of local wares. This is also the time when the International Folk Festival is celebrated. Kullu Dusshehra is a beautiful amalgam of history, culture and customs. Unlike other regions of India, here effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhakarana are not burnt. It all started back in 1637 A. D. when Raja Jagat Singh was the ruler of the Valley. On the first fortnight of Ashwin month (mid September to mid October), the Raja invites all the 365 Gods and Goddesses of the Valley to Dhalpur maidan (Kullu) to perform a Yagna in Raghunathji’s honor. On the first day of Dusshera Goddess Hadimba of Manali comes down to Kullu. She is the Goddess of the royal family of Kullu. At the entrance of Kullu, the Royal Stick welcomes her and escorts her to the Palace. After blessing the royal family, she comes to Dhalpur. The idol of Raghunathji is saddled around Hadimba and placed in a Rath (chariot) adorned beautifully. Then they wait for the signal from Mata Bhekhli, which is given from top of the hill. The Rath is pulled with the help of ropes from its original place to another spot where it stays for the next six days. More than one hundred gods and goddesses mounted on colourful palanquins participate in this procession. It gives impression as if the doors of heaven have been opened and the gods have come down to the earth to rejoice. On the sixth day of the festival, the assembly of Gods takes place, which is called ‘Mohalla’. It is an impressive and a rare sight to see the multihued palanquins of Gods around the camp of Raghunathji. On the last day, the Rath is again pulled to the banks of river Beas where a pile of thorn bushes is set on fire to depict the burning of Lanka and the Rath is brought back to its original place. Raghunathji is taken back to the temple in Raghunathpur. Thus, world famous Dusshera comes to an end in a dignified way, full of festivities and grandeur. The Dhalpur grounds are full of vendors during Dusshera, who come from different parts of the country to sell their goods.

Date: 22nd -29th October 2015

Venue: Dholpur Maidan, Kullu

Enjoy music at RIFF, Jodhpur 

RIFF at JodhpurJodhpur RIFF, ranked amongst the Top 25 International Music Festivals in the world, is back again this year to enthral music lovers. Begun in 2007, the Jodhpur RIFF brings together more than 250 Musicians and performing artists from across Rajasthan and around the world to celebrate their musical heritage and create new sounds through innovative collaborations, for five days in October each year. Timed to coincide with the brightest full moon of the year in north India, Sharad Poornima, Jodhpur RIFF features a series of spectacular concerts and events based in and around Mehrangarh Fort – voted “Asia’s Best Fortress” by Times Magazine. The Festival is a heady combination of Folk, Jazz, Sufi and contemporary music that transcend global boundaries.  Jodhpur RIFF includes performances by master musicians from local Rajasthan communities, sensational headline acts showcased each night on the Main Stage, and cutting-edge global dance grooves that will keep the party going late into the night at Club Mehran. Interactive daytime sessions for visitors, school children and families are staged against the breathtaking backdrop of the Fort. The Jodhpur RIFF is a joint initiative of the Mehrangarh Museum Trust and the Jaipur Virasat Foundation. Gaj Singh of Marwar-Jodhpur is the Chief Patron of Jodhpur RIFF, while Mick Jagger, front man of the rock band The Rolling Stones is International Patron of Jodhpur RIFF. The festival has been endorsed by UNESCO as a “Peoples’ Platform for Creativity and Sustainable Development.”

Date: 23rd-27th October 2015

Venue: Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Getting there: Jodhpur is well connected by Air, Train and Bus services from all major cities of North India.

The Marwar Festival, Jodhpur

Marwar FestivalAnother musical extravaganza at Jodhpur. Marwar Festival is held every year in memory of the heroes of Rajasthan. The festival is held in the month of Ashwin (September-October) in Jodhpur, for two days during the full moon of Sharad Poornima. Originally known as the Maand Festival, this festival features folk music centered on the romantic lifestyle of Rajasthan’s rulers. Organised by Rajasthan tourism and Jodhpur administration, this festival is devoted to the music and dance of the Marwar region and offers a good opportunity to see the folk dancers carrying pots on their heads and singers who assemble here and provide hours of lively entertainment. These folk artistes provide a glimpse of the days of yore, of battles and valiant heroes who still live on in their songs. Other attractions at the festival are the camel tattoo show and polo. The government Ummaid stadium, the historical clock tower in the midst of the old city and the sand dunes of Osian village provide the ideal venue for the cultural extravaganza – an integral part of the festival. On first day morning there is a procession from Ummaid stadium to the old city and back. There are various competitions during the day and the camel tattoo show by the BSF. In the evening there is cultural performance by the folk artists of Rajasthan at clock tower. Events on the second day take place at Osian village. Osian is an ancient town located in the Jodhpur. It is an oasis in the Thar Desert, and has been known as the “Khajuraho of Rajasthan” for its temples. It lies 69 km by road north of the district headquarters at Jodhpur, on a diversion off the main Jodhpur-Bikaner Highway.

Date: 26th-27th October 2015

Venue: Various places, Jodhpur

Getting there: Jodhpur is well connected by Air, Train and Bus services from all major cities of North India.

Dance and grandeur at Ranakpur

Ranakpur FestivalIts Rajasthan once again. Rajasthan stands out as a tourist destination for its colourful fairs and festivals. Ranakpur, a village located in Desuri tehsil near Sadri town in the Pali district of Rajasthan welcomes you all to the “The Ranakpur Festival”.  It’s a splendid opportunity for the tourists to once again gain an insight into the life of people of Rajasthan with the onset of cultural and religious festivals one after another. Just like folk festivals in Jodhpur and Jaipur, the holy town of Ranakpur near Pali will also witness the Ranakpur Festival, a melange of Rajasthani folk performances and classical dances as well as renditions by renowned vocal artists and dance performers. Department of Tourism, Rajasthan, is organising this festival which comprises of holy chanting, cultural programmes, conventional Kathak performances and Classical Odissi performances. Besides, every morning at 8.00 o’clock a jungle safari is also organised for the guests of Ranakpur Festival. Some of the other attractions of this festival would be the food and craft bazaar where a great mixture of several cultures and amazing art & craft would be seen and experienced along with the arrangements for Rock Climbing. Beautifully sculptured Jain temples of Ranakpur mark the glory of this renowned place. Considered as one of the five holy places for the Jain community, these were created in the 15th century during the reign of Rana Kumbha. These are enclosed within a wall. The central Chaumukha [four faced temple] is dedicated to Adinathji. The temple is an astounding creation of architectural splendor with 29 halls and 1,444 pillars all distinctly carved, no two pillars being alike. For the tourism buffs a ride to the outskirts like ‘ Sadari’ – ‘Desuri’- ‘Ghanerao’- ‘Narlai’, will be found to be exciting.

Date: 28th -29th October 2015

Venue: Ranakpur, Rajasthan

Getting there: Ranakpur is just 90 minutes’ drive from Udaipur.  Udaipur is well connected with air, train and bus services from all major cities of North and West India. From Udaipur, one can hire a taxi or a bus for Ranakpur.