Tag Archives: Ranakpur

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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Obscured by an architectural wonder!

How often will we visit a landmark destination and return satisfied, without even knowing whether there was anything else, that we missed in the aura of that wonder! There are many hidden architectural gems in India. How often would have we noticed the shark difference between number of visitors to Taj Mahal and then to Tomb of I’timad-Ud-Daulah in Agra!! Well, this is not about Agra, but about something down west in Rajasthan, close to Udaipur.

You would have heard about famous Jain Temples at Ranakpur.

(Read: Going to Udaipur! Don’t miss on these 10 things)

This temple I am talking about, is right adjacent to Ranakpur temples  and actually in the same complex. But as it happens, not even one percent of the tourists going to Ranakpur visit this quite smaller temple. Ranakpur has actually three temples in the complex- main is the one we all know- Chaturmukha Jain Temple of Adinath. Other two are- Sun temple and the Suparshvanatha temple (सुपार्श्वनाथ मंदिर). These two temples are obscured under the grandeur of the main Jain temple.

View of Chaturmukha Adinath temple from Suparshvanatha temple in Ranakpur

However small these temples might be, but they are architectural beauty themselves. The temple we are talking about it is Suparshvanatha Temple. Suparshvanatha was the 7th Jain Tirthankara and was said to be born to King Pratistha and Queen Prithvi of Varanasi. Now there is no inscription here to tell us that when was this temple exactly built, before the Adinath temple or after that. But what we are sure of is that this temple has very beautiful intrinsic architecture.

This temple is also famous for erotic sculptures on its walls. And for this, it reminds me of two other temples in Rajasthan- one close to Udaipur near the Elkingji temple-

(Read: Forgotten heritage and shades of Khajuraho near Udaipur)

And another one is in Sariska Tiger Reserve near Alwar-

(Read: Khajuraho of Aravalis: Neelkanth)

Some locals say that because of its erotic sculptures, this temple was also called as Paturiyon Ka Mandir (पटुरियों का मंदिर- temple of prostitutes) . Was there any other reason for this, is not known. But indeed this temple has some remarkable erotic sculptures. Not all of them, but few of them might be comparable to even sculptures of Khajuraho for their sheer beauty.

Many of the sculptures here are intact, but there are still many which have been either defaced or weathered out.  There also seems to be some difference between periods of different sculptures because of their figures. That might also be because some of them are pretty damaged or weathered out or look quite raw.  But you can’t miss the eroticism in them. Have a look yourself-

Many of these expressions could be easily find in Khajuraho. It also belies the myth that the Jain temples didn’t have such explicit sculptures. A lot remains unanswered due to unavailability of details about origin of this temple. It might sure be part of local folklores, but then it needs to be researched more.

Other than the sculptures pictures above, most of other sculptures are quite intrinsic, detailed and beautiful.

Many of the designs and sculptures are quite typical of Jain sculptures of those times (Ranakpur temple was built in 15th century using Maru-Gurjara architecture of West India).

This architectural style is considered to be different from North Indian temple architecture. Also lies the fact that Jainism has been very strong in these areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Hence, next time you visit Ranakpur temple, don’t forget to visit this small temple which will certainly remind you of sculptures of Khajuraho.

Ranakpur temple

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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.