Tag Archives: snake boats

Onam to Bathukamma via Ladakh Festival!

It is one of those months, which have festivities right from start till end and that too almost in every corner of the country and with many shades. How wonderful to have all these occasions to supplement the usual zest for travel! And, what a diversity we have, it can be envious for any other country on the planet. Just consider this- the nine days before Vijayadashmi are celebrated as Durga Puja in Bengal, Garba in Gujarat, Ramlila in north and as Bathukamma in Telangana. All these festivals celebrated on same days of calendar have different myths, different customs, different performances, different food but same gusto. Even the ramlilas are different in different parts and so is Vijayadashami.

Festival of prosperity & joy – Onam

Festivities for the month start with Onam in Kerala. Its interesting that in spite of centuries that passed by, various rulers having ruled the land, the mythical King Mahabali enjoys a popularity that no other ruler can boast of! The greatest charm of Onam lies undoubtedly in the coming together of the Malayali folk to welcome the mythical king on his imaginary annual visit to the land. The ten-day long festival begins with atham asterism in the Malayalam month of Chingam and culminates grandly on the day of Thiruvonam. The households bubbling and bustling with energy is a sight reserved during Onam days. As per mythology, King Mahabali decided to leave for the nether world, failing to keep his promise given to Lord Vishnu who came in the guise of Vaamana. As for the delicacies of Onam one would wish it to go on and on. Payasam (the traditional Kerala dessert), the show-stopper among the Onasadya (the sumptuous feast) is itself of plentiful variety. It is very interesting to watch how kids make every festival their own. Children dart in the neighbourhood in search of flowers to make floral carpets (pookkalam) that adorn their courtyards. Traditional arts and games throbs the rustic ambience of villages. The inevitable swing is a unique feature of this festivity. There are many Onam special programmes conducted across Kerala including Kerala Tourism sponsored programs all over the state. Atham asterism was on 25th August this year and  Thiruvonam will be celebrated on September 6, 2017.

 

Snake boat race at Aranmula

Onam has lot many things associated with the celebrations and among them are the traditional snake boat races of Kerala. Aranmula has got a unique place when it comes to the cultural imaginings of Kerala. The boat race held annually on the Uthrittathi asterism (as per the local Malayalam calendar) during the Onam festival is one the cultural hallmarks of this land. Teeming with rich tradition and rituals immersed in splendor, the Aranmula Uthrittathi boat race is considered more of a ritual than a race. Legend has it that a devout Brahmin vowed to offer all the requirements for the Thiruvona sadya (the grand traditional feast on the day of Thiruvonam) at the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Once, the boat known as Thiruvona Thoni carrying these offerings was attacked by enemies. In order to protect the Thiruvona Thoni people from neighbouring areas sent their snake boats. Later on, this practice evolved into an offering to Lord Parthasarathy in the form of a snake boat race, held on the Uthrittathi day, which eventually became popular as the Aranmula Boat Race. This year the boat race will be on 8th September 2017.

Where: Race is held in River Pamba in Aranmula, District Pathanamthitta of Kerala. If you want to be there than nearest railway station is Chengannur, about 11 km while nearest airport is Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, about 117 kms.

Regatta of remembrance with Payippad Boat Race

But than Aranmula is not the only boat race of Onam. Two days before the Aranmula boat race, takes place a legendary boat race at Payippad. It is also said to be perhaps the oldest boat race in Kerala. This one is in the northern part of the state though in all famous Alappuzha district. A regatta to commemorate a legend associated with water. The legend is about the installation of the idol in the Subrahmanya Swamy Temple, Haripad. The legend says that the villagers once had a vision, which directed them to a whirlpool in Kayamkulam Lake where they discovered the idol of Sree Subramanya. Held annually on the Payippad River, this boat race is noted for the largest participation of snake boats after the Nehru Trophy boat race. The boat race is marked by synergy, speed and rigour. Thousands swarm to the banks of Payippad River to celebrate the event. This event runs for three days. So if you can’t make it to Aranmula, then try to be at Payippad. There is another boat race on the same day- Sree Narayana Jayanthi Boat race at Kumarakom, one of the best beach resorts in Kerala. Payippad boat race event will run from 4th to 6th September 2017.

Where: Race will be at Payippad backwaters in Payippad, District Alappuzha. To reach there nearest railway station is Haripad, about 5 km while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 85 km from Alappuzha.

Pulikali, the tiger dance

There is still something more associated with Onam in Kerala. Come Onam and the Swaraj Round in Thrissur district becomes a hunting ground teeming with prowling tigers and wily hunters. Each tiger has its ferocity writ large on their faces as well as on their bellies. Yes, bellies, for these are not the four-legged tigers you would come across in the wild. Rather, they are all men with their bodies painted as that of tigers with life like vividness. Pulikali (the play of the tigers) is an event that has become synonymous with the festival of Onam in Kerala. Apart from the true colours of a tiger, one would also come across other colours and patterns and even the facial features of lions on the bodies of the performers. The finesse with which the makeup is done with paints is awe inspiring. With the performance being centred on playing hide-and-seek with a hunter wielding a gun, the event is exciting and fun for both the performers and the onlookers. To say the least, it is a riot of fiery colours that is a feast to the eyes. This year Pulakili will be celebrated on 8th September 2017.

Where: Swaraj Round, Thrissur. Nearest railway station is Thrissur, about a kilometre while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 58 km from Thrissur.

Spectacular Neelamperoor Patayani

Onam ends but festivities don’t in Kerala. ‘Neelamperoor Patayani’ is a spectacular event that falls in the Malayalam month of Chingam (usually August / September). Visiting Neelamperoor Palli Bhagavathy Temple during the time of annual patayani festival is a colourful treat to the eyes. The patayani (also called as padayani) celebration at this temple is said to have a history of around 1700 years. The word patayani literally means rows of army. Though patayani is performed in a number of other temples in Kerala, the one held at Neelamperoor is unique. Kettukazhcha (display of deftly decorated effigies) is what makes this festival stand out. A grand procession of huge effigies of swans and other legendary and mythical characters are brought in. The making of the effigies of swans is locally known as annam kettu. At night the ambience is set by a colourful procession carrying the effigies of mythological characters like Bhima, Ravana, and Yakshi, which is a spectacular sight. This year it will be celebrated on 19th September 2017.

Where: To witness this get to Palli Bhagavathi Temple at Neelamperoor in Alappuzha

Glory of Ramnagar Ramlila

Back to mainstream in 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. This year Ramnagar Ramlila will be organised from 5th September to 5th October 2017.

Dussehras of different hues 

Dussehra in Almora, Uttarakhand

A 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. This year Dussehra or Vijayadashami is on 30th September.

Cultural renascence through Bathukamma festival

Bathukamma at Lal badhur Stadium in Hyderabad.Photo/P Anil kumar

Bathukamma is one of the many undiscovered facets of Telangana which are now getting popularity with formation of separate state. The nine day Bathukamma festival is a celebration of womanhood and is an ode to the various emotions that woman feel. Bathukamma, a prominent festival prior to Dussehra is a historic festival embedded with the lives of woman in Telangana. Bathukamma represents the cultural spirit of Telangana and signifies the Goddess Maha Gauri, the patron goddess of womanhood. The Telangana government has declared ‘Bathukamma’ as a state festival. There are number of legends that surround this 1000 year old festival. Festival is most renowned for its large flower pyramids or ‘bathukammas’. Larger the better. Women spend hours building their bathukammas all through two week long celebrations. Once done, they offer it to the deities. The celebration is combined with traditional dance and folk songs. This year festival will be celebrated from 20th to 28th September.

Its all bright at Abhaneri Festival

This is comparatively a new entrant to Rajasthan’s festival calendar. ’Abhaneri festival’ is named after the village Abhaneri in the Dausa district which is around 90 km from Jaipur on the Agra road. This two-day festival has gained immense popularity amongst the tourists around the globe. This year, it will commence from 21st to 22nd September with various Rajasthani & local folk performances like Kachhi Ghori, Kalbeliya, Ghoomar, and Bhawai. Festival was initiated by Rajasthan Tourism in 2008, it is of great significance for Rajasthan. The village of Abhaneri was originally named Abha Nagri, meaning “city of brightness”. The place is popular for the Chand Baori-step well, one of the largest step wells built over a thousand years ago. Be a part of the celebrations at Abhaneri and dip into the rustic charm of traditional Rajasthani music.

Peak of season at Ladakh Festival 

So if you are done with all religious festivals than move north to Ladakh for yearly Ladakh festival. The main aim of organising this Ladakh festival in the month of September is to extend the lean tourist season in the region and also to represent and propagate the rich cultural heritage of the area. The grand success of the festival and the tremendous response from both foreign and home tourists is due to the rich cultural heritage and variety of other attractive programmes like traditional Polo match and Village archery. The famous monastic dance in the monasteries including exhibitions of invaluable Thankas and other Ritual Instruments of the monasteries. The tourists have the opportunities to see the entire traditional cultural programme of the region like Traditional Folk dance and songs of different parts of Ladakh. The grand achievements of the Ladakh Festival are noticeable of the significant increase in the arrivals of tourists during the lean tourist season of the year.Ladakh festival is celebrated from 20th to 26th September, every year in Leh and its villages. The inauguration ceremony of the festival takes place in Leh on a large scale with a procession of several cultural troupes from different part of the region which traverses through Leh Market. There is dancing, singing, traditional music, people wearing colourful traditional Ladakhi dresses. It comes to end at the Polo ground. The festival is for 6 days with regular celebration in various villages including archery, polo, and masked dances from the monasteries and dances by cultural troupes from the villages. There are musical concerts too. Best part is, that this is one of the best time to go to Ladakh region, just before the onset of winter.

 

EAT, DRINK, MERRY! at Ziro

Ziro Festival of Music is probably one of the most happening fun outdoor music festival in the country. It also showcases the India’s independent music scene. This year the festival will be held from 28th September to 1st October 2017. So far ZFM has featured stellar acts from around the world including Lee Ranaldo & Steve Shelley (SONIC YOUTH -USA), Lou Majaw, menwhopause, Shaa’ir n Func, Whirling Kalapas, Sky Rabbit, Peter cat recording Co, Guru Rewben Mashangva among others. This edition will be over four days and will feature 40 performances from across the globe as well as the best folk musicians from the North East on two stages. More than 6000 people are expected to attend the festival. Lineup for this year includes Reggae Rajahs, Damo Suzuki, The Kathmandu Killers, Alaska Snack Time, Alobo Naga & The Band, Bint El Funk, Rizal Abdulhadi, Jambili, Thaalavattam, Dhruv Visvanath and Sofia Ashraf among others. Ziro is primarily home to the Apatanis – simple, friendly and hospitable people with an interesting culture and legacy. They are a non-nomadic, agrarian tribe who share a responsible relationship with nature. Apatanis cultivate permanent wet land cultivations instead of dry land cultivations which involves burning forests. Ziro valley is lush with paddy farms and is known for its unique paddy cum fi sh cultivation where using traditional irrigation methods, farmers rear fish in the knee-deep water. Keeping them company are the adorable, shy, and harmless Indian Bisons. All visitors – Indian and foreigners – to Arunachal Pradesh need special permits to enter the state. Indians need an Inner Line Permit (ILP) and foreigners require a Protected Area Permit.

Getting there: Ziro is the district headquarters of Lower Subansiri district in Arunachal Pradesh (India) and is situated 167km from the capital, Itanagar. It is one of the oldest towns in Arunachal Pradesh in a valley at a height of over 5500 feet above sea level surrounded by misty mountains. The nearest airport is Tezpur. However, flights to Tezpur are often cancelled without reason. The best option is to fly to Guwahati and do the road journey. Guwahati is 450 kilometres from Ziro. It takes around 12 hours on road but lot also depends on weather. The nearest railhead is North Lakhimpur by Arunachal Express from New Bongaigaon. Direct buses are available from Guwahati, Itanagar and North Lakhimpur. You can also reach Naharlagun station by train which is 3 hours from Ziro. Naharlagun has overnight trains from Guwahati.

 

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Colours of turmeric this August

A yatra ends this month at Amarnath and another starts for another of Shiva’s abode in Himalayas, a bit less challenging but equally fascinating. That’s not all this month, this is actually start of the classical Indian festive season with two of most important religious celebrations- Janmashtami and Ganesh Chaturthi. But those are not only the ones which will catch your eyes, there is something else as golden as colour of turmeric which adds to the fervour of the month. Interestingly enough, in this peak monsoon time we already have an extended Independence day weekend in mid of month. There is also continuation of some excellent seasonal stuffs that have already taken off- boat races in Kerala and monastic festivals in Ladakh. Already soaked in? Come on! Its time to pack the bags to have experience of India’s unique cultural diversity. Let’s start.

Bhandara Festival of Golden turmeric

Photo: Google

I must say, I was totally ignorant about this festival until recently. Once I came to know about it, I couldn’t resist including it in the wishlist. It is a unique festival but up north we hardly got to know about it. Its a festival of golden turmeric dedicated to a local deity Khandoba. Maharashtrians call Jejuri as “Sonyachi Jejuri” which means Golden Jejuri, as during the festival the whole town takes a golden hue because of this turmeric play. Hence, the Bhandara festival is unique not just because it is celebrated with turmeric, but also because it has got no fixed date, season or month. Only reason for the festival has to be a Somvati Amavasya which means the new moon day falling on a Monday. And that can happen at any time of year and many times a year. So, practically, there are number of Bhandara festivals celebrated at Jejuri and all with same spirit and religious fervour. Thirdly, festival is also unique because of the deity. Khandoba is regarded as the “god of Jejuri” is probably be the most versatile and widely acknowledged deity being worshipped across many regions, religions, casts and communities. He is the most popular Kul Devata (family god) among one of the oldest shepherd tribe “Dhangar” and the patron deity of Deshastha Brahmin too. People from other communities like warriors, farming and herding castes too keep their high regards towards him. The cult of Khandoba has prominent linkages with Vaishnava and Jain traditions despite him being worshipped as Martanda Bhairava, a form of Lord Shiva. In the temple of Jejuri, surprisingly both the deities of him and his wife Malsha is in the form of Lingas (one of Lord Shiva’s most known statue form) which are covered with decorated silver masks. A part of the Muslims too consider him as their god Mallu Khan and been seen offering goat flesh in the temple areas. This way people consider him as one of the rare non-vegetarian Indian god. This year, one celebration of Bhandara Festival has already taken place on 27th March. After this one in August there will be third one on 18th December.

When: 21st August 2017
Where: Jejuri, 55 kms from Pune. Main temple is at a hillock in the town where all the celebrations take place.

Nehru Trophy Boat Race

Mascot for this year’s Nehru trophy boat race

Come August and the placid waters of the Punnamada Lake become a track on fire. Held on the second Saturday of August every year, the time of the prestigious Nehru Trophy Boat Race is when the silence of the lake is sliced by the slashing oars of the pacing boats. Held on the second Saturday of August every year, the boat race is named after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. Hordes of people swarm the banks of the Punnamada Lake to relish this annual water regatta. The rhythmic and the synchronised way of rowing the majestic snake boats make it a rare spectacle. The ceremonial water processions, floats and decorated boats add to the beauty of the event. This is one such unique sporting event cherished by Keralites of all age groups. Apart from the locals, the spirit and enthusiasm that form part of the Nehru Trophy boat race is also shared by visitors from far off places. It is a sheer delight for the onlookers to watch the snake boats with 80 to 100 oarsmen aboard, who dip their oars in unison as the snake boat glides and cuts the water surface at a tremendous pace.  And winning the race is a matter of pride and glory to each participating team and healthy rivalries are visible on the race day. There are various categories in the event and approximately 60-70 chundan (snake) boats participate in the race. Mascot for this year’s race is a prawn sailing a boat.

When: 12th August 2017
Where: Punnamada Backwaters, Punnamada, Alappuzha. Nearest railway station is Alappuzha, about 8 km while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 85 km from Alappuzha town.

Janmashtami at Mathura

Pic: Google

Birth of Krishna, one of the biggest annual festivals in Hindu mythology and there can be no other place better to celebrate this than Mathura, considered to be place of his birth in the prison and Gokul (Vrindavan) where he was brought up. It’s a day of traditional fasting until midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. At that time there are huge celebrations in the temples with special pujas and prasadas. But the intensity and traditions of celebrations in Mathura-Vrindavan region are entirely different from rest of the country. At many place such as Nandgaon the celebrations will start as early as from Raksha Bandhan and will continue till Radhashtami. All households in the area will celebrate the day as birth of child in their own homes. At Gokul, next day after Janmashtami, there will be a huge celebration of Nandotsava in memory of the day when whole area came to know that a child is born to Nanda and Yashoda in Gokul. Best time to visit these places, to understand the culture and to soak into a very distinct celebration and festivities. Mathura is close and loaded with all type of staying options.

When: 14th August 2017
Where: Mathura/Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
Getting there: Mathura is less than two hours journey from Delhi and just an hours journey from Agra. It is on main rail route connecting Delhi to central and southern India. Many tourists will plan a trip to Mathura and Agra together.

Monsoon Festival at Saputara

Situated in densely forested plateau in the Sahayadri range, Saputara holds the distinction of being the only hill station in Gujarat. Saputara has been developed as a planned hill resort with amenities like hotels, parks, boat clubs and museums to ensure an enjoyable holiday for everyone in the cool of hills. The drive to Saputara is breathtaking with the serpentine road commencing from Waghai. The hill station is most enjoyable in the monsoon when clouds descend on the land. One can see brooks and streams flowing down the valley which makes for a spectacular haven for trekkers as well, as there are numerous forest trails. So every year there is a monsoon festival almost a month long to give you ample time to be part of the festivities. Tourists can enjoy Saputara at its best. One can hire services of a local guide to roam around. Echo point, Wagah Bari, Step Garden, Artistic village, Log huts, Saputara museum, Lake, Sunset point, ropeway are among the spots, one can enjoy. So go and breathe in the freshness of Saputara with is echoing green hues, lush with flowers, and watch the meditating rain drops sitting still on sloping leaves. Some of the thickest forest cover in the state of Gujarat envelops you. Drench yourself in nature and fun!

When: 13th August 2017 to 11th September 2017
Where: Saputara, Gujarat
Getting there: Nearest railway station is Waghai, which is 50 kms from Saputara city center. While nearest airport is Surat, almost 156 kms from here. Saputara is well connected through roads to major cities of state. Mumbai is just 255 kms from here via Nashik. Ahmedabad is 400 kms from here.

Another Kailash on Manimahesh Yatra
It’s very interesting that we consider it unsafe to go to hills during rains, but still most of the pilgrimages in hills do take place only during rains- may be it is Kailash-Mansarovar or Amarnath or Chardham or Chota Kailash. Almost all of them are related to mythical abodes of Shiva. Another one among the list is Manimahesh in Himachal. Manimahesh is a high altitude lake at an altitude of 13,500 feet. On the east of this lake is Kailash Mountain with an altitude of 18,564 feet. They both come in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. Every year there is a pilgrimage from Hudsor to Manimahesh Lake (15 kms). Earlier this Yatra used to start from Bharmaur, but since now Hudsor has become a road head, people have started walking on foot from Hudsor. There is no exact version of how this Yatra started, but it indeed is many centuries old. Bharmaur and Chamba are historical cities with versions dating back after 550 A.D. Temples in Bharmaur are architectural beauties. And Yatra is also a trekkers’ delight. Yatra normally starts on Janmashtami and ends on Radhashtami.

When: 15th August 2017 to 29th August 2017
Where: Hudsor (Bharmaur), Dist- Chamba, Himachal Pradesh
Getting there: Hudsor is 17 kms from Bharmaur and 82 kms from Chamba. Pathankot at distance of 220 kms is the closest convenient railhead, from where you can take buses to Chamba and then Bharmaur.

Kajli Teej in Bundi
This is celebrated exactly a fortnight after the regular Shravan Teej. The festival of Kajli Teej is unique to the city of Bundi. A dazzlingly theatrical and lively event, it is held every year in the month of Bhadra (July-August). This week-long celebration filled with gaiety and fanfare pays homage to Goddess Uma by the seekers of marital bliss and love. Women wear colourful traditional costumes, new sets of bangles and decorate their hands with beautiful henna designs. A local fair is held nearby which is extremely popular with the rural folk around Bundi. Handicrafts such as traditional kataar, paintings, bangles, rural handicrafts and fancy eatables attract many people from Rajasthan, other parts of India and foreign shores.

When: 9-10 August 2017
Where: Bundi, Rajasthan

Dakthok Tsetsu, Ladakh

Photo: The Travelographer @Tumblr.com

Last month we discussed about monastic festivals of Ladakh. The trend continues this month with two more monastic festivals- Dak-Thok Tse-Chu and Sani Nasjal. Dak-Thok Tse-Chu starts tomorrow, so those lucky ones who are already in Leh can witness the festival for next two days.

Dak-Thok or Thak-Thok is an important Buddhist festival of Jammu and Kashmir held sometime during the months of July and August. It is generally celebrated on the 10th day of the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. The Buddhists observe a number of Tsechu festivals which are mostly dedicated to Guru Rimpoche or Padma Sambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. The word Dak Thok means black rock in Ladakh. It refers to a cave chapel that is part of the Dak Thok monastery. It is said to be only Nyingma monastery in Ladakh. The members of this sect are followers of Padma Sambhava or Guru Rimpoche. During the Tsechu festivals, these monks and the local people perform the Chham dances together. The dances depict various wrathful and compassionate deities and a variety of animals. The Tsechu is a popular festival. It is celebrated with much gaiety by people in the nearby areas, who participate in the festivities adorned in their finest clothing and jewellery.

When: 2-3 August 2017
Where: Dak Thok monastery, Ladakh. It is 46 kilometres from Leh on the Pangong Lake road from Karu.

Sani Nasjal, Zanskar
Sani Naro-Nasjal is usually celebrated in the first week of August, between the 15th and the 20th of the sixth Tibetan month. It takes place during the blooming of the ‘Guru Neropa Flower’. Every year the statue of Naropa is unveiled in late July or early August on the eve of the Naro-Nasjal Festival. Lamas from Bardan Monastery perform masked dances as ritual offering. Sani Monastery is located next to the village of Sani where the Stod Valley broadens into the central plain of Zanskar in Jammu and Kashmir. It is about 6 km to the northwest of the regional centre of Padum, a gentle two-hour walk. Like Dzongkhul Monastery, it belongs to the Drukpa Kargyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, and is the only one of this order in Zanskar which has nuns. It is thought to be the oldest religious site in the whole region of Ladakh and Zanskar.

When: 6-7 August 2017
Where: Sani monastery, Zanskar

Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai
The spirit of this festival is contagious. Biggest annual occasion for most of Maharashtra and Marathis elsewhere. It has been filmed so many times in Bollywood that it needs no introduction. Perhaps the most filmed festival after Holi in films. Of recently the constant media coverage of ten day celebrations has made many of those Ganesha temples popular among non Marathis as well, maybe it Siddhivinayak or Lalbaugcha Raja. But celebrities and celebrated temples have changes the complexion of the festival too much. To enjoy traditional festivities join a family celebration. This is the day when Lord Ganesha is brought home and given his seat for ten days’ pooja. Weeks or even months before Ganesh Chaturthi, artistic clay models of Lord Ganesha are made for sale by specially skilled artisans. They are beautifully decorated and depict Lord Ganesh in vivid poses. Also called as Vinayak Chaturthi this is the day when mythologically Ganesha was born. The main sweet dish during the festival is the modak, a dumpling made from rice flour/wheat flour with a stuffing of fresh or dry-grated coconut, jaggery, dry fruits and some other condiments.

When : 25th August 2017
Where: All your Marathi friends at Mumbai… Pune…

Athachamayam at Thripunithura
Rain or shine, people will pour out onto the streets of Thripunithura to celebrate the Athachamayam. Athachamayam is conducted every year on the Atham asterism of the Malayalam month Chingam (roughly August/September), at the historical town of Thripunithura near Kochi, Ernakulam district. Athachamayam is a cultural gala that marks the beginning of the ten-day Onam festival in Kerala. The festival, which is celebrated to commemorate the legendary victory of the Raja (King) of Kochi, is also an occasion to witness almost all the folk art forms of Kerala. The gleeful procession, which is part of this festival, reminds the customary procession of the king with his entourage from Thripunithura to the Thrikkakara Vamana temple for participating in the temple festival. The procession, though without the king, still retains its majestic charm. Caparisoned elephants, varieties of folk art forms like Theyyam, Kummatti, Kolkali, Mayilattom, Kummi, Poykal, Ammankudam and Pulikkali, floats, and musical ensembles together form part of the procession. Onam, a festival of abundance and happiness is a period when Kerala comes alive with classical and folk dance performances, music recitals, cultural pageants, boat races and much more!

When: 25th August 2017
Where: Thripunithura Town, Thripunithura, Ernakulam
Getting there: Nearest railway station is Thripunithura at walking distance while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 34 km

Covelong point Classic Surf Contest and Music Festival
Three days filled with surf, yoga, sun and sand, three nights that come alive with the sound of music – the Covelong Point Classic Surf Contest and Music Festival is back for its third edition! What started as a dream, has now become a three day international event – fisherman turned surfer Murthy Megavan always dreamed of starting his own surf school, and today that dream stands tall as a beautiful reality on the shores of Covelong, as the Covelong Point Social Surf School. In 2013, when the TTK Group and EarthSync tied up with the Surfing Federation of India, together they created the Covelong Point Classic Surf and Music Festival. The three days of surfing will witness participants from around India and the globe competing in an exhilarating display of raw surfing talent, while the music festival expands this year to include three stages. This surf competition and music festival brings together surf talent from around the world, and an exciting line up of musicians from around India and the globe. The primary aim of the festival is to use surfing as a catalyst for positive change, empowering the local community with initiatives surrounding their passion for surfing. It is a passion for surfing, a love of music from around the world, and a deep connection to the ocean that continues to drive the festival’s spirit, year after year

When: 25th to 27th August 2017
Where: Covelong Point Social Surf School, Kovalam Village, Chennai

 

 

September is spectacular with fun & fervour!

NaropaThis September month is special. Has some very different types of events in store. Top of them is Naroda festival in Ladakh in the north and in down south the last of season’s boat races in the month of Onam. Monsoon is still pretty there but to mark the beginning of the long Indian festive season we also have Ganeshotsav as well Ramlila from Ramnagar. There is lot more besides them. Choose your bit, while we have a look at them.

Ladakh

Lets start with Ladakh which has two reasons to go this month. First one is-

Naroda Festival in 2004
Naropa Festival in 2004

Naropa, Kumbh of Ladakh: It could be one of the reasons of the lifetime to visit Ladakh, whomsoever have missed it so far. Another one for all those who have. Billed as the “Kumbh Mela of the Himalayas” and “Ladakh’s Largest Buddhist Festival in History”, the Naropa festival takes place once every 12 years. It’s celebrated by the Drukpa Order of Himalayan Buddhism in honour of their 11th century patron saint, Naropa. The festival includes performances by prominent Himalayan artists and  Bollywood celebrities, as well as an elaborate spiritual ceremony and public display of the holy Six Bone Ornaments that belonged to Saint Naropa.

When: September 16-22, 2016.

Where: Hemis Monastery, near Leh in Ladakh.

Ladakh FestivalLadakh Festival : This one is  the yearly event. This year Ladakh festival will be continuing the spirit of Naropa. The main aim of organising this festival in the month of September is to extend the lean tourist season in the region and also to represent and propagate the rich cultural heritage of the area. The grand success of the festival and the tremendous response from both foreign and home tourists is due to the rich cultural heritage and variety of other attractive programmes like traditional Polo match and Village archery. The famous monastic dance in the monasteries including exhibitions of invaluable Thankas and other Ritual Instruments of the monasteries. The tourists have the opportunities to see the entire traditional cultural programme of the region like Traditional Folk dance and songs of different parts of Ladakh. The grand achievements of the Ladakh Festival are noticeable of the significant increase in the arrivals of tourists during the lean tourist season of the year.Ladakh festival is celebrated from 20th to 26th September, every year in Leh and its villages. The inauguration ceremony of the festival takes place in Leh on a large scale with a procession of several cultural troupes from different part of the region which traverses through Leh Market. There is dancing, singing, traditional music, people wearing colourful traditional Ladakhi dresses. It comes to end at the Polo ground. The festival is for 6 days with regular celebration in various villages including archery, polo, and masked dances from the monasteries and dances by cultural troupes from the villages. There are musical concerts too. Best part is, that this is one of the best time to go to Ladakh region, just before the onset of winter.

When: 20th to 26th September 2016

Where: Leh, Ladakh

Kerala

Kerala is land of all seasons but we still have many reasons to visit ‘God’s own country’ this month. Last three of the season’s snake boat races will take place this month and also the all important festivals of all Keralites- Onam.

Aranmula-Boat raceAranmula Boat race: Last of Kerala’s boat races of the season. Aranmula has got a unique place when it comes to the cultural imaginings of Kerala. The boat race held annually on the Uthrittathi asterism (as per the local Malayalam calendar) during the Onam festival is one the cultural hallmarks of this land. Teeming with rich tradition and rituals immersed in splendor, the Aranmula Uthrittathi boat race is considered more of a ritual than a race. Legend has it that a devout Brahmin vowed to offer all the requirements for the Thiruvona sadya (the grand traditional feast on the day of Thiruvonam) at the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Once, the boat known as Thiruvona Thoni carrying these offerings was attacked by enemies. In order to protect the Thiruvona Thoni people from neighbouring areas sent their snake boats. Later on, this practice evolved into an offering to Lord Parthasarathy in the form of a snake boat race, held on the Uthrittathi day, which eventually became popular as the Aranmula Boat Race.

When: September 17, 2016

Where: River Pamba in Aranmula, District Pathanamthitta, Kerala

Getting there: Nearest railway station is Chengannur, about 11 km while nearest airport is Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, about 117 kms.

Payippad_boat RacePayippad Boat Race: Two days before the Aranmula boat race, takes place this legendry boat race. This one is in the northern part of the state though in all famous Alappuzha district. A regatta to commemorate a legend associated with water. The legend is about the installation of the idol in the Subrahmanya Swamy Temple, Haripad. The legend says that the villagers once had a vision, which directed them to a whirlpool in Kayamkulam Lake where they discovered the idol of Sree Subramanya. Held annually on the Payippad River, this boat race is noted for the largest participation of snake boats after the Nehru Trophy boat race. The boat race is marked by synergy, speed and rigour. Thousands swarm to the banks of Payippad River to celebrate the event. So if you can’t make it to Aranmula, then try to be at Payippad. There is another biat race on the same day- Sree Narayana Jayanthi Boat race at Kumarakom, one of the best beach resorts in Kerala.

When: September 16, 2016

Where: Payippad backwaters in Payippad, District Alappuzha, Kerala

Getting there: Nearest railway station is Haripad, about 5 km while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 85 km from Alappuzha.

Kumarakom Boat RaceSree Narayana Jayanthi Boat Race: The annual boat race at Kumarakom is different from the other famous boat races of Kerala like the Nehru Trophy race and the race at Aranmula. While the others are either ritualistic or competitive events, the Kumarakom boat race is held in remembrance of the great social reformer, Sree Narayana Guru’s visit to the village. Records say that Sree Narayana Guru, the great social reformer of Kerala, visited Kumarakom in 1903. He reached the village in a boat from Alappuzha, accompanied by a procession of boats. During the visit, the guru established a temple of Subrahmanya (Sree Kumara Mangalam Temple) in Kumarakom.  Sree Narayana Guru’s visit is commemorated by the villagers, irrespective of caste or religion, during the annual boat race. The boat race is conducted on Sree Narayana Guru Jayanthi Day, which usually falls in August / September (the asterism of Chathayam in the Malayalam month of Chingam). A grand procession of country boats carrying the portrait of Sree Narayana Guru, from the Kumaramangalam Temple to Kottathodu, is held on this day. Around 55 years ago, this ritual paved the way for a boat race with Kottathodu as the venue.

When: September 11, 2016

Onam is festival of the year for everybody in Kerala. There are many occasions to mark the ten day festivities.

Athachamayam-Festival-at-TripunithuraAthachamayam: A cultural gala that marks the beginning of the ten-day Onam festival in Kerala, is a rare chance to enjoy almost all the folk art forms of God’s Own Country. Athachamayam is conducted every year on the Atham asterism of the Malayalam month Chingam (roughly August/September), at the historical town of Thripunithura near Kochi, Ernakulam district. The festival, which is celebrated to commemorate the legendary victory of the Raja (King) of Kochi, is also an occasion to witness almost all the folk art forms of Kerala.  A colourful procession, which is part of this festival, reminds the customary procession of the king along with his entourage to the Thripunithura (Thripoonithura) fort. This was also the occasion for his subjects to greet the king and see him very close. The procession, though without the king, still retains its majestic charm, and is conducted in a spectacular manner. Caparisoned elephants, varieties of folk art forms, floats, and musical ensembles together form part of the procession. Onam, the most popular festival of Keralites can be traced to the primitive harvest festival and also to the myth regarding King Mahabali – the benevolent ruler who brought peace and prosperity to Keralites.

When: September 4, 2016

Thiruvonam_DayThiruvonam: Don’t you find it interesting that in spite of centuries that passed by, various rulers having ruled the land, the mythical King Mahabali enjoys a popularity that no other ruler can boast of! Yes, we are talking about the festival of prosperity and joy – Onam – the festival of Kerala. The greatest charm of Onam lies undoubtedly in the coming together of the Malayali folk to welcome the mythical king on his imaginary annual visit to the land. The ten-day long festival begins with atham asterism in the Malayalam month of Chingam and culminates grandly on the day of Thiruvonam. The households bubbling and bustling with energy is a sight reserved during Onam days. As per mythology, King Mahabali decided to leave for the nether world, failing to keep his promise given to Lord Vishnu who came in the guise of Vaamana. As for the delicacies of Onam one would wish it to go on and on. Payasam (the traditional Kerala dessert), the show-stopper among the Onasadya (the sumptuous feast) is itself of plentiful variety. It is very interesting to watch how kids make every festival their own. Children dart in the neighbourhood in search of flowers to make floral carpets (pookkalam) that adorn their courtyards. Traditional arts and games throbs the rustic ambience of villages. The inevitable swing is a unique feature of this festivity. There are many Onam special programmes conducted across Kerala including Kerala Tourism sponsored programs all over the state.

When: September 14, 2016

Where: All over Kerala

Getting there: Kerala has two international airports- Thiruvananthapuram International Airport at the state capital in south Kerala and Cochin International Airport in the northern part of the state.

 

pulikaliPulikali: Ever seen a procession of tigers on two legs? Well, we are not talking about any carnival inside the circus tents. The event takes place at the Swaraj Round in Thrissur district of Kerala. Pulikali, or the fun and frolic of tigers, is an event that has become synonymous with the festival of Onam in Kerala. The tigers are not real ones but men dressed and painted as tigers.  As part of the performance, groups of local men would have their bodies and faces painted to resemble tigers. Apart from the true colours of a tiger, one would also come across other colours and patterns and even the facial features of lion on the bodies of performers. The make-up is time-consuming and it is quite a labour to undo the make-up, which is mostly done with oil paints. The theme of the performance is playing hide-and-seek with a hunter wielding a gun. The event generates a great deal of excitement both for the spectators from near and far and for the performers.

When: September 17, 2016

Not related to Onam but there is another reason to go to Kerala this month besides boat races and Onam.

Neelamperoor_PatayaniNeelamperoor Patayani: ‘Neelamperoor Patayani’ is a spectacular event that falls in the Malayalam month of Chingam (usually August / September). Visiting Neelamperoor Palli Bhagavathy Temple during the time of annual patayani festival is a colorful treat to the eyes. The patayani celebration at this temple is said to have a history of around 1700 years. The word patayani literally means rows of army. Though patayani is performed in a number of other temples in Kerala, the one held at Neelamperoor is unique. Kettukazhcha (display of deftly decorated effigies) is what makes this festival stand out. A grand procession of huge effigies of swans and other legendary and mythical characters are brought in. The making of the effigies of swans is locally known as annam kettu. At night the ambience is set by a colourful procession carrying the effigies of mythological characters like Bhima, Ravana, and Yakshi, which is a spectacular sight.

When: September 29, 2016

Where: Palli Bhagavathi Temple, Neelamperoor, Alappuzha

There are few other events from around the different corners of India. Lets have a look at them as well.

Ganapati Bappa Moriya

Ganesh-ChaturthiThe spirit of this festival is contagious. Biggest annual occasion for most of Maharashtra and Marathis elsewhere. It has been filmed so many times in Bollywood that it needs no introduction. Perhaps the most filmed festival after Holi in films. Of recently the constant media coverage of ten day celebrations has made many of those Ganesha temples popular among non Marathis as well, maybe it Siddhivinayak or Lalbaugcha Raja. But celebrities and celebrated temples have changes the complexion of the festival too much. To enjoy traditional festivities join a family celebration. This is the day when Lord Ganesha is brought home and given his seat for ten days’ pooja. Weeks or even months before Ganesh Chaturthi, artistic clay models of Lord Ganesha are made for sale by specially skilled artisans. They are beautifully decorated and depict Lord Ganesh in vivid poses. Also called as Vinayak Chaturthi this is the day when mythologically Ganesha was born. The main sweet dish during the festival is the modak, a dumpling made from rice flour/wheat flour with a stuffing of fresh or dry-grated coconut, jaggery, dry fruits and some other condiments.

When: September 5, 2016

Where: All your Marathi friends

Ramdevra Fair

RamdevraSituated about 12 kms to the north of Pokhran, the village of Ramdevra known after Baba Ramdev, a Tanwar Rajput and a saint who took Samadhi (conscious exit from the mortal body) in 1458 AD. He had miraculous powers and his fame reached far and wide. Legend goes that five Pirs (saints) from Mecca came here to test his power and after being convinced, paid their homage to him. Since then he is venerated by Muslims also as Ram Shah Pir. The Hindus regard him as an incarnation of Lord Krishna. Near the village, there is a tank known as Ramsar tank which is believed to have been constructed by Baba Ramdev himself. A large step well, the Parcha Baori is also situated nearby. Baba Ram Dev believed in the equality of all human beings, both high and low, rich and poor. He helped the down-trodden by granting them their wishes. Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner constructed a temple around the ‘samadhi’ in 1931 AD. Rice, coconuts, churma and wooden horses (toys) are offered to Ramdevji by the devotees. A large fair is held here from Bhadon Sudi 2 to Bhadon Sudi 11 (August – September) which is attended by lakh of devotees who come in large groups from far and wide. Irrespective of their caste, creed or religious affiliations, these devotees throng the shrine dedicated to the saint. These groups organise night long singing of bhajans and kirtans to pay homage to Baba.

When: September 3-12, 2016

Where: Pokhran, Rajasthan

Getting there: Ramdevra village lies about 12 kms. from Pokhran in Jaisalmer district. Pokhran is connected to Jodhpur by a metalled road as well as by Rail. Ramdevra can be reached from Jodhpur and Pokhran by bus. Jodhpur has an airport.

EAT, DRINK, MERRY! at Ziro

Ziro festivalZiro Festival of Music is probably the most fun outdoor music festival in the country. So far ZFM has featured stellar acts from around the world including Lee Ranaldo & Steve Shelley (SONIC YOUTH -USA), Lou Majaw, menwhopause, Shaa’ir n Func, Whirling Kalapas, Sky Rabbit, Peter cat recording Co, Guru Rewben Mashangva among others. This edition will be over four days and will feature top indi acts from across the globe as well as the best folk musicians from the North East. Ziro is primarily home to the Apatanis – simple, friendly and hospitable people with an interesting culture and legacy. They are a non-nomadic, agrarian tribe who share a responsible relationship with nature. Apatanis cultivate permanent wet land cultivations instead of dry land cultivations which involves burning forests. Ziro valley is lush with paddy farms and is known for its unique paddy cum fi sh cultivation where using traditional irrigation methods, farmers rear fish in the knee-deep water. Keeping them company are the adorable, shy, and harmless Indian Bisons. All visitors – Indian and foreigners – to Arunachal Pradesh need special permits to enter the state. Indians need an Inner Line Permit (ILP) and foreigners require a Protected Area Permit.

When: September 22-25, 2016

Where: Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh

Getting there: Ziro is the district headquarters of Lower Subansiri district in Arunachal Pradesh (India) and is situated 167km from the capital, Itanagar. It is one of the oldest towns in Arunachal Pradesh in a valley at a height of over 5500 feet above sea level surrounded by misty mountains. The nearest airport is Tezpur. However, flights to Tezpur are often cancelled without reason. The best option is to fly to Guwahati and do the road journey.  The nearest railhead is North Lakhimpur by Arunachal Express from New Bongaigaon. Direct buses are available from Guwahati, Itanagar and North Lakhimpur.

Glorious Ramnagar Ramlila

Ramnagar685Varanasi 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: 15th September-16th October 2016

Venue: Ramnagar, Varanasi

 

 

August ideas for travel this month in India

This post is already late than it was really intended to because of poor health and usual month-end chaos of pending works. Monsoon has already peaked up in most parts of India. Its again the time of the year to enjoy two things specifically- boat races in Kerala and monastic festivals in Ladakh. But there is still much more besides this, and that includes many religious festivals, few cultural occasions and a couple of pilgrimages. Monsoons might soak you up but it is still a time good enough to travel and enjoy some fun-soaked moments. My top picks for the month. And as I said, I am already late to post this, hence I am excluding Hariyali Amavasya at Udaipur, which was on 2nd August and which in my opinion should have been the pick of the month, an excellent and enjoyable event to soak yourself in traditional south Rajasthan culture. Those would have been, there might had a fun of their life.

Nehru Trophy Boat Race

Nehru-TrophyCome August and the placid waters of the Punnamada Lake become a track on fire. Held on the second Saturday of August every year, the time of the prestigious Nehru Trophy Boat Race is when the silence of the lake is sliced by the slashing oars of the pacing boats. Held on the second Saturday of August every year, the boat race is named after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. Hordes of people swarm the banks of the Punnamada Lake to relish this annual water regatta. The rhythmic and the synchronised way of rowing the majestic snake boats make it a rare spectacle. The ceremonial water processions, floats and decorated boats add to the beauty of the event. This is one such unique sporting event cherished by Keralites of all age groups. Apart from the locals, the spirit and enthusiasm that form part of the Nehru Trophy boat race is also shared by visitors from far off places. It is a sheer delight for the onlookers to watch the snake boats with 80 to 100 oarsmen aboard, who dip their oars in unison as the snake boat glides and cuts the water surface at a tremendous pace.  And winning the race is a matter of pride and glory to each participating team and healthy rivalries are visible on the race day.

When: 13th August 2016

Where: Punnamada Backwaters, Punnamada, Alappuzha. Nearest railway station is Alappuzha, about 8 km while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 85 km from Alappuzha town.

Janmashtami at Mathura

JanmashtamiBirth of Krishna, one of the biggest annual festivals in Hindu mythology and there can be no other place better to celebrate this than Mathura, considered to be place of his birth in the prison and Gokul (Vrindavan) where he was brought up. It’s a day of traditional fasting until midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. At that time there are huge celebrations in the temples with special pujas and prasadas. But the intensity and traditions of celebrations in Mathura-Vrindavan region are entirely different from rest of the country. At many place such as Nandgaon the celebrations will start as early as from Raksha Bandhan and will continue till Radhashtami. All households in the area will celebrate the day as birth of child in their own homes. At Gokul, next day after Janmashtami, there will be a huge celebration of Nandotsava in memory of the day when whole area came to know that a child is born to Nanda and Yashoda in Gokul. Best time to visit these places, to understand the culture and to soak into a very distinct celebration and festivities. Mathura is close and loaded with all type of staying options.

When: 25th August 2016

Where: Mathura/Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh

Getting there: Mathura is less than two hours journey from Delhi and just an hours journey from Agra. It is on main rail route connecting Delhi to central and southern India. Many tourists will plan a trip to Mathura and Agra together.

Monsoon Festival at Saputara

SaputaraSituated in densely forested plateau in the Sahayadri range, Saputara holds the distinction of being the only hill station in Gujarat. Saputara has been developed as a planned hill resort with amenities like hotels, parks, boat clubs and museums to ensure an enjoyable holiday for everyone in the cool of hills. The drive to Saputara is breathtaking with the serpentine road commencing from Waghai. The hill station is most enjoyable in the monsoon when clouds descend on the land. One can see brooks and streams flowing down the valley which makes for a spectacular haven for trekkers as well, as there are numerous forest trails. So every year there is a monsoon festival almost a month long to give you ample time to be part of the festivities. Tourists can enjoy Saputara at its best. One can hire services of a local guide to roam around. Echo point, Wagah Bari, Step Garden, Artistic village, Log huts, Saputara museum, Lake, Sunset point, ropeway are among the spots, one can enjoy. So go and breathe in the freshness of Saputara with is echoing green hues, lush with flowers, and watch the meditating rain drops sitting still on sloping leaves.  Some of the thickest forest cover in the state of Gujarat envelops you. Drench yourself in nature and fun!

When: 11th August 2016 to 10th September 2016

Where: Saputara, Gujarat

Getting there: Nearest railway station is Waghai, which is 50 kms from Saputara city center.  While nearest airport is Surat, almost 156 kms from here. Saputara is well connected through roads to major cities of state.  Mumbai is just 255 kms from here via Nashik. Ahmedabad is 400 kms from here.

Another Kailash on Manimahesh Yatra

manimahesh_lakeIt’s very interesting that we consider it unsafe to go to hills during rains, but still most of the pilgrimages in hills do take place only during rains- may be it is Kailash-Mansarovar or Amarnath or Chardham or Chota Kailash. Almost all of them are related to mythical abodes of Shiva. Another one among the list is Manimahesh in Himachal. Manimahesh is a high altitude lake at an altitude of 13,500 feet. On the east of this lake is Kailash Mountain with an altitude of 18,564 feet. They both come in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. Every year there is a pilgrimage from Hudsor to Manimahesh Lake (15 kms). Earlier this Yatra used to start from Bharmaur, but since now Hudsor has become a road head, people have started walking on foot from Hudsor. There is no exact version of how this Yatra started, but it indeed is many centuries old. Bharmaur and Chamba are historical cities with versions dating back after 550 A.D.  Temples in Bharmaur are architectural beauties. And Yatra is also a trekkers’ delight. Yatra normally starts on Janmashtami and ends on Radhashtami.

When: 25th August 2016 to 8th September 2016

Where: Hudsor (Bharmaur), Dist- Chamba, Himachal Pradesh

Getting there: Hudsor is 17 kms from Bharmaur and 82 kms from Chamba. Pathankot at distance of 220 kms is the closest convenient railhead, from where you can take buses to Chamba and then Bharmaur.

Swinging on Teej

TeejIf down south doesn’t interest you then there is one of the most colourful festivals of the season on up West-Teej. A festival to rejoice the colours, crisscross green-yellow lines, mehandi, rains and jhoolas (swings), Teej is celebrated mainly by the women folk of Rajasthan. Married women who idolize pravati for her devotion to her husband, Shiva, celebrate Teej. The rituals allow the women to pamper and enjoy themselves, to feast, to dress in the best of clothes and jewellery, and to look their stunning best. Antique gilt palanquins, bullock carts pulling cannons, chariots, and gaily decorated horses, camels, brass bands and groups of dances all from a part of this grand spectacle. The palanquin of Goddess Paravati is carried by eight men dressed in red. Though celebrations are held all over the state, it is particularly colourful in Jaipur where a procession winds its way on two days through the old Pink City.  On the occasion of Teej, markets in Jaipur are stocked with trendiest women accessories and clothes. Most of the fabric clothes display ‘laheria’ (tie and dye) prints. Sweetshops keep different Teej sweets but ‘Ghevar and Feeni’ is the main sweet of the season. All over Rajasthan, swings are hung from trees and decorated with fragrant flowers. Women both married and unmarried love to swing on these swings to celebrate the ‘Sawan festival’.

When: 5-6 August 2016

Where: Jaipur, Rajasthan

Kajli Teej in Bundi

Kajli TeejThis is celebrated exactly a fortnight after the regular Shravan Teej. The festival of Kajli Teej is unique to the city of Bundi. A dazzlingly theatrical and lively event, it is held every year in the month of Bhadra (July-August). This week-long celebration filled with gaiety and fanfare pays homage to Goddess Uma by the seekers of marital bliss and love. Women wear colourful traditional costumes, new sets of bangles and decorate their hands with beautiful henna designs. A local fair is held nearby which is extremely popular with the rural folk around Bundi. Handicrafts such as traditional kataar, paintings, bangles, rural handicrafts and fancy eatables attract many people from Rajasthan, other parts of India and foreign shores.

When: 19-20 August 2016

Where: Bundi, Rajasthan

Korzok Gu-stor at Tso Moriri

Korzok GustorThe Korzok Gu-stor festival is held at the monastery and attracts many Chang-pa, the Tibetan plateau nomadic herdsmen. The festival lasts for two days (July/August) and ends with the dismemberment and dispersal of the ‘Storma’ (sacrificial cake) by the leader of the Black Hat dancers in a ceremony called ‘Argham’ (Killing). The ceremony symbolizes the destruction of evil and pays homage to the assassination of the Tibetan apostate King Lang-dar-ma, by a Buddhist monk in the mid 9th century. At the festival masks are worn by the dancers to represent the Dharmapalas (guardian divinities of the Buddhist pantheon), and the patron divinities of the Drukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The annual monastic festival is also held not only at Korzok but also at the Thuje in the Chungthan valley where the nomadic tribes fervently participate in the rituals. They not only make donations to the monasteries but also dedicate one son from each family to the monastery. It is said that the local nomads are so dedicated to Buddhism that opposite to their tents they allocate space to keep symbolic statue images of the Rinpoche, usually the Dalai Lama, along with the seven offering cups, in perfect harmony with their own folk (nomadic) religious deities and spirits.

When: 5-6 August 2016

Where: Korzok monastery, Tso Moriri Lake, Ladakh

Dakthok Tsetsu, Ladakh

Dakthok TsetsuDak-Thok Tse-Chu is an important Buddhist festival of Jammu and Kashmir held sometime during the months of July and August. It is generally celebrated on the 10th day of the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. The Buddhists observe a number of Tsechu festivals which are mostly dedicated to Guru Rimpoche or Padma Sambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. The word Dak Thok means black rock in Ladakh. It refers to a cave chapel that is part of the Dak Thok monastery. The members of this sect are followers of Padma Sambhava or Guru Rimpoche. During the Tsechu festivals, these monks and the local people perform the Chham dances together. The dances depict various wrathful and compassionate deities and a variety of animals. The Tsechu is a popular festival. It is celebrated with much gaiety by people in the nearby areas, who participate in the festivities adorned in their finest clothing and jewellery.

When: 13-14 August 2016

Where: Dak Thok monastery, Ladakh

Sani Nasjal, Ladakh

Sani NasjalSani Naro-Nasjal is usually celebrated in the first week of August, between the 15th and the 20th of the sixth Tibetan month. It takes place during the blooming of the ‘Guru Neropa Flower’. Every year the statue of Naropa is unveiled in late July or early August on the eve of the Naro-Nasjal Festival. Lamas from Bardan Monastery perform masked dances as ritual offering. Sani Monastery is located next to the village of Sani where the Stod Valley broadens into the central plain of Zanskar in Jammu and Kashmir. It is about 6 km to the northwest of the regional centre of Padum, a gentle two-hour walk. Like Dzongkhul Monastery, it belongs to the Drukpa Kargyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, and is the only one of this order in Zanskar which has nuns. It is thought to be the oldest religious site in the whole region of Ladakh and Zanskar.

When: 17-18 August 2016

Where: Sani monastery, Ladakh

 

Its all about Kerala this August

The largest team sport in the world, boat races of Kerala (known vernacularly as Vallamkali) flaunts the social and cultural integrity and diversity of God’s Own Country. The awe-inspiring snake boats bring alive the rivers during the months of August and September. Following the southwest monsoon rains in Kerala, the season of boat races commence. If it is not the reason big enough to go to Kerala, then there is Onam also this month, most auspicious time of the year. Certainly, the best time to visit the ‘God’s own country’.

Nehru Trophy Boat Race

Nehru-TrophyCome August and the placid waters of the Punnamada Lake become a track on fire. Held on the second Saturday of August every year, the time of the prestigious Nehru Trophy Boat Race is when the silence of the lake is sliced by the slashing oars of the pacing boats. Held on the second Saturday of August every year, the boat race is named after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.

Hordes of people swarm the banks of the Punnamada Lake to relish this annual water regatta. The rhythmic and the synchronised way of rowing the majestic snake boats make it a rare spectacle. The ceremonial water processions, floats and decorated boats add to the beauty of the event. This is one such unique sporting event cherished by Keralites of all age groups. Apart from the locals, the spirit and enthusiasm that form part of the Nehru Trophy boat race is also shared by visitors from far off places. It is a sheer delight for the onlookers to watch the snake boats with 80 to 100 oarsmen aboard, who dip their oars in unison as the snake boat glides and cuts the water surface at a tremendous pace.  And winning the race is a matter of pride and glory to each participating team and healthy rivalries are visible on the race day.

When: 8th August 2015

Where: Punnamada Backwaters, Punnamada, Alappuzha. Nearest railway station is Alappuzha, about 8 km while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 85 km from Alappuzha town.

Sree Narayana Jayanthi Boat Race

KumarakomThe annual boat race at Kumarakom is different from the other famous boat races of Kerala like the Nehru Trophy race and the race at Aranmula. While the others are either ritualistic or competitive events, the Kumarakom boat race is held in remembrance of the great social reformer, Sree Narayana Guru’s visit to the village. Records say that Sree Narayana Guru, the great social reformer of Kerala, visited Kumarakom in 1903. He reached the village in a boat from Alappuzha, accompanied by a procession of boats. During the visit, the guru established a temple of Subrahmanya (Sree Kumara Mangalam Temple) in Kumarakom. Sree Narayana Guru’s visit is commemorated by the villagers, irrespective of caste or religion, during the annual boat race.

The boat race is conducted on Sree Narayana Guru Jayanthi Day, which usually falls in August / September (the asterism of Chathayam in the Malayalam month of Chingam). A grand procession of country boats carrying the portrait of Sree Narayana Guru, from the Kumaramangalam Temple to Kottathodu, is held on this day. Around 55 years ago, this ritual paved the way for a boat race with Kottathodu as the venue. The procession is accompanied by various music and dance performances such as the Garudan, the Panchavadyam and the Nadaswaram. Sports competitions are also held in connection with the race. The events at the venues include art forms like Thiruvathirakkali, Kolkkali, Theyyam and so on. Hundreds of oarsmen in many kinds of boats like the Chundan, the Iruttukuthy, the Churulan and the Veppu take part in the boat race. The Iruttukuthy race is the important boat one. The Iruttukuthy which wins the race is awarded the Sree Narayana Ever-Rolling Trophy.

When: 30th August 2015

Where: Kottathode, Kumarakom, Kumarakom is located in Kottayam District which is 13 km from here while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 63 km from here.

Aranmula Boat Race

aranmula_boatraceMarked by fervent devotion, the boat race held in Aranmula is more a ritual than a competition. The boat race takes place on the Uthrittathi asterism (as per the Malayalam calendar) during the Onam festival in Kerala. The boat race is noted for its grandeur and long tradition. Legend has it that a devout Brahmin vowed to offer all the requirements for the Thiruvona Ssadya (the traditional feast on the day of Thiruvonam) at the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Once, the boat known as Thiruvona Thoni (thoni means boat) carrying these offerings was attacked by enemies. In order to protect the Thiruvona Thoni people from neighbouring areas decided to accompany the Thiruvona Thoni in their snake boats. Later on, this practice evolved into an offering to Lord Parthasarathy in the form of a snake boat race, held on the Uthrittathi day, which eventually became popular as the Aranmula Boat Race. The proceedings of the race commence with a grand pageantry of the snake boats participating in the race, which often turns out to be the spectacular part of the whole event. This session is followed by preliminary rounds of competing snake boats leading to the final showdown. The snake boats competing in this race are called Palliyodams. The race finishes at a point near the temple ghat, which usually would have a pavilion for spectators to enjoy the final stages of the boat race.

When: 31st August 2015

Where: River Pamba, Aranmula, Pathanamthitta. Nearest railway station is Chengannur, about 11 km while nearest airport is Trivandrum International Airport, about 117 km

Payippad Boat Race

Payippad-Boat-RaceA legend goes that ages ago a group of villagers had a vision that directed them to a whirlpool in the Kayamkulam Lake. Here, they discovered an idol of Lord Subrahmanya. This idol was then installed at the Subrahmanya temple in Haripad. A spectacular boat race is held annually on the Payippad River in Alappuzha in commemoration of this ancient legend, popularly known as the Payippad Boat Race. It has the largest participation of snake boats after the Nehru Trophy Boat Race and is nothing short of a spectacle. Exuding team spirit and a zeal to win, the teams participating in the annual boat race held on the Payippad River in Alappuzha district is a real crowd puller. As the competing boats set up the pace, the tempo is picked up by the thousands witnessing it who give out the loudest of cheers to their favourite teams. This in turn enlivens the spirits of the oarsmen, resulting often in tight, photo – finish races.

When: 30th August 2015

Where: Payippad backwaters, Alappuzha. Nearest railway station is Haripad, about 5 km while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 85 km from Alappuzha.

Pulinkunnu Rajiv Gandhi Boat Race

Rajiv-Gandhi-Boat-RaceRajiv Gandhi Trophy Boat Race or Pulinkunnu Rajiv Gandhi Boat Race is conducted at Pulincunnoo every year to commemorate the visit made to this place by the late Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi with his wife Sonia Gandhi in 1985.The race is held at Pulincunnoo, the heart of Kuttanadu ,10 km away from the Alleppey town in the memory of the Late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, the former Indian Prime Minister.Pulinkunnu Rajiv Gandhi Boat Race is held two weeks after the Nehru Trophy Boat Race during the month of August-September.This event Offers tremendous publicity potential, as about one lakhs people are witnessing it directly and many lakhs vicariously through print and visual medias. In addition to the competitions, there will be an exhibition of ancient and traditional forms rowing such as “Vechupattu Thuzhachil” and “Karakkikuthu Thuzhachil” by three snake boats. These types of rowing which are now becoming extinct, will be an added attraction.

When: 22 August 2015

Where: Pulincunnoo , Kuttanadu is 10 km from Alleppey town.

Athachamayam, start of Onam

Thripunithura-AthachamayamA cultural gala that marks the beginning of the ten-day Onam festival in Kerala, the Athachamayam is the best opportunity for one to get a glimpse of some of the popular folk art forms of Kerala. Conducted every year on the Atham asterism in the Malayalam month of Chingam (roughly August/September), Athachamayam is held in the historical town of Thripunithura near Kochi in Ernakulam district. A festival celebrated to commemorate the legendary victory of the Raja (King) of Kochi, a colourful procession is held reminding one of the customary processions of the king along with his entourage to the Thripunithura (Thripoonithura) fort. Also an occasion for the subjects to greet their King, the procession would feature caparisoned elephants, various folk art forms, floats and musical ensembles. Today, though there is no King, this age-old procession still retains its majesty and is a sight to behold.

When: 19th August 2015.

Where: Thripunithura, Ernakulam. Nearest railway station is Thripunithura at walking distance, while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 34 km.

Thiruvonam, the grand culmination

ThiruvonamThiruvonam the most auspicious day during the Onam festival is celebrated throughout Kerala, which is marked by happiness, excitement and enjoyment among all sections of people. A legendary ruler, King Mahabali, who sacrificed his life for his people eons ago, appears from the depths of nether land, to visit his kingdom each year. His subjects wake up with the first rays of the sun each day for 10 days at a stretch, during their harvest season to adorn their front yards with beautifully designed floral carpets to welcome their king. Thus goes the fascinating legend behind the harvest festival of Kerala, Onam. A symphony that rings in the heart of every Malayali, Onam is the State festival, which unites all Malayalis irrespective of caste, colour or creed. The whole of Kerala transforms into a riot of colours during this season. The ten days of Onam commences on Atham day and goes up to the Thiruvonam day in the Malayalam month of Chingam (August / September). Thiruvonam day is the most important day of the harvest festival. New clothes, referred to as Onakkodi, floral carpets known as Pookalams the special Onasadhya (traditional feast) comprising a minimum of 11 dishes prepared on the Thiruvonam day, music and dance in the form of Thiruvathira (a traditional dance form) and the Vallamkali (boat race) make the festival a unique one. The boat race held in Aranmula during the Onam festival is a sight to behold. Oarsmen row huge, graceful snake boats to the accompaniment of songs and the cheers of thousands on the banks of the river Pamba.

When: 28th August 2015

Where: All over Kerala

Pulikali, the tiger dance

PulikaliCome Onam and the Swaraj Round in Thrissur district becomes a hunting ground teeming with prowling tigers and wily hunters. Each tiger has its ferocity writ large on their faces as well as on their bellies. Yes, bellies, for these are not the four-legged tigers you would come across in the wild. Rather, they are all men with their bodies painted as that of tigers with life like vividness. Pulikali (the play of the tigers) is an event that has become synonymous with the festival of Onam in Kerala. Apart from the true colours of a tiger, one would also come across other colours and patterns and even the facial features of lions on the bodies of the performers. The finesse with which the makeup is done with paints is awe inspiring. With the performance being centred on playing hide-and-seek with a hunter wielding a gun, the event is exciting and fun for both the performers and the onlookers. To say the least, it is a riot of fiery colours that is a feast to the eyes.

When: 31st August 2015

Where: Swaraj Round, Thrissur. Nearest railway station is Thrissur, about a kilometre while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 58 km from Thrissur.

Boat races of Neerattupuram, Karuvatta & Thazhathangadi

ThazhathangadiFew more races that are associated with Onam. Neerattupuram boat race is held on Thiruvonam day. Four to Six snake boats and various other boats traditionally participate in this race. The boat race starts after the traditional onasadhya. More than 1000 oarsmen in boats of different sizes and shapes participate in this event. A group of lovers and admirers of water sports were credited with the idea of bringing various boat clubs of Kutanadu for the little of & Pamba Boat Race and the race was held at the Pampa water stadium at Neerattupuram. Apart form the main attraction, the race of famous Snake Boats and other small boats like Veppu, Vadakkanodi and Churulan are also held. There are several other events such as cultural meet, procession, race of small canoes, cultural competitions etc. This event is making all efforts to create a landmark in the filed of water sports. Pamba Boat Race Club offers to the Tourists from abroad. Since 1957 the race is held on every Thiruvonam day, the most auspicious celebrant day of Kerala.The glistering golden Mammen Mappila Trophy presented to the winner of Snake Boat every year.

Similarly, Karuvatta Boat Race also takes place during Onam days at Karuvatta River and Thazhathangadi Boat Race on Meenachil river. The boat race is preceded by colourful water parades and is the most enchanting facet of the festival of Onam. It is a week long event, at Thazhathangadi, which is made beautiful with water carnivals and various boat races. The Boats complete with each other in the water of “Meenachil River” that was immortalized in the Novel “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy.

When: 28th August 2015

Where: Pamba river, Neerettupuram, location of the famous Chakkulathukavu is about 10 km away from Thiruvalla. Thiruvalla is in Pathanamthitta and is 26 kms from Kottayam. Thazhathangadi is just two kms from Kottayam Town is one of the oldest trade centers in Kerala. Karuvatta is a village in the Karthikapally taluk of Alappuzha district and also has a railway station.

Swinging on Teej

TeejIf down south doesn’t interest you then there is one of the most colourful festivals of the season on up West-Teej. A festival to rejoice the colours, crisscross green-yellow lines, mehandi, rains and jhoolas (swings), Teej is celebrated mainly by the women folk of Rajasthan. Married women who idolize pravati for her devotion to her husband, Shiva, celebrate Teej. The rituals allow the women to pamper and enjoy themselves, to feast, to dress in the best of clothes and jewellery, and to look their stunning best. Antique gilt palanquins, bullock carts pulling cannons, chariots, and gaily decorated horses, camels, brass bands and groups of dances all from a part of this grand spectacle. The palanquin of Goddess Paravati is carried by eight men dressed in red. Though celebrations are held all over the state, it is particularly colourful in Jaipur where a procession winds its way on two days through the old Pink City.

Teej is one of the most widely celebrated festivals of Rajasthan. Swings, traditional songs and dancing are the unique features of Teej celebrations in Rajasthan. Women perform traditional folk dance dressed in green colored clothes and sing beautiful Teej songs while enjoying their sway on swings bedecked with flowers. Teej is celebrated with immense fun and fanfare in the capital city of Jaipur. On this day, women and young girls wear their best clothes and adorn themselves with fine jewellery. They gather at a nearby temple or a common place and offers prayers to Goddess Parvati for well being of their husbands. On the occasion of Teej, markets in Jaipur are stocked with trendiest women accessories and clothes. Most of the fabric clothes display ‘laheria’ (tie and dye) prints. Sweetshops keep different Teej sweets but ‘Ghevar and Feeni’ is the main sweet of the season. All over Rajasthan, swings are hung from trees and decorated with fragrant flowers. Women both married and unmarried love to swing on these swings to celebrate the ‘Sawan festival’.

When: 17-18th August 2015.

Where: Jaipur, Rajasthan