Tag Archives: Top10

Hurry up! Tulips in Kashmir are calling!!

Its getting hotter day by day. Though the forecast for the summer aren’t very pleasing, but still we have some more time to celebrate spring. Everywhere, it is also the time to celebrate the good harvest and rejoice while getting ready for the next season. Many colourful festivals around to give an occasion to travel. Two prominent festivals of the north-east Aoling festival of Konyaks in Nagaland and Mopin festival of Galo tribes of Arunachal Pradesh have just concluded. But there is lot more to do still this month. Here are some ways to celebrate this month in India.

Tulips of Kashmir

Asia’s largest tulip garden on the banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar has been thrown open to visitors on 2nd April. Though last few days were tough for Kashmir due to sudden snow & rainfall caused by western disturbance, but things will improve tomorrow onwards. Hence you can look for a quick trip to the valley. Spring is when Kashmir is at its most picturesque, and is also the season for flowering tulips. This special time of year is beautifully captured by the Tulip Festival in Srinagar. The garden, in the foothills of Zabarwan Range, has a total of 1.5 million tulips and its opening marks the beginning of new tourism season in Kashmir Valley. Formerly known as Siraj Bagh, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden was opened in 2008. The idea of the garden was conceived to advance the tourism season in the Valley by two months. The average life span of the tulip flower is three to four weeks but heavy rains or too much of heat can destroy them.

When: April 2-17, 2017

Rongali Bihu in Assam

One of the most colourful harvest festival in India, Bihu is the main festival of Assam. This agricultural festival occurs three times a year but the biggest celebration, known as Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu, happens in April. It’s celebrated for three days and marks the start of the new year there, as well as seeding time in spring. The farmers prepare the fields for cultivation of paddy and there is a feeling of joy around. The ladies make pitha, larus (traditional food made of rice and coconut) and Jolpan which gives the real essence of the season. The first day of the bihu is called goru bihu or cow bihu, where the cows are washed and worshipped, which falls on the last day of the previous year, usually on April 14. This is followed by manuh (human) bihu on April 15, the New Year Day. This is the day of getting cleaned up, wearing new cloths and celebrating and getting ready for the new year with fresh vigor. The third day is Gosai (Gods) bihu; statues of Gods, worshiped in all households are cleaned and worshiped asking for a smooth new year.

When: April 14-16, 2017

Arattupuzha Pooram, Thrissur, Kerala

Arattupuzha is a culturally significant village located in Thrissur district of Kerala. This village, about 15 km from the town of Thrissur is renowned for the annual festival called Arattupuzha Pooram. The Sree Sastha Temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, which is believed to be more than 3000 years old and its premises are the venue for the festivities. It is believed that during the festival period, Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity at the Sree Sastha Temple is visited by gods and goddesses of the neighbouring villages. The annual festival at Arattupuzha is also termed as the mother of all pooram festivals in Kerala, due to its sheer magnitude and grandeur. Visitors from nearby and far off places reach the village of Arattupuzha during the festival days, to be part of this grand festival. The pinnacle of excitement and devotion during the seven-day festival is obviously the last two days. The evening prior to the last day of the festival would have an assembly of caparisoned elephants and staging of percussion ensembles as part of the ceremony called Sasthavinte Melam. The atmosphere during Sasthavinte Melam would have the brilliance of the many brightly lit traditional lamps and also the huge flame bearing staffs, locally called as theevetti. Once this ceremony is over, by early morning the elephants carrying deities of nearby temples would proceed to the adjoining paddy field for the grand spectacle that would have about 50 odd elephants lined up in front of a cheering crowd. The venue would soon become electrifying with groups of traditional percussion ensembles comprising Panchavadyam, Pacharimelam and Pandimelam playing their best possible beats and rhythms, while the caparisoned elephants bearing muthukkudas (sequined, glittering umbrellas) and venchamarams (white whisks) make a delightful sight, as they stand patiently and entertain the crowd. By sunrise, the elephants carrying deities from neighbouring temples that had gathered at the Sree Sastha Temple at Arattupuzha would proceed to the nearby river for the aarattu ceremony. It is a ceremonial cleansing process by immersing the idol in the river accompanied by chanting of mantras and floral offerings. The last to undergo the aarattu would be Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity of the Sree Sastha temple at Arattupuzha.

When: April 8, 2017

Vaisakhi in Amritsar 

Vaisakhi is one of the most popular harvest festival of north India. Vaisakhi (also spelled Baisakhi) is the festival which celebrates the founding of the Sikh community known as the Khalsa. It is celebrated on April 14 each year. It falls on the first day of Vaisakh which is the second month of the Nanakshahi calendar. On Vaisakhi day in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh summoned Sikhs from all over India to the city of Anandpur Sahib. It was then when the Panj Pyarey came into existence. It’s celebrated with a great deal of feasting, bhangra dancing, folk music, and fairs. Major celebrations are organised at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and it becomes carnival-like outside. There’s also a street procession.

When: April 13, 2017

Chithirai Festival

Chithirai Thiruvizha is one of the most important annual festivals held at the world famous Madurai Meenakshi Temple at Madurai in Tamil Nadu. The festival is celebrated for 12 days during the Tamil month of Chithirai or Chitirai. It re-enacts the wedding of Lord Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva) and Goddess Meenakshi (Lord Vishnu’s sister). Legend has it that Lord Vishnu came to Madurai, mounted on a golden horse, to witness the wedding. In 2017, the date of commencement of Chithirai Thiruvizha is April 28, 2017 with flag hoisting ceremony. Pattabhishekam of Goddess Meenakshi is on May 5, 2017. Celestal Wedding or Thirukkalyanam of  Lord Sundareswarar with Goddess Meenakshi is on May 7, 2017. The Car festival is on May 8, 2017. The Theertham festival is celebrated on the 12th day (May 9, 2017) with the Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi going round Masi streets and blessing the devotees.

When: April 28-May 9, 2017

Painkuni of royal Travancore

Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple with its rich history is one among the most famous temples in India. A major festival at this temple which sees huge participation of devotees from across the state is the Painkuni Festival. Painkuni is a ten-day festival in which special rituals are offered every day. The festival is a visual delight where in colossal figurines are set up. These huge fibre glass figures of the Pandavas (the five sons of Pandu in the Indian epic Mahabharata) are placed at the eastern entrance to the temple. It is held that these figurines are set up in order to propitiate Indra, the Rain God. The festival starts with kodiyettu, which is the hoisting of the ceremonial flag. The ninth day has the head of the Travancore Royal Family performing the palli vetta (royal hunt) ritual, near the Vettakorumakan Temple in the Fort area. The arattu (holy bath) ceremony of the idols in the sea at the Shanghumugham Beach marks the end of the festivities. The head of the royal family of erstwhile Travancore will lead the procession for the arattu carrying the ceremonial sword and wearing the traditional green cap. The male members of royal family of Travancore will escort the deities in the procession and devotees line up to offer their prayers to the deities. The idols are then taken back to the temple.

When: April 10, 2017

Sankat Mochan Music Festival

Banaras or Varanasi has a long tradition of classical music and dance in temples. The first Sankat Mochan Musical Festival was held in 1923, and since then it’s attracted acclaimed classical musicians and dancers to perform from all over India. Recitals are held every evening in the temple courtyard and go on until dawn, as part of Hanuman Jayanti (birthday of Lord Hanuman) celebrations. The Sankat Mochan Sangeet Samaroh is the biggest annual classical music and dance festival of Banaras, and one of India’s biggest. For many Banarasis, it is the highlight of the year, its magic lingering long after it is over. First Sankat Mochan Music Festival was organized in 1923 and since then it attracts numerous enthusiasts of Indian classical music and dance world, including Odissi guru, Kelucharan Mahapatra, who was associated since its early days. In fact he was instrumental in starting women’s participation in the festival with Sanjukta Panigrahi, Swapna Sundari and Kankana Banerjee. Sankat Mochan Music Festival is an all night long music festival which goes on for four nights. India Classical Music maestros from all over come to participate to showcase their skills and consider it as an honour. This Music Festival has attracted numerous maestros of Indian classical music and dance world

When: April 15-19, 2017

Patayani at Kadammanitta

Kadammanitta Devi Temple in the tiny hamlet of Kadammanitta in Pathanamthitta is famed for its impressive display of the ritual art form of Patayani- the Kadammanitta Patayani. A vibrant outburst of colour and energy, the Patayani is performed to appease Goddess Bhadrakaali and this festival is celebrated every year from the first day of Malayalam month, medam to the 10th day, called the pathamudayam. The festival begins with chootuveipu – the lighting of fire and the beating of the thappu, Patayani percussion instrument. This is followed by eduthu varavu or the procession of several patayani kolams which marks the conclusion of the festival.

When: April 14-21, 2017

Where: Kadammanitta Devi Temple, Pathanamthitta. Nearest railway station is Thiruvalla, about 30 km, while nearest airport is Trivandrum International Airport, about 105 km.

 

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Where would you like to go this month!

Its getting hotter day by day. The annual holiday season is right at the corner and one has got many options to choose from. Besides, this month marks the first day of the Hindu solar calendar and is observed in almost all parts of country by different names. It’s a time of merriment and feasting and continues, in general, for seven days. Here are some ways to celebrate this month in India.

1. Gangaur at Jaipur

Gangaur-jaipurOne of the most important festivals in Rajasthan, Gangaur is all about honoring the goddess Gauri. In some form or the other it is celebrated all over Rajasthan. “gan” is a synonym for Lord Shiva and “gauri” or “gaur” stands for Goddess Parvati, the heavenly consort of Lord Shiva. Gangaur celebrates the union of the two and is a symbol of conjugal and marital happiness.This festival is predominantly for women. Colorful processions of bejeweled images of the goddess Gauri wind their way all over cities and villages, accompanied by local bands. In Jaipur, traditional procession of Gangaur commences form the Zanani- Deodhi of the City Palace, passing through Tripolia Bazaar, Chhoti Chaupar, Gangauri Bazaar, Chaugan stadium and finally converges near the Talkatora. The procession is headed by a old palanquins, chariots, bullock carts and performance folk artistes.

When: April 9-10, 2016.

Where: All over Rajasthan, however the festivities in Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, and Nathdwara are the most notable.

2. Rongali Bihu in Assam

Rongali bihuBihu is the main festival of Assam. This agricultural festival occurs three times a year but the biggest celebration, known as Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu, happens in April. It’s celebrated for three days and marks the start of the new year there, as well as seeding time in spring. The farmers prepare the fields for cultivation of paddy and there is a feeling of joy around. The ladies make pitha, larus (traditional food made of rice and coconut) and Jolpan which gives the real essence of the season. The first day of the bihu is called goru bihu or cow bihu, where the cows are washed and worshipped, which falls on the last day of the previous year, usually on April 14. This is followed by manuh (human) bihu on April 15, the New Year Day. This is the day of getting cleaned up, wearing new cloths and celebrating and getting ready for the new year with fresh vigor. The third day is Gosai (Gods) bihu; statues of Gods, worshiped in all households are cleaned and worshiped asking for a smooth new year.

When: April 13-15, 2016.

Where: Assam.

3. Thrissur Pooram

Thrissur PooramThe grandest of all Kerala temple festivals this is more than two hundred years old. The Thrissur Pooram features a procession of around 30 colourfully decorated elephants and ensemble of 250 musicians. Other attractions include drum concerts, ornamental parasol displays, and fireworks. The festival is a huge cultural event that runs through the night with exuberant celebrations. Special viewing areas are provided for foreigners at the festival. The temple is a classical example of the Kerala style of architecture and has many murals and pieces of art. Majestic looking elephants adorned with ornate golden nettipattoms on their foreheads, the captivating beats of the thunderous music of the panchavadyam (five traditional instruments), spectacular fireworks, teeming millions intoxicated with the festive spirit – its all this and more that makes the world-famous Thrissur Pooram an unforgettable experience for any tourist.Had been in news recently for its treatment with elephants with issue even landing in court. Still, a festival worth a visit.

When: April 17, 2016.

Where: Vadakkumnathan Temple, Thrissur, Kerala.

4. Vaisakhi in Amritsar

VaishakhiVaisakhi is a harvest festival. Vaisakhi (also spelled Baisakhi) is the festival which celebrates the founding of the Sikh community known as the Khalsa. It is celebrated on April 14 each year. It falls on the first day of Vaisakh which is the second month of the Nanakshahi calendar. On Vaisakhi day in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh summoned Sikhs from all over India to the city of Anandpur Sahib. It was then when the Panj Pyarey came into existence. It’s celebrated with a great deal of feasting, bhangra dancing, folk music, and fairs. Major celebrations are organised at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and it becomes carnival-like outside. There’s also a street procession.

When: April 13, 2016.

Where: Throughout the state of Punjab, particularly in Amritsar.

5. Mewar Festival at Udaipur

Mewar-FestivalThe Mewar Festival welcomes the arrival of spring. It coincides with the festival of Gangaur in Udaipur, and has a unique charm about it. The women folk gather to dress the images of Isar and Gangaur and then carry them in a ceremonial procession through different parts of the city. The procession winds its way to the Gangaur Ghat at Lake Pichhola. Here, the images are transferred to special boats amidst much singing and festivity. Once the religious part of the festival is over, it is time for cultural events where Rajasthani culture is portrayed through songs, dances and other programmes. The festival culminates with an impressive fireworks display. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see a range of traditional musical instruments being played.

When: April 9-11, 2016.

Where: Udaipur, Rajasthan.

6. Attuvela-Mahotsavam

Attuvela-MahotsavamIn contrast to many of Kerala’s temple festivals where the focus is on elephants, the Attuvela Mahotsavam is a delightful water carnival. According to legend, this festival marks the welcome ceremony for the Goddess of Kodungalloor, who comes to visit her sister, the Goddess of Elamkavu. The Goddess Bhagavathy is the presiding deity of the Elamkavu Bhagavathy Temple, where this festival is held. During the two-day Attuvela festival, beautifully illuminated canoes, carrying a huge replica of the temple, sail down the waters accompanied by a group of colourfully decorated small canoes to the accompaniment of percussion music. The procession of canoes starts from the Attuvela kadavu (kadavu means boat jetty), about two kilometers from the temple. It is a sight to behold and an experience to cherish.

When: April 8, 2016.

Where: Elankavu Sree Bhagavathy Temple, Vadayar, Kottayam District, Kerala.

7. Chithirai Festival

Chithirai FestivalChithirai Thiruvizha is one of the most important annual festivals held at the world famous Madurai Meenakshi Temple at Madurai in Tamil Nadu. The festival is celebrated for 12 days during the Tamil month of Chithirai or Chitirai. It re-enacts the wedding of Lord Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva) and Goddess Meenakshi (Lord Vishnu’s sister). Legend has it that Lord Vishnu came to Madurai, mounted on a golden horse, to witness the wedding. In 2016, the date of commencement of Chithirai Thiruvizha is April 10, 2016 with flag hoisting ceremony. Pattabhishekam of Goddess Meenakshi is on April 18, 2016. Celestal Wedding or Thirukkalyanam of  Lord Sundareswarar with Goddess Meenakshi is on April 20, 2016. The Car festival is on April 21, 2016. The Theertha festival is celebrated on the 12th day with the Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi going round Masi streets and blessing the devotees.

When: April 10-23, 2016.

Where: Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

8. Simhastha Kumbh, Ujjain

Ujjain KumbhThis Kumbh Mela is one of four Kumbh Melas, held in different places in India, that are known as the largest religious gatherings on earth. The Simhastha Kumbh is an unrivalled celebration in India. The most popular legend regarding the origin of Kumbh Melas is the Samudra Manthan or ‘churning of the ocean’. Gods and demons competed ercely in the churning in search of the divine nectar of immortality. During this epic battle to capture the Urn (Kumbh) containing the nectar, drops of the precious liquid fell on four places – Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Nashik and Ujjain. The Ujjain Kumbh is celebrated when Jupiter ascends into sun sign Leo’s quarter or the Simha constellation of zodiac, which is why it is called ‘Simhastha’. The Simhastha is special in Ujjain as it is the seat of divine Mahakal – the Lord of all times. The ritual of bathing in the holy waters of Kshipra begins on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April) and continues on various dates until the full moon shows up in the following month of Vaishakha.

When: April 22 to May 21, 2016.

Where: Shipra river, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh

9. Sankat Mochan Music Festival

Sankat MochanBanaras has a long tradition of classical music and dance in temples. The first Sankat Mochan Musical Festival was held in 1923, and since then it’s attracted acclaimed classical musicians and dancers to perform from all over India. Recitals are held every evening in the temple courtyard and go on until dawn, as part of Hanuman Jayanti (birthday of Lord Hanuman) celebrations. The Sankat Mochan Sangeet Samaroh is the biggest annual classical music and dance festival of Banaras, and one of India’s biggest. For many Banarasis, it is the highlight of the year, its magic lingering long after it is over. First Sankat Mochan Music Festival was organized in 1923 and since then it attracts numerous enthusiasts of Indian classical music and dance world, including Odissi guru, Kelucharan Mahapatra, who was associated since its early days. In fact he was instrumental in starting women’s participation in the festival with Sanjukta Panigrahi, Swapna Sundari and Kankana Banerjee. Sankat Mochan Music Festival is an all night long music festival which goes on for four nights. India Classical Music maestros from all over come to participate to showcase their skills and consider it as an honour. This Music Festival has attracted numerous maestros of Indian classical music and dance world

When: 19-23 April, 2016.

Where: Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

10. Trek to lower Himalayas

TrekkingAdventure tourism in general and trekking in particular is always flavour of the summer vacations when it comes to youth. There are number of treks been organised in the summer months by different groups and organisations. Choose any according to your budget and destination. Treks in lower himalayas are the flavour of the season. You can trek to various locations in Kullu-Parvati valley or in Uttarakhand or Sikkim. Trekking is always a thrill and adventure and a well-organised trek is an experience of he lifetime. Besides trekking, there are also options of biking and other adventure activities.

When: April-May, 2016.

Where: Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim

(This post was supposed to be published five days back but got delayed due to a sudden trip)

 

Top 10 trekking ideas for April

The annual holiday season is right at the corner and one has got many options to choose from. Adventure tourism in general and trekking in particular is always flavour of the summer vacations when it comes to youth. Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI) has been a pioneer in India for economical group trekking in himalayas and elsewhere. This time around we are listing top ten summer national trekking/adventure expeditions of YHAI in India which one would love to join. Treks are open for everybody, but unless we rush limited seats might not be available in each group. Have a look meanwhile-

  1. Glorious Sar Pass trek

Sar-PassIn the beautiful Parvati valley of Kullu District in Himachal Pradesh, SAR Pass is one of the most popular trails of the Shivalik range of the mighty Himalayas. Parvati valley abounds in natural beauty with snow clad mountains, perennial rivulets, streams and waterfalls, picturesque meadows in the midst of dense forests of Devdar and Fir trees, which beckon the young adventure lover to come and experience the serene and calm atmosphere of all pervading nature. 11 days and 10 nights SAR Pass Trail offers an opportunity to enjoy the exquisite beauty of the Parvati valley with Kasol, Tila Lotni, Biskeri and Manikaran as its beauty spots. Base camp Kasol is famous for its cool and pleasant climate and tall pine trees. Tila Lotni can literally be called the little ICE LAND, where one can experience the challenges of nature in full fury, during spine chilling cold nights. The splendid views of snowy peaks offer an endless feast to the eyes. Biskeri fascinates the trekkers with its sweet grasses, wild flowers and a variety of birds. Hot water springs of Manikaran, are bliss. A natural hot water bath at these springs relieves you of all the tiredness and rejuvenates the body, mind and soul with a new energy. Base camp Kasol is just 4 kms before Manikaran on the Kullu-Manikaran route.

Dates: 1st May 2015 to 10th June 2015

Fees: Rs. 4673/- Inclusive of Food, Boarding, Lodging, Equipments, Group Insurance, Forest entry, Trekking

2. Trekking in Har-Ki-Doon valley

Har-Ki-DoonTrekking Expedition route to Har-Ki-Doon in Uttrakhand was introduced in 2002 on a strong demand of a segment of YHAI members. Encouraged by the success and response of the last expeditions, this new adventure trail is being announced again. A nine days and eight nights trek with base camp in Sankri. The valley of Har-Ki-Doon falls in the Western Garwal Himalayas bordering Himachal Pradesh. The trek route offers a breathtaking view of snowy mountains, peaks, dense forest, waterfalls, bugyals (high altitude meadows), wildlife and rare himalayan birds. You can view the majestic peaks of Swargarohni, Bandarpoonch and Kala Nag from a close range. For ages, the land has been known for temples and shrines with sacred mythological attachments, Duryodhna, the eldest of Kaurvas, is worshipped here, This trek route is virtually a paradise for the botonists, bird watchers, photographers, nature lovers, foot loose trekkers and anyone interested in exploring and learning in an unconventional way, in short, the more you trek in this area, the more curious you get to know more which has not yet been written but only found in tales and lores.

Dates: 5th May 2015 to 30th May 2015

Fees: Rs.5250/- Inclusive of Stay & Food charges , Transportation (Mussoorie to Sankri), Group Insurance fees, Equipment charges , Entry fees, Guide fees

3. Everest view at Sandakphu

SandakphuSandakphu is the world famous trekking paradise, from where can enjoy the clear views of Himalayan Giants like Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lohtse, Nuptse, Makalu, Pandim, Chomolhari, and many more up to Arunachal Pradesh. Only place in India to have a view of four of the world’s five highest peaks. For the tourists & trekkers, fresh from the sights of other lands, not only as a delightful surprise but as a variable relief from the hot & sultry weather from plains. The weather at this time of the year is Darjeeling best. Cool Languid days with hardly a cloud in a sky of clear and uninterrupted blue, near by slopes, a luxuriant green in the blue hills shimmering across the valley and the mighty Kanchenjunga range stands as a majestic background towering over everything. The base camp is at Youth Hostel Hotel Kadambari, near Darjeeling Railway Station, Darjeeling is easily accessible from any part of India by Air, Rail or Road, The nearest main line railway station is New Jalpaiguri and the Airport at Bagdogra being the links to the outside world. From there avail Bus/Jeep/Taxi services to reach Darjeeling (90 km.) in three hours. There is also a world heritage narrow gauge train from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling.

Dates: 26th April to 10th May 2015

Fees: Rs. 5250/- Inclusive of Accommodation, Nutritious Veg food, Insurance, Forest entry fees.

4. Beauty of Shivaliks at Chanderkhani

Chanderkhani-PassThis route is of scenic beauty and cultural diversity. It has vast tracts of meadows and pastures lying across beautiful mountains. Chanderkhani, located at a height of 12,190 ft. provides an awesome and breathtaking view of some of the most beautiful snow clad mountain peaks like Tiger Thatch, Ali Ratni, Inderasan and Priyadarshini Range. Chanderkhani, one of the most popular trekking routes in the Shivalik Range. The trek  route passes through dense forest with a variety of botanical species of thick and colourful foliage emanating enchanting fragrance, compelling passerby to view and appreciate the raw natural beauty. You may also meet simple Himachali folks who are proud of their land, culture and heritage. Malana is the only one village where residents still retains its 2000 years old traditions of a “Village Republic”. They have a distinct way of life, social customs, judicial system and ethics. Ten days and nine nights trek has base camp at Seobagh. Youth Hostel- Seobagh is 3kms from Kullu and on the left of the banks of meandering river Beas, near Jairu Mineral Water plant. It is linked by road via Ram Shila & Gamon Bridge, and commands a panoramic view of surrounding mountains. Regular bus services are available for Kullu from Delhi, Chandigarh & Punjab. The nearest Railway Stations are Ambala& Chandigarh & the nearest Airport is Bhuntar.

Dates: 26th April 2015 to 05th June 2015

Fees: Rs. 4515/- Inclusive of Food, Boarding, Lodging, Equipments, Group Insurance, Forest entry, Trekking.

5. Biking at Jalori Pass

Jalori PassFor all those who would love biking more than trekking or who had enough of trekking and now want to try a hand on biking, there is an option of biking on high altitude Jalori Pass. National Mountain Biking Expedition, yet again, to give you memories for life (from Banala (Post Aut) to Jalori Pass and back to Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh). Biking at over 10 thousand feet is always an enjoyable and thrilling experience. For National Himalayan Mountain Biking expedition stretching to eight days and seven nights, base camp is at Aut, which is on the Kullu-Manali Highway. It is 28km short from Kullu. Direct bus services are available from ISBT Delhi, Chandigarh and other parts of Punjab, nearest rail heads are Ambala and Chandigarh. Such camps give exposure to greater adventure and to rough the rigours of plodding with a sense of love for nature and outdoor recreational activity aiming at promoting advent are in tandem with national integration.

Dates: 24th April 2015 to 5th June 2015

Fees: Rs. 3675/- Inclusive of Food, Stay, Equipments, Cycles, Training, Guidance & Insurance

6. Nature study at Dobhi

Nature-StudyThis is for the young ones. Combine adventure with education camp for 8 days in the beautiful Kullu valley-the abode of Gods in Himachal Pradesh, is being organised by the Youth Hostels Association of India. The nature study camp includes bird-watching, star gazing, (identifying satellites) rock climbing, trekking and first aid training. One may also photograph the panoramic views of the surrounding areas. Avail this opportunity of staying in the camp site amidst majestic snow peaks of Himalayas and meet the youngsters from various parts of the country. At night, sit around the camp fire after dinner for a cultural get together with a sense of love for nature and outdoor activity, aiming at promoting national integration. Base camp Dobhi is directly connected with Delhi (527kms), Chandigarh (226kms) by road. Regular bus services are available. The nearest rail heads for Dobhi are Ambala & Chandigarh. The nearest airport is Bhuntar. Youth Hostel Dobhi is 14kms on Kullu-Manali highway. The program is open to students of age group between 10 -15 yrs. Only junior members are allowed to participate. One teacher/escort accompanying a group of 10 students will be allowed complimentary in terms of participation fee. Any additional teacher/escort will be charged.

Dates: 27th April- 31st May 2015

Fees: Rs. 3675/- Inclusive of Food, Stay, Equipments, Training, Forest entry fee, Guidance, Insurance

7. Heritage trek in Kashmir

Kashmir HeritageThe Youth Hostels Association of India, J&K State Branch in collaboration with the Directorates of Education, Youth Services & Sports, Colleges and Tourism, J&K Government, Patnitop Development Authority & District Administration Udhampur is organizing the “National Heritage Trek” expedition through some of the most scenic and beautiful areas of  Jammu & Kashmir. This seven days trek touches unique heritage sites, green meadows and pastures; lofty mountains; thick deodar forests; clear natural water springs; brooks and the holy river that flows just below the surface of the earth except at one location at Udhampur. The trek is a unique experience, providing trekkers with a glimpse of magnificent natural and built heritage of the state. The base camp Udhampur is well connected with whole country by means of road and  rail mode of transportation. Udhampur is about 60 Kms from winter capital of J&K the Jammu city on Jammu –Srinagar National Highway. From Udhampur railway station ( 4 Kms from base camp) auto rickshaw is available.The nearest Airport is Jammu airport.

Dates: 1st May to 10th June 2015

Fees: Rs. 4725/- The fee includes simple vegetarian food, accommodation, supervision, expert guidance and equipment for 7 days.

8. Camping in Nilgiris

Nilgiri HillsIf you have had too much of Himalayan passes and want to go something milder then try a family camping at Nilgiris. Youth Hostels Association of India, Tamil Nadu State Branch is organises a family Camping in the beautiful region of Nilgiris. Ooty youth hostel is the site for the camping. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, which includes the Nilgiri Hills, forms a part of the protected bio reserves in India and is a part of UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The Upper and Lower Pykara falls have falls of 180 feet (55 m), and 200 feet (61 m), respectively. The best trekking seasons are April–June and September–December.

Dates: 25 April to 29 May 2015

Fees: Rs.7525/- Includes tented accommodation, guidance, equipment and 2days sight seeing – sight seeing to Ooty & Coonoor and sight seeing to Mudumalai Wild Life Sanctuary & Pykara Falls. Only Entry Ticket at tourist places to be purchased by the participants. Fees is for a family consisting of husband, wife and two children upto the age of 15 years. The fee shall remain the same even if no children accompany. Rs.1,750/- will be charged for more than two children, and children above 15 years, per additional family member.

9. Enjoy camping with family at Kullu

Kullu CampingIn 1995 YHAI introduced the Family camping Program for the families of volunteer camp leaders and other functionaries. Encouraged by the success of this adventure and, on the request of members it repeated this program in many years till 2013. In year 2015 again, YHAI is organizing the Family Adventure Camping Program in the picturesque valley of Kullu-Manali, Himachal Pradesh. This camps is for four nights and five days. Base camp is at 15 Miles, near end of Span Resort. Get down at Ballu’s Cafe – Baba Deluxe Dhaba on the Delhi- Kullu Manali National Highway. Regular bus services are available from Delhi, Chandigarh, Punjab to Kullu Manali. Nearest railheads are Ambala and Chandigarh. Nearest Airport is Bhuntar. One tent shall be given to each family. Mattresses, pillow and blankets shall be provided. Family should bring their own bed sheets. A well constructed pucca toilet-cum bathrooms block is available at the base camp. Morning tea, breakfast, packed lunch, evening tea (in the camp), and dinner and after dinner tea/coffee/Bournvita, shall be provided. Nutritious, vegetarian and good quality food shall be served at the camp.

Dates: 24th April’, 29th April, 4th May, 9th May, 14th May, 19th May, 24th May, 29th May, 3rd June, 8th June 2015

Fees: Rs. 4935/- Inclusive of Food, Accommodation, Guidance & Insurance for One Family(Husband, Wife & 2 Children upto 12 years)

10. Summer camping at Sulpaneshwar

Sulpaneshwar CampingAdventurous Three Days Two Nights in Sulpaneshwar Wild life sanctuary, the totally pollution free area.The participants will enjoy a splendid panorama of hills, refreshing water reservoir, beautiful landscapes, breath taking trees, The hilly trek of Sulpaneshwar wild life century provides trekking trails, some additional attractions like Repelling, River crossing, Burma Bridge, Boating, jeep ride, bird watching, and Photography. To be with the nature is the prime thing in our life, come and see what lies at –Sulpaneshwar wild life sanctuary. The Reporting camp Rajpipla is located on Vadodara-Netrang Gujarat State Highway. The nearest railway stations are Rajpipla, Ankleshwar (61 Km), Bharuch (65 km) and Vadodara (86 km.). State bus service is available. Direct bus service is also available from Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Bharuch, and Ankleshwar. Direct trains are available from Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and major cities of India.

Dates: 11th, 13th and 18th April 2015

Fees:  Rs.2500/- (Direct Reporting AT RAJPIPLA) which includes simple nutritious vegetarian meal, Boating, River crossing, Repelling, Burma Bridge, Star Gazing, Bird Watching, tented accommodations, Local Transportation, Forest entry fees, expert guidance, etc.

 

Top 10 travel ideas for February

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

1. DESERT FESTIVAL

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

When: 1-3 February 2015

2. KHAJURAHO DANCE FESTIVAL

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

When: 20-26 February 2015

3. SHEKHAWATI FESTIVAL

Shekhawati685The land of Havelis. The land of Frescoes. The land of Martyrs. The land of organic revolution in India. These are a few of Shekhawati’s many sobriquets. Joining the hallowed ranks of that list is yet another sobriquet-THE LAND OF THE SHEKHAWATI FESTIVAL. For the last 15 years, Shekhawati has played host to one of India’s unique cultural festivals. The Shekhawati Festival involves not only every villager of this large province but also people from all parts of India and the world. While the main activity is centred around the huge Surya Mandal Stadium in Navalgarh, Shekhawati Festival is truly a celebration of the various aspects and locales of Shekhawati. The locals get a chance to exhibit their prodigious skills. Famed artists and craftsmen from every corner of Rajasthan use this festival as an opportunity to display their talent to the world. There are organised tours to the famed portals of famous Havelis, forts and temples of the region. For those seeking in-depth knowledge of arts and crafts of the region there are seminars and workshops.One of the unique aspects of this festival is the emphasis laid by the Morarka Foundation on the organic way of life. This must the only festival in the world where every participant and spectator including scores of villages from near and far are served organic food for all the 4 days of the festival. The food court with more than 50 food stalls serve only organic delicacies for the entire duration of the festival. Visitors get a chance to savour a entire range of Indian cuisine with the knowledge that the fare is completely organic. Tourists also get a chance to be amidst pristine pastoral environs and enjoy organic farm food at eco-tourism organic lunches. Here tourists from all parts of the world get a first hand experience of the entire process of growing and cultivating organic food even as they get a taste of the end product on their plates. The Aravallis run through this region and the presence of this rocky barrier comes as a surprise in this flat and arid landscape, dotted here and there with picturesque dunes and colourful Havelis. A peep into the culture of Shekhawati gives us insight into the life of everyday India, seen through the lens of art and architecture. It helps us understand the vivid tapestry of Rajasthani and Indian life as it was lived in the glorious days of yore and continues to date!

When: 5-8 February, 2015

4. TAJ MAHOTSVA

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

When: 18-27 February, 2015

5. BHARAT RANG MAHOTSAV

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

When: 1-18 February, 2015

6. DELHI BOOK FAIR

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

When: 14-22 February, 2015

7. SURAJKUND CRAFTS FAIR

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

When: 1-15 February, 2015

8. GOA CARNIVAL

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

When: 14-17 February, 2015

9. Sufi Sutra International Sufi Music Festival

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

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

10. KALA GHODA ARTS FESTIVAL

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

When: 7-16 February, 2015