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The original Bahubali and the Ghoda goes green!


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Spring is early this year, not just because Basant Panchami was celebrated in January itself, but also because winter too seems to be giving way to the spring already. Time of romance and enjoyment. Carnival time at places around the world. But the shortest month of the year is also one of the richest in terms of cultural output that we get out of it.

Khajuraho Festival of Dances

Well, we are already done with the first quarter of the month and many events have already rounded up, like the Rural Olympics at Kila Raipur in Punjab (2-4 February 2018) and the Sula Fest at Nasik (3-4 February). Even the Kala Ghoda Arts festival at Mumbai has started from 3rd February, but there is still time to catch up few events in remaining days. But surely gem of the month is the once in 12 years Mahamasthakabhisheka of the ‘original’ Bahubali at Shravanbelagola in Karnataka. But we also have some lesser known festivals in monasteries of Ladakh, if you are daring to venture there in the winters. Also in my (remaining) list for the month is another recent addition to Rajasthan’s ever growing music sphere- a festival at Udaipur. Then there are always the regular ones with their evergreen charm.

Mahamasthakabhisheka of Bahubali

Mahamasthakabhisheka, the head anointing ceremony is performed once in 12 years to the 57 feet tall monolithic statue of Lord Bahubali at Shravanabelagola. The event is being be held under the leadership of Swasti Sri Charukeerthi Bhattarakha Swamiji of Shravanabelagola from 17th-25th February 2018. Shravanabelagola/Sravanabelagola is one of the most important Jain tirth (a sacred place) of the Jains in South India. It is a place of great importance from the point of pilgrimage and also archeological and religious heritage. About eight hundred odd inscriptions which the Karnataka Archeological Department has collected at the place are mostly Jaina and cover a very extended period from 600 to 1830 A.D. Some refer even to the remote time of Chandragupta Maurya and also relate the story of the first settlement of Jains at Shravanabelagola. That this village was an acknowledged seat of learning is proved from the fact that a priest from here named Akalanka was in 788 A.D. summoned to the court of Himasitala at Kanchi where having confuted the Buddhists in public disputation, he was instrumental in gaining their expulsion from the South of India to Ceylon. The place derives its name from the point that Shravana or Shramana means a Jain ascetic and Belagola or Biliya Kola means white pond. Usually Mahamasthakabhisheka to Bahubali idols at Shravanabelagola, Karkala, Venur and Dharmasthala are conducted once in 12 years. There are various interesting stories/interpretations around this.

When: 17-25 February 2018

Where: Shravanabelagola is at a distance of 51 KM south-east of Hassan, the district centre. It is situated at a distance of 12 Km to the south from the Bangalore-Mangalore road (NH-48), 78 Kms from Halebidu, 89 Kms from Belur, 83 Kms from Mysore, 233 Kms from Mangalore and 157 Kms from Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka. It is well connected with State Highways and District roads. Bangalore and Mangalore are the two nearest destinations connected by Air. There are trains connecting Shravanabelagola with the state capital Bengaluru (Bangalore), its district head quarter Hassan, the cultural capital of Karnataka Mysuru and the state’s chief port city Mangaluru (Mangalore).

Kala Ghoda goes Green this year

Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is the country’s largest multicultural festival, taking place in February each year. Kala Ghoda Association, was formed on 30th October 1998 with the object of maintaining and preserving the heritage and art district of South Mumbai. Mission was to preserve and refurbish the heritage arts district of Mumbai with the co-operation of local authorities and to create and spread multi-cultural awareness through platforms like festivals and events especially amongst those who have little opportunity to access or be exposed to culture. Hence the festival is free for everybody across all he sections. The Festival draws visitors in large numbers, not just from the city but from all over the country, and the world. Hara Ghoda The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival brings to the stage the wonders of nature shown through performance and art. The raging flames of the Fire of victory (agni), the liquid blue of Aqua (jal), the indefinable Air (vayu), the indestructible Earth (prithvi) and the realms of Space (akash), finds its place and artistic representation at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2018. The HTKGAF calendar features dance, theatre, music and literature events, in addition to art installations, workshops, heritage walks and film screenings. For those looking forward to the diverse calendar of events, this festival hasn’t been soon enough. The festival is quirky and fresh, bringing to us the best of art and culture. The art installations are amazing; the literature events enriching. The nine-day festival adds to the beauty of the city, with its rich programmes. Kala Ghoda is a festival so rich and diverse, yet binding us together. Music performances are exemplary, with elite artists performing for the whole city. It captures the city’s culture and gives the new generation a chance to connect with it.

When: 3-11 February, 2018

Where: Different venues for different arts across Mumbai, although there is a pending court case related to use of Cross Maidan this year.

Destruction of evil with fanfare at Dosmochey Festival in Ladakh!

This is a festival from the rooftop of the world. Likir Festival and Leh Dosmochey normally falls around February. Dosmochey is a monastic festival celebrated in the month of February each year. This festival was said to be started by the rulers of Ladakh on the pattern of the popular Mon-Lam meaning ‘Great Prayer’ ceremony of Lhasa. It is celebrated at Leh, Likir (lower Ladakh) and Diskit (in Nubra valley) monasteries. It is the last event of the New Year celebrations, and is held on the 28th and 29th day of the 12th Tibetan month. This two day festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Hundreds of Ladakhi people and winter tourists actively take part in this festival. In Leh, there is a courtyard below Leh Palace, where festival is held. Monks from various monasteries perform mask dance and ritual prayers. Mask dance is accompanied with the sound of large drums, cymbals and trumpet. Monks of Takthok monastery (the only remaining Nyingmapa school monastery and who are considered as masters in Tantric practice and astrology) prepare the complex thread crosses to trap evil and demonic forces. On the second day, crowds of masked dancers and people march through streets spreading positive energy. Besides, offerings of storma, ritual figures moulded out of dough, are brought out and ceremonially cast away into the desert, or burnt. These scapegoats believed to carry away with them the evil spirits of the year just passed and thus the town is cleaned and made ready to welcome the New Year.

When: 13-14 February, 2018

Where: Leh Palace, Likir and Diskit Gompa

Cham dances of Yargon Tungshak 

Stay for some more days after Dosmochey festival and you can enjoy another one in Nubra valley this time. Even though winter is not the most ideal time to plan a Leh Ladakh tour, those who want to witness the livelier side of Ladakh must plan a visit to Nubra Valley during the late months of winter. During the late winters, the calm and placid Nubra valley of Ladakh comes to life with the vibrant Yargon Tungshak Festival. A flamboyant exhibition of culture, tradition, folk music, and the much acclaimed Cham Dance (Mask Dance), the Yargon Tungshak Festival brings in a new and the livelier vibes back to the entire valley. Decked up in traditional costumes, the dance is performed on the beats of drums and low-level syllables which are uttered with a strange melody. Dances which are performed in this festival are Lion, Yak and Tashipa dances. Ladakhi festiveals like Yargon Tungshak are synodnymous with delicious food that is peculiar only to that region. Locals, during the Yargon Tungshak Festival, feast on delicious local foods; mostly skyu, gurgur cha and thukpa, and the monasteries also holds social feast for the locals. Also, a grand religious prayer takes place in a monastery. Along with the traditional Tibetian chants, Sanskrit chants are also uttered by monks.

When: 19-20 February, 2018

Where: Nubra Yama, Nubra, Ladakh

The oracles at Stok Guru Tsechu

Dare I say that come back from Nubra to the Stok village and in few days you will witness another great monastic festival and a rare one. The Stok Guru Tsechu Festival is held in the first month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, the holy prayer month. It is celebrated in accordance with Guru Rinpoche’s (Padmasambhava) birthday which falls on the 9th and 10th day of the first Tibetan month. Stok Guru Tsechu is a very unique monastic festival. Apart from the famous mask dance, its highlight is the awaited oracles’ prediction for the coming year. Stok village, where the festival takes place, offers the great view down the valley on the mighty Indus river and the majestic snow-capped Stok Kangri Mountain (6,153m above sea level). Every now and then one gets easily delighted by the festive vibes that the locals emanate in their colourful attire. The festival is a platform where villagers take the opportunity to serve their spiritual masters and the monastery in its turn entertains its long-bearing benefactors through a colourful Cham or mask dance. The villagers are introduced to different manifestations of Tantric Buddhas through the means of religious dance performed by the monks who are in turn disguised in sacred costumes, ornaments and huge masks resembling different Buddhas. As the sun sets down above the high rocky mountains of Stok range, the two oracles appear in the monastery courtyard. Fully possessed and in trance, they are escorted to the main temple by monks, lay people and two Deer mask dance performers. They are being glorified with the high baritone trumpets blown by the monks along with cymbals, drums and a group of lay musicians playing traditional drums and pipes. It is believed that there are seven oracles residing in Ladakh. Two of them are in Stok village, two in Matho village, other two in Gya village and one in Skurbuchan village. The story tells that their origin dates back to the pre-Buddhist era where Shamanism or Bon was prevailing in Tibet. As Guru Rinpoche subdued all the shamanic energy and converted them into Buddhism in the 8th century AD, they took pledge to protect the Buddha Dharma since then.

When: 24-25 February, 2018

Where: Stok village, Ladakh

World of music at the City of Lakes

The City of Lakes sings a different tune come February. Udaipur plays host to the third edition of the Udaipur World Music Festival. Organised by SEHER, this festival brings together global artists and ensembles from over 20 countries. More than 100 artists will collaborate to give an eclectic variety of performances. The festival which witnessed a footfall of more than 50,000 people visiting from different parts of the world during its last two editions, assures an interesting itinerary with artistes from France, US, Nepal, Spain, Italy, Thailand and India giving music lovers a taste of jazz, classical, rock and pop music this edition. Music enthusiasts will be privy to live performances by famous bands like Txarango from Spain and Brazilian singer Flavia Coelho and many other artistes who will be performing for the first time in the country. Music connoisseurs will also get to enjoy soulful renditions by the lauded musical trio Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy from India and The Ransom Collective from Philippines. Celebrating cultural diversity at its best, the festival will also provide a platform to local Rajasthani artistes along with an insightful exposure to the local communities.The event is designed to cater to the music sensibilities of people across different ages and from all walks of life. An absolute once-in-a-lifetime experience, this one is a sheer treat for lovers of good music. The event will host some of the most renowned music artistes including Italian musician Oi Dipnoi, Himalyan folk singer-songwriter Bipul Chettri, New York-based Indian guitarist and composer Shubh Saran, French musical artist Maya Kamaty, amongst others. “It has been a fantastic experience to see tremendous response from music lovers in the past two editions. This year we have planned to take the festival to new levels with an eclectic line up of world musicians who will be performing during the festival. The festival is a celebration of myriad cultures, ethnicities and colorful traditions through music,” Festival Director Sanjeev Bhargava said.

When: 9-11 February 2018

Where: Fateh Sagar Paal and Gandhi ground, Udaipur

Showcasing art and handicraft at Surajkund

Surajkund Mela

One of the most awaited fairs of north India happens to be very close to Delhi. Comes right at the nick of spring. Dates have been slightly altered this year. 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. 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. Artists from many other states also actively participate. Every year, a theme state is chosen for the Mela, which highlights the state in totality from its architecture to fine arts and crafts. This year Kyrgyzstan is the partner nation and Uttar Pradesh has been chosen as the theme State for the 32nd Surajkund International Crafts Mela-2018.

When: 2-18 February, 2018

Where: Surajkund, Faridabad, Haryana

A music fest for world peace

Sufi Sutra which is now Sur Jahan

8th edition of Sur Jahan (previous name Sufi Sutra) will be held at Mohar Kunj, Kolkata on February 2 to 4, 2017. Like previous years, it remains non ticketed festival and open to music lovers. Held in the first weekend of February every year with the motto of ‘Music for Peace, Music for All’, the event showcases international and national music teams, with cultural exchange workshops during the day and concerts in the evenings. The celebrations create the atmosphere of a carnival, with stalls by rural handicraft artists and folk performances. It is being held since 2011 and is now a permanent and much-awaited fixture in the city’s cultural calendar. Since its inception, teams from 22 countries and 12 states of India have participated in this annual musical extravaganza. Among the major attractions this year are the Ale Möller Quartet and Ellika Solo Rafael, both from Sweden, BraAgas of Czech republic, Virelai of Denmark and Otava Yo from Russia. Indian part will be represented by Punjab Qawwali, Bauls of Bengal and Folks of Bengal – an initiative of banglanatak dot com MusiCal supporting urban folk artists. The festival will also showcase Rural Craft & Cultural Hubs of West Bengal, an initiative of West Bengal government’s Department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Textiles (MSME&T) in association with UNESCO. Alike last year Sur Jahan is again traveling to Goa this year Feb 7-9.

When: 2-4 February, 2018.

Where: Kolkata & Goa

Carnival times in Goa

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

When: 10-13 February, 2018

Where: Panaji, Vasco, Mapusa

Best of classical dance at Khajuraho

Every 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. This year it will be 44th edition of this festival. 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 2018

Where: Western group of temples, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh

An Olympics for Theatre in Delhi this time

Bharat Rang Mahotsav

India’s biggest theatre festival hosted by National School of Drama will this year turn into 8th Theatre Olympics. India will be hosting this event for the first time. It will be a grand showcase of the international theatre. Theate Olympics is going to feature work by playrights, directors, actors, designers, theatre groups and drama institutions from India and abroad. It will showcase outstanding productions that have been performed for the public on or before 31st August 2017. The theme of the Olympics is Flag of Friendship. The Theatre Olympics was established in 1993 in Delphi, Greece, on the initiative of the famous Greek theatre director, Theodoros Terzopoulos. It is a platform for theatrical exchange, a gathering place for students and masters, where a dialogue despite ideological, culture and language differences is encouraged. Moreover, as its subtitle suggests, Crossing Millennia, it is an initiative that emphasizes the importance of connecting the past, present, and future together. The founding committee was a group of eight internationally renowned theatre directors: Theodoros Terzopoulos, Nuria Espert, Antunes Filho, Tony Harrison, Yuri Lyubimov, Heiner Müller, Tadashi Suzuki and Robert Wilson. It is a non-profit organization. Its administrative headquarters are located in Athens, Greece (European office) and in Togamura, Japan (Asian office).

When: 17 February-8 April 2018

Where: National School of Drama, New Delhi, but plays across the country at various locations including Agartala, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Chennai, Guwahati, Imphal, Jaipur, Jammu, Kolkata, Mumbai, Patna, Thiruvanathapuram and Varanasi.

Enjoying contemporary art at India Art Summit

India Art Fair

India Art Fair, previously known as India Art Summit, is an annual summit of modern and contemporary art. India Art Fair is South Asia’s leading platform for modern and contemporary art and portal to the region’s cultural landscape. Founded in 2008, India Art Fair has become the bedrock of a now booming cultural community with connections to every level of the market. This is the 10th year of this Art summit. Building on these foundations, India Art Fair is expanding its programming to reflect South Asia’s immense diversity in the visual arts and to provide a platform for innovation across disciplines and exchange, throughout the region and the world. There is strong representation of leading Indian and international galleries to complement the fair’s regional perspective and enable a deeper engagement with art. A curated showcase of interactive, large-scale installations revealing the most stimulating cross section of artists, mediums and processes from the subcontinent. With a shared ambition to promote cultural discourse in South Asia, and provide a platform for these discussions, India Art Fair has developed platforms such as the Speakers’ Forum and Film Programme. This broad and exciting programme of lectures, screenings and conversations will engage a diverse range of stakeholders in the visual arts as well as cover a wide spectrum of artistic practices.

When: 9-12 February, 2018

Where: NSIC Exhibition Grounds, Okhla Industrial Estate, New Delhi.


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Desert to Desert : Old charm continues in New Year

Too late to come with the first post of the New Year! It is never too late!!

Chill is settling down and fog has engulfed almost whole of north India. Its snowing in the hills. Time to pack the bags for some adventure! If you need a reason than there are lot from cold deserts of Ladakh to deserts of Thar (although they will be equally cold this time). First month of the calendar year also comes with a number of festivals celebrating India’s dance and musical traditions. Not to be forgotten that this month also has Makar Sakranti (14th January), considered to be one of the most auspicious days of the year and also an occasion of many travels and pilgrimages. Here are my picks for the month.

Mukteshwar and Rajarani Festivals

Let’s start from Odisha. Mukteshwar Dance Festival (14-16 January), organised by Odisha Tourism is all about dance, especially Odissi dance. This festival is staged in front of the 1100-years-old Mukteswar temple in Bhubaneswar. Renowned Odissi dancers from around the world take part in this festival performing solo, duet and group presentations. Mukteshwar temple, one of the most prominent temples of Bhubaneswar, has been constructed in the style that is quite similar to the one used in the Kalinga School of Temple Architecture. The splendid Torana of the temple, an ornamental arched gateway, is very much reminiscent of the influence of Buddhism in Orissa. This temple is a very important part of cultural life of the people of Orissa as the architecture at the temple entrance is considered to be one of the most beautiful specimens of the Orissan School of architecture. This temple signifies the transitional phase of the architecture of Orissa between the initial and the later stages of Kalinga architectural style. The beautiful architectural works of the temple add to the splendour of the Mukteshwar Utsav. This festival should not be missed by the people who take interest in the traditional dance forms of India. This festival is followed by Rajarani Music Festival two days later. Mukteshwar festival is all about dance while Rajarani festival is about classical music.

Entrancing performances by well-known Odissi and Hindustani vocal and music maestros bring alive the architectural beauty of the 11th century Rajarani temple at this festival. To show case the glorious tradition of Indian classical music, the Rajarani Music Festival was conceived to be organised by the Department of Tourism in association with Bhubaneswar Music Circle.
Celestial music, sublime surroundings and soothing climes of late winter—soul traverses to an elevated sphere leaving you utterly relaxed. The musical evenings are resplendent with excellent performances by the great maestros of Indian classical music creating an allegory of darbari gayans (musical performances in an Indian king’s court) of age old histories. Eminent instrumentalists and vocalists of India have rendered scintillating performance in this festival over the years. The temple, often referred to as the Khajuraho of the east, is famous for its elaborate erotic sculptured figurines. It’s remarkable for the absence any presiding deity in it. The temple is famous for its ornate deul or compass and the statues of eight Dikpals guarding the eight cardinal directions of the temple.

  • When: January 14-16 & 18-20, 2018
  • Where: Mukteshwar & Rajarani temples, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha

Swathi Sangeethotsavam

Photo Credit : imalayalee.org

Continuing with tradition of music festivals, come January and the mighty pillars of the Kuthiramalika Palace in the Kerala’s capital city of Thiruvananthapuram will pulsate with the mellifluous notes sung at the Swathi Sangeetholsavam or Swathi Music Festival. This musical extravaganza lets you listen to the spellbinding compositions of Swathi Thirunal, the erstwhile Maharaja of Travancore. Organised every year to pay tribute to Swathi Thirunal, the concert celebrates the brilliant notes composed by this legendary maestro which continue to enthrall music lovers even now. A patron of music and a musician himself, Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma has to his credit more than 400 compositions in Carnatic music as well as Hindustani music. He set a new course and direction to the musical tradition of Kerala. The concert held in the Kuthiramalika Palace adjoining the famous Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, sees musical performances in both Hindustani and Carnatic styles. The musical festival which is attended by eminent musicians from across the country brings together those passionate about classical music and the experts as well. Entry is free.

  • When: January 4-13, 2018
  • Where: Kuthiramalika Palace, East Fort, Thiruvananthapuram

Adoor Gajmela, first of the year

Adoor Gajamela

Well, let’s still be in Kerala. The picture of a huge tusker in all his adornment is something that catches the mind of all. If you are an elephant lover then don’t miss this wonderful elephant pageant at the Parthasarathy Temple in Adoor. Popular as Adoor Gajamela, the festival is part of the ten-day annual celebration held at the temple. Kerala’s first elephant pageant for the year, the end of the 10 day festival at Parthasarathy Temple features a procession of nine decorated elephants. Traditional art forms such a panchavadyam (a musical ensemble with five different types of instruments) accompany the parade. Hundreds of people throng the temple premises to witness this spectacle where nine tuskers come in their ceremonial attire to entice all. Parthasarathy Temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna, who is also known as Parthasarathy – the charioteer of Parthan, another name for Arjuna. Arjuna is one of the five Pandava princes, in the Indian epic Mahabharata.

  • When: January 27, 2018
  • Where: Parthasarathy Temple, Adoor, Pathanamthitta district, Kerala

Arthunkal Perunnal

Kerala always loves to give you more. The Arthunkal Perunnal (perunnal meaning feast) is the annual feast of St. Sebastian held in the St. Andrew’s Forane Church at Arthunkal in Alappuzha. The event sees devotees from across the state throng the church to participate in the feast which is held in January every year. One of the main events during the feast involves a ceremonial procession wherein the statue of St. Sebastian is taken out from the church to the beach and back. Another intriguing event is the ceremony on the final day when devotees crawl on their knees all the way from the nearby beach to the church. Church built by Portuguese missionaries in a coastal hamlet near here is a model of religious harmony with a tradition of hosting Sabari pilgrims returning after worshipping Lord Ayyappa. Pilgrims from across the state visit the St Andrew’s Church at Arthunkal here and pay their respects to the idol of Saint Sebastian between the months of November and January during the Mandala and Makaravilakku season of the Sabarimala temple. Legend has it that one of the early priests of the church, popularly called Arthunkal Veluthachan (fair skinned father), was a friend of Lord Ayyappa. The visit of the pilgrims commemorates the bond they shared, especially as the priest was loved by the local people who believed he had healing powers.

  • When: January 27, 2018
  • Where: St. Andrew’s Forane Church, Arthunkal, Alappuzha. Nearest railway station Cherthala is about 8 km from here and Alappuzha is about 22 km from here.

But if you think that that is all from Kerala fo the month, than you are wrong. Actually there are lot more. Kerala Tourism has recently started another unique annual event- Utsavam which is a festival of traditional performing art forms of Kerala. It will be held from January 6 to 12 across Kerala. Simultaneously, from January 7 to 14 Vasantholsavam will be celebrated at Kanakakkunnu Palace in Thiruvanathpuram. It will be basically a flower show. Same Kanakakkunnu Palace will also host Nishagandhi Festival from January 20 to 26, which will be a seven day cultural fiesta.

Jaipur Literature Festival

Photo Credit: dumbbellsanddrama.com

Lets move from down south to west in Rajasthan. From modest beginnings in 2006, the Jaipur Literature Festival has grown into the largest literary festival in Asia-Pacific. This is the 11th edition of the festival this year. Both Indian authors as well as those from abroad appear at the festival. The sessions consist of readings, discussions, and questions and answers. It’s possible to buy the authors’ books and get them signed. In addition, there’s a range of stalls selling everything from food to handicrafts. There’s also an outdoor lounge bar, for relaxing. Music performances are held in the evenings, after the literary sessions are over. In recent years, the festival has turned into quite a fashionable occasion, and attracts plenty of socialites from Delhi and Jaipur. Authors will discuss works related to topic. There will also be emphasis on poetry, the literature of Southeast Asia, and the seven states of northeast India. There will be live music events, heritage walks and much more.

  • When: January 24-29, 2018
  • Where: At the historic Diggi Palace hotel in Jaipur. The hotel is located in Sangram Colony, Ashok Nagar, which is just off M.I. Road, around 10 minutes walk from the Old City of Jaipur. Since 2012, the music stage has been shifted to a different venue at The Clarks Amer lawns (around 15 minutes drive south of Diggi Palace).

Colours of desert in Rajasthan

Photo Credit: rajasthanvisit.com

There is lot in Rajasthan this month. January is just the right month for a desert spree, and Bikaner and Jaisalmer are just the right places to see the ships of the desert. In the camel country Bikaner, these desert leviathans pull heavy cartloads, transport grain and even work at the wells. Held on second Saturday-Sunday of January every year, the Camel Festival begins with a colourful procession of bedecked camels against the red sandstone backdrop of the Junagarh Fort, the festivity advances to the open sand-spreads of the grounds, followed by the best breed competition, the tug-of-war contest, camel dance,  acrobatics, etc. The camels display amazing footwork, dancing gracefully to the slightest direction of their trainers. Bridal, bridles, bejewelled necks, jingling anklets and long, lanky camel shadow on dusky sands cast a magical spell. Hundreds of tourists and thousands of locals and dignitaries revel in this man-and-animal affair organised especially for the tourists. The evenings close with a different tenor and tempo altogether: a traditional rendezvous of renowned artistes of Rajasthan and the local folk performers. The jubilant skirt-swirling dancers, the awe-inspiring fire dance, and the dazzling fireworks light up the fortified desert city of Bikaner.

Almost a fortnight later is Desert Festival at Jaisalmer (January 29-31, 2018). Its one of Rajasthan’s premier showcase festivals. Once a year, the empty sands around Jaisalmer come alive with a mesmerising performance on the sand dunes in the form of the Desert Festival. The festival, organised by the Department of Tourism around January-February, goes on for three whole days and lets you enjoy the rich and colourful Rajasthani folk culture. Rajasthani men and tall, beautiful women dressed in their best and brightest costumes dance and sing ballads of valour, romance and tragedy, while traditional musicians attempt to outdo each other to showcase their musical superiority. The high points of the festival are puppeteers, acrobats, camel tattoo shows, camel races, camel polo, traditional processions, camel mounted bands, folk dances, etc.

  • When: January 13-14 & 29-31, 2018
  • Where: Bikaner and Jaisalmer are connected by rail and road with all the major cities. The nearest airport is at Jodhpur (243 kms).

Tribal Kumbh at Beneshwar

From west of Rajasthan, now we move to south of Rajasthan. Almost 70 kilometre from Dungarpur in South Rajasthan, Beneshwar temple at Sabla is located at the confluence of three rivers- Mahi, Som and Jakham. This region is the tribal belt that stretched to neighbouring parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat as well. Every year this place is host to Beneshwar Fair. This festival, held on the full moon day or Magh Shukla Purnima, attracts a large number of tourists along with tribals from the region. On this pious occasion, Bhils travel all the way from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to take a dip at the confluence of three rivers. The number of people coming to the festival often crosses half a million, hence it is rightfully known as the Tribal Mahakumbh of ‘Vangad’ region. A true reflection of tribal traditions and culture. This place has got many mythological associations making it one of the most revered places of the region. There is a fair and a flea market as well. Even the erstwhile royal family of Dungarpur had close association with this festival.

  • When: January 27-31, 2018
  • Where: Beneshwar Temple, Sabla, Dungarpur. Dungarpur is the southernmost district of Rajasthan, accessible from Udaipur very easily or even Ahmedabad in Gujarat.

Similarly Nagaur in Rajasthan will also have its Nagaur Fair from 22 January to 25 January. Nagaur Fair is said to be second biggest fair in India. It is basically a cattle fair, where every year around 70,000 bullocks, camels and horses are traded. All traditional colours of Rajasthan are here at full display in dresses, shops, games and art forms. This fair is also known for its Mirchi Bazaar, which is said not be largest red chilli market in India.

Joydev Fair, Kenduli

Photo Credit: flickr.com

Now jump from west to east. For an unforgettable dose of West Bengal folk music don’t miss the Kenduli Mela, where the mystical wandering Baul musicians gather to perform. Dressed in saffron robes, and playing a distinctive instrument called the Ektara, they sing uniquely about life’s philosophy. Joydev-Kenduli is renowned as the birth place of great Sanskrit poet Joydev who flourished in 12th Century and composed the well known Geet – Govinda, a Sanskrit Lyrical poem. Annual- Mela is held in the village Kenduli in the last day of Bengali month Pous and first 2 days of Magh and is attended by thousands of pilgrims including Bauls. The word ‘Baul’  is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Batul’ which means ‘mad’. Baul philosophy emphasises love for all human beings as the path leading to divine love. The Joydeb-Kenduli mela (fair), held every year in West Bengal’s Birbhum district on Makar Sankranti in mid-January. It is a gathering of wandering minstrels (Bauls, primarily) like no other in India. Gathering in almost equal numbers are lay aficionados addicted to the Baul and Fakir ways of life. Joydev Mela is mainly a music festival but as the Poush Mela it attracts craftsmen from the whole region, mainly selling wooden kitchen supplies, handmade covers or cheap jewellery. During five days, the 3 000 inhabitants of Kenduli Village welcome thousand and thousand of pilgrims who come mostly to listen to the bauls, the Wandering minstrels, the Mad Ones, bearers of a unique musical tradition, included in the list of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO. The fair is held on the banks of the Ajay River which is not only of some historical interest – the fair celebrates the great poet Joydev on the day he is claimed to have taken a bath at the Kadaambokhandi ghat of the river around 800 years ago.

  • When: January 14-16, 2018
  • Where: Kenduli village, around 30 kilometers from Shantiniketan in West Bengal.

Uttarayan Kite Festival

Photo Credit: event-carnival.com

Well, looking around for other events on Makar Sankranti, lets come back to west. Gujarat is vibrant with the Kite Festival (Makar Sankranti) which is celebrated with colors of joy, colors of life. The Kite Festival signify Gujarat’s ‘Cultural Strength’ and like the kites, Gujarat soars high to touch the skies to be the ‘best in the world.’ All over the State, in the Month of January, the serene blue sky with colorful kites look splendid and since morning to evening remains dotted with vivid splashes of color with kites in a variety of hues, shapes and sizes. The excitement continues with the onset of night. As the sun sets and darkness hovers over, youngsters continue competing each other in supremacy in the sky, now with the paper lanterns tied to their kite-strings. These lanterns known as tukkal swaying at the mild stroke of wind presents a lovely image while some try to cut off these tukkals and enjoy the fun. Makar Sankranti (Kite Flying Day) marks the end of a long winter with the return of the sun to the Northern Hemisphere. According to the Hindu astronomy the sun enters the zodiac of Makara (Capricorn). Hence, it is called Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. The special significance attached to the celebration of Makar sankranti, is Kite Flying. The gods who are believed to have slumbered for six long months are now awake and the portals of heaven are thrown open! Uttarayan is celebrated all over Gujarat but the excitement is high at Ahmedabad, Surat, Nadiad and Vadodara. Surat, especially is known particularly for the strong string which is made by applying glass powder on the row thread to provide it a cutting edge. To be in any one of these places during this festival is to feel the heart and pulse of Gujarat and its people.On a night prior to the festival special markets are held and you need a gujju skill for bargaining and clinch a right deal in the crushing crowd of kite enthusiasts. Gujarat Tourism also hosts the International Kite Festival drawing crowds to witness the show of eminent kitists from many states and countries. This International Kite Festival is held at Ahmedabad , to coincide with the festival of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. People from all over the world display their exotic kites of various designs. It is a splendid spectacular show to see the sky with colourful kites, huge size and varied designs and shapes This gives the people of Ahmedabad the change to see the unusual kites brought by the visitors some of which are truly works of art. Cuisine and Crafts display are also enjoyed by the participants and spectators. The International Kite Festival in Gujarat has become a major tourist attraction.

  • When: January 14, 2018
  • Where: Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Modhera Dance Festival

We will still like to be in Gujarat. Psychedelic hues of red, yellow, green lights illuminating nooks and corners of intricately carved the Sun Temple of Modhera, during dark and breezy nights of January, create a Chiaroscuro effect of time and space! The Sun Temple of Modhera is a masterpiece of the Golden Age of the Solanki Empire, which hosts the annual Dance Festival and flaunts the glory and splendor of that era. The Modhera Dance Festival which is also prevalently known as the Uttarardh Mahotsavor Modhera Utsavis is one of the most famous celebration of art, music, dance and culture, in this part of the country. This unique occurrence showcases traditional dance forms of the region as well as acts as a platform bringing together the cultural ethos of other regions expressed in form of dance or nritya. Modhera, the temple of the Sun narrating the history and grandeur of its patrons, the Solankis, is an architectural marvel. This peerless temple space acts as a grandiose backdrop for the vibrant expression of dancers and aesthetic ethnicity of the country. Dance troupes and performers from all regions of the nation bring along a panorama of varied dance forms and styles, interlaced with the essence of their origins. The performers blend in the ambience and bring life to the sandstone figurines carved on the edifice of the temple, singing and narrating legends of times bygone. The three day festival of Uttarardh Mahotsavis is organised on third weekend of January every year by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TCGL), to venerate and celebrate the inherited treasure of performing arts of the country. The Modhera festival is an ideal opportunity to experience living heritage of Indian dance and music while traversing back in time sitting in the lap of golden history.

  • When: January 19-21, 2018
  • Where: The environs of the Sun Temple in Modhera act a venue and host of this enchanting festival. Modhera is located in the South-west of Mehsana District and is 25 km away from the town of Mehsana.

Gustor of Spituk

Spituk Monastery

Then as I promised, we move to cold deserts of north in Ladakh. Although this time is ripe to have a Chadar Trek, but there is lot more. Spituk is an interesting monastery, on the hill top near Indus about 18 kms. from Leh on Srinagar road. The Spituk monastery offers a commanding view of Indus. It has a totally new Gompa within the monastery as well as the old Gompa has also been restored meanwhile. It is constructed in a series of tiers with courtyards and steps. Higher up in the hill is a chamber which houses the enormous statue of goddess. Its face is covered and uncovered only once in a year during the festival time. Every year, on the 17th and 19th day of the 11th of the Bodhi month, the Gelukpa order of monks celebrate the Spituk festival known as Gustor. During the festival, the lamas wear the masks of religious deities and perform the dances, which is normally about good and evil and mythological stories related to the Buddhism. The Spituk Gompa was founded in 11th century by Od-De, the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub-od. The Gompa was named Spituk (exemplary) by Rinchen Zangpo, a translator came to that place and said that exemplary religious community would rise. Initially the Gompa was run according to the Kadampa school then during the reign of king Gragspa Bumide he converted it to Gayluk Pa order. Many icons of Buddha and 5 thangkas can be visited in this 15th century monastery. The Dukhang Hall is the largest building and has two rows of seats running the length of the walls to a throne at the far end. Sculptures and miniature chortens are displayed on the altar. There is also a collection of ancient masks, antique arms and fine thangkas. Higher up the hill is the Mahakal Temple, containing the shrine of Vajrabhairava. The terrifying face of Vajrabhairva is unveiled only at the annual festival in January.

  • When: January 14-15, 2018
  • Where: Spituk Monastery, Leh, Ladakh

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Serendipity of art, culture & music fests this month


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Last month of the year brings most of the enjoyment. One of India’s Best dance festivals ended on 5th at Konark in Odisha and alongwith it, also concluded the Sand Art festival held simultaneously at Chandrabhaga beach. Both festivals are organised every year from 1st to 5th December. Similarly, another festival held every year on same dates is about to conclude- Hornbill festival at Dimapur which showcases stunning natural beauty of Nagaland and its great cultural traditions from 1st to 10th December every year. So, I might seem like already late in suggesting few events, but actually some of the best of the month are yet to come and you have enough time to plan a trip.

I can also definitely say that some of the events left in the month are few of the biggest and most outstanding events of the year. Just consider the fact that Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan at Jalandhar is being held for last 142 years. It might be actually few of events on India’s culture map which started in 19th century, continued for whole of 20th century and are now still going strong in the 21st century. Do you remember anything like this! If not this, than there is Tansen Samaroh, which is organised in Gwalior every year for last 93 years. But if these two festivals are torch bearers of India’s cultural traditions, than their are also few which are more contemporary but still magical and bold enough to not just hold fort but position themselves at the top of plans for music lovers across India and abroad- like the Sunburn and Magnetic fields festivals. But I start with a festival which has in no time (in two years precisely) turned itself into biggest canvas for India’s art & culture.

Serendipity at banks of Mandovi

Serendipity Arts Festival is a multidisciplinary event on the banks of the river Mandovi in Panaji, Goa. A cultural experience in itself, the festival brings together visual, performing and culinary arts. Curated by a panel of artists and institutional figures, this second edition will feature over 70 art projects including 40 projects that are commissioned specifically for the festival. This festival in Panaji includes art initiatives that transform venues into spaces where audiences can experience the arts in exciting new contexts. Festival is organised by Serendipity Arts Trust (SAT), which is an arts and cultural development trust created to encourage and support the arts as a significant contributor to the civil society. SAT aims to promote new creative strategies, artistic interventions, and cultural partnerships which are responsive and seek to address the social, cultural and environmental milieu. Committed to innovation, SAT intends to support, promote &create platforms for innovation and creativity. Right from the first Serendipity Arts Festival, the aim has been to provide masses with a unique cultural and historical source of modern contemporary art and culture. SAT programs are designed and initiated through innovative collaborations with partners across a multitude of fields, each intervention created using the arts to impact education, social initiatives, community development programs, explore interdisciplinarity between the arts, and to understand the shared histories of the sub-continent better. To be precise, the entire endeavour is to justify the meaning of serendipity meaning i.e. a happy chance. There are 14 curators who have worked towards assembling a combination of acclaimed works, commissioned pieces, and innovative adaptations within their field of expertise. They will be present at this multi-disciplinary arts festival in Goa to engage, mould and mentor ideas into fruition.

When: 15th to 22nd December 2017

Getting there: Spread across a 1.8 km stretch along river Mandovi, the Festival locations have been strategically chosen for their historical value, natural settings and affinity towards the arts. With its close-knit networks and practical commute options, the is accessible to and welcomes everyone. Serendipity Arts Festival intends to transform the waterfront along the river Mandovi, Panaji into a hub of cultural activity. Goa’s only airport is at Dabolim and it is around 30 kms from Goa’s capital Panaji, which is where festival is.The main train stations in Goa are Madgaon station in Margao; Vasco da Gama; and Karmali station near Old Goa, 12 kms from Panaji, all well connected of different cities. Private and state-run long distance buses run to and from Goa.

142 years of enchanting classical music

Shree Baba Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan is the oldest festival of Indian Classical Music in the world. The vibrant voices of the vocalists, The soul stirring strains of Sitar, Santoor and Sarangi; the thundering sounds of Tabla and Pakhawaj; the cascading notes of Flute & Shehnai; the magic of Mohan Veena; the enchanting notes of Veena & Violin and the harmonious notes of Harmonium- all have touched the souls of enlightened audiences at Shree Baba Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan, year after year for the last 142 years. This magnificent achievement has been made possible by the great musicians, the generous donors, the devoted audience and the dedicated ‘Harivallabh’ team. For some it is a matter of sheer devotion, for some it is a pilgrimage and for some it is a mission to preserve the best in Indian Classical Music, that attracts them to this Sangeet Sammelan and to receive the blessings from the great seat of music. Harivallabh shall complete 142 Years this year. The Government of India has recognized this festival as one of the National Festivals of Music. Drawing inspiration from Saint-musician – Baba Harivallabh, who started this Sangeet Sammelan in the memory of his Guru Swami Tulja Giri Ji, the Sangeet Sammelan has provided a platform where distinguished musicians could perform and give the best of their art and where anyone interested – initiated and uninitiated alike, could listen to them, free.

When: 22nd to 23rd December 2017

Getting there: Festival happens at Devi Talab in city of Jalandhar in Punjab. Jalandhar is well connected to all parts of country through road and rail network. Amritsar is the closest airport.

Tribute to a great musician at Tansen Samaroh

This is 93rd year of one of the oldest and most reputed music festivals in India. This cultural festival is dedicated to the pillar of Indian classical music, the great Tansen. The place where this great musician lies buries, Tansen Tomb, in Gwalior is the venue of a music festival held annually. Gwalior is the place that has retained the rich classical music tradition and Tansen devotion to music laid to the foundation of what is known as the Gwalior gharana style with its unique Dhrupad classical form. Khayal was also refined from the Gwalior gharana only. This festival is noted for its unique compositions in Indian classical style and forceful performances. Organised by the Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad, the Tansen festival of music, the event is a unique show for the music lovers of the country to experience the superb melody rendered by the great exponents of Indian classical music. The history of the Samaroh shows that this used to be the most significant music festival of the Gwalior State. The great and well-known musicians and music lovers of the country and abroad participate in the Samaroh to offer their musical tribute to the all-time great music Maestro Tansen. Since it is the only one and the oldest day night music festival, the Academy honours the senior celebrities and junior artists of the music on this occasion by including them in the Samaroh through their music of performance. But unlike earlier years, this year there will be no foreign artists. This year there will be total nine music sessions. Seven of them will be held inside the complex holding Tansen’s tomb and tomb of Mohammad Ghaus. Eighth will be at birth place of Tansen in Behat at the banks of Jhilmil river. Ninth will be Goojari Mahal in the fort complex. City administration has declared a holiday on 23rd to facilitate people to attend the festival. In an addition, this year on the eve of the festival, i.e. on 21st December there will be a ‘Gamak’ seating at Hazira chowk, as a part of the ‘poorvrang’ to be graced by performance by Anoop Jalota. Two troupes of Adivasi artists will dance all the way from fort gate to Hazira chowk.

When: 22nd to 26th December 2017

Getting there: Gwalior is well connected to all parts of country. Gwalior airport has got daily flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Indore, Bhopal and Jabalpur. Gwalior is very well connected to major cities across India by direct train links. Gwalior is situated on the North-South corridor of National Express Highway. The festival venue Tansen Tomb is right in the heart of the city.

Sunburn Festival gets new venue at Pune

Coming back to contemporary, deemed to be the biggest outdoor dance party to hit India’s beaches some years back, the Sunburn Festival is into its eleventh year this year. But it is beaches no more. Sunburn, one of the world’s biggest music festivals, last year moved from Vagator beach of Goa to a new venue ‘Sunburn Hills’ in Pune. But venue in Pune itself is again changed this year. India’s premier electronic music brand bids farewell to Sunburn Hills and is all set to deliver a better, smoother and bigger experience for all our fans this year. Ola Sunburn Festival 2017, will be hosted at Pimpri-Chinchwad in Pune, providing a perfect setting to celebrate the new decade of brand Sunburn. The new venue will not only host one of the biggest artist line ups and grand stage but also enhance the fan experience by giving hassle free entry to the festival arena and easy access to the venue, better parking facilities and traffic control. The strategically located venue will provide an excellent infrastructure along with health and safety amenities. The venue is also well-connected to the express highway, being just 5 mins away to entering the festival arena making the overall experience even more enjoyable. On its 11th anniversary, Sunburn is looking at creating an array of experiences that would not only give dance music enthusiasts memories that last a lifetime but also redefine the way entertainment and live music is consumed in the country. Sunburn is India’s premier electronic music brand hosting Asia’s largest 4-day Electronic Music Festival in Pune, Various city festivals, Arena gigs, Campus gigs and Club tours across the country since 2007. Sunburn Arena was introduced in 2011, bringing some of the worlds best DJs to India like Avicii, Armin Van Buuren, Dash Berlin, Deadmau5, Swedish House Mafia and many more in an exhilarating arena format across all major cities. Fans can expect a world class experience with on-site camping options, the fan village, an extensive array of food courts, 40+ experience zones, flea markets, chopper rides, after parties among others. On the music side festival includes some of the biggest names from the dance music scene including Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, DJ Snake, Clean Bandit, Martin Garrix and Nucleya among others.

When: 28th to 31st December 2017

Getting there: Event will be held at Pimpri-Chinchwad in Pune. The venue is also well-connected to the express highway, being just 5 mins away to entering the festival arena.

Getting ‘Magnetic’ in bigger ‘Fields’

Magnetic Fields Festival is newest addition to Rajasthan’s vastly growing music scene. Earlier it used to be a largely closed affair, but with increasing popularity, it has also grown in size. This is held at two stages in the restored 17th century Alsisar Mahal, in Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. This palace is now a heritage hotel. Lots of heavy metal music both from bands and DJs, traditional fashion, art and food will be on platter. Its a sort of fantasy carnival. Set in the pristine heritage village of Alsisar in Rajasthan, Alsisar Mahal is a battle hardened palace that has recently been renovated and refurbished into a luxurious hotel. Magnetic Fields is more than just a music festival, it’s a visual dream, a unique marriage of contemporary culture with Rajasthani heritage and hospitality. You will be transported through the looking glass into an intimate world with adventures, new experiences and memories waiting to be made. You can expect the freshest Indian sounds accompanied by some of the most exciting underground international stars alongside a cultural programme of local legends. Stretch in the morning and watch the new day come alive with yoga sessions; immerse yourself in treasure hunt, get better acquainted with the night sky in star gazing workshops, find your own little pocket of paradise and lose yourself in Bedouin dens; secret areas and feast on local delicacies given an alternative twist. Festival has accommodation option like palace suites, premium bedouin, normal bedouin are classic tents. You can also come and pitch your own tent provided you purchase a festival ticket. Line up for this year include Four Tet, Daphni, Ben UFO, Machinedrum, Khruanbin, Sassy J, Jayda G, Tijana T, Arjun Vagale, Josey Rebelle, Willow, The SKA Vengers, Komorebi, Jack Barnett, Teebs, Dolan Bergin, Begum X, Priya Purushothaman, Deep Brown, Stalvart John Tarqeeb, and many others.
Earlier Alsisar Mahal was the residence of the Thakur of Alsisar. Alsisar Mahal is the most recent addition to Alsisar Group of Hotels which has now become an ideal base to explore not only the old historic capital of Jhunjhunu but also the whole painted region of Shekhawati. This majestic palace, spread over a lush 10 acre plot, is situated in village Alsisar which is 23 Km’s from district head quarter ‘JhunJhunu’ in Rajasthan. The regal magnificence of the Alsisar Mahal’s architecture and the splendour of its beautifully decorated interiors are just mesmerising; antique furniture, intricately carved poster beds and medieval delicate Rajasthani motifs on fabric recreates a flavour of luxury living for guests.

When: 15th to 17th December 2017

Getting there: Delhi or Jaipur are the closest options. Daily from Sarai Rohilla, New Delhi to Sadulpur Junction – just under 4 hours followed by 45 min taxi from Sadulpur to Alsisar. This is the recommended travel option! By road its 6 hours from Delhi via Gurgaon > Rewari > Narnol > Singhana > Chirawa > Jhunjhunu and 4 hours from Jaipur via Chomu > Sikar (take a bypass) > Nawalgarh > Jhunjhunu.

A month long celebration of heritage at Mamallapuram

The Mamallapuram dance festival is conducted every year during Dec-Jan. It is a month long festival and dances take place during the weekends. Mamallapuram has retained its fame in stone, thanks to the great contribution of Pallava artisans. It is among the most outstanding examples of Dravidian art and architecture and a jewel in the crown of Tamil Nadu. In a land that is liberally strewn with some of the best in temple art, Mamallapuram holds its own, and stands as a silent yet eloquent witness to the glory of its creators. Unfortunately most of the work was left incomplete, and time and nature have also eroded the remains of this once great port. Yet, Mamallapuram’s wonders in rock leave visitors enthralled, conveying as they do, an impression of beauty and harmony. The monuments are floodlit at night and so it is possible to enjoy their beauty even after sunset. The 31-day Mamallapuram Dance Festival features 64 forms of traditional folk dance and 64 classical dance forms, showcasing the cultural ethos of the State. Classical dances such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Mohini Attam, Odissi, Kathak etc., are performed by well-known exponents of the art. The dances are performed against the magnificent backdrop of the Pallava Rock Sculptures. These sculptures provide an aesthetic touch to the festival where the best folk dancers in India perform. The crowd gets a visual treat by the incredible performances of Indian folk dancers where artists perform beautifully decked up in the finest traditional attire representing the rich cultural heritage of the country. Mamallapuram is also a popular beach resort and a culture front, especially for the tourists, who come from the world over who love to imbibe and soak in the rich traditions. This town beach is full of ancient monuments, sculptures, caves, monolithic temples and beaches.

When: 21 December 2017 — 21 January 2018

How to reach: Chennai (58 km) is the nearest airport for domestic and international flights. Chennai is connected with all the major places in India. The nearest railway stations are Chengalpattu (29 km) and Chennai (58 km). From these stations one has to take road journey to reach Mamallapuram. Buses from here to Pondicherry, Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu and Chennai to Mamallapuram daily. Tourists can also hire taxis from Chennai.

Ushering in the new year with Losar

While looking for the tradition, you just can’t overlook culture at India’s most dramatic landscapes. The Losar festival marks the beginning of the New year in Ladakh/Tibet and is considered to be the most important festival of the region. During this festival, the Ladakhi Buddhists make a religious offering before their deities in the domestic shrines or in the Gompas. A medley of cultural events, ancient rituals and also traditional performances are performed during this festival. The Losar festival dates back to pre-Buddhist Bon era in Tibet. As per the ancient tradition a spiritual ceremony was conducted every year in the winter. During this ceremony people offer considerable amount of incense in order to propitiate the local deities and the spirits. Later, this ceremony was converted into a yearly Buddhist festival which most probably started during the tenure of the ninth Tibetan king, Pude Gungyal. The sleepy town of Ladakh is transformed into a melting pot of culture, colour and festivity during the Losar festival (Lo means year and Sar means new). The story behind these New Year celebrations is an interesting one. When the King of Ladakh, Jamyang Namgyal, was setting out on an expedition against the Baltistan forces, he was advised by the oracles to wait until the next year. His solution to this problem was bringing forward the New Year celebrations by a month. Since then, it has become a tradition to celebrate the Losar in the eleventh month of the year. It is also the time which marks the end of the harvesting season in Ladakh.

When: 19th December 2017

Getting there: With roads closed for the winter, only way to reach Ladakh at this time of the year is by flight to Leh. Leh has flights from Delhi, Srinagar, Jammu and Chandigarh.

Then there are also few regular ‘touristy’ ones like the Shilpgram Festival organised every year from 21st December to December 31st, at Udaipur in Rajasthan. This attracts massive crowd creating a scene of rural market fair and festival with live performance of folk artist from different parts of the country. There are several huts constructed in the traditional architectural style using mud and local building material to reflect the geographical and ethnic diversity of the different states of west zone of India. Situated 3 kms west of Udaipur near the Havala village is the Centre’s Shilpgram – the Rural Arts and Crafts Complex. Over 400 artisans and craftsmen from all over India come to set up stalls at the fair, which takes place in a sprawling artisans’ village set up by the government. Folk dances and cultural programs are also held as part of the festival. It’s a great way to experience rural India culture.

Another event in Rajasthan is the Winter Festival at Mount Abu which is held every year during the last week of December (29th to 31st December 2017 this year). The festival celebrates the warmth and cheerfulness of the people of this quaint hill station, only one in the Aravalis. The three-day colourful festival is organised by the Rajasthan Tourism and Municipal Board of Mt. Abu. Mount Abu is located on the broad gauge line between Delhi and Mumbai via Ahmedabad. Direct trains run to various destinations including Ajmer, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. Convenient bus services are from Ahmedabad, Ajmer, Baroda, Jaipur,Jodhpur, Mumbai, Udaipur. Nearest airport is Udaipur.

Similar is the Cochin Carnival down in God’s own territory. This is one festival the whole of Kochi impatiently awaits every year. For this festival (23rd December 2017 to 1st January 2018) Fort Kochi is decked up like a bride and tourists, not only from within the country, but also outside, flock to this lovely port city to participate in the revelry. The inception of the Kochi carnival can be traced back to the Portuguese New Year revelry, held here during the colonial days. Gradually, it evolved to take the form of what is today popularly called the Cochin Carnival of Kerala. Preparations generally begin months in advance for hosting the unique games, fairs and partying during the Carnival of Cochin. The highlight of the carnival is the massive procession on the New Year’s Day. Led by an embellished elephant accompanied by drums and music, the carnival is a moment to behold. There is also staging of different South and North Indian folk dances during the festivity. Colour white simply dominates the concluding 10 days of December, during the carnival.

Still in Kerala, then you shouldn’t miss the Kanathoor Nalvar Bhoothasthanam at Kanathoor village of Kasaragod. To be organised this year from 28th December to 1st January 2018, this festival provides a platform for almost 40 theyyams to perform together. It is undoubtedly a must watch for all those who love the pomp and richness of Theyyam. This prominent Theyyam festival stages the Theyyam of the mother deity as the leading one. The costumes and paintings of the body remind one of an outburst of colours. The visual beauty and the incessant music would transform the onlookers to a different level, almost trance-like state.

But that’s not all as we have many more this month like- Chennai Music Festival at Chennai (December-Jnauray), Enchanted Valley Carnival at Amby Valley (16-17 December), Poush Mela at Shantiniketan in West Bengal (22-26 December) and Taalbelia festival at Castle Mandawa in Shekhawati region of Rajasthan.

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13 states, 20 festivals… you just can’t beat this November month!


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You just can’t beat month of November, not just because it is the month of my birth (just kidding!), actually because this is one of the most happening month of the year. Just imagine, every other Indian state has some kind of a festival this month. And, what a range… from music to dance to nature, flowers, cattle, fairs, religion, mythology, culture… and what not. This month has every aspect to relate with. Hence for all those with a penchant to travel just for any reason, here are plentiful to do that.

Even weather generally remains clear and winter is yet to make some ground. Many people even like to travel to hills during this month to have some good views of snow-clad peaks in blue skies. So the month had events and festivals lined up from states as far as and as diverse as Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Assam, Meghalaya and Manipur. And actually I am pretty sure that I am still missing a few other happenings from same states or might be other states. But isn’t this more than enough!

Well, I am already late to suggest as it is Guru Parab today, birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, founder of Sikh religion. Hence it is the most auspicious day of the year for Sikhs around the world. But it is also Kartik Purnima today, the full moon day of the month of Kartik in the Hindu calendar. It again is one of the most important day of Hindu calendar. A day to take holy bath in the rivers around. So many festivals are organised around this day.

All those who can’t go to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan to pay homage to Guru Nanak at his place of birth, still find solace at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The celebrations usually commence with Prabhat Pheris, the early morning processions that begin at the Gurudwaras and proceed around the localities singing hymns.

Kartik Purnima  is also the day of Dev Deepawali at Varanasi which is culmination of five day Ganga Mahotsav, which started on 31st October this year. Ganga mahotsav is a festival only once of its kind, certainly doubles the attraction of this city of temples, Ghats and traditions. As classical music fills the atmosphere, a mystique seems to envelop the environs awating a mood both celestial and soulful. On the final day (Poornima), which coincides with the traditional Dev Deepawali (light festival of the Gods), the ghats on the Ganga River glitter with more than a million lit-up earthen lamps. The trend of celebrating the Ganga Mahotsav in the Holy city of India, Varanasi, tends to keep the importance of the Varanasi as a cultural, religious and traditional capital of the India. At this occasion, pilgrims celebrate the event by performing an Indian classical style music and dance.

Chandrabhaga Fair

Chandrabhaga Fair (3rd to 5th November) at Jhalrapatan in Rajasthan is also linked to Kartik Purnima. It is held at every year at Jhalrapatan (6 kms from Jhalawar). The River Chadrabhaga runs here and is considered holy by the people residing in this part of Rajasthan. On the full moon night of ‘Kartik Purnima’, thousands of pilgrims take a holy dip in the river. The fair, held on the last day of Kartik, attracts devotees who bathe in the holy waters at this spot which is known as Chandravati. A big cattle fair which blends religion with commerce is held here. Livestock like cows, horses, buffaloes, camels and bullocks are brought from distant parts for sale. Ramganj Mandi is the nearest Major Railway Station (25kms), however local train between Kota and Jhalawar also available at Jhalawar railway station. Another world famous cattle fair in Rajasthan, Pushkar Fair also concludes on Kartik Purnima with a holy bath.

Kolayat Fair

Another fair in Rajasthan, the Kolayat Fair of Bikaner (2nd to 4th November) concludes today on Kartik Purnima. This fair holds great importance for the locals who eagerly await it. Tourists also experience a great time as the fair is celebrated on an expansive scale. It is also known as  ‘Kapil Muni Fair’. The pomp and show of the fair is not its only attraction as it also possesses great religious significance. A large number of devotees visit the fair to take a holy dip in the Kolayat Lake. It is believed that a holy dip can absolve them of all their sins.

Bundi Festival

Similarly Bundi Festival (6th to 8th November) starts immediately after Kartik Purnima. It includes several spiritual and traditional activities. It is a remarkable cluster of traditional art, culture and craftsmanship and visitors are left charmed by its magnificence. The program includes a colourful Shobha Yatra, arts & crafts fair, ethnic sports, cultural exhibition, classical music & dance program, turban competitions, bridal clothing, musical band competitions, and a sparkling fireworks display. Early in the morning, after the full moon night of Kartik Purnima, women and men clad in attractive colourful costumes light diyas or lamps on the banks of River Chambal and seek blessings.

Matsya Festival

Rajasthan also has another festival to its credit this month. The Matsya festival (25-26 November) of Alwar held in November over two days is the foremost of all fairs and festivals of Rajasthan. It is celebrated to glorify the prosperity, traditional values and colourful customs of the region. This festival is renowned for its colourful processions, cultural performances, an array of sporting events and impressive artistic exhibitions. The magnificence of Alwar’s numerous palaces and forts, lakes, hunting lodges, archaeological sites and thick forests, make it a delightful setting for a flamboyant celebration.

Sonepur Fair

But then there is another one of the most important and historical fairs of India, which commences in line with Kartik Purnima.  The annual Sonepur Fair (2nd November-3rd December) gets underway on the auspicious Hindu holy occasion of Kartik Purnima, when pilgrims take an early morning bath in the river, and continues for around four weeks.  Apparently, the Sonepur Fair has ancient origins back to the rule of India’s first Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, who used to buy elephants and horses from it for his army. The fair also commemorates the intervention of Lord Vishnu to end a great curse and long fight between elephant and crocodile in Hindu mythology. The elephant was saved, after bathing in the river and being attacked by the crocodile, by Lord Vishnu. Originally, the venue of the fair was Hajipur and only the performance of the puja used to take place at the Harihar Nath temple of Sonepur. However, under the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the venue of the fair got shifted to Sonepur. Since Sonepur is situated at the convergence of the sacred rivers Ganges and Gandak, it is regarded as a holy site. Traditionally known as a cattle fair, while still wonderfully off the beaten path, the Sonepur Fair now has a more commercial focus with the aim of attracting both domestic and international tourists. In order to facilitate this, Bihar Tourism took over its organization, including tourist accommodations, in 2012. While the Pushkar Fair in Rajasthan is famous for its camels, it’s the elephants that are the star attraction at the Sonepur Fair. They’re decorated and lined up on display in rows in an area known as the Haathi Bazaar (Elephant Market), and reportedly even raced. The special thing about it is that you can go up to the elephants and touch them, and even feed them. Sonepur is easily accessible by Roadways and Railways. Moreover, it is only 25 kilometers from Bihar’s Capital Patna, which is well connected by Airways, Railways and Roadways to the other parts of the country. During the time of Fair, BSTDC also organizes Ferries from Patna to Sonepur.

Moving further east from Bihar, Majuli island in Assam celebrates Majuli festival (21-24 November) every year in month of November. Majuli, the largest riverine island in the world, nestles in the lap of the mightly Brahmaputra. This is where the 15th century saint and fountain head of Assamese culture, Sankardeva, first established a Satra or neo-Vaishnavite monastery, born of insightful discourses with his spiritual successor, Madhabdeva. The island is about 200 kilometers east from the state’s largest city, Guwahati.  Majuli is enveloped in lush greenery and the flora, fauna and the natural scenery found there is breathtaking. The Majuli festival is one of the most popular festivals and is celebrated on the picturesque banks of the river Luit situated 1.5 kilometers from Garamur, the sub divisional head quarter of the island. It is celebrated during the month of November keeping in mind the climatic conditions of the region. The celebration takes place for 4 continuous days. The Majuli festival is an enlightening celebration where various the cultural aspects of the different communities living there are revealed and honored. This is the one place where the artists of such different communities gather to celebrate their unity amongst this diverse gathering.  Majuli is 20 kms fom Jorhat town. Buses ply regularly from Jorhat town to Neamati Steamer Ghat, the main ferry boarding point for Majuli. The entire journey takes about three hours, involving a half hour bus ride to Neamati Ghat, which has a few tourist information booths, lodging facilities and food stalls catering to transiting ferry-goers, and ferry ride to the southern tip of Majuli island. Though Jorhat remains the principal entry point, Majuli can be approached through Lakhimpur on the north and Dibrugarh on the east.

Wangala Festival

Farther in Meghalaya there is  Wangala Festival (8-10 November) – a festival of 100 drums. The Wangala is a Garo post-harvest festival that marks the end of the agricultural year. It is an act of thanksgiving to the sun god of fertility, known as Misi-A-Gilpa-Saljong-Galapa. A nagara (a special drum used for calling the people on solemn occasions) is beaten. The Wangala is an age-old practice by the ‘Songsareks’ or non-Christian Garos in all the villages of Garo Hills. However, the time and mode of celebration varies from village to village.  This is the most popular festival of the Garo Hills, and is held in November, the precise date being fixed by the headman. The men and women dance in mirthful gaiety with the beating of drums, blowing of the buffalo horn trumpets and bamboo flutes. The men wear dhotis, half-jackets and turbans with feathers. The women wear colourful dresses made of silk, blouses and a head-wrap with feathers. The highlight of the festival is when 300 dancers and 100 drums descend on the field in all their splendour in celebration. Festival happens at Asanang village which is 18 kms from Tura in Meghalaya. Tura is in the western part of Meghalaya which is quite close to the Bangladesh border. Main mode of transport is by road, there are no railways or any scheduled flights from Tura airport. From Guwahati, it is 221 km, through the National Highway 51. Day time Sumo and overnight bus services are available form Guwahati. There is a 3-days-a-week helicopter service available from Guwahati and Shillong, run by Pawan Hans. Capital Shillong is more than 320 kilometres away.

Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival

But capital Shillong is home to another landmark event this month. The second edition of India International Cherry Blossom Festival (8-11 November). It is not just India’s only cherry blossom festival but it is also said to be world’s only autumn Cherry Blossom Festival. India has a cherry blossom festival, this itself might be a big news for many across the world, but north eastern states are busy planting cherry blossoms and very soon, India will well be on world Cherry Blossom tourism map.

Manipur Sangai Festival

Something more from the north east and this from Manipur which celebrates Manipur Sangai Festival from 21st to 30th November every year. The ‘Festival’ is named after the State animal, Sangai, the brow-antlered deer found only in Manipur. It started in the year 2010 and has grown over the years into a big platform for Manipur to showcase its rich tradition and culture to the world. The festival is labeled as the grandest festival of the state today and helps promote Manipur as a world class tourism destination. Every edition of the festival showcases the tourism potential of the state in the field of Arts & Culture, Handloom, Handicrafts, Indigenous Sports, Cuisine, Music and Adventure sports of the state etc.

Thiksey Gustor

Moving back to north, there are two important monastic festivals from monasteries of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.  Thiksey Gustor is held on the 17th, 18th and 19th day of the 9th month of Tibetan lunar calendar (6-7 November) . It is a traditional ceremony conducted in the monasteries of Gelukpa order of Tibetan Buddhism. During these  days of festival mask dances are performed by monks of the monastery wearing colorful silk brocaded robes and mask in different forms of Gods and Goddesses. Thiksey Monastery is located 19 kilometres from Leh. It is situated on a hillock overlooking the Indus Valley with full view of the magnificent Stok range. It is located right on the main road towards Leh.

Also read: Thiksey is one of the most glorious monasteries of Ladakh

Chemday Wangchok

Then there is Chemday Wangchok, the most famous festival (16-17 November) of the Chemday Monastery. It culminates with sacred mask dance (Chams) and a great variety of rituals with amazing Vajrayana skills. Wangchok is dedicated to the protectors of the truth. Devotees pay homage here to Jakpa Melen, a protector of the Drukpa lineage and of many Ladakhi families and villages. Large thangkas unfold only for the festival. They are not painted but were created from silk, with garland of pearls and corals, under Gyalsey Rinpoche the Precious Prince of Ladakh, around 1770. Devotees pay homage to the Mandala (Khyilkor) of Mahakala (Gonpo Nagpo), the lord of the Wangchok Festival. This monastery is 40 kms east of Leh.

Mannarasala Ayilyam

Quick jump to down south and we have three festivals from God’s own country Kerala. Mannarassala Ayilyam (11the November) is one of the major festivals in the Mannarassala Sree Nagaraja Temple, a unique temple dedicated to serpent Gods with over 30,000 images of snakes along the paths and even among trees. The major festival in this serpent shrine is the Ayilyam festival that falls on the Ayilyam asterism in the Malayalam month of Thulam, which roughly corresponds to the months of October / November. The festival which sees thousands of devotees visiting the temple from far and wide is celebrated with much grandeur. One of the major highlights of the festival is the ceremonial procession in which all the serpent idols in the temple and the sacred grove are taken to the illam (the Brahmin ancestral home) that manages the temple. Unlike other temples, here the head priest is a woman. The chief priestess will carry the idol of Nagaraja, which is the presiding deity of the temple. Special prayers and offerings are performed at the illam. Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple is at Harippad in Alappuzha. Harippad railway station is just 3 kms from the temple while Cochin International Airport is about 115 km away.

Kalpathi Ratholsavam

Then there is Kalpathi Ratholsavam (14-16 November). Kalpathi is a traditional Tamil Brahmin settlement in Kerala. The temple dedicated to Lord Viswanatha or Shiva is believed to be 700 years old. The annual chariot festival usually falls in the month of November. During the festival days the entire Kalpathi will be teeming with devotees and visitors from near and far. Vedic recitals and cultural programmes render a unique ambience for the place. On the last three days, the three elaborately decorated huge temple chariots take the attention of all. Devotees would then gather to draw the chariots through the streets of Kalpathi village. It will be just one chariot that will be pulled on the first day, followed by two on the second and three on the last day of the festival. Sree Viswanatha Swamy Temple is at Kalpathi in Palakkad.

Sabrimala Mandala Pooja

There is also one of the most famous pilgrimages of India. The Sabarimala temple is located in the Sabari Hills, towards the east of Pathanamthitta District. The divine incantation amid the lush forests and grasslands and the thousands of people that visit this temple, irrespective of caste and creed, make it a very unique pilgrim destination. Lord Ayyappa is the presiding deity here. The annual pilgrim season to Sabarimala (15th November-26th December) begins with the Mandalakala season, which commences usually in the months of November-December followed by the Makaravilakku season during December-January. The temple at Sabarimala can be accessed via many traditional routes. Pamba is the main halting point on the way to Sabarimala. As per tradition a dip in the sacred river Pamba cleanses the pilgrims off sins and after that they proceed to the sannidhanam or the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Ayyappa. A truly riveting spiritual experience in the lap of pristine nature, Sabarimala has become a major destination of the faithful in India. Lord Ayyappa Temple, Sabarimala is in Sabari Hills in the Western Ghats in Pathanamthitta district.

Then there are two long season festivals. One among them is the Rann Utsav at Kutch from 1st November to 20th February.  Rann Of Kutch is the most amazing tourist destination to travel to, with friends as well as family either on short weekends or on long sojourns. The Spectacular site of a glistening White Rann under the full moon along with various glimpses of Kutchi Culture, Handicrafts and outdoor activities make this desert carnival a perfect holiday destination. The variety emerges from the enchanting terrain that provides a perfect backdrop to an extra ordinary fair.

Jal Mahotsav at Hanuwantiya

Taking leaf out of Rann’s book is Madhya Pradesh by organising Jal Mahotsav at Hanuwantiya. On the lines of Rann Utsav of Kutch Madhya Pradesh tourism has dared to do the unthinkable of bringing tourists to a location as remote as Hanuwantiya with nothing to lure them. Now Hanuwantiya is a hub for air, land and water adventure activities. Jal Mahotsav is in its third year now and gradually increasing its time span. For ten days two years back, it increased to one month last year and now 80 days (15th October-2nd January). The main attraction of Jal Mahotsav is water sports in its huge reservoir which will often look like a sea.  But there are aero activities too, like paramotoring, parasailing and ballooning. Swiss tents have been put up for the tourists at the Jal Mahotsav. There are houseboats as well. An exhibition focused on Narmada river besides food zone, craft bazaar is being organised. This year Jal Mahotsav specially targets the year-end tourists. Hanuwantiya is in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh close to reservoir of Indira Sagar Dam. Nearest airport is Indore around 130 kms away. It takes around four hours to reach Hanuwantiya from Indore. Nearest major railway station is Khandwa which is 48 kms from Hanuwantiya.

Kalidas Festival

There are two more cultural extravaganzas. First is the Kalidas Festival at Nagpur. After being discontinued in 2010, the much awaited Kalidas Samaroh was revived two years back. Although controversies haven’t stopped following it. A tug of war continued over organising the festival between Nagpur and Ramtek. Kalidas was a great Sanskrit poet and dramatist, famous for his historical drama, Shakuntalam, and for the epic poem, Meghdoot. The Kalidas Festival brings back memories of the golden period of the Vidarbha region. Ramgiri, or Ramtek as it is popularly known today, is the place that inspired Kalidas and its beauty features predominantly in his literary work. Every year, in November, some of the greatest exponents of music, dance and drama performed in the picturesque setting of Ramtek, celebrating its glorious heritage over two exciting days and nights. The festival aimed to recall the golden period of Vidarbha region. The celebration of Kalidas Festival is a tribute to Kalidas and his eternal contribution to the field of poetry. But then there was a decision to shift the festival to Nagpur. Now after lot of hue and cry this festival has been split between two cities. Nagpur is going to organise the event in name of Kalidas Festival from 17th to 19th November this year while Ramtek will organise Kalidas Lok Mahotsav on 27th and 28th January. Kalidas festival this year has been dedicated to two legendary vocalists of Hindustani classical music, Kishori Amonkar and Girija Devi, who passed away recently. Ramtek is one of the important pilgrim centres and tourist attractions of Maharashtra State. It has both mythological and historic importance. It is about 45 kms from Nagpur and is well connected by road and rail. Nagpur has direct flights from all major big airports. Trains ply on a regular basis between Ramtek and Nagpur

Lucknow Mahotsav

Another is celebration os Awadhi culture at Lucknow. Lucknow Mahotsava is a celebration of the Awadh culture (the culture of Lucknow of the yesteryears). The festival is organized by the state government and continues for ten days. Colorful processions, traditional dramas, kathak dances in the style of the famous Lucknow gharana, sarangi and sitar recitals along with ghazals, qawalis, and thumri are the prime attractions of this festival. The Fascinating city of Lucknow has ever been associated with a rich tradition of hospitality, exotic cuisine and architectural grandeur. Lucknow attained unparalleled heights of excellence in art, craft and culture during the period of Nawabs. Lucknow Mahotsava is organized every year in the month of November / December to showcase the rich cultural heritage of Lucknow. Mahotsava provides an opportunity to hundreds of awarded artisans from more than 20 states of India to display their exquisite handicrafts. The Mahotsava also provides a platform to upcoming talented artists and venue for sportsmen to revive traditional sports and events like Kite competition, Ekka Tanga race, Vintage Car rally etc.

Geeta Mahotsav

Last but not the least is a very recent addition to the north India’s cultural scenario- Geeta Mahotsav at Kurukshetra, celebrated from 17th November to 2nd December this year.

So, you see, as I finish writing, I have already compiled 21 festivals. And then, I have probably missed out Vijaya Utsava at Hampi (3-5 November), Food truck festival in Delhi (11-12 November) and probably few more. Include all of them and we are already pass 25 festivals for 15 odd states.

Do you still think you can beat this month?

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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.

 

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.

 

Ten festivals to soak in Kerala this March

Kerala is always serene, always worth and always enjoyable. It remains almost same all the year round. And every time you can find a reason or two to go for a trip there. But this March there are not just one or couple, but ten reasons to go to different parts of Kerala. Apparently, there are perhaps more, but I have shortlisted ten for you. These are all temple festivals of Kerala. Temple festivals of Kerala are not like ones in the north. They are more elaborate and ritualistic. Most of them have elephants involved, which make them very beautiful. A great ensemble of Kerala’s culture. Choose yours…

Parade of offerings to Bhagavathy

chettikulangara_bharaniOne of the most vibrant festivals of Kerala, the Chettikulangara Bharani offers arresting visuals and showcases the cultural richness of the state. An annual event held at the Chettikulangara Temple during the Malayalam month of Kumbham (February-March), the festival is dedicated to Goddess Bhagavathy. The highlight of the festival is the spectacular Kettukazhcha where vibrantly decked up structures are taken out in a ceremonial procession. The therus (chariots) and kuthiras (horse motifs) as well as huge icons of Bhima and Hanuman, two Indian epic characters, are flaunted in front of the temple from the 13 karas (region) near the temple on the festival day. Kettukazhcha is an offering of the people to the deity. These majestic structures are architectural marvels and are a testimony to the architectural and aesthetic expertise of the people of this region. The parade of huge brightly decorated structures, with the bigger ones assumed as horses and smaller ones as chariots, produce a highly surreal visual and the joyous crowd accompanying the pageant is sure to leave lasting impressions on spectators.

Where: Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple, Mavelikara, Alappuzha. Nearest railway station is Mavelikkara, about 6 km away while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 85 km from Alappuzha.

When: March 3, 2017

‘Mela’ of alephants at Paripally

paripally-gajamelaParipally Gajamela forms part of the annual festival at the Kodimoottil Sree Bhagavathy Temple dedicated to Goddess Bhadrakali. The event witnesses parading of as many as upto 50 caparisoned elephants. Further, a host of cultural programmes are staged as part of this event on the temple premises. The elephants are paraded on the last day of the ten-day festival. Head off to Kodimoottil Bhagavathy Temple in the month of March to attend the Gajamela festival.

Where: Kodimoottil Bhagavathy Temple, Parippally, Kollam. Nearest railway station is  Kollam Junction, about 22 km away from Paripally while nearest airport is Trivandrum International Airport, about 45 km away

When: March 5, 2017

Elephant race at Guruvayur

guruvayur_temple_anayottamYou might have had goose bumps watching Usain Bolt running his way into the pages of world records. But ever seen a race where the participants are not the two-legged human beings but the four-legged giant jumbos, each weighing some 12,000 pounds? Now here is a chance for you to witness such an event. Guruvayur Anayottam (elephant race) as it is called in Malayalam marks the beginning of the annual Guruvayur festival, celebrated in the month of Kumbham (February-March) at the Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple in Guruvayur, district of Thrissur. The Guruvayur Temple is one of the most renowned and oldest of all temples in Kerala. Though the winning elephant will not get a gold medal, he will have the honour to carry the Thidambu (the replica of the idol of Guruvayoorappan) on all special occasions for one year.

Where: Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple, Guruvayur, Thrissur district

When: March 8, 2017

Pongala for Attukalamma

attukala_pongalA festival like no other, Attukala Pongala, the largest congregation of women in the state, is celebrated at the renowned Attukal Bhagavathi Temple in Kerala’s capital city of Thiruvananthapuram. The festival entered the Guinness records for being the largest single gathering of women for a religious activity. Only women are allowed to participate in the Pongala ritual. Pongala (literally means to boil over) is a ritualistic offering of a sweet dish consisting of rice porridge, sweet brown molasses, coconut gratings, nuts and raisins. The pongala is offered by the devotees in the belief that the presiding deity of the temple – the Goddess – popularly known as Attukalamma will be appeased. As the festival sees a huge influx of devotees, the crowd spills over to the major roads in the city and the festival has a whole city revelling in festive splendour.

Where: Attukal Bhagavathi Temple, East Fort, Thiruvananthapuram. Thiruvananthapuram railway station is about 3 km away while Trivandrum International Airport is about 5 km away

When: March 11, 2017

Procession of tuskers

chinakkathoor_pooramA grand procession of a fleet of 27 tuskers bedecked with caparisons- this sight of the gentle giants in richly ornate attire is the highlight of the Chinakkathoor Pooram held annually at the Sree Chinakkathoor Bhagavathy Temple in the district of Palakkad in north Kerala. The Panchavadyam or traditional Kerala orchestra and pandimelam which accompany the Pooram add the much-needed fervour to the festivities. Various art forms like theyyam, poothanum thirayum, kaalavela, kathakali, kumbakali, thattinmelkoothu are also performed adding to the festive spirit. For those yearning to watch this visual splendour of colours and art forms, Sree Chinakkathoor Bhagavathy Temple is the place to be.

Where: Chinakkathoor Bhagavathi Temple at Palakkad. Nearest railway station is Shoranur, about 20 km away, while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 103 km away.

When: March 11, 2017

Annual festival at Thirunakkara

thirunakkara-arattuThe annual 10-day festival at the Thirunakkara Temple draws to a close with the Thirunakkara Arattu ceremony. Usually nine caparisoned elephants take part in the Arattu procession which begins in the afternoon. Folk arts like Mayilattom (peacock dance), Velakali etc, are presented in the temple compound in the evening. A major attraction is the all-night Kathakali performances on the third and fourth days of the festival.

Where: Thirunakkara Mahadeva Temple, Kottayam district

When: March 15-24, 2017

When men are dressed up as women

kottangkulangara-chamayavilakkuA very unique festival. A gender bender of a festival where men cross dress, the Kottangkulangara Chamayavilakku celebrated at the Kottangkulangara Devi Temple in Kollam stands apart from the rest of the festivals in Kerala with this unique flavour. This novel event is part of a special temple ritual during the festival. During the festival night, men dressed up in women’s attire bearing traditional lamps will swarm the premises of the temple.  They will then move as a procession towards the temple to the accompaniment of traditional orchestra. This unique festival attracts hordes of crowds each year.

Where: Kottangkulangara Devi Temple at Kollam. Nearest railway station at Kollam is about 13 km while nearest airport is Trivandrum International Airport, about 71 km from Kollam town.

When: March 24-25, 2017

Where Duryodhana is revered

malanada-kettukazchaAt Poruvazhi Malanada Temple, tradition deviates. This is a temple which reveres and showers praises on an antagonist. Here, the worshipped figure is Duryodhana, considered a villain in the Indian epic Mahabharata. Another highlight at the temple is the absence of an idol or a sanctum sanctorum. Come March, and the Temple bears witness to one of the most spectacular events- Malanada Kettukazcha an eight-day festival celebrated in all pomp and gaiety. Richly decorated structures known as Edupu Kala and Edupu Kuthira are taken out to the accompaniment of the traditional orchestra of drums.  These huge structures may even be 70 to 80 ft tall as the making involves intense competition between the people of the surrounding villages. The majestic structures are then taken out on chariots or carried on the shoulders by the devotees. Cultural programs are also performed during the night and Kathakali based on the story ‘Nizhalkuthu’ is customary. This impressive procession which is celebrated with much zeal witnesses huge participation by devotees from far and near.

Where: Poruvazhi Malanada Temple, Adoor in Pathanamthitta district. Nearest railway station is Chengannur, about 30 km away from Malanada while nearest airport is Trivandrum International Airport, about 92 km from Adoor.

When: March 24, 2017

Temple on canoes

Attuvela-MahotsavamPicture this- A vibrantly decked up and illuminated replica of a temple drifting across the waters accompanied by an entourage of brilliantly decorated small canoes with the temple percussion music resounding in the background.  For those yearning to witness this spectacle head off to Elankavu Bhagavathy Temple during the Attuvela Mahotsavam. Attuvela Mahotsavam is a water carnival. Legend has it that it represents the welcome ceremony accorded to the Goddess of Kodungalloor who arrives to visit her sister, the Goddess of Elamkavu. The temple has Goddess Bhagavathy as its presiding deity. The cynosure of all eyes during the two-day festival is the huge replica of the temple sailing down the waters. This arresting procession of canoes starts from Attuvela kadavu, 2 km away from the temple.

Where: Elankavu Bhagavathy Temple, Vaikom in Kottayam. Nearest railway station is Ernakulam, about 30 km while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 50 km away.

When: March 29, 2017

Dance in the trance

kodungalloor-bharaniImagine the premises of a temple getting bathed in a sea of red as a flurry of oracles draped in vermilion cloth scurry around the temple wielding their swords, the highlight being the presence of hordes of women oracles dancing in trance alongwith their male counterparts. This intense event called kaavu theendal forms part of the annual Bharani festival held at the Bhagavathy Temple in Kodungalloor. A spectacle in itself, this festival has heavily decked up oracles dancing in divine ecstasy. The devotees too run along with the oracles as they circumambulate the temple in spiritual euphoria. Oracles, both men and women, from different parts of the State run around the temple and smite their crown with the sword, proclaiming their communion with the Mother Goddess. The devotees strike the temple rafters with sticks and hurl offerings over the roof and on to the inner quadrangle. The Kodungalloor Bharani is a spectacle in itself. The festival usually falls in the Malayalam month of meenam (roughly March/April) every year. The temple remains closed for a week following the festival. The temple still follows a ritual from the days of the yore wherein purification ceremonies, a custom which is believed to restore the sanctity of the temple, are performed after the ‘kaavu theendal.’

Where: Kodungalloor Bhagavathy Temple at Kodugalloor in Thrissur. Nearest railway station is Irinjalakuda, about 20 km while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 30 km.

When: March 30, 2017

 

Surajkund Mela is on but much more to do this February

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

Surajkund Mela
Surajkund Mela

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

Bharat Rang Mahotsav
Bharat Rang Mahotsav

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

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

Khajuraho Festival of Dances
Khajuraho Festival of Dances

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

India Art Fair
India Art Fair

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

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

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

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

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

Nasik Sula Fest
Nasik Sula Fest

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

Fun in Goa Carnival
Fun in Goa Carnival

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

Kila Raipur Rural Olympics
Kila Raipur Rural Olympics

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

Adoor Gajamela
Adoor Gajamela

But if you are of some religious type, than go to Kerala for Adoor Gajamela on 6 February. The picture of a huge tusker in all his adornment is something that catches the mind of all. If you are an elephant lover then don’t miss this wonderful elephant pageant at the Parthasarathy Temple in Adoor. The festival is part of the ten-day annual celebration held at the temple. Kerala’s first elephant pageant for the year, the end of the 10 day festival at Parthasarathy Temple features a procession of nine decorated elephants. Traditional art forms such a panchavadyam (a musical ensemble with five different types of instruments) accompany the parade. Hundreds of people throng the temple premises to witness this spectacle where nine tuskers come in their ceremonial attire to entice all. Parthasarathy Temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna, who is also known as Parthasarathy – the charioteer of Parthan, another name for Arjuna. Arjuna is one of the five Pandava princes, in the Indian epic Mahabharata.

Missing the chill! Chill out with these festivals

Missing the chill this year, isn’t so? Nevertheless, festivities are on. New year comes with a number of festivals celebrating India’s dance and musical traditions.  One among them Swathi Sangeethotsvam has already started last night. So, one might have plenty of options to travel from skiing to sun bathing at beach, but there is still always more to do. This month also has Makar Sakranti (14th January), considered to be one of the most auspicious days of the year and also an occasion of many travels and pilgrimages. Bringing you the selected few events for this month.

Mamallapuram Dance Festival

mamallapuram-danceMamallapuram has retained its fame in stone, thanks to the great contribution of Pallava artisans. It is among the most outstanding examples of Dravidian art and architecture and a jewel in the crown of Tamil Nadu. In a land that is liberally strewn with some of the best in temple art, Mamallapuram holds its own, and stands as a silent yet eloquent witness to the glory of its creators.Unfortunately most of the work was left incomplete, and time and nature have also eroded the remains of this once great port. Yet, Mamallapuram’s wonders in rock leave visitors enthralled, conveying as they do, an impression of beauty and harmony. The monuments are floodlit at night and so it is possible to enjoy their beauty even after sunset. The Mamallapuram dance festival is conducted every year during Dec-Jan. It is a month long festival and dances take place during the weekends. Classical dances such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Mohini Attam, Odissi, Kathak etc., are performed by well-known exponents of the art. he dances are performed against the magnificent backdrop of the Pallava Rock Sculpture in the city of Mahabalipuram ,Tamil Nadu. The Pallava Rock Sculptures provide an aesthetic touch to this cultural dance festival where the best folk dancers in India perform. The crowd gets a visual treat by the incredible performances of Indian folk dancers where artists perform beautifully decked up in the finest traditional attire representing the rich cultural heritage of the country. Mamallapuram is a popular beach resort and a culture front, especially for the tourists, who come from the world over who love to imbibe and soak in the rich traditions. This town beach is full of ancient monuments, sculptures, caves, monolithic temples and beaches. In Mamallapuram there is a Shore Temple that was built during the reign of Narsimha Varman of the Pallava dynasty in 8th century A.D. During the dance festival time the stones of temple begin to resonate with music and dance rhythms.

When: 21 December 2016 — 21 January 2017

Where: Chennai (58 km) is the nearest airport for domestic and international flights. Chennai is connected with all the major places in India. The nearest railway stations are Chengalpattu (29 km) and Chennai (58 km). From these stations one has to take road journey to reach Mamallapuram. Buses from here to Pondicherry, Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu and Chennai to Mamallapuram daily. Tourists can also hire taxis from Chennai.

Rajarani Music Festival

Rajarani FestivalEntrancing performances by well-known Odissi and Hindustani vocal and music maestros bring alive the architectural beauty of the Rajarani temple at this festival. The temple, often referred to as the Khajuraho of the east, is famous for its elaborate erotic sculptured figurines. Celestial music, sublime surroundings and soothing climes of late winter—soul traverses to an elevated sphere leaving you utterly relaxed. Holidays are made with this kind of experience that creates a lasting mark in your mind. Rajarani Music Festival held against the backdrop of the 11th century Rajarani Temple in Bhubaneswar is such an evening of concerts: it’s relaxing, entertaining and uplifting. The city has a large assemblage of celebrated temples of which the Rajarani Temple is one of the most conspicuous. It’s remarkable for the absence any presiding deity in it. The temple is famous for its ornate deul or compass and the statues of eight Dikpals guarding the eight cardinal directions of the temple. To show case the glorious tradition of Indian classical music, the Rajarani Music Festival was conceived to be organised by the Department of Tourism in association with Bhubaneswar Music Circle. The musical evenings are resplendent with excellent performances by the great maestros of Indian classical music creating an allegory of darbari gayans (musical performances in an Indian king’s court) of age old histories. Eminent instrumentalists and vocalists of India have rendered scintillating performance in this festival over the years.

When: January 18-20, 2017

Where: Rajarani temple, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha

Mukteshwar Dance Festival

mukteshwar-dance-festivalThis is another festival organised by Odisha Tourism just before the Rajarani Festival. While Rajarani Festival is all about classical vocal music traditions, Mukteshwar Festival is all about dance, especially Odissi dance. This festival is staged in front of the 1100-years-old Mukteswar temple in Bhubaneswar. Renowned Odissi dancers from around the world take part in this festival performing solo, duet and group presentations. Mukteshwar temple, one of the most prominent temples of Bhubaneswar, has been constructed in the style that is quite similar to the one used in the Kalinga School of Temple Architecture. The splendid Torana of the temple, an ornamental arched gateway, is very much reminiscent of the influence of Buddhism in Orissa. This temple is a very important part of cultural life of the people of Orissa as the architecture at the temple entrance is considered to be one of the most beautiful specimens of the Orissan School of architecture. This temple signifies the transitional phase of the architecture of Orissa between the initial and the later stages of Kalinga architectural style. The beautiful architectural works of the temple add to the splendor of the Mukteshwar Utsav. This festival should not be missed by the people who take interest in the traditional dance forms of India.

When: January 14-16, 2017

Where: Mukteshwar temple, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha

Swathi Sangeethotsavam

swathi-sangeethotsavamThe mighty pillars of the Kuthiramalika Palace in the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram are pulsating with the mellifluous notes sung at the Swathi Sangeetholsavam or Swathi Music Festival. This musical extravaganza, already started on 4th January, lets you listen to the spellbinding compositions of Swathi Thirunal, the erstwhile Maharaja of Travancore. Organised every year to pay tribute to Swathi Thirunal, the concert celebrates the brilliant notes composed by this legendary maestro which continue to enthrall music lovers even now. A patron of music and a musician himself, Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma has to his credit more than 400 compositions in Carnatic music as well as Hindustani music. He set a new course and direction to the musical tradition of Kerala. The concert held in the Kuthiramalika Palace adjoining the famous Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, sees musical performances in both Hindustani and Carnatic styles. The musical festival which is attended by eminent musicians from across the country brings together those passionate about classical music and the experts as well. Entry is free.

When: January 4-13, 2017

Where: Kuthiramalika Palace, East Fort, Thiruvananthapuram

Joydev Fair, Kenduli

kenduli_melaFor an unforgettable dose of West Bengal folk music don’t miss the Kenduli Mela, where the mystical wandering Baul musicians gather to perform. Dressed in saffron robes, and playing a distinctive instrument called the Ektara, they sing uniquely about life’s philosophy. Joydev-Kenduli is renowned as the birth place of great Sanskrit poet Joydev who flourished in 12th Century and composed the well known Geet – Govinda, a Sanskrit Lyrical poem. Annual- Mela is held in the village Kenduli in the last day of Bengali month Pous and first 2 days of Magh and is attended by thousands of pilgrims including Bauls. The word ‘Baul’  is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Batul’ which means ‘mad’. Baul philosophy emphasises love for all human beings as the path leading to divine love. The Joydeb-Kenduli mela (fair), held every year in West Bengal’s Birbhum district on Makar Sankranti in mid-January. It is a gathering of wandering minstrels (Bauls, primarily) like no other in India. Gathering in almost equal numbers are lay aficionados addicted to the Baul and Fakir ways of life. Joydev Mela is mainly a music festival but as the Poush Mela it attracts craftsmen from the whole region, mainly selling wooden kitchen supplies, handmade covers or cheap jewellery. During five days, the 3 000 inhabitants of Kenduli Village welcome thousand and thousand of pilgrims who come mostly to listen to the bauls, the Wandering minstrels, the Mad Ones, bearers of a unique musical tradition, included in the list of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO. The fair is held on the banks of the Ajay River which is not only of some historical interest – the fair celebrates the great poet Joydev on the day he is claimed to have taken a bath at the Kadaambokhandi ghat of the river around 800 years ago.

When: January 14-16, 2017

Where: Kenduli village, around 30 kilometers from Shantiniketan in West Bengal.

Pangsau Pass Winter Festival

pangsaupass2Pangsau Pass Winter Festival (PPWF) 2017 will be celebrated from Jan 20 next year, after a gap of five years. It was postponed last year just before the take off. Hopefully it will be there this year. As per the official record, PPWF in its last edition was able to attract two lakh tourists in three days which is a first by any state tourism festival in the North East. There are nine or ten state festivals, of which PPWF is ranked second after Tawang Festival but in terms of tourist inflow, PPWF tops the list. The flavour of the festival will be same and better from earlier editions and all the tribes of eastern belt will be called to add more zest to the celebration. The ‘Pangsau Pass Winter Festival’ was first started in 2007 and was commenced in a befitting manner with support from the indigenous sources and since then there was no looking back, because, each year it began to grow bigger and better. Finally, 2 years later in 2009, the Arunachal Pradesh Tourism department took PPWF under its wing. PPWF is normally designated as a global village as it conjoins all the diverse tribes of the North East and Myanmar to reveal their customs and culture in broader perspective. Amazingly, the cultural carnival has traversed all the social barriers, inspiring the secluded regions to celebrate the ethnic existences that strongly bond together all the distinct tribes with diverse cultures and different religious backgrounds.The Pangsau Pass is located in one of the most peaceful and eco-friendly territory, it is nature’s store house. As the odyssey of discovery penetrates the heart of ethnic extravaganza, spontaneously, amazing events begins to weave unforgettable memories.

When: 20-22 January 2017

How to reach: Pangsau Pass or Pan Saung Pass is 3,727 feet (1,136 m) in altitude, lies on the crest of the Patkai Hills on the India-Burma (Myanmar) border. The pass offers one of the easiest routes into Burma from the Assam plains through Jairampur town of Changlang district, Arunachal Pradesh. It is named after the closest Burmese village, Pangsau, that lies 2 km beyond the pass to the east in and around historical Stilwell Road. The Ledo Road (Stilwell Road) began at Ledo, the railhead, and passed through Lekhapani, Jagun, Jairampur (the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh boundary and beginning of Inner Line check gate), and Nampong before switchbacking steeply upwards through densely forested hills to the pass, 12 km away. The distance from Ledo to Pangsau Pass is 61 km.

Jaipur Literature Festival

jaipur-literature-festivalFrom modest beginnings in 2006, the Jaipur Literature Festival has grown into the largest literary festival in Asia-Pacific. It now claims to be the biggest free literature festival on the earth. This year festival completes a decade, hence it makes it more important for the organisers. In past nine years more than 1300 speakers have addressed the gathering and more than 1.2 million book lovers have been part of it. The Festival takes place in late January each year. Both Indian authors as well as those from abroad appear at the Festival. The sessions consist of readings, discussions, and questions and answers. It’s possible to buy the authors’ books and get them signed. In addition, there’s a range of stalls selling everything from food to handicrafts. There’s also an outdoor lounge bar, for relaxing. Music performances are held in the evenings, after the literary sessions are over. In recent years, the Festival has turned into quite a fashionable occasion, and attracts plenty of socialites from Delhi and Jaipur. Authors will discuss works related to topic. There will also be emphasis on poetry, the literature of Southeast Asia, and the seven states of northeast India. There will be live music events, heritage walks and much more.

When: January 19-23, 2017

Where: At the historic Diggi Palace hotel in Jaipur. The hotel is located in Sangram Colony, Ashok Nagar, which is just off M.I. Road, around 10 minutes walk from the Old City of Jaipur. As Diggi Palace and its venues were overflowing in 2012, the music stage has been shifted to a different venue at The Clarks Amer lawns (around 15 minutes drive south of Diggi Palace).

Arthunkal Perunnal

arthunkalThe Arthunkal Perunnal (perunnal meaning feast) is the annual feast of St. Sebastian held in the St. Andrew’s Forane Church at Arthunkal in Alappuzha. The event sees devotees from across the state throng the church to participate in the feast which is held in January every year. One of the main events during the feast involves a ceremonial procession wherein the statue of St. Sebastian is taken out from the church to the beach and back. Another intriguing event is the ceremony on the final day when devotees crawl on their knees all the way from the nearby beach to the church. Church built by Portuguese missionaries in a coastal hamlet near here is a model of religious harmony with a tradition of hosting Sabari pilgrims returning after worshipping Lord Ayyappa. Pilgrims from across the state visit the St Andrew’s Church at Arthunkal here and pay their respects to the idol of Saint Sebastian between the months of November and January during the Mandala and Makaravilakku season of the Sabarimala temple. Legend has it that one of the early priests of the church, popularly called Arthunkal Veluthachan (fair skinned father), was a friend of Lord Ayyappa. The visit of the pilgrims commemorates the bond they shared, especially as the priest was loved by the local people who believed he had healing powers.

When: January 10-20, 2017

Where: St. Andrew’s Forane Church, Arthunkal, Alappuzha. Nearest railway station Cherthala is about 8 km from here and Alappuzha is about 22 km from here.

Camel Festival

camel-festival-bikanerJanuary is just the right month for a desert spree, and Bikaner just the right place to see the ships of the desert. In the camel country Bikaner, these desert leviathans pull heavy cartloads, transport grain and even work at the wells. The Camel Festival begins with a colourful procession of bedecked camels against the red sandstone backdrop of the Junagarh Fort, the festivity advances to the open sand-spreads of the grounds, followed by the best breed competition, the tug-of-war contest, camel dance,  acrobatics, etc. The camels display amazing footwork, dancing gracefully to the slightest direction of their trainers. Bridal, bridles, bejewelled necks, jingling anklets and long, lanky camel shadow on dusky sands cast a magical spell. Hundreds of tourists and thousands of locals and dignitaries revel in this man-and-animal affair organised especially for the tourists. The evenings close with a different tenor and tempo altogether: a traditional rendezvous of renowned artistes of Rajasthan and the local folk performers. The jubilant skirt-swirling dancers, the awe-inspiring fire dance, and the dazzling fireworks light up the fortified desert city of Bikaner.

When: January 14-15, 2017

Where: Bikaner is connected by rail and road with all the major cities. The nearest airport is at Jodhpur (243 kms).

International Kite Festival

kite-festivalGujarat is vibrant with the Kite Festival (Makar Sankranti) which is celebrated with colors of joy, colors of life. The Kite Festival signify Gujarat’s ‘Cultural Strength’ and like the kites, Gujarat soars high to touch the skies to be the ‘best in the world.’ All over the State, in the Month of January, the serene blue sky with colorful kites look splendid and since morning to evening remains dotted with vivid splashes of color with kites in a variety of hues, shapes and sizes. The excitement continues with the onset of night. As the sun sets and darkness hovers over, youngsters continue competing each other in supremacy in the sky, now with the paper lanterns tied to their kite-strings. These lanterns known as tukkal swaying at the mild stroke of wind presents a lovely image while some try to cut off these tukkals and enjoy the fun. Makar Sankranti (Kite Flying Day) marks the end of a long winter with the return of the sun to the Northern Hemisphere. According to the Hindu astronomy the sun enters the zodiac of Makara (Capricorn). Hence, it is called Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. The special significance attached to the celebration of Makar sankranti, is Kite Flying. The gods who are believed to have slumbered for six long months are now awake and the portals of heaven are thrown open! Uttarayan is celebrated all over Gujarat but the excitement is high at Ahmedabad, Surat, Nadiad and Vadodara. Surat, especially is known particularly for the strong string which is made by applying glass powder on the row thread to provide it a cutting edge.

When: January 14, 2017

 

Indian Accent continues to be the best!

Indian Accent continues to be on top of the list of most popular restaurants in India for another year in running. Well, nothing official about it but this list is based on user reviews on popular reviewing site TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor compiles list based on user reviews and updates them annually according to user ratings.

indian-accent-at-the-manorIt seems that Indian Accent at Friends Colony in New Delhi has continued to maintain its love affair with foodies. But besides this top position this list has seen a lot of upheaval in past one year. Four from the last list have lost their place and consequently there are four new entrants this year. New in this list but already known names. Goa lost one place but than there was another one from Goa to get entry. NCR continues to have its hold in the list with four entrants.

Villa Maya at Trivandrum has moved up a notch from 3rd position last year to number 2 this year. Peshawri at ITC Maratha in Mumbai has actually switched its place with Villa Maya this year. From number two last year, it has now come down to number three. Bukhara at ITC Maurya in New Delhi has also dropped one position from number four last year to number five this year. Karavalli in tech city Bengaluru enters the top 10 list at number four this year. Thalassa at Vagator in Goa is also a new entrant in the list at number six. Malaka Spice at Pune continues to be at the same position as last year at number seven.  But Khyber at Mumbai has dropped two positions from number six last year to number eighth in this year’s list. Lodi, The Garden Restaurant in New Delhi also enters the list at number nine. Gurgaon’s (now Gurugram) Farzi Cafe also makes its way in the list at number ten.

Those restaurants who are out of the list include Agashiye at Ahmedabad (number five last year), Gulati at New Delhi (number eight last year), Pinch of Spice at Agra (number nine last year) and Tuscany Gardens at Candolim in Goa (number ten last year).

Let’s have a look at the four new entrants this year.

karavalli_bangaloreLocated at The Gateway Hotel in Bangalore, Karavalli is to south Indian food what Bukhara is to kebabs. Not only is the food terrific but Karavalli’s influence has transformed the way south Indian food is perceived and served. Having embarked on a journey in 1990 to offer guests traditional cuisine of the South Western Coastal region, Karavalli has reinvented itself to give connoisseurs and gourmands a rejuvenated epicurean experience. At the iconic Karavalli, authenticity is the hallmark, where well-researched home-food recipes come together to ensure an experience that reiterates the greatness of Karavalli with a refreshed blend of novel additions to the menu, innovative desserts and unique dining experiences. The restored Karavalli captures the essence of 22 years of extensive research by the restaurant’s expert Chefs, reflecting the culinary legacy of the coastal regions of south west India. The Chefs have put together a distinctive compilation of vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies with extensive culinary journeys ranging from the best of the Mangalorean Bunts and Konkanis, Kodavas from Coorg, Malayalees, Calicut Muslims and Syrian Christians of Travancore, Havyaka Brahmins of Vitla and the Portuguese of Goa. New experiences like Tiffin carrier, South west coast Grills in the garden, Seasonal Curries and Wood fired dishes await our discerning guests. Karavalli the recipient of many awards both National and International and is featured in the best food guides across the world, like the one-of-its-kind Miele Food Guide (excerpts from the restaurant page).

thalassa-vagator“Thalassa” is an acronym for the “sea” in Greek, and this Greek taverna offers stunning views of Goa’s thalassa. Perched on the edge of a high cliff overlooking the Arabian Sea in Small Vagator village, this open-air restaurant offers one of the most breath-taking sunset views in Goa and a fabulous evening ambiance.  Conceived, owned and managed by Mariketty, diners are invited to share the ‘Greek culture’ that infuses this enchanting taverna, from its authentic and delectable Greek food, to the music and the warm hospitality. Set upon a high cliff that offers a stunning ocean-view, and styled completely in white, replete with with cane furnishings, white plastered walls and billowy white muslins-drapes, this elegant open-air Greek restaurant is reminiscent of any classic chic eat in Mykonos. With the azure waters of the Arabian Sea serving as the backdrop, soft lounge music wafting through the speakers and the attentive (and knowledgeable) staff  who magically appear whenever you need them , it is easy to see why this Little Vagator taverna is one of North Goa’s most adored restaurants. The food is Greek and the plates are bountiful. From classic Greek appetizers, dips and salads, to melt-in-your-mouth meats from the grill and Greek main courses, the food here is simply delicious! (excerpts from whatsupgoa.com)

lodi-the-garden-restaurantLodi, The Garden Restaurant is loved by Delhi. Known for its romantic setting & natural surroundings, Lodi is touted as the city’s favorite alfresco restaurant. The elegant & earthy interiors complimenting the natural landscape create an unobtrusive vibe, setting the tone for an unhurried meal with family or a day out with friends. From popular Sunday brunches to hi teas in the evenings, experiences at The Lodi are customized based on guest preferences.  While the wine bar boasts of an extensive wine list and a 16 tap wine machine, the garden bar is popular for its innovative cocktails. Lodi is well known as a non-institutional cultural hub. We work with well known & upcoming artists to organize a wide variety of events & gatherings ranging from live music and stand up comedy to travel talks and book readings. Highlighted by its lush botanical surroundings, pebbled walkways and bamboo railings, the restaurant is an extension of Lodhi Garden itself. The menu is an eclectic mix of flavors from around the world, though the emphasis remains on the much favored European influenced cuisine. Restaurant borrows serenity from the adjacent Lodhi Gardens. The Lodi has seating that is split between the Atrium, the Bar Floor, the Terrace, the Garden Area and the Ground Floor. The Garden area houses a variety of trees including the Jamun & Peepal, some over 100 years old. Comforting colors like orange have been used to ensure the seamless blending-in of the serene natural environment with that of the restaurant. The restaurant is not only known for its signature dishes like Moroccan Lamb Shoulder, Mezze platters, and The Lodi Chocolate Mousse, but also for its specialized organic farm to fork dishes, catering services and a live outdoor grill that serves authentic Rajasthani food. (excerpts from sewara.com)

farzi-cafe-gurgaonFarzi Cafe in Gurgaon will seem to be as quirky as the name suggests. The cafe is located in the hot spot of NCR ie DLF Cyber Hub. If you are a sucker for Indian cuisine but are bored with the sameness or wary of the overwhelming spices, then Farzi is the place for you. This place serves all the popular Indian dishes with quirky plating and presentation. If you want to have Indian food with a twist, look no further because Farzi Cafe is dedicated to providing the customers with innovative variations of Indian foods. A lively ambience and a polite staff. Have a small menu so really easy to choose stuff. A very large place with a long bar running on the left side. For large groups, there are round tables with black leather couches that kinda gives you a private space. A small platform on the right hosts live music on a few select days. Everything is wood and as soon as you enter its brown up and down. Even the ceiling has a wooden finish. A formal dining place with a twist. Focusing on the gourmet diner as well as the youth of India, Farzi Café aims to bring Indian cuisine back “in-Vogue”. “Farzi” can have many connotations, but at Farzi Café, it has just one, “creating an illusion” with its cuisine. Best described as a gourmet experience, it amalgamates traditional global and Indian classics, with Indian influences, contemporary presentations, culinary styles and ambiance. It is a quirky, chic, modern Indian café, where guests enjoy a sensory experience through the finest modern Indian cuisine, with a high energy ambiance. Infusing a generous dose of Indian flavours, Farzi Café presents Indian cuisine where culinary art meets the alchemy of modern presentations and cooking techniques like molecular gastronomy to absorb the guest into the ultimate gastronomic illusion (excerpts from restaurant site).