Tag Archives: Varanasi

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


Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

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?

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Advertisements

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.

 

Jump in the well… all for a bottle of feni!

Its Ganga Dussehra today (also tomorrow!). Many of us would be already in Varanasi or may be in Haridwar or Rishikesh to take part in one of the most important festival attached to River Ganges. People will be taking dip in the river and will be part of Ganga Arti in the evening. Well, quite straightforward in terms of rituals. But ever imagined a festival in India where men jump in wells to bring out, just a bottle of feni! Looks bizarre but that happens in Goa. Looks like a chill-out fun for scorching summers of June. But June has a lot more to offer.  Summer is at its peak in the north while monsoon has already struck in the south. It is still the vacation time for the most parts of India and hill stations will be packed of vacationers. Lot more to do then routine ‘queen of the hills’ trips and these include some offbeat events and festivals.

Ganga aarti at Varanasi

Ganga Dussehra at Varanasi
Well as I said it is Ganga Dussehra today. Though it is called as Dussehra, it has got nothing to do with traditional Vijayadashami, called as Dussehra commonly. It is called Dussehra as it falls on Dashami (tenth day) of Hindu month of Jyeshtha during the brighter nights (शुक्ल पक्ष). The Ganga Dussehra festival is celebrated to mark the time that the holy Ganges River descended to earth. A large number of pilgrims congregate alongside the holy river, to bathe in it and worship. Ganga Dussehra is also known as Gangavataran which means ‘the descent of the Ganga’. Usually Ganga Dusshra is celebrated one day before Nirjala Ekadashi. Ganga Dussehra is dedicated to Goddess Ganga and this day is commemorated as the day when Ganga was descended to the Earth to accomplish her mission to purge the cursed souls of Bhagiratha’s ancestors. On Ganga Dussehra devotees worship Goddess Ganga and take bath in Ganges. Taking bath in Ganges and offering charity. It is widely believed that holy dip in Ganges on Ganga Dussehra day can purge all type of sins. Devotees flock to Allahabad/Prayag, Garhmukteshwar, Haridwar, Rishikesh and Varanasi to take a holy dip. Ganga Dussehra celebrations are legendary in Varanasi. On Ganga Dussehra day thousands of devotees do Ganga Snan and participate in Ganga Aarti at Dasaswamedh Ghat. Ganga Dussehra should not be confused with Ganga Jayanti when the Goddess Ganga was reborn.

When: 3rd June 2017 (some people also say it is on 4th June)
Where: Ghats of Ganges, everywhere!

Summer Festival at Shimla

Summer Festival at Shimla
Another festival which is already on is the Summer festival at Shimla. Shimla is of course one of the India’s all time favourite hill stations. At a time when the holiday season is at its peak, there is a big festival to keep tourists in high spirits. This renowned event has been held regularly in Shimla since the 1960s. And now the dates have also been more or less fixed- 1st to 9th June every year. It features musical performances, some from famous singers, food and fashion. Plenty of local handicrafts are on sale too. The entire stretch of the Ridge road in Shimla comes alive with a riot of colors and a flurry of events like fashion shows, flower exhibitions, a sporting event for children and adults alike and a photography competition, among others. What sets the festival apart is its heartfelt dedication to showcasing the folk culture of the place. This year on the first day there were performers from Republic of Congo as well as many small time performers from Bollywood and Himachal Pradesh. Second night yesterday had performances from local artists. There is another week for the festival.

When: 1-9 June 2017
Where: Mall road, Shimla

Kottiyoor Festival at Kannur

Kottiyoor Festival at Kannur
Another festival due in coming week is at God’s one country- the evergreen Kerala. This one is quite different from usual elephant festivals of Kerala and it continues for no less than 28 days. Quite long! But the Kottiyoor Vysakha Mahotsavam is a truly mesmerising festival held amidst dense forest with the lush greenery and the gorgeous River Baveli forming a stunning backdrop. This festival in Kannur is conducted by two temples, Akkara Kottiyoor and Ikkara Kottiyoor situated on the banks of the River Baveli. The Akkara Kottiyoor Temple serves as the venue for the festival and is opened only during the festival days. The deity here is believed to be a swayambhoo lingam (self-created idol of Lord Shiva) and the temple is noted for its absence of a formal structure. Here the deity is placed on a raised platform made of river stones named manithara. The religious rituals and ceremonies are performed in thatched huts. The festival commences with the Neyyattam (pouring of ghee) ritual which is attended by hundreds of devotees. The celebrations start with the bringing of a sword from Muthirerikavu in Wayanad. An intriguing aspect of the festival is the Rohini Aaradhana where the priest embraces the swayambhoo Shiva linga as part of the ritual. One of the main ritualistic programs in this festival is Elaneer Vayppu in which tender coconut brought by the devotees is offered before the swayambhoolingam.  The festival concludes with Elaneerattam in which the collected tender coconut water is poured on the idol by the head priest.

When: 6th June-2nd July 2017
Where: Kottiyoor temple, Kottiyoor, Kannur. Nearest railway station: Thalassery, about 65 km Nearest airport: Karipur International Airport, about 160 km

Jagannath Rath Yatra at Puri

Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath
This is undoubtedly one of the most important events of the Indian festival calendar. The deities of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken out in a procession to Gundicha Temple and remain there for nine days. Then the deities or Ratha Yatra return to the Main temple. The return journey of Puri Jagannath Ratha Jatra is known as Bahuda Jatra. Deities are usually worshiped in the sanctum of the temple at Puri, but once during the month of Asadha (Rainy Season of Odisha, usually falling in month of June or July), they are brought out onto the Bada Danda (main street of Puri) and travel (3 km) to the Shri Gundicha Temple, in huge chariots (ratha), allowing the public to have darśana (Holy view). This festival is known as Rath Yatra, meaning the journey (yatra) of the chariots (ratha). The Rathas are huge wheeled wooden structures, which are built anew every year and are pulled by the devotees. The chariot for Jagannath is approximately 45 feet high and 35 feet square and takes about 2 months to construct. The artists and painters of Puri decorate the cars and paint flower petals and other designs on the wheels, the wood-carved charioteer and horses, and the inverted lotuses on the wall behind the throne. The Ratha-Yatra is also termed as the Shri Gundicha yatra. Since, many years now, simultaneous Rath Yatras are organised at many cities in India on the same day.

When: 25th June 2017
Where: Puri, Odisha

Sadhus at Kamakhya yemple in Guwahati, Assam, India during Ambubachi Mela Photo: Vikramjit Kakati

Ambubachi Mela of Goddess Kamakhya
Now this is bit unusual as you will probably not be able to recall any festival anywhere else which is held to celebrate the menstruation period of the goddess. This is very popular annual festival of the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati.  In this annual festival the temple remains closed for three days because these are the days of annual menstruation period of goddess Kamakhya. On these three days devotees neither worship nor read holy books. even farmers do not plough the land. Temple reopens on the fourth day, with a rush of devotees who come to receive bits of cloth that are supposedly soaked with her menstrual fluid. It’s considered to be extremely auspicious and powerful. One of the 52 shakti peeths, Kamakhya temple is also known for its tantric rituals. This particular festival is considered to be the haven for that. Devotees come from far off places to meet the Tantric Sadhus and take their blessings.

When: 22-25 June 2017
Where: Kamakhya Temple, Guwahati, Assam

Devotees offering namaz at Jama Masjid in Delhi

Time for some sweet seviyan on Eid
Holiest month for the muslim community world over. The ninth month of the Muslim calendar is known as “Ramazan” and is a time of fasting and prayer throughout the Islamic world. This month-long fast is done to commemorate what, according to Muslims, was the first Quranic revelation to Prophet Muhammad, and its observance is one of the Five Pillars of Islam- a list of the great deeds every Muslim ought do in his life to secure salvation. The month of Ramazan lasts 29 or 30 days, depending on the year, and its beginning date is based on local moon sightings. The “Iftar” is the time of breaking the fast, and it occurs right after the evening call to prayer. Since people fast all day, family and friends eat late-night meals during Ramadan. Non-Muslims can sometimes participate in these meals, and there will often be big street tents near mosques where free food is given out to the needy during Ramadan. Traditionally, Eid El Fitr marks the celebrations at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Its high time for some traditional delicacies.

When: 25th June 2017
Where: Jama Masjid, Delhi

Sao Joao Feast of St John the Baptist

Sao Joao Feast of St John the Baptist
This is the festival I was talking about. Catholics across the world celebrate the Feast of St John the Baptist on June 24. This day, they believe, John kicked around in his mother’s womb when Mary was visiting because he knew Jesus was going to be born soon after him and wanted to indicate how happy he was. Only in Goa do they celebrate by jumping into wells. Its for all those who love feni. The most popular festival in Goa, Sao Joao (the fertility feast of Saint John the Baptist), involves the interesting feat of men jumping into overflowing village wells to retrieve bottles of local feni alcohol. People break coconuts after praying, down feni in liberal quantities, and jump into the closest water body they can find. The artistically inclined make crowns of fresh fruit and wildflowers and one large garland for the local cross. There are also boat races, and singing and dancing. this one is made especially for the newlyweds. The festival involves the husbands getting drunk on the local feni alcohol and jumping into wells to impress their wives, adorning floral wreaths on their heads. The festivities take on a more surreal outlook if it rains while the ceremonies are still underway, which it often does. People revel in delectable food and music while witnessing one of the most quirky and eccentric, yet interesting round of celebrations in the coastal state.

When: 24th June 2017
Where: All over Goa

Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
This is another feast in Goa. The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul or Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul is a liturgical feast in honour of the martyrdom in Rome of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul, which is observed on 29 June. The celebration is of ancient origin, the date selected being the anniversary either of their death or of the translation of their relics. Goa celebrates this festival with religious fervour. The tradition of Sangodd is also seen in the Christian festival of Saint Peter and Saint Paul held on June 29 every year, by the fishing community particularly in Bardez taluka. The fishermen in the villages along the northern coast of Goa celebrate the festival in the monsoon. They tie their boats together to form rafts which serve as makeshift stages. On this stages miniature models of chapels or churches are erected. After a church service in the morning and a large feast, the festival of Sangodd is held. Tiatrs (local drama theatre), folk dances and music are performed before an audience who watch from the banks of the river. The Sangodd in the villages of Candolim and Sinquerim are well known. Here the rafts carrying the models slowly make their way down the river up to the Chapel of St. Peter. At each stop, firecrackers are set off and the entertainment on the stage begins. The origin of this celebration is unique to Goa. It is the celebration of the fisher folk community because St. Peter was a fisherman.

When: 29th June 2017
Where: Candolim, Goa

Festivals in Ladakh region

Its festival time in Ladakh region as well. Though Manali-Leh road is yet not open, but Srinagar-Leh  traffic has resumed.  And then there are flights always! There are a few festivals already in pipeline. A couple of them are monastic while couple of others are recent cultural additions.

Saka Dawa festival

Saka Dawa festival
The Saka Dawa or the Saga festival is celebrated on the 4th  month of the Tibetan calendar. It is the most revered day for Buddhist followers as on this full moon of this month, the Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and then parinirvana. On this very day, every year, the lamas of nearby monasteries change the Tarboche flag pole, that is located at the South of the mountain, Kailash Kora. It is believed that if after the pole is changed, it does not stand erect, it is not auspicious by Tibetans. The festival is celebrated all over Ladakh and many other areas in Tibet and Sikkim as well. Actually this is the festival which we know as the Buddha Purnima. But then we already had Buddha Purnima on 10th May this year. Then why Saka Dawa in this month? The explanation to this is that due to difference between Solar and Lunar calendars, there is sometimes a difference of a month between Buddha Purnima and Saka Dawa, as is this time. But both are essentially full moon days.

When: 9th June 2017
Where: All over Ladakh, Sikkim, Tibet

Yuru Kabgyat festival at Lamayuru monastery

Yuru Kabgyat Festival at Lamayuru
This is another monastic festival of the month. Yuru Kabgyat is a two-day festival that takes place in the month of July in the Lamayuru monastery, which is around 125 kms away from Leh.  During the festival, the monks perform mask dances, prayers and rituals in order to get away from any kind of disaster and for bringing in peace in the world. This  is a pre-historic monastery, which is called Yuru Gonpa by the locals. This festival is dedicated to Yuru Kabgyat and his mythical connection. This Gompa owes its origin to the Drikungpa branch of the Kagyudpa sect of the Tibetan Buddhism. This is actually one of the first monastic festivals of the season.

When: 21st June 2017

Sindhu Darshan Festival at Shey Manla

Celebration of Indus at Sindhu Darshan
As the name suggests, the Sindhu Darshan festival is a celebration of River Sindhu or Indus. Sindhu Darshan is celebrated in Shey Manla, located 8 kms away from the main city of Leh.  Indus is one of the world’s longest rivers, and gave India its name. Not an old festival though, this started as a rightist political statement and then slowly converted itself into a cultural event. It was first started in the October, 1997 and continues to be held every year since then, attracting large number of foreign as well domestic tourists. This is the time, when holiday season starts in Ladakh region. Festival adds to that. The festival aims to project the Sindhu as a symbol of multi-dimensional cultural identity, communal harmony, and peaceful co-existence in India. It promises a kaleidoscope of Indian culture and an exciting array of performing arts. There is also a symbolic salute to the brave soldiers of the country. At the time of the festival, the local artists from various parts of the country traditional dance performances.  People from all religions, castes and regions become a part of this  festival. This year, it would be the 21st Sindhu Darshan festival.

When: 23-26 June 2017
Where: On the banks of the river Sindhu near Leh, Ladakh

Silk Route festival in Nubra valley

Silk route Festival at Nubra valley
This is another recent addition to Ladakh’s cultural festival scene. Recognizing the potential of Sumoor (the model village of Nubra) village in playing central role in economic development through cultural tourism, the villagers started an annual village festival and subsequently realized that this festival needs to be developed and promoted with experts’ supervision and direction to make it more meaningful, momentous and beneficial.  The festival aims at influencing the present and future generations as well visitors from outside to relate to the village culture in a positive light. As such, the Silk Route Festival offers a unique tourism product through provision of the Ladakhi village cultural and traditional lifestyle in aspects of accommodation and hospitality, entertainment, arts and crafts and activities that will interest both national and international tourists. The accommodation and hospitality section of the Silk Route Festival mainly consists of different types of traditional food stalls, cultural programme, handicrafts and traditional sport such as archery to mention few.

When: 23-24 June 2017
Where: Sumoor village, Nubra Valley, Ladakh

SO! Where are you going next!!

Malwa Utsav starts in Indore but lot more to do this month!

Malwa Utsav started last night at Indore’s Lalbagh palace. There are still five more days to go and you can certainly catch some action. So has India’s most awaited yearly pilgrimage- Char Dham Yatra, which commenced on 28th April with opening of doors of Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines. But there are host of other events which can prompt you to some quick travel plans. With soaring temperatures, hill stations like Mount Abu and Ooty try to chill out with their annual festivals. Then there are a few church festivals also in Kerala, besides the all famous Thrissur Pooram. Here are some quick ideas for the month of May- first of India’s traditional two months of summer vacations. Time to pack!

Malwa Festival, Indore

Celebrated with great enthusiasm, Malwa Utsav is one of the biggest and most spectacular events of Madhya Pradesh. The festival restores the age old culture and the tradition of India through its various classical dance performances and traditional music. Performers and entertainers from different parts of India charm the cities of Indore and Ujjain for a remarkable five day celebration of art, music, dance, drama and culture. Festival is organised at Lalbagh Palace in Indore. One can say that the festival is a storehouse to the culture, spirit and the essence of the state. There is a huge gathering of locals and tourists coming from all parts of India and across the globe. Well-known artists, excellent performances, colourful ambience and a mélange of various programs form the prime highlights of the festival. In-addition, the festival also exhibits a rich display of art and craft workshops and one can savour the delectable cuisines of different variety. This year more than 400 artists from 19 states will take part in the festival. This year the festival is being held under shadow of plastic ban imposed in Madhya Pradesh from 1st May and also new phenomenon of cashless transactions for the small shopkeepers.

When: 2nd-8th May, 2017

Where: Lalbagh Palace, Indore, Madhya Pradesh.

Thrissur Pooram

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

When: May 5, 2017

Where: Vadakkumnathan Temple, Thrissur, Kerala.

Ooty welcomes the summers with flowers

 

Photo: indiaeve.com

Every May Ooty comes alive with the Summer Festival. The 121st flower show will be celebrated on May 19th 2017, around 200 countries national flowers will be displayed on this year show. Flower show is conducted every year in the month of may in botanical garden Ooty. In this festival large varieties of flowers are displayed and organised activities like floral arrangements, vegetable carvings, flower rangoli etc. The flower show at the Ooty Botanical Gardens, which will take place on May 19-21, is particularly stunning. There will be nearly 15000 flowers of various types on display. The 59th fruit show at Sim’s park in Coonoor will be on May 27-28. Vegetable show will be on 6-7th May, Rose show on 13-14th May and Spice show on 12-14th May 2017. Other activities include cultural events, boat racing and trekking. There is also a Dog show at South of India Kennel Club (SIKC). Ooty Botanical Gardens covers an area of 22 hectares.It is a treasure house of temperate flora, consisting of flowering trees, beautiful shrubs, colourful lilies, bulbous planets, enchanting orchids, curious cacti and succulents, pleasing pteridophytes, breath taking glass house plans and charming annuals with bright colours.

When: 6th-28th May 2017

Where: Ooty, Coonoor and surrounding areas.

Buddha Purnima at Bodhgaya

Buddha Jayanti, also known as Buddha Purnima as it falls on the full moon day, celebrates the birthday of Buddha. It’s the most sacred Buddhist festival. Actually Buddha Purnima is day of his birth, his enlightenment and his death as well, making it a very rare day. It’s the most sacred Buddhist festival. Activities include prayer meets, sermons and religious discourses, recitation of Buddhist scriptures, group meditation, processions, and worship of the statue of Buddha. Across all monasteries in India including major Buddhist pilgrim centres like Dharamshala, Sarnath and Bodhgaya and predominantly Buddhist regions such as Sikkim, Ladakh, and Arunachal Pradesh as well. At Bodhgaya, the Mahabodhi Temple wears a festive look and is decorated with colorful flags and flowers. Special prayers are organised under the Bodhi Tree (the tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment).

When: May 10, 2017

Dhungri Fair, Manali

Hadimba temple is one of the most famous sight-seeing destinations at Manali in Himachal Pradesh. This mythological goddess from epic Mahabharata has this only temple to her credit in India. This temple is revered by locals and other ‘gods’ of the nearby villages alike. Every year her birth anniversary celebrations are held for three days in summers as per hindu calendar. More than a dozen ‘gods’ from the valley come here in procession to take part in the celebrations. Many events are held which make it a big cultural event. There is lot of dancing, singing, and sports activities. Whole of Manali will anxiously wait for this festival as they believe that after this festival normally tourist season will start peaking at this hill station. Many tourists from all over the world take part in this festival.

When: May 14 to 16, 2017.

Where: Hadimba Temple, Manali, Himachal Pradesh

Summer festival at Mount Abu

The only hill station of the Aravali ranges welcomes tourists for the summer with a festival. The summer festival is held every year during the month of May on Budh Poornima. The festival celebrates the warmth and cheerfulness of the people of hill station, who welcome the tourists from the depth of their hearts. Mt. Abu Summer Festival kicks off with ballad singing, followed by regional folk dancing. The festival also offers sports such as boat racing on Nakki Lake, and a roller skating race. It concludes with a fireworks display. The highlight of the festival is the Sham-e-Qawwali musical show, which features some of the most renowned qawwals from various parts of India. The hospitality of the people, their colorful culture and exotic locations made this festival a-never-to-be-forgotten experience. The festival begins with a ceremonial procession, which starts from the RTDC Hotel Shikhar and gather at the Nakki Lake Chowk followed by folk performances of Rajasthan and Gujarat states. The grand finale of the festival display dazzling fireworks. This two day colorful festival is organized by the Rajasthan Tourism, Municipal Board, Mount Abu & District Administration. Both the days of festival are interesting because of various competitions that take place the whole day. Skating Race, skater’s Show, CRPF Band Show, Boat Race, Horse Race, Tug of War, Panihari Matka Race and Deepdan add to the excitement of the celebration.

When: 9th-10th May 2017

Moatsu at Nagaland

Moatsu Festival is celebrated by the Ao tribe of Nagaland. Moatsu is celebrated in the first week of May every year. Various rituals are performed during this period. The Aos observe Moatsü Mong after the sowing is done. The Moatsu festival provides the Aos a period of recreation and entertainment after the stressful work of clearing fields, burning jungles and sowing seeds, cleaning up the Tsubu (Wells) and repairs and construction of houses by elders of the Putu Menden, stretching over a week. This tribal festival is marked by peppy songs and dances. The whole festival with full of merry making and fun is observed only for three days from 1st to 3rd of May. During this festival one of the symbolic celebrations is Sangpangtu, where a big fire is lit and men and women sit around it. Men & women putting on the complete best attire and the womenfolk serve the wine and meat. The natural customary practice of the forefathers was competing in making the best rice-beer and rearing the best possible pigs and cows to be slaughtered during the festival. The women weave the best of traditional garments and adorn themselves with all their finery. They join the men in dancing, eating and drinking and composing warrior songs. Singing songs in praise of the lover and the village as a whole is done and the older men encourage the young people to be bold and heroic to defend and protect them from enemies as head-hunting was practiced during their fore-fathers time.

When: 1st-3rd May 2017

Perunnal at Edathua Church

Nestled on the banks of River Pamba is the Edathua Church, a massive church that resembles the churches of medieval Europe. Established in 1810, the church is dedicated to St. George and is famous for the annual perunnal or feast which starts on the 27th of April and concludes on the 7th of May. During the perunnal, the statue of the saint, decked in gold, is taken out on a procession and is placed on the dais in the centre of the Basilica. The devotees turn up in hordes from far and wide to join in this procession and offer their prayers. Cultural performances are held on all days and a spectacular display of fireworks form an integral part of the festive occasion. Edathua Perunnal is actually one of three church festivals that takes place in Kerala during these days.

Photo: navrangindia.blogspot.in

Others are, Palayur Church Festival (6-7 May 2017 at St. Thomas Church, Chavakkad in Thrissur) and Puthupally Perunnal at St George Orthodox Church, Puthuppally in Kottayam District. Among these two the St. Thomas Church at Palayur near Chavakkad is believed to be one among the seven churches established by St. Thomas, the apostle of Christ. The annual festival at the church lasts for two days and is attended by thousands. With vibrant pageants, orchestra, and fireworks, the festival resembles the Hindu festivals held in and around Thrissur. Established in 52 AD and with a history spanning two millennia, the church is definitely worth a visit.

When: April 27-May 7, 2017

Where: St. George’s Church, Edathua, Alappuzha. Cochin International Airport is about 85 km from Alappuzha.

Belief and adventure at Chardham Yatra

The most popular pilgrimage in India, Chardham yatra is going to begun in its full swing with the opening of doors of the famous Badrinath temple after a six-month winter break on 6th May. The doors of Kedarnath shrines will be opened for pilgrims three days earlier on 3rd May this year. With all the four shrines located above 10,000 feet in Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, the temple doors remain closed in October-November owing to low temperatures and heavy snowfall, and are reopened in April-May. The pilgrimage season of six months witnesses hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists travelling to Dehradun, Haridwar or Rishikesh for an onward journey to the four shrines, making it the economic backbone of Garhwal region. However, there was a dip in footfall in 2013 following the natural calamity in the region. According to government figures, while the number of tourists visiting the state in 2012 and 2014 stood at 2.84 crore and 2.26 crore respectively, the figures stood at 2.09 crore in 2013.

When: 28th April 2017 onwards

Sipi Fair, SIpur, Mashobra

One of the unheard festivals in the list and bit weird too, but great occasion to understand the local culture and flavour. Two kilometre from Mashobra, a Shimla suburb lies Sipur which is known for its centuries old Sipi Fair. The fair is named after Seep, a local deity. The legend has it that the temple existed here prior to the deity’s visit to this place. According to the locals the place commands profound religious and mystical significance. No one spends the night here. The depth of the faith can be gauged from the fact that the visitors even dust their clothes before returning to the homes so that even a minute particle of the dust, a property of Seep deity , is not carried away. The tradition to visit the Sipi Fair is centuries old. It also finds special mention in the periodicals published during British regime .The place earlier belonged to the erstwhile Koti state. The star attraction of this fair is deity’s visit from the nearby hamlet Deothi .The deity pays as much as three visits to this place throughout the year.The venue also become a makeshift market during the fair when the stalls of goods are decorated to attract the visitors.

When: May 2017

 

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.

 

A full moon and a month full of festivals

It is one of the most beautiful moons of the year. Correspondingly, this is one of the holiest month of the year- Kartik. Rich in festivals- including some world-famous ones on and around Kartik Purnima (full moon day). Interestingly these festivals are spread throughout the country. That also makes it one of the best months to travel. 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. For those who want a pretext, here is a list of top 10 travel moments of the month of November

The charm of Pushkar

Pushkar FairThe Pushkar Cattle Fair is one of the largest in India and the only one of its kind in the entire world. During the fair, Lakhs of people from rural India flock to Pushkar, along with camel and cattle for several days of livestock trading, horse dealing, pilgrimage and religious festival. This small town, becomes a cultural phenomenon when colourfully dressed devotees, musicians, acrobats, folk dancers, traders, comedians, ‘sadhus’ and tourists reach here during Pushkar fair. According to Hindu chronology, it takes place in the month of Kartika (October or November) beginning on ‘ashtmi’ 8th day of Lunar Calendar and continues till full moon (‘Poornima’). The camel and cattle trading is at its peak during the first half of festival period. During the later half, religious activities dominate the scenario. Devotees take dips in the holy “Sarovar” lake, as the sacred water is known to bestow salvation. This small town is transformed into a spectacular fair ground, as rows of make shift stalls display an entire range of objects of art to daily utility stuff. Decoration items for cattle, camel and women, everything is sold together. Small handicraft items are the best bargain for buying souvenirs. The camel and horse races have crowds to cheer. Camel judging competitions are quite popular with animal lovers. Each evening brings different folk dances and music of Rajasthan, performers delivering live shows to the roaring and applauding crowds. Pushkar fair has its own magic and it’s a lifetime experience for travellers. It has featured in numbers of travel shows, films and magazines. According to the Lonely Planet: “It’s truly a feast for the eyes. If you are any where within striking distance at the time, it’s an event not to be missed.”

When:  8th to 14th November 2016

Getting there: By Air, nearest airport is Jaipur, which is connected with major cities. A newly built air strip at Kishangarh can cater to small charter flights. Helipad at Ghooghra (Ajmer) and Devnagar (Pushkar) can cater to clients travelling by helicopter. Ajmer is well connected by Rail to all important cities. Pushkar is just 13 kms away from Ajmer.  Ajmer is also well connected to important cities of Rajasthan and country through roads and is on Delhi-Mumbai National highway no 8.

Rann Utsav at Kutch

Rann MahotsavGujarat never fails to amaze and its amazement lies in a celebration at the largest tent city situated in the heart of the Kutch District-The Rann Of Kutch. This celebration is rightly called the “Rann Utsav”. It 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 Great Rann of Kutch, the Little Rann of Kutch and the Banni grasslands at the southern fringe, makes up for some 30,000 square kilometres of white lands, sweeping the Gulf of Kutch at one end, and the seat of the great Indus Valley Civilization on the other, falling in southern Pakistan. A cradle of craftsmanship, Kutch is known for its exquisite variety of weaving, patchwork, block-printing, bandhani, tie-and-dye, rogan-art and other ethnic styles of embroidery, pottery, wood-carving, metal-crafts and shell-work. The variety emerges from the enchanting terrain that provides a perfect backdrop to an extra ordinary fair. Perhaps because the landscape is so white and ochre, even a hint of colour adds a fascinating element to the rustic life of Rann. The staple food is khichdi (a sumptuous mix of rice cooked with pulses), kadi (A lightly-flavoured, yellow curry made with yogurt), rotla (A nutritious Indian bread made from black millet flour) and green chilli pickle. Wash it down with creamy, ice-cold chaas (buttermilk)! Round it off on a sweet note with jalebis (Indian sweetmeat) or go for dudhpak, a spiced milk and rice pudding although the range of mithais does not end with these.

When:  1st November 2016 to 20th February 2017

Getting there: The old, walled city of Bhuj is the most important town in Kutch and also the district headquarters. Bhuj is accessibly by Air, Train and Road. By air, Bhuj Airport receives flights from Mumbai. All the capital cities of India are more or less connected to Bhuj by railways. Bhuj has a well connected railway network and there are regular trains from different parts of the state. The city can be reached easily from places such as Ahmadabad, Delhi, Mumbai and many other cities by rail. National highway No. 8A connects Bhuj to Ahmedabad. There is regular bus service that connects Bhuj to the neighbouring cities. Buses from the neighbouring cities ply to Bhuj regularly. Journey to Bhuj by road is a beautiful experience with vibrant landscape around. Kutch is another 71 kms from Bhuj.

Ganga Mahotsav & Dev Deepawali at Varanasi

Dev DeepavaliGanga 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. The classical music rendered by maestros indeed imparts an unforgettable flavour. The attraction of the five-day-long Ganga Mahotsav is its message of faith and culture, that increase with the daily Shilp Mela and the unique Dev Deepawali with innumerable ‘Diyas’ or earthen lamps in chain, lit by devotees and which floating down the river on the full moon night of Kartik, a spectacle both mystical and heart winning. Thus, 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. It is believed that Ganga nourishes the Varanasi civilization for long and it has been a great religious importance in the Hindu society. It provides the people a great sense of different identity and belonging. For the religious and cultural beliefs of the people to the River Ganges, a festival of Ganga Mahotsav is organized every year. People at Varanasi celebrate Ganga Mahotsav continuously for 5 days at the banks of the River Gange. 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. It provides an immense chance for tourists to see the real presentation of the Indian classical dance and music. Many of the great personalities of India have participated and performed their enchanting performances at the Ganga Mahotsav such as Ustad Bismillah Khan, Bal Murli Krishnan, Vilayat Khan, Pundit Chhanulal Misra, Birju Maharaj, Girija Devi, Sujat Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, Amjad Ali Khan, Zila Khan and Zakir Hussein. This festival attracts pilgrims and tourists from all the corners of the world.

When:  11th-14th November 2016

Getting there: Varanasi is accessible by all means- air, road and train. It has an airport with daily flights from Delhi. It is also on main Delhi-Howrah rail line. Road connectivity to all nearby cities- Allahabad, Lucknow or Patna is  also very good.

 A Tradition through the Ages at Sonepur

Sonepur FairThe annual Sonepur Fair in Bihar is an authentic rural fair that combines spirituality with elephant, cattle, and horse trading. It 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 three weeks. Street magicians, spiritual gurus, snack stalls, handicrafts, amusement rides, circus performers, and theater all create a carnival like no other. 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. The temple of Harihar Nath is believed to have been originally built by Lord Rama, on his way to the court of King Janak to win the hand of Mata Sita. It is further said that Raja Man Singh later got the temple repaired. The Harihar Nath temple, as it stands today, was built by Raja Ram Narain, an influential person during the late Mughal period. Since Sonepur is situated at the convergence of the sacred rivers Ganges and Gandak, the Hindus regard it as a holy site. One of the purposes of the people visiting the Sonepur Cattle Fair, apart from the fair, is to take a holy dip at the convergence and pay respects at the Hariharnath Temple. 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. A new leaf in famous Harihar Kshetra Sonepur fair chapter has been added this year as the organizing committee has opened an account on Facebook for circulation of its events. The fair is scheduled to be inaugurated on November 4 and will be officially declared closed on December 4. 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.

When:  14th November to 13th December 2016

Getting there: 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.

Celebration of culture at Majuli

Majuli FestivalMajuli, 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. Its spans about 1,250 square kilometers but is gradually losing its terrain due to soil erosion and now only has an area of 421.65 square kilometers. Majuli is shrinking further as the vast Brahmaputra keeps getting bigger. The island is formed by the Brahmaputra river in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti river (a branch of the Brahmaputra), joined by the Subansiri River in the north. 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. On this day, they put aside their differences and hardships in their life, share their love for music, dance, arts, crafts and food. Elaborate events are organized on this day and people from these various tribes living in India and all over the world congregate to celebrate their heritage and culture. Rasleela is also a three day festival held usually in mid-November. It celebrates the legendary love of Radha and Krishna and the devotion of the gopis to Krishna.

When: 21st to 24th November 2016

Getting there: 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.

Guru Purab at Golden temple

golden templeAll those who can’t go to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan to pay homage to Guru Nanak at his place of birth, may still find solace at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The birthday of Guru Nanak Sahib- the founder of Sikhism- falls on Kartik Purnima (i.e. full moon day of month of Kartik in Hindu calender) and is celebrated with great enthusiasm by the Sikhs throughout the world as Guru Purab. This day is widely celebrated throughout Punjab but especially so at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the main shrine of the Sikhs. This is one of the most sacred festivals in Sikhism. Apart from Sikhs, Hindus and other followers of Guru Nanak’s philosophy also celebrate this festival. The festivities in the Sikh religion revolve around the anniversaries of the 10 Sikh Gurus. These Gurus were responsible for shaping the beliefs of the Sikhs. Their birthdays, known as Gurpurab (or Gurpurb), are occasions for celebration and prayer among the Sikhs. The celebration is generally similar for all Gurpurabs; only the hymns are different. The celebrations usually commence with Prabhat Pheris. Prabhat Pheris are early morning processions that begin at the Gurudwaras and proceed around the localities singing hymns. Generally two days before the birthday, Akhand Path (a forty-eight-hour non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs) is held in the Gurdwaras. The day prior to the birthday, a procession, referred to as Nagarkirtan,[6] is organised. This procession is led by the Panj Pyaras. They head the procession carrying the Sikh flag, known as the Nishan Sahib and the Palki (Palanquin) of Guru Granth Sahib. They are followed by teams of singers singing hymns and devotees sing the chorus. There are brass bands playing different tunes and ‘Gatka’ teams display their swordmanship through various martial arts and as mock battles using traditional weapons. The procession pours into the streets of the town. The passage is covered with banners and gates decorated flags and flowers, for this special occasion. The leaders spreading the message of Guru Nanak.

When:  14th November 2016

Getting there: Amritsar is one of the most important cities of north India, hence it has a high speed connectivity to other cities through road and train network. It has also got an airport which connects it through to major airports with direct daily flights.

A carnival for city beautiful

Chandigarh carnivalThe City Beautiful- Chandigarh is among the few Indian cities to have their own city carnival. For three days every November city is turned into a stage for fun and frolic. The stage is set for the another Chandigarh carnival at Leisure valley. Every year this carnival has a special theme. There are comedy shows, musical shows and rides. For music buffs, two mega-musical nights are held by renowned Bollywood singers and Punjabi artists are something to look forward to. The fair marks a highly innovative step taken by the Chandigarh administration that has over the years been a great promoter and contributor towards exposing and exhibiting the talent breeding in the city. An elaborate food court will take care of the visitors’ taste buds. Last year the theme was science fiction which drew a large crowd. Apart from Souvenir Shop and Le-Corbusier Centre, Vintage Car exhibition at Museum and Art Gallery are also a part of the Chandigarh Carnival. To give it a carnival feel, a parade is also held on the streets of the metro. The beats of Bhangra and Giddha force a many to shake their legs. A fun to be in the city on those days. All the three days of the Carnival are well planned and packed with numerous activities. Numerous competitions, events are present for every generation and taste of people. Over the years the carnival has become so popular that viewers come from far and wide to witness this mega event.

When:  25th to 27th November 2016

Getting there: Chandigarh is one of the most important cities of north India, hence it has a high speed connectivity to other cities through road and train network. It has also got an airport which connects it through to major airports with direct daily flights.

Celebration of ‘Vijay’ at Hampi

Hampi FestivalHampi Festival is the largest festival at Hampi. Generally they are scheduled for 3 days during the first week of November. Hampi Utsav, also known as the Vijaya Utsav, Festival of Hampi has been celebrated from the times of the Vijayanagar reign. Hampi being a World Heritage Site is a international tourist spot. This festival is attributes to the mega cultural extravaganza. Renowned artistes all over India come forward in bringing the grandiose days of the Vijayanagar Period to the present day. The rich culture of Kannadigas in the fields of dance, music and art thus showcased complement the beautifully carved ruins of Hampi. Bright colored handicrafts, leather puppets done by the traditional craftsmen of the past are reproduced with the same skill by their present generation. Musical instruments such as pipes and drums traditionally played vibrate the air with past grandeur. The Government of Karnataka promotes this festival every year to attract people all over the world to this magnificent land. This year as many as eight stages have been erected at various places – Virupaksha temple precincts, near monolith Sasivekal and Kadlekal Ganesh, opposite to Krishna temple, near Gayatripeetha, at Kamalapur and near Vijaya Vittala temple complex. Artistes of national and international fame, including Padma Bhushan Mallika Sarabhai, Padmashri Venkatesh Kumar, Narasimhalu Vadvati, Nagaveni Srinath, music directors Saleem Suleman, Rajesh Krishnan, Raghu Dixit and Benny Dayal are among those who would enthral the audience. Light & Sound show, which is being organised again after a gap of seven years near Elephant stables, Hampi by sky, being organised for the third year in succession, rural sports, particularly ‘Kusti’ (wrestling), magic show by Kudroli Ganesh, Poets’ meet will be the other special attractions during the festival. Light and Sound show will be staged from November 3 to 9, while the Hampi by sky chopper ride would be held till November 7.The celebrations attract are too much crowd for this otherwise low profile town to handle. So if you are planning to visit Hampi during these 3 days be prepared to face the associated troubles (overbooked lodges, overcrowded sightseeing, packed buses& trains etc).

When:  3rd to 5th November 2016

Getting there: There are only very few connections since there are not major airports. There are a number of options to reach Hampi. Gateway town to Hampi is Hospet , bustling town located very close to the Hampi ruins. This is the major travel hub from where one can get the travel connections. There are two airports near Hampi – Bellary and Hubli. But both are far from the Hampi site (needs at least 2-3 hours travel by road). There are good road and rail connections from Hospet to a number of major towns and cities around this part of India.

Gustor Festival at Thiksey

thiksey gustorThiksey Gustor is held on the 17th, 18th and 19th day of the 9th month of Tibetan lunar calendar every year. 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. The celebration end with the dismembered and dispersal of the Torma (Sacrificial Cake) by the leader of the Black hat dancers in a ceremony called “Argham” or “klling”. This sybolise the destruction of all form of evil. And also re-dnacts the assassination of the Tibetan apostate King Lang-Darma, by a Buddhist monk in the mid 9 th century. Thiksey is one of the biggest monasteries in Ladakh region and most popular among tourists after the Hemis monastery. Spon Palden Sherab with his Master Jangsem Sherab Zang, one of the six contemporary disciples of Lord Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, responsible for the dissemination of his teachings to the remote provinces founded Thiksay monastery in 1433 AD.The disciple of “Jamgon sokapa, Sherab Zangpo” of stod, first built the temple of Stkmo Lakhang at top the Thiksay Alley. Then Paldan Sharab nephew of Sherab Zangpo, founded Thiksay monastery. Here are sacred shrine and many precious to be seen. The successive reincarnation of Skabjay Khanpo Rinpoche act as in charge of the monastery.

When:  17th-18th November 2016

Getting there: Thiksey Monastery is located 19 kilometres from Leh, the capital town of Ladakh. 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.

A festival of 100 drums- Wangala

wangala festivalThe 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. But fast modernisation and the influence of Western culture has adversely impacted the Wangala, which is the cultural identity of the Garos. The social aspect of the Wangala Festival goes on in the villages for a number of days, with eating, drinking and merrymaking. 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.

When:  10th-12th November 2016

Getting there: Festival happens at Asanang village which is 18 kms from Tura in Meghalaya. Tura is one of the largest towns in Meghalaya. Tura is situated in the western part of Meghalaya which is quite close to the National Border of Bangladesh. 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.

October is all devotion & music!

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

Ramlila of Ramnagar at Varanasi

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

When: 15th September-16th October 2016

Where: Ramnagar, Varanasi

Music under the full moon

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

When: 13rd-17th October 2016

Where: Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

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

The Marwar extravaganza

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

When: 15th-16th October 2016

Where: Various places, Jodhpur

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

Classical Music and Dance at Soorya Festival

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

When: 21st September 2016-11th January 2017

Where: Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

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

Durga Puja at Barisha, the oldest

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

When: 5th-11th October 2016

Where: Barisha, Kolkata

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

Garba at Navratri in Gujarat

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

When: 1st-10th October 2016

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

Pleasing the snake gods at Mannarasala Ayilyam

mannarasala-ayilyamMannarassala Ayilyam is one of the major festivals in the Mannarassala Sree Nagaraja Temple, a unique temple dedicated to serpent Gods with over 30,000 images of snakes along the paths and even among trees. The major festival in this serpent shrine is the Ayilyam festival that falls on the Ayilyam asterism in the Malayalam month of Thulam, which roughly corresponds to the months of October / November. The festival which sees thousands of devotees visiting the temple from far and wide is celebrated with much grandeur. One of the major highlights of the festival is the ceremonial procession in which all the serpent idols in the temple and the sacred grove are taken to the illam (the Brahmin ancestral home) that manages the temple. Unlike other temples, here the head priest is a woman. The chief priestess will carry the idol of Nagaraja, which is the presiding deity of the temple. Special prayers and offerings are performed at the illam.

When: 24th October 2016

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

Gustor of Deskit monastery in Nubra

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

When: 28th-29th October 2016

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

Grandeur of Ramlilas of Delhi

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

When: 1st -11th October 2016

Where: Ramlila Maidan, Delhi

Dussehras of different hues 

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

When: 11th October 2016

Where: Mysore, Bastar, Kullu, Kota and Almora