Spring in its full bloom and it is riot of colours everywhere- in nature as well on faces! one of the most awaited months of the year because of its festivities- festival of colours- Holi undoubtedly. It is also last of the months of the pleasant weather before the summer strikes. Its already getting hot this time of the year. Besides, months of March and April are also the times of the most popular elephant festivals in Kerala. Don’t spare a chance to be around at any one of these places!
1. Festival of colours in Brij
Though there are many festivals around the world where people throw colours, waters, flowers, mud, tomatoes, oranges and what not on each other, but no celebration can be compared to the fervour of celebrating Holi in mythical land of Krishna. Though Holi is celebrated in almost all parts of northern and central India, but it is the spirit of tradition that draws thousands every year to Mathura-Vrindavan to feel and play the holi as it used to be when Krishna used to play with Radha. In this area, festival of colours starts many days prior to the actual Holi day and continues long after that. It seems that for weeks together, this land has nothing else to do then relive the tradition of playing with colours. From temples to every household, prepares for it and is part of it. This holi is played in all possible ways- with flowers, colours, water and even by women folk beating their male counterparts when men of Nandgaon go to play Holi with women of Barsana, a mythical representation of Krishna going to play Holi with Radha. Tourists from all over the world come to witness this unique festival.
When: 17-24 March 2016
Where: Barsana, Mathura
2. Check your Yoga quotient
When it comes to Yoga, India has many gurus—as many as we have cricket experts. With growing popularity around the world, yoga festivals are the flavour of the season. There are many international tourists who plan their India trip around such yoga festivals. Places like Rishikesh has many of these. One among these with an international repute is the annual International Yoga Festival organised by Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh. This year it presents a ‘truly’ International Yoga Festival grounded in the authentic origin of Yoga. Practise and learn from masters from the Traditional Yoga Lineages from India, as well as masters of International well known yoga schools & styles. During this one-week Festival, one will have the opportunity to participate in over 60 hours of Yoga classes from world-class Yoga teachers practicing multiple styles of Yoga including Kundalini Yoga, Power Vinyasa Yoga, Iyengar Yoga and Kriya Yoga. The International Yoga Festival explores the eight limbs of Yoga and how they apply to human lives whether one considers itself as Yoga student or not.The participants will also be blessed with the presence, satsang and divine words of ‘revered saints and spiritual masters’ from within India. Started in 1999, this is the 16th year for this festival. With more than 400 people from over 30 countries, it’s grown to become one of the largest yoga gatherings in the world.
When: 1-7 March 2016
Where: Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh
3. Paripally Gajamela
As the name suggests Gajamela means assembly of elephants. It is one of the most impressive elephant temple festivals in Kerala. The Kodimoottil Bhagavathy Temple at Parippally in Kollam district offers visitor a visual treat every year in the form of the Gajamela festival. The get-together of about 50 odd caparisoned elephants takes place on the last day of the ten-day annual festival of the temple. Parippally Gajamela is part of the annual festival at the Kodimoottil Sree Bhagavathy Temple dedicated to Goddess Bhadrakali. The word gajamela in Malayalam literally means festival of elephants. Several cultural programmes are also arranged as part of the event in the temple premises.
When: 6 March 2016
Where: Paripally Kodimootil Sree Bhadrakali Temple, Kollam, Kerala
4. 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: 22 March 2016
Where: Arattupuzha Temple, Thrissur, Kerala
5. Thirunakkara Arattu, Kottayam, Kerala
The annual 10-day festival at the Thirunakkara Temple draws to a close with the Arattu ceremony. Usually nine caparisoned elephants take part in the Arattu procession which begins in the afternoon. Folk arts like Mayilattom (peacock dance), Velakali etc, are presented in the temple compound in the evening. A major attraction is the all-night Kathakali performances on the third and fourth days of the festival.
When: 14-23 March 2016
Where: Thirunakkara Mahadeva Temple, Kottayam, Kerala
6. Harvest festival of Chapchar Kut
Chapchar Kut is a harvest festival named after bamboo that has been cut, and is drying for burning and subsequent cultivation. The traditional bamboo dance performed by women (while men sit on the ground and beat bamboo sticks against each other), called cheraw, is a big part of the festival. Different styles of tribal dance performances take place amidst symbol clashes and beats of drums. There’s art, handicrafts, concerts, flower shows, and food as well. At the end of February, when winter starts receding, the Mizos prepare the land for fresh planting. There are few days of relaxation before the serious business of sowing starts and that is when the Chapchar Kut festival is celebrated with gaiety and fervour. A spring festival, this is the most important festival and the only one regularly observed during the first week of March in Mizoram. On this day people of all ages, young and old, men and women dressed in their colourful costumes and distinctive head gears and jewelries, assemble and perform various folk dances, singing traditional songs accompanied by beating of drums, gongs and cymbals. They dance in joyous celebration of life, each team displaying the best of its region. These are generally group dances with a lot of bonhomie and courting woven into them. Some dances are strictly martial danced by strong virile warriors with their weapons and trophies. One dance perennially popular is the Cheraw or the “bamboo dance” so called as long bamboo staves are used for this dance. This is the most colourful and distinctive dance of the Mizos requiring skill and an alert mind to perform. The other main dances performed during Chapchar Kut are Khuallam, Chheihlam, Chai and Sarlamkai. “Khual lam” is an auspicious dance performed by a group of dancers celebrating new beginnings. It is also a welcome dance for guests during community festivities.Exhibition and sale of indigenous Handloom and Handicraft products and other tourist attractions like flower show, food festival, musical competition and different traditional games are also organised during the Chapchar Kut festival
When: 4 March 2016
Where: Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram. Also Lunglei and Saiha
7. Goa’s version of Holi- Shigmo
Goa’s biggest spring festival, Shigmo, is the state’s version of Holi. It’s a Hindu festival that’s filled with bright decorations, singing, dancing, and colors. One traditional dance that’s often performed is the Ghode Modni martial arts horse dance. Shigmo parade is a street festival where vibrant colours and overwhelming celebrations lift the spirits of the entire state. It’s an experience you cannot afford to miss. This religious Hindu festival is filled with colours, music, dance and floats. In true meaning, it depicts the life of a Goan in elaborate folk performances by local men and women who dance tirelessly in huge processions along with the parade. Traditionally it was celebrated as spring’s biggest festival which honoured the homecoming of the warriors who had left their homes and families at the end of Dusshera to fight the invaders. Traditional folk dances and enactment of mythological scenes is the major highlight of this parade. Shigmotsav as they call it, is similar to Holi but it’s celebrated for 14 days in Goa. It is also a farewell to the winters. Traditional folk dances like Ghode Modni and Fugdi are performed on streets in massive troupes along the procession, showcasing the tradition of Goa. The shimmering floats with extensive lighting and sound effects move along with the parade gripping the attention of a huge crowd that aligns the streets of Goa.
When: 25 March-7 April, 2016.
Where: All over Goa, particular evenings in Panjim where a huge street procession is held with floats depicting Ramayana and Mahabaratha scenes, drums, and folk dancing. Celebrations are more authentic in rural areas. Expect plenty of authentic Goan cuisine and fenni (local alcoholic drink).
8. A festival for Olive Ridley turtles
Now that’s unusual. Spend a time at beach to show the commitment towards conservation of an endangered species. See newly hatched, endangered Olive Ridley turtles take their amazing march into the sea at the annual Turtle Festival. As well as this, you’ll get to sample traditional Indian village life by stopping over at local home-stays in the area (dormitory rooms only). Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) is a leading non-government organisation (NGO) in India, engaged in conservation of, education about and research on nature. In the year 1992, SNM started its work in the pristine region of Konkan on the western coast of Maharashtra state in India.Sahyadri started ‘Home Stay’ to host metro tourists at Velas in 2006 as a part of ‘Turtle Festival’. Turtle festival is an opportunity for metro-tourists to bid best wishes to the newly born sea turtle hatchlings while crawling towards their home. To ensure longevity of the project, Sahyadri also helped locals to form ‘Kaasav Mitra Mandal’ (Turtle Friends). Over the last 6 years, ‘Home Stay’ has received excellent support and guidance by locals, Gram Panchayat and the Forest Department. Sahyadri empowered villagers by starting Velas Homestay to host the tourists visiting during Turtle Festival. Total of 19 families have registered under home stay at Velas hosted almost 3,000 tourists in Turtle Festival 2012-13.
When: March 2016
Where: The turtle village Velas in Konkan region is almost 225 kms from Mumbai and around 120 kms from Chiplun. Its also 6 hours bus journey from Ratnagiri. Chiplun and Ratnagiri are on the Konkan railway main line.
9. Myoko Festival, Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh
One of the most impressive festivals of the Apatani in Arunachal is Myoko. It is celebrated in spring. In it age-old beliefs in the possibility of attaining and directing fertility to the fields and the people are interwoven with methods of strengthening family, clan and inter-village ties. The most important day is the day of the great pig sacrifices. It is believed that on this day the gods and goddesses will bless the place. At 2 o’clock the pigs are brought to the sacrificial place. From 4 o’clock onwards the priest starts reciting prayers which last for many hours. With the sunrise the freshly married women appear in their festive attire and sprinkle rice flour and rice beer over the dozens of pigs lying on the ground. At the same time the assistant priest sacrifices chickens on an altar on the sacred ground. After the main Myoko priest has been chanting his prayers for several hours, selected pigs receive special rituals before sacrifice. The Apatani tribe living in the Ziro Valley are keepers of folklore and legends, and customs so different. Bringing together all the Apatani tribes is their most important festival, Myoko, when the tribes renew their relationships, and pay homage to ancestors and nature for its gift of life and means of sustenance.
When: 20-30 March, 2016
Where: Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh
10. A garden so exclusive!
It can be called as one of the biggest private gardens in the world at one of the biggest private residence in the world. Nearly 10,000 Tulips in vivid colours are be the main attraction of annual ‘Udyanotsav’ which President Pranab Mukherjee recently threw open at Mughal Garden for public. Tulips have been in bloom since the last week of January and about 10,000 Tulips in vivid colours of red, orange and yellow mixed with red, pink, purple and white are expected to bloom in phases up to March 10. The Tulips have been grown this year in earthen pots as well as several beds in the Rectangular and Circular Gardens. People can visit the world famous gardens from the next day till March 15 barring Monday when maintenance will be carried out of the garden. Public will also be able to visit the Spiritual Garden, Herbal Garden, Bonsai Garden and Bio-diversity Park within the Estate. Roses are central to the fame of Mughal gardens and a permanent feature throughout the year. The garden has more than 120 celebrated varieties of roses who have their prime bloom is in February-March. The special roses include Green Rose and Angelique. Nearly 40 fragrant varieties include Belami, Black Lady, Double Delight, Eiffel Tower, Granada, Jadis, Mr Lincoln, Sadabahar and Taj Mahal. The Gardens include roses named Mother Teresa, Arjun, Bhim, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Jawahar and Dr BP Pal besides international celebrities with names like John F Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth, Mr Lincoln and Montezuma. Other rose varieties worth mentioning are Christian Dior, Happiness, Century Two, First Prize, Kiss of Fire, Iceberg and Granada. Unlike other gardens which grow a limited variety of roses but in large masses, the Mughal Garden features a large range of rose varieties in one place.
Flower Carpets in magnificent designs will also be on display in the Central Lawns revealing the skill and craft of the gardeners of Rashtrapati Bhavan. The dominant colour scheme of 2015’s ornamental flowers is yellow, red and orange. As in previous years, a small cactus corner is part of the Mughal Gardens display. On March 16, the garden will be exclusively kept open for farmers, differently abled persons including visually challenged persons, defence, para-military forces and police personnel.
When: 14 February-20 March 2016
Where: Mughal Gardens, Rashtrapati Bhawan, Delhi