Its getting hotter day by day. The annual holiday season is right at the corner and one has got many options to choose from. Besides, this month marks the first day of the Hindu solar calendar and is observed in almost all parts of country by different names. It’s a time of merriment and feasting and continues, in general, for seven days. Here are some ways to celebrate this month in India.
1. Gangaur at Jaipur
One of the most important festivals in Rajasthan, Gangaur is all about honoring the goddess Gauri. In some form or the other it is celebrated all over Rajasthan. “gan” is a synonym for Lord Shiva and “gauri” or “gaur” stands for Goddess Parvati, the heavenly consort of Lord Shiva. Gangaur celebrates the union of the two and is a symbol of conjugal and marital happiness.This festival is predominantly for women. Colorful processions of bejeweled images of the goddess Gauri wind their way all over cities and villages, accompanied by local bands. In Jaipur, traditional procession of Gangaur commences form the Zanani- Deodhi of the City Palace, passing through Tripolia Bazaar, Chhoti Chaupar, Gangauri Bazaar, Chaugan stadium and finally converges near the Talkatora. The procession is headed by a old palanquins, chariots, bullock carts and performance folk artistes.
When: April 9-10, 2016.
Where: All over Rajasthan, however the festivities in Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, and Nathdwara are the most notable.
2. Rongali Bihu in Assam
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 13-15, 2016.
3. 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: April 17, 2016.
Where: Vadakkumnathan Temple, Thrissur, Kerala.
4. Vaisakhi in Amritsar
Vaisakhi is a harvest festival. Vaisakhi (also spelled Baisakhi) is the festival which celebrates the founding of the Sikh community known as the Khalsa. It is celebrated on April 14 each year. It falls on the first day of Vaisakh which is the second month of the Nanakshahi calendar. On Vaisakhi day in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh summoned Sikhs from all over India to the city of Anandpur Sahib. It was then when the Panj Pyarey came into existence. It’s celebrated with a great deal of feasting, bhangra dancing, folk music, and fairs. Major celebrations are organised at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and it becomes carnival-like outside. There’s also a street procession.
When: April 13, 2016.
Where: Throughout the state of Punjab, particularly in Amritsar.
5. Mewar Festival at Udaipur
The Mewar Festival welcomes the arrival of spring. It coincides with the festival of Gangaur in Udaipur, and has a unique charm about it. The women folk gather to dress the images of Isar and Gangaur and then carry them in a ceremonial procession through different parts of the city. The procession winds its way to the Gangaur Ghat at Lake Pichhola. Here, the images are transferred to special boats amidst much singing and festivity. Once the religious part of the festival is over, it is time for cultural events where Rajasthani culture is portrayed through songs, dances and other programmes. The festival culminates with an impressive fireworks display. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see a range of traditional musical instruments being played.
When: April 9-11, 2016.
Where: Udaipur, Rajasthan.
In contrast to many of Kerala’s temple festivals where the focus is on elephants, the Attuvela Mahotsavam is a delightful water carnival. According to legend, this festival marks the welcome ceremony for the Goddess of Kodungalloor, who comes to visit her sister, the Goddess of Elamkavu. The Goddess Bhagavathy is the presiding deity of the Elamkavu Bhagavathy Temple, where this festival is held. During the two-day Attuvela festival, beautifully illuminated canoes, carrying a huge replica of the temple, sail down the waters accompanied by a group of colourfully decorated small canoes to the accompaniment of percussion music. The procession of canoes starts from the Attuvela kadavu (kadavu means boat jetty), about two kilometers from the temple. It is a sight to behold and an experience to cherish.
When: April 8, 2016.
Where: Elankavu Sree Bhagavathy Temple, Vadayar, Kottayam District, Kerala.
7. Chithirai Festival
Chithirai Thiruvizha is one of the most important annual festivals held at the world famous Madurai Meenakshi Temple at Madurai in Tamil Nadu. The festival is celebrated for 12 days during the Tamil month of Chithirai or Chitirai. It re-enacts the wedding of Lord Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva) and Goddess Meenakshi (Lord Vishnu’s sister). Legend has it that Lord Vishnu came to Madurai, mounted on a golden horse, to witness the wedding. In 2016, the date of commencement of Chithirai Thiruvizha is April 10, 2016 with flag hoisting ceremony. Pattabhishekam of Goddess Meenakshi is on April 18, 2016. Celestal Wedding or Thirukkalyanam of Lord Sundareswarar with Goddess Meenakshi is on April 20, 2016. The Car festival is on April 21, 2016. The Theertha festival is celebrated on the 12th day with the Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi going round Masi streets and blessing the devotees.
When: April 10-23, 2016.
Where: Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu.
8. Simhastha Kumbh, Ujjain
This Kumbh Mela is one of four Kumbh Melas, held in different places in India, that are known as the largest religious gatherings on earth. The Simhastha Kumbh is an unrivalled celebration in India. The most popular legend regarding the origin of Kumbh Melas is the Samudra Manthan or ‘churning of the ocean’. Gods and demons competed ercely in the churning in search of the divine nectar of immortality. During this epic battle to capture the Urn (Kumbh) containing the nectar, drops of the precious liquid fell on four places – Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Nashik and Ujjain. The Ujjain Kumbh is celebrated when Jupiter ascends into sun sign Leo’s quarter or the Simha constellation of zodiac, which is why it is called ‘Simhastha’. The Simhastha is special in Ujjain as it is the seat of divine Mahakal – the Lord of all times. The ritual of bathing in the holy waters of Kshipra begins on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April) and continues on various dates until the full moon shows up in the following month of Vaishakha.
When: April 22 to May 21, 2016.
Where: Shipra river, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
9. Sankat Mochan Music Festival
Banaras has a long tradition of classical music and dance in temples. The first Sankat Mochan Musical Festival was held in 1923, and since then it’s attracted acclaimed classical musicians and dancers to perform from all over India. Recitals are held every evening in the temple courtyard and go on until dawn, as part of Hanuman Jayanti (birthday of Lord Hanuman) celebrations. The Sankat Mochan Sangeet Samaroh is the biggest annual classical music and dance festival of Banaras, and one of India’s biggest. For many Banarasis, it is the highlight of the year, its magic lingering long after it is over. First Sankat Mochan Music Festival was organized in 1923 and since then it attracts numerous enthusiasts of Indian classical music and dance world, including Odissi guru, Kelucharan Mahapatra, who was associated since its early days. In fact he was instrumental in starting women’s participation in the festival with Sanjukta Panigrahi, Swapna Sundari and Kankana Banerjee. Sankat Mochan Music Festival is an all night long music festival which goes on for four nights. India Classical Music maestros from all over come to participate to showcase their skills and consider it as an honour. This Music Festival has attracted numerous maestros of Indian classical music and dance world
When: 19-23 April, 2016.
Where: Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
10. Trek to lower Himalayas
Adventure tourism in general and trekking in particular is always flavour of the summer vacations when it comes to youth. There are number of treks been organised in the summer months by different groups and organisations. Choose any according to your budget and destination. Treks in lower himalayas are the flavour of the season. You can trek to various locations in Kullu-Parvati valley or in Uttarakhand or Sikkim. Trekking is always a thrill and adventure and a well-organised trek is an experience of he lifetime. Besides trekking, there are also options of biking and other adventure activities.
When: April-May, 2016.
Where: Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim
(This post was supposed to be published five days back but got delayed due to a sudden trip)