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India’s Festival Highlights

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If you find yourself in the vicinity of one of the many festivals of India, make plans to get there. With colour, culture and culinary experiences, Indian celebrations are not to be missed, and will likely become one of the most memorable moments of your trip. Some festivals are national events with a global crowd whereas some only involve a village or two. Celebrations are diverse, honouring religious occasions, seasons, crops, livestock, historical events, or  commemorating the lives of the gods. Time your trip to coincide with a festival and experience a colourful slice of Indian life.

Here are some of our favourites, from world famous events to lesser-known regional celebrations. Enjoy the show!

Diwali

The largest and best known Hindu festival in India, Diwali is also known as the Festival of Light. Celebrations extend through five days to mark the triumph of light over darkness. It is considered an auspicious time for prosperity, family and investing in gold. As well as ubiquitous candles and lanterns, expect fireworks, food and glamorous new outfits. Some of the most dazzling celebrations can be witnessed at Jaipur, Varanasi and Amritsar.

Diwali fireworks over Jaipur

Holi, the festival of colour

Born from an ancient Hindu tale - where a prince triumphs over a demon by invoking Vishnu to save him from the fire that he has been coaxed into - Holi is a festival of flames and colour. The festival takes place over two days and occurs on the second full moon of the Phalguna (a Hindu lunar month). This tends to correspond with the period between mid-February and mid-March and generally marks the beginning of spring. The first day of Holi is known as Holika Dahan and is the more religious day of the festival. It involves lighting bonfires to represent the story of Prahlad (the prince) and Holika (the demon) and the triumph of good over evil. Locals gather and repeat prayers asking for any evil to be banished.

Holi festival bonfire

The second day of Holi is the most famous day of the festival - Rangwali Holi. On this day, coloured powder known as gulal is thrown by crowds of celebrating locals, covering anyone nearby in a chaotic rainbow of colours. It's worth noting that it's unlikely you will be able to simply standby and watch..! Everyone is included in the celebrations so make sure that your clothes aren't ones you are planning to keep.

Girl celebrating Holi in India

Pongal

Named after a sweet rice and lentil porridge, this is a four day festival which takes place in Tamil Nadu in southern India in mid January. Primarily a thanksgiving celebration for the harvest, each of the four days of Pongal are marked in different ways. The first day, Bhogi, sees festivities in honour of Lord Indra, God of the Clouds, who provides the rain that the crops depend on. It is tradition to have a bonfire to burn any redundant household items on this day. Next comes Thai Pongal, a day when ritual cooking of the Pongal takes place, as an offering to the gods. Houses are decorated with colourful kolam patterns on the ground. Day three, Mattu Pongal, heralds richly adorned cattle, garlanded and draped in flowers, who are fed Pongal porridge before  participating in races. Kaanum Pongal is the last day, when women pray for the prosperity of their brothers and place offerings of leftover Pongal outside their homes on turmeric leaves.

Bull decorated for Pongal Festival in India

Majuli Raas Mahotsav

Majuli is a large river island in the Brahmaputra River. It has been the cradle of Assamese civilization for the past 500 years, and today a number of tribes, with diverse customs and traditions, call this island home. Every November the Raas Mahotsav Festival of Majuli celebrates the divinity of Lord Krishna through displays of the rich art and culture of Assam as well as festivities which traditionally culminate in an all-night-long extravaganza. Local communities take part in cultural events interpreting Lord Krishna’s life through plays, folk dance and music. There are exhibitions with Assamese arts and crafts on display as well as a food festival where traditional tribal dishes are served.

Representation of Krishna in Assam, India

Karauli Cattle Fair

Coinciding with the Hindu religious festival of Shivratri, this grand event is one of the oldest cattle fairs of Rajasthan. Every year thousands of animals including camel, buffalo and donkeys are brought to market to be traded and entered into competitions which recognise the finest beasts.  Tradesmen camp at the site with their animals, bringing a sideshow of other merchants along offering spices, crafts, jewellery, and household items. These wares are carefully inspected by woman folk, attired in their colourful best, who barter for the best deal.

Cattle fair in India

World Sacred Spirit Festival

The prestigious sites of the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur and the Ahhichatragarh Fort in Nagaur open their doors to an extraordinary sacred and historical musical journey. The festival is devoted to the cause of showcasing the musical talent of spiritual performers from around the globe. An unforgettable experience.

Mahrangarh Fort in Jodhpur India

Make it happen

Our knowledgeable local experts can show you the best that India has to offer, so why not pop your details into our enquiry form and let them do the rest. If you would like to include one of these amazing festivals in your itinerary, they can build a trip around that. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.

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