Festivals and Fairs of India

For your future reference, here are the major fairs and festivals in India.

 

Most Indian festival's dates are finalised according to the lunar calendar and thus the dates may vary by a day or two.

Festivals of India Link 

Please also note the following:

 
Republic Day 26th January Museums will remain closed. The visiting of main shopping complexes and monuments may be disrupted especially in Central New Delhi.
Holi 3rd March Madhya Pradesh: Kanha National Parks is closed for the whole day and Bandhavgarh and Pench National Parks only have a morning game drive available. All monuments in major cities of Rajasthan (Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Bikaner) will remain closed for the afternoon. They will be open only for morning visits.
Dhulendi  4th March All monuments in major cities of Rajasthan (Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Bikaner) will remain closed for the entire day.
Independence Day 15th August Museums will remain closed. The visiting of main shopping complexes and monuments may be disrupted especially in Central New Delhi.
Gandhiji’s Birthday 2nd October Museums will remain closed. The visiting of main shopping complexes and monuments may be disrupted especially in Central New Delhi.
Diwali 9th November Museums will remain closed. The visiting of main shopping complexes and monuments may be disrupted especially in Central New Delhi.
 

Festivals Of India

Dussehra

Dussehra symbolises the triumph of good over evil. This Hindu festival is celebrated all over India to mark the victory of Rama over Ravana, the great demon and king of Lankan, who had abducted his wife, Sita. In north India the Dussehra celebration includes the Ram-Lila that consists of plays, recitations and music that recall the life of the legendary hero, Rama. The Ram-Lila  is held during the nine days preceding Dussehra. On the tenth day, elaborate processions lead to the Ram-Lila grounds where immense cracker-stuffed effigies of the demon Ravana and his son and brother -Meghnath and Kumbhakarna explode to the cheers of thousands of spectators.
12 October..


Diwali

Diwali, or Deepavali, perhaps the best-known Hindu festival, marks the end of the season that opens with Dussehra. Diwali is celebrated throughout India. It usually takes place in October/November. Diwali is called the "festival of lights", and the name itself means an array of lamps (Deep = Lamp, Vali =Array). Indeed, illumination is characteristic of Diwali. The array of lamps are symbolic of welcoming Lord Rama back to Ayodhya after his 14 years of exile, and the common practice is to light small oil lamps, diyas, and place them around the house. If there is one occasion that is full of joy and jubilation for all, it is Diwali.
 

Rajasthan International Folk Festival

Late October:  Musicians from India and across the world gather in Rajasthan from October for the local International Folk Festival. Against the backdrop of the unparalleled beauty of the Mehrangarh Fort, the festival commences with a grand ceremonial procession.  Whilst presenting musical notes from their own countries’ foreign artistes will collaborate with local musicians to create vibrant new sounds.  Rajasthani folk communities will also participate. The opening of the festival will coincide with ‘Sharada Poornima’, the brightest full moon of the year whose brilliant rays beautifully lights up all the monuments around the State. This celebration also coincides with the Marwar Festival which is a feast of music and dance.

Festival WEBSITE

For some stunning photographic images visit this Indian Photographers website

Khajuraho Dance Festival

An annual treat for the connoisseurs of Indian Classical Dances comes at Khajuraho for a week during February or March. It is a grand 7-day extravaganza celebrating Khajuraho’s 1000 years old cultural heritage preserved in its stark stone sculptors. The treasured art forms unfold amidst ethereal settings and not one but all eight forms of Indian Classical dances are performed and delineate the spiritual, the intellectual and the social heritage of India.  This festival of International repute is a destination awaited by connoisseurs, travelers and more so by the performers. In words of a performer, “Every dancer worth her mettle dreams of performing at the Khajuraho festival”. For someone looking forward to a heritage tour of India, timing the visit around the Khajuraho dance festival would be a wise touristic strategy.

Dates: A seven day period in February/March every year.
Venue: Western Group of temples, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Timings: Daily 7:00 P.M. onwards

 
Holi

India is renowned for its monsoonal showers, but on one day in March the rain that falls is a multi-coloured spectacular. The Holi festival is an excuse to release your inner child. Some may dream of bathing in spaghetti, others may relish squashed tomato fights, but this is the festival that kaleidoscope fantasies are made of. Blue, green, red, yellow, pink and purple clouds billow out from the crowds while the amalgamation of these shades is a vision in brown.

The world's brightest festival is held on the full moon day in the month of March and this year it takes place on March 27. Showers of coloured dust represent the start of spring and, perhaps ironically given it is hay fever season, trigger a fair few sneezes. Embraced by all citizens, this is a festival where caste and social regulation is transcended. Workers throw powder at the boss, teenagers dust their crush, and husbands can wreak pink-coloured revenge on their mother-in-law.

THE LEGEND

Holi is a Hindu festival and yet it is one of the most secular and accessible events held anywhere in India. The legend began with a demon king named Hiranyakashyap who wanted to kill his son for worshipping Vishnu rather than himself. His sister Holika was immune to fire so he asked her to carry his son into the flames. All did not go as planned however; Vishnu stepped in to blanket the son, negating Holika's immunity, and she was burnt to a cinder. In memory of this event, bonfires are lit the night before the festival on Holi eve. The bonfires are lit between 10pm and midnight, whichever time the moon rises.

An affiliated legend speaks of a child-tormenting ogress who was forced to flee on the day of Holi. Children therefore have a free rein to make as much mischief as possible on Holi and you will find them squirting passers-by with water guns and flinging water balloons from buildings.

Yet another legend comes from Lord Krishna's love for Radha. Krishna was perturbed by the contrast of his dark skin to Radha's pale complexion. Krishna's mother advised him to rub colour into her face so that they would be better aligned and this is believed to have influenced the tradition of the Holi festival.

THE TRADITIONS

Indians are freed from the restraints of caste and societal expectations - which can make for some rather inappropriate behaviour, by Indian standards at least. A frequent refrain is "bura na mano, Holi hai" which translates as the wide-ranging excuse of "don't feel offended, it's Holi".

Women and the elderly therefore stick together, travelling in groups and applying colour as a way of greeting one another. If you see someone truly going for it, there's not something in the powder, but there is something in the cannabis paste. Many festival goers will be high as it is a tradition to consume bhang filled delicacies on this day. With inhibitions lowered, the merry-making is even more over the top. If you want to avoid it, don't take treats from strangers.

THE COLOURS

Like sand, the coloured specks will worm into your clothes, your nose, ears and underpants. But it is all in good humour and the chances are you will walk away with a chalk-filled mouth from smiling nonstop. It's not just particle driven either - coloured water is also deployed to make the powders stick.

Traditionally spice is dyed in preparation for the festivities and local vendors can be found selling rows of metal bowls piled high with the substance. The dye used to be created from flowers and plant material but nowadays artificial colours are used as well. Historically the petals of a red tree were dried and then ground to a fine residue the colour of saffron.

Red symbolises matrimony in India, blue is associated with Hindu god Krishna while green represents harvest - and hence, spring. The colours you won't see are black and white. In Indian culture white symbolises mourning and black keeps evil at bay.

THE BETTER FESTIVAL VENUES

In West Bengal an extra element is added with Dolayatra, a Swing Festival, where Gods are sat on extravagantly dressed platforms that the faithful then swing in the air. In this region the festival happens a day before the celebrations in the rest of the nation.

In Jaipur an Elephant festival takes place alongside Holi. The elephants are painted in intricate and bright patterns and paraded to the people. As extras, there are elephant beauty contests and a trunked tug-of-war competition.

Elsewhere, in New Delhi, the capital hosts a music festival to coincide with Holi called Holi Cow! Concert-goers are bathed in colour while sprinklers and bhang lassi up the ante. The crowd is a good mix of expats and locals.
And in Mathura, serious party goers can take part in a 40-day pre-Holi party. This temple town is located in the north of India and has a strong association with Krishna which means the lead-up is just as important as the day with dancing, singing and plays that pay homage to Krishna taking place beforehand.

 

Margazhi Music Dance Festival Chennai

South Indian classical music in the form of Carnatic Music along with the traditional dance form of Tamil Nadu, Bharatnatyam, confers mystical divinity to the land of Chennai. The Dance and Music Festival, commonly known as the 'Margazhi Festival of Dance and Music' commemorates the spirit long treasured by Carnatic music and traditional dance forms. The birth of the festival dates back to 1927 when it was first celebrated in order to rejoice the first anniversary of Madras Music Academy. Sooner, the concept was picked by many other organisations too which were responsible for organising art festivals in different parts of the city.

The Dance and Music festival is celebrated in Margazhi month of Tamil calendar which coincides with the time duration of mid December to mid January. The festivity of the Carnatic Music and classical dance is idolized at various places in the capital city Chennai and attracts a host of performing art enthusiasts. Taking into consideration the indigenous belief of revering the Almighty through musical rhymes and mystical dance steps, the festival is performed at several fascinating venues like venerated temple complexes, heritage bungalows and renowned auditoriums.

The month-long festival showcasing the art and talent of famous artists across India is also famously known as the 'December Season', particularly amongst the expatriate Indians and scholars, who come from across the globe to attend and witness the stunning moments of the festival. Over time, the festival has become greatly popular, gathering about 2,000 participants in more than 300 concerts in its duration, honouring the spirit of the festivity.

The festival holds great importance, as Carnatic music is considered the best medium to pay homage to the Gods. This makes the festival a blend of both melody and divinity. The extravaganza displays the performances of vocal and instrumental musicians, along with dancers, both solo and group, belonging to the genres of junior and senior artistes. The festival confers an opportunity before junior artists to illustrate their ability, sharing the platform with their senior counterparts of the field. The performances primarily swivel around the songs of Tamil, Telugu and Kannada languages, demonstrating the magic of the instruments like Flute, Veena, Goottuvadyam, Nagaswaram, Thavil, Mridangam, and Ghatam.

By the end of Margazhi month of Tamil calendar, as the time to bid adieu to the Dance and Music Festival comes, the focus is shifted from the Dance and Music Festival to the Thyagaraja Music Festival or Thyagaraja Aradhana Festival, celebrated in Tiruvaiyaru, near Tanjore. The festival is an opportunity to revere the birth of Thyagaraja, who was one of the greatest composers of Carnatic music and was counted among the trinity of music. The celebration takes place at the Samadhi (burial place) near the banks of River Cauvery.