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India Fairs and Festivals
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The Indian calendar is a long procession of festivals. If you can find yourself in the right place at the right time, it's possible to go through your visit with a festival each day. The harvest festivals of the south, the immersion of Ganesh in Bombay, The Pushkar Camel Fair in Rajasthan, Republic Day in Delhi... every region, every religion has something to celebrate. Below is a selection of the major ones, but there are countless others; kindly inquire at the local Government of India Tourist Offices for details.


Makar Sankranti - is the time of the year when the Sun enters Capricorn. It's a time of great festivities throughout the nation with people taking a dip in the holy rivers and seas. In Gujarat particularly, it is the time to witness and extravaganza of Kite flying in what has become an International Kite Festival.

Desert Festival - held in Jaisalmer, is a three day long extravaganza of color, music and festivity. Gair and fire dancers swaying to traditional tunes with the grand finale being a trip to the Thar Desert sand dunes, where one can enjoy the pleasure of a camel ride and view the folk dancers and musicians performing.

Pongal - mainly held in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. A 3-days colourful Tamil harvest festival.

Republic Day - held on 26th January every year, this is a National holiday that commemorates the establishment of the Indian Republic in 1950. It's a grand military parade and procession of colourful floats, dancers and so on.

Vasant Panchami - celebrated on a National level mainly in the Eastern region, it is a Hindu festival dedicated to Saraswati the Goddess of Learning. It is marked by people wearing yellow coloured clothes.

Floating Festival - held in Madurai in the State of Tamil Nadu, marks the Birthday of a local 17th century rule. Its main feature is the elaborately illuminated barge carrying decorated temple deities at the Mariamman Teppakulam Pool amidst chanting hymns.

Nagaur Cattle Fair - is held in Nagaur in the State of Rajasthan. Essentially an animal fair, it provides an opportunity to participate in some of the local sports.


Shivaratri - is celebrated on a National level. It marks the wedding anniversary of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati. It's a day of fasting for devout Hindus. Special celebrations are held in Shiva temples throughout the country like Chidambaram, Kalahasti, Khajuraho, Varanasi and Bombay.

Holi - celebrated mainly in North India, this is a very popular festival of colours. It marks the advent of Spring. Lively and much throwing of coloured water and powders marks this 2-day festival. This festival is also associated with legends of Lord Krishna

Elephant Festival - is celebrated in Jaipur. A ceremonial procession is recreated with caparisoned elephants, lancers on horses, chariots, camels, cannons, and palanquins. The elephant is the centre of attraction in the many races and beauty pageants.

Mardi Gras - is a 3-day festival held in Goa. The main feature is the Carnival and the gaiety associated with it.

Ram Navami - celebrated at a National level, marks the birth of Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the hero of the epic Ramayana. It's a 9-day festival of fasting and is marked by plays and folk theaters.

Mahavira Jayanti - is a National level festival that marks the birth of Mahavira the 24th tirthankar (apostle) of the Jains and the founder of Jainism.

Good Friday / Easter - is celebrated at a National level.

Kumbha Mela - the oldest and most important of the Hindu festivals. It takes place every three years, at one of the four great holy cities - Nasik (Maharashtra), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh), Prayag or Allahabad and Haridwar (both in Uttar Pradesh). It is attended by millions of pilgrims who take a holy dip in the holy rivers.


Baisakhi - celebrated mostly in North India, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, this marks the Hindu Solar New Year.

Pooram - celebrated in Trichur, in the State of Kerala, it marks the New Moon. The main feature of the festival is the spectacular sight of large number of elephants carrying ceremonial umbrellas going round the temple and the midnight fireworks display.

Id-ul-Zuha - or Bakr-id is a Muslim festival celebrated on a National level. It commemorates the martyrdom of Abraham and is marked by the sacrifice of lambs.

Id-ul-Fitr - is a Muslim festival that marks the end of the month of Ramzan, a month long period of fasting.

Meenakshi Kalyanam - celebrated in Madurai, this festival marks the marriage of goddess Meenakshi (another name of goddess Parvati) with Lord Shiva. It is a colourful 10-day temple festival wherein the deities borne by colossal chariot are taken out on a procession.

Urs - celebrated at Ajmer in the State of Rajasthan is a 6-days religious cultural and commercial extravaganza dedicated to a Sufi saint at the Dargah Sharif.


Rath Yatra - celebrated mainly at Puri in the State of Orissa, is one of the greatest temple festivals in the honour of Lord Jagannath (Lord of the Universe), a form of Vishnu. Three colossal chariots are drawn from the Jagannath temple by thousands of pilgrims. Similar festivals, on a smaller scale, take place at Ramnagar (near Varanasi), Serampore (near Calcutta) and Jagannathpur (near Ranchi).


Teej - celebrated in North India particularly in Rajasthan, marks the onset of the monsoon. In Jaipur, processions of elephants, camels, dancers etc are taken out. It is a colourful festival especially for women.

Raksha Bandhan - is celebrated mostly in North and West India. It's a legendary reenactment of sisters tying colourful 'rakhis' (bracelets or talisman) on their brother's wrists.

Amarnath Yatra - is a Hindu pilgrimage journey that takes one to the Amarnath Cave in the Lidder Valley of Kashmir at full moon. Pilgrims visit the place where Lord Shiva explained the secret of salvation to his consort Parvati.

Independence Day - celebrated on 15th August every year marks the day when India got her Independence. It's marked by celebrations throughout the country. In Delhi the Prime Minister delivers his annual address to the nation at the historic Red Fort.

Janmashtami - celebrated nation wide marks the birth of Lord Krishna. It is a day of fasting, temple celebrations, plays and folk theatres and colourful floats depicting the life and times of Lord Krishna.

Onam - is a harvest festival of the State of Kerala. The main feature being the spectacular snake boat races.

Ganesh Chaturthi - celebrated mainly in the states Maharashtra and Orissa, is dedicated to the elephant-headed God Ganesh. Giant models of the deity are taken out in a procession and immersed in the sea or rivers. It is a colourful festival and worth visiting on the Day of Immersion at Mumbai.


Dussehra - is a nation wide 10-day festival that is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the country. In the north and particularly in Delhi it is marked by plays known as Ram Lila that recalls the life of Rama and the episodes of the Ramayana. On the 10th day effigies of Ravana the king of Lanka are burnt amidst fireworks. In Kullu in the State of Himachal Pradesh, the festival is marked by a colourful fair. In Bengal and many parts of Eastern India it is known as Durga Puja and on the 10th day idols of Goddess Durga are immersed in the sea or the rivers. In South India it is celebrated as Navaratri (festival of 9-nights).

Gandhi Jayanti - is a National holiday that marks the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation.

Durga Pooja - Durga, the warrior Goddess is worshipped in colourful Puja pandals and the images are taken out in grand procession to the sea or rivers where they are immersed amidst chanting and singing

Diwali - is a nation wide festival that comes after 20 days of Dussehra. It is one of the most lively and colourful festivals in India. In some parts of the country, it marks the start of the Hindu New Year. In Eastern India, the goddess Kali is particularly worshipped; elsewhere, it is Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, who is venerated. Everywhere there are magnificent illuminations and fireworks.

Guru purab - is a Sikh festival that commemorates the anniversaries of the ten gurus, spiritual teachers or preceptors of Sikhism.


Muharram - is a Muslim festival that commemorates Imam Hussain's martyrdom. Tiger dancers lead processions of colourful replicas of the martyr's tomb. It is a nation wide celebration particularly colourful in Lucknow, the capital of the State of Uttar Pradesh.

Sonepur Cattle Fair - celebrated in the State of Bihar, this is one of the largest cattle fairs in the world. It's a month long fair held on the banks of the Ganga at the town of Sonepur.

Pushkar Mela / Camel Fair - is an annual Camel Fair held at Pushkar in the State of Rajasthan. It's a colourful fair attended by people from miles around. Camel races, acrobatics and folkdance and music are some of its highlights.


Christmas - is a nation wide celebrated festival. It is most exuberantly celebrated in Goa, Bombay and South India.

Note - besides the above festivals there are hundreds of festivals and fairs, which are of regional significance, celebrated with equal pomp and colour. The most authentic of these are the following:
(1) The Temple Festivals in South India, a list of which if often available at the Government of India Tourist Offices
(2) The Monastery festivals at Ladakh in Kashmir
(3) The many regional festivals of Rajasthan

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