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.
JANUARY / FEBRUARY
- 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.
- 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
- mainly held in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. A 3-days colourful
Tamil harvest festival.
- 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.
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
- 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.
FEBRUARY / MARCH
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- is a 3-day festival
held in Goa. The main feature is the Carnival and the gaiety associated with it.
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.
- 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
celebrated at a National level.
- 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.
APRIL / MAY
- celebrated mostly in North India, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, this marks
the Hindu Solar New Year.
- 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
- 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.
- is a Muslim festival that marks the end of the month of Ramzan, a month
long period of fasting.
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
- 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.
JUNE / JULY
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).
JULY / AUGUST
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- is a harvest festival of the State of Kerala. The main feature being the spectacular
snake boat races.
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.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER
- 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
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).
- is a National holiday that marks the birth of Mahatma Gandhi,
the Father of the Nation.
- 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
- 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.
- is a Sikh festival that commemorates
the anniversaries of the ten gurus, spiritual teachers or preceptors of Sikhism.
- 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.
- is a nation wide celebrated festival.
It is most exuberantly celebrated in Goa, Bombay and South India.
- 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