India Festival Calendar for 2017 and 2018
India is an intoxicating country that brims with a mind stirring mix of landscapes and cultural traditions. India is known to be a country where festivals are more than the number of days in a year, and the Indian calendar is one long procession of festivals with every month embracing innumerable festivals. As a land of many religions, each festival has its own signature style of celebration. But always with great pomp and show!
While it is difficult to feature all the festivals, this calendar gives you a glimpse into some of the most significant and exciting ones.
We hope you can join us in celebrating a few of them.
International Kite Flying Festival, Jaipur, Rajasthan
January 14, 2018
The International Kite Festival in India is celebrated on the day of Makar Sakaranti, i.e., January 14, and is organised by the Jaipur Tourism Development Corporation. The festival of Makar Sankranti is marked by the transition of the Sun into the Northern Hemisphere and to commemorate this day,
kite enthusiasts from all across the world, come down to the pink city – Jaipur – to participate and display their kite flying skills. In lively colours and myriad shapes and sizes, kites flutter high above in the sky, while those down below controlling them compete over cutting one another’s kite strings.
Women prepare special dishes of til papdi and laddoos with sesame seeds and sugar, to mark the festival. The day is also characterised by many helping for a cause, giving to the poor and the needy. The festival is held at the Polo Ground of Jaipur and Jodhpur. A kite market is setup, comprising food stalls, accompanied by cultural performances and special kite displays at night, such as illuminated kites or Tukals, being. In no less than a few years, the International Kite Festival has become one of the most awaited and grand festivals of Rajasthan, living up to its expectations of adding colour to the lives of the people.
January 14, 2018
In an earthen pot, almost brimming over with milk simmering atop a fire, rice and other cereals are added, to create Pongal, a thanksgiving feast. This is the offering to the Sun God, the life-giver of all that exists. Decked in traditional attire, men and women and children sing and dance, expressing profound joy as they thank the rain God, Lord Indra. Cattle bedecked with multi-coloured beads, tinkling bells, sheaves of corn and flower garlands too are worshiped. Into the fire are cast token useless household articles during Bhogi Mantalu, so that what was unwanted is put to use, providing warmth during the last lap of winters. For an agrarian society, nothing compares with the joy of a good harvest. All over India, the harvest season is celebrated with gusto, in its various regional flavours. Celebrated over four days in the state of Tamil Nadu, in the Hindu calendar month of Thai which falls in January-February, Pongal celebrates the rice harvest. Along with rice, other cereals sugar-cane, and turmeric (an essential ingredient in Tamil cooking) are also harvested. Each of these is an essential component of the sweet and savoury ritual dishes that are prepared over the four days. Join us as we celebrate the cycle of life, of regeneration and nature’s infinite bounty. Through mesmerising landscapes and bewitching architecture, let us also
be your guide to age-old customs and traditions, which celebrate nature and human dependence on the cycles bound by it.
Camel Festival, Bikaner, Rajasthan
January 13 – 14, 2018
The shining rays of the sun, cool sands and the camel enliven the orange hues of the desert. For centuries, the camel has served as a means of livelihood to being the traditional mode of transport in Rajasthan. Yet, the bond of camels and their owners runs deeper – the Bikaner Camel Festival celebrates this glorious animal and its relationship with the people of desert.
Camels at the Bikaner Festival are a vision! The festivities begin with a camel procession in the red milieu of Junagarh Fort. In a unique pageant show of camels draped in vibrant weaves of Rajasthan, they live up to the beauty standards of long, slender necks, thick eyelashes and swaying bodies. In this wo day treat, the camels literally dance to the tune of their masters, performing acrobatic stunts and graceful movements with their feet. While the spectacle itself is mesmerising, you will be enticed to become a part of the ongoing frenzy of camel races, camel safari, contests including tug of war and camel milking amidst other activities. Those who cannot help but splurge can spend on exquisite handicrafts of Rajasthan.
Take a break from such flamboyancy, with musical concerts, puppetry and folk performance of skirt twirling dances as well as Bikaner’s famed fire dance, which can now only be seen during the festival. At the Bikaner Festival, revere the bejewelled camel throughout the day, and watch the festive frenzy comes to an end with colourful fireworks embellishing the night sky.
The Desert Festival, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
January 29 – 31, 2018
The Desert Festival or the Jaisalmer Desert Festival is held annually in February every year. Exciting events such as cultural events, camel races and even turban tying competitions take place at the festival every year. The golden sands of the Thar Desert add an enchanting charm to the festival. This is a three day long extravaganza where the cultures of Rajasthan are on display. It takes place in the Golden Fortress of Jaisalmer. The festival attracts performers such as folk artists who sing and dance expressively to the triumphs and tragedies of this land and even local nomadic acrobats known as Kalabaz or Nat’s as well as snake charmers take part in the festival. During the Desert Festival, the city and the people start glowing with joy and activity. It also attracts a number of tourists, especially from other countries and is organised by the Rajasthan State Tourism Corporation.
The longest moustache competition is the most anticipated event during the festival. Here, even the guests and tourists are invited to judge the man with the longest moustache. Visitors can be seen posing for pictures with the man who wins this competition. This picture they believe is a moment worth remembering. The other most popular highlight of the festival includes the performances by famous Gair and fire dancers. The Jaisalmeri camels also take part in a series of events such as camel races, camel polo and camel dance. The Desert Festival is an extensively colourful festival that also offers a shopping experience while focusing on just local heritage and customs.
Attukal Pongala Festival Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
March 02, 2018
Discarding all beliefs related to caste, creed or religion, Attukal Pongal welcomes all the women of the world to a grand and huge gathering at the renowned Attukal Devi Temple. Pongala, literally meaning ‘to boil over,’ is a ritualistic offering of a sweet dish consisting of rice porridge, sweet brown molasses, coconut gratings, nuts and raisins. One of the few festivals of the world, celebrated only by women, the grandeur and exuberance of the Attukal Pongala Festival has to be seen to be believed. Thousands of women, irrespective of their faith, offer Pongala to appease the presiding deity of the temple; Goddess Attukalamma. It is a spectacle of true devotion, where devotees from across the country and abroad participate in the ritual. The Guinness Book of World Records’ lists this celebration because of the high number of women coming together to make this event a success.
Holi, All over India
March 02, 2018
Colours splashing everywhere, people spraying water with water guns and throwing water balloons on each other, laughter, commemorate the festival of Holi. Popularly observed as the festival of colours, this festival has been shaped by different countries in their own way. However, in India it first begins with burning the Holi bonfire a day before the water Holi, which symbolises the killing of Holika. Mythological stories reveal that the sister of Hrinyakashyapu, Hollika was burnt alive on this day hence the name ‘Holika Dahan’. The festival also marks the beginning of the summer season and the end of winters. It also celebrates Radha’s eternal love for Lord Krishna.
The festival of Holi is known by different names in different parts of the country. In Bihar it is called Phagwa, Dol Purnima in Bengal and Punjab recognises it by the name of Hola Mohalla. However, the most glorious of all is the Holi of Mathura that lasts for 16 days and is predominantly played with flowers.
With Holi comes the preparation of sweets and delicacies, where Ghujiya is the most relished of all. Bhaang is also an important aspect of the food preparations. It is believed that Holi is the day when one gets rid of past errors and ends conflicts. On this day, people pay the debts that have been long waiting to end. It is the beginning of the spring season and for many it is also the beginning of a new year.
Holi at Diggi Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan
March 02, 2018
Spring in Jaipur is simply enchanting. Come March and a delightful time is in store for those who want to celebrate the beautiful festival of Holi in an especially earthy and homespun yet regal ambience.
Come with us as we take you away from the noise and crowds of the streets outside…in through the majestic wooden doors…and enter the vast, lovely lawns of the quietly elegant Diggi Palace. As the doors shut behind you, the garden is transformed into a riot of brilliant colours!
Welcome to the Diggi Palace! The Diggi Palace is iconic of Jaipur and is renowned as the perfect setting for some of the city’s finest cultural events – it is, in fact, the ideal place to celebrate Holi and enjoy the bounties of spring. With traditional drums and folk dancers, shimmering mounds of organic colour, tubs of cool water, and classic preparations of sweets, eats, and local brews, Holi at the resplendent Diggi Palace, is literally an affair to remember! So go on, wear your immaculate whites and join us at the Diggi Palace, to play Holi…
Experience pure joy as you watch the first burst of colour transform your clothes into a multi-hued canvas, feel the shower of petals, and the smear of coloured powder, as you soak in the superbly intimate, old-worldly surroundings and make new friends…join in the song and dance, taste
fabulous foods, and savour every unforgettable moment of your special time here.
Mewar Festival, Udaipur, Rajasthan
March 20 – 22, 2018
The beautiful and romantic city of lakes, Udaipur, in Rajasthan in western India celebrates the long awaited arrival of spring with the Mewar Festival. The festival is so named after the Mewar kings who ruled Udaipur, and is one of the significant festivals of Rajasthan. It also coincides with the Gangaur Festival, which is especially important to the women of Rajasthan since it honours the Goddess Parvati, the consort of Siva. Udaipur is resplendent with lights and decorations, and radiant with the colours of celebration during the Mewar Festival. The festival is a visual extravaganza brought alive with Rajasthani folk music, dance, drama, processions, devotional music, and firework displays. Gangaur is revered in Rajasthan as the Goddess of marital happiness and conjugal bliss. Rajasthani women, dressed in their finest and most colourful clothes and wearing the most stunning jewellery, assemble to dress the idols of Isar (Siva) and Gangaur (Parvati). Once the idols are dressed, they are carried by the women in traditional processions through different parts of the city. The women sing and dance as they make their way to the Gangaur Ghat at Lake Pichola. Here finally, the idols are carried in special boats and immersed in the lake, making it the perfect finale for a splendid celebration.
To finish in truly spectacular style, the Mewar Festival lights up the skies with a fantastic show of fireworks.
Buddha Purnima, All over India
May 10, 2017/ April 30, 2018
Known by different names in different parts of the world, Buddha Jayanti or Buddha Purnima is celebrated to commemorate the three most significant events that influenced Buddhism. Known as Vesak or Visakah Puja in India, Visakha Bucha in Thailand, Waisak in Indonesia and Wesak in Sri Lanka and Malaysia, this festival commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautam Buddha.
A divine celebration, it includes prayers, sermons and continuous recitals of the sacred Buddhist scriptures before the statue of Buddha. Aromatic incense, flowers and candles are offered to the statue along with fruits. As part of the celebrations, people sprinkle milk and scented water on the roots of the Banyan tree, better known as the Bodhi tree and illuminate them by lighting rows of lamps around them. Celebrated every first full moon day in May, it is herd in June every leap year all over South-east Asia, Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh and Bodh Gaya in Bihar. Thailand celebrates it with sacred chants, fasting and other practices, while in Singapore, the devotees make donations to the temples. Various festivities take place in Indonesia and the Flower Festival is celebrated in Japan to commemorate the birth of Buddha. At the same time, Hong Kong, Macau and South Korea observe Buddha’s birthday as a public holiday.
Hemis Festival, Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir
July 03 – 04, 2017/ June 23 – 24, 2018
The birth of Guru Padmasambhava is celebrated as the Hemis Festival in Ladakh. Celebrated in the courtyard of Hemis Gompa, which is known as the largest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh, the Hemis Festival is regarded as the most famous Monastic festival, celebrated in Ladakh. The festival is a two day celebration that falls on the 10th day of the Tibetan Lunar month. It is considered that Guru Padmasambhava is a representative reincarnate of Buddha. Every year, the Hemis festival attracts a large number of Tibetans as well as tourists who come to watch and celebrate the festival as they watch the Lamas called Chamms perform masked dance and sacred plays. The performances are accompanied by cymbals, drums and long horns. Every 12 years, the festival takes an auspicious direction when the Tibetan year of the Monkey is celebrated. During this time, the two storey high ‘Thanka’ or a religious icon painted or embroidered on cloth depicting Padmasambhava is displayed. Lamas can be seen dressed in colourful brocades and masked attire while they perform the dance where the underlying theme is good defeating the evil, i.e. Gods defeating the Demons. The different Mudras performed as a part of this dance symbolise the various aspects of the dance drama. Some other performers wear masks representing different divinities of religious or historical importance. Local people become a part of the festival by wearing their finest traditional apparel for the occasion.
Teej Fair, Jaipur, Rajasthan
July 26 – 27, 2017/ August 13 – 14, 2018
Women wearing colourful lahariya saree and bangles, along with a bindi on their forehead, vermilion, dark henna on their hands, and ghevar (sweet) together symbolise the festival of Teej.
One of the most widely celebrated festivals of Rajasthan, the festival of Teej is dotted with swings, traditional songs and dancing. This day marks the coming together of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. It is also believed that it took Goddess Parvati 108 births on earth before she was accepted as his wife. Due to these reasons, the festival is considered auspicious for attaining blessing of marital bliss.
The most important aspect of this festival is that women fast during the day without drinking or eating anything. At night, they eat the food prepared by the men. Swings decorated with flowers play an important part during the festival as the women wear green clothes and swing while singing traditional Teej songs. The festival is also considered as the beginning of the monsoon season and thus Teej also gets its name as the Saawan Festival and Hariyali Teej. Due to a number of fairs, the festival of Teej also attracts a good amount of tourists. Although the exact date of the festival keeps changing, it is precisely celebrated on the third day of the bright half of the North Indian Lunar month of Shraavana.
Nehru Trophy Boat Race, Alapuzzha, Kerala
August 12, 2017/ August 11, 2018
The serene backwaters overflowing, the green earth bursting with life freshly washed by unrelenting rains, and the melody of the birds is matched by the joyous song of the farmer, grateful for the paddy harvest. Preparations gain momentum for the Nehru Trophy Boat race, to win the coveted rolling trophy that will bring joy to the winning village for many months to come. The teams, crossing over a hundred members each, have been living together for weeks, toiling to get into the rhythm which will keep the giant boats afloat. As the participants work under strict rules of diet, daily regimens of exercise, and practicing celibacy to preserve their vital strength, the villagers are busy rooting for their favourite team. On the day of the race, one can safely say that all roads lead to the waters. Large groups of people rush in the morning to grab their favourite spot, on banks and staircases, on roofs and the balcony seats- trees overhanging the channels from which the boats will pass. The Kali-Vallangal (racing boats) start lining up, decked up in bright colours, the snakes open hood gleaming in the sun, umbrellas held aloft add to the spectacle, but it is the sound and sight of the boats, as they race across the Punnamada Lake which is truly mesmerising. Tranquil waters burst into shower, sliced by hundreds of oars held by sinewy arms working in tandem with the rhythm of the drums and songs. Join us for a mesmerising experience.
September 04, 2017/ August 24, 2018
The southern state of Kerala springs to life in the months of August and September as heavy rain clouds recede, giving way to lush greens. Ebbing waters leave behind abundant crops of rice, the staple food of the region. Resplendent in its natural abundance the predominantly agrarian culture celebrates Onam, the annual visit of the mythical King Mahabali. Ten days of feasts and festivities mark the welcome of the beloved king who is blessed with the boon of a yearly visit to his people, a boon he asked from Lord Vishnu as he willingly gave up his entire kingdom. His visit brings with it prosperity and a reminder of times when, under his rule, people lived in harmony and fulfilment.
The natural wonder is rendered divine by feasts and festivities and colourful processions comprising beautifully decorated floats and heavily caparisoned elephants, grand display of flowers, enchanting snake boats gliding down river waters. The exaggerated makeup worn by the folk dancers, the exquisite finesse in the tiger faces painted on the bellies of the tiger dancers are offset by men, women and children dressed in simple white and gold. Markets overflowing with new things provide an exhilarating frenzy and in homes it is customary to buy and use new clothes, utensils, and food items.
Navaratri Sangeetholsavam, Trivandrum, Kerala
September 21 – 29, 2017/ October 10 – 18, 2018
The nine days of the auspicious Navaratri Festival in Kerala comes alive with music in the Navarathri Mandapam at the Fort Palace complex in Thiruvananthapuram. The compositions featured belonged to the music maestro, Swathi Thirunal, who was a former king of the Travancore dynasty. The festival is known to adhere to its traditions – be it music or technology, used to amplify the sound. This ancient acoustic technology uses earthen pots of multitudinous sizes and thicknesses that are put up on the ceiling by the means of coir ropes while their mouths face the ground. Even the mouths of these pots are of different measurements. Technically, the pots are placed in such angles that they pose as sound reflectors and thus prevent echoes. Apart from featuring exquisite Indian classical music, the audience also gets a chance to be mesmerised by traditional dance performances. The atmosphere is filled with soulful music and a distinct smell of sandalwood and flowers that lingers in the air. Even the ambience on the stage is settled by the oil lamps that burn as the beautiful performances takes palace are offer the other.
Marwar Festival, Jodhpur, Rajasthan
October 04 – 05, 2017/ October 23 – 24, 2018
The ancient state of Marwar was founded in 1459 A.D. by Rao Jodha who was the chieftain of the Rathore tribe of Rajputs. The Rajputs were famed not only for their valour and courage on the battlefield but also for the strong chivalric code of conduct they adhered to, lifelong. These warriors were icons of loyalty, integrity, strength, independence, hard work, and exceptional military and strategic intelligence. Centuries later, Jodhpur, in the deserts of Rajasthan in western India, celebrates the memory of these medieval heroes every year for two days between the months of September – October, during full moon. The Marwar Festival was originally known as the Maand Festival. Maand is a traditional style of folk music that sings to the romance and chivalry of the Rajput rulers. The Rajputs are important figures in India’s vast history; their deeds continue to inspire to this day. In Rajasthan, tales of how they lived and died are passed on from generation to generation through beautiful and moving folk songs. The Marwar Festival showcases the rich and vibrant culture of Jodhpur with the folk music and dance of the Marwar region. With their enthralling performances, the wonderful folk artists bring to life the myths and legends of Rajasthan’s warriors, and recreate the spirit of a bygone royal era. Other events include the camel tattoo show, horse riding, magic shows, puppet shows, and horse polo. The Umaid Bhawan Palace, the Mehrangarh Fort, and Mandore (8 km from Jodhpur) are the venues for the festival.
Deepawali at Diggi Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan
October 19, 2017/ November 07, 2018
The flickering flames of millions of tiny lamps dispel the darkness of the night. Cascades of light outline every contour and corner, flames of light leap up into the sky only to burst in an extravagant display in the pitch black night sky. Join us on this first and darkest night of the Hindu calendar month of Kartika, to celebrate the victory of light over darkness, of good over evil.
At the small and charming property of Diggi Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan, step into an ethereal world as you walk past decorated elephants, horses and cavalrymen. Aglow with lights, decorated with lavish rangolis (decorative patterns made on the floor), alive with the rustle of silks, the tinkle of jewellery and the sounds of music and laughter, we welcome you to the most important festival of India. As with most festivals, Deepawali too is bound in many myths and legends, of which the most important is that of the homecoming of the righteous king and dutiful son, Lord Rama after a 14 year exile. The festival falls immediately after the summer harvest, marks new beginnings, and welcomes prosperity in the form of Goddess Lakshmi. Festivities go on for five days which witness frenzied shopping as it is considered auspicious to make purchases during this period. Gifts are exchanged, and sweets distributed amongst not only the near and dear ones but also neighbours and acquaintances. Participate in a puja (religious ritual) with the Diggi family, to please the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Receive gifts from the family, a token of our cultural tradition, and a reminder if you need any of this memorable evening. Join in the festivities, dance to the beat of dhols (drums), and enjoy a mesmerising performance by the fire-pot dancers. Listen to live music as you enjoy a scrumptious traditional meal, or as you roam around through the aatish-baazi (fireworks). Try a hand at the phool-jhari (sparklers) or just sit back and enjoy the aerial displays as our evening draws to a close in a blaze of lights.
Pushkar Fair, Pushkar, Rajasthan
October 28 – November 4, 2017/ November 15 – 23, 2018
Winding their way down tracks across hills under the blazing sun and onto the yellow shifting sands arrive merchants, herders and traders, on camels, horses, and on foot to one of the largest camel fair in the country.
Pushkar is a small town, believed to be one of the most ancient surviving cities of India, and one of the five, held most sacred by Hindu religion. The beautiful lake emerged where the rose petals from Brahma’s (the Supreme Creator) flower fell. Innumerable temples including the only Brahma temple surround the enormous pool of water. The clear skies in their varying hues of blue, white, yellow, and gold giving way to pitch black darkness reflected in the tranquil waters, bestow a calm mesmerising serenity in this otherwise harsh desert land. The Pushkar Fair is held every year, on the full moon of Kartik month of the Hindu calendar. Although the largest camel fair, horses, cows, goats and sheep are also sold here. Bedecked in bright cloth, dyed, printed and embroidered, wearing outrageously oversized jewellery of tinkling bells, the animals manage to shine over their human competition. Proud owners astride their elegant camels sashay down the runway, showing off their beloved’s beauty made resplendent by careful and painstaking effort. Yet others are more interested in showing off their favourite animal’s prowess in carrying the maximum numbers on its back. When people gather in Rajasthan, can the dancers and musicians, the folk singers, and craftspeople be far behind! Do be a part of this exuberant, colourful and boisterous five-day fair.
Christmas, All over India
December 25, 2017/ December 25, 2018
Christians across India celebrate their faith and hope on 25 December with Christmas – the festival that marks the birth of Jesus Christ. Called ‘Bada Din’ (Big Day) in Hindi, Christmas is a national holiday in India. Even people of other faiths join their Christian friends to celebrate the festival. Church services play a big role in the celebration. Preparations typically start on Advent Sunday. Churches start planning their celebrations and masses, and families start preparing weeks in advance. Traditionally decorated Christmas trees, giant stars, fairy lights, streamers, flowers, and paper lanterns adorn homes and streets, welcoming all at Christmas time. Beautifully decorated Christmas cribs hold nativity statues of baby Jesus and others.
Carolling processions on streets and singing in homes is a lovely sight on Christmas Eve. But the most enduring and memorable tradition of Christmas Eve is the Midnight Mass. Churches start their services with carol singing, after which the Mass is held. After the service, everyone socialises; feasting together, and wishing each other a Merry Christmas. On Christmas morning, churches hold mass; families and friends enjoy Christmas lunches and dinners; celebrating the end of another wonderful year and the beginning of the New Year.
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