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The Indian festival calendar: May – June 2016

Ganga Dussehra in Varanasi
Image courtesy: Pritam Saha

“You are invited to the festival of this world and your life is blessed,” Rabindranath Tagore wrote once. And here’s your invitation.

Here’s what May and June have in store.



When: 7 May – 8 May

This year marks the third edition of the Himalayan Music Festival, a ‘drug-free’ event that promotes fun by bringing people together with music, more specifically, while taking in the EDM experience in the Himalayas. More on their Facebook page, here:


When: 20 May – 21 May

During this time, the Nakki Lake in Mount Abu becomes a stage where folk singers, qawwals, dancers and performers from different parts of Rajasthan and all over India come together for the annual summer festival.


When: 21 May

The satellite town of Varanasi, Sarnath, comes alive on this day, as the entire city celebrates the birth anniversary of Gautum Buddha. The festival is celebrated with fervour in all Buddhist strongholds of the country like Sarnath and Gaya. Even though this is peak summer for the region, the cool shady Mulagandhakuti Vihara temple in Sarnath is bustling with activity. The festival draws thousands from different parts of the world.


When: 21 May – 29 May

Ooty’s (Udhagamandalam) reputation as ‘Queen of the Hills’ is hard to beat. This well-known and much popular hill station in Tamil Nadu hosts the festival each year starting with the Fruit Show (Sim’s Park, Coonoor) and the Flower Show (Ooty Botanical Gardens). It’s an engaging destination, nonetheless, with the toy train, Botanical Gardens, Boat House, and refurbished colonial bungalows.



When: 14 June

Varanasi can easily be given the moniker of the festival capital of India. Ganga Dussehra, too, is celebrated with great alacrity in the city. This is the day when Goddess Ganga descended on earth in the form of a river. During this time, you’ll find the ghats lit up and the temples even busier than usual as thousands from different parts of the country collect here to bathe on the holy ghats.


When: 23 June – 26 June

Celebrated on the banks of the river Sindhu (Indus) in Leh, the festival is held to commemorate the mighty river that snakes through the high mountains of the region. As a part of this, many bring water from the other mighty rivers in the country in earthen pots and immerse these pots in the Sindhu River. It is one of the unexplored festivals in Leh, one that is rife with colours.


When: 24 June

Fast becoming a part of the itineraries of Goa-bound travellers, this is one the most famous Christian festivals of the state. Expect to see young men jump in wells, shouting ‘San Joao,’ and the local beverage, feni, being consumed in copious amounts. Like any other Goan feast, it too, has that captivating spirit of merriment and tradition. During this time, colourfully-dressed locals congregate near a stream front to see bedecked boats and floats.


When: dates to be confirmed

This unique festival is celebrated at Ochira, near Quilon (Kollam) city, in Kerala. The festival is held in commemoration of a battle between the kings of Quilon and Kayamkulam. Mock battles between two groups, representing the ancient adversaries, take place in knee-deep water. The fight is conducted from 8am to 11am on the first day and between 12pm and 3pm on the second day, with only the Nair community allowed to get on the battlefield. The festival is a great photographic opportunity to cover one of the most traditional and authentic local festivals of Kerala.

With inputs from Supriya Sehgal.

Festival dates are subject to change by the organisers.