One of the best ways to soak up the culture of a place is to experience a festival there. If you are heading out for a holiday in July or August, you might want to consider matching your dates and destinations for these unique festivals.
When: 14 July – 15 July
Where: Hemis Monastery, Ladakh
This two- day festival is a perfect occasion to blend in with the locals as they all deck up to celebrate the Hemis Festival at the Hemis Monastery. Explore the richest monastery in Ladakh, eat the choicest of local food and shop for some lovely Ladakhi goodies at the local fair. Don’t miss the Tantric Buddhism rituals and the Chaam dance at the monastery.
When: 4 July – 7 July
Where: Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh
The festival is celebrated to appease the gods and prevent any famine. Enjoy the tribal dance of the Apatani tribe, while feasting on their traditional meals, especially Yatang – a rice pudding made in Bamboo. You can even browse through the tribal stalls at the festival before heading to the lush green hills of Arunachal Pradesh.
When: 6 July –15 July
Where: Jagannath temple of Puri, Odisha
Watch the annual journey of Lord Jagannath and his siblings to their aunt’s home in special Raths (chariots). On the first day you can see the chariots being pulled by the devotees to its destination while the last day marks its return. Elaborate pujas are performed at the parked chariots in front of the temple during this time. Remember to buy those miniature raths as your travel memory of this 5000-year-old ritual.
When: 29 July
Where: Talaulim, Goa
Touxeachem Fest (or Cucumber Feast), held at the Church of St Anne in Talaulim, is known to draw devotees from across communities. From newly-weds to couples looking to start a family, all offer a cucumber to St Anne in exchange for a favour. Whether you have a wish or none, it is an experience to witness such devotion.
When: 31 July – 1 August
Where: Karsha monastery, Zanskar
The last of the Ladakh festivals this month at the Karsha monastery, this one promises an enthralling performance – dancers rush down the staircase of the monastery in an act to fight evil. The drama ends with the monk of the Order slashing a sacrificial cake called Stroma – a truly, unique Ladakhi experience.
NEHRU TROPHY BOAT RACE
When: 13 August
Where: Alleyppey, Kerala
A perfect example of how unity and coordination can get you ahead in a race. Watch teams of 100 rowers on a 135 ft long snake boat battle out on the backwaters of Alleyppey for the rolling trophy. The entire place is festive with music, folk dances and lots of stalls. A perfect way to enjoy the race is to hire a houseboat with their traditional Kerala meals and hospitality.
When: 5 August and 19 August
Where: Jaipur and Bundi, Rajasthan
During this festival, married women pray for the well-being of their husbands. This monsoon festival honours the union of Lord Shiva and Parvati. At the City Palace in Jaipur you can witness a procession with elephants, chariots drawn by horses and camels, and lots of folk music and dance. This is also a perfect time to indulge in Rajasthani treats, be it food, handicrafts or jewellery. If you miss the one on 5 August, you can head to Bundi on the 19th for the week-long village fest of Kajli Teej.
When: 24 August – 25 August
Where: Mathura and Vrindavan
Janmashtami or the birthday of Lord Krishna is best experienced at his birthplace. The twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan are bubbling with festivities that last from morning to midnight. You can witness the locals celebrating Jhulanotsav – with decorated cradles or swings amid vibrant rangolis in their courtyards. Discover Ghata, a ritual where all the temples of Mathura are literally painted to a single colour that is chosen every year to match the clothes of Lord Krishna’s idol. Don’t miss the unique Raas Leela performances in these two cities.
When: 27 August
Where: Island of Divar, Goa
Join in for some colourful fun off the coast of Panjim, on the Island of Divar as the villagers relive their battle with the Portuguese. Dance along with the Goan locals, drink some local Feni along with the delicious Goan sausages while you watch a vibrant parade along the main roads. This ‘Festival of Flags’ promises a lot of fun with games, mock battles, people in fancy dresses and creative floats.