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The Indian festival calendar: July – August 2017

If you really want to immerse yourself in the madness, then Mumbai is the place to be for Ganesh Chaturthi
Image courtesy: Wikipedia/Chris/CC BY 2.0

Here’s what July and August have in store for you. If you happen to be in these cities and towns then don’t miss these festivals.

Dree Festival
When: July 5
Where: Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh

Fun, feasting and prayers form part of Dree, one of the most awaited agricultural festivals of the Apatani tribe. Women brew wine that’s offered to all the elders and relatives as a symbol of respect and affection. As families gather for feasting and prayers, rituals are performed to propitiate the four gods of the tribe – Tamu, Harniang, Metii, and Danyi – and sacrifices and offerings of fowls, eggs and animals made for blessings for a bountiful harvest. People participate by singing traditional songs and dances.

Ladakh Polo Festival
When: July 11-17
Where: Chushot, Ladakh

This week-long traditional polo tournament will be played with teams from across the region. The aim of the festival is to encourage the youth to take an active interest in polo which incidentally was introduced in the region in the 15th century. The festival also includes cultural programs, archery competitions and many other interesting sports activities.

When: July 26
Where: Rajasthan

Attired in traditional finery, married women pray to Lord Shiva and Parvati for a happy married life. Women dance, sing and swing on beautifully bedecked swings hung on trees or in the courtyard of their homes. They also visit their parents’ homes and come back laden with gifts that include sweets, green-coloured sarees and bangles.



Snake boat races on the backwaters are a marvellous display of sportsmanship.

Nehru Boat Race
When: August 12
Where: Alappuzha, Kerala

Men practice for months and once the race begins, it’s fascinating to see the synchronised movements of the snake boats racing ahead. Needless to say, victory is a matter of great honour for these young men and something to be revealed in months after the event is over. The day also packs in ceremonial water processions and spectacular floats.

When: August 14
Where: Mathura and Vrindavan

The temples across Mathura and Vrindavan are decked up to celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna. His idol is bathed in a mixture of milk, honey, yogurt, dry fruit and tulsi leaves, which is then distributed as prasad. People sing devotional songs and stage the Raas Leela performances, and the clock strikes midnight – Lord Krishna is welcomed into the world with much joy and gaiety.

Dahi Handi
When: August 15
Where: Mumbai

Come Janmashtami and a sense of excitement pervades all across the streets of Mumbai. This is when human pyramids are formed and young men get set to enact one of Lord Krishna’s most lovable and mischievous acts as a little child – when he would climb on his friends’ backs to steal butter from the pot hung high up by his mother Yashoda. Men form pyramids and try to reach the pot of butter hanging – sometimes 20 feet – across the streets. In Mumbai, close to 2,000 people compete for 4000 handis. It sure is a spectacle not to be missed.

Ganesh Chaturthi
When: August 25
Where: Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra

Celebrated as the day when Lord Ganesha was born, Ganesh Chaturthi is amongst the most popular of festivals in Maharashtra. Devotees pray to the elephant god to grant them wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. Colourful clay idols of Ganesha are assigned a place of honour and worship in people’s homes and special prayers are conducted each day of the festival. On the last day the idols are taken out in a colourful procession and immersed in water. As the idols slowly get submerged in the sea, devotees dance hoping Ganesha’s blessings stay with them till he returns next year to their homes.

AUTHOR'S BIO: Life's come full circle for Purnima, who started out as a travel journalist. And now, after more than 20 years in mainstream journalism, she is once again packing her bags and putting on her travelling boots to pursue her first love.