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The India festival calendar: September–October 2017

Performers walking in the streets of Mysore during procession at Dussehra.
Image courtesy: ©CamBuff/Shutterstock

As monsoon clouds slowly depart and the temperature eases up, the almanac brings in some of the most colourful and exciting festivals of the year. Here are some of the major ones:


Where: Kerala
When: 4th September

It is in God’s Own Country that the spirit of this ten-day harvest festival can be truly felt. Celebrated to welcome the mythical King Mahabali who is regarded as the protector of the people in Kerala, homes are spruced up with flower and floor decorations. Celebrations are incomplete without tucking into the delicious Onam Sadya – the feast of over 15 dishes served on banana leaves and enjoying the pulsating energy of the snake-boat races.

Ladakh Festival
When: 17 – 24 September

This eight-day festival has a number of attractions like traditional polo matches, village archery competitions, famous mask dances, exhibitions of precious thankas (mural paintings), monks playing musical instruments and the grand opening parade. It’s also a great time to sample Ladakhi cuisine that includes mokthuk, thukpa, paba and tangtur, besides khambir and butter tea.

Mysore Dussehra
When: 21 – 30 September

The story of the victory of good over evil – when Goddess Chamundeshwari (Durga) killed Mahishasura – is replayed in the celebrations of this 407-year-old festival. Among its highlights is the “Jumbo Savari” in which the idol of the goddess is taken out on an elephant. Come evening and all attention turns towards the gorgeous Mysore Palace that is lit with around a million bulbs. A kite-flying competition is also part of the festival.

Ziro Festival of Music
Where: Arunachal Pradesh
When: 28 September to 1 October

This four-day festival, hosted by the Apatani tribe of this North-Eastern state’s Ziro Valley offers the most amazing backdrop of picturesque, snow topped mountains for bands from across the world. This year’s line-up has performances by Reggae Rajahs, Damo Suruki, Alaska, Snack Time, Alobo Naga, Rizal Abdulhadi, among many others.

Where: All over the country
When: September 30

The festival is celebrated in many forms throughout the country, but the one in North India is based on the story from the Ramayana in which the demon king Ravana is killed by Lord Rama. Tall effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhakarana and son Meghnad stuffed with crackers are put up across the city. As evening descends, the epic battle is enacted out and the effigies are set on fire.


Rajasthan International Folk Festival
Where: Jodhpur
When: 5 – 9 October

This festival is high on every music lover’s list. Held against the backdrop of the imposing Mehrangarh Fort, it will feature folk artistes such as Ladu Ram Nayak and party, dhol drummers, Victor Kiswell and Logeshan Moorgan, the Manganiyars of Barmers, among others. Donor passes and early bird discounts are available till September 12.

Marwar Festival
Where: Jodhpur
When: 15-16 October 


Kalbelia Dancers at the festival
Image courtesy: Rajasthan Tourism Board

A number of cultural shows bring alive tales of romance, courteousness, courage, valour and sacrifice of the erstwhile Marwar rulers both on and off the battlefield. Held at three venues – Umaid Bhawan Palace, Mandore and the Mehrangarh Fort – it’s a perfect time for tourists not just to enjoy these cultural slices of the state but also get a taste of the life of the villagers here.

When: 19 October

1000 lights at dpeeavali
Homes are decorated with diyas
Image courtesy: ©gulfu photography/Getty Images

One of the most important Hindu festivals, Diwali, harks back to the time when Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana. The tradition of decorating homes with diyas and flowers, feasting and celebrating to welcome Rama back home has continued. Besides exchange of gifts and bursting of crackers, the festival is also synonymous with fun-filled card parties. But the most important part of the evening is the puja when Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, is invoked to shower blessings and prosperity on the family.

Pushkar Fair
When: 24 October to 4 November

Decorated camel at Pushkar Mela (Pushkar Camel Fair).
Decorated camel at Pushkar Fair
Image courtesy: ©f9photos/Shutterstock

The quietness of the sand dunes close to Pushkar suddenly get suffused with colourful activity when it’s time for this cattle fair. Besides locals, tourists from across the world converge to participate in or witness the celebrations that has devotees taking a dip in the Pushkar Lake (to purge themselves of all sins). Besides the serious business of trading cattle, activities such as camel shows, cultural programmes, longest moustache and turban-tying contests and tug-of-war keep visitors mesmerised.

Chhath Festival
Where: Bihar
When: 24 – 27 October

The festivities of Chhath sees devotees worshipping the sun god along with Chhathi maiyya, believed to be his younger wife. At the time of the rising as well as the setting sun, devotees take a ritualistic holy bath and observe a fast and do not even consume water. As the golden orb is believed to be the healer of many severe health conditions, people feel that praying to the sun will help them remain healthy, prosperous and happy.

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.