The Indian festival calendar: November – December 2017

Dev Deepavali celebrations in Varanasi
Image courtesy: ©DEBA PRASAD ROY/Lonely Planet

As the winter months set in, the almanac brings in some colourfully splendid festivals… here is a look at some:

Ganga Mahotsav and Dev Deepavali 
Where: Varanasi
When: November 1-3

Celebrated as a form of thanksgiving to the holy Ganga river for providing livelihood to millions, a variety of classical music and dance shows are organised on its banks. The piece de resistance for many, however, takes place on the last day of the festival when Dev Deepawali is celebrated. On the day, devotes take a dip in the Ganga waters and in the evening, its waters come ablaze as millions of diyas are set afloat on the river to the chanting of Vedic hymns and sounds of temple bells in the distance.

Pushkar Fair
Where: Pushkar (Rajasthan)

When: Till November 4


Decorated camels at the Pushkar fair. Rajasthan, India, Asia
Decorated camels at the Pushkar fair
Image courtesy: ©photoff/Shutterstock

No visitor can come back ‘unastonished’ by the picturesque sights that this age-old fair has to offer – from hundreds of camels proudly standing on the desert sands to the innumerable temples circling the pretty Pushkar Lake, and, of course, the vibrant fair that brings the town alive with a thousand colours. The celebrations include cultural programmes, camel races and dance shows, contests like turban-tying for men, tug-of-war and beauty contests not just for the desert folk but also for the animals.

International Yoga and Music Festival
Where: Rishikesh (Uttarakhand)
When: November 1-7

Every year, the International Yoga and Music Festival offers free classes in different forms of yoga. Organised by the Nada Yoga School, qualified teachers from across the world impart knowledge about asanas from the Hatha yoga, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Sivananda) schools, pranayama (breathing exercises), shatkarma (cleansing exercises), meditation and spiritual lectures. The classes start from 7 am and at 7 pm, a splendid concert of Indian classical music or dance commences.

Rann Utsav
Where: Gujarat
When: November 1-February 20, 2018

This three-month extravaganza organised on the white sands and salty marshes of the Rann of Kutch offers an unforgettable experience complete with folk music and dance and adventure sports activities. It’s also a time to view the innumerable dexterous handicrafts that the region is renowned for, taste the traditional cuisine and be part of exciting excursions to places like the Kalo Dungar, the highest peak that not just houses the Dattatreya Temple where jackals come for food but also offers panoramic views.

Cherry Blossom Festival
Where: Shillong
When: November 8-11

The pink and white flowers that have become almost synonymous with Japan and the US can now also be celebrated in Shillong at the Cherry Blossom Festival. Spread across four venues – Polo Second Ground, JN Stadium, Ward’s Lake and Tara Ghar – the festival will feature events such as guided night walks, live music gigs, a fashion show and a variety of stalls showcasing the region’s cuisine, wine, arts and crafts.

Wangala Festival
Where: Meghalaya
When: November 10

The Garo Hills in Meghalaya are set to enthral visitors with the synchronised sounds of a hundred drums to celebrate the Garo tribe’s biggest harvest festival. Held in honuor of the Sun God of fertility, this 100 Drum Wangala Festival marks the closure of the sowing season and agricultural year. It’s a delight watching dancers move to the traditional beat of drums and blowing of horns. A traditional dance competition among the region’s Wangala troupes, a slow-cooking competition, indigenous games and a handloom and handicrafts exhibition are the highlights.


International Sand Art Festival, Bhubaneshwar
Where: Bhubaneswar
When: December 1 – 5

Sand art festival
Image courtesy: Wikipedia/Public Domain

The Chandrabhaga Beach is all set to offer mammoth sand sculptures by artists from India and countries such as Mexico, Spain, Singapore, France, Norway, Germany, Netherland and the USA. With the use of wood, stone, bronze and other materials, spectacular human and animal forms, castles, forts and abstract figures will be created on the soft golden sands of the beach.

Hornbill Festival
Where: Nagaland
When: December 1 – 10

Hornbill Festival
Image courtesy: ©DEBA PRASAD ROY/Lonely Planet

Named after the hornbill bird that was once part of the beautiful Naga landscape, this is among the most popular music festivals of the world. The cultural programs at its Kisama village celebrate not just the brave warriors and heroes of yore but also bring to life their immortal love stories, folk tunes, gospel songs and traditional games. Participants turn out in their traditional attire complete with multi-coloured spears, exotic headgear and ivory armlets.

Mamallapuram Indian Dance Festival
Where: Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram)
When: December 21 – January 21

Home to some of the most magnificent sculptures that go back to the Pallava dynasty of the 7th century, Mamallapuram hosts a month-long dance festival that sees exponents of various classical dance forms like Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi, Mohini Attam and Kathakali perform against this grand backdrop.

Cochin Carnival
Where: Kerala
When: December 23 – January 1

The joyous Cochin Carnival goes back to the time when the Portuguese ruled the area and would bring in the New Year with much gaiety and fervor. And the area around Fort Kochi is the go-to place for all the fun-filled activities, games and competitions like Beach Bike Race, Sea Swimming, Beach Football and Beach Volleyball, among others. And on New Year’s day, a grand procession with caparisoned elephants becomes the cynosure of all eyes. Performances by folk artistes, music by the harmonious blending of five instruments called Panchavadyam and people in fancy dresses are indeed a shutterbug’s delight.

Where: all over India
When: December 25

christmas market
Christmas celebrations across the country
Image courtesy: ©anyaberkut/Getty Images

Like most festivals, Christmas too brings in a great deal of excitement and fervour. And of course, in areas that boast a predominant Christian population like Mumbai, Goa and the North-Eastern states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram, the festivities assume a joyful hue. After the mass at the church – that are all decorated with poinsettia flowers and candles – a massive fun-filled feast follows with the singing of Christmas carols and exchange of gifts.

Winter Festival
Where: Mount Abu
When: December 29 – 31

Performances by classical and folk singers keep visitors enthralled at this festival that showcases the rich culture and tradition of Rajasthan in this picturesque hill-station in the desert state. Other than cultural shows, the festivals also features a variety of sports events like rowing competitions on its pretty Nakki Lake and even cricket matches. A special feature is the ‘deepdan’ ceremony in which thousands of earthern lamps are set afloat on the waters of the Nakki.

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.