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Festivals of the month: February

The colourful Goa carnival
Image courtesy: ©Goa Tourism Board

It’s the second month of the year and it’s time to enjoy the colourful variety of festivals that the almanac brings in February. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Kila Raipur Rural Sports Festival

When: Feb 2-4

Where: Punjab

Heard of the Indian Rural Olympics? If you haven’t, then it’s time to head to the interiors of Punjab- to Kila Raipur near Ludhiana- where a very interesting sports festival is organised every year. Villagers from all across gather to participate in games and activities such as kikli, githa khel, khidu, lukan miti, tug-of-war besides horse and bullock-cart racing. Men sporting colourful turbans and women in beautiful attires take part and there’s much laughter and fun to be shared. Animal lovers will be delighted to see the magnificent beasts at their sporting best.

Sula Fest

When: Feb 3-4

Where: Sula Vineyards, Nashik

The city that stands against the picturesque backdrop of the Sula Vineyards is a hotbed of activity as connoisseurs of fine wine and good music gather to listen to some headlining acts from the world of music. This year, the festival’s formidable line-up includes the Austrian musician Parov Stelar, Crystal Fighters, an English-Spanish electronic/folk band, the music group Gypsy-Hill comprising two London-based DJs, Holland’s Stefano Ruchetta and Indian artiste Tanvi, among many others. Besides enjoying activities like grape stomping, it’s also a good time to savour some of the best food and beverage brands from the world over.

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Relish Mumbai pav bhaji at the Kala Ghoda arts festival
Relish Mumbai pav bhaji at the Kala Ghoda arts festival
Image courtesy: ©Sudha Tilak

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
When: Feb 3-11
Where: Mumbai

People from across the globe touch down for a date with Mumbai and be part of many events centring on not just the city’s creative arts but also its world of films, literature, dance and music. The areas around South Mumbai that boast of legendary institutions like the Jehangir Art Gallery, Max Mueller Bhavan among others, come alive with a diverse range of activities. People gather to have a taste of the food, view the public art and shop at craft shops on the vibrant and decorated streets. Heritage walks that introduce guests to the different facets of this neighbourhood are also organised.

Music concert at Mahindra Blues Festival
Music concert at Mahindra Blues Festival
Image courtesy: ©Sudha Tilak

The annual Mahindra Blues Festival is also held in February at the same time at Mehboob Studio. Billed as Asia’s biggest blues festival, it brings an impressive line up each year for music lovers.

Goa Carnival
When: Feb 10-13
Where: Goa

With no full stops to fun and revelry, the highlight of the Goa Carnival is a spectacular parade led by an impressive float depicting King Momo, a character based on the Greek god Momus or the god of satire. Following him are many other floats depicting sea creatures and other characters believed to be from Momo’s court. Fire eaters, jesters also accompany a brass band joined in by dancers and other revellers. There’s much dancing and singing to everyone’s delight and particularly that of the shutterbugs present there. The three-day fest of fun filled activities winds up with the famous Red and Black Ball.

Maha Shivratri
When: Feb 13
Where: All over India

Just a little before the spring season makes its presence felt, it is time for Maha Shivaratri. This ‘Great Night of Shiva’, is about praying to destroy all evil and to overcome all negativity and ignorance from everyone’s lives. Temples are beautifully decorated and all through the night, there is chanting and singing of prayers. Many devotees take off on a pilgrimage to temples across the country that enshrine the holy Jyotirlingams for blessings on this auspicious occasion.

Losar Festival
When: Feb 14-18
Where: Sangti Valley, Arunachal Pradesh

Enjoy the beauty of one of the most picturesque hill stations in the North-East, Tawang- that assumes a magical hue especially during the Losar festival. Celebrated mainly by the Monpas, it heralds the coming of the New Year. For many days before Losar, ritual beautification of their homes keeps everyone occupied. Old, unused stuff is discarded to make way for new things, for the Monpas believe this will attract new energies, good health, peace and prosperity. On New Year’s day, the family gets together to enjoy a grand feast and, as a mark of respect, present all elders with new sets of clothes.

Taj Mahotsav
When: Feb: 18-27
Where: Agra

Located near the Taj Mahal is Shilpagram. Join in the ten-day festival they organise, that includes a kaleidoscope of activities, offering a taste of India’s vast cultural heritage. Music and dances from across India are performed and the fest is also a shopper’s delight. Artisans from all across sell their traditional ware, including wood carvings from Saharanpur, marble carvings from Agra, pottery from Khurja, brass and metal ware from Moradabad, handmade carpets from Badohi, silk from Benaras among others. Walking past caparisoned elephants and camels, it’s a delight watching folk artists perform traditional and folk performances like the nautanki, sapera dance and lavani etc.

Pariyanampetta Pooram Kattakulam
When: Feb 19
Where: Kerala

Besides paying obeisance to Goddess Bhagavathy at the Pariyanampatta temple, the festival also offers the opportunity to witness some of the most unique folk traditions of Kerala including shadow puppet shows called tholpavakoothu, the pootham folk drama tradition, the kaalavela bull-mask procession, chakyarkoothu performance acts and the kalamezhuthu pattu floor art and the karivela in which people cover themselves in black paint or charcoal. A grand procession of 21 elephants walking through the streets to the sound of traditional music is one of the most memorable sights of the festival.

Performances at Khajuraho dance festival
Performances at Khajuraho dance festival
Image courtesy: ©Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board

Khajuraho Dance Festival
When: Feb 20-26
Where: Khajuraho

Renowned the world over for their erotic sculptures, the beauty of the imposing temples at Khajuraho turns mesmerizing during this seven-day festival. It’s a treat to watch the splendour of Indian dance heritage come alive in the beautifully lit open-air temple complex and in the presence of dance enthusiasts from across the globe. Each evening offers a magical range of dance forms — kathak, Odissi, Manipuri, bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and kathakali. The festival starts at 7pm every evening and continues till late into the night.

Nagaur Fair
When: Feb 22-25
Where: Nagaur

As winter makes way for spring, a swirl of colours envelops you right from the moment you step into Nagaur that unveils one of the largest cattle fairs in Rajasthan at this time. It’s a delight to see village folk from neighbouring areas walk towards the town with their ‘armies’ of cattle and horses in tow. And towering above them all is the majestic Ship of the Desert as it ambles along. With more than 25,000 beasts assembled there, photo-ops are aplenty. This is also a time to pick up some of the most amazing artefacts at the Mirchi Bazaar and witness the fun-filled activities such as camel and horse races, besides enjoying the traditional folk music and dance shows of the state.

AUTHOR'S BIO: After close to three decades in mainstream journalism, it's back to freelance writing for Purnima Sharma who enjoys writing about people, places... and just about anything that touches the heart...