As winter makes way for spring, the colours and celebrations that the festivals of March bring in are indeed a delight, each more joyous than the other. Here’s a vade mecum of the special ones that lie just round the corner.
International Yoga Festival
When: March 1-7
This is one experience that both the first-timers as well as the regular attendees term as ‘divine’. And it’s not difficult to see why- for the International Yoga Festival is not just about asanas and breathing exercises alone but a complete holistic experience. Yoga sessions begin early, from 4 am, and continue throughout the day. Evening time includes the beautiful aarti on the banks of the Ganga and then cultural programmes that reflect the myriad colours of India.
Where: All over India
When: March 2
Holi is not just about rambunctious revelry but also about the beauty and magic of colours. Festivities begin from the evening before when devotees pray around a huge bonfire signifying the burning away of all evil. The next morning is about everyone gathering to play with water and colours and enjoying the passing away of the winter months. For many, the celebrations are not complete without bhang, an intoxicating drink made from cannabis. Mention must be made here of the celebrations in Mathura and Vrindavan in which women have the ‘licence’ to (playfully) beat up men with sticks- a rangbhari masti that photographers from across the world gather to capture on their lens.
When: March 2
Synonymous with dance and gaiety, Chapchar Kut is about celebrating the onset of spring when the entire region comes awash with the colours of Nature, and giving visitors a peek into the beautiful cultural traditions of the Mizos. Traditionally, this is the time when farmers would clear the bamboo forests to make place for jhum farming, and then celebrate with a lot of dance and music. It’s a delight to watch bamboo dance done by women as they jump over bamboo sticks that are rhythmically tapped together in different patterns by men.
Also Read: The best of Holi food
Also Read: Holi celebrations in Varanasi, India
When: March 3-17
As the cold season comes to a close, the Hindus of Goa get together for Shigmotsav that, according to legend, was celebrated to welcome back heroes who had long been away at war. The tradition has since continued and the streets of Goa, at this time, come alive with colourful parades and processions. Besides a day when the locals play Holi, Shigmo also sees the charming traditional dances such as ‘Ghode Modni’ and ‘Fugdi’ that will delight shutterbugs.
Velas Turtle Festival
Where: Velas, Maharashtra
When: Anytime between March 10- 31
At a small fishing village called Velas, about 220 km from Mumbai, a marvel of nature takes place when hundreds of just-hatched Olive ridley turtles emerge from their eggs and begin their baby steps towards the waters of the Arabian Sea. Thanks to the efforts of local villagers and conservationists, the sight of thousands of these tiny turtles crawling towards the sea is sure to warm the cockles of the heart.
Where: All over Maharashtra
When: March 18
Celebrated on the first day of the month of Chaitra, this delightful festival harks back to the belief in Hindu mythology that Lord Brahma created the universe on this day. Hence, each moment of Gudi Pawda is considered auspicious and brings in good fortune. A feast that includes sweet dishes like shrikhand and jalebis is not complete without the prasad made of neem and jaggery.
Also Read: Short trip to Udaipur
When: March 18 – 20
This festival is about ‘women power’ and offers a melange of colourful activities and programmes. Celebrating Gangaur, women in their finest traditional outfits invoke Goddess Parvati, the epitome of love, beauty and strength, and pray for a happy married life. Lake Pichola’s Gangaur Ghat comes to life in the evening for celebrating the wedding of Isar (Shiva) and Parvati. A beautiful sight unfolds as, amidst much singing and dancing, little boats lit with lamps carrying clay idols of the celestial couple are set afloat in the lake waters.
Where: All over India
When: March 25
One of the most important Hindu festivals, Ram Navami- observed on the ninth and last day of Chaitra Navratri- celebrates the birth of Lord Rama. Although celebrations take place across the country, Ayodhya- Rama’s birthplace sees a beautiful chariot procession move through the city. On Ram Navami, Goddess Durga is also invoked with fasting followed by prasad offering to little girls.
Where: Arattupuzha, Kerala
When: March 29
Believed to be the grandest and oldest of all poorams in Kerala, this annual festival unveils a gorgeous spectacle that’s sure to overwhelm you with its myriad hues- and the assembly of over seventy caparisoned elephants at the famous Arattupuzha Sree Sastha Temple. As the beats of the chenda (drum) and kuzhal (wind instrument) resound all across, devotees gather to witness a ‘conclave’ of gods and goddesses. Colourful activities that represent the rich traditions of Kerala add to the charm of the festival that also includes a grand fireworks display.