The sight of the monsoon clouds slowly gathering over the horizon fills the heart with joy as they hold promise of the much needed respite from the blazing sun, calling for celebration. Let’s take a look at some of the festivals that add colour and joy to the months of July and August.
Where: Arunachal Pradesh
When: July 5
The tranquil environs of the Ziro Valley, home to the Apatani tribe of the state, comes abuzz with excitement soon after the Dree priest declares the start of the festival. Rounds of drinks- Dree Taku with cucumber and Dree ‘O’ , the rice or millet beer- are prepared to be served to all elders. The next morning sees prayers being offered to the four Gods of the tribe- Tamu, Harniang, Metii, and Danyi- for a good harvest in the coming season. Then, through the day, fun filled traditional song and dance programmes and contests such as Mr Apatani and Miss Apatani are organized.
International Mango Festival
When: July 9-10
Delhi’s Talkatora Stadium is the perfect place to pay tribute to the king of fruits while tasting more than 1,100 varieties of mangoes such as the Langda, Dussehri, Alphonso, Fasli, Bombay Green, Sindheri, Chausa, among others, in all their splendour. Besides being part of fun filled competitions such as mango eating in which the one who eats the maximum number of mangoes is declared the winner, there are also folk dance programmes and quizzes to be enjoyed.
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Ladakh Polo Festival
Where: Chushot Village near Leh
When: July 11-17
Against the backdrop of gorgeous snow-clad mountains, the Chushot Village in the ‘land of high passes’ attracts people from across the world to witness some exciting polo, the history of which goes back to the 15th century. What makes the game interesting is the fact that the six member teams play on barren land and is, as some enthusiasts insist, more exciting than the traditional game played elsewhere. Besides the game, one can also enjoy Ladakhi folk performances, including dance-dramas and warrior dances, local cuisine and pick up a variety of the region’s handicrafts.
Where: Puri, Odisha
When: July 14-26
This delightful festival celebrates the journey of Lord Jaggannath, another form of Lord Krishna, together with his brother Balarama and sister Subhdra to the Gundicha Temple. The raths (chariots) covered with tall, multi-hued chhatris carrying the wooden idols of the deities are an incredible sight as thousands of devotees throng the streets to pull the chariot ropes as doing this is believed to earn them good fortune. An atmosphere of gaiety pervades all across as devotees dance to the sound of the drum and chants of religious hymns while moving with the chariots.
When: July 15
The roots of the festival go back to the early 19th century when a deadly plague broke out in the city of Secunderabad. The soldiers who were stationed in Ujjain prayed to Goddess Mahakali to save the city from this grave situation and promised that once it was cleared, they would build a temple in Her honour. Since then, Bonalu has come to be celebrated and it’s a lovely sight, seeing women in traditional attire complete with flowers in their hair, dancing merrily as they carry beautifully decorated pots containing sweet offerings for Mahakali.
Where: Palakkad, Kerala
When: July 20
On this day, a beautiful spectacle unfolds itself as all elephants are offered a grand feast of food that is specially prepared on the principles of Ayurveda. The Malayalee month of Karkkidakam is regarded as a month of rejuvenation, so even the state’s pachyderm population is to be extended that privilege with healthy food. And sure enough, it’s a splendid sight to see thousands of people coming here to feed the elephants for the belief is that if these animals are happy then Lord Ganesha is happy too.
Nehru Boat Race
When: August 11
It’s a sport that people from across the world fly down to witness – when some magnificent ‘chundan valloms’ (snake boats) participate in a fiercely fought race to commemorate the first Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to Alappuzha. From months before, young men start practicing and once the race gets underway on the Punnamada Lake, it’s a treat watching the boats snaking ahead at break-neck speed as loud cheers of the spectators add to the excitement. The day also packs in ceremonial water processions and spectacular floats.
When: August 13
Synonymous with swings, Teej is all about welcoming the monsoon season that has come to provide cheer and relief from the hot summer spell. On this day, women gather to enjoy themselves while dancing, singing and swinging on beautifully bedecked jhoolas hung in the courtyard of their homes. And should any guests feel inclined to join in, they are more than welcome. Women also pray to Lord Shiva and His consort Parvati seeking blessings for a long and happy married life. Having their hands decorated with henna and exchanging sweets of ghevar pheni is also part of the fun.
When: August 15
One of the most eagerly awaited festivals of the Malayalee community, Onam is all about welcoming the mythical King Mahabali, the vanquisher of all that is bad from His devotees’ lives. From days before the festival, every nook and corner of the house is cleaned and decorated with flowers and rangoli (floor decorations) in honour of the great king. Feasts of the traditional Onam Sadya, complete with an array of 15 dishes are prepared and served the traditional way, on banana leaves, on the occasion.