From the birth of some of the most lovable Hindu gods to celebrating the victory of good over evil, the festivals in the coming months open up a captivating spectacle that no visitor to India would like to miss. Here’s a list of some of the best ones on offer.
When: September 3
Where: All over India
Although celebrated all across the country, the festivities in the Braj land of Mathura and Vrindavan are indeed special. From days before, temples are decorated with twinkling lights, strings of leaves and flowers, paintings and rangoli (floor decorations). At midnight, believed to be the hour of Lord Krishna’s birth, His idols are bathed with milk and curd and the thronging crowds offered prasad. The day’s celebrations in Mumbai take on a fun-filled avtaar with human pyramids by agile young men formed for something very special- to reach out to the prettily decorated clay pots that are filled with butter and hung up high. Much cheering follows when the youngsters, just like Lord Krishna used to, try reaching the pots to have the butter.
When: September 13
Ganesha’s birthday may be celebrated in homes across the country, but the state of Maharashtra is where all the joyous action is. Beautifully decorated mammoth clay idols of Ganesha are placed 11 days prior in special altars in people’s homes and to the chants of prayers, special meals are offered to Him every day. On the day of Ganesh Chaturthi, a festive air pervades all around for that is when the idols are respectfully taken out in a colourful procession and immersed in the sea waters.
When: September 12
Regarded as one of the most important festivals in North India that is observed by married women, the day sees prayers being offered to Goddess Gowri, another name for Parvati and the consort of Lord Shiva. Visitors to Rajasthan will be delighted to see vibrant processions of women in traditional outfits and hands decorated with artistic henna designs carrying the Goddess’ idol as they sing songs in Her praise and ask for blessings for a long and happy married life.
When: September 21
Where: All over India
Regarded as the month of mourning by Muslims, Muharram also commemorates the Battle of Karbala fought in the year 61 AH of the Islamic calendar. In most places, tazias, believed to be replicas of the tomb of Imam Hussain, the martyred grandson of Prophet Muhammad, are taken out. Many weep for those who were martyred in Karbala and even injure themselves in a bid to understand the pain of Imam Hussain.
When: September 25 – 28
This four-day festival offers a slice of Ladakh’s varied flavours through traditional masked dances, polo and village archery competitions, etc. Setting the ball rolling is the beautiful inauguration ceremony in Leh that sees a large procession of cultural troupes from across the region traverse through the city market and culminate at the Polo Ground. The programme offers a dekko at the traditional dance and music of Ladakh together with other ritual instruments played by monks in monasteries. Also a must-try is the variety of cuisine on offer.
Ziro Festival of Music
When: September 27 – 30
Where: Arunachal Pradesh
Against the backdrop of the picturesque, snow-capped mountains, this four-day outdoor music festival, hosted by the Apatani tribe of Arunachal Pradesh’s Ziro Valley is among the must-do experiences for music lovers. They get a chance to enjoy the music of indie bands from across the world and top folk acts from the north-eastern parts of the country. This year’s line-up includes performances by Mono (Tokyo, Japan), Madou Sidiki Diabate (Bamako, Mali), K4 Kekho (Itanagar, India), Blue Temptation (Shillong, India), among others. Facilities for camp accommodation that are not too far from the venue are also available.
Delhi International Jazz Festival
When: September 23 – 25
Celebrate jazz at one of the largest ever jazz festivals in the country, with multiple performances spanning across three days in the lush environs of Delhi’s Nehru Park as bands play late into the evening under the open sky. Besides The Radha Thomas Ensemble, one of the Indian groups playing at this year’s celebrations, the three-day event unites an amazing cluster of jazz performers not just from India but also those from South Korea, France, Israel, Mexico, Spain, Taiwan and South Africa.
When: October 10-18
Where: All over India
This festival of nine nights honours Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati who symbolize power, purity and beauty. While in many homes across the country, ritual fasting is observed, the evenings, especially in Gujarat, is when everyone gets together for rounds of the beautiful fun-filled garba dances that involve clapping rhythmically or using small sticks while moving in step in circles. The festival culminates with Dussehra on the tenth day.
When: October 15 – 19
Commemorating the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura, this eagerly awaited Bengali festival sees beautifully painted, larger-than-life clay idols of Durga adorn each pandal specially erected in honour of the Goddess. Through the day, devotees turn up in their best to participate in the special cultural activities organized for the occasion, and enjoy goodies such as sandesh, malpua, kolar bora and doi fulkopi. The dhanuchi dance and the ‘sandhya arati’ are among the delights that must not be missed.
When: October 19
Where: All over India
Dussehra is celebrated throughout the country to mark the defeat of the demon king Ravana by Lord Rama. Huge effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarana and son Meghnad are made from days before, and on Dussehra, they go up in flames to mark the annihilation of all evil. Leading to this spectacular show is the enactment of the epic battle between Rama and Ravana by a set of young actors.
Rajasthan International Folk Festival
When: October 24 – 28
The imposing Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur is the venue of this eclectic festival of which The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger is the international patron. No wonder it remains high on the culturatti’s list. Artistes from all across Rajasthan and the world will be participating and no visitor leaves without getting truly mesmerized by magical fare and the atmosphere showcased at the RIFF.
When: October 26 – 29
As the curtains go up on this beautiful festival of Arunachal Pradesh, no visitor can resist getting enthralled by the traditional folk, monastic and tribal dances together with music shows, traditional sports, etc that are also on offer. Also part of the event are some fascinating religious functions of Buddhist monks, exhibitions, film and flower shows, etc. There’s a special treat for gourmets too — stalls selling a variety of unique food preparations from the state.