Festivals of the month: November 2018

Image courtesy: ©Shutterstock/Santhosh Varghese

As the November air turns nippy and the temperature starts dipping, it’s time not just to make travel plans but also to start enjoying the number of festivals that the almanac brings along at this time of the year. Here’s a look at some of the major celebrations lined up for the month ahead.

International Yoga and Music Festival

Where: Rishikesh

When: November 1 -7

At the world capital of yoga, Rishikesh that nestles along the mighty River Ganga enthusiasts from across the world converge for the free International Yoga & Music Festival organized by the Nada Yoga Trust. They come here to learn not just the nuances of yogis, asanas and meditation from learned teachers but also to enjoy sessions of Indian classical music. Over 140 hours of yoga, lectures and music performances are lined in this week-long festival.

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Rann Utsav

Where: Rann of Kutch, Gujarat

When: November 1 – February 20, 2019

Raising a toast to the beauty of Kutch is the Rann Utsav that is organised during winters when the entire landscape looks even more ethereal. Against the backdrop of the white sands and salty marshes, there are ample opportunities to enjoy the wonderful folk song and dance performances, handicraft bazaars, and partake of the goodies at food stalls that offer a taste of the region’s varied cuisines. Hot air balloon rides over the Kutch landscape and excursions to places like the Kalo Dungar, the highest peak housing the Dattatreya Temple where jackals come for food the moment the priests call out to them, are all fascinating, not-to-be-missed experiences.

Diwali
Where: All over India
When: November 7

The most awaited Hindu festival, Diwali, is synonymous with lights, crackers, feasts and, of course, card-games with a bit of fun-filled gambling thrown in. The festival commemorates the victory of good over evil and the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after killing the demon king Ravana. Preparations begin from days before Diwali- homes are spruced up and cleaned, new clothes bought and sweets made. And on Diwali, prayers are also offered to Goddess Lakshmi to shower everyone with prosperity and good health. No sooner than evening descends, the entire city starts looking magical with buildings lit up with lights, candles and diyas. Feasting and exchange of gifts all add to the fun and laughter.

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

Image courtesy: ©keima yamada/500px

They may be synonymous with Japan, but now cherry blossoms have also become an integral part of the Shillong countryside in the month of November. This festival is organized at four major venues of Shillong- Polo Second Ground, JN Stadium, Ward’s Lake and Tara Ghar. Besides rock concerts, music sessions, energetic dance performances from the North-East region, story-telling sessions, bicycle rallies and a golf cup tournament (participation is allowed only if you are carrying your golf set), there are also night walks that present beautiful vignettes of the Ward Lake.

Wangala Festival
Where: Meghalaya
When: November 9 to 11

Image courtesy: ©Meghalaya Tourism Board

The picturesque East Khasi Hills, home to the Garos of Meghalaya, come alive during the fun-filled Wangala harvest festival celebrated to propitiate their God Patigipa Rarongipa. A major attraction is the fascinating, synchronized beating of a 100 drums by players dressed in traditional outfits. A sense of magic unfolds as the dancers move in step to the traditional beat of the drums and blowing of horns. Also part of the festival is a traditional dance competition, age-old games and even an interesting, slow-cooking competition. The handloom and handicrafts exhibition is a must watch for visitors.

Chhath Puja
Where: Several states
When: November 11 to 14

Image courtesy: ©Yavuz Sariyildiz / Shutterstock.com

Celebrated mainly by the people of Bihar, Eastern UP and Jharkhand, the festivities of Chhath see devotees worship the Sun god along with Chhathi maiyya, who is believed to be His younger wife. At the time of the rising as well as the setting sun, devotees take a ritualistic holy bath and keep a fast in which they abstain even from having water. Through the day, devotees pray to the Sun that is regarded as the source of light and energy, for a long and happy life.

Sonepur Fair
Where: Sonepur, Bihar
November 14 to December 13

A spectacle awaits you at Sonepur, one of Asia’s largest cattle fairs that lies on the confluence of the River Ganga and the Gandak. The origins of the fair are believed to go back thousands of years- to the time when the Maurya kings would buy their elephants from Sonepur. Beautifully scrubbed and decorated, the variety of farm animals here- buffaloes, oxen, donkeys, dogs, ponies, goats- offer an amazing sight. But the biggest attraction is, of course, the haathi bazaar where elephants are lined up for sale- a spectacle that’s sure to be any shutterbug’s delight.

Pushkar Fair
Where: Pushkar, Rajasthan
November 15 to 23

KALBELIA DANCE - PUSHKAR
Image courtesy: ©DEBA PRASAD ROY/Lonely Planet

The ancient town of Pushkar comes abuzz with a thousand colours as villagers from neighbouring areas start coming here not just to trade camel and cattle but also to celebrate the holy Kartik Purnima festival. As thousands of villagers set up their tents on the beautiful golden hued sand dunes, the fair becomes a must visit affair for tourists from across the world. After prayers, celebrations include a variety of cultural programmes, camel races and dance shows together with the fun-filled turban-tying contests for tourists, tug-of-war competition between villagers and foreigners, beauty contests and races for camels, etc.

Ganga Mahotsav and Dev Deepavali
Where: Varanasi
When: November 22

Image courtesy: ©Sirsendu Gayen/Lonely Planet

Celebrated on the full month of the Hindu Kartik month, Dev Deepavali can literally be translated as ‘Diwali of the Gods’ that mortals can also take part in. Through the day, worshippers pray to the River Ganga and take a dip in its holy waters. And in the evening, everyone gathers on the banks for the aarti and the floating of diyas on the river waters. It’s a serene sight as the gentle ripples of the waters slowly carry the flickering diyas into the distance. Coinciding with this festival is the Ganga Mahotsav that starts five days prior as a form of thanksgiving to the Ganga for giving sustenance to millions of people.

Guru Nanak Jayanti
Where: All over India
When: November 23

Image courtesy: ©Mr Pics / Shutterstock.com

One of the major festivals of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrates the birth of the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak. The celebrations include devotees getting up early in the morning for the Prabhat Pheri, a procession that carries the holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, in a palanquin. Led by the five armed guards or the Panj Pyaras, it goes through all the major areas of the city. Through the day, devotees go to gurudwaras and listen to recitations from the holy book, known as the Akhand Path, and be part of the kirtan darbars and amrit sanchar ceremonies. They also partake of the sweets like ‘karah prasad’ and ‘langar’ or community lunches offered to everyone without any discrimination.

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...