Having bid farewell to the winter, it’s time to brace oneself for the hot spell ahead. But not before enjoying the splendours of the spring season and the colourful festivals that come in its wake. From Nagaland’s Aoling that traces its origin to the head-hunting Konyak tribe to Gangaur celebrated for marital bliss and Varanasi’s serene Sankat Mochan music festival, April packs in some diverse delights… check ’em out!
Aoling Festival, Nagaland, April 1-6
To welcome the spring season, this festival is celebrated by the Konyak tribe of Nagaland that was once famous for its head hunting tradition but is now completely into farming and agriculture. It is celebrated soon after the crops have been sown and it’s time for the Konyaks to relax. The 6-day festival comes into its own from the fourth day onwards when relatives and friends get together for a feast. The next day is dedicated to the family elders and the last day is spent cleaning the homes and the village.
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Tulip Festival, Srinagar, April 1-15
This festival truly brings to life the same picture of paradise that Emperor Jahangir had seen when he called it a jannat on earth. This magnificent event celebrates the beauty of tulips, especially when it is their blooming time and they’re best at the seven-terraced Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden. Besides varieties such as lily-flowering tulips, single late tulips and triumph, flowers like hycinths, daffodils and narcissus also add to the charm of the festival.
Gudi Padwa, Mumbai and all over Maharashtra, April 6
The first day of the Hindu month of Chaitra is believed to be when Lord Brahma created the universe. Hence, it’s celebration time. Homes are decorated with beautiful rangolis and something special is placed at the house entrance – this is a gudhi flag and together with a coconut, flowers, mango and neem leaves, it is set on a silver or copper vessel. The streets come alive with gudi padwa street processions complete with dancing and music. A special feast of shrikhand, jalebis and prasad made of neem and jaggery adds to the festivities.
Gangaur, Jaipur, April 8-9
Counted among some of the most important festivals of Rajasthan, Gangaur is dedicated to Lord Shiva and His consort Parvati. On this day, women pray to Parvati- the goddess of beauty, strength and power- to bless them with a husband like Shiva. Jaipur sees a beautiful procession of women carrying earthen lamps called ghudilas that starts from the Zanani-Deodhi of the City Palace and moves towards the city’s Talkatora. They place these lamps on the waters of the Talkatora and as evening descends these present a spectacular sight. Feasts of ghewar sweets are a must on this day.
Baisakhi, Punjab, April 14
For visitors in Punjab, it is difficult to escape the joyous feel of the festival that brings in much merriment and laughter. Celebrated on the day when the tenth Sikh guru founded the Khalsa Panth cult around 300 years ago, people visit gurudwaras from early morning to offer prayers, and have the community langar. Shutterbugs are sure to be fascinated by the spectacular processions taken out in many cities to mark the day. In the villages, fairs, complete with exuberant bhangra and gidda dances are organized.
Rama Navami, Ayodhya and all over India, April 14
Celebrated over a period of nine days, this major Hindu festival marks the birth of Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Vishnu, the Preserver of the Hindu Trinity. Major celebrations take place in Ayodhya, believed to be Rama’s birthplace. In many traditional homes, the Ramayana is recited on all nine days and on the last day, special prayers are conducted. Goddess Durga too is invoked and little girls are offered prasad of halwa-poori and gifts.
Bihu, Assam, April 15-21
As spring slowly starts spreading its magic, the people of Assam get set to welcome their New Year. A week-long celebration lies in store as homes are spruced up, new outfits bought and plans chalked out to spend time with family and friends. Traditional festivities include worship of cattle in which they are first bathed and cleaned and then offered goodies to devour. Besides a grand feast, everyone takes off for the fun filled fairs that are organized to mark the occasion and watch performances of the graceful Bihu dance done by young boys and girls.
Sankat Mochan Music Festival, Varanasi, April 23-29
This is one of those sangeet samarohas that music lovers from across the world attend, to not just mark attendance and invoke Lord Hanuman at the historic Sankatmochan Hanuman Temple but also listen to some of the top music artistes such as Pandit Jasraj, Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt Vishwamohan Bhat, Pt Rajan-Sajan Mishra and Anup Jalota who have performed here. What makes the festival unique is that it starts at about 7.30 in the evening and carries on till the wee hours. The performances conclude with the morning aarti.