As the almanac is slowly making way for the monsoon to shower its blessings on the arid, parched landscape, everyone looks forward to welcoming the refreshing and cool showers. The joy and excitement of it all will be further enhanced with the celebration of fun filled festivals that July has packed in. We take a look at some of them!
Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh
It’s that time of the year when Arunachal Pradesh’s Ziro Valley comes alive with the agricultural festival of the Apatani tribe called Dree. All about fun, feasting and prayer, the festivities start from a day before when women start preparing rice beer which is an important part of the festival. Prayers are offered to the local deities with offerings and sacrifices of fowls and eggs, and devotees ask for blessings for happiness and a good harvest. While traditional song and dance programmes are organised all across, at home it’s time for a feast complete with pungent rice along with some millet beer.
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This is one of those festivals that will not fail to overwhelm visitors with its colour and pageantry. On this day, the idol of Lord Jagannath (Krishna), his brother Balarama and sister Subhadra are carried in beautifully decorated massive chariots for a visit to the Gundicha Temple. The streets look as if a sea of humanity has descended there to be part of the rituals that entail pulling of the 50-metre long ropes of the chariot to receive the Lord’s blessings.
Dedicated to the Goddess Mahakali, this festival is celebrated in the month of Ashada Masam. Special prayers are performed on the day as thanksgiving for the fulfilment of vows. Women prepare rice cooked with milk and jaggery in new brass utensils or earthenware. With a lighted lamp placed on top, these pots decorated with neem leaves, turmeric and vermilion are carried by women on their heads to the local temple. Amidst much singing and dancing, these are offered to the Goddess.
International Mango Festival
Not for nothing is mango called the king of fruits. And this time of the year is to savour the taste of this majestic seasonal fruit that the markets are flooded with. People throng the festival at Dilli Haat not just to interact with its growers and sellers from different mango growing regions like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, and Haryana but also to get educated about its multifarious uses. And yes, to carry bags of varieties of mangoes home as well.
Dedicated to the birth of the Buddhist god Padmasambhava, the Hemis festival that is celebrated on the 10th day of the Tibetan lunar month, is about the victory of good over evil. The large courtyard of the Hemis Monastery is where tales of war between forces of good and evil are performed by the chams (performers) dressed in traditional multi-hued brocade outfits and their faces behind huge, centuries-old colourful masks. Their synchronised dance movements to the sounds of trumpets, cymbals and drums are fascinating to watch.
Ladakh Polo Festival
Situated at an altitude of 3,000 metres, this gorgeous Land of High Passes offers a unique festival of polo. The game here is different since it is played on arid land and hence becomes more competitive and demanding than anywhere else. The festival also offers a chance to enjoy the varied vignettes of Ladakh including song and dance performances, archery and other traditional games. Indigenous cuisine including thukpa, mok mok, chutai-sku (local pasta) and kholak (barley) is also on offer.
After the conclusion of the arduous sowing season, members of the Jaintia tribe in the Jowai region of Meghalaya start preparing for this three-day festival that is also believed to chase away the demon of cholera. People pray for a happy and healthy life and offer special sweets to their deities. There is much celebration as chariot rides are taken out and later idols are immersed in the river waters. Also part of the festival is a special ball game where teams put in their best as it is believed that the winners will get a better crop on their land in the coming season.
Champakulam Boat Race
Snake boats are the most spectacular sights in Kerala that enthral visitors. One of these, the oldest rather, is held in Champakulam. Crowds throng on the Pampa River and it is a delight to see enormous sized boats with rowers all waiting for a signal for the race to begin. And when it does, action on the river gets the heart racing too as boats seem to surge ahead, slicing the river waters with effortless ease. The mood is exhilarant as ancient boat songs play in the background.
No visitor to Kerala can help but marvel at the way everyone there treats its state animal- the elephant- with great reverence. And on Njangattiri Aanayoottu, a grand ceremony sees these pachyderms being offered a special feast at the Njangattiri Bhagavathi Temple at Pattambi in the Palakkad district. Special medicated food, based on the principles of Ayurveda, is prepared and on the day, elephants are lined up in the temple premises and offered this delicious and healthy food. People from all walks of life come to feed them and be blessed in return.