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The India festival calendar: September–October 2013

Ganesh Visarjan.
Image courtesy: Creative Commons/Chris

It’s autumn heralding a line of colourful Indian festivals and holiday season.Check this ready reckoner and plan your itineraries.

Ganesh Chaturthi, 9 September: Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with fanfare and is special in Maharashtra, the Konkan Coast, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and southern states except Kerala. Colourful clay idols of Ganesh are decorated and worshipped at homes and in temples nine days prior to Ganesh Chaturthi. And on the 10th day, the idol is paraded through the streets before being ceremonially immersed in water (rivers, lakes and sea) amidst much aplomb.

Tarnetar Fair, 9–11 September: If you are westbound, the Tarnetar fair will lure the offbeat traveller. The Saurashtran fair in the village of Tarnetar transports you to the time of Draupadi’s Swayamvar. Young women and men seeking partners arrive here in large numbers. Folk dances like raas and rahado are performed by hundreds of women to beats of traditional instruments. Enjoy this fete like ambience, food stalls, handicraft shops and hundreds people milling into the fair in traditional outfits.

Onam, 16 September: Ten days of festivities unfold as Kerala’s major festival of Onam approaches. Onam is a Hindu festival associated with the harvest of the season as well as the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali. The snake boat races and cultural sports like Talappanthukali, archery, dances and martial combats are performed. Don’t miss the veg Sadya (traditional meal). If you are travelling to Ernakulam, try this at BTH Sarovaram (ph 0484 2305519).

Ladakh Festival, 20–26 September: This festival is a cultural extravaganza with traditional mask dances, expeditions on wheels till Khardungla, handicraft exhibitions, archery competitions and even polo matches.

Aranmula Snake Boat Race.
Image courtesy: Creative Commons/ Arun Sinha

Aranmula Snake Boat Race, 20 September: The small town of Aranmula on the banks of River Pamba comes alive as preparations for the annual snake boat race begin on the heels of Onam. Narrow snake boats laden with over 100-team members row rhythmically through the river track, inducing the otherwise quiet village with a spirit of festivity.

Dasera in Mysore, October 5–13: The heritage city of Mysore is at its vibrant best during the 10-day Dasera festival, which continues a tradition started by the Vijayanagar kings in the 15th century. The festival starts with a procession of decorated elephants led by the Maharaja of Mysore – a grand spectacle. Every evening, the Maharaja’s Palace is dramatically lit up, while the town is transformed into a gigantic fairground, with concerts, dance performances, sporting demonstrations and cultural events. On the last day, Vijayadashami, the celebrations are capped off with a dazzling torchlight procession.

Durga idol at Hatibagan Nalin Sarkar Street Sarbojanin, North Kolkata.
Image courtesy: Creative Commons/ Jonoikobangali

Durga Puja, 9–13th October: If there’s any place to witness the gala of this festival with folk art, crafts and the grandeur of festive celebrations this is it in Kolkata. The sculpted Durga idols will come to life starting the first week of October. West Bengal Tourism tours try to take tourists around a selection of the best pandals but getting anywhere within the city can take hours given the general festive pandemonium.

Ramlila 5–13: Witness the dramatic re-enactment of the battle between Lord Ram and Ravan performed in many north Indian cities including Ramnagar, Delhi, Allahabad and Varanasi. This performance is mainly by Brahmin youths aided by masks, music, dancing and giant papier-mâché figures. Ramnagar’s Ram Lila is said to be the most authentic till date.

Marwar Festival, 16 October: Jodhpur hosts the colourful Marwar Festival or the Maand festival. The three main venues are Umaid Bhavan, Mehrangarh Fort and Mandore. Folk dances, music and cultural performances are the highlights. Since Jodhpur is a tourist destination, it is better to detour 8km away to Mandore, where you can get an upclose experience of the performances.


With a penchant for travelling ‘ungoogled’, Supriya has willingly got lost a number of times in the most obscure places of India for the last 8 years. She lives on a healthy diet of anecdotes and tea with auto drivers, co-passengers and locals! Supriya currently runs a Bangalore based travel-photography outfit called Photography Onthemove and writes regular features for India and International travel publications. More on