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The India festival calendar: November–December 2013

Naga warriors in ethnic regalia assemble for Kohima’s Hornbill festival.
Image courtesy: Supriya Sehgal

As autumn rolls into winter India’s best and glittering festivals warm up the atmosphere. Plan your holidays for a joyful end to the year.


Diwali, 3 November: ‘Victory of good over evil’ is the common theme that binds many festivals in India. Of these, two of the most important ones, Dusherra (Oct) and Diwali are connected with the epic, Ramayana. Diwali is the day when Lord Ram is said to have returned from his exile to Ayodhya. One of India’s prettiest festivals, Diwali is celebrated by giving gifts, lighting fireworks, and burning oil lamps (or hanging lanterns) to lead Lord Ram home from exile.

Dev Deepavali & Ganga Mahotsav, 14–17 November: Fifteen days post Diwali head to Varanasi for Dev Deepavali and the Ganga Mahotsav, one of the grandest festivals celebrated on the banks of River Ganga. It is believed that during Dev Deepavali, Gods descend upon earth to celebrate Diwali. The four-day celebration includes dance and music shows as well as local craft exhibitions for the first three days. On the fourth day, all the ghats are lit up by thousands of earthen lamps.

Pushkar Fair, 9– 17 November: The pale brown sandy dunes of Pushkar erupt into a colourful frenzy during the annual Pushkar Fair in Rajasthan. Each year around 200,000 people converge here to trade livestock. Trading begins a week before the official fair, but by the time the actual mela starts, business takes a backseat and side acts such as snake charmers, performing acrobats, moustache and turban contests, or just seeing how many people can balance on a camel, take centre stage.

Bundi Utsav, 20–21 November: The two-day festival held in Bundi, Rajathan showcases the best of Rajasthani culture. Cultural shows, processions, crafts fair and fun competitions like turban tying takes place against the backdrop of the city’s fort.

Kolayat Fair, 9–17 November: This too is a cattle fair, this too is held in Rajasthan but the fact that it is a lot less touristy makes the Kolayat or Kapil Muni Fair in Bikaner a lot more appealing. The most striking part of the festival is the ritual of floating clay lanterns into the lake.



Hornbill Festival, 1–7 December: Nagaland’s biggest annual jamboree, the Hornbill Festival sees the culmination of 16 Naga tribes in the capital city of Kohima. This weeklong cultural, dance and sporting bash, is the most spectacular and photogenic festival in the Northeast. The seemingly traditional festival ends on a modern note with the famous rock & metal festival.

Rann Utsav, 1517 December: The barren salt flats of Kutch come alive during the glamourous Rann Utsav in December.  Make Dhordo village your base and enjoy the local music, dance and check out the vividly colourful textiles that glitter with exquisite embroidery and mirrorwork.

Chennai Music Festival, 15 December–15 January: The largest month-long music festival is one of the most eagerly awaited events in the city. Chennai breaks into a medley of classical Carnatic song and dance kutchery (concerts) to bring the year down.

Konark Festival, 1–5 December: Of the many dance festivals held in Orissa, the Konark festival invites the most interest. While Odissi performances are the biggest draw, you can also see Kathak, Mohiniattam and Sattriya performances.

India Art Festival, 19–22 December: If you are an art aficionado, head to Mumbai to witness the best of contemporary art by Indian artistes. The festival exhibits paintings, mixed media artworks, sculptures, installations, contemporary digital art, photographs by numerous artists.

Christmas, 25 December: With its centuries-old Christian history, Christmas is truly special in India. Visit Calcutta (St Paul’s Cathedral) for the midnight mass and don’t forget to devour the truly delish Christmas pudding and cakes at Flurry’s. Christmas and New Year is a fun time to visit Goa which is at its carnivalesque best. Visit the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Panaji’s gleamingly white and oh-so-photogenic main church.


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