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The India festival calendar: July–August 2014

Masked dancers in the courtyard of Hemis Gompa during the annual festival.
Image courtesy: CC BY 2.0/Flickr/rajkumar1220

It’s that time of the year when the scorching summer sun makes way for the thick puffy clouds, and opens up many travel options for the monsoon lover. Celebrate the onset of the monsoon season and attend some of these exciting festivals. Watch the topography of the country explode into a thousand shades of green, with the sound of traditional folk music and festivities in the backdrop!


Hemis Festival in Ladakh, 7th & 8th July: The serene hills around Hemis monastery come alive during its annual festival which is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Guru Padmasambhava. The small courtyard of the ancient monastery is choc-a-bloc with locals and tourists snugly seated to watch the festivities unravel. Elaborate masked dances and music are the biggest draw, apart from the local food that one can sample in stalls outside. There are also a large variety of souvenirs that people can take back home.

Champakulam Snake Boat Race, 11th July: The serene backwaters of the Pamba River explode with energy, as the annual Champakulam Race approaches. Weeks before that, the water splashes with oars and teams from the various villages gear up for the start of the snake boat race season. More than 100 teammates sit on their snake boat and put in their best effort to propel it faster than the others. Besides big prizes, the pride of the village is dependent on this. Some may consider the Champakulam Boat Race more authentic than the more popular Nehru boat race in August, with lesser tourist footfalls.

Teej, 30th and 31st July: The end of July reaches a crescendo of celebration during the Hindu festival of Teej. It is celebrated to commemorate the reunion of Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvati. Rajasthan springs into action, organising parades, dance and music programmes and get-togethers. Married women fast on these days for the well-being of their children and husbands. And if that’s not enough, cross the border and hop into Nepal, where it’s celebrated with equal enthusiasm.


Nehru Snake Boat Race, 9th August: Choose between this, and the more muted Champakulam Race in July, if you want to watch a legendary snake boat race in Kerala. The Nehru Snake boat race is definitely more popular and has much more prize money at stake. This happens in Alappuzha, on the second Saturday of August each year. Packed stands, spilling viewing boats and a winning pavilion full of dignitaries contribute to the frenzied ambiance. In the middle of this, the teams row their snake boats with amazing finesse and enthusiasm in the Punnamada stretch of the backwaters.

Jhapan Mela, 17th August: Though, over the years, the festival has been losing its general sheen, see if you can make a trip to Bengal to catch the Jhapan Mela in mid August. The festival is said to have been originated in the tribal village of Bishnupur and still has a stronger presence there. The festival is dedicated to Lord Shiva. In this, many snake handlers bring out their trusted friends (cobras and other varieties of snakes) to display some fascinating tricks. Snakes veering off the main highways: this is truly for the intrepid traveller.

The energetic Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations is a must-see.
Image courtesy: Nitin Gairola

Ganesh Chaturthi, from 29th August: The states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa end the month of August with the beginning of one of the most joyous festivals, Ganesh Chaturthi. The festival honours the birth of the elephant God and is celebrated for two weeks. Pandals are set up in every locality, a specific place in a Hindu household is decorated as the pedestal of the lord, sweets and greetings are shared amongst friends and relatives and temples footfall shoot up. Afterall, good fortunes are associated with Ganesha.

AUTHOR'S BIO: 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: