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The Indian festival calendar: May – June 2015

The 300-year-old Hemis monastery has crowds pouring in during its annual festival

In country so rich in culture and theme, every festival celebrated here is a sight to behold. And when talking about India’s many festivals, what comes to mind is poet Rabindranath Tagore’s famous line… “You are invited to the festival of this world and your life is blessed”.

Here’s what May and June have in store:


Moatsu Festival, Nagaland

When: 1st week of May

In May, the quiet town of Mokokchung erupts into merriment to celebrate the Moatsu Festival. Members of the Ao tribe celebrate this to laud the harvest bounty as they complete the next batch of sowing. The annual cleaning of fields and houses takes about a week. The community immerses in gatherings by the fire, wearing their best attire and serving scrumptious meals of meat, and wine.

Mount Abu Summer Festival

When: 2 May – 4 May

During this time, the Nakki Lake in Mount Abu becomes a stage where folk singers, qawwals, dancers and performers from different parts of Rajasthan and all over India come together for the annual summer festival.

Buddha Purnima

When: 4 May

The satellite town of Varanasi, Sarnath, comes alive on this day, as the entire city celebrates the birth anniversary of Gautum Buddha. The festival is celebrated with fervour in all Buddhist strongholds of the country like Sarnath and Gaya. Even though this is peak summer for the region, the cool shady Mulagandhakuti Vihara temple in Sarnath is bustling with activity. The festival draws thousands from different parts of the world.

Chithirai Festival

When: 21 April – 7 May

During this time, people enjoy the grand wedding of Lord Shiva and Meenakshi in Madurai’s Meenakshi Temple. Legend has it that even Lord Vishnu himself came on a golden horse to attend this. The 3500-year-old temple is the heart of spiritual fervour during this period – chariot processions, devotional songs and numerous pujas continue throughout the fortnight.

Ganga Dussehra

When: 28 May

Varanasi can easily be given the moniker of the festival capital of India. Ganga Dussehra, too, is celebrated with great alacrity in the city.  This is the day when Goddess Ganga descended on earth in the form of a river. During this time, you’ll find the ghats lit up and the temples even busier than usual as thousands from different parts of the country collect here to bathe on the holy ghats.



Ganga Dussehra is celebrated with great alacrity in Varanasi
Image courtesy: Pritam Saha

Sindhu Darshan Festival

When: 1 June – 3 June

Celebrated on the banks of the river Sindhu (Indus) in Leh, the festival is held to commemorate the mighty river that snakes through the high mountains of the region. As a part of this, many bring water from the other mighty rivers in the country in earthen pots and immerse these pots in the Sindhu River. It is one of the unexplored festivals in Leh, one that is rife with colours.

The Dharamsala Film Festival

When: 11 June – 13 June

Love movies and heading to the hills when you get a chance? Then head to the Dharamsala Film Festival held in upper Dharamsala in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. This year will mark the fourth edition of the festival, which celebrates consciousness and creativity through alternative cinema, giving a chance to young and upcoming filmmakers to showcase their work. The festival features work from all over the world.

Sao Joao Feast of St John the Baptist

When: 24 June

Fast becoming a part of the itineraries of Goa-bound travellers, this is one the most famous Christian festivals of the state. Expect to see young men jump in wells, shouting ‘San Joao,’ and the local beverage, feni, being consumed in copious amounts. Like any other Goan feast, it too, has that captivating spirit of merriment and tradition. During this time, colourfully-dressed locals congregate near a stream front to see bedecked boats and floats.

Hemis Festival

When: 26 June – 27 June

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.

Ochira Kali

When: Dates to be announced

This unique festival is celebrated at Ochira, near Quilon (Kollam) city, in Kerala. The festival is held in commemoration of a battle between the kings of Quilon and Kayamkulam. Mock battles between two groups, representing the ancient adversaries, take place in knee-deep water. The fight is conducted from 8am to 11am on the first day and between 12pm and 3pm on the second day, with only the Nair community allowed to get on the battlefield. The festival is a great photographic opportunity to cover one of the most traditional and authentic local festivals of Kerala.

Festival dates are subject to change by the organisers.

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: