In a 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 September and October have in store.
1. Ganesha Chaturthi
Though Mumbai holds the bastion of Ganesh Chaturthi hysteria, the birth of the elephant-headed god is celebrated with equal gusto in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. But if you really want to immerse yourself in the madness, then Mumbai is the place to be. The celebrations here are certainly not for the faint-hearted. The best way to see all the action is to visit one of the five famous pandals in the city (Ichhapurti Ganesh Mandal, Fort Vibhag Ganesh Utsav Mandal, Sarvajanik Utsav Mandal, Rangari Badak Chawl Mandal, Akhil, Anjeerwadi Mandal, Kamatchawl Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal). Here, a large idol of Ganesha looms over the area packed with people. At home, the celebrations are more sober. What you really shouldn’t miss is the visarjan, when the mighty idols are immersed in the water.
When: 17 September -27 September
Where: Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Orissa, and Puducherry.
2. Krishna Janmashtami
This event marks the birthday of Lord Krishna who is revered as an important reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is believed that Krishna’s birth was not without purpose. Quite the opposite. His arrival meant the end of all things dark and evil. And, so, as custom will have it, celebrations begin at midnight and span the entire country, making it an important Hindu festival. Mathura and Vrindavan are two places where the celebrations touch a high crescendo.
When: 5 September
Where: all over the country
3. Ladakh Festival
As the touristy summer months come to a close, Ladakh slips into a cultural extravaganza with an entertaining cycle of events including a carnivalesque opening parade, Buddhist dances, polo, music and archery. For those who are more interested in the culture of the region, this is the best time to visit.
When: 20 September – 26 September
Where: Leh, Ladakh
1. Rajasthan International Folk Festival
One of the most ethereal experiences for folk music lovers, RIFF is a unique venue where folk artistes from all over the world converge on a stage to create nothing short of magic. With the gorgeous Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur as a backdrop, it’s no wonder that the festival has been gaining ground over the last few years. Multiple stages around the fort ensure that the performances stay personal and intimate for all guests. Note: Tickets available online from 7 September. For more information, check out their website: http://www.jodhpurriff.org/
When: 23 October – 27 October
Where: Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur city
2. Mysore Dasara
The festival culminates on the streets of the city, in the form of large processions showcasing the state’s cultural gems. The royal patronage ensures access to both visitors and locals to witness these parades and be a part of another legend; Goddess Chamundeshwari’s win over the demon, Mahishasur. Arrive here a day early and get a good spot in the front row of the seating area to see the traditional art forms unfold in front you. One can also take part in a kite flying competition, which has become extremely popular over the years.
When: 13 October – 23 October
Where: Mysore, Karnataka
3. Durga Puja
Durga Puja is celebrated to mark the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. For around five days people venerate elaborately painted idols of the goddess Durga and her entourage displayed in pandals that dominate yards, block roads and fill little parks. The festival brings the Bengali community together for a week of fasting, feasting, dancing and finally leading up to the immersion of the idol in water.
When: 18 October – 23 October
Where: celebrated throughout the country but with extra vigour in West Bengal and other eastern states
This is one festival that is commonly celebrated pretty much throughout India. Celebrated to honour the Mother Goddess in all her manifestations, including Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, one can see the buzz spread out in various cities like Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai. What makes this festival particularly special is the enactment of Ramlila in many parts of the countries. This theatrical performance of the Ramayana takes one back to the simpler times when this was the only source of learning and entertainment. Be sure to see this in Varanasi and Ramnagar, where it is enacted in the most traditional way.
When: 13 October – 21 October
Where: various cities like Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai
Festival dates are subject to change by the organisers.
Text: Supriya Sehgal.