India is a country well known for its many languages, religions, cultures and a multitude of exciting and colourful festivals that are unlike anything you’ve ever seen!
If you are lucky enough to be travelling to this fascinating corner of the world, what better way to discover the culture of India than by immersing yourself in a festival? Across India you’ll discover age old traditions, fireworks, elaborately dressed elephants and street parades that will leave you in wide-eyed amazement – and with memories you’ll unlikely to forget.
If you are planning a trip, why not try to coordinate it with a festival? We’ve selected 10 of the best to make sure there is something for everyone.
Our list begins with what is arguably India’s most famous and biggest celebration – the five-day long “Festival of Lights”. Diwali announces the start of the Hindu New Year and sees countless lamps, candles and fireworks light up the night across the country in order to welcome the goddess of wealth. Households start preparing weeks in advance by stocking up on sweets and flowers. This is an atmospheric festival that will make you fall in love with India.
When: October and November
Where: All over India
2. International Kite Festival
Thousands of kite enthusiasts soar into India for this hugely popular event each year. Traditionally the festival marked the day when winter begins to turn into summer, and is a signal to farmers that the harvest season is approaching. During the two-day public holiday countless brightly coloured kites are launched into the sky from sunrise until sunset. A family friendly event, visitors can also take part in kite painting competitions, workshops and enjoy plenty of delicious food.
When: 14th and 15th January
Where: Gujarat, Uttarayan
3. Ganesh Chaturthi
This 11-day festival celebrates the birthday of Lord Ganesha – the elephant-headed god – who is one of the most popular deities in the Hindu religion. Statues of Ganesha are displayed in people’s homes and at the end of the event they are carried down the street during extravagant ceremonial processions that include much dancing and singing, before being immersed in the nearest river, sea or well.
When: 17th September
Where: All over India
4. Krishna Janmashtami
This fun festival runs for two days and honours the birthday of a rather mischievous Lord Krishna, who was said to love milk, butter and ghee. Legend has it that the little Lord would steal curd from people’s homes, so housewives hung it up high out of his way – but he would return with friends and together they would climb up to get it! As such, the highlight of the festival is the Dahi Handi, when clay pots containing money, butter and curd are suspended high in the air from buildings and groups of men form human pyramids to try and smash them open.
When: 5th and 6th September
Where: All over India, but Mumbai is one of the best places to celebrate
5. International Yoga Festival
If you’re a yoga fanatic then how about a dedicated festival in the home of the discipline on the banks of the holy Ganges River? The world famous International Yoga Festival is a celebration of good living though spiritual music, healthy food and of course – plenty of yoga. During the week-long event you can take part in some 60 hours of yoga classes from world-class masters practising multiple styles of yoga including Kundalini Yoga, Power Vinyasa Yoga, Iyengar Yoga and Kriya Yoga.
When: 1-7th March, 2015.
Where: Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh
6. Holi Festival
Known as the festival of colours, Holi is hugely popular and sees participants throwing coloured powder and water balloons at each other! There’s also bonfire burning, music and plenty of lip-smacking food to enjoy. Celebrating the triumph of good over evil, this is a lot of fun if you don’t mind getting messy – and it certainly makes for some incredible photos!
When: 6th March
Where: Held across India – but for one with elephants, head to Eleholi
7. Kerala Temple Festivals
And if you’re an elephant aficionado then head to the southern Indian state of Kerala for its exotic temple festivals. The star attraction here are the elephants who take part in large processions while dressed up in an ostentatious manner. Thrissur Pooram is considered to be the mother of all temple festivals. Over seven days you’ll see colourful floats, talented musicians, evening fireworks and ple
nty of our four-legged friends.
When: 29th April
8. Camel Festival Bikaner
9. Onam Harvest Festival
Alternatively the Onam Harvest Festival is said to showcase the best that the state of Kerala has to offer. It marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali and is spread out over 10 days. During this time you can enjoy snake boat races (pictured above), exotic dances, elaborate feasts, energetic games and more elephants. A highlight of the festival are impressive floral decorations laid out in front of people’s homes – cameras are a must.
When: August 28th
Where: Across Kerala
10. Independence Day
A nationwide event, Independence Day commemorates the day in 1947 when India gained its liberty from the British after more than 200 years. During the celebrations major government buildings are illuminated, flags flutter from homes and the Delhi skyline is peppered with thousands of kites – the symbol of India’s free spirit and independence. A highlight is the Prime Ministers speech at the Red Fort in Delhi, where the countries new flag was unveiled in 1947. This is a great day to be in India.
When: August 15th
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