Chasing the Festivities
Written by Black Swan Journeys
January 28, 2015
Being in the right place at the right time has its perks! And when the occasion is centred on a celebration, it is like an icing on the cake. We at Black Swan Journeys want you to not only experience the best that a place has to offer but also soak in the energy of a place when it is at its glorious best! From colours to music to dance to prayers we invite you to explore India through its fairs & festivals.
Holi: On 6th Mar 2015
Celebrated throughout India, Holi is a spring festival of colours and of great religious significance. In celebration of harvest and fertility, people smear each other with gulal (bright hued powders) and pour coloured water on anyone within range – watch out! Make your way to Barsana and see the infamous Lathmaar Holi celebrations, in context of which local women chase the men from nearby Nandgaon with sticks! The festivities begin about a week before Holi, so get your-self there early. For a more traditional Holi, head to Mathura & Vrindavan the land where it all began. Mathura is where Lord Krishna was born, while Vrindavan was where he spent his childhood. Holi is a more zealous celebration in the land of Lord Shiva, Varanasi. Here not only are the streets filled with colour but a good dose of bhang & gujia (sweet) push the fun up a notch!
Image Credit: Flickr DocBudie
Hemis Festival: On 26th & 27th June 2015
The Hemis Monatery is located about 45Km from Leh in the Ladakh region of the state of Jammu & Kashmir in India. After a long harsh winter, the region wakes up to a colourful extravaganza. Held at the Hemis Gompa – the largest in Ladakh, this festival is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche) venerated as the Dance Performance at Hemis Monastery representative reincarnate of Buddha. Traditional dances are performed by masked monks accompanied by drums and trumpets. If you are planning a trip to this region and are able to time it during this period, it will add a tinge of colour to the otherwise beautiful arid landscape.
Ramadan: Between 18th Jun to 17th Jul 2015 (the dates may vary depending on the sighting of the moon.)
In this holy month of Ramadan (Ramazan) the Muslims fast during the day and feast during the night. If you are a foodie this is the festival for you! As the sun goes down dig into some mouth-watering street food on Mohammed Ali Road in Mumbai. It comes alive with the aromas of spices and fried meat. For the best Haleem head to Hyderabad! Wheat, meat & lentil porridge like dish which is painstakingly cooked for hours is devoured here. With the shrill siren marking the end of fasting for the day, the streets fill up with vendors and foodies to sample the pots of Hyderabadi Biryani & Haleem finished with qubani-ka-meetha. If you have a big appetite and a liking for meats plan a trip to these destinations to sample some traditionally cooked dishes during Ramadan.
Nehru Boat Race: 8th Aug 2015 (2nd Saturday in Aug.)
Specially crafted boats about 100 feet long and rowed by an equal number of oarsmen rush through the Punnamda lake. Thousands of frenzied spectators throng the banks on either side to view this spectacle where the calm and serene lake turns into a track of fire! The rowing is in tune and synchronised with the drummers who accompany these oarsman. Started out as an impromptu race to welcome the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to Alleppey in 1952; it has grown into a major attraction for the locals and tourists alike. You could view it from the banks or get a closer view from the houseboats that float on the lake. On some boats you will also have mouth watering local cuisine served to you to take you through the day! Make sure you plan well in advance as tickets and stays get sold out quite a bit in advance.
Ganesh Chaturthi: Celebrations start on 17th Sept 2015
A 10 day long festival celebrating the birth of Lord Ganesh; it is largely celebrated in the states of Maharashtra, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Goa. The festivities begin long before the actual date as many giant idol makers start working on their master pieces many months in advance. The city of Mumbai comes alive with colours and street processions, making it one of the most interesting ones to see, especially the Lal Baugcha Raja. To witness the immersion, head to Girgaum (or Chowpatty) beach which is where the largest idols are immersed, after making their way through central Mumbai. For a more traditional experience visit the pandals of Pune. The Kasba Ganpati, the patron deity of Pune leads the immersion procession on the last day of the festivities. When it comes to Ganesh Chturthi, one thing that all celebrations have in common is the sound of the Dhol. The sound is catchy, rhythmic, and has a divine effect. Enjoy all this with some mouth watering modaks (sweets)!
Image Credit: Flickr Shirshasin Ghosh
Durga Puja: From 18th Oct to 23rd Oct 2015
A festival celebrated with great religious fervour & joy throughout India, but largely in Bengal. Durga, the consort of Mahadeva, is worshipped for wealth, power, fame and beauty to triumph difficulties. In 1757, an elaborate puja was even held in honour of Robert Clive by Raja Nabakrishna Deb of Calcutta. Lord Clive wished to pay thanks for his victory in the Battle of Plassey, which established East India Company rule in Bengal, but the only church in Kolkata (then Calcutta) had been destroyed in battle, thus a puja was held at Deb’s home instead. Now-a-days however, community puja’s are held all over Kolkata. The city of Kolkata glitters up in lights, music and colours of joy and celebrations. A great time to be in Bengal for all the food and sweets you get!
Pushkar Camel Fair: From 18th to 25th Nov 2015
The period of the camel fare brings a barrage of colours to this desert city of Pushkar in Rajasthan. It is celebrated in two parts – first few days being the camel trading days & the latter days a more religious gathering. Pushkar Camel fair is a grand event in Rajasthan cherished with activities such as cultural and musical events, camel safari tours and stays in traditional camps making you feel like a local.
Image Credit: Flickr Vikramjit Kakati
Hornbill Festival: From 1st to 10th Dec 2015
A festival started about a decade ago to revive, sustain, promote and protect the indigenous culture of Nagaland, it is one of the fastest growing festivals of India. Named after the bird of the same name, revered by the Nagas, it celebrates tribal folklore, dances & songs. An initiative by the State tourism, it brings together the various tribes in the region with their vibrant attire and a rich extravaganza of traditions. If you are a music lover don’t leave early, as evenings are reserved for Band performances from across the country. Soak in the atmosphere, enjoy local delicacies and don’t forget to pick up some souvenirs as you make your way around the Kisama Heritage Village during the festival.
Image Credit: Flickr Rann Utsav
Rann Utsav: From Dec 2015 to Mar 2016
With a unique topography & a rustic charm, this salt marsh spread across an area of about 10,000 sq miles lies between the Gulf of Kutch & the mouth of the Indus River in Pakistan. A dry and arid region in the summer months, it is abuzz with colour and activity during the winters. One of the most ecologically diverse regions in India, it appears as an endless desert running till the edge of the horizon; but is in fact a seasonal island. It comprises of the Great Rann, Little Rann & Banni Grasslands. This vast desert expanse comes alive during the winters when the annual festival brings the barren land to life with music & colours. Head here if you would love to soak in the culture of Gujarat right from folk dances to food.
We’d love to help you with planning your holiday during these and other such vibrant festivals and fairs around India; write to us at [email protected]