8 Spectacular Festivals of India
The India experience would be incomplete without a festival. There are 100s of festivals that offer a unique experience. Let us list eight of these festivals that are most spectacular and offer a definitive experience.
Pushkar Fair (or Pushkar Mela) is India’s most popular cattle fair where camels, horses and cattle have been traded for many centuries alongwith festivities and celebrations. Over 200,000 visitors arrive for the fair and flock the town of Pushkar (150 kms from Jaipur). The events here comprise the longest moustache competition, tug of war, dances and many others. Pushkar Fair is where an international traveller can capture the very essence of India, i.e., its culture, its craft, its people and its colorful rural landscape.
The full moon date during Pushkar fair is when the best events are scheduled and therefore, considered the focal point of the festival. Many transit camp sites are set up around Pushkar town for guests and it is popular for guests to arrive and experience the Pushkar fair for at least 3 days.
Pushkar Fair Dates 2018: 15 to 23 November 2018
World Sacred Sufi Festival
World Sacred Sufi Festival is held in Nagaur Fort (140 kms from Jodhpur) and Mehrangarh Fort every winter where travellers are treated to mesmerising Sufi music. The World Sacred Spirit Festival is considered to rank at the very top of Sufi festivals in the world. It is a stage for some of the greatest artists from all over the planet to showcase their talent and enthrall the audience.
Sufi music has always been a bridge between the East and West, promoting some of the most liberal and accessible aspects of Islam for centuries. Spiritual and passionate, enchanting and exciting, blissful and exotic, Sufi music is unlike any other. A trip to the World Sacred Spirit Festival is not only about enjoying the music, but also about exploring exotic destinations, old world forts and palaces, surreal desert beauty and fascinating cuisines.
It is popular for international travellers to a stay at either Nagaur or Jodhpur for 3 days to enjoy the Sufi festival as part of a Rajasthan itinerary.
World Sacred Sufi Festival 2019
Nagaur Fort: 18 to 20 February 2019
Mehrangarh Fort Jodhpur: 22 to 23 February 2019
Khajuraho Dance Festival
Khajuraho Dance Festival is held every winter in the heritage town of Khajuraho in Central India (a short flight from Delhi). The festival showcases dance forms from regions across India. These dances are performed by some of the most renowned dancers from all over India and across the world against the backdrop of the glorious temples of Khajuraho, which stand a testimony to the glorious past of India’s cultural heritage. The festival is where travellers get a spectacular insight into the rich cultural heritage of India.
It is popular for guests to stay at Khajuraho for 3 days to enjoy the dance festival as part of a Central India heritage itinerary.
Khajuraho Dance Festival 2019 – Nagaur Fort: 25 February to 3 March 2019
Diwali is the Christmas equivalent of India, when families get together to celebrate what is known as the “Festival of Lights”. Diwali is celebrated by lighting lamps, burning firecrackers, preparing special festive snacks and colourfully decorating homes. The festival signifies the homecoming of Lord Rama after a 14-year exile period and is considered the oldest festival in the world. Spending Diwali with an Indian family is one of the novel ways to experience India’s cultural heritage, traditions and enjoying the amazing festive cuisine.
Jaipur is where international travellers may spend their Diwali, celebrating it with a local family over a fun-filled evening that is full of colour, spectacular firecrackers and sumptuous local cuisine.
Diwali 2018: 7 November 2018
Nehru Trophy Boat Race
Nehru Trophy Boat Race is one of the coveted festivals of Kerala (South India). Villages in the backwaters of Kerala compete over a boat race for honours. The race has been an important cultural event in Kerala history for many centuries and remains so even in modern age. The boat race is conducted on the Punnamada Lake, near Alappuzha, on the second Saturday of August every year, while 200,000+ persons watch on the sidelines.
Nehru Trophy Boat Race is a one of its kind spectacle for every traveller to experience in Kerala. It is popular to combine an Alleppey stay for the Nehru Trophy Boat Race as part of a Kerala itinerary.
Nehru Trophy Boat Race 2019: 10 August 2019
Dussehra is a national holiday in India signifying the victory of good over evil. On the day of Dussehra, it is believed that Lord Rama defeated Ravana (as depicted in Ramayana). Dussehra is celebrated differently in different parts of India. A large effigy of Ravana is burnt in many parts of India (most notably Delhi) and large processions are held in some other. Kullu (North India) and Mysore (South India) are two destinations that are most renowned for their Dussehra celebrations. Mysore Dussehra is renowned for its elephant procession with the erstwhile royal family members. Kullu is where the presiding deity is paraded across the town amidst music, dance and celebrations.
Dussehra is experienced by international travellers by combining Mysore or Kullu with other destinations as part of an itinerary.
Dussehra 2018: 19 October 2018
Holi is the festival of colours. It is a day when members of all communities get together to colour each other and enjoy a sense of cultural harmony. Holi marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The eve of Holi is when fire (often household waste is accumulated and burnt signifying getting the rid of the evil from our lives) is lit to celebrate the sacrifice of Holika, a tradition followed by communities across India.
Holi is celebrated differently in different parts of India. The old city of Jaipur and Barsana (near Mathura) are renowned for the most spectacular form of Holi. It is popular for travellers to stay for 2 days at Jaipur or Mathura to experience Holi in its most authentic form.
Holi 2019: Holika Dahan – 20 March 2019, Holi – Festival of Colours: 21 March 2019
Ganesh Festival or Ganeshotsav is celebrated in Western India (especially Mumbai and Pune) during August – September. The festival lasts for 11 days when symbolically, Lord Ganesha presides over the homes of millions of Indians as a “guest”. The homecoming of Lord Ganesha is a social event and is widely celebrated within communities. The 11th day marks the climax when all the Lord Ganesha deities (thousands of them – from 1 ft to 30 ft tall) are immersed in the Arabian Sea or lakes or rivers. The procession leading to the immersion is spectacular, especially at Mumbai by the Arabian Sea where the immersion involves a sea of spectators, hundreds of thousands of Lord Ganesha devotees queuing up to bid adieu to their beloved Lord Ganesha for another year. The chants of “Ganpati Bappa Morya … Pudhchya Varshi Lavkar Ya” (an emotional goodbye meaning beloved Lord Ganesha, come again sooner next year) all through the evening will offer every traveller a memorable experience.
It is popular for international travellers to stay for 2 days in Mumbai to experience Ganeshotsav as part of an India itinerary.
Ganesh Festival 2018: 13 to 23 September 2019
Explore our top holidays for India:
Gaumukh Trek in Garhwal Himalayas
Essentially North: Himalayas, Golden Temple, Delhi
Stunning Palaces of Rajasthan
Birding Tour Chambal-Bharatpur-Ranthambore
Buddhist Monasteries & High Himalayan Drives of Ladakh