It won’t be wrong if we called India the festival capital of the world. It may be right to say that Indians can find reasons to make merry 24/7 and on almost all 365 days. You name it and find it – festival of lights, of colors, of dance and music, of religion, culture or the street carnival. India has it all. And every Indian takes full advantage of these festive occasions allowing grandeur to prevail over the characteristic simplicity of their lifestyle.
Don't miss these 6 festivals of India if you want to capture the color, culture, spirituality and hospitality that is available in abundance in this holy country. These festivals have the ability to intoxicate you with its grandiose by getting you mentally, emotionally and physically involved in every bit of the merry making process.
Throughout the country, especially North of India
Holi is celebrated to welcome the spring season. People believe spring is full of colors so they throw colored water on each other. Hence, it is also called the festival of colors - colors of joy, happiness and laughter. It is that time of the year when people unwind, de-stress and bond with family and friends by splashing colors on their loved ones.
This festival is celebrated for two to three days. Day one – Holika Dahan– has spiritual significance. People burn the holy pyre and celebrate the death of Holika, the devil. On the next day – Rangwali Holi - they apply colored powder, splash water balloons, and spray colored water on each other to mark the victory of virtue and goodness over evil.
Throughout the country
It is an ancient Hindu religious festival and certainly one of the brightest, biggest and most popular festivals of India. It is the festival of lights – lights of peace and prosperity. Marked with firework displays and family feasts, Diwali, is a five-day festival celebrated every Autumn, by millions of people across the world. Indians light clay lamps outside their homes which symbolizes the inner spiritual light that protects us from the worldly darkness outside. Diwali again, irrespective of faith and religion marks the victory of good over evil.
Diwali is 5 days of festivities. It is marked-open by the women of the house who consider the first day of Diwali to be auspicious to spring clean the home and shop for gold or kitchen utensils.
On the second day, families spend time decorating their homes with clay lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders, flower petals or sand.
Day three is dedicated to worshipping the Goddess of Wealth, Goddess Lakshmi, followed by mouth-watering feasts and firework festivities. On the fourth day friends and relatives visit and wish each other a Happy and Prosperous New Year. The last day of Diwali is meant for brothers to visit their married sisters with gifts and goodies and for sisters to offer their love and prayers of protection from evil forces.
If you want to witness firsthand the Indian family values and social ties, then Diwali is the time for you to be in India.
3. Durga Puja
Celebrated by Hindus all over India, albeit with different names
The festival of Durga Puja marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. Thus, Durga Puja, just like Diwali and Holi festivals, epitomizes the victory of good over evil. Goddess Durga is worshipped across the country as the destroyer of evil and the protector of her devotees.
Several Hindu communities celebrate this festival at the same time of the year in different ways in different parts of India - the Garba Dance of Gujarat, Ramlila of Varanasi, Dusshera of Mysore, and Durga Puja of Bengal are just a few that need special mention. One will be mesmerized to see how the same festival is observed as a dance and music festival in Gujarat, theatrical extravaganza in Varanasi, public spectacle in Mysore and in religious sanctity in West Bengal.
4. Ganesh Chaturthi
Although Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with great devotion all over India it is one of the most awaited festivals in Mumbai, Maharashtra
You’ve got to dance, sing and actually be a part of the fun celebrations to know why is it such a celebrated festival of India.
India celebrates this 10-day-long festival every year in honor of the elephant-headed god, Ganesha. However, the festival preparations begin several weeks in advance with the preparation of a life-like clay model of Lord Ganesha which is installed in several public places. At home, families decorate a small, clean corner with flowers and other colorful items before installing the idol. Sweets, coconuts, flowers and players are offered to the idol prior to immersion day, the Visarjan divas.
It is believed that god returns to his heavenly abode after ten days of fun and festivity. Onlookers witness great vigor and enthusiasm for the farewell procession in which the idol of Lord Ganesha is carried by the devotees in a procession accompanied by singers, dancers, acrobats and priests.
5. Pushkar Camel Fair
Pushkar town in Rajasthan, West of India
The Pushkar Camel Fair, for its unimaginable scale and grandeur, it is rated as one of India’s top-rated travel experiences. Each November, more than 300,000 people and 50,000 animals convene in a dusty town in Rajasthan for one of India’s most spectacular festivals.
Apart from the buying and selling of livestock, it has become an important tourist attraction and known to attract thousands of people, camels, sheep, cows and goat from across boundaries.
This place hosts a wacky fun fair too; the type you can find only in India. You’ll recognize the Ferris wheels, but you’ve probably never experienced an Indian “Cage of Death,” an exposed cement roundabout, where cars and bikes swirl in a horizontal kamikaze crash course, defying both gravity and common sense.
Tourists and vacationers come up-close with the rich culture, tradition, heritage, monuments and the Pushkar Camel Fair with our exclusive and exotic Royal Rajasthan itinerary.
6. Hemis Festival
Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, India
The Hemis Festival is two days of festivities that marks the birth anniversary of the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Guru Padamasambhava. It is a joyous occasion that gets the Ladakhis to perform mask dances to the sounds of cymbals, trumpets and drums and is held annually in the 300 years old Hemis Monastery. Similar to two other major Indian festivals – Dusshera and Diwali, this one too imparts the message from the epic Ramayana, of triumph of good over evil and everyone returns home with unforgettable memories of this celebration.
The festivities are ushered in with an early morning ritual atop the Gumpa, where the guru's portrait is ceremoniously put up on display to the sounds of beating drums, clashing cymbals and the spiritual wail of trumpets and pipes. The highlight of the festival is the mask dance that is performed by the Lamas garbed in extravagant costumes and brightly painted masks and gathered around the central flag pole, to celebrate the victory of good over evil.
So, the Hemis is only one of the many reasons why our Valley of God cycling tour is a must for any avid traveler.
India is not done celebrating yet! Stay tuned as we bring you some more color from the contours of India. Meanwhile, if you’re already inspired to plan your dream trip to India get in touch with us and we’ll make it happen!