India is a land where festivals flow through her veins to render a perpetual appearance of gaiety as well as festivity. This is a country that boasts of a rich cultural legacy that has its root in time immemorial. No festival in our country is big or small. Each festival has an appeal to a certain section of society. Hence we celebrate each festival in their unique charm with unfettered enthusiasm and heart. You would witness this enduring aspect of our country as you travel along where, commemorations feasts, fast etc. finds impromptu celebrations.
1. Rural Olympics
Where: Ludhiyana, Punjab
We all know about the summer Olympics, but do you know about the Kila Raipur Rural Olympics in Punjab?? A weird name indeed, but it attracts million of visitors every year. This unusual festival is the brain-child of Sardar Inder Singh Ghrewal, the founder of the Ghrewal sports association to encourage the local youth of Punjab to indulge in sports. The highlight of the rural Olympics is the no- nonsense bullock cart race, for which the rewards and the stakes are high. Daredevil stunts like pulling cars with hair, teeth, or ears, are among the other star attractions on display during this event.
2. Hornbill festival
The Hornbill festival in Nagaland is the most lavish and exuberant celebration, showcasing Naga culture and its heritage. The festival features traditional arts, dances, folk songs, and, cultural games. This extravagant carnival takes place amidst perfect replicas of tribal hutments, complete with wood carvings and hollow log drum instruments, which are beaten in haunting symphony at the end of the day. In addition, one gets the unique opportunity to indulge in the local handicraft stalls, Naga Cuisine, and, giddy rice beer to set in the perfect mood and feel for you - just what the doctor ordered!!
3. Ramadan Month
Where: Old Delhi
Ramzan is that month of the year when echoes of Azaan (Prayer to God) fill the air and the bylanes of Old Delhi become a haven for the food enthusiast. The lane opposite Jama Masjid - Bazar Matia Mahal – is excitingly filled with electrifying fragrances, from the big heaps of Keema Samosas (fried pastry with a savory filling), vats of Mutton Biryani (rice with aromatic flavors), grilling Botis, and kebabs (fried meatballs). To cool it down, there are drums filled with Rooh Afza sherbet (scented rose water), and, dishes of Dahi Vada (Curd balls). Its a different world altogether when you walk through the by lanes of Jama Masjid and immerse yourself in the euphoria of this month long grand festival.
4. Hemis festival
Where: Hemis Monastery, Leh, Ladakh
Come July, and you will discover the true meaning of glory and magnificence!! This power-packed festival celebrates the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. It is like watching a magnum opus - The entire aura of the monastery during this festival is so unique that it attracts travelers from all around the world. The power packed dances performed by the lamas (Buddhist Monks) donning bright painted mask will certainly leave you speechless– the sounds of cymbals, drums, and trumpets only add to the excitement and dynamism of this wonderful place.
5. Ganesh Chaturthi
When: Late August or early September
For Mumbaikars, the Ganesh festival is one grand celebration that is filled with fun, frolic, and, excitement. It is also an occasion to take out time to indulge in the activities that often get ignored - like cleaning, decorating, and getting involved in the domestic chores of our house. This is that time of the year when Ganesha is welcomed into every home and massive pandals (bamboo structure) are made in the form of huge Ganesha idols. Besides, this is also a time to exchange gifts, wear new traditional attires, taste yummy dishes, as well as visiting friends, relatives, and neighbors. Another highlight of this festival is the immersion ceremony where devotees carry the idol (in all shapes and sizes) in joyous possession accompanied by foot tapping numbers and dancing to the beats of drums – finally immersing the idol in a water body like a lake or sea.
Onam is a traditional ten-day harvest festival that marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali. It’s a festival rich in culture and heritage. Also, on this special occasion there are several events takes place among which the most popular and rigorous are the famous snake boat races also known as the Vallamkali on the River Pampa. However, it has nothing to do with the real snakes; they get their name because of the shape of the Boat. It is a traditional canoe style boat, which can accommodate 100 rowers at a time. Moreover, Onam is all about being happy and engaging in fun - filled activities including Rangoli making competitions, dance competitions before indulging in a sumptuous South Indian meal known as the Onam Sadhya.
On this day the capital city of India, Delhi sheds every protocol, and burst into an insignia of colors to celebrate the day when Lord Rama defeated the evil Ravana. To mark the occasion every temple is decorated, religious music is played, and, Ramleela (a theatrical representation of the Ramayana with striking dialogue and colorful costumes) is performed. The highlight of the festival, though, is the setting on fire of the towering effigies of Ravana, Meghnadh, and Kumbhkaran (three evil brothers from the epic Ramayana) in almost all parts of the city with the crowds breaking with the slogans of “Jai Shree Ram” (long live Lord Rama).
8. Durga Puja
As Durga Puja comes closer - for every Bengali, time stands still. The celebration commences when Goddess Durga sets her journey with her four children to her maternal home from the valleys of Mount Kailash. The festival commemorates the victory of Durga over the Demon Mahisasura. Although, it is a ten day long festival, but, according to the Hindu rituals the last four days are of great significance, thus it is celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm. Moreover, Durga Pujo is more than a religious festival which brings the best out of Kolkatta be its Cuisine, Adda (Gossips), Bangaliana (pride), and, above all the grand Pandals decorated in a more traditional and creative way than one can ever imagine.
9. Pushkar Camel Fair
Every year in the desert land of Rajasthan, thousands of people and camels make a trip to the small town of Pushkar for the annual Pushkar Mela - One of the oldest and largest camel fairs in the world. Apart from the trading of livestock, the fair includes traditional as well as tribal music, sports, and other events such as the "longest mustache" and "Indian bride dress-up" competitions. The riot of colors and liveliness is evident from swirling dancers, tented camps, intricate artwork and towering camels.
10. Dahi Handi (Janmashtmi)
Where: Mumbai, Maharashtra:
Held during the Krishna Janmastmi (birth of Lord Krishna) the Dahi Handi celebration is the recreation of the childhood story of the child-god Krishna, stealing butter from the houses in his neighborhood. This unique festival involves in the making of a human pyramid to break an earthen pot (Krishna style) filled with Dahi (curd). So, next time, when you plan a tour to Mumbai, make sure you tune your holiday with this unique festival where thousands join in on an attempt to reach the Handi (POT) usually hung high on a crane or the buildings. The brave hearted Govindas (The messenger or friends of Lord Krishna) who are able to break the pot are rewarded by the local organizing society for displaying their work of unity and accord.
Where: All over India
Diwali! Boom, Bang, Vroom!! The noise of crackers, the bursting sparklers creating patterns of myriad hues in the sky and the thousands of lighted diyas (lamps) adding to the bonhomie of this festival of lights—that’s Diwali. Although, Diwali symbolizes different things to different communities and regions in India, what is common to all is the theme of victory, of good over evil. Besides, of all the festivals celebrated in India, Diwali is by far the most glamorous and one that is enthusiastically enjoyed by people of every religion in India. Homes and offices are beautifully decorated with floral patterns and lamps. Streets and bazaars are decked up, and, like Christmas, everyone is happy.
Where: All Over India
The gloom of the winter passes as Holi promises of bright summer days. This festival of colors also symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Besides, this is that time of the year when roadside stalls throughout the city bear tables covered with bags of colorful powder, called gulal - greens, and, blues, reds, and yellows, purples, and violet -- rows and rows of bags. It is a unique festival that can only happen in India, with people from all across the society celebrating it by scrubbing the famed gulul onto each other. Certainly, in a country as India where, inequalities exist, Holi binds us with the color of love, compassion, and brotherhood.
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