In the Land of Festivals
Getting closer to bid goodbye to a generous monsoon that invigorated all exquisitely lush landscapes, it is time for the start of season of festivals in India that continues till the first three months of the next year. With the innumerable communities celebrating their own cultures with different fairs and festivals, this period makes for about perfect time to travel to India. To give you options to pick, here are some festivals that are celebrated with much fanfare.
Mahabalipuram Dance Festival: Donned in their exquisite costumes, and swaying their lithe body with delicate moves, some of the finest classical dancers of Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, and Kathakali come together for a month to showcase the dancing culture of India in the town of Mahabalipuram which is also a hallmark of ancient Indian heritage. Held usually during the month January and February with the magnificent backdrop of Pallava Rock Scriptures, the festival is a culmination of art and heritage aesthetically coming together.
Holi: One of the most famous festival of India known globally, Holi, the festival of colour comes in many shades and colour in this country. While Holi in Rajasthan is regal and royal with the Udaipur coming together for grand celebrations with the Royal family of Mewar. The ritual of Holi Dahantakes place in the palace every year followed by a grander celebration at the city palace. In Jaipur, it’s the same colourfulness culminating in festivities at the polo ground with folk dances and contests. One of the most famous kind of Holi celebrations that takes place is called the ‘Lathmaar Holi’. Lathmaar Holi celebrated in Barsana, a small village near Mathura and Vrindavan. No other city in the country can match the grandeur of the festival here. Men from Nandgaon, the place where Krishna spent his childhood and early days, come to play Holi with the women of Barsana. Here, women and girls welcome them not with colors, but with stout sticks. All this takes place in pursuit of men, trying to put a flag on the temple dedicated to Radha Rani. To stop them from doing so, women beat them hard with sticks.
Bali Yatra: Literally translating to “ a voyage to Bali,” this annual festival held in Cuttack, Odisha every year is to commemorate the the voyage of ancient Oriya mariners from the Kalinga Kingdom to the land of Bali, Java, Sumatra, and Sri Lanka for trade and cultural associations. Beginning on the day of Kartik Purnima around October or November, the festival and goes on for a seven days. It is said to be the largest festival celebrated in Odisha and is celebrated in Cuttack at the Barabati Fort area.
Magh Mela: Tracing back its origin to the beginning of the Universe, Magh Mela is one of the most prominent religious festival of India. It is held on the confluence of the three great rivers of India- Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati at the town of Allahabad. Beginning on 14th January every year, it attracts thousands of pilgrims for a holy dip in the river. Some of these devotees spend all month here living in the make-shift tents. On the same site, Kumbh Mela is celebrated every 12 years and is called “the world’s most massive act of faith”. Visit Magh Mela would give one closer look to the importance of religion and rituals in India.
Sonepur Mela: Also known as Harihar Kshetra Mela, this fair is reckoned to be the biggest cattle fair in the world. The fair has its origin from the time of Chandragupta Maurya. Marked by several intriguing sites, this fair is an absolute delight for the travellers willing to explore the culture in India.Sonepur Fair has become quite famous amongst those wanting to explore India beyond the obvious, who constantly are in search of something new to explore. The festival is held in the month of November and animal trade is the highlight of this event.
Mysore Dasara: “Nadahabba” or the state-festival of the State of Karnataka, Mysore Dussehra has been there for 400 years. The region hosts this festival as a celebration of the victory of goddess Chamundeshwari over demonMahishasura. The 10 day long festival starts from the first day of Navratri and culminates on the tenth day when the royal procession follows a decorated elephant carrying the idol of worshipped goddess. The lighting of the Mysore palace and involvement of the royal family are popular attractions during Dussehra in Mysore.
Hornbill Festival: Bringing together all the tribes of the state, Hornbill festival which is the biggest festival of Nagaland is celebrated for eight days in the first week of December. Showcasing the exuberant culture and heritage of Nagaland, Hornbill festival is one of the most globally known festival of India and is attended by multitudes of people. It has got its name after the local exotic bird. One of the most famous aspect of Hornbill festival is the rock concert. The festival also has different events like fashion shows, beauty contests, sports, games, stalls of various regional cuisines and artefacts.
Tarnetar Festival: The best known of Gujarat’s fairs is held at the historic shrine of Tarnetar , a holy site locally believed to have been the original course of river Ganga. The fair is attended by eligible herdsmen, who sport brightly embroidered umbrellas and unmarried girls from pastoral tribes, who get to select their husbands in the old Swayamwara tradition.
The fair is said to commemorate the victory of Arjuna at the contest held for princess Draupadi in this region. A dip in the temple tank on this day is considered as auspicious as a swim at the . The fairgrounds near the temple are a blaze of colour. Thousands gather to participate in the fair. As betrothal is one of the purposes of the fair, men come dressed in embroidered jackets and colourful footwear called mojdis, carrying richly decorated umbrellas the women are equally colourfully attired.
The celebrations of Holi differ from region to region, as if the Holi in Mathura and Vridavana, differs from those celebrated in Manipur, West Bengal and Orissa. It is said that the trend of colors and the modern form of Holi was introduced in Mathura and Vridavana by Lord Krishna himself and that is people of this region celebrate Holi religiously. One of the most famous kind of Holi celebrations in these areas are the ‘Lathmaar Holi’. Lathmaar Holi is celebrated in Barsana, a small village at a distance of about 15 km from Vrindavan. It is known throughout India for its traditional Holi celebrations. No other city in the country can match the grandeur of the festival here. Barsana is actually the birth place of Lord Krishna’s beloved and divine consort, Radha. This is also the place where Lord Krishna used to play pranks on his beloved and Gopis (Radha’s companion). This naughty festivity still reflects in the celebrations of Holi in this village. Holi here is regarded as the celebration of the divine love of Radha and Krishna.