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8 Unforgettable experiences for your festive long weekend travel plans

8 Unforgettable experiences for your festive long weekend travel plans
PEOPLE & CULTURE

By Akansha Borthakur

22 Sep, 2023

October and November will bless us with some much-needed festive holidays and long weekends to take advantage of. After a year of working hard and meeting our goals, we deserve some excellent travel opportunities, right? We know all my corporate folks out here would agree. But why not enjoy some of the country's most prosperous and vibrant Dussehra and Diwali cultures when travelling on festive long weekends?

So here is a comprehensive list of upcoming festive holidays and where you can plan your travels to enjoy all the pomp and gaiety.

OCTOBER:

21st Oct - Saturday - Weekend

22nd Oct - Sunday - Weekend

23rd Oct - Monday - Take a leave

24th Oct - Tuesday - Dussehra
 

KULLU DUSSEHRA

Kullu Dussehra idol greeting

Devotee welcoming the idol of the god in Kullu

Kullu Dussehra, a lesser-known gem among India's festive celebrations, stands out for its unique character and extended duration. While Dussehra festivities typically conclude in most regions after ten days, Kullu prolongs the revelry. Situated in Himachal Pradesh, Kullu is a prominent destination for travellers seeking an exceptional October long weekend experience.

Key Attractions of Kullu Dussehra

Kullu Dussehra main procession

Procession happening on the streets during Kullu Dusshera

Phool Yatra and Rath Yatra: The festivities kick off with a grand procession and Rath Yatra, where locals and visitors witness the idols of deities being paraded through the town's vibrant streets.

Ramlila: The cultural extravaganza of Ramlila, reenacting episodes from the Ramayana, unfolds throughout the week, adding depth to the celebrations.

International Folk Festival: Kullu Dussehra boasts an International Folk Festival, a unique blend of regional and global traditions, making it an enriching experience for culture enthusiasts.

Naina Devi Fair: Another highlight is the Naina Devi Fair, where the aura is charged with spirituality as devotees gather to pay homage to the goddess.

Local Craft Shopping: Visitors can shop for local handicrafts, including the famed Kullu caps and shawls, during the extensive fair held at Dhalpur Maidan.

History Behind Kullu Dussehra

Kullu Dusshera idol

A close up of the sacred idol during the Dusshera parade

This unique celebration has roots dating back centuries. The deities from various corners of Himachal Pradesh congregate in Kullu town, around 40 kilometres from Manali, during Dussehra. These deities, carried in palanquins, arrive with an entourage of musicians, priests, and attendants, embarking on journeys that sometimes span several days on foot.

Rituals during this time include the Rathayatra of Lord Raghunath, grand processions of deities around town, and intriguing meetings among the gods facilitated by their officiating priests. These exchanges are marked by heated discussions, adding a unique dimension to the festival.

Kullu Dussehra embraces tradition and offers a platform for cultural exchange with the International Folk Festival. Travellers looking for an extraordinary Dussehra travel experience should consider Kullu, especially during the October long weekends, when this vibrant celebration comes to life. Be sure to book accommodation in advance, as Kullu Dussehra attracts diverse visitors from both near and far.

MYSORE DASARA

Mysore Palace lit up for Diwali

The full Mysore Palace lit up during Mysore Dasara

Mysore Dasara, also known as "Nadahabba" or the state festival of Karnataka, is a storied celebration that has graced India for over four centuries. This grand festival, deeply rooted in history, commemorates the triumphant battle of the goddess Chamundeshwari over the demon Mahishasura. Held for a remarkable ten days, Mysore Dasara commences on the first day of Navratri and culminates in a dazzling spectacle on the tenth day.

Key Attractions of Mysore Dasara

Mysore Dasara procession parade

Top view of 'Jumbo Savaari' happening on the streets as part of Mysore Dasara

Illuminated Mysore Palace: The palace, adorned with millions of lights, transforms into a fairyland by night, casting an enchanting glow over the city.

Cultural Extravaganza: Within the palace, visitors are treated to a kaleidoscope of cultural performances, including traditional dances and music, creating unforgettable memories.

Grand Procession: Witness the grandeur of the royal procession, known as "Jumbo Savaari," where decorated royal elephants lead the way. The parade features magnificent tableaus, artistic performances, martial arts displays, and more.

Dasara Parade: In Coorg's tranquil surroundings, Madikeri's Dasara celebration unfolds with a vibrant Mariamma festival, making it one of the best places for Dussehra travel. Folk dances dedicated to Draupadi and captivating parades featuring dramatizations of gods, goddesses, demons, and elves make it a unique Dussehra experience.

History Behind Mysore Dasara

Close up of Mysore Dasara

Crowds gathered in the streets to watch the colourful parade go by

Mysore Dasara traces its origins to the reign of the Haaleri Kings. This vibrant and carnival-like festival holds historical significance, symbolizing the victory of Goddess Chamundeshwari over Mahishasura. The celebration's pièce de résistance is the iconic "Jamboo Savari," where the goddess, seated in a golden howdah atop a decorated elephant, embarks on a grand procession from the royal palace to the Banni Mantap. The evening dazzles with a torchlight parade while the Exhibition Ground hosts a bustling fair. Cultural and sporting events further elevate this festive long weekend, making Mysore Dasara one of the most cherished places to visit in Dussehra celebrations.

With its rich history and vibrant traditions, Mysore Dasara captivates both the heart and soul, earning its reputation as one of India's most renowned and cherished festivals, especially during October festive long weekends. 

DURGA PUJA IN KOLKATA

Maha Ashtami Durga Puja Kolkata

Giant Durga Puja statues inside a Kolkata pandal

Durga Puja, the radiant festival of Kolkata, encapsulates a vibrant tapestry of dance, music, culinary delights, and jubilant celebrations. This mother of all Kolkata celebrations resonates with an unparalleled zeal, coinciding harmoniously with Dussehra. The city's streets and hearts come alive with meticulously adorned panels, embracing Bengali culture and a radiant display of lights. In Kolkata, Durga Puja is not merely a festival; it embodies cultural triumph, drawing thousands into its effervescent embrace during the festive long weekends.

Key Attractions of Durga Puja Kolkata

Durgp Pujo pandal Kolkata

Child enjoying the festivities on his father's shoulder in Kolkata

Culinary Delights: The streets come alive with an array of delectable street food, tantalizing taste buds and offering a gastronomic journey like no other on your Dussehra travel journey.

Cultural Extravaganza: Witness the grace of traditional attire, dance performances, and the awe-inspiring creativity displayed in the decorated pandals.

Rich Heritage and Culture: Dive into the cultural richness of West Bengal as the festival breathes life into every nook and cranny of the state.

History Behind Durga Puja

Divine Durga Idol Kolkata

Dusshera travels are best enjoyed amidst the pomp in cities like Kolkata

Durga Puja is not just a festival; it's an intrinsic part of Bengali identity. This five-day celebration involves the worship of Goddess Durga, along with deities Ganesh, Laxmi, and Saraswati, in elaborately themed pandals. The eagerness and devotion with which this festival is awaited are unparalleled in India. Known as Vijaya Dashami in Kolkata, Dussehra marks the culmination of Durga Puja.

On this day, Goddess Durga's and her children's idols are taken for immersion in the Hooghly (Ganga) river amidst grand processions. Married women participate in a beloved ritual where they offer vermillion and sweets to the goddess, later smearing each other with the vermillion. The immersion is a spectacle, mainly from boats that provide a unique vantage point.

Durga Puja Kolkata is more than just a festival; it expresses devotion, culture, and unity that engulfs the city and its people during the festive long weekends, making it a must-visit destination for Dussehra travel enthusiasts. 

FOR TRAVELLERS LOOKING FOR A TRANQUIL DUSSEHRA

While Dussehra traditionally pulsates with noise, lights, and bustling crowds in many parts of India, not all travellers revel in such exuberance. Offbeat destinations offer a welcome respite during the festive long weekends for those seeking serene alternatives to celebrate Dussehra amidst nature's tranquillity.

Bir

Bir Billing aerial view

Aerial view of the town of Bir Billing

Nestled in the Himalayan foothills, Bir is a paraglider's paradise and a haven for those who wish to embrace the calm. Visitors can indulge in paragliding, explore Tibetan monasteries, or savour the serenity of lush tea gardens. Bir provides an ideal escape from the festive fervour with its gentle climate and awe-inspiring landscapes.

Narkanda

Snowy trails of Narkanda

Snowy walking trails in the forests of Narkanda during winters

Tucked away in Himachal Pradesh, Narkanda invites travellers to witness a different facet of Dussehra. This quaint town offers apple orchards, forested trails, and opportunities for skiing, making it an ideal retreat for the October long weekends. Here, the crisp mountain air and pristine landscapes offer a tranquil contrast to the festive chaos.

Mcleodganj

Triund top Mcleodganj

View of the surrounding mountains from Triund Top in Mcleodganj

The residence of the Dalai Lama, Mcleodganj, provides a tranquil setting amidst the Dussehra fervour. travellers can explore Tibetan culture, trekking, or meditate in serene monasteries. This spiritual enclave in the mountains offers a peaceful sanctuary away from the festive hustle and bustle.

Tirthan Valley

Bandal Tirthan Valley

Two sisters walking through some of the quaint hamlets in Bandal, Tirthan Valley

A hidden gem in Himachal Pradesh, Tirthan Valley is perfect for those seeking solace. Activities such as trout fishing, nature walks, and stargazing await amidst the pristine landscapes. In this secluded valley, travellers can find respite from the Dussehra celebrations, immersing themselves in the tranquil rhythms of nature.

For those seeking a peaceful retreat during Dussehra travel, these offbeat destinations offer a perfect escape from the customary festivities and a chance to revel in the beauty of nature. 

NOVEMBER:

11th Nov - Saturday - Weekend

12th Nov - Sunday - Weekend + Diwali

13th Nov - Monday - Take a leave

14th Nov - Tuesday - Take a leave

15th Nov - Wednesday - Bhai Duj 

DIWALI IN RAJASTHAN

Diwali, the festival of lights, takes on a mesmerizing grandeur in the vibrant state of Rajasthan. The celebrations commence from Dhanteras and cast a radiant spell over the entire region. Rajasthan offers a unique Diwali travel experience that combines cultural richness with splendid illuminations and festivities.

Jaipur

Hawa Mahal diyas during Diwali

Hawa Mahal lit up with diyas during Diwali in Jaipur

The Pink City dazzles during Diwali as streets, houses, and markets are adorned with a warm glow of lights and oil lamps. A captivating competition is held, where the Government sponsors the electricity bill for the most beautifully decorated market. Jaipur's Johari Bazaar is akin to Las Vegas "Strip" during this festival, drawing visitors from India and abroad. Take advantage of the Diwali Walking Tour, known as the Vedic Walks, to immerse yourself in the city's festive splendour.

Udaipur

Lantern Diwali in Udaipur

The famous eco friendly lantern diwali of Udaipur

The City of Lakes, Udaipur, transforms into a fairy-tale realm during Diwali. The lakes shimmer with the reflections of fireworks and palace lights. Devotees flock to the Mahalaxmi Temple in Bhatiyani Chohatta to pay homage to the Goddess of Wealth. Udaipur Light Festival, held at the Shouryagarh, adds a royal touch to the celebrations with performances, DJs, art installations, and paper lanterns.

Jaisalmer

Known as the Golden City, Jaisalmer radiates during Diwali with its golden-hued architecture. The Jaisalmer Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is dramatically lit up, creating a surreal ambience against the desert backdrop. The streets bustle with joyous revelry, and traditional dances and music performances fill the air.

Jodhpur

Jodhpur Mehrangarh Fort diwali

Mehrangarh Fort and the surrounding town all decked out with lights for Jodhpur Diwali

The Blue City of Jodhpur dons a layer of splendour during Diwali. Mehrangarh Fort and Umaid Bhawan Palace are illuminated, casting a magical glow over the city. The locals engage in cultural festivities, including folk dances and lighting traditional lamps.

History Behind Diwali in Rajasthan

Udaipur city palace diyas

Diya lighting in City Palace, Udaipur is a sight to behold

Diwali in Rajasthan is not merely a festival but a reflection of the state's rich cultural heritage and royal traditions. The splendid illuminations and grand celebrations have become integral to Rajasthan's identity, attracting travellers from far and wide. Rajasthan comes alive with a vibrant fusion of heritage, art, and spirituality during these festive long weekends. Diwali in this royal land is an experience that leaves a lasting impression, blending the modernity of fireworks with the timeless charm of Rajasthani culture. 

DIWALI IN GOA

Fireworks on beach in Goa Diwali

Sky lit up with fireworks near the Goan beach

Diwali in Goa is a spectacular celebration that blends tradition with modernity, offering a unique experience to visitors during November long weekends. The festivities start with Naraka Chaturdashi, where homes are adorned with lanterns, creating a mesmerizing ambience. However, the highlight is the construction of colossal Narakasura effigies, packed with firecrackers and grass ceremoniously burnt at dawn.

Key Attractions of Diwali in Goa

Narakasura contest

The demon effigy in Goa about to be burnt down as part of the Narakasura contest

Narakasura Competition: Goa hosts an annual competition in every city and village to create the most elaborate Narakasura effigies. These demon effigies symbolize the victory of good over evil and are set ablaze on Narakasura Chaturdashi, a day before the main Diwali celebrations.

Beaches and Nightlife: Goa's pristine beaches, vibrant nightlife, and expensive restaurants come alive during Diwali. Visitors can revel in the beach parties, enjoy watersports, or indulge in the rich casino scene.

Casinos: As gambling is an integral part of Goan culture, Diwali sees an increased demand for casinos. Visitors can try their luck at some of the top casinos in Goa, provided they secure reservations well in advance.

History Behind Diwali in Goa

Narakasura effigy Goa

Another scary looking Narakasura effigy made to be burnt during Diwali in Goa

Diwali in Goa has a unique twist, as it commemorates Lord Krishna's destruction of Demon Narakasura. This celebration involves the creation of enormous demon effigies made from paper, straw, and other materials. These effigies are paraded around in vehicles before being set ablaze, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. Narak-Chaturdashi, known as Diwali in Goa, is when people don new clothes, exchange sweets, share gifts, and light fireworks. It is a community festival that fosters camaraderie and unity, with Narakasura competitions held to honour the best effigies, some towering as high as three-story buildings. In Goa, Diwali travel is a vibrant and exuberant affair, making it one of the most unforgettable places. 

DIWALI IN VARANASI

Dev Deepawali in Varanasi

Crowds gather in the well lit up ghats in Varanasi during Diwali season

Diwali in Varanasi, also known as Banaras, is a spiritual and vibrant affair that offers a deeper connection to Hindu traditions. The city, revered as one of the holiest places for Hindus worldwide, comes alive enthusiastically during this festival. The celebrations begin with a sacred bath in the holy Ganges, setting a purifying tone for the festivities.

Key Attractions of Diwali in Varanasi

Dev Deepavali: Extend your stay to witness Dev Deepavali, also known as the Diwali of Gods, celebrated as part of the Ganga Mahotsav Festival. During this grand event, the Ghats of Varanasi, especially Dashashwamedh Ghat, are adorned with candles and earthen lamps, later set afloat in the sacred river.

Fireworks Display: The Diwali celebrations culminate with a spectacular fireworks display that lights up the Varanasi skyline. Diwali travel to Varanasi ensures every traveller is greeted with this colourful and brilliant fireworks display.

Devotees taking prayer in Varanasi Diwali

Devotees praying in Varanasi after the Diwali evening puja near the ghats

Bathing in the Ganges: Diwali starts with a ceremonial bath in the sacred Ganges River, a significant act of cleansing and devotion.

Exploring Bustling Bazaars: Varanasi's lively bazaars offer an array of traditional clothing, sweets, and Diwali essentials. It's a great place to immerse in the festive shopping spirit.

Sunset Boat Ride: Witness the magical transformation of Varanasi as you take a boat ride on the Ganges during sunset. The glittering lamps, religious recitals, and chants along the riverbanks create an enchanting atmosphere.

History Behind Diwali in Varanasi

Shining Varanasi during Diwali

Top view of the Varanasi ghats during the festive season

Varanasi is a spiritual hub where the Ganges meets the vast ocean. Diwali in this sacred city is marked by a continuous cascade of firecrackers and fireworks lighting the night sky. The iconic Ganga Aarti, especially at Dashashwamedh Ghat, illuminates the riverbanks with countless candles and earthen lamps, symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness. Dev Deepavali, a fortnight after Diwali, magnifies the celebrations. During this auspicious occasion, a grand procession featuring Hindu deities parades through the streets, while the Ghats are adorned with over a million lamps. This cultural extravaganza coincides with the Ganga Mahotsav, a vibrant festival celebrating the cultural heritage of Varanasi.

Additionally, Govardhan Puja observed the day after Diwali, commemorates Lord Krishna's legendary feat of lifting the Govardhan Parvat with a finger, shielding the villagers from Lord Indra's wrath. This day involves the preparation of traditional food offerings to Lord Krishna, known as Annakut Puja, and adds another layer of spiritual significance to Varanasi's Diwali festivities. 

QUAINT DIWALI IN CHAKRATA, UTTARAKHAND

Chakrata in the winters

Snow cover in Ram Taal Garden in Chakrata during deep winters

While Diwali in India is known for its vibrant celebrations, some travellers seek respite from the noise and crowds. Chakrata, an offbeat destination in Uttarakhand, provides an ideal retreat for those searching for serenity. Celebrating festivals amidst the peaceful mountains offers a unique and tranquil experience.

Chakrata, tucked away in the Garhwal region, boasts pristine landscapes and offers a complete escape from the hustle and bustle of Diwali festivities. Here, you can enjoy:

Chilmiri Top Chakrata

Mountain roads leading up to Chilmiri Top in Chakrata, Uttarakhand

Scenic Hikes: Explore the mesmerizing surroundings with serene hikes through dense forests, picturesque meadows, and breathtaking viewpoints.

Camping: Embrace the tranquillity of the mountains by camping under the starry skies. Chakrata offers excellent camping spots for a close-to-nature experience.

Coppersmith barbet in Chakrata

Copperhead barbets are one of the birds you can spot in Chakrata

Bird Watching: The region is a haven for birdwatchers, with numerous avian species to spot in its tranquil ambience.

Peaceful Reflection: Utilize the serene atmosphere for meditation, yoga, or simply unwinding amidst nature's beauty.

Cultural Immersion: Engage with the local communities to understand their customs and traditions, which are far removed from the urban Diwali festivities.

Chakrata aerial view

Beautiful winding road of Chakrata and the areas around, perfect for a festive getaway

Chakrata, during Diwali, is a testament to the tranquil charm of the mountains, where you can relish the festival in peace. Away from the noise and bright lights, the serene ambience allows for introspection and connection with nature. It is an ideal destination for those seeking a tranquil Diwali getaway during the festive long weekends in November. 

What to do now?

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Looking to enjoy Diwali in Rajasthan? Click here to book.

A more offbeat getaway on your mind? Check out Chakrata.

Never seen the vibrant Kullu Dussehra before? Now's your chance.