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Festival excitement: 10 stunning Indian festivals you must attend

Festival excitement: 10 stunning Indian festivals you must attend
PEOPLE & CULTURE

By Aquib Nawab

15 Jun, 2024

A country that likes to celebrate, India is. Almost daily, some festival or other takes place within the subcontinent due to the wide range of cultures, religions, and traditions celebrated here. From huge national holidays to small village meetings, Indian festivals are a window into the rich heritage of the land and bring people together for joyous festivities.

If you are planning on going to India, you should consider timing your visit during one of these mind-blowing festivals so as not to forget it. The music, colours, rituals, food, and energy are unmatched in their scope.

Here are ten of the most lively and adventurous Indian festivals that you surely can’t miss:

1. Holi: The festival of colours

Holi is a famous festival of colours celebrated across India every March. This is an ancient Hindu festival that symbolizes victory over evil. It is a day full of forgiving others and starting anew, where past conflicts are forgotten and relationships are renewed.

The main event involves vibrant throwing powder and water activities. Participants splash each other with pichkaris (water guns) while smearing themselves with bright-coloured gulal (powder). The streets burst forth into rainbow hues amidst joyful chaos. Friends, families, or even strangers come together for celebrations involving laughter as well as dance. One cannot resist being caught up in such infectious excitement.

Some key Holi celebrations occur in North Indian cities such as Mathura, Vrindavan, and Udaipur. Foreigners too get warmly invited here, where they can be partakers in this fun fair game at will. Only then do they have to be prepared for going back home looking like a tie-dye creation!

2. Diwali: The festival of lights

Diwali, also referred to as the Festival of Lights occurs throughout India during October or November. It’s a five-day Hindu festival that honours light’s triumph over darkness and good versus evil.

The millions of clay lamps and candles that bejewel houses, shops, and streets produce the lights. In the night sky, fireworks make a display of light. Family get-togethers, prayers, feasting, and lighting crackers all happen. Cleaning homes is done right from top to bottom, and rangoli sand patterns are decorated with coloured. In this festive period, new clothes are put on while exchanging sweets as presents.

Due to its magical lighting, India’s cities become fairylands of light. Delhi, Varanasi, and Amritsar have particularly impressive Diwali festivities. For a traveller, seeing Diwali lights is an unforgettable moment.

3. Ganesh Chaturthi: Birth of lord Ganesha

Ganesh Chaturthi is a 10-day Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Lord Ganesh, who has an elephant head; he is considered the god of prosperity as well as wisdom. The biggest celebrations occur in Mumbai between August and September.

On the first day, large statues of Lord Ganesh are taken into homes or placed in public pandals (temporary structures). Pujas (prayers) are done on each day in honour of Lord Ganesha. The music then fills up the streets, which come alive with dance movements and colourful illuminations. Thousands flock to these pandals, where they can view idols along with other items.

Finally, there are grand street processions where idols are carried out to nearby water bodies for immersion.

As they dissolve, it marks Ganesh’s return to join the gods. The rite culminates with Modak treats being served. Navas shouting “Ganpati Bappa Morya!” together with everyone else makes one feel elated.

4. Onam: The harvest festival in Kerala

Onam is a 10-day-long harvest festival celebrated in Kerala, which is located on the south coast of India. It runs from August through September, with the highlight being around Kochi City's full pomp activities.

The celebrations are to honour the return of Mahabali, the legendary king who the Indians believe visits Kerala at this time of the year. People decorate their homes with floral rangoli patterns known as pookkalam and have carnival processions, mask dances, banquet feasts, and boat races, among others.

The highlight is a spectacular Onasadya feast served on plantain leaves on the last day. It is an elaborate meal of more than 13 traditional dishes, which demonstrates diversity in Kerala cuisine. For visitors, Onam offers an excellent opportunity to experience the warm Kerala spirit and vibrant culture.

5. Durga puja: divine goddess celebrations

Durga Puja, celebrated in September or October for five days, is a Hindu festival that commemorates the victory of the divine goddess Durga over Asura Mahishasura. In Kolkata alone, there are over 10,000 temporary pandals set up all over town.

Each pandal contains clay idols of Durga, representing various forms she takes for different purposes; some display such creativity that they attract design awards, while others appear as if they were made to be covered by flowers, fabric, and jewellery pieces. Thousands come to worship these idols and take prasad (offering) from them.

At the end of these festivals, huge immersion processions follow, where idols are taken into rivers for submergence. Streets become full of music and impromptu dances with an electrifying atmosphere. Kolkata’s Durga Puja is an unmatched encounter for travellers.

6. Pushkar camel fair: The largest fair on Earth

To trade livestock and participate in events and festivities for five days every November, hundreds gather together animals, including 11 million camels, horses, and cows, at Rajasthan’s Pushkar camel fair. A visit here provides a unique memory for tourists.

Mustachioed traders will bargain over livestock decorated with colourful patterns before your eyes. The racing camels can be watched while parades include such competitions as camel polo and the “matka phod,” where camels have to break earthen pots for prizes.

Jewellery, clothes, and saddles can be purchased from stalls. There are also carnival rides, magic shows, and much more. Pushkar Lake nearby has sunsets with spiritual rituals. The best way one could experience the full vibrancy of this gathering is by spending a night in a desert tent.

7. Ganga aarti: Spiritual gathering on the Ganges

Thousands of devotees fill Dashashwamedh Ghat’s steps every evening in Varanasi for the Ganga Aarti ceremony. As dusk sets in, they light flaming torches, chant prayers, and ring bells, making a dazzling performance dedicated to the River Ganges.

The aarti (light ceremony) includes large fire plates whose burning wicks are moved by priests in rhythmic motions. It consists of mesmerizing songs, billows of incense smoke, and resounding drums that form this fiery collective tribute to Mother Ganga.

This timeless ritual is an unforgettable sight: worshippers offering flowers and brightly glowing lamps while showing utmost reverence towards it.

8. Theyyam: Ancient dance rituals in Kerala

Theyyam is an ancient series of intricate dance rituals conducted mainly within Kerala .These occur between October and April and consist of elements like dancing, miming, and music making, as well as colourful costumes, masks, and make-up.

There are over 400 Theyyams, each representing distinct legends or deities, with artists appearing to be possessed by divine spirits and performing energetic dances that can easily hypnotize you; their faces are covered in vermillion, turmeric, and ash; and their headdresses usually reach up to fifteen feet!

Watching them perform at village temples during any Theyyam event is probably the only chance for anybody visiting India to witness such rare sacred art forms directly related to life itself instead of being learned through textbooks. The hypnotic rituals present a glimpse into the age-old cultures of indigenous peoples.

9. Hemis festival: Multicoloured Ladakhi celebrations

The Hemis festival is celebrated in the remote Himalayan region of Ladakh each July as an homage to its Buddhist roots. It occurs over two days at the 17th-century iconic Hemis Monastery near Leh.

They bring out giant silk paintings; they recite holy scriptures; and perform masked dances with colourful masks. They wear traditional Ladakhi clothing and participate in singing, archery, and other competitions that are customary among them. The incomparable setting amidst mountains, cultural vibrancy, and warm reception from people ensure that Hemis will always remain unforgettable.

10. Hampi Festival: Historical Ruins resurrected

The Hampi festival takes place every January next to the ancient Vijayanagara ruins in Karnataka’s enchanting environs. The fallen empire springs back into life through music, dance, fireworks displays, and parades.

As darkness slowly creeps in, a blaze of light engulfs these majestic ruins once again. Classical dancers dressed in their brightly coloured jewels move across stages that have been lit up by floodlights. The sounds of Indian maestros reverberate within those remains while hot air balloons cast a surreal glow across them.

Visiting lively Hampi during this pulsating festival enables travellers to relive India’s golden Hindu past when it had the most powerful empire. Exploring the ruins during daylight hours before attending performances at night offers you a chance to see something special.

Experience the magic of festivals with us

For travellers who want to experience real Indian festivals, it is recommended to stay at ‘The Hostellers.’

In India, our properties can be found in major festival cities such as Delhi and Jaipur, among others. This environment also encourages easy socializing among travellers who share a love for adventure. Such festivals as well as group trips organized by the hostel’s management team are all recorded in the group’s calendar.

Relaxing on the large terrace under twinkling fairy lights after a day of festivities is one of the reasons why people come back to The Hostellers.

The hosts offer dormitories as well as private rooms for you to rest in. If you are on a tight budget, stay with The Hostellers at night since they have very affordable rates, and this gives you more time at every festival site.

Solo travellers or families from around the world can get together here before going out to watch India’s amazing festivals in all their glory.

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