Fairs and Festivals Of India
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Fairs and Festivals Of India

Fairs and Festivals

The Colorful mosaic of Indian festivals and fairs - as diverse as the land, is an eternal expression of the spirit of celebration. Observed with enthusiasm and gaiety, festivals are like gems ornamenting the crown of Indian Culture. They are round the year vibrant interludes in the mundane routine of life.

Every season brings along new festivals, each a true celebration of the bounties of the rich traditions followed for time immemorial. That's not all! The birthdays of Gods and Goddesses, saints and prophets, great historical happenings and the advent of the New Year, all find expression in colorful festivities. The same festival, though celebrated differently in the various parts of the country, exhibits an eternal harmony of the spirit of celebration.

Packed with fun and excitement, festivals serve as an occasion to clean and decorate houses, to get together with friends and relatives and to exchange gifts. New attire, dance, music and rituals- all add to their joyful rhythm. It is a time for prayer, for pageantry and procession…a time to rejoice, in celebration of life.

Bihu - Assam

Bihu or Bohag Bihu is the biggest festival of the people of Assam. It is a festival that transcends all religious and class barriers bringing people together in a free and uninhabited manner. The Assamese observe not one but three Bihus. Bohag Bihu, which is celebrated in mid-April, the Magh Bihu, which is held in mid-January, and the Kati Bihu which is celebrated in mid-October. The three are connected with the spring, winter and autumn seasons respectively.

The first day of Bohag Bihu is known as the 'Goru Bihu' and is reserved for cattle rites. Household is cleaned, the cows feet are washed, oil rubbed on their horns and hooves and some times they are decorated with garlands.

The next day is 'Manuh Bihu' day; on this day homage is paid to elders, relatives and friends. The Bihu meal is a special one consisting of Chira, curds and sweets.

The third day of Bihu is sometimes called the 'Gosain Bihu' and is set apart for religious services. Games and sports, special Bihu songs and dances, Fairs etc are a part of the Bihu celebrations. These Bihu songs are beautiful specimens of folk poetry set to lilting music and swinging rhythm. The Bihu dance is a vigorous, captivating dance reflecting the spirit of youth and vitality.

Bikaner Festival - Bikaner - Rajasthan

Dedicated to the indispensable ship of the desert, the festival starts off with a magnificent procession of bedecked camels. It is a colourful spectacle of the beautifully decorated camels that fascinates the onlookers with their charm and grace. Several competitions are held, marked with typical Rajasthani colour, joyous music and lilting rhythms and gay festivities.

Budh Purnima - All over India

Buddha Poornima, which falls on the full moon night in the month of Vaisakha (either in April or May), commemorates the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha, founder of Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world. Notwithstanding the summer heat (the temperature routinely touches 45 degrees C), pilgrims come from all over the world to Bodh Gaya to attend the Buddha Poornima celebrations. The day is marked with prayer meets, sermons on the life of Gautam Buddha, religious discourses, continuous recitation of Buddhist scriptures, group meditation, processions, worship of the statue of Buddha and symposia. The Mahabodhi Temple wears a festive look and is decorated with colourful flags and flowers. Celebration of this festival has been recorded by the Chinese scholar, Fa-Hien

Champakkulam Boat Race - Kerala

The traditional annual boat race of Kerala begin in July at Champakulam. This festival is known as ' Moolam Vallamkali'. Moolam signifies a Malayalam asterism (star or Nakshathram), Moolam of the month Mithunam.

Chennai Dance & Music Festival - Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Chennai music and dance festival is a celebration of classical music and dance of South India (Carnatic Music) held during mid December to mid January in the capital city of Chennai. The festival is held at a number of venues around the city by various sabhas or organizations.

The 'Margazhi festival of dance and music' started early back in 1927, to commemorate the anniversary of Madras Music Academy every December was later adopted by various organizations which held art festivals in different parts of the city.

The city comes alive with the festival which has now developed into a cultural extravaganza with more than 2000 participants. Performances include Vocal and Instrumental music, Dance - solo and group, both by junior and senior artistes. Even upcoming artists get a chance to perform along with well-established artists. The music includes songs in various South Indian languages like Tamil, Telugu and Kannada and instruments like Flute, 'Veena' (a large string instrument) 'Goottuvadyam' (similar to Veena but without frets), 'Nagaswaram' (pipe), 'Thavil' (percussion instrument), 'Mridangam' (drum), and even 'Ghatam' (a mud pot). Information about the tickets and the venues can be had from the tourist office, Chennai.

Desert Festival - Jaisalmer – Rajasthan

The Desert Festival is a 3-day extravaganza of colour, music and festivity, held at the golden city of Jaisalmer. Gair and Fire dancers swaying to traditional tunes, a turban tying competition and a Mr. Desert Contest are a part of the fun and frolic. The grand finale is a trip to the Sam Dunes where one can enjoy the pleasure of a camel ride and even watch the folk dancers and musicians perform.

durga puja

Durga Puja - West Bengal

In West Bengal Navratri is celebrated as Durga Puja where beautifully decorated images of the goddess are worshipped in specially erected Puja Pandals. Community pujas in Bengal are organised in every locality. Families visit each other to share feasts. On the final day the idols are taken in elaborate processions to be immersed in the river or the sea

durga puja

Dussehra - All over India

This Hindu festival is celebrated all over India to mark the defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama. Dussehra symbolises the triumph of good over evil. The 'Ramlila' - an enactment of the life of Lord Rama, is held during the nine days preceding Dussehra. On the tenth day, larger than life effigies of Ravana, his son and brother -Meghnath and Kumbhakarna, are set alight.

In Himachal Pradesh, a week -long fair in the hill town of Kullu, is a part of the Dussehra celebrations. From the little temples in the hills, deities are brought in procession to the 'maidan' in Kullu, to pay homage to the reigning deity, Raghunathji. In
Mysore, South India the Mysore palace is illuminated for a whole month during Dusshera and caparisoned elephants lead a colourful procession through the gaily-decorated streets of the city. A torch light parade and dance and musical events enliven the tranquil city.

kullu dussehra


Diwali, or Deepavali, perhaps the best-known Hindu festival, marks the end of the season that opens with Dussehra. Diwali is celebrated throughout India, as well as in Indian communities throughout the diaspora. It usually takes place eighteen days after Dusshera in October/November. Diwali is called the "festival of lights", and the name itself means an array of lamps (Deep = Lamp, Vali =Array). Indeed, illumination is characteristic of Diwali. The array of lamps are symbolic of welcoming Lord Rama back to Ayodhya after his 14 years of exile, and the common practice is to light small oil lamps, diyas, and place them around the house.

Diwali is celebrated for five continuous days and each day has its significance with a number of myths, legends and beliefs.

The first day is Dhanteras. The word dhan means wealth, and as such, this day has special significance for the rich mercantile community (especially of Western India). Believing this day to be auspicious, women purchase some gold or silver or new utensils.

The second day is Narka Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali. This commemorates the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon king Narakasur, or the divine over the mundane. A traditional oil bath before sunrise is a must, especially in Maharashtra.

The third day is the most important day of Lakshmi Puja or Chopda Puja. This day is regarded as the most auspicious. It is believed that on this day Lakshmi walks around and showers her blessings on man for plenty and prosperity. One of the most curious customs, especially in North India, is the practice of gambling on a large scale. It is believed that goddess Parvati played dice with her husband, Lord Shiva, on this day and she decreed that whoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the ensuring year.

The fourth day is Padwa or Varshapratipada, which marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya. Vikram Samvat, the Hindu calender, was started from this day. This day is regarded as the start of a new year according to the Hindu calendar. This day is looked upon as the most auspicious day to start any new venture.

The fifth and final day is called Bhaiya Duj in the Hindi-speaking belt and Bhau Beej in the Marathi-speaking community. Like Raksha Bandhan, it is a day for brothers and sisters, and on this day, brothers go to their sisters' houses for a special meal.

In South India and in the business community, Diwali is more associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and the consort of Lord Vishnu, the preserver in the Hindu pantheon. In rural areas, it is celebrated mainly as a harvest festival.

If there is one occasion that is full of joy and jubilation for all, it is Deepavali. Homes are spring-cleaned and decorated. Even the humblest of huts is lit by a row of earthen lamps. Celebration is invariably accompanied by the exchange of sweets and the explosion of fireworks. Multi-coloured rangoli designs and floral decorations adorn the entrance of most homes. South Indians start their day with an oil bath.

Diwali has the same importance for Hindus as Christmas does for Christians


Eid-Milad-ul-Nabi - All over India

The birthday of Prophet Mohammad, is celebrated all over India with traditional festivity and religious fervour. The Quran is read and religious discourses are arranged in the mosques.

Elephanta Festival - Elephanta Island – Mumbai

This festival is held across the Mumbai harbour, on the Elephanta Island, near the world-renowned Elephanta Caves (A World Heritage Site). This feast of music and dance, celebrated under the stars, transforms the entire island into a large auditorium.

Elephant Festival - Jaipur, Rajasthan

The Elephant Festival is held every year during Holi, in Jaipur (Rajasthan). Here, as you would expect from the name of the Festival Elephants are the centre of attraction. During the festival, Jaipur comes alive with elephants, dancers, musicians and draws visitors from all over the world. The elephants stride majestically parading their decorated trunks and tusks. The festival begins with a procession of elephants, camels, and horses, painted and tastefully attired with glittering ornaments and embroidered velvets, followed by lively folk dancers. The elephants greet the visitors, offer garlands to the guests and walk past the ramp before a jury of experts and tourists to select the best amongst them for the "Best decorated Elephant" Shield. Elephant races and elephant polo matches are special features. The tug of war between elephants and men is probably the most hilarious highlight of the festival. The unique "Gaj Shringar" exhibition displays everything connected with the elephant-ornaments, textiles (Jhoo), howdahs and carriages, paintings, medicines and food.

The tourists have an opportunity to mount the elephants and play Holi. Participants dance with great vigor-the excitement rising to a crescendo.

Ganesh Chaturthi - Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala

Ganesh or Vinayaka Chaturthi is dedicated to Lord Ganesh (son of Shiva), the elephant -headed god of all good beginnings and success. The festival celebrated as the birth day of Lord Ganesha, held annually in South India especially with great fervor in Maharashtra, is a ten day long event.

On the occasion of the Ganapati festival, a large number of idols are made of clay or metal in all possible sizes sometimes even up to twenty feet. People buy them and install them in their houses and worship the idol for one to ten days, after which the idol are taken out ceremoniously, carried in a procession through the streets of the town (especially in Maharashtra) and immersed into the river, sea or well. The sea front at Mumbai, packed with people, is a spectacular sight.

A cultural feast is held to coincide with Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra especially at Pune. Classical dance, music performances, poetry recitations, folk dances, theatre and film festival are the main features of this festival.


Goa Carnival – Goa

February heralds the carnival at Goa. For three days and nights the streets come alive with colour. Held in mid February the weeklong event is a time for lively processions, floats, the strumming of guitars, graceful dances and of non-stop festivity. One of the more famous of the Indian Carnivals the Goa Festival is a complete sell out in terms of tourism capacities.

Guru Parab – Punjab

The birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev - the first or the founder guru of the Sikhs, is celebrated with great fervour on the full moon day of Kartika. Guru Parab, also known as Jyototsava is one of the most sacred festivals of the Sikhs.

At Nankana Sahib (the birth place of Guru Nanak now in Lahore), there is a beautiful Gurudwara, and a holy tank or sarovar. On Guru Parab, a grand fair and festival is held here, and Sikhs in thousand congregate here from India and abroad. Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture, is continuously read and recited in the Gurudwaras ('Akhand path') all over the country, lamps are lighted, processions are taken out, free langars (meals) are arranged and prasad (holy food) is distributed. Pandals are set up in various places and 'prasad' is distributed. Guru Purab celebrations at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab is impressive.


Guru Purnima - All over India

Guru Purnima or Asadh Purnima is a special day celebrated on the full moon (purnima) day of the month of Ashadh, to pay homage to all teachers (Guru's). It dates back to the time of 'gurukuls' or 'ashrams' of ancient India where students used to get their education. It is also known as Vyas purnima in remembrance of the great sage Ved Vyasa, the guru who wrote the great epic, 'Mahabharatha', the 18 'Puranas' and classified the 'Vedas' of the Hindu Dharma. The great sage is worshipped and pujas performed on this day. Discourses are held in community gatherings to hear the readings of the holy book, 'Bhagawad Gita'. Lamps are lit and meals served to everyone.


Holi - All over India

Holi, the most lively of all Hindu festivals is observed all over North India, which falls on the full moon day in the month of Phalgun (March) according to the Hindu Lunar calendar. It heralds the end of the winter and the beginning of the spring and marks the rekindling of the spirit of life. It is a festival of joy when all is forgiven and it is a time to break free.

The night before full moon, crowds of people gather together and light huge bonfires to burn the residual dried leaves and twigs of the winter. People throw coloured powders at each other and make merry. People, young and old are drenched with colours being poured from atop the houses, bursting balloons, or long pistons. Singing and dancing add to the gaiety of the occasion.

In Anandpur Sahib, Sikhs celebrate a special festivalHola Mohalla on the day after Holi. The display of ancient martial arts and mock battles, are part of this unique Sikh festival.

The Holi celebrations in Mathura and the small towns of Braj Bhoomi - the land of Sri Krishna, are spectacular. The Rang Gulal Festival is celebrated for over a week with exuberant processions, songs and music.

Especially famous is the Lathmaar Holi of Barsana and Nandgaon.


Independence Day - All over India

Commemorating the day India attained freedom (15th August), Independence Day is celebrated with flag hoisting ceremonies and cultural programmes in the state capitals. The Prime Minister's speech at the Red Fort in Delhi is the major highlight. The Delhi skylinen gets dotted with thousands of kites taking to the sky this very day.

Janmashtami - All over India

The birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu is celebrated with great fervour all over India especially at Mathura and Brindavan where Lord Krishna spent his childhood. Temples and homes are beautifully decorated and lit. Nightlong prayers are offered and religious hymns are sung in temples. The priests chant holy mantras and bathe the idol with Gangajal (water from the holy Ganges river), milk, ghee (clarified butter), oil, and honey pouring all these from a conch shell.

In Maharashtra, earthen pots of curd and butter are hung up over the streets. Young men enacting an episode from Krishna's childhood form human pyramids by climbing on each other's shoulders and try to break these pots.

Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, has about 400 temples dedicated to him. The main celebrations are held at the Dwarkadhish temple, Banke Bihari, Rangaji, Shri Krishna Balram temple and Gopinath temple.

In South India, Janmashtami or Gokulashtami, is celebrated with prayers, devotional renditions and offering of fruits and special prasadams to Lord Krishna. In some houses, a typical setting of 'Gokulam' is arranged with mud images of Devaki, Vasudeva with little Krishna perched in a basket on his head, a cow, besides other things related to Krishna's legends.

Khajuraho Dance Festival - Khajuraho, Bundalkhand, Madhya Pradesh

Once the religious capital of Chandela dynasty, one of the powerful Rajput dynasties of Central India, Khajuraho is now famous for it's enchanting temples and it's legendary Khajuraho dance festival. The week- long festival of classical dances is held every year in February/March against the spectacular backdrop of the magnificently lit temples. This cultural festival highlights the richness of the various Indian classical dance styles such as Kathak, Bharathanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri and Kathakali with performances of some of the best exponents in the field. Modern Indian dance has also been added recently. The dances are performed in an open-air auditorium, usually in front of the Chitragupta Temple dedicated to Surya (the Sun God) and the Vishwanatha Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, belonging to the western group.

Along with the renowned performers, a number of craftsmen display their crafts to the visitors. There is an open market where local articles are there for sale. Khajuraho Dance Festival is conducted as a celebration of the cultural heritage of Khajuraho temples and preserving it for the coming generation.

Konark Dance Festival - Konark, Orissa

The sun temple in Konark is famed as a world heritage site. The exquisite 'Natyamandir' or the 'dancing hall' of this 700-year old shrine is an architectural wonder with well-adorned sculptures in Odissi dance poses.

This is the venue of a joyous festival of classical dance and music which is held annually on December. A host of celebrated dancers from all over the country perform in the open air auditorium. The festival is a celebration of the much appreciated Orissa, Bharathnatyam,

Manipuri, Kathak and Chau Dance - a lavish feast for the eyes and ears. The sound of Ghungroo bells, flute and Pakhauj gives it a festive mood. There is also a crafts mela, with a variety of handicrafts and tasty cuisine during the festival. The festival is jointly organised by Orissa Tourism and Odissi Research Centre.

Lohri - Punjab, Delhi

In the North Makar Sankranti is called Lohri. Lohri is the time after which the biting cold of the winters begins to taper off. On this day children go from door to door to collect funds for community bonfires which are lit up in the evening. Lohri is more of a community festival as people gather around the bonfires and offer sweets, crisp rice and popcorn to the flames.


Mahashivratri - All over India

On this day, the great night of the Lord Shiva, devotees stay awake throughout the night offering prayers to Lord Shiva. They offer special food made from the fruits of the season, root vegetables and coconut to the Lord. Special celebrations are held in some of the major Shiva temples at Varanasi, Kalahasti (Andhra Pradesh) and Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu)

Mahavir Jayanthi - All over India

The Jain community celebrates the birth anniversary of the 24th and the last Tirthankara, Vardhman Mahavir, the founder of Jainism. On Mahavir Jayanthi, Jain temples are decorated with flags. In the morning the idol of Mahavira is given a ceremonial bath called the 'abhishek'. It is then placed in a cradle and carried in a procession around the neighbourhood. The devotees make offerings of milk, rice, fruit, incense, lamps and water to the Tirthankar. Pilgrims from all parts of the country visit the ancient Jain Temples at Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat on this day.

Mewar Festival - Udaipur, Rajasthan

An exhilarating welcome to spring, this festival is a visual feast with Rajasthani songs, dances, processions, devotional music and firework displays. It is celebrated in the romantic city of Udaipur during the Gangaur Festival. A procession of colourfully attired women carrying the images of the goddess Gauri make their way to the Lake Pichola. An unusual procession of boats on the lake offers a fiting finale to this splendid celebration.

Nagaur Fair - Nagaur – Rajasthan

Nagaur bustles with life during the annual cattle fair, which is one of the largest in the country. The Nagaur bulls are renowned for their fleet footedness and attract buyers from all over. Exciting games, tug of war, camel races and strains of ballads create a joyful atmosphere.

Pongal - Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh

In South Sankranti becomes Pongal. It is a celebration of the harvest, which is observed for three days in January. Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal and Mattu Pongal, are the three days of Pongal festivities on successive days. In certain parts cattle races still enliven the village festivities. Pongal is a colourful and traditional festival with many a ceremony devoted to various deities.

In Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjore a kind of bull fight called the Jellikuttu is held. Bundles containing money are tied to the horns of the ferocious bulls, and unarmed men try to wrest the bundles from them.

With ingredients provided by freshly gathered harvest, community meals are held at many a place.

Pushkar Fair - Pushkar, Rajasthan

This fair is held at Pushkar town, 11 km from Ajmer in Rajasthan for twelve days annually. This cultural and trade cum religious fair is an attractive and lively spectacle with Rajasthani men and women in their colourful traditional attire, saffron-robed and ash smeared Sadhus (holy men) and thousands of bulls, cows, sheep, goats, horses and camels in richly decorated saddles. Perhaps the largest cattle fair in the world, it attracts more than one lakh people, from all over Rajasthan as well as tourists from different parts of India and abroad.

Trading of cattle, camel races and dazzling displays of bangles, brassware, clothes, camel saddles and halters make the fair colourful. Necklaces of glass beads from Naguar, pottery, printed textiles from Jodhpur and Ajmer are all on sale here. Farmers, cattle traders and breeders buy and sell their animals, leather whips, saddles etc. There are facilities for camel rides also. This livestock fair coincides with the climaxing of a religious celebration. Pushkar is among the five main places of pilgrimage mentioned in the Hindu scriptures. It has a large number of temples including one of the only two temples dedicated to Lord Brahma in India. Hundreds of thousands of devotees take a ritual dip in the holy Pushkar lake on the day of the Kartik Purnima (full moon night of the Kartika month) and worship at the Brahma temple (Jagat Pita Shri Brahma Mandir). Pilgrims flock from all over India to be in Pushkar at this auspicious time. They also believe that all the 330 million Gods and Goddesses are present at Pushkar Lake during the occasion.

Apart from the religious rituals and trading, people participate in a number of cultural and sporting events. The sweeping expanse of the desert becomes dotted with thousands of camels, stalls and camping families. The Rajasthan tourism Development Corporation has taken adequate measures to facilitate convenient access of the fair site and to accommodate the fairgoers.


Rajgir Dance Festival - Rajgir, Bihar

Rajgir, the ancient capital of the Magadhan empire in Bihar is held sacred by both Buddhists and Jains for its association with the Buddha and Mahavir. Department of Tourism, Bihar holds a colourful festival of dance and music, Rajgir Mahotsav or Dance Festival every year in Rajgir. Be it instrumental music, devotional songs, opera, folk dance, ballet or the many schools of classical dance and music, geniuses in their own realms of accomplishments, create an almost ethereal atmosphere. This festival held during last week of October attracts tourists in large numbers.


Raksha Bandhan - North India

Sravani is an ancient Vedic festival traditionally associated with the Brahmins on which day they change their sacred thread. Both Raksha Bandhan and Sravani are celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Shravan (August).

Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi the more popular of the two festivals, is a Hindu sister's day when brothers and sisters reaffirm their bonds of affections. Sisters tie colourful threads or rakhis on their brother's wrists. The brothers in turn promise to protect their sisters and give them gifts. Raksha Bandhan is celebrated in different forms in different areas and it is also known by the names like rakhi, rakhri and saluno

Republic Day - All over India

Commemorating the day India became a republic, 26th of January every year is witness to a colourful affair with soldiers marching in unison, followed by folk dancers, school children and floats from different states.

The beating retreat that marks the end of celebrations on the 29th of January is a moving ceremony with military bands playing at Vijay Chock.

Sindhu Darshan Festival – Leh

The Sindhu Darshan Festival is organised annually at Leh. People travel for a Darshan and Puja of the River Sindhu (Indus) which originates from the Mansarovar in Tibet. The festival is a celebration of this river. The Festival aims at projecting the Sindhu river as a symbol of multi-dimensional cultural identity, communal harmony and peaceful co-existence in India. It is also an opportunity for people from around the country and overseas to visit the beautiful regions of Leh and Ladakh.

As part of the celebrations, various groups from different states in India bring water from the other mighty rivers in the country in earthen pots and immerse these pots in the Sindhu river, thereby mingling the river water with other waters of the land.

The Sindhu Cultural Center was inaugurated a few years back as well as the new office complex of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council. This complex will be helpful in bringing out the unique culture of the Ladakh region and its people. The facilities proposed at the complex include an auditorium for seating 500 people, an open air theatre, an exhibition gallery, a music room, a small library and a souvenir shop where Ladakh handicrafts could be available to visiting tourists

Taj Mahotsav - Agra - Uttar Pradesh

A ten day event, the Taj Mahotsav at Agra is a culturally vibrant platform that brings together the finest Indian Crafts and cultural nuances. Starting on 18th February each year in Shilpgram, the Taj Mahotsav is a much awaited event. It is a festive introduction to India and Uttar Pradesh. India's extensive arts, crafts and culture are on display. Folk music, shayari (poetry) and classical dance performances as well as elephant and camel rides, games and a food festival, all form a part of the festivities.