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Fairs & Festivals of India

The Indian calendar is a long procession of festivals. If you can find yourself in the
right place at the right time, it is possible to go through your visit with a festival each day.
The harvest festivals of the south, the immersion of Ganesh in Bombay, the Car Festival of Puri, Snake Boat races in Kerala, Republic Day in Delhi... every region, every religion has something to celebrate. Below is a selection of the major ones, but there are countless others; kindly inquire at the local Government of India Tourist Offices for details.



JANUARY / FEBRUARY

Makar Sankranti - is the time of the year when the Sun enters Capricorn. It's a time of great festivities throughout the nation with people taking a dip in the holy rivers and seas. In Gujarat particularly, it is the time to witness and extravaganza of Kite flying in what has become an International Kite Festival.

Pongal - A festival of sweet preparation of rice, milk and jaggery in south celebrated in Andhra as Sankranti, it is a harvest festival observed for three days - Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal and Mattu Pongal.

Republic Day - held on 26th January every year, this is a National holiday that commemorates the establishment of the Indian Republic in 1950. It's a grand military parade and procession of colourful floats, dancers and so on.

Vasant Panchami - The Advent of Spring. A very important festival of the Hindus, celebrated on the fifth day in the month of Magha, is marked by the worship of Saraswati. It also marks the advent of spring and the end of the long winter.

Floating Festival - held in Madurai in the State of Tamil Nadu, marks the Birthday of a local 17th century rule. Its main feature is the elaborately illuminated barge carrying decorated temple deities at the Mariamman Teppakulam Pool amidst chanting hymns

Nagaur Cattle Fair - is held in Nagaur in the State of Rajasthan. Essentially an animal fair, it provides an opportunity to participate in some of the local sports.

FEBRUARY / MARCH
Shivaratri - The Great Night of Siva Celebrated on the new moon night in the month of Phalguna. This Hindu festival is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Observed especially by married women to ensure the long life of their husbands.

Holi - The Festival of Colour This colourful festival of the Hindus, celebrated on the full moon day in the month of Phalguna, heralds the advent of spring. Holi is the time when people from all castes and social strata come together forgetting all past differences and grievances.

Mardi Gras - is a 3-day festival held in Goa. The main feature is the Carnival and the gaiety associated with it.

Ram Navami - The Birth of Lord Rama. This nine-day Hindu festival, celebrated in the bright fortnight in the month of Chaitra commemorates the birth of Lord Rama who was born to annihilate the demon King Ravana. Ramanavami celebrates the birth of Rama or Ramachandra

Mahavira Jayanti - is a National level festival that marks the birth of Mahavira the 24th tirthankar (apostle) of the Jains and the founder of Jainism.

Good Friday / Easter - is celebrated at a National level. Kumbha Mela - the oldest and most important of the Hindu festivals. It takes place every three years, at one of the four great holy cities - Nasik (Maharashtra), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh), Prayag or Allahabad and Haridwar (both in Uttar Pradesh). It is attended by millions of pilgrims who take a holy dip in the holy rivers.

APRIL / MAY
Baisakhi - celebrated mostly in North India, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, this marks the Hindu Solar New Year.

Id-ul-Zuha - or Bakr-id is a Muslim festival celebrated on a National level. It commemorates the martyrdom of Abraham and is marked by the sacrifice of lambs.

Id-ul-Fitr - is a Muslim festival that marks the end of the month of Ramzan, a month long period of fasting.

Urs - celebrated at Ajmer in the State of Rajasthan is a 6-days religious cultural and commercial extravaganza dedicated to a Sufi saint at the Dargah Sharif.

JUNE / JULY
Rath Yatra - The Festival of the Chariot Journey. This Hindu festival, observed on the second day of the bright fortnight of Ashadha, celebrates the annual visit of Jagannatha to his birth place. Three colossal chariots are drawn from the Jagannath temple by thousands of pilgrims. Similar festivals, on a smaller scale, take place at Ramnagar (near Varanasi), Serampore (near Calcutta) and Jagannathpur (near Ranchi).

JULY / AUGUST
Teej - Festive Procession of Parvati The festival of Teeja celebrates the on set of the monsoon in the month of Shravana, after the long and arduous summer. The day commemorates the event of Parvati leaving the home of her parents as a bride and Shiva coming to fetch her

Raksha Bandhan - The Festival of Brothers and Sisters This festival of love between brothers and sisters is a major Hindu festival which falls on the full moon day in the month of Shravana . It is marked by sisters tying a protective amulet on the wrist of their brothers

Amarnath Yatra - is a Hindu pilgrimage journey that takes one to the Amarnath Cave in the Lidder Valley of Kashmir at full moon. Pilgrims visit the place where Lord Shiva explained the secret of salvation to his consort Parvati.

Independence Day - celebrated on 15th August every year marks the day when India got her Independence. It's marked by celebrations throughout the country. In Delhi the Prime Minister delivers his annual address to the nation at the historic Red Fort.

Janmashtami - celebrated nation wide marks the birth of Lord Krishna. It is a day of fasting, temple celebrations, plays and folk theatres and colourful floats depicting the life and times of Lord Krishna.

Onam - Linked to Bhagavata Purana, Vamana Purana and the mythological story of king Mahabali and Vishnu in the form of a dwarf, Onam is the colourful harvest festival of Kerala heralding the lush green and floral beauty of nature.

Ganesh Chaturthi - celebrated mainly in the states Maharashtra and Orissa, is dedicated to the elephant-headed God Ganesh. Giant models of the deity are taken out in a procession and immersed in the sea or rivers. It is a colourful festival and worth visiting on the Day of Immersion at Mumbai.

SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER
Dussehra - is a nation wide 10-day festival that is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the country. In the north and particularly in Delhi it is marked by plays known as Ram Lila that recalls the life of Rama and the episodes of the Ramayana. On the 10th day effigies of Ravana the king of Lanka are burnt amidst fireworks. In Kullu in the State of Himachal Pradesh, the festival is marked by a colourful fair. In Bengal and many parts of Eastern India it is known as Durga Puja and on the 10th day idols of Goddess Durga are immersed in the sea or the rivers. In South India it is celebrated as Navaratri (festival of 9-nights).

Gandhi Jayanti - is a National holiday that marks the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation.

Durga Pooja - Durga, the warrior Goddess is worshipped in colourful Puja pandals and the images are taken out in grand procession to the sea or rivers where they are immersed amidst chanting and singing

Diwali - is a nation wide festival that comes after 20 days of Dussehra. It is one of the most lively and colourful festivals in India. In some parts of the country, it marks the start of the Hindu New Year. In Eastern India, the goddess Kali is particularly worshipped; elsewhere, it is Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, who is venerated. Everywhere there are magnificent illuminations and fireworks.

Guru purab - is a Sikh festival that commemorates the anniversaries of the ten gurus, spiritual teachers or preceptors of Sikhism

NOVEMBER
Muharram - is a Muslim festival that commemorates Imam Hussain's martyrdom. Tiger dancers lead processions of colourful replicas of the martyr's tomb. It is a nation wide celebration particularly colourful in Lucknow, the capital of the State of Uttar Pradesh.

Sonepur Cattle Fair - celebrated in the State of Bihar, this is one of the largest cattle fairs in the world. It's a month long fair held on the banks of the Ganga at the town of Sonepur.

Pushkar Mela - is an annual Cattle Fair held at Pushkar in the State of Rajasthan. It's a colourful fair attended by people from miles around. Camel races, acrobatics and folkdance and music are some of its highlights.

DECEMBER
Christmas
- is a nation wide celebrated festival. It is most exuberantly celebrated in Goa, Bombay and South India.

Note - besides the above festivals there are hundreds of festivals and fairs, which are of regional significance, celebrated with equal pomp and colour. The most authentic of these are the following: (1) The Temple Festivals in South India, a list of which if often available at the Government of India Tourist Offices (2) The Monastery festivals at Ladakh in Kashmir (3) The many regional festivals of Rajasthan

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