A deeply spiritual country, India places a lot of importance in its religious and cultural festivals, that it holds every year. They are always colorful, definitely beautiful and often moving and exuberant all at the same time. They are vivid examples on how best to celebrate life, and death, and are well worth seeking out if you are planning a holiday to India.
So, find yourself flights to India and check out our recommendations for the best 8 Indian festivals that will inspire all your senses.
Ganesh Chaturthi – August or September depending on the cycle of the moon
This dazzling festival honors the birth of India’s beloved elephant-headed god, Lord Ganesha, worshiped for his ability to bring good fortune. One of the best places to experience this festival is in Mumbai. Celebrations begin in the towering Siddhivinayak Temple filled and surrounded by an uncountable number of devotees there to pay their respects. Every home will have their own Ganesh statue, on the first day it is forbidden to look at the moon, there are processions and dancing in the streets and finally the statue is immersed in the ocean (or other body of water). Across India over 150,000 statues are said to be submerged every year!
Krishna Janmashtami/Govinda – August or September depending on the cycle of the moon
Govinda commemorates the birthday of Lord Krishna. The most fun thing about this festival is that people get to climb up each other to try and create a human pyramid to try and reach open clay pots of curd that have been hung high up from the buildings. Mumbai is once again the place to be for this festival. The children dress up; there’s chanting, fasting followed by eating, prayer, songs and general merriment all around!
Holi – The day after the full moon in March every year
This is a two day festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil and abundance of spring harvest. Commonly known as the Festival of Colours, people throw coloured powder and water over each other; have parties and dance under water sprinklers. Holi is a carefree festival and brilliant if you don’t mind getting wet or dirty! For the most exuberant version of the festival; head to Delhi where the whole city seems to be covered in coloured paint. On the eve of Holi, bonfires are lit to mark the occasion and to burn evil spirits. A top tip if you’re attending, wear old clothes and rub coconut oil in your hair to stop the paint from absorbing.
Dive in to Diwali!
Diwali – October or November depending on the cycle of the moon
This is a five day festival that that represents the start of the Hindu New Year (and the start of winter). It’s also known as the Festival of Lights because of all the fireworks, small clay lamps and candles used throughout the celebrations. It really is a breath taking sight. The lights represent good over evil and light prevailing over darkness. This is a joyous, warm and inviting festival celebrated across the whole of India, apart from Kerala where it isn’t part of their culture. In the ‘pink’ city of Jaipur, in Rajasthan, there is a competition for the best decorated and most brilliantly lit up market. This spectacular display attracts people from all over the globe.
Navaratri, Dussehra and Durga Puja – Late September to Early October each year
The first nine days of this festival are called Navaratri and celebrate the Mother Goddess. The tenth day is called Dussehra and is devoted to celebrating the defeat of the demon King Ravana by Lord Rama. It also coincides with the victory of revered warrior Goddess Durga over an evil buffalo demon. The festivals are celebrated with statues, theatre shows, dancing and colourful clothes and in the evenings, street stalls come out and the streets fill with people, eating and celebrating. In Northern India elephants are decorated and guards on horseback guard statues as they are paraded through the city.
Onam – Sometime in August depending on Malayalam Calendar
Celebrated in Kerala, this is a traditional ten day harvest festival the marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali and is rich in both culture and heritage. People decorate the area outside their houses in spectacular fashion, with flowers arranged in beautiful patterns to welcome the King. Celebrations also centre around feasting with foods served on banana leaves followed by dancing, games sports and snake boat races.
Kerala Temple Festivals – February until April with each festival lasting 10 days
Kerala, in South India is known for its vast number of temples and the exotic temple festivals it holds. The main attractions of these festivals, aside from the temples, are elephants resplendent in ornaments and colours parading through the streets. There are also drummers and musicians, floats and beautiful fireworks.
One Hump or Two
Pushkar Camel Fair – Sometime in November depending of the cycle of the moon
An astounding 50,000 camels gather in the little desert town of Pushkar in Rajasthan. This camel fair takes place over 5 days and involves camels being dressed up, paraded around, shaved, entered into beauty contests, raced and of course, traded. This is a great chance to witness a traditional Indian festival. Pilgrims come to his festival to bathe in the holy water of Pushkar’s lake.