Events and Festivals
India is a country of dynamic culture, and every Indian celebrates many festivals wholeheartedly throughout the year. Every festival is unique in its way. Celebrating them while you pay a visit to the country is a great chance to explore the prosperity of Indian culture and heritage.
Here is a month-wise list of Indian festivals which will help you choose some among the many:
Republic Day - Celebration of an Independent India
Enforcement of the Indian Constitution on January 26, 1950, marked the beginning of India as a republic country. Since then every year on 26th January Indians celebrate the national festival with pride. The celebrations take place at Rajpath in the form of ceremonial parades in front of the President of India and other international delegates. Thousands of people visit the ground to be a spectator of the spectacle representing Unity and Cultural richness of the country.
Date: January 26, 2020
2. Makar Sankranti - Kite Festival in Gujarat and Lohri in North India
Falling on almost the same date every year, i.e. January 15, Makar Sankranti has different festivities associated with it. These are named as Lohri by North Indian Hindus and Sikhs and Uttarayan by Gujaratis.
Lohri- Celebration of Lohri marks the end of winter season. It is celebrated with the beating of Dhol, Nagadas, and singing of traditional Lohri songs. Children visit the neighbourhood asking for treats. The festival is full of life, and you can't afford to miss the North Indian's Lohri. Special celebrations take place in the houses of newborns and newlyweds.
Date: January 13, 2020
Uttarayan- On Uttarayan, you see beautiful skies covered with kites of different sizes, designs, and colours. The International Kite Flying Festival of Gujarat is the most significant festival celebrated in India. The best location to encounter the delightful view of bright skies is either the Sabarmati Riverfront or the Ahmedabad Police Stadium.
Dates: January 14, 2020
3. Pongal Harvest in Southern Part of India
"Thai Pongal" in its literal sense is the thanksgiving festival to the Sun God for the harvest. It is celebrated between 14 January and 17 January every year. Each day has different occasions to celebrate. The first day is celebrated as Bhogi when old possessions are discarded, and new ones are celebrated. The second day is the main event known as Thai Pongal followed by the third day's event, Maatu Pongal. Kaanum Pongal celebrated on the fourth day gives a happy ending to the festival.
4. Basant Panchami- Celebrating Saraswati
This Hindu Spring festival is either celebrated in January or February. The festival is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Saraswati. Saraswati Puja takes place on a giant level in the states of Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, and Assam. People eat yellow and wear yellow. In Rajasthan, people wear jasmine garlands whereas, in Uttarakhand, people also worship Lord Shiva and Parvati as the mother earth. The Sikhs conduct Langar to celebrate the yellow festival.
Date: January / February
5. Kumbh Mela
Ever witnessed a stampede of thousands of people? well, that's Kumbh Mela for you. Held once in every 3 years at Allahabad, Varanasi, Haridwar and Ujjain, the festival is one of the largest pilgrim gatherings around the world. Considered as the most spiritually enlightening festival in the world, Kumbh Mela is a venue of devotees taking a dip in the river to become holy. Although at certain places it's celebrated every 3 years, it's held once in 12 years at some places based on the Vikram Samvat calendar. The number of people that visited Maha Kumbh Mela has crossed 30 million a day over the past years.
Sometime in January or February.
6. Losar- Tibetan New Year
It is mainly celebrated in Ladakh either at the end of Jan or at the beginning of Feb. The celebration is the amalgamation of ancient rituals, drama, and dances. The "Metho" Ceremony is the main event carried out by Ladakhi people in which they carry flaming torches and chant prayers while they move from street to street to chase away the evil spirits.
7. Maha Shivratri
The grand festival is celebrated on the occasion of overcoming darkness and ignorance. People fast, wear new clothes and worship Lord Shiva. Main temples of God are visited in Varanasi and Somnath. The Mandi Fair is organized in the town of Mandi, Himachal Pradesh. It is also celebrated as the anniversary of God Shiva and Goddess Parvati in the Kashmiri and Himalayan regions. The Mahakaleshwar Temple, Ujjain is flocked by numerous devotees.
8. Carnival in Goa
The carnival kicks for 3-4 days and brings in a lot of entertainment. Many cultural groups are a part of the huge parade that takes place in Goa. Float parades take place in important urban areas such as Panjim, Margao, Vasco da Gama, and Mapusa. Goa soaks into festive love every year during the carnival time with mad music, colour, food, drinks, drums, and fun.
This is the best time to witness India's rich wildlife. Visiting National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries is the best option for wildlife lovers. Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand, Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan, Bandipur National Park in Karnataka, Sariska National Park in Rajasthan, Kaziranga National Park in Assam, Sundarbans in West Bengal and Gir in Gujarat should hit your list.
The festival of colours is the most amiable festival of the country. Holika Dahan takes place a night before Holi where all negatives are burnt in a bonfire. On the main day, people play with organic colours as they groove on the tunes of music. Gujiya, Mathri, and Thandai are the specialities of the festival. "Lath Maar Holi" is celebrated in the Bhaj region of Mathura. Women playfully beat their husbands' shields with sticks. In the South, offerings are made to Kamadeva, the Indian God of Love. Dwarka, a coastal city of Gujarat, celebrate the festival at Dwarkadheesh Temple. It is observed as the festival of forgiveness and new beginnings.
Dates: February / March
The Vasant Chaitra Navaratri marks the beginning of New year according to Hindu Lunar Calendar. The celebration lasts for nine days. Gujarat hosts enigmatic celebrations in the form of fasting and its traditional folk dance, Garba. The first three days are dedicated to Maa Durga (goddess of energy), next three to Maa Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) and the last three to Maa Saraswati (Goddess of knowledge). The nine days of Navratri ends with Ram Navami.
Easter bunnies and Easter eggs are the main attraction of the festival. The festival is mostly celebrated in the states of Goa, Kerela and Andhra Pradesh. In Goa, Carnivals are organised, and parties take place at the beach-side. The beautiful backwaters of Kerala and marvelous architecture landmarks of Andhra Pradesh become a host to Easter celebrations. Good Friday is declared as a holiday throughout India.
12. Mahavir Jayanti
It is the most significant festival of Jains. Grand celebrations are viewed in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. The temples have varied pujas and offerings by devotees. The Jains are involved in some charitable work. Gujarat holds the biggest fair during the festival. Palitana and Girnar in Gujarat are the significant places of worship. Vaishali, in Bihar being the birthplace of Lord Mahavir celebrates the festival with grandiosity.
13. Buddha Jayanti
It is mainly celebrated in Ladakh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Bodh Gaya, Darjeeling, Kurseong, and Maharashtra. The devotees visit Visak to listen to Buddhist teachings. The dress code is white and non-vegetarian food is completely avoided. Caged animals are set free.
14. Mango Season
Indians have a sweet tooth, and mango dishes undoubtedly are at the top of their dessert menu. The month of May calls for the mango season when you can enjoy a good variety of sweet and sour mangoes. Alphonso, Badami, Chaunsa, Dasheri, and Kesar are specialities of Ratnagiri, Karnataka, North India, Malihabad and Gujarat respectively.
15. Rath Yatra Orissa
Festival of Chariots
The Rath Yatra is the grand festival celebrated in Puri. The temple deities, Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra, of the main Jagannath temple of Puri, are removed with the celestial wheel and taken to their respective chariots. The chariots are then taken to the grand avenue of the Gundicha Temple. Lakhs of devotees take part in this Yatra. Foreign channels also provide live telecast of this Yatra.
16. Eid ul-Fitr
The holy festival of Ramadan consists of month-long fasting. It is believed that fasting makes a man give up his vices which bring him closer to Allah. Muslims form an essential part of cultural strata in India hence Eid is celebrated with holy fasting and offering prayers. It ends with joyful feasting.
17. Meditation Retreat
The weather in July is perfect for having meditation retreats to connect spiritually with your mind and body. India has the greatest of meditation retreats centres. To name a few- Osho International Meditation Resort (Pune), The Art of Living International Centre (Bengaluru), Vipassana International Academy (Igatpuri), Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh) and Transcendental Meditation (Delhi)
The festival commemorates the bond between a brother and his sister. Sisters tie Rakhi on their brothers' wrist to protect them against any evil influences. The brothers bring gifts for their sisters and promise the necessary protection for a lifetime. The festival is widely celebrated in every state of India. It strengthens the love between the two.
The annual Hindu festival celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna. Different states celebrate the festival in different ways. Rasa Lila, the traditional Krishna Drama is performed in regions of Mathura, Manipur, Assam, Rajasthan, and Gujarat. In Mumbai, Pune, and Gujarat, the event of DAHI HANDI takes place in which groups make human pyramids to reach the yoghurt pot which is tied at a certain height. Traditional dances are performed at the temples in Gujarat. In the Kutch region of Gujarat, farmers decorate the bullock carts with the idols of Krishna to hold Pageantry. In North East and South India people get involved in devotional songs and celebrate the festival. Mathura, Vrindavan, and ISKCON observe the most significant celebrations of the festival.
Date: August - September
20. Independence Day
The festival commemorates the independence of India from the British Empire on 15 Aug 1947. Flag Hosting ceremonies, parades and other cultural events take place throughout out the country. The Prime Minister of India officially hosts flag at the Red Fort followed by the tradition of 21 gunshots. Parades and pageants showcase the Indian struggle for independence. People all over the country celebrate freedom by flying kites.
Date: August 15, 2020
21. Nowruz-Parsi New Year
The Zoroastrians in Mumbai commemorate their father's escape from Persia by conducting rituals at fire temples, including traditional feasts and visiting friends.
It is the first month of the Islamic Calendar. The dates of the festival keep on rotating in the Georgian calendar. Shia Muslims mourn in remembrance of martyred Hussein ibn Ali. They take it as a mourning month whereas Sunni Muslims observe it on a more peaceful note. The mourning continues for the first day of the month to the next two months and eight days. On the 10th day, Shia Muslims take out processions with banners out in streets. On the other hand, it is a fasting month followed by legendary feats for Sunni Muslims. The choice of fasting is on the individual itself.
23. Ganesh Chaturthi - Maharashtra
It is celebrated as a grand public festival in the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, and Chhattisgarh. Mandaps and Pandals are set up With the idols of Ganesha. Many cultural activities like singing, dancing, theatre and orchestral performances take place. The festival is known as Vinayaka Chaturthi in Tamil Nadu. Ganesha idols are made out of clay. In Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, procession marches involving great idols of Ganesha take place from Pazhavangadi Ganapathi Temple to Shankumugham Beach and the icons are immersed in the sea. Modak is the primary sweet dish of the festival.
Date: August / September
Onam is the harvest festival of Kerala falling on the month of Chingam in the Malayalam Calendar. The festival is the commemoration of the Vishnu Avatar- Vamana and the homecoming of the King Mahabali. It is one among the three major Hindu festivals of Kerala along with Vishu and Thiruvathira. Although Onam is a Kerala festival, it is celebrated among Malayali communities around the world with the same vigour and pomp.
Dates: August / September
25. Gandhi Jayanti
The festival is celebrated on October 2 to mark the birthday occasion of The Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. It is observed by commemorating his sacrifices by offering prayers at his memorial in New Delhi, schools, colleges, offices and other institutions.
Date: October 2, 2020
26. Durga Puja
Celebrating the reign of good over evil, the festival celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura. It is observed over the course of 10 days and is a grand social event in eastern and north-eastern states of India. Though the rituals are long and complicated, they are enjoyed by the devotees. Colourful streets, Pandals, Bhajans and bright lights surround you during the festival time. Also, in the temples of West Bengal, Odisha and Assam(Silchar) actual animal sacrifices are performed to mark the victory of Maa Durga over the buffalo demon. It is celebrated as Mysore Dasara in Karnataka. The dates are subject to change.
Post monsoon Navratri, also known as Sharad Navratri is observed in honour of Maa Durga. In the western and north regions of India, the final day of Navratri is celebrated as Vijayadashami or Dussehra, whereas in northeastern and eastern states it is similar to Durga Puja. The dates depend upon the movements of sun and moon and hence are subject to change. The events of Ramlila take place in North India whereas pandals of Maa Durga are set up in eastern and north-eastern states of the country. It is the main festival of Gujarat hence it observes excellent enthusiasm and zeal among the residents of Gujarat. Garba, the cultural dance is performed in large groups.
Also known as Vijayadashmi, it marks the end of Durga Pooja and celebrates the victory of Good or Evil in the form of victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. Northern India observes Ravana idols being burnt signifying the restoration of faith in good. Thousands of dances and dramas take place portraying the story of Lord Rama's victory. In Kullu Valley, Himachal a large fair is organised, and half a million people visit the parade. In Mewar, Rajasthan, it is observed as the major festival of Rajputs. In Eastern India, goodbyes are bid to the idols of Durga as they are immersed in water. West Bengal celebrates the festival at the most exceptional level with hundreds of parades taking place. One can also visit Mysore to be a part of Grand Mysore Dasara.
The country celebrates the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years in the form of lighting diyas, drawing rangolis, decorating houses, wearing new clothes, distributing gifts and burning crackers. People also worship Goddess Lakshmi(Goddess of wealth and prosperity) and Lord Ganesha(symbolises ethical beginnings). It is known as Kali Puja in West Bengal and Odisha. In Sikhism, it is celebrated as Bandi Chor Diwas during which the people light the Golden Temple of Amritsar and indulge themselves in fireworks. Diwali Melas are organised all over the country. It is a five day festival in Karnataka. Diwali is dedicated to Lord Krishna in Braj region, and therefore Govardhan Mountain is worshipped by the people. The Festival of Lights is enjoyed with great vigour and pomp.
30. Gurupurab or Guru Nanak Jayanti
This is the most sacred festival for Sikhs all over the world. It is celebrated on full month day as the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. A day before it procession takes place and is led by Panj Pyare(five Beloveds). Early morning and night prayer sessions take place in gurudwaras. Traditional gatka teams perform martial arts, showcasing swordsmanship. Massive celebrations take place in Punjab.
31. Dev Deepawali
Celebrated in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh it is the festival of Kartik Poornima. The festival takes place 15 days after Diwali. Houses are decorated, oil lamps are lit, processions of decorated deities are taken out in streets and diyas are set afloat in the river. The festival is a tourist-centric festival as the ghats are lightened up with millions earthen lamps making the night-scenes a treat to one's eye. 21 young priests and 24 girls perform the Arti at the Dashameshwar Ghat. Ganga Mahotsav showcases the heritage of Varanasi. Cultural programs, martial arts, classical singing, and dancing also take place.
32. Beach Time
The month of December is considered apt for having a gala time at the beach. Beaches in Goa, Kerala, and Andaman readily welcome you offering you the best of everything. Water activities in the deep blue waters under white skies form a perfect adventurous combination for the travelogues. The biggest Sunburn Festival in Goa acts as an icing on the cake if you choose to visit Goa in December. Water sports and scenic beauty in Andaman leave no stone unturned to give you a blissful experience and not forgetting the backwaters of Kerala, the houseboat experience here is assured to be the best one.
33. Marriage Season
India is popular for its Big Fat Weddings. December is the month in which the maximum number of weddings take place. Indian weddings are the most lavish and colourful weddings around the globe. All you can see is colourfully decorated houses, farms, and happy faces. So do not miss the opportunity of being a part of one. Also, as India is a diverse country you get a chance to observe different marriage traditions of different religion and cultures.
34. New Year
India holds a significant number of exotic new year parties. There are some famous regions where the most amazing new year parties take place. In Goa, you get a chance to attend beach parties with cheap beer and live music. Anjuna Beach should top your list. Mumbai is famous for its nightlife and Mumbaikars are wholly drowned into a singing and dancing zone. A sip of drink in the city lit up with lights and crackers will give you chills. In Bangalore, you can enjoy delicious feasts at the finest rooftop restaurants with fireworks as your companion. The celebrity-owned clubs in Delhi become the best location for all party lovers. The nightclubs in Kolkata get raunchy, and you find it hard to stop tapping your feet on the beats. Pondicherry is no less famous for fabulous beachside parties. The phenomenal dance performances on the street are something to look out for. Read more about Best Places to Celebrate New Year in India.
Date: January 1, 2020
35. Camel Treks
December is the best month for taking adventurous desert safaris. Tourists heavily throng Rajasthan for its valiant camel treks. Pushkar, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, and Bikaner are the places for you to encounter the rippling treks in the desert.
36. Rann Utsav- Kutch Festival
The White Desert gives a warm welcome to its visitors. The festival is stretched till Feb. The colourful fairs on the banks of river enrich the souls with the spirit of festivity. Activities such as horse riding, camel riding, bird watching, traditional dances, different games, giant chess, paramotoring, and last but not the least net cricket take place. The festival gives its visitors a chance to experience the diverse traditions and hospitality of Kutchi people. White sand with colourful decorations is a treat to everyone's eye.
Dates: October - February
37. Hornbill Festival, Nagaland
Popularly called as 'Festival of Festivals', the Hornbill Festival is celebrated from the 1st-7th December every year. A unique folk festival that's held in the northeastern state of India - Nagaland. Home to several tribes, Nagaland is a diverse state. To encourage the interaction between these tribal groups, the state tourism and the arts & culture departments of Nagaland organises the Hornbill Festival to showcase the culture and ethnicity of the land.