Wednesday, January 20, 2010

India Fair Festivals in 2010

AUGUST: The battle of the snakeboats and more
Teej (Jaipur, Rajasthan)
August 12-August 13
One of the many colourful festivals of Rajasthan, Teej is celebrated in honour of the reunion of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati after a penance of a hundred years. On this day, women dress up and pray for their husband’s health and longevity. It also celebrates the rains, which are always welcome in this dry state.The markets of Jaipur are where you should be heading on this day, to buy clothes and sweets specially made for the occasion as also to witness the processions across the city.

Independence Day (Delhi)
August 15
The day when India awoke to ‘life and freedom’ in 1947 is celebrated throughout the nation with flag-hoisting ceremonies being held all over. On this day the Prime Minister addresses the nation through a televised speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi.

Onam and Nehru Trophy Boat Race (Alleppey, Kerala)
August 14 August 23
Onam is the harvest festival of Kerala that celebrates the homecoming of the legendary King Mahabali. Celebrated over 10 days the festivities include folk dance performances, elephant procession and snake boat race.The Nehru Trophy Boat Race on the Punnamda Lake, near Alappuzha, held on the second Saturday of August every year, is the most competitive and popular of the boat races. On the day of this fiercely-fought boat race, the tranquil lake front is transformed into a sea of humanity with an estimated 200,000 people, many of them tourists, who come to watch the event. For the people of each village in Kuttanad, a victory at this race for their village boat is something to be celebrated for months to come.

Parsi New Year (Mumbai)
August 19
Although the Parsi New Year is celebrated in various pockets across the country, it is mainly in Mumbai that you can truly experience the celebrations since a good part of the community has made the city their home.On this day Parsis visit the Fire Temple to offer prayers, which is followed by bhonu or lunch. Traditionally, families also go to watch a Gujarati play in the evening that is put up only for this one day. Usually farcical comedies with tonnes of innuendos the plays are surprisingly watched by almost the entire family.Entry to Fire Temples in India is restricted only to Parsis though you could watch the play if you really want to be part of the celebrations or simply head to a Parsi eatery in South Mumbai.

Raksha Bandhan
August 24
This is the day when a sister ties a decorated thread on the wrist of her brother who promises to protect her in return. A fairly private ceremony, celebrated in homes rather than in public, it provides a good excuse for all cousins and their parents to get together.

SEPTEMBER: Holy month of fasting and feasting
Janmashtami (Across India)
September 2
Janmashtami is celebrated across the country to mark the birth of Lord Krishna. While in the cities of Mathura and Vrindavan see some enchanting performances of the Ras Leela or the Dance of Divine Love, Maharashtra celebrates it by breaking the dahi handi or the earthen pot filled with curd and butter. The pot is tied several feet above the ground and young boys (sometimes girls too) form a human pyramid and reach up to it to claim the prize money.

Id-ul-Fitr or Ramzan (Across India)
August 11 to September 9
The holy month of Ramzan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. It is when the followers of Islam refrain from eating or drinking anything from dawn till sunset. After the sun goes down though, the festivities begin with some lip smacking delicacies being made at traditional Islamic eateries. The most delicious food, however, is served on the streets lining the local mosques and shrines like Chandni Chowk-Jama Masjid area in Delhi and Mohammed Ali road in Mumbai.

Ladakh Festival (Leh Ladakh)
September 1-15
Various performing troupes from across Ladakh come together for an annual performance and celebrations. The procession passes through the Leh market and finishes at the polo ground. What follows are 15 days of festivities, mask dances and archery and polo competitions.

Ganpati Bappa Morya!
Ganesh Chaturthi (Across Maharashtra)

September 11
Celebrated in honour of Lord Ganesha, the festival gained importance during India’s freedom struggle when the Bal Gangadhar Tilak used it as a cover for rebels’ meeting. The festival, which begins with the bringing of clay images of the deity ends with the immersion on the tenth day. However certain households and public Ganesha idols are immersed on the second, fifth and the seventh days too. Pune and Mumbai are considered to be the hubs of this festival and you can expect a lot of traffic jams during this period.

Tarnetar Mela (Tarnetar near Rajkot, Gujarat)
September 11 to September 13
It might be a quiet hamlet for most part of the year. But come September and Tarnetar in Gujarat turns busy as a beehive. The mela is held in honour of Lord Shiva at the Trineteshwar Mahadev temple.
According to the Mahabharat, Arjuna performed the Matsyavedha (an archery feat) during Draupadi’s swayamvara at this temple. Ever since, Tarnetar has been known for its swayamvara, where a girl has the right to choose her life partner. This tradition continues in the Bharwad community. Folk music and dances, a large number of stalls selling local handicrafts, magic shows, joy rides and camel rides are the other attractions at the fair.

OCTOBER: Urs, Commonwealth Games and Durga Puja
Urs Ajmer Sharif (Ajmer, Rajasthan)
October 1-October 6
Celebrated in honour of the Sufi saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, the Ajmer Sharif shrine sees a lot of celebrations where devotees of different faiths come here from far and wide to pay their respects and listen to divine quwwalis and sufi songs sans the techno beats in the night. Shoppers keep an eye open for local woven and block printed fabrics!

Gandhi Jayanti (Across India)
October 2
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2 in Porbunder, Gujarat on this day. Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated with commemorative events in the memory of the Father of the Nation.

Commonwealth Games (New Delhi)
October 3 to October 14
The 19th Commonwealth Games will be held in the nation’s capital and will be the largest multi-sport event to be held in the country. The ceremony will take place at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

Durga Puja  (West Bengal and parts of Bihar)
October 8-October 16
In Bengal and parts of Bihar, the nine days leading upto Dasshera are devoted to the worship of Durga, an avatar of Parvati, Shiva’s consort. The festival rejoices her victory over the buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura, after a nine-day battle.Every street corner or tiny village puts up its own clay image of Durga riding a tiger. It is the most important festival of Bengal with much feasting and merriment. The beautiful pandals put up in every neighbourhood of Kolkata are famous. The festival reaches its high point in Kolkata on the tenth day when the images are taken to the Hooghly River for immersion.

The festival of nine nights!
Navratri (Gujarat and Mumbai)
October 8-October 16
In Gujarat and among Gujaratis in Mumbai, this is the festival of nights.It is celebrated during the nine days preceding Dasshera and is the occasion for folk dances or dandiya raas or garba dances.There are many variations of these dances, and today many are done in accompaniment to Hindi film music and laser images. Navratri honours the goddess of strength, Amba among other goddesses. This festival is celebrated in south India, as well, with puja and fasting and night vigil. It lasts for nine days during which pujas devoted to the goddesses of strength, wealth and knowledge are conducted.

Dusshera (Across India, especially Delhi and Mysore)
October 17
Vijay Dashmi or the 10th day of Dusshera is a day of rejoicing the victory of good over evil, when Rama, hero of the mythological epic Ramayana, defeated and killed the demon king Ravana with the aid of the monkey king, Hanuman. It is celebrated by burning paper and wood statues of Ravan. Don’t miss the Ram Leela performances — plays depicting the life of Rama, in Delhi and Varanasi.The Mysore Dusshera is held in the Mysore Palace Grounds. Musicians perform on the grounds and the palace is thrown open to the public. A special fireworks extravaganza, also the highlight of the evening, follows.At the one-week Kullu Dusshera fair, celebrations include a rath yatra and folk music and dance performances.

Bharat Milap (Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh)
It is supposed to be the day when Lord Rama was reunited with his brother Bharata after 14 years of exile in the Hindu epic Ramayana.The festivities attract a lot of devotees from all over India with the star attraction being the local maharaja participating in full costume riding an elephant!

NOVEMBER: Festival of lights and more

November 3
In North India, two days before Diwali, it is obligatory to buy gold. Bazaars everywhere are crammed with exotic jewellery even as the prices of gold hit an all-time high.

November 5
Diwali or Deepavali signifies deepa or lights and avali or row and hence a ‘row of lights’.It is an extravagant and lavish pageant of lights and firecrackers, worth fitting into a travel itinerary, especially if one is in Rajasthan, Delhi or Gujarat. Every home is lit up with oil lamps, in the manner that Ayodhya was lit up for the return of Lord Ram.Lakshmi puja (worship of goddess of wealth and consort of Lord Vishnu), feasting, gambling and decorating the home with rangoli, is the order of the day.In South India Diwali is a celebration of the death of demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna. Mythological demon-king Narakasura had managed to wangle out of Brahma and Shiva because of the boons he received and had grown powerfully evil. The devas or the gods requested Lord Krishna to annihilate him, which he did at Dwarka.
New Year
November 7
For the business community in northern and western India, the Hindu new year starts the day after Diwali. A special puja is performed in offices across the country and financial records begin anew on this day.

November 7
It is another festival for brothers and sisters marked by exchange of sweets and gifts.

Maha Kanda Shasti Utsavam (Across Tamil Nadu)
This festival is celebrated in the six temples or abodes of Lord Murugan — Tiruchendur (temple near Thirunelveli), Thirupparankunram (temple near Madurai), Palani hill temple (Dindigal district), Swami Malai (near Kumbakonam), Thiruthanigai (near Chennai) and Pazhamudhir Solai (near Madurai). Lengthy bouts of bursting fire-crackers, feasting, dances make this one of the largest festivals in this southern state.

Chhat Puja (Across Bihar)
November 11
This holiday is one of the biggest in the state of Bihar, and is a festival for married women. It entails worship of the sun and is also called Surya Puja. Women gather before dawn and wade waist deep in rivers across Bihar, with sweets, grain, fruit and puja paraphernalia like incense and holy water, to fete the sun. The process is repeated again in the evening. Over the years, the Chhat festivities have extended to pockets of the country, which have strong Bihari population such as Mumbai.

A cultural extravaganza!
Pushkar Camel Fair (Pushkar, Rajasthan)

November 13 to November 21
Held in Rajasthan, Pushkar is India’s most famous camel fair and coincides with Kartik Purnima or a special full moon. Thousands congregate for this colourful mela, traders and tourists alike. It is an occasion for much singing and dancing, folk style. Camel races, handicraft bazaars, fireworks are the order of the day. Special tent facilities are provided for tourists.

Children’s Day
November 14
The birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru and India’s first prime minister is celebrated across the country’s schools because of his love for children. In New Delhi, there is a special fair for children at the India Gate and programmes are organised at the Dolls Museum, Bal Bhavan and at Teen Murti Bhavan, Nehru’s home.

Garhwal Festival (Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand)
It is a cultural affair that toasts the culture of the Garhwal hill people, held at Uttarkashi. Celebrate with these simple people living in the lap of the Himalayas as they sing and dance their blues away.

Lucknow Festival (Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh)
Late November
A fortnight of cultural events, food festivals and handicraft bazaars that highlight the splendour of Lucknow, this festival is organised by Uttar Pradesh Tourism. Also witness and participate in traditional village games, kite flying, cock-fighting matches through the fortnight.

Ganga Mahotsav, Guru Nanak Jayanti and more
Ganga Mahotsav (Benaras, Uttar Pradesh)

November 17-November 21
This is a time for festivity along the banks of the Ganga in Banaras or Varanasi, the city said to be ‘perched on the edge of time’. While it continues to be an auspicious festival, the Ganga Mahotsav is a great symbol of cultural melting pot with people from various classes, castes, religions and nationalities come together to worship the Ganges.The high point of the festival are the evenings when earthen lamps on lotus leaves are set afloat on the river.

Guru Nanak Jayanti
November 21
This is the biggest day for the Sikh community in India. On this day saint Guru Nanak was born. The festival is celebrated by taking out processions and prayer readings from the sacred granth or holy book. Amritsar is a special place to be on this day.

Sikkimese New Year (Sikkim)
Late November-Early December
Celebrating end of the harvest season, the Sikkimese New Year or Losoong begins each year in the tenth month of the Tibetan calendar. Religious festivities, exuberant celebrations and dances with people dressed as gods are part of the celebrations.Places to be in Sikkim during this time of the year include the monasteries at Tsuklakhang Palace, Phodong and Rumtek Monastery.

Sonepur Mela (Sonepur, Bihar)
This is the world’s largest cattle fair. Sonepur, a town located at the confluence of the Gandak and Ganga rivers in Bihar comes alive during this festival, which is timed to coincide with Kartik Purnima or a special full moon. Thousands — pilgrims, traders and tourists — converge for the trade of cattle and grain and to witness the drama, music, contests, shows and to shop.Mythology has it that Sonepur was the historical location of a war between the king of the jungle and the king of the waters — the elephant and the crocodile. Elephants too are still traded at the fair. For the devout and the non-materialistic, bathing on Kartik Purnima in the river and puja at Hariharnath temple is routine.

Cultural fest at Qutub Minar…
Chandrabhaga Fair (Jhalawar, Rajasthan)

Late November
This fair is a special event in the town of Jhalawar in Rajasthan. Celebrations involve bathing by the devout at full moon or Kartika Purnima in the Chandrabhaga River and puja at the many beautiful ancient temples that line the river.

Guru Tegh Bahadur’s Martyrdom Day (Amritsar, Punjab)
November 24
On this day in 1675, Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb killed the Sikh leader in Chandni Chowk after he refused to convert to Islam. A religious procession is taken out in Amritsar, the city of Golden Temple along with the Guru Granth Sahib (the holy scripture of the Sikhs) in a golden palanquin.

Annual Winter Sports (Kufri, Himachal Pradesh)
Despite its largely tropical climate, India has much to offer thanks to its geographical diversity. Head to Kufri in Himachal Pradesh this November to get a taste of winter adventure sports in India. Kufri, which is quite close to Shimla, has a wide range of slopes for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers.

Qutab festival (Delhi)
The three-day Qutab Festival is organised by Delhi Tourism in order to ‘preserve and present the rich tradition of Indian music, contemporary as well as classical’. Some of the best names from the Indian dance and music fraternity gather here to perform with the Qutub Minar as the backdrop.

DECEMBER: Dancing and feasting
Konark Festival (Konark, Orissa)

December 1-December 5
This is the place to be if you’re a fan of Indian performing arts. Artistes from across the world practicing Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak and a host of other classical and folk dances perform at the Sun Temple at Konark each year. This year happens to be the 25th anniversary of the festival. So you can sure expect some fireworks.

Hanukkah (Cochin, Kerala)
December 1-December 9
India’s meagre population of Jews celebrates this festival of lights, which commemorates the purification of the Temple in 165 BC. The tiny declining locality of Jew Town in Cochin, Kerala has perhaps the most atmospheric celebrations of this feast in India.

Feast of St Francis Xavier (Old Goa)
December 3
The feast commemorates the death of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of Goa. According to legend, after he died the body of this Spanish Jesuit missionary was brought back to India and was found as fresh as the day he was buried. It was then kept in a silver casket in the Basilica of Bom Jesus Church in Old Goa. The feast attracts thousands of Christians across the country and the otherwise quiet old town springs to life.

Camels on ramp, Xmas and New Year celebrations
Bikaner Festival (Bikaner, Rajasthan)
Late December/Early January
A stunning procession of camels walks past the imposing Junagarh Fort. This is followed by camel races and various other competitions involving the ship of the desert. The town also houses the Karni Mata Temple where holy rats are worshipped and on the outskirts is a camel breeding farm. The dates of the festival vary each year. So even though the last festival was held on December 30 and 31, the next one will be held sometime in January 2011.

Kagyat Dance Festival
This is a Sikkimese festival where the major players are the monks who perform dances. Each dance is a skit from Buddhist mythology accompanied by ritual chanting and music. On this day evil spirits are exorcised by burning effigies made from wood, flour or paper.

December 25
Churches are decked and nativity scenes are set up at street corners in some cities. While Midnight Mass services are rare because of court orders, Goa, Kerala, Chennai and parts Mumbai and Kolkata as well as the Christian areas of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagalandare places where major festivity takes place.

New Year’s Eve
December 31
The big cities of India celebrate New Year’s Eve with verve. The Gateway of India in Mumbai, Park Street in Kolkata, and many parts of Goa are the scene of much merriment.

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