Festivals in India
There are countless fairs, celebrations and festivals in India each year and travelers planning a trip to India often have a difficult time deciding which festivals in India they should experience. All the major festivals of India are spectacular in their own right, but some are better to include on your tour of India.
About Diwali Festival
The annual festival of Diwali is an Indian celebration of the victory of light over dark, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.
A five day festival held before and after the darkest day of the year, Diwali is celebrated across India by practitioners of the Hindu, Jain, and Sikh religions with varying themes. Families prepare for the celebration by cleaning their homes, dressing in new clothes, preparing special foods and sweets, and lighting candles and lanterns to invite good fortune from the gods.
The holiday spills into the streets of cities across India with performances by acrobats, musicians, and plays. Fireworks light the night sky in colorful blossoms, and the spark and pop of firecrackers thrown from the hands of children and adults illuminate the streets across the Indian subcontinent. Families and friends exchange gifts, and share elaborate meals and desserts together.
The lights, smells, tastes, and sounds of this jubilant festival draw travelers from across the globe for luxury tours of India. The holiday dates are selected using the Hindu lunar calendar, and fall annually sometime between October and November.
A busy time for the local populace and travelers alike, advance planning for trips during this holiday season is recommended. Diwali is celebrated across the subcontinent from the smallest villages to bustling cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
Cultural enthusiasts on tours in India relish experiencing one of India’s largest and most festive holidays. The sights, smells, and flavors of this ecstatic holiday remain fresh in memory long after the fireworks have faded from the night sky of India.
Most Indian families dress in their very best for the holidays, but western wear is fine for travelers unless they plan to attend any activities at temples, shrines, or other holy sites where modest clothing covering shoulders, arms, and legs is recommended.
Go to the Diwali Festival Page
Diwali Festival Quick Reference
- What is Diwali?
- Diwali is the Festival of Lights in India.
- When is Diwali?
- The dates vary, but typically the holiday is between October and November. Diwali will be held on November 11 in 2015, and October 13 in 2016.
- How is Diwali celebrated?
- Bright lights, candles, temple ceremonies, fireworks, and food are all part of the 5 day Diwali celebration.
- North India Tours
About Holi Festival
Holi, the Festival of Colors, is one of India’s most recognized holidays. This festival, held annually near or on a full moon, celebrates the end of winter and the onset of spring with a riot of colors, sounds, music, and dance.
City streets across India erupt into a playful, carnival atmosphere during Holi as revelers spend the day throwing handfuls of dye at each other, dancing, singing, and playing mischievous pranks on each other. Parades of musicians and dancers are a common sight on many city streets across the nation, and public parks and temple grounds often see large and joyful gatherings of people. The holiday is universally celebrated across caste, class, and creed.
While there are a number of religious connotations and ceremonies that go along with Holi, like the traditional Holika Bonfire held the evening before, the holiday is mostly a secular event where neighbors, friends, and family gather together to celebrate the first blooms of spring.
India’s Holi festival coincides with Vernal Equinox, and as such the dates of the celebration vary from year to year. The festival is usually held towards the end of February or the beginning of March on western calendars.
The Holi festival is a great opportunity to get a taste of the subcontinent’s thrilling and distinct culture during one of our luxury tours of India. The riot of activity, sound, music, and color is one of the most unforgettable holiday experiences in the world, and the festival’s inclusive nature means foreigners are often active participants in the daylong celebration.
Holi is typically celebrated across India from the smallest villages to the largest cities. While there is some regional variations in the length of the festival, it typically runs all day and finishes with the setting of the sun, when festival goers head home to clean up, done their finest apparel, and head back out to exchange gifts and warm greetings with their friends, family, and neighbors.
During the daylight hours, it’s best to wear some older clothing you don’t mind getting a permanent color adjustment, and a good pair of stout shoes.
Go to the Holi Festival Page
Holi Festival Quick Reference
- What is Holi?
- Holi is India’s Festival of Colors.
- When is Holi celebrated?
- Holi typically falls towards the end of February or the beginning of March on western calendars. The Holi festival is March 6 in 2015, and March 23 in 2016.
- Where is Holi celebrated?
- Holi is celebrated throughout the Indian subcontinent, as well as in numerous other countries around the globe.
- How is Holi Celebrated?
- From sunup to sundown, Holi is celebrated with a riot of color, music, and dance in virtually every public place in India.
- Holi Festival Tours
Pushkar Camel Fair
About Pushkar Camel Fair
The Pushkar Camel Fair, one of the world’s largest open-air cattle auctions, is a fine opportunity to explore true Indian desert culture in the heart of Rajasthan. As fall sweeps through the arid state of Rajasthan in North India, thousands of people begin driving herds of camels, horses, and cows towards the town of Pushkar for this yearly holiday that combines all the hallmarks of a typical country fair with the flair of the Hindu religion into a truly unique festival.
For most of the year, Pushkar is a quiet town resting on the banks of an eponymous lake, but the Pushkar Fair turns this usually sleepy village into one of the most decadent destinations in North India. Parades, camel safaris, acrobatic performances, races, and livestock pageants are just a few of the intriguing spectacles that can be spotted during the Pushkar Camel Fair.
Like most festivals on the Indian subcontinent, the holiday’s dates are determined using a lunar calendar, and as such, dates can shift several weeks each year. Typically, the Pushkar Camel Fair falls between later October and early November.
Go to the Pushkar Camel Fair Page
Pushkar Fair Quick Reference
- What is the Pushkar Fair?
- The Pushkar Camel Fair is a massive cattle auction and fair in India.
- When is the Pushkar Camel Fair celebrated?
- The Pushkar Camel Fair will be held November 19 to 25 in 2015, and November 8 to 14 in 2016.
- Where is the Pushkar Camel Fair held?
- The Pushkar Camel Fair is held in Pushkar, Rajasthan, India.
- Puskar Festival Tours
Rathyatra – Puri
About Rathyatra – Puri
Rath Yatra, the Chariot’s Pilgrimage, is the Indian state of Odisha’s (Orrisa) most spectacular Hindu festival. Lord Jagannath is the patron deity of the city of Puri where the annual festival is held, and the event marks the deity’s return to his city and temple after a long period of absence.
Lord Jagannath’s idol is removed from its temple along with the idols of two other closely related deities during the festival. Each idol is placed inside a massive custom built chariot and drawn through the city. The chariots are typically the size of small houses, and it takes hundreds of Hindu devotees to pull the massive building-sized carts through the streets of Puri during the Rath Yatra. A massive procession of devotees follows closely behind the chariots playing devotional hymns and other tunes using traditional instruments.
The festival dates, chosen using a traditional lunar calendar, typically fall between late June and early July. The Rath Yatra festival is a particularly unique experience for travelers on our India tours as the inner sanctum of the temple where the deities reside is closed to foreigners and non-Hindus, and the festival is the only time outsiders can view the ancient icons.
Go to the Rathyatra – Puri Page
Rathyatra – Puri Quick Reference
- What is the Rath Yatra?
- Rath Yatra is a Hindu festival dedicated to the deity Jagannath in East India.
- When is the Rath Yatra celebrated?
- The Rath Yatra will be celebrated on July 18 in 2015.
- Where is the Rath Yatra?
- The Rath Yatra is held annually in Puri, Odisha, India.
- South India Tours
About Onam Festival
Onam, Kerala’s harvest festival, is a traditional South Indian holiday that celebrates the coming winter with feasts, songs, dances, and boat racing.
Local traditions say Onam has been celebrated since time immemorial in Kerala to honor the return of Mahabali from the underworld. Mahabali is a mythical king said to have reined over southern India during a golden age of prosperity before being banished by the gods for his arrogance. Though dethroned and banished, Kerala’s traditions say Mahabali is allowed to visit his former kingdom on earth once a year during the Onam festival and rejoice in the happiness of his people.
For 10 straight days, the entire state of Kerala in South India comes to life in a dazzling display of elephant parades, firework displays, songs and dances. Traditional sporting events, like snake boat races, are both popular and common throughout the festival. Snake boat races (Vallamkali) involve dozens of oarsmen per watercraft rowing in time to the furious beat of drums.
As with most Indian holidays, Onam’s dates are chosen using a traditional lunar calendar. The celebration typically falls between the end of August and the beginning of September. Onam is a wonderful chance to guests on our India tours to experience one of the most ancient celebrations on the Indian subcontinent, and gain powerful insight into the distinct culture and heritage of South India’s state of Kerala.
The Onam festival is celebrated throughout Kerala, but the largest festivities are concentrated in larger cities like Thiruvananthapuram. As many of the festival’s most important events involve water sports, it’s best to dress in clothing you don’t mind getting wet.
Go to the Onam Festival Page
Onam Festival Quick Reference
- When is India’ Onam Festival celebrated?
- Onam, which is usually celebrated in late August or early September, will be held on August 28 in 2015, and on September 14 in 2016.
- Where is the Onam Festival celebrated?
- Onam is celebrated across the South Indian state of Kerala, but larger cities like Thiruvananthapuram typically have the largest celebrations.
- How is Onam celebrated?
- The ancient festival is celebrated with traditional boat races, songs, dances, feasts, and parades.
- South India Tours
About Dussehra (Vijayadashami)
Dussehra, a Hindu festival also known as Vijayadashami, is an annual celebration of the victory of light over darkness in Hindu mythology. Legends tell of a great war fought between the avatar of Vishnu, Hinduism’s supreme deity, and a demon king who stole the god’s wife.
Over the course of a full day each fall, the epic saga is retold in the streets across India in the form traditional plays, reenactments, and parades. Songs are sung, and traditional Indian orchestras march through the streets driving the festivities towards a crescendo. Actors dressed as Hindu deities reenact scenes from the epic 10 day battle against the forces of Darkness.
The day’s festivities culminate with gigantic bonfires burning effigies of the demon king to make the final victory of light over darkness. One of India’s most thrilling festivals, Dussehra is a great opportunity to see the epic stories of Hindu mythology spring to life and walk amongst humanity. It is an experience to be immersed in true Hindu culture that should not be missed. Go to the Dussehra Festival Page
Dussehra (Vijayadashami) Quick Reference
- What is Dussehra?
- Dussehra is an epic Hindu festival that celebrates the victory of Good over Evil.
- Where is Dussehra celebrated?
- Dussehra is celebrated across India, but Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh often has the largest festival.
- When is Dussehra celebrated?
- Dussehra will be held on October 11 in 2016.
- North India Tours
About Thrissur Pooram
The most colorful of Kerala’s temple festivals, Thrissur Pooram is one of the most interesting celebrations in India. Celebrated in the town of Thrissur in the South Indian state of Kerala, the holiday mingles traditional dance, music, fireworks, and elephant parades.
Thrissur Pooram is held at the Vadakkunnathan Temple in town, but the performances held on the temple grounds during the event are collaboration between 10 Hindu temples in the surrounding area. The area temples are divided into two teams, East and West, and each group sends a traditional drum and flute orchestra to compete. For three hours during the early afternoon, the two orchestras create a crescendo of music while an honor guard of dozens of elephants bob and sway in time with the music.
As with most Hindu festivals, the dates for Thrissur Pooram are chosen using a traditional Hindu calendar. This means the dates can shift several weeks from year to year, but the holiday is typically in late April or early May.
As one of the grandest celebrations in South India, Thrissar Pooram is a wonderful chance to get a taste of Kerala’s distinct culture while enjoying a luxury tour of India.
Go to the Thrissur Pooram Page
Thrissur Pooram Quick Reference
- What is Thrissur Pooram?
- Thrissur Pooram is a temple festival in South India that features traditional orchestras, dances, and elephant parades.
- Where is Thrissur Pooram celebrated?
- Thrissur Pooram is held on the grounds of Vadakkunnathan Temple, in the town of Thrissur, Kerala, India.
- When is Thrissur Pooram celebrated?
- Thrissur Pooram will be celebrated on April 28 in 2015.
- South India Tours
Nehru Trophy Boat Race
About Nehru Trophy Boat Race
The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is the South Indian state of Kerala’s most popular maritime festival. Started in 1952 to commemorate the visit of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, the trophy race sees hundreds of Chundan Vallams (Snake Boats) each rowed by dozens of oarsmen competing on the Punnamada Lake near the city of Alappuzha.
The snake boats used for the races measure over 100-feet in length, and each boat contains between 90 and 100 oarsmen. The race transforms the typically tranquil lake into a thundering celebration as hundreds of thousands of spectators line the banks of Punnamada Lake to cheer for the racers.
The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held on the second Saturday every August. The race is an excellent opportunity to experience one of Kerala’s best loved traditions. Each village in the area enters into the race, and months of preparation go into creating the boats and training the rowers.
Go to the Nehru Trophy Boat Race Page
Nehru Trophy Boat Race Quick Reference
- What is the Nehru Trophy Boat Race?
- The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is Kerala’s most popular water race.
- Where is the Nehru Trophy Boat Race held?
- The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held on Punnamada Lake.
- When is the Nehru Trophy Boat Race celebrated?
- The Nehru Trophy Boat Race will be on August 8 in 2015 and August 13 in 2016.
- South India Tours
About Float Festival
The Float Festival is one of the more unique festivals in South India. While many of the richest celebrations in India are centered on massive temples and ancient idols contained within, during the city of Madurai’s Float Festival the icon the goddess Meenakshi is brought forth from her temple and paraded through the city to the banks of Teppakolam Lake.
Once the idol reaches the banks of the lake, it is removed from the golden palanquin that transported it through town and deposited on a raft, and pulled across the lake using ropes. As the evening closes, the idols are floated to a temple at the center of the lake where they remain during a fireworks show that precedes a number of special ceremonies.
Many temples in India keep their inner sanctums and the corresponding deity’s images closed to foreign travelers, and the Float Festival in Madurai is a rare and excellent chance to witness and participate in a truly ancient cultural ritual.
Go to the Float Festival Page
Float Festival Quick Reference
- What is the Float Festival?
- The Float Festival is a traditional Hindu festival in South India.
- Where is the Float Festival celebrated?
- The float Festival is celebrated in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India.
- When is the Float Festival Held?
- Mandurai’s Float Festival will be held on February 20 in 2015.
- South India Tours
Chennai Dance & Music Festival
About Chennai Dance & Music Festival
The Chennai Dance and Music Festival showcases the ancient art forms of a number of South Indian dynasties. These performances originated as part of Hindu temple ceremonies, and combine speech, mime, dance, and music into opera-like celebrations of Hindu mythologies.
The annual festival is in mid-December or early January in the city of Chennai, the capital of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. A number of organizations participate to prepare venues for the performances across the city, but the most splendid of these shows are held on the grounds of the city’s many ancient Hindu temples. Over the course of the festival, hundreds of productions are performed by several thousand artists.
Go to the Chennai Dance & Music Festival Page
Chennai Dance & Music Festival Quick Reference
- What is the Chennai Dance and Music Festival?
- The Chennai Dance and Music Festival is a celebration of traditional South Indian dance.
- When is Chennai’s Dance and Music Festival?
- Chennai’s Dance and Music Festival is held annually between December and January.
- Where is the Dance and Music Festival Held?
- The Dance and Music Festival is held in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
- South India Tours
Nagaur Cattle Fair
About Nagaur Cattle Fair
The Indian state of Rajasthan’s second largest cattle fair, the Nagaur Cattle Fair sees as many as 70,000 heads of livestock brought to the city of Nagaur for this eight day festival each winter. Camels are the most common animal at the fair, but herds of cows, oxen, horses, and goats can easily be spotted.
The Nagaur Fair also features a rich market brimming with traditional Rajasthani handicrafts. Beautiful wooden carvings, metal crafts, and handmade leather goods are a few of the more popular items among guests on our tours in North India. There are a number of competitions held throughout the week including a tug-of-war and a camel race.
Go to the Nagaur Cattle Fair Page
Nagaur Cattle Fair Quick Reference
- What is the Nagaur Cattle Fair?
- The Naguar Cattle Fair is Rajasthan’s second largest cattle fair.
- When is the Nagaur Cattle Fair held?
- Typically, the Nagaur Cattle Fair is held between January 30 and February 2.
- Where is the Naguar Cattle Fair celebrated?
- The Naguar Cattle Fair is celebrated in Nagaur, Rajasthan, India.
- North India Tours
Bikaner Camel Festival
About Bikaner Camel Festival
The Camel Festival in Bikaner celebrates the contribution of the camel to the lives of Rajasthan’s people. Held each January in northwest Rajasthan, the Bikaner Camel Festival is an expression of true North Indian desert culture.
A procession of decorated camels at the Royal Junagarh Fort in the city of Bikaner kicks-off the annual event, but the real celebration begins outside of the city in the desert where the festival grounds have been prepared for thousands of spectators. Camel pageants, races, dance competitions, and grooming contests are just a few of the numerous events held throughout the two day event.
As dusk settles across the dunes, the celebration takes on a rustic feel as traditional folk songs are sung around campfires. As the evening continues, mesmerizing fire dances and beautiful displays of fireworks delight hundreds of festival goers.
Go to the Bikaner Camel Festival Page
Bikaner Camel Festival Quick Reference
- What is the Bikaner Camel Festival?
- The Bikaner Camel Festival celebrates true Rajasthani desert culture.
- Where is the Camel Festival held?
- The Camel Festival is held in Bikaner, Rajasthan, North India.
- When is the Camel Festival celebrated?
- The Camel Festival will be celebrated from January 4 to January 5 in 2015.
- South India Tours
About Teej Festival
The Teej Festival celebrates the coming of the monsoon season to the arid state of Rajasthan. During this festival Hindu women pray to the goddess Parvati for marital bliss.
While the Teej Festival is celebrated throughout Rajasthan, the city of Jaipur’s festivities standout as the state’s most intriguing fair. One of the main features of the Teej Festival in Jaipur is a winding procession of music, dance, and drama that is so large it takes two days for the entire parade to end. The city is also well known for hanging elaborate, flower bedecked swings called Jhoolas throughout town, and local residents sometimes refer to Jaipur’s Teej as the Festival of Swings.
Throughout the festival, devout Hindu women praise the goddess Parvati with song and dance. Women who participate in the celebrations typically wear their finest clothes and jewelry and apply elaborate traditional henna tattoos. The goddesses’ Idol is brought from the City Palace of Jaipur and paraded through the streets where the general public can pay their respects and pray to Parvati as she’s born through the city on a palanquin.
Jaipur’s Teej Festival typically falls between late July and early August as the monsoon rains sweep Rajasthan. The Teej Festival is a great way for guest on our luxury tours of India to get unique and thrilling insight into Rajasthan’s distinct culture.
Go to the Teej Festival Page
Teej Festival Quick Reference
- What is the Teej Festival?
- The Teej Festival is a monsoon celebration in Rajasthan, India.
- When is the Teej Festival?
- The Teej Festival usually falls sometime between the middle of late July and mid-August. The Teej Festival will be celebrated on August 17 in 2015.
- Where is the Teej Festival celebrated?
- The Teej Festival is celebrated throughout Rajasthan, India.
- Where is the best place to see the Teej Festival?
- Jaipur’s Teej Festival is a favorite among us, and our guests on luxury tours of India.
- How is the Teej Festival celebrated?
- The Teej Festival is celebrated with ritual dances, songs, and other devotions to the goddess Parvati.
- North India Tours
Khajuraho Dance Festival
About Khajuraho Dance Festival
The Khajuraho Dance Festival is a weeklong celebration of traditional dances from the Rajput dynasty that ruled Central India between the 10 th and 12 th centuries. The festival highlights classical forms of Indian dance such as Kathak, Bharathnatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, and Kathakali.
Well known performers lead some of India’s finest dance troops throughout the festival, and a number of traditional arts and crafts are on sale in the open market near the grounds. There are a number of ancient temples in Khajuraho, but the event usually takes place in front of either the Chitragupta Temple or the Vishwanath Temple, which are both in the Western Group of temples that represent the best preserved temples in the area.
Go to the Khajuraho Dance Festival Page
Khajuraho Dance Festival Quick Reference
- What is the Khajuraho Dance Festival?
- The Khajuraho Dance Festival is a celebration of Central India’s traditional dances.
- Where does the Khajuraho Dance Festival take place?
- The Khajuraho Dance Festival is held in the Khajuraho Group of Monuments in Madhya Pradesh.
- When is the Khajuraho Dance Festival?
- The Khajuraho Dance Festival will be held from February 20 to 26 in 2015.
- North India Tours
About Taj Mahotsav
The Taj Mahotsava Festival, often simply referred to as the Taj Festival, is a fair-like holiday held on the grounds of the Taj Mahal in the city of Agra in North India.
A recent addition to the nearly limitless fairs, festivals, and holidays celebrated throughout India, the Taj Festival was developed in the last few years by the Tourism Department of Uttar Pradesh to promote the city of Agra’s distinct Mughal heritage. With the incomparable Taj Mahal as the backdrop for the event, The Taj Mahotsava Festival quickly became one of the city’s brightest cultural celebrations with vibrant displays of folk music, traditional poetry readings, and classical dance performances.
The festival channels the opulent tastes of the former Mughal Emperors from beautifully costumed elephants to parades of lavishly dressed dancers, musicians, and other performers. The Taj Festival also features a culinary festival dedicated to the Mughlai cuisine of the Mughal dynasty where some of the Indian subcontinent’s finest delicacies are freshly prepared by the country’s most acclaimed chefs. Go to the Taj Mahotsav Page
Taj Mahotsav Quick Reference
- What is the Taj Mahotsava Festival?
- The Taj Mahotsava Festival celebrates a wide spectrum of traditional Indian arts, cuisine, and crafts.
- Where is the Taj Mahotsava Festival celebrated?
- The Taj Mahotsava Festival is held on the grounds of the Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.
- When is the Taj Mahotsava Festival celebrated?
- The Taj Mahotsava Festival will be celebrated from February 18 to February 28 in 2015.
- North India Tours
About Desert Festival
Jaisalmer’s Desert Festival is a celebration of the authentic desert culture of Rajasthan. Jaisalmer, nestled amid shinning sand dunes, is called Rajasthan’s “Golden City,” and during the three-day Desert Festival the celebrations bring out the very best of the desert culture of Northern India. Colorful activities including traditional performances of music, dance, and drama give visitors a first-hand look into the royal mystique of this ancient land.
The Desert Festival in Jaisalmer hosts a number of desert themed competitions including: camel races, camel polo matches, and camel dancing and decoration completions. But the most unique events like the longest mustache competition and the turban tying contents have proven to be the most popular among foreigners. Go to the Desert Festival Page
Desert Festival Quick Reference
- What is the Desert Festival?
- The Desert Festival is a celebration of Rajasthani desert culture.
- Where is the Desert Festival celebrated?
- The Desert Festival in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India.
- When is the Desert Festival?
- The Desert Festival will be held between February 1 and February 3 in 2016.
- North India Tours
About Elephant Festival
Jaipur’s Elephant Festival is a vibrant lead-in to the city’s stunning Holi Festival. On a sunny spring day Jaipur’s mahouts (elephant trainers) bedeck their elephants in bright pastels and parade through the city.
The elephant has been a symbol of pride and majesty throughout Indian history, and great care is taken to decorate the animals as rich as possibly. The animal is featured in Hindu mythology as a symbol of divinity, and elephants are regularly depicted in legend, art, and history as the vehicle of both royalty and the gods of Hinduism. The elephants lumber gently through the city accompanied by marching bands as well as traditional Indian orchestral music.
Travelers can find a number of interesting activities to explore during the Elephant Fair in Jaipur. Live performances of traditional Rajasthani folk dances, elephant beauty pageants, tug-o-war competitions, and elephant polo matches make excellent additions to any itinerary. Go to the Elephant Festival Page
Elephant Festival Quick Reference
- What is the Elephant Festival in Jaipur?
- A decadent festival with parades, dances, and music in honor of Hinduism most iconic animal: the elephant.
- When is the Elephant Festival in Jaipur?
- The Elephant Festival will be held on March 5 in 2015.
- Where is the Elephant Festival celebrated?
- The Elephant Festival is held annually in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India.
- North India Tours