Experience the magic of an Indian Festival

Posted by Crooked Compass

Experience the magic of an Indian Festival

India loves to celebrate and it is well known all over the world as a country of cultural and traditional festivals. With so many cultures and religions, there is a festival celebration every month in India and each festival is celebrated uniquely in different ways according to the rituals, beliefs and its significant history behind it.  Our small group tours offer you the chance to experience and take part in these celebrations. Read on to learn how you can make this experience yours.

Intricate beauty of India
Intricate beauty of India

Kumbh Mela - 31st Jan to 9th Feb 2019

Amongst the overwhelming numbers that make this journey, it is no doubt the sadhus and their antics, offer the most alluring visual extravaganza. The naga sadhus (naked sages) of the Himalayas, clad only in cow dung ashes, lead the procession into the holy waters. Tapasya (meditation) takes various forms balancing on a single leg, keeping one’s hand raised for years on end. Another sadhu will show off the prowess of his penis in weightlifting! Competing for attention, are the Aghori sadhus who feast off human remains. Join this extraordinary religious convergence, and learn the deep philosophical culture underpinning the spiritual life of an ancient civilisation.

Naga Sadhus or Hindu Holymen take a dip during the first "Shahi Snan" (grand bath) at the ongoing "Kumbh Mela", or Pitcher Festival, in the northern Indian city of Allahabad January 14, 2013. Upwards of a million elated Hindu holy men and pilgrims took a bracing plunge in India's sacred Ganges river to wash away lifetimes of sins on Monday, in a raucous start to an ever-growing religious gathering that is already the world's largest.
Naga Sadhus or Hindu Holymen take a dip during the first "Shahi Snan" (grand bath) at the ongoing "Kumbh Mela" || Photo Credit: Crooked Compass

Hola Mohalla - 19th to 29th March 2019

For seven days in the month of March, the holy town of Anandpur Sahib hosts an unusual festival celebrating the martial arts skills of the Sikh community. In the midst of fighting, the tenth Guru began the custom of organising morale-boosting mock demonstrations by his regiments. Recitations of beautiful folk poetry from the region dreaming of a new religious ethos offset these militant displays to produce the edifice of the Sikh faith. Today, the tradition continues as a living reminder of the ethos of a spiritual revolt by the common people.

Sikh's celebrating Hola Mohalla
Sikh's celebrating Hola Mohalla || Photo Credit: Crooked Compass

Hemis Festival Ladakh - 9th to 20th July 2019

This mystical extravaganza is complete with sacred rituals believed to bring spiritual strength and good health. The celebration begins with beating of large pan drums, melodious clanking of cymbals, small trumpets and lyrical sound of wind pipes atop the Gompa, where a portrait of ‘Rygyalsras Rimpoche’ is grandly displayed for all to admire and worship. A fine-painted Tibetan table holds cups of holy water, uncooked rice, incense sticks and tormas or figures made out of dough as offerings. You can watch the revering people and be one of the many fascinated onlookers.

Hemis Festival|| Photo Credit: Crooked Compass

Nehru Trophy Boat Race - 7th to 14th Aug 2018 & 6th to 13th Aug 2019

On the day of the race, one can safely say that all roads lead to the waters. Large groups of people rush in the morning to grab their favourite spot, on banks and staircases, on roofs and the balcony seats - trees overhanging the channels from which the boats will pass. The Kali-Vallangal (racing boats) start lining up, decked up in bright colours, the snakes open hood gleaming in the sun, umbrellas held aloft add to the spectacle, but it is the sound and sight of the boats, as they race across the Punnamada Lake which is truly mesmerising. Tranquil waters burst into shower, sliced by hundreds of oars held by sinewy arms working in tandem with the rhythm of the drums and songs. Join us for a mesmerizing experience.

The Nehru Trophy Boat Race
The Nehru Trophy Boat Race || Photo Credit: Crooked Compass

Kullu Dessehra Festival - 14th to 22nd Oct 2018 & 4th to 12th Oct 2019

Every year in October, Dussehra is celebrated, giving a peek into Kullu’s unique history and culture. The festival commences at Dhalpur Maidan, with a spectacular procession known as the Rath Yatra, of the idol of Lord Raghunath. Known as the 'Valley of Gods', more than 200 local deities offer homage to Lord Raghunath. The cool mountain breeze plays with the tinkling of bangles, anklets and trinkets as village people perform folk dances. At night, you can also enjoy the enthralling performances at the Kala Kendra International dance festival along with performances at the open theatre. On the last day, the chariot of Lord Ragunath is taken near the banks of the River Beas, and a pile of thorn bushes is set ablaze, symbolising King Ravana’s defeat, as referred to in Hindu mythology. Join these gods at Kullu in yet another celebration of defeat of evil.

Mysore Dasara Festival - 17th to 25th Oct 2018 & 6th to 14th Oct 2019

During the festivities, the Mysore Palace is adorned in lights and the streets become vibrant with processions of decked-up elephants carrying the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari in the golden howdah. The Goddess is worshipped by the royal family and masses alike, along with colourful tableaux, ecstatic dancing groups and music bands, horses and camels. Across the illuminated Mysore Palace, is the local Dasara exhibition selling clothes, kitchenware, cosmetic products, exquisite handicrafts and local eatables. The nine nights are a celebration of Goddess Durga in all her incarnations with special pujas or prayers leading up to the tenth day, i.e. Vijayadashami to celebrate the victory of good over evil, a day when the Goddess Chamundeshwari slayed Mahishasura. Experience this city in its full glory and fervour with decorated elephants, garlanded idols, folk dance performances, doll shows, food and film festival, wrestling and other sports, fireworks and much more.

The lanes and parks of Kolkata transform into an open art exhibition as various groups compete to set up lavish and innovative pandals (makeshift prayer arrangements), each displaying an interpretation of the Goddess Durga. The ten-armed Goddess saved the world from evil when she slayed the demon, Mahishasur. A deity that embodies ultimate power of the feminine both destructive and nurturing, today Durga is a symbol of woman power. In her modern incarnation, she brings a message of destroying evil in its many forms -hunger, poverty, gender discrimination, ecological change and even terrorism.

To experience a local festival likes this is sure to spark your wanderlust for travel. View our full range of India small group tours.