No shrinking violet, India knows how to throw a festival. Its plethora of annual events are among the world’s most fascinating celebrations. From the iconic Holi, featuring brightly-colored powders tossed playfully upon passersby, to the sacred Kumbh Mela pilgrimage, the world’s largest peaceful gathering, visitors will find no shortage of thrills throughout India’s kaleidoscopic events calendar.
January 7-15 2016
One of the biggest annual festivals in India’s Gujarat, this event takes place on one of India’s most important harvest days. Also known as Uttarayan, kite flyers from all over the world come here to compete, and thousands of kites blanket the sky during the two-day festival. There is even a famous 24-hour kite market to peruse!
February 1-15 2016
Taking place just 8 km from South Delhi, this 15-day festival brings unique handicrafts from all over India. Here, visitors will find such products as paintings, wood stock, textiles, pottery, ivory work, stonework, terracotta and grass work. There are also food courts featuring India’s rich, delicious cuisine, and gala evening events.
February 13-16 2016
This eight-day livestock fair, taking place in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, is the second-largest fair in India, involving 70,000 bullocks, camels and horses. The event also includes sports activities like tug-of-war, camel races, and cock fights. A large bazaar presents a wonderful opportunity for picking up unique souvenirs.
February 20-22 2016
This three-day Winter festival in India’s sandstone city of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan presents a wonderful opportunity for visitors to witness traditional local dancing, folk songs and music. Locals adorn themselves in special costumes, and camels are paraded and raced for entertainment. This is a unique, fascinating festival that’s great fun.
February 2016 in Ujjain
Known as the largest peaceful gathering in the world, this mass Hindu pilgrimage involves worshippers bathing at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. Taking place once every three years at four different locations, this event presents a unique opportunity to witness some of India’s oldest and most sacred rituals.
February 19-23 2016
This exciting five-day festival takes place yearly at the ornate Sun Temple in Kornak, Odisha, India. Visitors will witness all kinds of jubilant celebratory dance and song, with musicians playing drums, cymbals, and other traditional instruments, and dancers from all over the country perform unique, traditional dances.
March 23 2016
Holi is a two day festival that also celebrates the victory of good over evil, as well as the abundance of the spring harvest season. It's commonly referred to as the "Festival of Colors". People exuberantly throw colored powder and water all over each other, have parties, and dance under water sprinklers. Bhang (a paste made from cannabis plants) is also traditionally consumed during the celebrations. Holi is a very carefree festival that's great fun to participate in if you don’t mind getting wet and dirty.
June 14-15 2016
Held at India’s wealthiest monastery in India’s Ladakh, this two-day festival celebrates the birthday of Guru Padamasambhava, and the triumph of good over evil. People dress up in brightly-colored clothes and wear unique masks, while they sing and dance, and a market is held where local handicrafts are sold.
September 5 2016
The spectacular eleven day Ganesh Chaturthi festival honors the birth of the beloved Hindu elephant-headed god, Lord Ganesha. The start of the festival sees huge, elaborately crafted statutes of Ganesha installed in homes and podiums, which have been especially constructed and beautifully decorated. At the end of the festival, the statutes are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, and then submerged in the ocean.
November 9 2015 | October 11 2016
Also known as Mysore Dasara, this elaborate 10-day state festival takes place in Southwest India’s Karnataka. The last day, Vijayadashami, is the festival’s most auspicious, said to denote victory of good over evil. The festival has a long history, having celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2010.
November 11-16 2015
Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an important religious festival taking place over five days each Fall, all throughout India. The element of light in this festival represents good overcoming evil. The main festival night consists of prayers, fireworks, feasts and the exchange of gifts.
November 21-December 5 2016
Also known as the Sonepur Cattle Fair, this Fall event is the largest cattle fair in the world. Visitors from all over Asia make their way to Sonepur, Bihar, on the banks of the river Ganges, for the ancient festival that can stretch from 15 days to one month. Farm animals from dogs, to rabbits and Persian horses are sold at the event.
November 19-25 2015 | November 8-14 2016
An astonishing 50,000 camels converge on the tiny desert town of Pushkar, in India's state of Rajasthan for the Pushkar Camel Fair. For five days, the camels are dressed up, paraded, shaved, entered into beauty contests, raced, and of course traded. It's a great opportunity to witness an old, traditional style Indian festival.
November 25 2015 | November 16 2016
One of India’s most famous Hindu festivals, the Diwali of the Gods is celebrated in Varanasi, in India’s Uttar Pradesh, 15 days after Diwali. The steps of the ghats on the banks of the Ganges river are lit with over a million earthen lamps to honor the Ganges and its goddess. Houses are also decorated with lamps and fireworks are lit.
November 17-18 2016
Known as the Gustor ritual, this annual three-day Fall festival features sacred dances, a trade fair, and prayers. The festivities take place at the Tibetan-Buddhist Thikse Monastery, perched on the top of a hill in Ladakh, India. Chams - masked dances - are performed by monks, and a sacrificial cake is cut up and dispersed.
November 28 - December 8 2016
This 10-day annual festival in India’s northeastern region of Nagaland brings together a wide variety of local tribes, who perform their traditional dances and folk songs for all to see, while sporting traditional dress. Held at Naga Heritage Village, constructed for the event, there are also fun competitions, a large market, and more.