In a land of cultural and geographical diversities one gets to enjoy and experience wide varieties of cultures, fairs and festivals and India is the epitome of such experiences. A country where after every hundred kilometer you are embraced by a new cultural identity one gets to enjoy diverse backgrounds, beliefs and heritage. These fairs and festivals are part of the intrinsic cultural fabric of our society as well as a continuation of our heritage. It is in this spirit that we bring to you some of the vibrant, fascinating and most beautiful fairs and festivals of India that are organized and enthusiastically celebrated across the country.
1. Modhera Dance Festival, Gujarat
This dance festival of India, celebrated in the beautiful backdrop of the Modhera Sun Temple is an effort on part of the Tourism Department of Gujarat to bring back to life the ways of our medieval past. Today, this cultural festival held in January every year gets together the finest classical dancing talent of the country to celebrate the art and the place.
2. Tarnetar Mela, Gujarat
One of the most fascinating tribal fairs of India, Tarnetar Mela is a tribal fair held every year in the village of Tarnetar in Gujarat. This festival is fascinating for the simple reason that it is one of the largest “marriage marts” or swayamvars in India where tribal men come to the fair dressed eloquently carrying the most elaborately and beautifully embroidered umbrellas in the world. The woman folk choose their prospective husband based on the umbrella they find the most beautiful. Besides this is a cultural event with folk music and dance performances for general entertainment.
The India’s biggest dance festival, Konark Dance Festival is the epitome of our Classical dancing heritage which represents itself in the most awe inspiring of settings. The festival is held in the backdrop of the UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Sun Temple. The festival organized in the month of February is one of the biggest cultural festival in the country as it witnesses the coming together of country’s best dance artists to celebrate the storied past of the temple and its traditions.
4. Jaisalmer Desert Festival, Rajasthan
The desert festival held in the month of February in the Red Sandstone city of Jaisalmer is a fascinating celebration of Rajasthan’s desert life for three days. It is a festival that brings to life the folk culture, the music, the clothes and the traditions of the nomadic life of the Indian desert. One can immerse themselves in three days of pure magic with folktales, music and dance performances. The camel, the most important animal in the desert, is one of the main attractions of the festival.
5. Goa Carnival, Goa
Well the name Goa is synonymous with fun, beautiful beaches, laid back vacations and amazing beach shacks and continuing that tradition is the awesome Goa Carnival. This carnival of India is celebrated state wide with the help of the state government. It is part of the Portuguese heritage of Goa which sees people come out on the street to enjoy the fascinating parades full of creative floats, to dance and party all night. The carnival travels the whole state. This cultural event is held in the month of March just before the beginning of Lent.
6. Nehru Trophy Boat Race, Kerala
An event which is part of Kerala’s cultural identity, the Nehru Trophy Boat Race is among best cultural an eventin India. Celebrated every year on the second Saturday of the month of August, the boat race in Kerala is a famous festival celebrated in the backwater town of Allapuzha in the Punnamada Lake. The festival sees beautifully crafted boats of different shapes and sizes compete for prize money with the main attraction being the snake boat race, the winner of which receives the coveted Nehru Trophy.
Arguably the biggest fair in the state of Rajasthan and one of the biggest livestock fairs in the world, Pushkar Mela is a fascinating coming together of the nomadic culture and the most beautiful town of Rajasthan. It is primarily a place where the buying and selling of camels and livestock takes place but in recent times with its increasing popularity among foreign tourists competitions like ‘matka phodh’, ‘bridal games’ and ‘longest moustache’ have become popular events. The Pushkar Mela is the perfect opportunity for travelers to discover the nomadic lifestyle of Rajasthan.
Read our exclusive blog on Pushkar Camel Fair
8. Hornbill Festival, Nagaland
The Hornbill Festival is a unique folk festival celebrated in the North-eastern state of Nagaland. A region with rich tribal heritage and traditions, the Hornbill Festival is an effort on part of the Nagaland tourism department to bring to the world the culture and beauty of Nagaland. The festival celebrated every year from 1st to 7th December, is an amazing exhibition of Naga way of life attracting thousands of tourists to its doors.
9. Poush Mela, Shantiniketan
A unique festival which signifies the end of the harvesting season in Bengal, Poush Mela, is the celebration of the farmer’s life and Bengal’s rural lifestyle. Celebrated at the behest of Devendranath Tagore at Shantiniketan, Poush Mela is in a way the coming together of the urban and rural sides of Bengal. The mela which sees the celebration of Bengali culture through Bengali folk music especially Boul Sangeet as well folk dances, is a place for peace and love. Rural artists from around the state gather here with their work and put it out for sale. Being here one can truly experience the cultural diversity that India possesses.
10. Mamallapuram Dance Festival
A place of great historic relevance, Mamallapuram is a beautiful coastal town known for being the hometown of the Pallavas in the medieval times. The beautiful beach town has some of the most breathtaking rock sculptures in India and it is against this background that the Mamallapuram Dance Festival takes place every year during December-January for three days. Classic dancers from different schools of dancing unite to put on a scintillating display of their talent for three consecutive days. It’s a festival with a huge foreign appeal due to its culture appeal and Mamallapuram being a beach town.
11. Kila Raipur Festival
Probably one of the quirkiest festivals you are to come across in India, Kila Raipur Festival is essentially a sports festival also known as Rural Olympics. Held every year in the first week of February in the village of Kila Raipur near Jalandhar, the festival draws a crowd of thousands who travel from various parts of the Punjabi countryside to enjoy events such as kabaddi, Ox racing, wrestling and many others.
12. Puri Rath Yatra, Odisha
One of the biggest religious events of the year in the country, the Puri Rath Yatra is a spectacle of the grandest scale. The Rath Yatra sees a coming together of over a million devotees every year near the famed Jagganath Temple of Puri. The yatra sees three huge temple shaped chariots being pulled to the Gundicha Temple and after nine days back to the Jagganath Temple. The yatra is held in the month of June or July and is supposed to be one of the holiest events in Hinduism.
13. Kumbh Mela
The biggest gathering of human beings on the planet at a particular place every three years, that pretty much sums up Kumbh Mela. The most important and largest religious event in the country, the Kumbh Mela is a festival of mammoth proportion but also full of colors as the Naga Sadhus from various parts of the country travel with their Akhadhas to the site of the Mela. The festival is held in Allahabad, Banaras, Haridwar, and Ujjain. Hindus from all over the world come to take a dip in the holy river and listen to sermons from the various sadhus at the mela site. It is considered to be one of the most spiritually enlightening festivals in the world. The next Kumbh Mela known as the Ardh Kumbh is to be held in the beautiful hill city of Nashik.
14. Hemis Festival, Ladakh
In the northernmost corner of the country amidst the cold deserts of Ladakh is held a festival of colors, beauty and worship known as the Hemis Festival. The festival which takes place to commemorate the death of Swami Padmasambhava is a great place to understand the culture of Ladakh and about Buddhism. The festival is held every year in June or July in the famed monastery of Hemis Jangchub Choling in Leh. The festival’s highlight is the masked dance performed by lamas who dress themselves in colorful costumes and wear dragon masks.
15. Sonpur Mela, Bihar
The largest cattle fair in Asia, Sonepur Mela has been a festival which has continued for over two thousand years since the times of the Mauryan Empire. The fair is essentially meant for the sale and purchase of various kinds of livestock such as birds, dogs, goats, buffaloes, donkeys and horses. But the main attraction of the fair is the Elephant market which sees hundreds of elephants lined up on the shores of River Ganga for sale. Besides this, there is musical and dance performance by famous artists of the region. The festival is a spectacle unlike any other and allows you travel back in time to understand how ancient people traded.
16. Jaipur Literature Festival
Asia’s grandest literary event, the Jaipur Literature Festival sees the coming together of the brightest names in the world of literature and thought who converge at the famed Diggi Palace in Jaipur for three days of intellectual bliss and enjoyment. The festival has gained quite a reputation for itself for attracting the best authors who recite, discuss and present their finest work in front of an awed audience. The Jaipur Literature Festival is held in the last week of January and many people use it as an opportunity to discover the Pink City as much as to pleasure their literary senses.
17. Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is a nine-day festival of arts, music and culture that sees not only the Mumbaikars coming out in numbers to enjoy a part of their history and recognize its beauty but also by people from all over the world. The festival takes place every year in the last week of January or first week of February at the cultural heart of Mumbai the Kala Ghoda district which houses some of Mumbai’s most spectacular buildings and art centers. The Kala Ghoda district is known for its museums, art galleries, cafes and restaurants.
18. Elephant Festival, Jaipur
A royal festival for a royal animal, Elephant Festival held on the occasion of Holi in Jaipur is a special festival loved by the people of Jaipur. The festival which is dedicated to the Elephants sees them decorated in the most lavish ways from head till toe. The event begins with a procession of beautifully decorated elephants, horses and camels. The event is considered to be very prestigious with the most well decorated elephant getting an award. Besides the procession there are events such as elephant racing, elephant dance and tug-of-war between elephants and humans.
19. Vintage Car Festival, Lucknow
A one of a kind festival held every December during the Lucknow Mahatsov, the Vintage Car Festival is a celebration of vintage car collection of people from all over India. The festival which started back in 1904 has been part of Lucknow’s culture and heritage. The festival attracts lots of car lovers from across the country with some fine vintage models on display.
20. Sula Festival, Nasik
Of vineyards, wines, food and intoxicating music, the Sula Fest to be held on the first weekend of February next year is heading into its seventh year with the promise to be better than its previous versions. The festival held in the Sula vineyards is a special place to enjoy yourself amidst the hills of Nasik, the vineyards, to learn to make wine and drink it while being entertained by some excellent music.
21. Bikaner Camel Festival
The Bikaner Camel Festival is the celebration of the most loved and dependent upon animal in the deserts of Rajasthan – the Camel. The ship of the desert as they call them, the festival sees camels decorated in beautifully embroidered costumes. It is held every year in the month of January in the presence of a large gathering. The festival begins with a colorful procession of the most beautifully decorated camels at the Junagarh Fort from there the procession moves to the Polo Ground where other events such as camel dance are held.
22. Float Festival, Madurai
Held every year in the last week of January or first week of February, the floats festival of Madurai is a very old festival which has been celebrated in the city for a long time. The festival sees the god and goddesses of the Madurai temple being taken for a boat ride in the lake of the city, a tradition started by a 17th century Tamil king. But before the ride, the gods and goddesses are taken out of their temple at dawn in a procession followed by thousands of devotees and then placed on a mandap at the banks of the lake where devotees can offer their prayers. Later the gods are taken on a boat ride across the lake.
Have a look into the astounding Durga Puja of Kolkata.