Best destinations for top Indian festivals

India is a country of many colors, celebrations, and festivals. Most of the festivals have been the child of religious beliefs, but some have been the outcome of a regional lifestyle. In present times, these festivals are an escape from our fast-moving lives to celebrate with loved ones. 

While many festivals are celebrated across the country with high zeal, some destinations give a special touch to these festivities. Here are some of the renowned festivals of India and the destinations to experience their full vibrance.

  1. Holi in Mathura

Holi Celebrations, Mathura

The festival of colors Holi is famous across the globe. The festival drives its linkage to Hindu mythology, with a belief that Lord Krishna killed Hiranyakashipu in his Narasimha avatar. It is also celebrated as a spring festival. The craziness of Holi in Mathura is unbeatable. It is a week-long celebration & each day has a specific theme & location. 

Day 1: Lathmar Holi in Barsana. Women dress up as Gopis and beat men dressed as Gops with sticks. 

Day 2: Lathmaar Holi in Nandagaon

Day 3: Phoolwalon Ki Holi in Banke Bihari temple, Vrindavan

Day 4: Widows’ Holi in Gopinath temple in Vrindavan

Day 5: Holi in Banke Bihari Temple, Vrindavan; Holi Procession in Mathura; Holika Dahan at Holi Gate

Day 6: Holi in Dwarkadheesh Temple

When: March 

Where to stay: The Radha Ashok, Brijwasi Lands Inn

2. Durga Puja in Kolkata

Augustus Binu, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pandal during Durga Puja

Durga Puja is the celebration of the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. The grandeur of this festival is best experienced in the land of sweet rosogolla, Kolkata. A ten-day celebration marks the festivities where the last five days involve significant rituals. Hopping from one beautiful and lighted pandal to another is a must during the Pujo.

Day 1: Mahalaya. It is considered as the day of arrival of Goddess Durga from her marital home (Kailash).

Day 6: Sashthi. The arrival of the Goddess is celebrated amid the sound of dhol and shankh in a ceremony called Bodhon.

Day 7: Maha Saptami. Kola Bou Snan is the ritual performed where a small banana plant, wrapped in a red border saree, is bathed in the water of a reservoir.

Day 8: Maha Ashtami. Kumari Puja is performed on this day where young girls are worshipped as a form of the Goddess. The evening is marked for Shandhi Puja.

Day 9: Maha Navami. Dhununchi Naach is performed in the evening with people dancing to the dhaps of dhol with clay pots filled with coconut husks and camphor.

Day 10: Vijaya Dashmi. The end of the festival is marked by sindoor khela and visarjan.

When: September – October 

Where to stay: Holiday Inn, The Sonnet

3. Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai

Grand Procession, Ganesh Chaturthi

With a grand procession of people dancing to the tunes of, “Ala re ala, Govinda ala” and a prominent statue of Lord Ganesha, Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the biggest celebrations in the city of dreams. These 10-day festivities start with the arrival of idols of Lord Ganesh in homes and pandals. Every day the lord is offered sweets, flowers, rice, and modaks. The celebrations end with the visarjan of the idols in water bodies. Some of the must-visit pandals to experience the festival at its best.

  • Lalbaugcha Raja ( Central Mumbai)
  • Ganesh Galli Mumbaicha Raja (Central Mumbai)
  • Khetwadi Ganraj (Grigaim – South Mumbai)
  • GSB Seva Ganesh Mandal (King’s Circle – Central Mumbai)

When: August

Where to stay: Holiday Inn, Lemon Tree Premier

4. Onam in Kerala

Sam P Raj, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kathakali during Onam

The festival of plenitude and happiness, owing to a season of good harvest, Onam is significant in Kerala. The festival also has mythological linkages with the occasion indicating a visit of King Mahabali to meet his dear subjects. People across the region together take part in renowned boat races, tiger dances, mask dances, martial arts, tug of war, and music carnival. This 10-day celebration starts with a grand procession called Atthachamayam near Kochi. 

When: August – September

Where to stay: Lake Palace, Radisson Blu Kochi

5. Lohri in Punjab

By Beatrix11freedom – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86782137

Giddha during Lohri

The land of mustard fields (Sarso Ke Khet), sweet lassi, and Bhangra, Punjab is indeed the place of happiness. Adding to the jolly mood of the land comes the festival of Lohri. It is a celebration of the winter crop season, remembering the passing of the winter solstice & the sun god. Gur, Ghazak, til, sarso da saag, makke di roti are the main attractions of Lohri. On D-day, a bonfire is scheduled at night and people offer popcorn, peanuts, rewri/rabri ( a sweet delicacy) to the fire as a reverence.

When: January 

Where to stay: The Landmark Amritsar, Fairfield by Marriott Amritsar

6. Camel festival in Pushkar

Pushkar Mela

A twist in the series of festivals! Welcome to the Pushkar camel festival. With over 4 lakhs people, thousands of camels, cattle, and horses and spread across a span of 14 days, Pushkar welcomes you for an experience of a lifetime. From beauty contests, races, trading, don’t get confused, all solely for camels, the mela is quite an attraction for the tourists. It also offers local crafts, music and magic shows, acrobats, a heritage walk, and a thrilling hot air balloon flight. 

When: November

Where to stay: RTDC tourist village, Gulaab Niwas Palace

7. Hemis festival in Ladakh

Masked Dance, Hemis Festival

Every year a two-day festivity brings the cold deserts of Ladakh alive. Celebrated on the birth date of Lord Padmasambhava (10th day of the 5th month in the Monkey year) inside the Hemis monastery, it is the Hemis festival. The sounds of drums, pipes, and cymbals onset the festival early in the morning. Followers seek blessing from a portrait of the Guru, and here comes the main charm of the festival, Cham dance form. It’s a masked dance performed by colorfully dressed lamas, bringing enthusiasm in the spectators. Exhibitions of local craft items are put up, where you can buy lovely souvenirs for family & friends.

When: June – August 

Where to stay: Yarab Tso, Woody Vu Stok House

8. Hornbill festival in Nagaland

Tribal Dance, Hornbill Festival

Hornbill is another off-beat festival on the list. It was started by the government of Nagaland to promote inter-tribal interaction and promote the heritage of the state. The festival derived its name from the beautiful hornbill bird, which is a part of many local folklores in Nagaland. The celebrations are held at Naga Heritage Village, Kisama where different tribes of the state showcase their culture through dance forms, indigenous games, crafts, sports, fashion shows, and music concerts.

When: December 

Where to stay: Niraamaya Retreats Aradura, Razhu Pru

9. Dev Deepawali in Varanasi

Pritiwary, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ganga aarti, Dev Deepawali

A riverside with millions of lamps, it would indeed be a magnificent sight. Well, the view is offered to you during Dev Deepawali in Varanasi. After 15 days from Diwali, the Gods are believed to descend to earth and take a bath in the Ganga in Varanasi. On this day, every step of every ghat in Varanasi is lighted up with earthen lamps. People take a holy bath in the river, with a belief to get rid of their sins, which is followed by offering earthen lamps to Ganga. Tourists specially visit Varanasi to witness the grandeur of the festival and the magnificence of Ganga aarti in the evening. 

When: November 

Where to stay: Taj Ganges, Radisson Hotel

10. Dasara in Mysore

Grand Mysore Palace

It’s the Dusshera festival, but with lots of difference. It’s Mysore ka Dasara. A 10-day celebration is organized in the royal Mysore Palace, Maharaja college ground, Chamundi Hills, and many other locations across the city. Mysore Dasara is dedicated to Goddess Chamundeshwari of the Chamunda Hill. The main attractions are Jumboo Savari, dring which of Goddess Chamundeshwari is carried on an elephant in a public procession, and a torchlight parade at the Bannimantap grounds. The Mysore palace is illuminated with thousands of lights, and the golden throne is put out in the Durbar Hall for public display, which is a yearly affair.

When: October – November

Where to stay: Grand Mercure Mysore, Radisson Blu Plaza

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