Apart from being known as the land of diversity, India is also recognised as the country of colourful festivals. The prosperity of Indian culture and heritage is what made these festivals more interesting and inspiring. Being a melting pot of different religious and cultural backgrounds, India celebrates the true spirit of life through several festivals around the year. These festivals of India not only add zing to the monotonous life but also manifest the vibrant and dynamic culture of the county. Celebrating them harmoniously enables people to rekindle the bond of joy and togetherness.
Here’s the list of the famous festivals in India that reflect the country in its best form:
Falling every year in January, Makar Sankranti is a famous festival of India in reference to deity Surya (the sun). It is a Hindu festival which is observed according to solar cycles and is celebrated through colourful decorations, fairs, bonfires, kite flying and feasts. During this festival, people take a plunge in sacred rivers to offer gratitude to the Sun God. Also, it is associated with several different festivities that are named as Uttarayan by Gujaratis and Lohri by North Indian Hindus and Sikhs. Singing of traditional Lohri songs, beating of Dhol and Nagadas and children asking for treats frame an ideal picture of how Lohri is celebrated. Kite flying is central to the festival of Uttarayan.
Republic Day is one among the national festivals of India that celebrates India as a free nation. It is observed every year on January 26 as the Indian Constitution was enforced on the same day in 1950. On this day, ceremonial parades are organised at Rajpath in front of the Indian President and other International delegates. Also, thousands of people visit the ground to watch a remarkable and honourable spectacle representing unity and cultural richness of the nation.
Pongal Harvest is a thanksgiving festival which is celebrated in the Southern part of India to offer gratitude to the Sun God for the successful harvest. In Tamil, it translates into “overflowing,” which further signifies abundance and prosperity. It is observed in the month of January every year. On the first day of the festival, called Bhogi, people discard their old possessions and celebrate new ones. The main event of the festival is Thai Pongal on which homes are decorated with mango and banana leaves and elders offer a gift to the young. It is followed by Maatu Pongal and Kaanum Pongal the next day.
Observed annually in the month of January, Camel Festival is one of the most fun-loving festivals celebrated near the Junagarh Fort in Bikaner in the state of Rajasthan. Dedicated entirely to the ships of the desert, the camels, it involves a lot of entertaining activities such as camel dance, best breed competition, camel races, acrobatics and tug-of-war. Traditional music shows and folk dance performances further add charm to the festival. On this day, camels are adorned with beautiful neckpieces, anklets and colourful bridles. Also, sweets and tea prepared from the camel milk are enjoyed as part of the celebrations of the festival.
One of the most famous festivals of India, Kumbh Mela begins in January and is regarded as one of the largest gatherings of pilgrims across the world. The Prayagraj Kumbh Mela, the Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Simhastha, Haridwar Kumbh Mela and Ujjain Simhastha are the four fairs that are traditionally recognised as Kumbh Melas. These fairs are periodically held at states Varanasi, Allahabad, Haridwar and Ujjain in every three years. During this occasion, devotees from all around the world take a dip in the holy river to cleanse all their sins and purify their souls. Religious discussions, devotional singing and mass feeding are some of the activities that pilgrims can indulge into at the mela.
Dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Saraswati, Basant Panchami is a festival which is either celebrated in January or February. In Indian states of Odisha, Assam, Bihar and West Bengal, this festival is celebrated with a Saraswati Puja on a grand level. Most of the people on this day wear yellow colour attires whereas jasmine garlands are worn by people in Rajasthan. In Uttarakhand, Lord Shiva and Parvati are worshipped on this day. Even Sikhs celebrate this yellow festival by organising Langars where a free meal is offered to all the visitors irrespective of their status quo, caste and religion.
Losar, also called as Tibetan New Year, is a festival which is mainly celebrated either at the end of January or the beginning of February in Ladakh. The main event organised by Ladakhi people to mark the festival is the “Metho” Ceremony in which flaming torches are carried and prayers are chanted by people as they walk street to street in the belief of chasing away the evil spirits. The celebration of this festival constitutes an amalgamation of ancient drama, dances and rituals.
How to Reach: One can reach Ladakh either by road or air. The nearest airport is Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport.
Observed in February in Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho Festival is one of the famous Indian cultural events. It is the festival that manifests true dance forms of India. It involves a weeklong celebration in which many art forms like Bharathanatyam, Manipuri, Kathak, Kuchipudi and Kathakali are displayed by artists. Apart from reflecting the dancing spirit of India, the festival is known for its open-air market which is home to artifacts, sculptures and crafts made by the best town’s craftsmen.
Goa Carnival is one such festival which is celebrated with great pomp and show in the month of February. It lasts for over three to four days and features a lot of entertaining things to do. During this festival, several cultural groups come together to join a huge parade in Goa. Also, it is interesting to watch float parades that are particularly organised in urban areas like Panjim, Vasco da Gama, Mapusa and Margao. It is the time when Goa soaks into the spirit of love, grooves excitedly on mad music and gorges on delectable delicacies.
How to Reach: Goa can be easily accessed by flight, rail or road. The nearest airport to the state is Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
See More: Enjoy the Festivals in Goa In 2019
A pious Hindu festival, Maha Shivratri, is celebrated either in February or March to worship Lord Shiva. It is believed that this festival overshadows darkness and ignorance and therefore, is celebrated with profound faith on Deity Shiva. In order to mark this day, people keep a day-long fast and wear new clothes. In Kashmiri and Himalayan regions, this day is seen as the anniversary of God Shiva and Goddess Parvati and hence, the Mandi Fair is organised to commemorate it. Temples in Varanasi and Somnath are also visited in large numbers to seek blessings on this day.
Integral to the traditional and cultural heritage of Udaipur, Mewar Festival marks the advent of spring. During this festival, the city is clad in a colourful look which is a must-watch on a visit to Udaipur during the spring season. The celebration of Mewar Festival includes dressing the images of Gangaur and Isar, grand processions, a number of cultural events and interesting song and dance performances. It is an experience in itself to enjoy the joyous mood that the city boasts of during this festival.
How to Reach: The city of Udaipur is well-connected by air, road and rail. For those planning to travel by air, the Maharana Pratap Airport is the nearest airport.
Falling typically in the month of March, Holi is said to be the most amiable of all festivals celebrated in India. It not only arrives with fun and friendliness but also with a lesson that victory of good over evil is certain. A night before this day, Holika Dahan takes place where everything negative and evil is burnt in a bonfire. On the main day, people colour each other in fun, spread joy, groove on the tunes of music and enjoy Gujiya, Mathri, and Thandai. “Lath Maar Holi” of Bhaj region of Mathura has a beauty of its own. The festival is marked through offerings to the Indian God of love, Kamadeva in South. In Gujarat’s coastal city, Dwarka, it is celebrated at Dwarkadheesh Temple and observed as the festival of forgiveness to begin anew.
Mostly celebrated in the states of Kerala, Goa and Andhra Pradesh, Easter is a festival which usually falls in the month of either March or April. It commemorates the resurrection of Jesus as described in the New Testament. The main attractions of the festival include Easter eggs and Easter bunnies. As egg serves as an ancient symbol of life and rebirth, Easter eggs are associated with Christ’s resurrection. The Easter Bunny is a legendary anthropomorphic gift-giving character like Santa Claus. Prayers at church, flowers, music, candlelight and ringing of church bells frame an ideal picturisation of Easter’s celebrations.
Mahavir Jayanti is considered to be one of the most significant festivals in India which falls either in the month of March or April. On this day, statues of Mahaveer are anointed and people of Jain community engage themselves in charitable acts, prayers and pujas. Also, devotees visit the temple of Lord Mahavir to meditate.
Festival of Baisakhi is celebrated in April each year with great joy and happiness in Punjab and Haryana. It marks the time for the harvesting of Rabi crops and serves as an important day for farmers. On this day, men and women dress up in colourful clothes and move towards the fields crying “Jatta aayi Baisakhi”. Also, traditional folk dances Gidda and Bhangra are performed to the loud beats of Dhol. Even fairs are organised along with activities like wrestling bouts, acrobatics and music performances.
Bohaag Bihu or Rongali Bihu is the spring festival of Assam which is celebrated in the month of April. It marks the arrival of a new agricultural cycle, ushers in the New Year and open doors to day-long celebrations. Apart from visiting the houses of near and dear ones and exchanging gifts, people revel in festivities of the fairs organised to celebrate the day. Additionally, young girls wear traditional attire, sing “Bihugeets” and enjoy the traditional dance form “MukoliBihu”.
How to Reach: The nearest airport to reach Assam is Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport.
The festival of Ugadi falls in the month of either March or April and is celebrated with much gaiety by the people from all over Karnataka. It is noted as an auspicious time for those who are looking forward to commencing new ventures. It is said that Lord Brahma began the creation of the vast universe on this day and therefore, this festival marks the beginning of the new Hindu lunar calendar. Decorating homes with flowers and mango leaves, offering prayers and preparing special dishes are the ways in which people enjoy it with their loved ones.
How to Reach: Travellers can either go by train or can book tickets to Kempegowda International Airport for a hassle-free journey to Karnataka.
Buddha Jayanti is recognised as one of the most sacred festivals of India. It is observed on a full moon in late April or May. Often referred to as Buddha Purnima, it marks the birthday of the founder of the philosophy of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha. It also commemorates Buddha”s birth, enlightenment and death and is mainly celebrated in places such as Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Darjeeling, Kurseong, Bodh Gaya and Maharashtra. On this day, devotees listen to the Buddhist teachings, wear white and savour vegetarian food.
Thrissur Pooram is ranked among the most popular of all Kerala festivals in India. It is because thousands of people from different geographical boundaries come together to be a part of its celebration which lasts for around 36 hours. Parasol displays and firework shows constitute the key highlights of this festival which is celebrated in either April or May. On this day, hundreds of people bring out the procession in which around 15 elephants are involved too. Also, new clothes are worn by men and women as part of the celebrations of the festival. Additionally, artists from different parts of the country participate enthusiastically in the events of the festival.
How to Reach: Travellers can book their tickets to any of the three airports in Kerala; Thiruvananthapuram International Airport in the southern part of Kerala, Kochi International Airport in the central part of Kerala and Calicut International Airport in the northern part of the state.
Known for attracting a lot of local and foreign tourists every year, Hemis is a two-day religious festival which is celebrated in June in Ladakh. It includes festivities like the Cham dance performed by the priests to the tunes of the traditional music of drums, trumpets and cymbals played by the monks. It is celebrated to mark the birth anniversary of the spiritual leader and founder of Tibet Tantric Buddhism, Padmasambhava.
How to Reach: The easiest way to travel to Ladakh is to book tickets to Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport situated in Leh.
See More: Festivals in June in India
Associated with Lord Jagannath, the Rath Yatra is also called the festival of chariots. It is celebrated with great fervour and enthusiasm at Puri Jagannath Temple in Odisha in the month of June of July. On this day, the deities Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra are taken out in a procession to Gundicha Temple. During Rath Yatra, devotees from all across the world visit Puri to pull the chariots of the deities. It is considered as an auspicious deed which is accompanied by trumpets, drums and devotional songs.
How to Reach: The best way to reach Odisha is by air. Biju Patnaik Airport at Bhubaneswar serves as the nearest airport to reach the state.
The biggest of all festivals of Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh, Dree Festival is celebrated to ensure a good harvest. This festival is observed in the month of July and is believed to mark a successful harvest. On this day, cucumber is distributed to everyone as a symbol of a rich harvest. Offering prayers, gorging on local dishes, brewing and drinking are some of the facets of the festivities involved in Dree Festival.
How to Reach: The closest airport to reach Arunachal Pradesh is Lilabari Airport in Lakhimpur district of Assam.
See More: Joyous festivals in July in India
Observed in the month of August, Raksha Bandhan is a very popular traditional Hindu festival which is celebrated almost in all parts of India. On this day, sisters apply Tilak on the forehead of their brothers, tie Rakhi on their wrists and pray for their well-being. In return, brothers vow to protect them against all evil influences. As the name of the festival literally translates, it is the festival of protection which is celebrated to strengthen the beautiful love between a brother and his sister.
An annual Hindu festival which arrives either in August or September, Janmashtami is known worldwide for celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna. It involves several festivities that are enjoyed in different ways across regions of Manipur, Assam, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Mathura. To celebrate the festival, Rasa Lila (traditional Krishna Drama) is performed in Mathura whereas the event of Dahi Handi is organised in Gujarat. In South India and North East, people sing devotional songs, keep a day-long fast and cook a variety of dishes to celebrate the festival.
Popular of all national festivals of India, Independence Day celebrates the spirit of free India which got its independence on 15 August in 1947. On this day, parades, flag hosting ceremonies and other cultural events are organised to commemorate the freedom attained after several years of drudgery. In the honour of India’s independence, the Prime Minister of India hosts flag at the Red Fort officially every year to mark the day. It is followed by the salutation offered by keeping up to the tradition of 21 gunshots.
Ganesh Chaturthi is one among the grand public festivals of India which is celebrated specifically in the states of Goa, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat in either August or September. On this day, pandals are set up with idols of Ganesha and several cultural activities like dancing, singing and orchestral performances are featured. In Kerala, procession marches are organised to immerse the great idols of Lord Ganesha in the sea. The primary sweet dish of the festival is Modak which is a must-try if you happen to visit the country during September.
Onam is one of the biggest festivals of the state of Kerala which is celebrated for around ten days during the Malayalam month of Chingam (August – September). It marks the commemoration of the ‘Vamana’, the avatar of Vishnu. It is a rice harvest festival which is celebrated with great enthusiasm. The lighting of Nilavilakku, an Aarti that involves waving flowers over the Bible, constitutes an important ritual of the festival.
How to Reach: Apart from traveling by air or train to reach Kerala, travellers can also travel through ships. Backwaters of Kerala not only serve as a popular medium of transportation but also as a prominent attraction for tourists.
Considered a grand social event majorly in eastern and north-eastern states of India, Durga Puja is one among the list of major religious festivals of India. Observed between September and October, it is celebrated to honour the victory of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura which is seen as the reign of good over evil in a broader perspective. Observed over the duration of ten days, this festival involves several interesting festivities. Colourful streets, beautifully set up pandals, bright lights, lip-smacking delicacies and devotional songs lend this festival all the fervour and vigour with which it is celebrated all over India. In addition, animal sacrifices are performed to commemorate the victory of the goddess specifically in the temples of Odisha, West Bengal and Assam.
Celebrated in veneration of the Goddess Durga, Navratri serves as one of the favourites of all festivals of Hindus. This festival is observed as per the movements of sun and moon and therefore, is celebrated either in September or October. In order to mark the festival, Ramlila is organised in North India to offer insights into the life of Lord Ram and inspire the people towards inculcating moral values central to Indian culture. Gujarati regards Navratri as one of the most important festivals and celebrates all its nine days with a cultural dance performance, Garbha, which is further followed by aartis.
Also referred to as Vijayadashmi, Dussehra is the festival which marks the end of Durga Puja. In northern parts of India, it is celebrated with great enthusiasm as the idol of evil spirit Ravana is burnt to restore faith in good. Also, dance and theatre performances depicting the story of Lord Ram’s victory are performed to inspire the people to walk on the path of righteousness. A large fair is organised in Kully Valley of Himachal region to celebrate the festival. In parts of Eastern India, the idols of Maa Durga are immersed in the water. It usually falls in the months of September and October.
See More: Best places to visit during Dussehra
Boat Festival is known for reflecting the traditional heritage and cultural diversity central to the Indian state of Kerala. This festival is celebrated by all with great zeal in the autumn season. The boat festivals held in Kerala are popularly called as Vallom Kallies and witness participation from various parts of the state every year. The biggest of all boat festivals of Kerala is the Nehru Trophy Boat Race. Another popular boat race is the Champakulam Moolam Boat Race which takes place on the Champakulam Lake. To mark Onam’s great harvest, such boat races are held in Kerala.
How to Reach: Travellers can comfortably reach Kerala by air. However, for those planning to travel by train, there are around 200 railway stations in Kerala that connect places both within and outside the city.
Gandhi Jayanti is a national festival which is celebrated on October 2 every year to mark the birthday of the Father of the Nation. By commemorating his sacrifices for the independence of the nation, people pay tribute to the freedom which has been a result of a long battle. To honour Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts and contribution, schools, colleges along with other institutions offer prayers at his memorial located in New Delhi.
Observed between mid-October and mid-November, Diwali tops the most important festivals of India. It is the festival of lights which is celebrated to express joy on Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years. On this occasion, people clean and decorate their houses to allow prosperity to paint their lives. Be it lighting diyas, drawing rangolis, cooking dishes, sharing gifts and sweets, the festival of Diwali brings everyone together and is believed to enlighten life by overcoming darkness. On this day, people worship the Goddess Lakshmi, who is considered to be the deity of wealth and prosperity in Hindu mythology. In Odisha and West Bengal, the festival is regarded as Kali Puja whereas it is celebrated as Bandi Chor Diwas in Sikhism.
Observed as one of the major festivals of Sikhs, Gurupurab is celebrated as the birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. A day before this day, a procession takes place and is led by five Beloveds. To mark the celebrations of this devotional and spectacular festival around November, special assemblies are conducted in Gurudwaras on the teachings of the gurus. Also, langars are organised and acts of martial arts are performed as part of the rituals of the festival.
The Nongkrem dance festival is a five-day long festival which is central to the hill state of Meghalaya. It is celebrated around November to placate the Goddess Ka Blei Synshar for a successful harvest. One of the highlights of the festival is the dance performed by unmarried men and women dressed in exotic costumes. Men holding a sword in their right hand and a white Yak hair whisk in their left one and dancing on the playing of pipes is a must-behold spectacle on this day.
How to Reach: Located in Guwahati, Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport is the nearest airport to reach Meghalaya.
Traditionally celebrated by the people of the Indian state of Bihar, Chhath Puja is dedicated to worshipping the Sun God. Also known as Dala Puja, it falls in the month of either October or November. On this day, people wear new clothes, keep fasts and gather by rivers to celebrate. Also, lamps are lit and folk songs are sung by people in honour of ‘Chhat Maiya’. After sunset, courtyards of houses are lighted with earthen lamps or ‘diyas’ and the festive mood is enjoyed with an ensemble of mouth-watering dishes.
How to Reach: Bihar is mainly served by Jayprakash Narayan Airport and Bodhgaya Airport in Patna and Gaya respectively. Travellers can book their tickets to either of the airports.
Goverdhan Puja (mid-October-mid November) is one among the Hindu festivals of India which is celebrated four days after Diwali. On this day, a large variety of vegetarian dishes are prepared by devotees as Prasad for Lord Krishna. Metaphorically, the act of offering food to God symbolises gratitude. This festival is identified with the act of Krishna lifting the Govardhan Hill on his finger in the Bhagavata Purana to protect people from Indra’s torrential rage. There are several variants in which it is celebrated; however, all represent faith in seeking God’s protection.
Dev Deepawali is the festival of Kartik Poornima which is celebrated in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh anytime between November and December. This festival arrives 15 days after Diwali. Mostly, it is seen as a tourist-centric festival on which ghats are lightened up with a million lamps shining bright in the night and illuminating the sky. On this day, people light oil lamps, decorate their houses, organise processions of deities and float diyas on the river.
Popular among young and elders alike, Christmas is celebrated with great enthusiasm every year on December 25. It is one of the important festivals of Christians which most of the people love to celebrate in the spirit of joy irrespective of their religion. In particular, this festival is popular for celebrating the birth of Lord Jesus. Waiting for surprise gifts from Santa by children constitutes an exciting part of the celebrations of Christmas. To mark such a joyous occasion, churches are decorated and are lit up with candles. Christmas trees covered in twinkly decorations, tinsel and lights serve as the center of attraction of this festival.
The annual Hornbill Festival is a 7-10 day festival of Nagaland which is celebrated in the month of December every year. It involves a lot of entertaining festivities such as indigenous games, music events, craft bazaar, cultural performances, kids’ carnival, floral galleria and a series of other competitions that allow people to indulge in some fun. Colourful headgears, warrior log drums, exquisite costumes and warrior log drums are the major highlights of Hornbill Festival.
How to Reach: The best way to reach Nagaland is by air. Dimapur is the domestic airport which lies closest to the state. The only international airport near to Nagaland is Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport which is located in Guwahati.
Every festival narrates its own story and offers a chance to explore the roots of the nation. As Indian festivals and celebrations are awaited all year long, do not miss to rejoice in the festivities while you visit the country that never fails to promise happiness abounds.
Makar Sankranti, Baisakhi, Gudi Padwa, Onam, Ugadi and Pongal are some of the vibrant harvest festivals of India that involve joyous celebrations.
Gurupurab, Guru Nanak Jayanti, Baisakhi and Maghi Festival are some of the festivals that are central to the religion of Sikhism.
Lohri, Magh Bihu, Thai Pongal, Camel Festival and Kutch Rann Mahotsav are some of the most popular festivals in India which are celebrated during the winter season.
Magha Saptami in Odisha, Durga Puja in West Bengal, Chhath Puja in Bihar and Tashiding Bumchu in Sikkim are some of the famous festivals that are celebrated in Eastern India.
Indian festivals that mark the celebrations of New Year in different communities include Bohag Bihu, Christmas, Poila Baisakh and Puthandu along with several others.