The fairs and festivals are the spirit of Indian culture and society. Amongst the popular festivals of India are Baisakhi, pushkar mela, kumbh mela, Goa (carnival), Desert Festival, Diwali, Durga Puja, Dussehra, Elephant Festival, Gangaur Festival, Holi, International Kite Festival in Ahmedabad, International Kite Festival in Jodhpur, Janmashtami, Konark Dance Festival, Lohri, Maha Shivratri, Navratri, Onam, Phoolwalon ki Sair, Pongal, Rath Yatra, Rongali Bihu and many more.
JANUARY / FEBRUARY
Makar Sankranti - is the time of the year when the Sun enters Capricorn. It's a time of great festivities throughout the nation with people taking a dip in the holy rivers and seas. In Gujarat particularly, it is the time to witness and extravaganza of Kite flying in what has become an International Kite Festival. The International Kite Festival is always held at Ahmedabad on January 14, to coincide with the festival of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti.
Pongal - mainly held in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. A 3-days colourful Tamil harvest festival.
Republic Day - held on 26th January every year, this is a National holiday that commemorates the establishment of the Indian Republic in 1950. It's a grand military parade and procession of colourful floats, dancers and so on.
Vasant Panchami - Vasant beckons spring and is celebrated on a National level mainly in the Eastern region, it is a Hindu festival dedicated to Saraswati the Goddess of Learning. It is marked by people wearing yellow coloured clothes.
Floating Festival - held in Madurai in the State of Tamil Nadu, marks the Birthday of a local 17th century rule. Its main feature is the elaborately illuminated barge carrying decorated temple deities at the Mariamman Teppakulam Pool amidst chanting hymns. Commonly known as the Float Festival, this magnificent festival is celebrated in Madurai. On the night of the full moon in January, ornamented icons of goddess Meenakshi and her consort are taken out in a colourful procession to the huge Mariamman Teppakulam. The icons are floated in the tank on a raft decked with flowers and flickering lamps.
Desert Festival, Jaisalmer (Jan-Feb) : Once a year in winters and on the middle of the continually rising and falling stark yellow sands of the great Thar Desert, the empty sands around Jaisalmer come alive with the brilliant colour, music and laughter of the Desert Festival. The festival is organized by the tourist authorities as tourist entertainment around January-February. The very rich and colourful Rajasthani folk culture is on show here for a few days. Rajasthani men and tall beautiful women dressed in their brightly costumes dance and sing lingering ballads of velour, romance and tragedy. Traditional musicians attempt to outdo each other in their musical superiority.
Nagaur Cattle Fair - is held in Nagaur in the State of Rajasthan. Essentially an animal fair, it provides an opportunity to participate in some of the local sports.
FEBRUARY / MARCH
Shivaratri - is celebrated on a National level. It marks the wedding anniversary of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati. It's a day of fasting for devout Hindus. Special celebrations are held in Shiva temples throughout the country like Chidambaram, Kalahasti, Khajuraho, Varanasi and Mumbai.
Holi - It is a festival of colour, celebrated mainly in North India. This is a very popular festival of colours. It marks the advent of spring. Lively and much throwing of coloured water and powders marks this 2-day festival.
Mardi Gras - is a 3-day festival held in Goa. The main feature is the Carnival and the gaiety associated with it.
Ram Navami - celebrated at a National level, marks the birth of Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the hero of the epic Ramayana. It's a 9-day festival of fasting and is marked by plays and folk theaters.
Kumbha Mela - the oldest and most important of the Hindu festivals. It takes place every three years, at one of the four great holy cities - Nasik (Maharashtra), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh), Prayag or Allahabad and Haridwar (both in Uttar Pradesh). It is attended by millions of pilgrims who take a holy dip in the holy rivers.
Braj Mahotsav 2-4 Feb.2005 : The Brij Festival takes place a few days before Holi, (the festival of colours) in the month of March. Held in honour of Lord Krishna, this festival is marked by verve and zest. Villagers can be seen singing and performing the Raslila dance (dance depicting the immortal love-story of Radha and Krishna).
APRIL / MAY
Baisakhi - celebrated mostly in North India, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, this marks the Hindu Solar New Year.
Meenakshi Kalyanam - celebrated in Madurai, this festival marks the marriage of goddess Meenakshi (another name of goddess Parvati) with Lord Shiva. It is a colourful 10-day temple festival wherein the deities borne by colossal chariot are taken out on a procession.
Urs - celebrated at Ajmer in the State of Rajasthan is a 6-days religious cultural and commercial extravaganza dedicated to a Sufi saint at the Dargah Sharif.
Mewar Festival, Udaipur : The Mewar Festival is celebrated to welcome the advent of spring. It coincides with the festival of Gangaur in Udaipur. Once the religious part of the festival is over, it is time for cultural events where Rajasthani culture is portrayed through songs, dances and other programmes. The festival culminates with an impressive fireworks display.
JUNE / JULY
Puri Rath Yatra - celebrated mainly at Puri in the State of Orissa, is one of the greatest temple festivals in the honour of Lord Jagannath (Lord of the Universe), a form of Vishnu. Three colossal chariots are drawn from the Jagannath temple by thousands of pilgrims.
JULY / AUGUST
Teej - celebrated in North India particularly in Rajasthan, marks the onset of the monsoon. In Jaipur, processions of elephants, camels, dancers etc are taken out. It is a colourful festival especially for women.
Amarnath Yatra - is a Hindu pilgrimage journey that takes one to the Amarnath Cave in Kashmir at full moon. Pilgrims visit the place where Lord Shiva explained the secret of salvation to his consort Parvati.
Independence Day - celebrated on 15th August every year marks the day when India got her Independence. It's marked by celebrations throughout the country. In Delhi the Prime Minister delivers his annual address to the nation at the historic Red Fort.
Janmashtami - celebrated nation wide marks the birth of Lord Krishna. It is a day of fasting, temple celebrations, plays and folk theatres and colourful floats depicting the life and times of Lord Krishna.
Onam - is a harvest festival of the State of Kerala. The main feature is the spectacular snake boat races.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER
Dussehra - is a nation wide 10-day festival that is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the country. In the north and particularly in Delhi it is marked by plays known as Ram Lila that recalls the life of Rama and the episodes of the Ramayana. On the 10th day effigies of Ravana the king of Lanka are burnt amidst fireworks. In the State of Himachal Pradesh, the festival is marked by a colourful fair. In Bengal and many parts of Eastern India it is known as Durga Puja and on the 10th day idols of Goddess Durga are immersed in the sea or the rivers.
Diwali - is a nation wide festival that comes after 20 days of Dussehra. It is one of the most lively and colourful festivals in India. In some parts of the country, it marks the start of the Hindu New Year. In Eastern India, the goddess Kali is particularly worshipped; elsewhere, it is Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, who is venerated. Everywhere there are magnificent illuminations and fireworks.
Phoolwalon ki Sair — or the festival of flower-sellers winds it way down the flower-sellers’ promenade in Mehrauli. Led by shehnai players and dancers, it moves from the temple of jog Maya through the Mehrauli Bazaar to place curtains made of flowers on the tomb of Saint Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki. This is one of the few festivals in which both Hindus and Muslims participate in the equal fervour.
Sonepur Cattle Fair - celebrated in the State of Bihar, this is one of the largest cattle fairs in the world. It's a month long fair held on the banks of the Ganga at the town of Sonepur.
Pushkar Mela - is an annual Cattle Fair held at Pushkar in the State of Rajasthan. It's a colourful fair attended by people from miles around. Camel races, acrobatics and folkdance and music are some of its highlights.
Christmas - is a nation wide celebrated festival. It is most exuberantly celebrated in Goa, Bombay and South India.