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Five Unique Festivals In India That Are An Experience Of A Lifetime

Cherry blossoms in Manipur, fireflies in Maharashtra, hot air balloons in Varanasi and more — here’s a list of 5 unique Indian festivals that are worth traveling for. #TravelGoals

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A quick internet search on the best international festivals will give you some expected results — Germany’s Oktoberfest, Ireland’s Saint Patrick’s Day, and Spain’s La Tomatina, among others. India finds a mention here, of course, with Holi, perhaps the most vibrant celebration the country has.

But there’s a lot more to India’s festivals than just Holi, and each tells the vivid story of ancient history, tradition and culture. So it’s no wonder that people from all over the world come to witness this greatness for themselves, and catch a glimpse of what truly is an incredible India.

So, if you’re looking to jet off to your next adventure, you don’t need to look further than the Indian subcontinent. Here’s a list of five festivals in India that are a must see for the adventure of a lifetime:

Cherry Blossom Festival — Mao, Manipur

Every year, the small hill station of Mao in Manipur begins to resemble a perfectly cut out scene from a movie — there’s a sense of tranquility that is only occasionally punctured by the occasional chirping of birds and crickets, and a blanket of purple and pink for as far as the eye can see. In this town, which is home to a number of tribes that come from all across Manipur and neighbouring states, the festival marks the beginning of the pink season.

The flowers that bloom are known as Sakura in Japan and represent peace and prosperity. These cherry blossoms bloom for about 10-15 days, which are marked with celebrations — a showcase of local cuisine, arts and crafts, dance forms, music, and more. This is perhaps the most peaceful escape in the lap of nature.

Purushwadi Firefly Festival — Purushwadi, Maharashtra

A small village named Purushwadi near Nashik, Maharashtra, is famous for its ecotourism and home to a number of tribes such as the bails, kolidhors, paradhis and more. But what makes it so alluring to visitors is its annual Firefly Festival, held in June. Here, over 2,000 species of fireflies make their way out of hiding, and since the village is not contaminated by artificial lights, these little jugnus are a sight to behold.

Besides watching nature perform its most wonderful tricks, you can also stay with locals of Purushwadi, eat delicious home cooked and local food, hike to nearby hills and help farmers out on fields.

Hot Air Balloon Festival — Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Ever wondered what it would be like to be propelled into the sky? If yes, then Varanasi’s hot air balloon festival is the answer to your prayers.

Kicked off by the UP government on 17 November, this festival saw vibrant and colourful balloons bobbing up and down in the sky, standing out against the clear blue sky and offering a bird’s eye view of the River Ganga. The holiest of the seven sacred cities of India, Varanasi is a sight to behold even from land, so the experience is all the more heightened from several feet above the ground.

“Eleven hot air balloons will be part of the event…Efforts are on to turn it into a regular event,” said district commissioner Deepak Agarwal, adding that each balloon can house 30 people, and will fly upto 1,000 feet.

Hornbill Festival — Kohima, Nagaland

The festival is one of the biggest and most important celebrations of Nagaland’s indigenous warrior tribes. Named after the Indian hornbill, which is part of most of the state’s folklore, the fest is held in December every year, and aims to revive and protect Nagaland’s rich culture.

For about a week, locals come together to sing, dance, eat, drink and more, exhibiting enthralling performances, crafts, sports, games, and ceremonies. You can learn about herbal medicine, traditional archery, wrestling, and religious ceremonies, as well as watch beauty contests and how different parts of the region assimilate.

And if you’re a fan of headbanging, you can head to the festival for one of its major highlights — the Hornbill International Rock Festival, which sees captivating performances from local and international rock bands alike.

Hemis Festival — Hemis, Ladakh

One of the most important Buddhist festivities in Ladakh, Hemis Festival marks the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, a legendary Indian Buddhist mystic who introduced tantric Buddhism to Tibet and established the first monastery there.

Held in June or July every year, the two-day festival sees traditional dance performances in the Hemis Monastery to the tune of Tibetan music, as well as the unfurling of giant thangkas (Buddhist paintings).

These ceremonies are believed to give spiritual strength and good health, and mark the Guru’s life mission to improve the spiritual condition of all living beings. The highlight of the festival are the Cham Dance performances, which are lively productions of masked and costume dances, accompanied by music played by monks, and offer moral instructions on compassion.

Edited by Yoshita Rao

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