India is known for its rich and diverse cultural heritage, traditions and several colourful festivals. From vibrant costumes to unique rituals, the festivals are enriched with fascinating elements. It’s always fun to witness and understand the vivid culture through these festivals that also showcase the local arts, handicrafts and cuisines in the region.
So, here’s a list of some of the best and most popular festivals across India, that you can consider attending this summer:
1. Mount Abu Summer Festival, Rajasthan
Mount Abu, a major pilgrim tourist centre and the only hill station in the state of Rajasthan, celebrates an annual summer festival in the month of May or June. The two-day festival celebrated during the auspicious full-moon day of Buddha Purnima, is known for its extravagant cultural activities, dance, music, fireworks and more.
The festival is a feast of folk and classical music, and also a window into the tribal life and culture of Rajasthan. It begins with a traditional procession with folk dance performances followed by a boat race at Nakki Lake. The second and third days are for various fun competitions ranging from skating races to tug of war.
Dates: May 17 to 18
What’s special: The festival that celebrates the cheerfulness of the people in the hill station brings out the best of Rajasthan’s arts and traditions. Besides, the hospitality of the people and their cultural heritage make it a memorable experience for anyone who visits the festival.
Location: Mount Abu, Rajasthan
How to reach: Udaipur has the nearest airport, which is almost 185 km from the place and the nearest railway station is the Abu Road station, which is around 29 km from the location. Taxis and buses are available from both the airport and the railway station.
2. Moatsu Festival, Nagaland
Celebrated on 1 May, the Moatsu festival is observed by the Ao tribe, in the town of Mokokchung of Nagaland. The festival celebrated for three days is a symbol of community bonding, celebrated after just the sowing of the seeds.
During Moatsu, the villagers decorate their homes and gather around bone fires, to perform traditional songs and dances. The performances are in gratitude to God for helping the crops grow healthy. One of the symbolic rituals during the festival, Sangpangtu, where a big fire is lit and people sit around it, authentic food and rice beer are served to accompany the celebrations.
Dates: May 1 to May 3
What’s special: Visiting Mokokchung during Moatsu gives us a chance to witness the cultural festival that the heritage and the livelihood of the Ao tribe through their traditional songs and folk dance performances.
Location: Mokokchung, Nagaland
How to reach: To visit Mokokchung, one can travel by air till Jorhat (Assam) and take a hired taxi or daily cab services. If travelling by train, then Mariani in Assam is the nearest railway station to get down. From there hire a private passenger vehicle or a shared taxi which will approximately take 3 to 4 hours through lush evergreen hills.
3. Hemis Festival, Ladakh
One of the most important Buddhist festivals in Ladakh, the Hemis festival is celebrated annually on the 10th day of the Tse-Chu, the lunar month in the Tibetan calendar. The two-day event marks the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava, the Indian Buddhist mystic and is symbolic of the victory of good over evil. The festival is held in the Hemis Monastery that dates back 300 years.
During the festival, the locals dress up in traditional attires and gather in the courtyard of the monastery which will be decorated beautifully to host the celebrations.
Dates: July 8 to 9
What’s special: The traditional mask dance performed by the Lamas to the beats of drums, cymbals and horns known as Cham is a treat to watch. Vibrant costumes are worn by the Lamas and monks wear their traditional long gowns. They also perform sacred plays and also wear elaborate masks and headgear. Every mask holds a special significance associated with it. Not just that, the colourful festival also showcases the traditional handicrafts of the area.
Location: Hemis monastery, Ladakh
How to reach: The nearest airport is the Leh airport, which is around 34 km from Hemis. After, reaching the airport, one can get a taxi to Hemis. The nearest railway station is the Jammu Tawi railway station. There are cabs available that can take you to Hemis from the station.
4. International Flower Festival, Sikkim
Held every year in the capital of Gangtok, the international flower festival is a month-long festival which begins in May at the White Hall complex. The fest organised by the Tourism Department of the Government of Sikkim is a celebration of flora and showcases hundreds of varieties of flowers and plants, attracting tourists from across the world. Also, there is a special display of different varieties of bamboo that grow in abundance in Sikkim and is a pivotal part of local life.
The flower show is followed by a grand food festival, where the visitors can indulge in authentic Sikkimese delicacies.
Dates: May (Date to be declared)
What’s special: The event is a great opportunity for biodiversity or nature enthusiasts who can witness the myriad of flora and also can attend seminars that can offer a lot of interesting insights from experts. Besides, there are several adventure activities like rafting in the Teesta river and also yak safaris.
Location: White hall complex, Sikkim
How to reach: The nearest airport from Gangtok is the Bagdogra International Airport in Siliguri, which is around 150 km away. After reaching the airport, one can travel to Sikkim via road. If you’re travelling by train, the nearest railway stations are New Jalpaiguri (125 km) and Siliguri (144 km) in West Bengal.
5. Ganga Dusshera, Uttarakhand
Observed in the honour of Goddess Ganga, the Ganga Dusshera is a 10-day-long festival, held in the month of May or June in the state of Uttarakhand. The day marks the descent of the sacred Ganga on Earth. Also known as the Dasar Festival, it starts on the Amavasya night (waxing moon) of the Hindu calendar and ends on Dashami tithi (10th Day).
The festival is known for an Aarti that takes place on the bank of the Ganges in the popular pilgrimage destinations of Haridwar and Rishikesh. The devotees take a dip in the holy water of the river to cleanse their soul and all their sins. After taking a bath people also meditate on the banks of the river.
Date: June 9
What’s special: Besides, Haridwar and Rishikesh, the Ganga Dussehra is also celebrated at major ghats of India such as Varanasi, Prayagraj and Garhmukteshwar. The Aarti that takes place in the evening is a sight to behold, with hundreds of earthen lamps being put afloat on the river and the whole atmosphere gets resonating by the chants of the priests.
Locations: Haridwar, Rishikesh, Varanasi, Prayagraj, Garhmukteshwar
How to reach: The Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport, almost 37 km away from Haridwar. Once at the airport, one can avail of any local vehicle from outside the airport to reach Haridwar by road from Dehradun.
Varanasi airport is well-linked to some of the major cities in India like Delhi and Mumbai. International tourists can board connecting flights from Delhi airport which is well-connected to all the major cities in the world.
6. Yuru Kabgyat Festival, Leh
The Yuru Kabgyat is an important Buddhist festival, held in Leh, Ladakh for two days. It is celebrated at the historical Lamayuru Monastery. The festival dedicated to Yama (God of Death) and Padmasambhava (the Second Buddha), is attended by Buddhists from across the globe.
Similar to the Hemis festival, the main attraction of the festival is the masked dances or chams performed by monks to keep evil spirits at bay. In a cham, monks adorn their faces with large vibrant masks and move around in circular motions to the beats of cymbals and drums. Prayer wheels scattered throughout the monastery are a delightful sight.
Date: June 26 – 27
What’s special: It is a festival, celebrated with tremendous pomp and enthusiasm where colourfully dressed Buddhist monks participate in the dance drama. This festival is a great opportunity to get insights into the intricacies of Buddhism and the teachings of Lord Buddha.
Location: Lamayuru Monastery, Leh
How to reach: The nearest airport is the Leh airport, around 125 km from Lamayuru and is only a 4-hour drive away. From the airport, one can easily get hire a taxi or take a bus to Lamayuru. Additionally, the location is well connected to the rest of India via a decent road network.
7. Shimla Summer Festival, Himachal Pradesh
The Shimla festival marks the arrival of the summer season in the capital of Himachal Pradesh and also is celebrated as a tribute to the gods for a bountiful harvest. The festival which started in 1960, hosts several events for the tourists ranging from a gala of musical performances, cultural activities, folk performances, local handicraft exhibitions, fashion shows, dog shows and even more.
The festival is held every year at the Ridge Maidan, a large, open space situated in the middle of the city that has ample area to play host to the festival.
Date: June 1 – 9
What’s special: The summer festival aims at promoting tourism in Shimla city. It is also a great opportunity for the tourists to understand the local culture through their music, handicraft and food.
Location: Ridge maidan, Himachal Pradesh
How to reach: The nearest airport is Jubarhati, which is about 23 km from the town. From the airport, one can easily get a taxi from the airport to get to Shimla. Kalka railway station is situated at a distance of around 96 km. From Kalka station, one can hire private cabs or opt for taxis to reach Shimla.
8. Yercaud Summer Festival, Tamil Nadu
Located in Salem, Tamil Nadu, Yercaud is a hill station known for orange groves and coffee and spice plantations. The summer festival held every year during the second week of May is a much-awaited and looked forward to the event in the state. One of the major attractions is the flower show where lakhs of flowers are on display and several floral structures will be set by the horticulture department.
Date: May second week
What’s special: Other than the flower show, the festival also hosts a variety of other events and activities such as boat races, dog shows, cultural events, and more. The idea of organizing the summer festival is to draw attention to the importance of nature and conservation.
Location: Yercaud Anna Park, Botanical garden, and Rose garden, Tamil Nadu
How to reach: The nearest railway station is at Salem which is about 35 km from Yercaud and from there one can travel by cab or bus to reach the destination. The nearest airport from Yercaud is Salem Airport which is located at a distance of 47 km from the town.
9. Saka Dawa Festival, Ladakh
One of the most important and revered Buddhist festivals, Saka Dawa in Ladakh is celebrated in the fourth month of the Tibetan calendar, which falls in the month of June in the Gregorian Calendar. The festival celebrates the birth of Lord Buddha, his enlightenment, and his death or Mahaparinirvana.
Saka means star and Dawa is translated as a month in the Ladakhi language. The festival starts with all the monks gathering in the courtyard of the monastery and then taking pledges, which include pledges like ‘not to kill anyone’, ‘not to steal’ and many more. All the followers along with the monks lit up candles and incense sticks in front of the statue of Lord Buddha.
Date: June 14
What’s special: One of the highlights of the festival celebrated across Ladakh is called Tarboche, where the monks of the monasteries change the flagpole. Apart from this, prayers are offered in the monasteries, there is the chanting of holy verses and also the performance of Cham Dance (Mask Dance).
How to reach: The nearest airport to Ladakh is Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport in Leh. From the airport, one can avail of a cab to reach the destination. The closest railway station is the Jammu Tawi railway station. There are taxis or JKSRTC transport available to reach Ladakh.
10. Ooty Summer Festival, Tamil Nadu
The Ooty summer festival, a 121-year-old event is held annually on the premises of the Botanical Gardens in Ooty. Organised by the tourism department of Tamil Nadu and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture of India, this festival usually takes place for 16 days.
The festival mainly comprises a flower show that showcases a thousand varieties of flowers and plants, also several flower sculptures that presents authentic and modern floral craftsmanship and artistry.
Date: May 20 onwards
What’s special: There are special events like spice show, rose show, dog show, etc organised as part of the festival. There is also a boat race that takes place at the Ooty lake.
Location: Botanical garden, Ooty
How to reach: You can reach Ooty by air, rail or road. The nearest airport is in Coimbatore and from there it is just a 2-hour drive away. Once in Ooty, you can avail private cabs, auto-rickshaw or any other public transport. Also, Botanical Garden is just 2.5 km away from the Ooty railway station. So, one can just take a walk to the botanical garden or can get an auto-rickshaw.
Edited by Yoshita Rao