Festivals Of India
the triumph of good over evil. This Hindu festival is celebrated all over India
to mark the victory of Rama over Ravana, the great demon and king of Lankan, who
had abducted his wife, Sita. In north India the Dussehra celebration includes
the Ram-Lila that consists of plays, recitations and music that recall the life
of the legendary hero, Rama. The Ram-Lila is held during the nine days
preceding Dussehra. On the tenth day, elaborate processions lead to the Ram-Lila
grounds where immense cracker-stuffed effigies of the demon Ravana and his son
and brother -Meghnath and Kumbhakarna explode to the cheers of thousands of
Diwali, or Deepavali,
perhaps the best-known Hindu festival, marks the end of the season that opens
with Dussehra. Diwali is celebrated throughout India. It usually takes place in
October/November. Diwali is called the "festival of lights", and the name itself
means an array of lamps (Deep = Lamp, Vali =Array). Indeed, illumination is
characteristic of Diwali. The array of lamps are symbolic of welcoming Lord Rama
back to Ayodhya after his 14 years of exile, and the common practice is to light
small oil lamps, diyas, and place them around the house. If there is one
occasion that is full of joy and jubilation for all, it is Diwali.
International Folk Festival
Late October: Musicians from India and across the
world gather in Rajasthan from October for the local International Folk
Festival. Against the backdrop of the unparalleled beauty of the Mehrangarh
Fort, the festival commences with a grand ceremonial procession. Whilst
presenting musical notes from their own countries’ foreign artistes will
collaborate with local musicians to create vibrant new sounds. Rajasthani folk
communities will also participate. The opening of the festival will coincide
with ‘Sharada Poornima’, the brightest full moon of the year whose brilliant
rays beautifully lights up all the monuments around the State. This celebration
also coincides with the Marwar Festival which is a feast of music and dance.
For some stunning photographic images
Indian Photographers website
Khajuraho Dance Festival
An annual treat for the
connoisseurs of Indian Classical Dances comes at Khajuraho for a
week during February or March. It is a grand 7-day extravaganza
celebrating Khajuraho’s 1000 years old cultural heritage preserved
in its stark stone sculptors. The treasured art forms unfold amidst
ethereal settings and not one but all eight forms of Indian
Classical dances are performed and delineate the spiritual, the
intellectual and the social heritage of India. This festival of
International repute is a destination awaited by connoisseurs,
travelers and more so by the performers. In words of a performer,
“Every dancer worth her mettle dreams of performing at the Khajuraho
festival”. For someone looking forward to a heritage tour of India,
timing the visit around the Khajuraho dance festival would be a wise
Dates: A seven
day period in February/March every year.
Venue: Western Group of temples, Khajuraho, Madhya
Timings: Daily 7:00 P.M. onwards
is renowned for its monsoonal showers, but on one day in March the rain that
falls is a multi-coloured spectacular. The Holi festival is an excuse to release
your inner child. Some may dream of bathing in spaghetti, others may relish
squashed tomato fights, but this is the festival that kaleidoscope fantasies are
made of. Blue, green, red, yellow, pink and purple clouds billow out from the
crowds while the amalgamation of these shades is a vision in brown.
The world's brightest festival is held on the full moon day in the month of
March and this year it takes place on March 27. Showers of coloured dust
represent the start of spring and, perhaps ironically given it is hay fever
season, trigger a fair few sneezes. Embraced by all citizens, this is a festival
where caste and social regulation is transcended. Workers throw powder at the
boss, teenagers dust their crush, and husbands can wreak pink-coloured revenge
on their mother-in-law.
Holi is a Hindu festival and yet it is one of the most secular and accessible
events held anywhere in India. The legend began with a demon king named
Hiranyakashyap who wanted to kill his son for worshipping Vishnu rather than
himself. His sister Holika was immune to fire so he asked her to carry his son
into the flames. All did not go as planned however; Vishnu stepped in to blanket
the son, negating Holika's immunity, and she was burnt to a cinder. In memory of
this event, bonfires are lit the night before the festival on Holi eve. The
bonfires are lit between 10pm and midnight, whichever time the moon rises.
An affiliated legend speaks of a child-tormenting ogress who was forced to flee
on the day of Holi. Children therefore have a free rein to make as much mischief
as possible on Holi and you will find them squirting passers-by with water guns
and flinging water balloons from buildings.
Yet another legend comes from Lord Krishna's love for Radha. Krishna was
perturbed by the contrast of his dark skin to Radha's pale complexion. Krishna's
mother advised him to rub colour into her face so that they would be better
aligned and this is believed to have influenced the tradition of the Holi
are freed from the restraints of caste and societal expectations - which can
make for some rather inappropriate behaviour, by Indian standards at least. A
frequent refrain is "bura na mano, Holi hai" which translates as the
wide-ranging excuse of "don't feel offended, it's Holi".
Women and the elderly therefore stick together, travelling in groups and
applying colour as a way of greeting one another. If you see someone truly going
for it, there's not something in the powder, but there is something in the
cannabis paste. Many festival goers will be high as it is a tradition to consume
bhang filled delicacies on this day. With inhibitions lowered, the merry-making
is even more over the top. If you want to avoid it, don't take treats from
sand, the coloured specks will worm into your clothes, your nose, ears and
underpants. But it is all in good humour and the chances are you will walk away
with a chalk-filled mouth from smiling nonstop. It's not just particle driven
either - coloured water is also deployed to make the powders stick.
Traditionally spice is dyed in preparation for the festivities and local vendors
can be found selling rows of metal bowls piled high with the substance. The dye
used to be created from flowers and plant material but nowadays artificial
colours are used as well. Historically the petals of a red tree were dried and
then ground to a fine residue the colour of saffron.
Red symbolises matrimony in India, blue is associated with Hindu god Krishna
while green represents harvest - and hence, spring. The colours you won't see
are black and white. In Indian culture white symbolises mourning and black keeps
evil at bay.
THE BETTER FESTIVAL VENUES
In West Bengal an extra element is added with Dolayatra, a Swing Festival, where
Gods are sat on extravagantly dressed platforms that the faithful then swing in
the air. In this region the festival happens a day before the celebrations in
the rest of the nation.
In Jaipur an Elephant festival takes place alongside Holi. The elephants are
painted in intricate and bright patterns and paraded to the people. As extras,
there are elephant beauty contests and a trunked tug-of-war competition.
Elsewhere, in New Delhi, the capital hosts a music festival to coincide with
Holi called Holi Cow! Concert-goers are bathed in colour while sprinklers and
bhang lassi up the ante. The crowd is a good mix of expats and locals.
And in Mathura, serious party goers can take part in a 40-day pre-Holi party.
This temple town is located in the north of India and has a strong association
with Krishna which means the lead-up is just as important as the day with
dancing, singing and plays that pay homage to Krishna taking place beforehand.
Margazhi Music Dance Festival Chennai
South Indian classical music in the form
of Carnatic Music along with the traditional dance form of Tamil Nadu,
Bharatnatyam, confers mystical divinity to the land of Chennai. The Dance and
Music Festival, commonly known as the 'Margazhi Festival of Dance and Music'
commemorates the spirit long treasured by Carnatic music and traditional dance
forms. The birth of the festival dates back to 1927 when it was first celebrated
in order to rejoice the first anniversary of Madras Music Academy. Sooner, the
concept was picked by many other organisations too which were responsible for
organising art festivals in different parts of the city.
The Dance and Music festival is celebrated in Margazhi month of Tamil calendar
which coincides with the time duration of mid December to mid January. The
festivity of the Carnatic Music and classical dance is idolized at various
places in the capital city Chennai and attracts a host of performing art
enthusiasts. Taking into consideration the indigenous belief of revering the
Almighty through musical rhymes and mystical dance steps, the festival is
performed at several fascinating venues like venerated temple complexes,
heritage bungalows and renowned auditoriums.
The month-long festival showcasing the art and talent of famous artists across
India is also famously known as the 'December Season', particularly amongst the
expatriate Indians and scholars, who come from across the globe to attend and
witness the stunning moments of the festival. Over time, the festival has become
greatly popular, gathering about 2,000 participants in more than 300 concerts in
its duration, honouring the spirit of the festivity.
The festival holds great importance, as Carnatic music is considered the best
medium to pay homage to the Gods. This makes the festival a blend of both melody
and divinity. The extravaganza displays the performances of vocal and
instrumental musicians, along with dancers, both solo and group, belonging to
the genres of junior and senior artistes. The festival confers an opportunity
before junior artists to illustrate their ability, sharing the platform with
their senior counterparts of the field. The performances primarily swivel around
the songs of Tamil, Telugu and Kannada languages, demonstrating the magic of the
instruments like Flute, Veena, Goottuvadyam, Nagaswaram, Thavil, Mridangam, and
By the end of Margazhi month of Tamil calendar, as the time to bid adieu to the
Dance and Music Festival comes, the focus is shifted from the Dance and Music
Festival to the Thyagaraja Music Festival or Thyagaraja Aradhana Festival,
celebrated in Tiruvaiyaru, near Tanjore. The festival is an opportunity to
revere the birth of Thyagaraja, who was one of the greatest composers of
Carnatic music and was counted among the trinity of music. The celebration takes
place at the Samadhi (burial place) near the banks of River Cauvery.