Finding reasons to celebrate life comes naturally to humans. In agrarian India, the rainy season provides yet another opportunity for people to get together and revel in the gifts of Nature. It is also an opportunity for the wandering soul to discover the staggering diversity of communities, deities and cultural practices the country has to offer. We bring to you some spectacular festivals celebrated during monsoons in India:
1. Minjar Mela, Himachal Pradesh
This week-long festival in July-August commemorates the victory of the king of Chamba over the rulers of Kangra in the 10th century. It is marked by processions to the Ravi river, folk dance and music performances and a carnival showcasing the culture of Himachal Pradesh. While the state is tourist-friendly throughout the year, this festival is an amazing opportunity to witness the state at its cultural best.
2. Behdienkhlam, Meghalaya
The Jaintia and Pnar communities of Meghalaya celebrate Behdienkhlam (‘driving away pestilence’) in July. It is marked by the making of wooden staffs called ‘dienkhlams’, which are used to ‘drive away’ evil spirits. 30-40 feet tall ‘rots’, are taken out in procession and immersed in the muddy Eitnar pool. It is accompanied by a local version of soccer with a wooden ball, lots of food, rice beer and merrymaking.
3. Onam, Kerala
The state festival of God’s Own Country, Onam marks the homecoming of King Mahabali. Celebrated in August-September, it is noted, among many other traditional celebrations, for the spectacular boat races (‘Vallam Kali’), the tiger dance (‘Puli Kali’) and the sumptuous feast- Onasadhya. Worth a three-day trip to Kerala!
4. Hemis Festival, Jammu and Kashmir
A two-day festival in the Hemis monastery of Ladakh, this event in June is a celebration of the victory of good over evil. Coinciding with the Guru Padmasambhava’s birth anniversary, the main highlight of this festival is the Mask Dance by lamas (priests) and a fun-fair for tourists, offering souvenirs and traditional Tibetan cuisine. Still need more reasons?
5. Sao Joao Festival, Goa
The Sao Joao festival is celebrated by Goan Catholics in June to mark the ecstasy of St John the Baptist. Revellers wear colourful ‘kopels’: crowns fashioned out of leaves and fresh flowers, get tipsy on the local beverage ‘Feni’ and jump into pools with cries of ‘Viva Sao Joao’ to imitate the ecstasy. The Siolim Boat Festival has lavishly decorated boats participating in processions. This is the ideal festival to experience Goa in all its carnival-like merriment!
6. Kajli Teej, Rajasthan
The Kajli Teej festival in Rajasthan involves married women fasting, dressing up in traditional finery and praying for their husbands’ well-being. In Bundi, however, this festival is celebrated with extra gusto and there are processions-complete with elephants and camels, folk music and dance showcases and fairs where tourists can enjoy a slice of Hadoti Rajasthani culture first-hand.
7. Aashadhi Ekadashi, Maharashtra
Pandharpur, the epicentre of Maharashtrian religious consciousness, comes to life with this festival in July-August. Followers of the Warkari tradition from all over the state walk in thousands to this pilgrimage spot on Aashadhi Ekadashi to take a dip in the river Chandrabhaga. The processions, or ‘Waris’ are marked by vibrant chanting of hymns by the devotees and is an excellent event to experience the spiritual aspect of Maharashtra.
Booking your tickets already? Know of more such exciting festivals? Share with us in the comments below!
Title image: seeandohkerala