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Festivals of the Indian Subcontinent

India is a land of festivals and fairs. Virtually celebrating each day of the year, there are more festivals celebrated in India than anywhere else in the world. Each festival pertains to different occasions, some welcome the seasons of the year, the harvest, the rains or the full moon where-as others celebrate religious occasions, the birthdays of divine beings and saints or the advent of the New Year. A number of these festivals are common to most parts of India. However, they may be called by different names in various parts of the country or may be celebrated in a different fashion.

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An ancient Hindu festival, Holi is a festival of colours, heralds the arrival of spring after winter. It signifies the victory of good over evil and is celebrated as a day of spreading happiness and love. The festival is also celebrated as thanks-giving for the good harvest. Holi celebrations start on the night before Holi with Holika Dahan, where people perform rituals in front of a bonfire, praying for their inner evil to be destroyed. The festival is celebrated in different ways around the country, the most famous one being in Mathura. Here, the festival lasts for 16 days, and is primarily played with flowers. In large parts of India, the festival is celebrated with a lot of colors, water balloons and water guns. Sweets are an important part of the festival.

Hola Mohalla

Anandpur Sahib

Hola Mohalla is an annual fair that is organised in a large scale at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab on the day following the festival of Holi. Unlike festival of Holi, when people playfully throw colored powders on each other, Hola Mahalla is an occasion for the Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills. The festival is celebrated for three consecutive days, in which members of Sikh community display their physical strength by performing dare-devil acts like bareback horse-riding, standing erect on two speeding horses, Gatka (mock encounters), tent pegging etc. This is followed by music and poetry competition to lighten the charged up atmosphere.



Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is the biggest festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists around the world. This wonderful festival is the celebration of five days. On the third day of the celebratory occasion, the key rituals of the Diwali festival take place with decorating their homes with “diyas”, earthenware oil lamps and candles all around the house, worshipping the Laxmi Ganesha to summon health and wealth and bursting crackers are the key rituals of the festival. Exchange of gifts with friends & family with a delicious feast including sweats are all a part of the rituals during this festival.

Durga Puja


Durga Puja is one of the most famous festivals celebrated in West Bengal especially Kolkata and other parts of the Country, in honour of Goddess Durga during the period of Navaratri. It is celebrated for 10 days, however starting from the sixth day until the ninth day, the Pandals with grand idols of Goddess Durga are open for visitors. The tenth day, also known as Dashami marks the Visarjan (immersion in water) of the idol with grand celebrations and processions. Different parts of the Country, different rituals & festivities are performed unlike Kolkata.

Ganesh Chaturthi


Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, is a 10-day festival that commemorates the birth of the revered Hindu god Ganesha – the harbinger of new beginnings and the remover of all evils. Known by 108 names, Shri Ganesha is one of the most worshipped deities in Hinduism and is regarded as ‘the god for everybody’. In the weeks leading up to the day of his birth, sculptors can be seen making clay models of the deity in various sizes, while exquisitely crafted pandals (temporary tents carrying idols of gods) are simultaneously set up.



Onam is known as the National Festival of Kerala and is celebrated with great pomp and show. Onam is celebrated each year in the month of August-September. The festivities of the Onam last for ten days in which old and young participate with equal enthusiasm.

Rann Utsav


Rann of Kutch festival also called as Kutch Festival or Just Rann Utsav, a 3 months Long Celebration held at the edge of White Rann. The Rann Festival of Kutch celebrates the colour of the region, providing an arena for the arts & crafts of Gujarat, may it be embroidery on bed linen, brightly coloured leather works intricately carved or mirror work which is displayed. For nature lovers, you may even see the wildlife around the Rann Utsav location including flamingoes, Indian wild asses & foxes.

Kumbh Mela


Kumbh Mela, listed on UNESCO’s (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, is considered as the world’s largest gathering of pilgrims and is a very vital event for Hinduism. This is the reason that a big number of Hindus from every corner of the world arrive at the fair to bathe in the holy rivers, or a ritual meant to clean them of sin and bring pureness to their lives. Kumbh Mela is held in Nashik, Allahabad, Ujjain & Haridwar with Allahabad being the largest.

Pushkar Festival


The Pushkar Fair, also called the Pushkar Camel fair is an annual multi-day livestock fair and cultural fete held in the town of Pushkar. Thousands of camels converge on the tiny desert town of Pushkar. It’s a fascinating and peculiar sight, and a popular opportunity to witness an old traditional-style Indian festival. A huge carnival is held, with an array of musicians, magicians, dancers, acrobats, snake charmers and carousel rides to entertain the crowd. The grand occasion of the Pushkar Mela is definitely a priceless treat for those who wish to eye the vibrant culture and traditions of Rajasthan.

Hornbill Festival


All the tribes of Nagaland take part in the Hornbill festival from 1 – 10 December every year, which revives and protects the rich culture of Nagaland and display its extravaganza and traditions. The Festival is named after the Indian Hornbill, the large and colourful forest bird which is displayed in folklore in most of the state’s tribes. The week long festival unites one and all in Nagaland and people enjoy the colourful performances, crafts, sports, food fairs, games and ceremonies. Traditional arts which include paintings, wood carvings, and sculptures are also on display.

Hemis Festival


Hemis Festival in Ladakh is celebrated annually on the 10th day of the Tse-Chu, Lunar month of the Tibetan Calendar (generally in June/July). The 2-day fiesta marks the birth anniversary of Tibetan Buddhism Founder Guru Padmasambhava. On this day, the courtyard of Hemis Monastery is adorned beautifully to host the ceremony. The colorful festival showcases the beautiful handicrafts of the area. Natives also dress up in lovely traditional attires. Lamas dance around central flagpole to the tunes of drums, cymbals and long horns. Devil Dances’ are also vital aspects of the fiesta. The otherwise cold-barren desert comes to life during Hemis Festival.

Losar (Tibetan New Year)

Himachal Pradesh

Losar is the Tibetan New Year, a three-day festival that mixes sacred and secular practices — prayers, ceremonies, hanging prayer flags, sacred and folk dancing, and partying. It is the most widely celebrated of all Tibetan festivals and represents a time for all things to be purified and renewed. Tibetans follow a lunar calendar, so the date of Losar changes from year to year. Losar Festival is celebrated in India in the north-eastern region. Places like Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim, Ladakh and Bhutan are major contributors of this Losar Festival.

Mahashivratri at Pashupatinath Temple

Kathmandu, Nepal

Located in Kathmandu is the sacred temple of the hindus – Pashupatinath Temple. Pashupatinath is considered the Guardian and Protector of the Kathmandu Valley and Nepal. Shiva Ratri is the biggest festival observed every year at Pashupatinath Temple. Shiva Ratri literally means the night of Lord Shiva. Devotees keep vigil, chant prayers, fast, do yoga, meditate or recite prayers to Shiva. Married Hindu women pray for their husband’s wellbeing while unmarried ones ask for a husband like Shiva. The other attractions to the temple vicinity includes the Sadhu Babas from different parts of Nepal and India. People come to Pashupatinath to observe and see the different kinds of Sadhu Babas and their activities.

Kandy Esala Perahera (Festival of Tooth)

Sri Lanka

The Kandy Esala Perahera also known as The Festival of the Tooth is a festival held in July and August for 10 days in Kandy, Sri Lanka. This historical procession is held annually to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha, which is housed at the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy. The processions comprises of dancers, singers, musicians, jugglers, acrobats, fire-breathers, and various other performers accompanied by a large number of caparisoned Tuskers and decorated Elephants parading the streets in celebration of a religious event.

Thimphu Tshechu


One of the biggest festivals in Bhutan is Thimphu Tshechu. This festival is held in the capital city for three days beginning on the 10th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. It is held on the courtyard of the Tashichhodzong and is considered one of the most beautiful Tshechus in western Bhutan. This Tshechu is witnessed by thousands of people, many of which travel from neighboring Dzongkhags (districts) to attend the festivities. The actual Tshechu is preceded by days and nights of prayer and rituals to invoke the gods. The celebrations last all the 3 days with different kinds of cultural Bhutanese dances.

Haa Summer Festival


Haa summer festival is a celebration of nomadic tradition, unique culture, Bhutanese cuisine, brewing of local ara, traditional sports, religious performances, dances and songs of the Haa valley. The festival celebrates the traditional living–culture and it is to present an insight into the lifestyle of nomadic herders. Summer is the season of festivities for the mythical valley of Haa.