Unique Festivals of India: Guest Post by Ankit Jaini
Ailish in Wonderland is thrilled to feature the following guest post by new contributor, Ankit Jaini. From an Investment Banker to an Entrepreneur, Ankit’s journey has led him to do what he really loves- working for the outdoors! Adventures inspire him and he goes out of the way to get back to nature. He shares his experiences and adventure travelogues on www.Alienadv.com. He is an amateur paragliding pilot, loves surfing and swears by his scuba signals. Follow his journey on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram.
India is a land of culture, tradition and diversity. It is a land of a billion people and over 400 languages – a heady mix of colours, customs and experiences. It is incredible how the people live here – where every 200 kms the dialect people speak can change and the currency notes have to be written in 15 different languages!
A perfect example of unity in diversity, there are many festivals celebrated here – both religious and cultural. It is probably the best way to glimpse into everyday life in India and the different lives each person leads. Any travel to India is incomplete without participating in at least a couple of these festivals. But the good news? There is at least one major festival every month of the year here! Almost everyone knows about the famous Holi (the festival of colours) and Diwali (the festival of lights) but here are some popular but not so famous, some unusual and some downright crazy festivals from India.
1. Hemis Festival, Ladakh
This is a Buddhist festival celebrating the birth of the second Buddha – Guru Padmasambhav, believed to be the person who brought Buddhism to Tibet and Bhutan. Famous because it is held in the Northern tip of India – Leh, where passages are usually blocked 4 months of the year due to extreme snow! (Ladakh is popular among adventurers for its cool trekking opportunities in the Himalayas) Held during the summer months of June/July, the venue is the grand 300 year old monastery called the Hemis Jangchub Chal and the highlight is a masked tantric dance – a ritual to celebrate the victory of good over evil and drive away bad omen.
2. Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan
Ever heard of a beauty contest for camels? Well you got to see it to believe it. An incredible number of over 50,000 camels arrive in the town of Pushkar in the months of October/November every year for this fair. This is a trade fair for camels essentially but some of them are groomed and decked up to up the prices! Not to miss the Hot air balloons giving a bird’s eye view of the carnival to willing tourists and the snake charmers, musicians, dancing troops and acrobats adorning the venue!
3. The Kila Raipur Sports Festival, Punjab
One of my personal favourites, the Indian ‘Rural Olympics’ draws millions of people over 3 days to Ludhiana, Punjab. Held in the month of February every year, this is a celebration of India’s rural sporting talent. Competitions include both recognised and traditional sports and participants range from 6 year olds to 70 year old women! The biggest attraction is the bullock cart race with the winner taking home a neat bounty. The fun doesn’t end here, with events like pulling trucks with your beard and riding cycles with tyres of fire during the day and cultural programs with folk music, dance and feasting by night.
4. The Hornbill Festival, Nagaland
The North-Eastern part of India has its own soul. Nagaland, a part of the Seven Sister states in the East of India, is unique with its autonomous tribal population living in harmony with people with modern lifestyles. And the hornbill festival is a celebration of the Naga way of life, where all the tribes of Nagaland participate to preserve their rich culture along with eating and drinking competitions, the famous war dance of tribes displaying extravagant headgear, and traditional costumes and face paints. It is held in December (for more details check out this fun infographic).
5. Onam, Kerala
Onam is celebrated to mark the end of the harvest period in August/September in Kerala. It is rich in festivities and activities and celebrated since ancient times for the homecoming of Mahabali, their Mythical King. People decorate their houses with a colourful presentation of flowers in front of the houses called the ‘Onapookkalam’. The reason I really like it? The insane Snake Boat races and the Puli Kali (The play of the Tigers) procession!
Have you been to a festival in India? Let us know what it was like in the comments!