India has a significant collection of religions within, resulting in a variety of festivals and holidays every month. The vibrant colours of red, gold, yellow, and soul-searching music provides a cultural experience unlike any other. All are welcome to try the sweet foods and admire the ornaments and deities set out for religious prayers.
The 10 most popular festivals are scattered throughout the year, attracting tourists who are passing through. It is easy to find cheap hotels for your budget and to compare cheap hotels on travel sites to get the best deals.
1. Uttarayan & the Kite Festival of Gujarat
A day full of flying kites in a deep blue sky, the Kite Festival in Gujarat is full of people celebrating the decline of winter. Gujarat celebrates thousands of festivals every year and Uttarayan is the most exciting of all. People, young and old, fly kites from sunup to sundown, stopping only to feast with family and friends. The next Uttarayan is January 14, 2012, so don’t miss out!
During springtime in India, Hindus celebrate the Holi spring festival, uniquely celebrated by lighting bonfires on the eve of the festival and throwing coloured, scented water and coloured powder at each other throughout the day. The famous place to celebrate the Holi Festival is in Barsana. Thousands of people gather to watch men and women act out traditional Indians performances. Depending where you are traveling, Holi can last from 3 to 16 days. On March 18, 2012, Holi will take place and you should be there.
Gangaur is a celebrated by women, young and old, in Rajasthan. Gangaur runs for 18 days to celebrate marriage, spring, and harvest. Women commemorate by praying Gauri for blessings and decorating their hands and feet in designs before singing traditional songs and collecting small gifts for a feast after. Gangaur is March 25, 2012.
4. Rongali Bihu
Rongali Binu is the celebration of the coming of spring and the Assamese New Year. This festival continues for 7 days and is full of good times and feasting. On the eve of Binu, the Indian people wash and worship cows, while on the day of Binu, the people dress in new bright-coloured clothes and jewels, feasting and celebrating the New Year with their families. There are fertility rituals and musical performances and afterwards, the Indian people clean and worship statues of their gods. Rongali Binu is April 14th of every year.
5. Krishna Janmashtami
Hindus celebrate the birth of Krishna, an avatar of the Hindu deity Vishnu, with the festival of Krishna Janmashtami. This festival is in place to worship the idols of Krishna. The next daybreak, the people draw child-sized footprints walking into the houses, symbolizing the infant entering their homes. Many cities also celebrate by playing games requiring family and friends to work together to symbolize unity. Usually celebrated in August, Krishna Janmashtami is August 9, 2012.
Kerala celebrates Onam in the late summer and the festival lasts for ten days. One of the largest festivals, there are many elements to the celebration. Handmade, layered flower carpets in delicate designs expand every day of the festival. Large banquet lunches, snake boat races, games, and dances make this festival like no other. If you plan to celebrate Onam in 2012, it is on August 12.
7. Ganesh Chaturthi
On September 19, 2012, is Ganesh Chaturthi, the birthday of Ganesha. Ganesha is the God of Wisdom and Good Fortune. This festival lasts for ten days in September. Priests chant mantras to statues of Ganesha, while the people pay tribute to the god. On the tenth day, the people carry the statues through the streets while others dance and feast.
Navaratri is a 9-day festival to worship the Goddess Durga and her different forms. Many different traditions happen during these holidays; along with the traditions, there are feasts, dancing, and worshipping of the idols. Navaratri is in October or November depending on the planet alignments.
9. Pushkar Camel Fair
Celebrated in October or November as a huge livestock fair that lasts for five days, Pushkar attracts people from all over India for competitions ranging from Best Camel to Longest Moustache. There is a large bazaar set up with a huge variety of handmade goods.
Diwali, known as the Festival of Lights, is an official holiday in Diwali in October or November to celebrate the release of Guru Hargobind from prison. There are many ways to celebrate Diwali, depending on where you are located in the country. Most places celebrate with dancing, colorful fireworks, new clothing, worshipping, and huge feasts. Lamps and lights of different colors hang as awareness of the inner light.
This guest post was written and provided by freelance writer and consultant for Expedia, Erica Gustafson.