India is a vast country with various castes, creed, and colour. Hence a large number of festivals are celebrated in India in honour of their gods and goddesses. Since many communities exist here; the ways and method of celebrating these festivals also differ from state to state.

Feasting has always been a part of festive occasions and the people in ancient times, like us, enjoyed them. During the festivals, whole nation gets vibrant and colourful as it resurrects itself from the repetitive and tiresome routine. Fun, get-togethers, special food and sweets, colours, crackers, loud music, dance and dramas, are the characteristics of the festivals in India.

Each community has their own festivals and holy days but that does not stop other religious groups from enjoying these festive days. India is a secular country and holidays are declared for a number of festivals belonging to different faiths and communities.

Some festivals come under the ‘restricted list’, which implies that the employer can choose to make it a holiday or not. Festivals are inimical to understand the culture of India and even people from abroad make it a part of their travel experience when they come to India.

National Festivals

  • National festivals are celebrated on the occurrence of great historical events of national importance.
  • A strong feeling of patriotism in the minds of Indians is inculcated through these festivals.
  • India celebrates three National Festivals namely:
    • 26th January – Republic Day
    • 15th August – Independence Day
    • 2nd October – Gandhi Jayanti

Religious Festivals

  • These are the festivals that are celebrated by specific communities that believe in a particular belief system or religion. Although there are no restrictions for people from different religions to enjoy a festival.
    • For example, Holi is primarily a religious festival celebrated by Hindus, but in a secular country like India, even non-Hindus enjoy it.

Hindu Festivals

Some prominent Hindu festivals are listed below:

Diwali or Deepawali

  • It is the festival of lights celebrated on the on New moon (Amavasya) day in the month of Kartik which generally falls in October and November.
  • The day before the festival is called Naraka Chaturdashi.

Dev Deepawali

  • It is celebrated in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) and falls on the full moon of the Hindu month of Kartika (November-December) and takes place 15 days after Diwali.
  • People have a tradition of lighting lamps on the ghats of River Ganga there.
  • It is also observed as Tripura Purnima Snan.


  • It is the festival of Colours and is celebrated by people across the religion.
  • It falls in the month of Phalguna (February-March).
  • It signifies win of good over evil, i.e. burning of Holika and saving of Bhakt Prahlad.
  • In West Bengal and parts of Assam, it is known as Dol Jatra.

Makara Sankranti

  • Dedicated to Sun God, it celebrates the transition of Sun in the Northern hemisphere. The festival is celebrated in the month of January. Lakhs of people undergo a pilgrimage to Gangasagar (in West Bengal) and to Prayagraj to take a holy dip. At some places of India, it is also celebrated as Kite Flying Festival.


  • It is to celebrate the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna and generally falls in the month of August.


  • Also known as Bijaya Dashmi, it is celebrated pan India to honour the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana.
  • Ravana Dahan is a common feature observed during this day especially in North India.

Durga Puja

  • It is majorly celebrated in the Eastern part of India (especially West Bengal).
  • It is to celebrate Goddess Durga’s triumph over demon Mahisasura.

Ganesh Chaturthi

  • To commemorate the birth anniversary of Lord Ganesha, this festival is celebrated pan India but with a great pomp and show at Maharashtra as it is the main festival there.

Rath Yata (Chariot Festival)

  • It is the biggest festival of Odisha and is dedicated to three deities – Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra (his brother) and Subhadra (his sister).
  • The chariot festival or Ratha Yatra of Puri is the largest and very famous in this regard.

Chhath Puja

  • It is the main festival of Bihar and Jharkhand and is celebrated to honour Sun Goddess.
  • It is observed after days of rigorous fasting followed by holy bath and offerings to Sun Goddess.
  • Thekua (a sweet dish) is a special attraction among the offerings to Goddess.
Nabakalebar festival
  • Nabakalebar festival is observed at Shri Jagannath temple, Puri (Odisha) at a pre-defined time (after every 8 to 19 years) according to the Hindu calendar.
  • Nabakalebar means new body, i.e. the idols of Lord Jaganath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan are replaced with new idols. The new idols are made from the log (daru) of 04 separate neem trees which are selected as per set criteria and after a rigorous search.
    • From the daru or log of the selected neem trees, the idols are carved and are replaced during the Adhik Masa (intercalary month).
  • Lakhs and Lakhs of pilgrims attend to worship the selected neem tree and the ceremony of replacement of idols.
  • In March 2018, President of India released Rs 1000 and Rs 10 commemorative coins on the occasion of Nabakalebar festival.

Muslim Festivals


  • This is one of the festivals celebrated by the Muslim community worldwide. The festival falls after the last day of the holy month of Ramadan (Ramzan), which is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
  • During the month of Ramadan, people fast for the entire day, beginning from the sunrise to the sunset. This process of fasting is ordained in the Muslim law or the Sharia.
  • The date of the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr is calculated after a complicated process, it is set to be on the first day of the month of Shawwal and after the appearance of the moon at the end of the month of Ramadan.
  • According to the Muslim traditions, the Holy Quran was revealed on one of the odd nights during the last days of the holy month of Ramadan.
  • It is usually calculated to be the 27th day of the Ramadan month. This month is also important for the Muslim calendar because historically Prophet Muhammad achieved victory during the Battle of Badr that led to the victory of the city of Mecca.
  • Furthermore, the martyrdom of the prophet’s son-in-law Ali occurred on the 21st day of Ramadan (Ramzan)

Eid-ul-Zuha or Eid-al-Adha

  • This is also known as Bakr-Eid or the Id that involves the sacrifice of a goat or Bakra. This is celebrated on the 10th day of the Dhu-al-Hijjah, that is the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.
  • It is celebrated in honour of the Prophet Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah, which was tested when god asked him to sacrifice his son. It is said that Ibrahim readily agreed to cut off his son’s head but God was merciful and took the sacrifice of a goat’s head.
  • Hence, on the day of Id-ul-Azha, a goat’s head is sacrificed and the meat is distributed as ritual offerings amongst the family members and neighbours.
    • 1/3rd of the sacrificial meat is also given to the poor.
    • This Eid also marks the beginning of the sacred period when many people undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca, which is called Hajj.


  • This festival is also known as the Barah-wafat and is the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad. According to the Quran, the Prophet was born on the 12th day in Rabi-al- Awwal, which is the 3rd month of the Muslim calendar. The day is called Milad-un-Nabi or Mawlid-un-Nabi.
  • This is also supposed to be the day when the Prophet departed from earth and hence, the celebrations on this day are very subdued.
  • The day is part of the cache of national holidays. It is celebrated with deep reverence and solemnity. People gather at the mosques where Holy Quran is read out.
  • In some special gatherings, the religious scholars recite the Qasida al- Burda Sharif, the very sacred poem by Arabic Sufi Busiri written in the 13th century. They also sing Nats, which are traditional poems written in honour of Prophet and illustrating his good deeds.
  • The festival is called Barah (12) wafat (death) as it signifies the 12 days of sickness that led to the Prophet Muhammad’s death.
  • It holds special significance in places like Kashmir, where the relics of the Prophet are displayed in the Hazratbal Shrine, which is situated in Srinagar. Thousands of devotees flock the area and take part in the procession.


  • The festival of Muharram is a sad one, as it is associated with the death of Hussain, son of Ali. The festival falls in the first month of the Islamic calendar which is Muharram.
  • Incidentally, the Islamic New Year falls on the first day of the first month of the Islamic calendar.
  • The 10th day of the month of Muharram, is known as the Yaum-al-Ashura, which is observed as the day of mourning by the Shia Muslims all over the world.
  • It is observed in the memory of the martyrdom of Hussain Bin Ali, the grandson of the Prophet in the war at Karbala in 61 Hijri (680 AD).
  • In India, people take out processions called Tajia and beat themselves with chains to replicate the pains taken by Hussain. In most parts of India, people wear black clothes and distribute sherbet or juice to everyone.


  • It is also known as the ‘Night of Emancipation’ and is observed on the night falling between 14th and 15th day of the month of Shaban.
  • According to the Muslim tradition, the destiny of every person is determined on this night.
  • Most Shia Muslims, celebrate the 15th day of Shaban as the birth anniversary of Imam Muhammad Al-Mahdi who was the 12th imam.
    • He is credited with ridding the world from oppression and injustice.


  • Shab-e-Miraj means the “Might of Ascent”. It was believed that the Holy Prophet continued his journey and reached near Almighty. This took place on 27th day or Rajab, 2 years before Hijra.
  • The journey was not with a physical body. It was on this journey, that five daily prayers were made obligatory upon Muslims.
  • The mosques are decorated and lighted with lights and candles and all the Muslims engage themselves in singing hymns and praising Prophet. The spiritual stories of Holy Prophet is narrated in detail. Muslims give money in charity and also distribute food among the poor. The devoted ones spend the whole night in the remembrance of God.

Christian Festivals


  • This day is celebrated all across the world as the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ. It falls on the 25th December every year.
  • The celebrations begin with the midnight mass that is held at all the churches on the night of the 24th – 25th December, which signifies the birth of Christ at midnight.
  • People visit the church where several programmes are arranged for the devotees to remember the good work of Christ.
  • People visit each other’s houses and exchange gifts. The two rituals attached to the festival are of the Christmas Tree, which is set in everyone’s house. It is decorated with lamps and lights. The other myth is of Santa Claus who is supposed to be a harbinger of gifts. People sing carols and distribute sweets and cakes on this day.

Easter and Good Friday

  • This is the day celebrated for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. According to the Bible, three days after Jesus was crucified, he was resurrected and hence, Easter is supposed to signify the triumph of life over death.
  • There are some similarities in the Christian and Jewish traditions on the occasion of the Easter.
    • For example, during the early years of Christianity, the Jewish Christians celebrated Easter on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. But the ordinary Christians celebrated it on the Sunday closest to the 14th day of Nisan.
    • This confusion was solved after the historic Council of Nicene held in 325 AD fixed the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal Equinox, which roughly falls on the 21st March.
  • The festival of Good Friday is to commemorate the day of crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It falls in the month of April each year. The death of Jesus is considered necessary for his rebirth and hence, it is good sign and gives hope to human beings.
    • It also shows Jesus’s love for the mankind.
    • Masses are held in all the churches in the country.

Sikhs Festivals


  • The Sikh community all over the world celebrates it. Although Gurpurabs are celebrated for the birth anniversaries of all the 10 Sikh gurus but the most important are the Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh.
  • Other important Gurpurabs are to commemorate the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev and Guru Tegh Bahadur, who lost their lives to the Mughals.
  • The Sikh community celebrates Guru Nanak Jayanti on the occasion of Guru Nanak’s birthday.
    • All the Gurudwaras hold special services and langar is distributed to people on this day.
    • All the Gurpurabs are cause for celebration and remembering the lord.
  • Hence, Akhand Path is held and people take out Prabhat Pheris or congregational singing of shabds or hymns that praise the lord.
  • The festivities are concluded by carrying the Guru Granth Sahib in a procession on a decorated floral float that is led at the front by the fivearmed guards carrying Sikh flags (Nishan Sahibs).
  • These five men are representatives of the Panj Pyare or the ‘five beloved men’ to the Guru Gobind Singh.

Parkash Utsav Dasveh Patshah

  • This festival is celebrated on the birthday of 10th Sikh guru Guru Gobind Singh.
  • It also means the birth celebration of the 10th Divine Light or divine knowledge.
  • This occasion is widely celebrated by the Sikhs on 31 January every year.


  • It is the seasonal gathering of the Sikhs and it is celebrated annually. It is celebrated in Muktsar in the memory of forty Sikh martyrs (Chalis Mukte) who fought with the Mughals.
  • The 10th Guru Govind Singh died while fighting with Wazir khan, the mughal emperor in 1705. The Sikhs take a procession to the site of this Sikh – Muslim War and take a bath in the sacred water of Muktsar.
  • It is celebrated on 14 January every year.

Hola Mohalla

  • It is a big festival event for the sikhs. It often takes place in the month of March on the second day of the lunar month Chett and held in Anandpur Sahib.
  • It was started by Guru Govind Singh for mock battles and military exercises followed by kirtan and other poetry competitions.
  • It is also known as “Sikh Olympics” for the events and competitions of horse riding, swordmanship, etc.


  • It is a religious festival celebrated on 13 or 14 April every year. This festival is the celebration of sikh new year and birthday of Khalsa Panth.
  • This is the spring harvest festival for the Sikhs. Gurudwaras are decorated and hold kirtans. Sikhs take a bath in the sacred river, visit temples, meet friends and party over festive foods.


  • This occasion is celebrated on 13 January in the month of Magh, a day before Makar Sankranti.
  • Lohri celebrates fertility and the spark of life. People gather around the bonfires, throw sweets, puffed rice and popcorn into the flames, sing popular songs and exchange greetings.
  • It also signifies the victory of light over the darkness.

Sodal Mela

  • It is one of the main fairs of Punjab and it is organised to pay homage to baba Sodal, a great soul.
  • Each year, the Mela is organised in the month of Bhadon (September) in Jalandhar.
  • The followers of Sikhism consider this day a very auspicious one. The fair takes place on the Samadhi of the Baba, where his painted portrait is placed decorated with rosaries and flowers.
  • People take a dip in the holy waters of the Sarovar (a holy tank called Sodal ka Sarovar) and present offerings to the Samadhi.

Jain Festivals

Mahavir Jayanti

  • The Jain community celebrates the festival. It is held to celebrate the birth anniversary of Lord Mahavira who was the 24th Tirthankara and one of the founders of Jainism.
  • It falls on the 13th day of the month of rising moon called Chaitra. The festival is celebrated with great pomp and all the Jain temples are decorated with the saffron flag.
  • The idol of Mahavira is washed with milk and given a ceremonial bath (abhishek). It is then carried in a procession.


  • The annual festival of Jains is called Paryushana. It is celebrated for eight days in the month of Bhadrapada (August/September) by the Svetambara sect. The Digambara sect celebrates the festival for ten days.
  • The festival marks the movement of the nomadic Jain monks to their retreats because of the torrential rain and monsoon showers that makes their residence in forests and caves to be impossible.
  • The festivities include the ritual visit to the temples or the Upashrayas and listening to the discourses on Kalpa Sutra. Most devotes are asked to perform Pratikraman or the meditation kriya.
  • The festival ends with the celebration of Kshamavani (forgiveness day). Forgiveness is asked by saying “Micchami Dukkadam” to others. It means for oneself to seek forgiveness, if someone’s been hurt knowingly or unknowingly by them.


  • It is held once in 12 years in the town of Shravanabelagola in Karnataka. This festival is the holy bathing ceremony of 57 ft high statue of Siddha Bahubali, son of Rishabhdev.
  • The concentrated water is sprinkled by the devotees carrying specially prepared vessels. The statue is bathed with milk, sugarcane juice and saffron paste, and sprinkled with powders of sandalwood, turmeric, and vermilion. Offerings of petals, gold and silver coins, and precious stones are made.

Gyana Panchami

  • The fifth day of Kartika is known as “Gyana Panchami”.
  • It is considered knowledge day. On this day Holy Scriptures are displayed and worshipped under Jainism.

Varshi Tapa or Akshay Tritiya Tapa

  • This festival is related with first Jain Tirthankara Rishabhdev who undertook a fasting of 13 months and 13 days continuously. His fasting came to an end on third day of the bright fortnight of Vaishakh month of Jain Calendar.
  • People who perform this fasting are known as Varshi tapa.


  • This occasion is celebrated on 11th day of Magshar month of Jain Calendar (October/ November).
  • On this day, complete silence is observed and along with fasting for the say. Meditation is also performed.

Navapad Oli

  • The nine-day Oli is a period of semi-fasting. During this period, Jains take only one meal a day of very plain food.
  • It comes twice a year during March/April and September/October.

Buddhist Festivals

Buddha Purnima

  • The Buddha Purnima or the Buddha Jayanti is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha. It falls in the month of April/May and is celebrated widely in the parts of North- East India.
  • It is called Saga Dawa (Dasa) in Sikkim and Vishakha Puja in the Theravada tradition. The main areas of celebration in Northern India are Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh and Bodh Gaya in Bihar.
  • The celebrations include ritualistic prayers and listening to sermons on the life of Gautam Buddha. The day also includes chanting of Buddhist scriptures, worshipping the image of Buddha and the Bodhi tree and meditation. Different sects follow different rules like:
    • Mahayana Buddhists organise a large procession with musical instruments like gyalings. They also read Kangyur text.
    • Theravada Buddhists only concentrate on offering ceremonial prayers to the idols of Buddha.


  • This Buddhist festival is observed as like a spring cleaning. It is celebrated for several days during the middle of April.
  • People clean their house, wash clothes and enjoy sprinkling perfumed water on the monks.

Ploughing Festival

  • This festival is celebrated on Buddha’s first moment of enlightment when he was seven years old and he went with his father to watch ploughing.
  • This is celebrated in the month of May, and the two white oxen pull a gold painted plough, followed by four girls dressed in white who throw rice seeds from baskets.


  • This occasion is celebrated from the 1st to the 15th day of the eighth lunar month.
  • It is believed that the gates of Hell are opened on the first day and the ghosts may visit the world for fifteen days.
  • Food offerings are made during this time to relieve the sufferings of these ghosts.
  • On the 15th day, (Ulambana or Ancestor Day), people visit cemeteries to make offerings to the departed souls.

Hemis Gompa

  • The festival is held at the Hemis Gompa Monastery in Ladakh to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava).
  • In order to protect his people, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Guru Padmanasambhava fought the evil forces and thus this festival celebrates the victory of good over evil.
  • The main attraction of the festival is the mask dance performed by the Lamas.
  • Numerous musicians play the traditional music using four pairs of cymbals, large-pan drums, small trumpets and large size wind instruments.

Sindhi Festivals

Chaliho Sahib

  • It is a 40 day fast observed by the Sindhis in the months of July-August. They pray to Lord Jhulelal for 40 days and after the fast is over they celebrate the occasion as Thanks Giving Day.
  • Mirkshah Badshah, a Muslim invader of Sindh troubled the people of Thatta and wanted them to convert to Islam. People prayed to Varun Devta or the God of Water by observing penance on the banks of the river for 40 days. On the 40th day, Varun Devta heard their prayers and promised to save them from the tyrant. The answer to their prayers was Jhulelal.

Cheti Chand

  • This is the occasion of Sindhi New Year and it is celebrated all around the world. It is celebrated on the first day of Chaitra.
  • Cheti Chand is celebrated in honour of the birth of Jhulelal, the patron saint of the Sindhis.
  • It is celebrated with pomp and gaiety by the Sindhi community. Many people take Baharana Sahib consisiting of Jyot, Misiri, Phota, Fal, Akha to the nearby river. An idol of Jhulelal Devta is also carried along.

Parsi or Zoroastrian Festivals

Jamshedi Navroz

  • The festival of Navroz is to celebrate the festival of New Year for the Parsi Community.
  • It falls on the Roj Hormuzd or the first day of the first month (MahFrawardin) of the Shehanshahi calendar. It is supposed to be the beginning of the Universal Dawn as this is the end of winter and the beginning of the New Year.
  • Traditionally Parsis pay respect to Khorshed and MeherYazads who are the two divine beings that are the harbinger of Sun. People visit each other and visit the Fire Temple.

Pateti Festival

  • The Pateti festival is celebrated on the last day of the year according to the Persian calendar.
  • This festival commemorates the beginning of a new year with a clean slate, while the previous year’s transgressions are burnt in front of holy fire.
  • Following the ritual, everyone wishes each other ‘Pateti Mubarak.’
  • On this day, Parsis put on new garments and attend the Fire Temple. The house is properly cleaned, and Rangoli is drawn outside the front entrance.
  • The main entryway of the house is adorned with powdered chalk patterns and flower strings strung over the threshold.
  • Agarbatis or incense sticks are lit, and a lovely aroma fills the room together with the smells of cooking.
  • Breakfast is traditional, and special sweets and dishes are made for lunch and dinner.
  • Other traditions include pouring rose water on visitors as they enter the residence and making charitable offerings.


  • Gahambars, also known as seasonal festivals, take place six times a year.
  • Zoroastrians observe these days to honour God’s six worldwide creations and to reaffirm the holiness of God’s creation. The six Gahambars are as follows:
    • Maidyozarem Gahambar: A mid-spring event held each year in April or May.
    • Maid Yaoi-Shema Gahambar: Midsummer festivities, which take place each year in June or July.
    • Paitishahema Gahambar: An annual harvest festival that takes place in September.
    • Ayathrem Gahambar: This festival is takes place in October which celebrates herding time.
    • Maidyarem Gahambar: A winter event held in the middle of the year, usually in December or January.
    • Hamaspathmaidyem Gahambar: This celebration takes place in March. It means “Middle Path of All Seasons” or “Soul Festival.”

Zarthost No Deeso

  • On the 11th day of the 10th month (Khorshedroz, Daemah) of the month of June, Zoroastrians go to the Fire Temple and give prayers and listen to the Prophet’s life and works.
  • It is a day of remembering, with lectures and discussions about the prophet Zoroaster’s life and works.
  • During this time, there is a lot of activity at the fire temple. At the Atash Behrams and Atash Adarans, a substantially larger number of mobeds are brought to pray.
  • In the Zoroastrian religion, there is no sorrow, only recollection and worship of the Farohars of the deceased.
  • The Avesta, however, makes no mention of Zoroaster’s death.
  • Nonetheless, he is reported to have been slain at the altar by the Turanians at the storming of Balkh in the Shahnama.

Khordad Sal

  • On the sixth day of the Parsi month of Farvardin (August/September), Prophet’s birth anniversary.
  • Zoroastrians worship and celebrate unique big feasts.
  • Throughout the day, special prayers and jashan are held.
  • The ceremonies include clean, rangoli-strewn homes, youngsters with vermilion markings on their foreheads, fresh garments, fragrant flowers, and delectable feasts.
  • The event also provides a time for Parsis to reflect on their lives and acts and make plans for the future.

Secular Festivals

Khajuraho Dance Festival

  • The Government of India in collaboration with the Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad instituted this festival in 1975.
  • This festival of Dance was supposed to promote tourism in the State and highlight the beauty and eroticism inherent in the Khajuraho temples.
  • The festival is also supposed to reflect the spirit of eternal glory and perseverance of dance and architectural monuments, which reflect our cultural heritage.

New Year

  • According to local traditions, Lord Brahma began the creation of the world on this day and hence it is used to mark the beginning of a new Hindu calendar. In different parts of the country it is celebrated under different names like:
    • Ugadi or Chaitra Shudhdha Paadyami – Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka
    • Gudi Padwa or Gudi Padvo – Maharashtra
    • Samvatsar Padvo – Goa
    • Naba Barsha (Poila Boisakh) – West Bengal
    • Puthandu – Tamil Nadu
    • Vishu – Kerala

Sair-e-Gul Faroshan

  • The festival is also known as “Phool Walon Ki Sair” and is the annual three day festival of flowers conducted in Delhi.
  • It is a symbol of communal harmony in which procession of pankhas or palm leaf fans which are heavily decorated with flowers are taken from the tomb of Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki in Mehrauli to the Yogmaya Temple.
  • The festival was initially patronised by Mughal Emperer Akbar II (19th century). It was banned by the British but reinstated in 1962 by J. L. Nehru.

Tyagaraja Aradhana

  • It is held annually to commemorate the ‘Samadhi’ day of the famous Telugu Saint and composer Tyagaraja.
  • It is held in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, primarily at Thiruvaiyaru (where he attained Samadhi).
  • The festival is attended by leading exponents of Carnatic music who come to pay their tribute to the saint.
  • Saint Tyagaraja along with Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri, comprise the Trinity of Carnatic music.


  • Onam, the State festival of Kerala falls in the beginning of the month of Chigam, the first month of the Malayalam calendar.
  • It is mainly a harvest festival but it also celebrates the homecoming of mighty asura King Mahabali from Patala (the underground). Elaborate feasts, dances, flowers, boats and elephants are part of the colourful and vibrant festival of Onam.
  • A prominent feature of Onam is the Vallam Kali (the Snake Boat race). The most popular Vallamkali is held in the Punnamada Lake and the winners are awarded the Nehru Boat Race Trophy. Traditional games, known as Onakanikal also form a part of the Onam celebrations.


  • Pongal is four day harvest festival celebrated by Tamils around the world. It is celebrated in January and marks the beginning of Uttarayan, i.e. six month northward journey of the Sun.
  • The word ‘Pongal’ means ‘to boil’ in Tamil and the boiling of the first rice is an important ritual obeyed during the festival.
  • The Pongal festival is a four-day celebration affair. Each day is marked by different festivities-
    • The first day is called the Bhogi festival;
    • the Second day is called Thai Pongal;
    • the Third day is called Mattu Pongal;
    • the Fourth day is called Kaanum Pongal.
  • It is an occasion for giving thanks to Sun God and celebrating the life cycles that gives us grain.


  • Sarhul marks the beginning of the New Year for the tribals of Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal.
  • It is mainly celebrated by the Munda, Oraon and Ho tribes.
  • Sarhul literally means ‘Worship of Sal’. It is celebrated in the spring season, i.e. in the month of Phalgun according to the Hindu calendar.
  • Tribals hold nature in great reverence and Mother Earth is worshipped during the festival.
  • Sarhul is celebrated for several days during which the main traditional dance Sarhul is performed. It is related to religion called “Sarnaism”.

Festivals of North-East India

Saga Dawa (Triple Blessed Festival)

  • It is mostly celebrated in the Buddhist communities living in the State of Sikkim. It is celebrated on the full moon day that falls in the middle of the Tibetan lunar month called the Saga Dawa.
  • This day is considered to be a very auspicious day for the Tibetan community. This falls between May and June and this month is called Saga Dawa or the ‘Month of merits’.
  • The festival is celebrated to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and death (parinirvana) of Buddha. Most people make a pilgrimage to the monasteries and offer incense sticks, Dhog and water. People also circumambulate the Gompas of the monastery and chant mantras, recite the religious texts and turn the prayer wheels.
  • All through the month of Saga Dawa, the community of Buddhists has to follow three teachings of Buddhism: generosity (dana), morality (sila), and meditation or good feelings (bhavana).

Losoong Festival

  • Losoong is the Sikkimese New year. It is celebrated all across Sikkim during the month of December every year.
  • As mentioned earlier, the major occupation in the State of Sikkim is agriculture and it is the celebration of the harvest season by the farmers and other occupational communities.
  • Traditionally, it is considered to be the festival of the Bhutia tribe but now-a-days even the Lepchas celebrate it with equal vigour and joy.
  • The unique point of the festival is that people drink the locally brewed wine, called Chaang, as part of the celebration. They also get together to perform traditional dances like the Cham Dance and the Black Hat dance at the monasteries.
  • The spirit also reflects the warrior sentiments of the Sikkimese community through the archery festivals, etc.

Bihu Festival

  • It is a set of three important non-religious festivals of Assam – Rongali or Bohag Bihu observed in April, Kongali or Kati Bihu observed in October, and Bhogali Bihu observed in January.
  • Rongali Bihu is the most important among the three and it coincides with Assamese New Year. Songs and dances are the main attractions during Bihu.
  • Bohag Bihu is one of the most popular festivals of Assam. Although the Assamese celebrate Bihu thrice in a year, the Bohag Bihu is the most anticipated one.
  • The festival of Bihu is traditionally tied to the changing seasons and harvests. The Bohag Bihu is celebrated for many days beginning from 14 April every year. The celebrations range from one week to almost a month depending on the communities and tribes’ decision.
  • On the first day of the festival, cows and bulls that are the main stay of the community are bathed and fed. This ceremony is called the ‘Gora Bihu’.
  • The second day is the main day of the celebrations that constitute Bihu, as people greet one another and they exchange Gamosa (a hand woven cotton towel) with their relatives.
  • All the houses prepare Pitha or a traditional dish made of rice powder, flour, sesame, coconut and jaggery. They also organise stages where men and women from all communities come together to perform the Bihu Dance.

Me-Dam-Me-Phi festival

  • Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ festival of the Tai Ahom community is celebrated across Assam with religious fervour and traditional gaiety.
  • The Tai-Ahoms offer oblations to their departed ancestors and offer sacrifices to Gods in traditional manner on this day. The Tai-Ahoms believe that their worthy ancestors are still living in the Heaven.
  • The Ahom Kings, who ruled Assam for around sixhundred years till 1826, performed this annual ‘ancestor worship’ initially at Charaideo, the erstwhile capital of the Ahom Kingdom, now at Sibsagar in Upper Assam.

Hornbill Festival

  • It is one of the major festival celebrated in Nagaland.
  • It is a 10 day festival that begins on 1st December every year. All the major Naga tribes attend this festival and congregate at the Kisama Heritage Village.
  • All the tribes showcase their talent and cultural vividness through costumes, weapons, bows and arrows and headgears of the clans. This is also a good opportunity to bring all the tribes together and for the younger generation.

Moatsu Mong festival

  • It is celebrated by Ao tribe of Nagaland in the first week of May after sowing is done.
  • The festival provides them a period of recreation and entertainment after the stressful work of clearing fields, burning jungles, sowing seeds, etc.
  • It is marked by songs and dances. A part of the celebration is Sangpangtu where a big fire is lit and women and men sit around it.

Yemshe Festival

  • Again from Nagaland, it is a harvest festival celebrated mainly by Pochuri tribe.
  • Catching of frogs is prohibited during this festival. It is celebrated in September.

Kharchi Puja

  • This Hindu festival primarily originates from the State of Tripura. While it began as a festival of the royal family of Tripura, currently even the common households celebrate this festival.
  • It is celebrated over a week and takes place in the month of July. The festival is celebrated in the honour of Earth and to worship 14 other deities.
  • Each year thousands of people trek to this temple in Agartala so that they can pay obeisance to the deities.

Cheiraoba Festival

  • This festival is celebrated all across the State of Manipur, as it is the New Year according to the Manipuri tribes.
  • It is celebrated in the month of April (it means the first day of the month Sajibu). The festival is also related to the domestic deity called Sanamahi worshipped by the Meitei tribe.
  • The festival is usually conducted in the temple of Sanamahi but every household cleans, buys new utensils and new clothes for the family members.

Wangala Festival (The 100 Drums Festival)

  • The dominant Garo Tribe primarily celebrates it in Meghalaya. The festival indicates the beginning of winter and is celebrated as a nod to the post harvest season. The festival is celebrated in the honour of ‘Misi Saljong’, a local deity who is considered to be a generous. He is supposed to be the force behind the good things that happen to the community. This festival is a thanks giving to him.
  • Drums, flutes and other orchestra instruments are played to create a festive ambience. It is also known as the ‘100 Drums Wangala festival’ as loud drum noises herald the beginning of the festival.
  • The day is also set apart by the wonderful costumes worn by the participants. An extraordinary feature is the feathered head-gear that is worn by everyone celebrating the festival and also reflects their clan’s colour.

Kang Chingba (Ratha Yatra of Manipur)

  • The festival of Kang Chingba is one of the biggest Hindu festivals celebrated in the State of Manipur.
    • It is similar to the ‘Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra’ and draws many antecedents from the same.
  • It is a 10 days long festival that is celebrated in the month of July every year.
  • The Yatra begins from the very famous holy temple of Sri Govindajee situated in Imphal. The idols carved of wood and heavily decorated are carted around in massive chariots that are called ‘Kang’.
  • These deities are then carried to another temple and people dance through the night to celebrate the journey.

Ambubachi Mela

  • It is held at Kamakhya temple of Guwahati in the State of Assam. The festival falls in the month of June and is one of the major festivals in North-East India, so much so that it has been dubbed as the ‘Mahakumbh of the East’.
  • The festival has been associated with fertility rituals and many devotees come to seek the blessing of a child from the Goddess. The temple has courted controversy because of the alleged tantric activities conducted during this mela.
  • During the festival, the patron Goddess Kamakhya is said to be undergoing her annual menstrual cycle. Hence, the temple remains closed for three days.

Sekrenyi Festival

  • The festival of Sekrenyi is celebrated in the month of February by the Angami tribe of Nagaland.
  • It is celebrated for over 10 days and is also called ‘Phousanyi’ by the Angamis. It is a purification festival.
    • The objective of the festival is to renew and make holy by cleansing the body and the soul of the village as a whole, and to bring forth unity among all communities of Nagaland.
  • It also marks initiation of young people to adulthood and is considered an identity marker of the Angami.

Majuli Festival

  • This is one of the more modern festivals held at Majuli in the State of Assam. The festival is organised in November, as it is the best time considering the alternating climatic conditions in Assam.
  • The Department for Culture of Assam organises various events during the festival like the seminars which highlights the traditional history and glory of Assam in general, and Majuli in particular.
  • Further, the festival is organised on a huge scale in an open space or Namghar. The tribal dishes of Majuli and Assam are displayed and put on sale.
  • Several arts and crafts like Bamboo artifacts, shawls; beads jewellery is put for sale. Some famous artists are also invited to showcase their art and public demonstrations. The local patron deity is also invoked during the opening and closing ceremony. Several dance and singing competitions are organised for the entertainment of the fair goers.

Lui-Ngai-Ni Festival

  • Almost all branches of the Naga tribes celebrate this festival. It is celebrated all over in Nagaland and in some of the Naga inhabited parts of Manipur State too.
  • It is rejoiced as the mark for seed-sowing season. The festival brings the agricultural branches of Naga tribes closer to the non-agricultural based communities of Nagas.
  • The festival is marked with huge amount of celebration and pomp and show.
  • It is a festival to bring communities closer and spread the message of peace and harmony.

Dree Festival

  • The Apatani tribe that reside in Arunachal Pradesh primarily celebrate the festival. Currently, more and more tribes have started observing the rituals of Dree festival.
  • It is one of the biggest celebrations held in the Ziro valley.
  • During the festival, people offer prayers and offerings to four main Gods: Tamu, Metii, Medvr, Danyi and Mepin. These offerings are given to pray for a good and plentiful harvest.
  • People gather around the valley and perform traditional dances. One of the most unique points of this festival is that cucumber is distributed to all the attendees as a symbol of good harvest.

Losar Festival

  • It falls on the first day of the lunar calendar and is quite popular in Arunachal Pradesh (being mainly celebrated by Monpa tribe who practice agriculture and animal husbandry and follow Buddhism).
  • Losar is celebrated for fifteen consecutive days. Households adorn their houses with different decorations and make offerings known as ‘Lama Losar’.

Khan Festival

  • It is a religious festival celebrated by the Miji tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. The festival is significant because it brings together people from every background irrespective of their caste and creed to celebrate it.
  • During this, the priest ties a piece of wool in the neck of all the participants and the thread is considered sacred.

Torgya Festival, Arunachal Pradesh

  • Torgya festival is a monastic festival celebrated in the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh. This festival is celebrated every year towards the end of January.
  • Torgya festival is very significant in Arunachal Pradesh as it celebrates the destruction of negative forces and the ushering in of prosperity, peace and good will. It is believed that the rituals performed during this festival would help ward off natural calamities and other disasters.
  • Rich presence of colour is one of the main features of this festival. Colourful dances mark the occasion along with the gaiety displayed everywhere.

Murung Festival

  • It is a festival of the Apatani Tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. It is celebrated every year in the month of January.
  • It is a socio-religious festival of the Apatani community which is observed by a family when it is affected by some misfortune.
  • It is mainly observed to pray for more wealth and richness and to keep all the family members healthy.
  • Murung Festival has the celebrations to bring to light the cultural values, living style and traditions of the Apatani Tribe. The Apatani Tribal people wear their traditional clothes during the festival.

Fairs of India

A Fair is a temporary gathering of people for a variety of activities which may be religious, entertainment or commercial. In India, fairs of different kinds are organised in different parts of the country. Some of them are discussed below.

Kumbh Mela

  • The Kumbh Mela is the largest religious gathering in the world. Every day millions of people come to take a dip in the holy river. The mela (gathering) is held on a rotational basis at four auspicious Hindu pilgrimage sites- Prayagraj, Haridwar, Nashik-Trimbak and Ujjain.
  • According to Hindu mythology, during the ‘Samudra Manthan’, i.e. churning of the ocean, ‘Amrit’, i.e. drink of immortality was produced and stored in a ‘Kumbh’ (pot). In the battle of the Devas and the Asuras, Lord Vishnu dropped drops of Amrit while transporting the Kumbh. These places are the four sites where the Kumbh Mela is held.
  • The mela is held at any given place after a time interval of 12 years. The exact dates are determined according to the zodiac positions of the Sun, Moon and the planet Jupiter. At Nashik and Ujjain, if the mela is held when a planet is in Leo (Simha in Hindu astrology), it is called as Simhastha Kumbh.
  • At Haridwar and Prayagraj, Ardh-Kumbh Mela is held every sixth year. Places where the Kumbh is held:
Prayagraj (Uttar Pradesh)At the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati
Haridwar (Uttarakhand)Ganga
Nashik-Trimbak (Maharashtra)Godavari
Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh)Shipra

Recently in 2017, Kumbh Mela was declared by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage.

Sonepur Mela

  • It is one of the largest cattle fairs in Asia. The mela is held in Sonepur, Bihar at the confluence of the River Ganga and the Gandak.
  • It usually takes place in November on the Kartik Poornima, a day considered auspicious by the Hindus.
  • It is the only fair where large numbers of elephants are sold and legend says Chandragupta Maurya used to buy elephants and horse during this fair.

Chitra Vichitra Fair

  • It is the largest tribal fair in Gujarat celebrated mainly by the ‘Garasia’ and ‘Bhil’ tribes. The tribals wear their traditional costumes and showcase the local tribal culture.
  • On the ‘Amavasya’ after Holi, the tribal women go to the river to mourn for their near and dear departed ones. The festivities start from the next day.
  • Lively dance performances, best of rural handicrafts and exquisite silver jewelry attracts thousands of tourists every year.

Shamlaji Fair

  • It is celebrated by a tribal community in Gujarat to revere Lord Shamlaji “the Dark Divine” who is thought to be the incarnate of Krishna or Vishnu.
  • Devotees come in large numbers to worship the deity and take a holy bath in the Meshwo River.
  • The ‘Bhils’ have immense faith in powers of Shamlaji who they lovingly call ‘Kaliyo Dev’. It lasts for about three weeks in the month of November, with Kartik Poornima being the most important day of the fair.

Pushkar Fair

  • Pushkar Mela is an annual fair in Pushkar, Rajasthan starting on the day of ‘Kartik Poornima’ and lasts for about a week.
  • It is one of the largest camel and cattle fairs in the world.
  • It is a time when the Rajasthani farmers buy and sell their cattle but most of the trading is completed in the days leading to the fair. When the festival actually begins, events like camel races, moustache competitions, turban tying competitions, dancing and camel riding, etc. take centre stage.
  • The fair attracts thousands of visitors and is quite popular among the foreign tourists as well.

Desert Festival

  • This three day extravaganza takes place in Jaisalmer generally in the month of February. The festival showcases the vibrant culture of Rajasthan.
  • It gives the tourists a local flavour and showcases different facets of the Rajasthani culture. Among the golden sands of Rajasthan, tourists can enjoy colourful folk dances, trip to the sand dunes, tying competitions, camel rides, etc.
  • The festival ends with a musical performance by the folk singers under the moonlit sky. No wonder, the desert festival features on every foreigner’s to do list.

Baneshwar Fair, Rajasthan

  • Celebrated mainly by the tribal people of Rajasthan, Bhils.
  • During the festival the Shiva linga is worshipped and then a fair precedes. Baneshwar is another name for Lord Shiva.

Gangaur Festival, Rajasthan

  • This is celebrated to mark the reunion of Lord Shiva and Goddess Gauri (Parvati).
  • It is celebrated by both married and unmarried girls. In totality it is a 18-day festival and it ultimately finishes off with a grand procession in which Lord Shiva himself arrives to take his bride home.

Garib Nawaz Urs, Rajasthan

  • It takes place in the holy city of Ajmer.
  • It is held on the death anniversary of Moin-ud-din Chishti, a Sufi Saint. Devotees from far and wide visit the Dargah and offer chadars and other offerings.

Kami Mata Fair, Bikaner, Rajasthan

  • Kami Mata fair is celebrated twice a year in the honour of Kami Mata, an ascetic who was known for serving the mankind.
  • Sacred rats roaming around the temple are believed to bless the devotees visiting the fair. The temple is also known as the rat temple.

Kolayat Fair (Kapil Muni Fair)

  • Kolayat fair is held in Bikaner, Rajasthan. On the day of Kartik Poornima, people come to take a dip in the holy Kolayat Lake to get respite from all their sins.
  • The fair is named after the great sage Kapil Muni who undertook intense meditation for the benefit of humanity. A large cattle fair is also organised.
  • Tourists throng the place in thousands to witness the enchanting display of colourful Rajasthani culture and tradition.

Surajkund Crafts Fair

  • This is an international crafts fair held annually for a fortnight in February near Faridabad, Haryana.
  • It showcases the regional as well as international crafts and cultural heritage. Traditional craftsmen from all parts of India participate in this festival. Pottery, weaving, sculpture, embroidery, Paper Mache, bamboo and cane crafts along with metal and wooden works attract a lot of attention.
  • To give the fair a complete Indian touch, traditional cultural programs are held and regional cuisines are served.

Gangasagar Mela

  • It is conducted in the month of January-February at the mouth of the river Hooghly in West Bengal.
  • A holy dip in the Ganges especially on the day of Makar Sankranti is considered very auspicious by the Hindus.
  • Lakhs of pilgrims throng the site. The presences of Naga Sadhus lend a unique identity to the fair.

Goa Carnival

  • The Portuguese introduced the Goa Carnival in India. It takes place 40 days before the Lent, a period of abstinence and spirituality.
  • It involves feasting and merry making. People wear masks and come onto the streets to party.
  • It showcases the rich Goan heritage and culture and has a distinct Portuguese influence. The Goan streets are decorated with colourful floats and parades, live bands and dances mark the event, attracting thousands of tourists every year.

Lathmaar holi of Barsana in Mathura

  • It is a special form of holi festival. It is wherein women beat up men with sticks and men protect themselves with shields.
  • It takes place at Barsana near Mathura in the state of Uttar Pradesh and well before the actual Holi celebration.
  • The main attraction is Radharani temple.

The Tarnetar Fair, Gujarat

  • The Tarnetar Fair is one of the most important fairs of Gujarat.
  • The fair is attended by Koli tribe, the Rabari tribe, the Bharward tribe, the Khant tribe, the Khanbi tribe, the Charan tribe and the Kathi tribe. All these tribes mingle together to enjoy and celebrate the legendary marriage of Draupadi with Arjuna in the popular epic Mahabharata.
  • According to English calendar the fair is organized between the month of August and September.

Q. Consider the following pairs: [2017]


1. Chaliha Sahib Festival – Sindhis
2. Nanda Raj Jaat Yatra – Gonds
3. Wari-Warkari – Santhals

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) None of the above

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments