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India’s ‘Unity in diversity’ can be encountered in every walk of life. But nowhere does it become more prominent than in the festivals celebrated across the length and breadth of our country. Festivals of India are a wonderful reflection of the land, its people, heritage and culture. Celebrated at different times of the year, these festivals in India are extravagant affairs, truly!
Traditional festivities are known to us all, so why not have a look beyond? Check out these unique and offbeat festivals from across the country that will leave you impressed and craving for more.
1. Dharamsala Film Festival
Keeping in tune with the spirit of consciousness and creativity, the Dharamsala Film Festival is a three-day event appreciating and celebrating the genius and power of independent cinema. Nestled in the pristine Himalayas, Dharamsala is a superb summer destination, and with a film fest to attend….what can be a better option than this? In 2015 the main aim is to include films that exemplify the Divine Feminine and the empowerment of women and girls.
Location: Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh
2. Hemis Festival
Celebrating the victory of good over evil and commemorating the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the Hemis Festival is a summer treat for anyone visiting the beautiful land of Ladakh. Witness the valley come alive in a riot of colours and melodies, and get a unique opportunity to experience the local flavour. Choose from a range of activities, mix in with the gaily dressed locals or simply walk around to get a taste of this festival. The ritualistic masked dance performed by the lamas of the Hemis monastery is the main attraction of the festival. Attend the fun fair, shop for a few souvenirs and live the people’s story while you’re here.
When: Mid June
Location: Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir
3. Vallamkali or Kerala Boat Race Festival
Held during Onam, vallamkali or boat races have always been a major part of Kerala’s tradition. Some of these races are really ancient and have many myths and legends associated with them. A spectacular event full of energy, endurance and skill, these races are worth experiencing at least once. There are several of these boat races and it officially kick starts with the Champakulam Moolam Boat Race, often regarded as the most ancient of them all.
When: July – September (exact dates can vary as it’s decided on the basis of the Malayalam calendar)
Location: Alappuzha District, Kerala
4. Mango Festival
Langda, Dasheri, Alphonso, Malda or maybe it’s the hybrids…either way, do you love mangoes? How about attending The International Mango Festival then? A perfect treat for all mango lovers, this two-day annual event celebrates the glorious king of fruits in every possible way. Keeping the limelight focussed exclusively on the succulent fruit, this festival showcases mangoes from across the country. There’s also a range of activities that one can choose from like mango eating competitions, mango slogan writing, quizzes, mango carving, and mango tasting. A feast for your eyes and taste buds this July. Go crazy tasting some 500 or more varieties of mangoes!
When: Mid July
Location: Dilli Haat, New Delhi
5. Puri Beach Festival
An attempt to promote the beauty and splendour of Orissa, this festival is a must-try experience for all. And if you’re a sea lover, then all the more reason for you to plan a visit! Get a whiff of Oriya culture and tradition as you enjoy the festive gaiety. Enjoy the serene beach and see it come alive with a range of activities like classical and folk dances of India, music events, creative handiwork and artifacts, fireworks display and the best of it all, the amazing displays of sand art.
Location: Puri, Odisha
6. Hornbill Festival
Named after the beautiful Indian Hornbill, this festival reflects the melange of cultural diversity within the north-eastern state of Nagaland. With so many tribes and sub tribes within the state, the Hornbill festival emerged as the ideal place to get a wholesome taste of ethnic culture. Over the years it has gained wide popularity within and outside the country with many people now making it to the festival every year. Apart from experiencing dance, music, art, ethnic food, handloom and handicrafts, there are many other interesting contests and activities that you can choose to engage in. Have your pick and go for it!
Location: Kisama Heritage Village, Nagaland
7. International Kite Festival
One of the biggest festivals of Gujarat, the International Kite Festival or Uttarayan marks the beginning of spring and the harvest season for farmers. From frenzied kite lovers to farmers to families – everyone in Ahmedabad joins in the festive mood and the city skyline is a sight not to be missed. Melt into the celebration of life and watch the sky turn into a potpourri of colours as millions of kites fill it up from dawn to dusk. You can attend the light and sound show to know more about the history of kites or attend a kite making workshop or simply grab a kite and go crazy kite-flying.
Location: Ahmedabad, Gujarat
8. Jodhpur Flamenco & Gypsy (JFG) festival
Tracing the roots of gypsies and nomads, this festival is a commemoration of the history and heritage of gypsies across the globe. Creating a platform to unite musicians and artists with a gypsy background, the JFG seeks to highlight the richness of Rajasthan’s nomadic and folk culture as well as other gypsy cultures. It mainly seeks to promote a link between these desert musicians and the legendary Flamenco and gypsy artists. Be sure to give it a try the next time you visit Rajasthan.
Location: Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Get off the tourist grid and add an extra dose of fun to your travel plans – explore an unknown side of your country (and of yourself) as you experience these unique and offbeat festivals of India. Know of more quirky ones? Share your views and let us know.
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