by Sudha Mathew
India is known for colour and chaos, food and festivities, diversity and drama. If you haven’t been to India before, it’s something you must definitely experience in your lifetime. There’s nothing like India anywhere in the world; ask any Indophile!
If you would like to experience India in all its many splendored beauty, there’s no better time than the monsoons. This is when the land of festivals, India, is at its dramatic and dressy best. Rains bring along the beginning of the festival season in India, in right earnest. Each region of India has its own version of monsoon merriment, and this cultural experience is something difficult to put in words or pictures. But we’ll try, and here is a list of some of the major Indian monsoon festivals celebrated in various parts of India. Given how diverse India is, we cannot possibly cover all the monsoon festivals in one blog post, so we have attempted to showcase one or two festivals from the four corners of India.
Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost state of India, known for its beautiful valleys, lakes, rivers and the towering snow-capped Himalayas, celebrates the rains with the Hemis Festival. The 5 day long frolic is arranged within the Hemis Monastery of Ladakh.
Himachal Pradesh thanks the god of rain in their own unique way through Minjar festival. This 7 day long festivity is often accompanied by Minjar Mela or fair. This mela is held on the second Sunday of the Shravana month (between last week of July and first week of August)
This festival is one of its kind – three huge chariots, towering at 14 meters height, are pulled by the devotees struggling and jostling to get their hands on the ropes used to pull the chariots. The chariots are richly decorated, and there’s music and chanting. This annual event attracts huge crowds from India and abroad, and it is telecast live on Indian and international television channels. This is the only time of the year the deities can be viewed by non-Hindus and foreigners.
This is a unique and ancient festivity celebrated by the tribal people of Meghalaya, a picturesque region of north-east India. Devotees pray for a good harvest and perform religious rites to ward away evil spirits. The festival can easily be called one of the most colourful and playful religious festivals, as the festival includes a tug of war with a tree trunk, and a kind of soccer match with a wooden ball. Of course, there is song and dance, drinking and feasting.
You can see the Maharashtrians celebrate Nariyal Purnima, the coconut festival. This is predominant among the fishing community or the Kolis in Maharshtra and other coastal locations. Unlike some other harvest related festivals, this Indian regional festival celebrates the end of monsoon, when the seas become safe for the fishermen to resume fishing.
Onam, celebrated in the state of Kerala has a look, feel and flavour unlike anything else. Visit Kerala around this festival to experience the real local culture, food and traditions. Onam is a harvest festival, celebrating the first harvest of the land. The evergreen Kerala turns into a riot of color with floral decorations, sumptuously decorated temple elephants and stunning Kathakali dancers. The Onam sadya (special feast of onam) is a festive delicacy that is craved by locals and non-locals alike. Then there are the snake boat races. We can go on, but we think this is enough to make you book your trip to Kerala to coincide with the Onam festival.
See our travel tips for monsoon travel here
Need help with visa? See our 10 tips to get a visa to India
Read our blog post about Onam Sadya here
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