5 lesser known Indian festivals

Now, don’t get us wrong, Holi is amazing. Whether it’s from the depths of Rajasthan or a park near Battersea, the sight of revellers covered in colourful powder had become common all over the world. But, though being painted by a rainbow is undoubtedly a whole lot of fun, there are numerous other events throughout India every year that are no less amazing for their lack of opportunity to throw stuff at your mates.

India has a population of 1.2 billion people so calling any festival based there “lesser known” is stretching it a bit. But, while some have entered the traveller popular conciousness others have remained more obscure. Build one of these amazing experiences into your trip for a unique taste of India’s diverse, incredible culture.

5 lesser known Indian festivals

Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti is celebrated all over India in January. Its universality definitely doesn’t lead to uniformity though and your experience will very much depend on where you’re based. In the south it’s known as Pongal, a ‘harvest festival’ where offerings are made to the Sun and Moon Gods, where as in the colder Punjab region bonfires are lit in celebration of the coming of summer.

A "Mud God" offering at Pongal. Courtesy of Natesh on Flickr

Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Turban tying competitions, camel racing, singing, puppeteers, acrobats and a prize for the best moustache? Where do we sign! This festival is held annually in Rajasthan and is a chance for the villagers to come together in the relative winter cool and show the many visitors their traditions and celebrate the year to come.

Bedecked camels at the desert festival

Maha Shivaratri

The night of Shiva, the Hindu god of transformation, is usually celebrated around late February/early March. As well as meditation and worship at Shiva’s temples, bonfires are lit and women offer prayers for a blissful married life. The spiritual home of this festival is said by many to be Amarnath Temple, a cave high in the mountains of Kashmir where pilgrims walk, sometimes for days, to worship at the foot of a massive ice stalactite.

 A pilgrimage camp on the route to Amarnath

Krishna Janmashtami (Dahi Handi)

As we’ve already seen a festival which celebrates a particular god in the Hindu pantheon is pretty common. Making massive human pyramids to break a pot full of buttermilk? Less so.

Image courtesy of Madhav on Flickr

Ganesh Chaturthi

The festival to worship the elephant headed Ganesh is as bright and colourful as the statues of the god himself. It’s particularly popular in Goa where fireworks and feasts abound until, at the end of the festivities, huge idols of Ganesh are carried to the sea and fully immersed. Like most Indian festivals the dates of Ganesh Chaturthi change every year but it’s usually held between 20 Aug – 20 Sep.

Our Tailor Made India experts can help you organise a trip to suit your personal wanderlust and budget, and maybe build in a festival or two too!