This is a guest post by Priyank, who keeps a detailed account of his travel stories and pictures on his blog: Final Transit. Having moved to Toronto from Mumbai, the greatest thing Priyank misses about his hometown are celebrations such as these.
Visiting Mumbai (India) this year? Looking for some crowd, chaos and color? Here are six wonderful festivals that will leave you overwhelmed.
Ganesh Chaturthi: When Gods Visit The Earth
For this festival, people bring clay idols of Lord Ganesha, the patron God of arts and sciences, to their homes and community centers for consecration. The priests symbolically invoke life into the statues, and for the next ten days Ganesha is given the most generous treatment a guest could ever receive. Its time to eat delicious food, exchange gifts, visit friends and family and celebrate the presence of the divine guest. On the 11th day of the festival, people bid adieu to the deity. The statue is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing, and fanfare to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual see-off.
Dates: Between August 20th and September 15th
Dahi Handi: Human Pyramid
This festival, dedicated to the childhood antics and mischief of Lord Krishna, is about how tall of a human pyramid can you make before you are able to grab that pot of goodies hanging as high as 15m above ground. The higher the pot, the more valuable it is, and thus a number of teams vie for the prize. The highest I have seen is 8 levels, but that’s normal!
Dates: Between August 10th and September 5th
Gudi Padva: Marathi New Year
Welcoming the Marathi new year in a traditional style. This new year parade starts at sunrise (traditionally the day begins at sunrise, not at midnight!), travels through the main arteries and breaks into street parties.
Dates: Between March 5th-20th
Navratri: Nine Nights
The festival of worship and dance, dedicated to Shakti, the feminine energy, lasts for nine nights. Public areas are demarcated for festivities that begin with worship, followed by two particular forms of dance.
Dates: Between October 5th-20th
Holi: The Festival Of Colors
Welcoming spring on a full moon day, the festivities start the previous night with a bonfire, symbolizing the burning of hatred, evil and misdeeds. Fun begins the next morning when people dressed in white clothes throw colored water and powder on each other. Symbolizing the arrival of spring, and celebration of life, Holi brings a cheer to everyone, young or old.
Dates: Between February 20th and March 5th
Diwali: The Festival Of Lights
By all means, Diwali is the biggest, busiest, loudest and most colorful festival in India. Celebrations last from few days to a couple of weeks, depending on one’s beliefs. Diwali is celebrated this through festive fireworks, lights, flowers, sharing of sweets, gifts, visits by family and friends, etc. While its easy to get lost in these extravagant celebrations, the philosophy of Diwali is essentially to raise the awareness within – by rejoicing in one’s inner light and the underlying reality of all things and beings.
Dates: Between October 20th and November 10th
Why Does It Matter To The Traveler?
Festivals and their significance varies from state to state. All the ones listed above follow the Hindu (lunisolar) calendar, hence their dates on the Gregorian calendar might be off by few days. This is especially important to know if you are traveling on a day when a large number of roads are closed for celebrations, or if your sleep schedules are potentially disturbed by firecrackers and street parties. In any case, for travelers interested in doing something more than just sightseeing, these are some excellent opportunities to mingle with the locals and soak the real festive charms of India.
Thank you for the enlightening and colorful post Priyank. You can read more about Priyank’s travels and see his photography on his travel blog, Final Transit.
[Photos by: thejasp (Ganesh Chaturthi), supersam5 (Dahi Handi), Preshit (Guda Padvi), vaidyarupal (Navratri), FaceMePLS (Holi), m4r00n3d (Diwali)]
cool! i wanna go there for the next holi. another festival that i wanna witness in india is the kuhmb mela. they say it only happens every 12 years…
Holi is high up on my list as well…
There is ‘ardh’ (half) kumbh mela that happens every 6 years, and its importance is increasing since 12 years is too long for people of 21st century, LOL
This is why I’ve planned to volunteer abroad in India for 2 months before I start grad school next year. I can’t wait to plan out this trip. I’m looking forward to Holi!
India is a remarkable place to visit and despite some of the drawbacks one of my favorite places in general. I’m sure you’ll have an interesting time, have any of the plans pegged down? Would be interested to hear where/how you’ll be volunteering 🙂
All the best! It will be fun.
Thanks for publishing this post Anil, and also for the pictures. 🙂
Thank you Priyank, I appreciate the great guest post!
I have seen a TV show about the colour festival and it looks fantastic to participate in. India appears to have some superb festivals. Maybe the Hindu religion lends itslef to more religious festivals by having a good variety of gods to celebrate and revere.
After seeing all of the pictures and stories from Songkran, I think SE Asia definitely knows how to celebrate their holidays in style 🙂
I’ve only got one of the six done! I’m going to have to head back to India to try out some of these others – I like the Human Pyramid one, that’s my next plan 🙂
I keep staring at the picture, pretty incredible. It’s got to take some guts to try that 🙂
Great list, Anil! I bookmarked this post, so I can check this out if I go to India. Don’t want to miss this. I’m intrigued by the color festival. Have you been in those festivals?
Funny thing is, I’ve been to India 3 times and only once toward the end of Diwali.
Hehe, at least you got a little taste of it!
Watching the statues of Ganesh being tossed into the sea was quite a sight at the end of the Ganesh festival. And the following day, I remember standing in awe on Chowpatty Beach staring at hundreds of elephant parts floating around in the water or washed up on shore.
I can’t read any post about India without wishing I could be transported there instantly!
Sensory overload during normal times of the year, it can only intensify during the holidays. India is a fascinating place to visit.
The human pyramid is amazing! Do they ever crash down?
I have certainly built my itinerary around festivals in the past – they are great for photography opportunities and to mingle with locals!
Not sure, perhaps Priyank has better insight 🙂 But here’s a video of a human pyramid being formed:
I’d love to be in India during one of these celebrations – like any holiday everyone’s in a good mood, but I guess it’s not the best time to be going anywhere in a hurry.
In India, there’s never a good time to be in a hurry 😉 Being on time anywhere is nearly impossible.
I frankly find India to be intensely crowded on a normal day, so I’m not sure I’d want to get caught in the crush of one of these festivals.
That’s probably the first thing that hit me on my first trip to India – just how crowded it was.
Do most of these festivals happen throughout India? Specifically Holi, I’m wondering if Delhi has a big celebration as well since I may be there during the festival of colors time frame.
Both Holi and Diwali are widely celebrated in Delhi and northern India. On the other hand, Gudhi Padwa would be virtually absent, while Ganesh Chaturthi and Navratri would be a bit muted compared to Mumbai.
Unfortunately I haven’t visited Delhi enough to know about other big religious festivals and a google search wasn’t conclusive enough. The biggest crowd pullers are “national” celebrations such as Republic day (Jan 26) and Independence day (Aug 15).
hope that helps, happy holi in advance!
Thanks for the tips! Appreciate the google search. 🙂
Thanks for the great post on festivals in Mumbai! We bought a one way ticket to Mumbai leaving Jan 28th! We plan to travel around India for a month or so before heading over to Southeast Asia.
Love your blog!
Thank you and hope you have a wonderful trip – and guessing by your blog name you’ll be heading to Rishikesh at some point 😉