Call Travels

A Traveller’s guide to festivals in India


Artical image

Here’s our run-down of the loudest of loud Indian festivals.

  • Janmastami:
    Held on the eighth day of the Krishnapaksha (‘dark fortnight’), when the moon is waning, this mass pilgrimage kicks off an intense season of festivities, even by Hindu standards. It’s a birthday celebration for Lord Krishna. Janmastami is held in August-September in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. The ceremonies, intended to relive the famous birth, conclude around midnight, by which time the flute-playing god would have been born
  • Rath Yatra:
    Despite the Indian monsoon, the country’s Hindus crowd Bada Danda, Puri’s (Odisha) main drag, to honour their deity Lord Jagannath. An image of this avatar (incarnation) of Lord Krishna is transported, along with those of Jagannath’s brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra, in three large, colourful raths (chariots). Accompanied by up to a million pilgrims and tourists, the temple-like vehicles proceed from the main temple to Jagannath’s garden palace, where the idols holiday for a week. The festival commemorates Krishna’s return from exile and pushing and pulling of the chariots is a religious experience for the thousands who lend a hand.
  • Ganesh Chaturthi:
    Hindus celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, the birth of the elephant-headed god, with verve, particularly in Mumbai. Clay idols of Ganesh are paraded through the streets before beings ceremonially immersed in rivers, tanks or the sea. Held in September (or sometimes August) countrywide.
  • Durga Puja:
    Thousands of statues of the ten-armed goddess Durga clutter the streets of Kolkata during this festival held each year in October. The festival climaxes when all those Durga idols are thrown into the waters of the Hooghly River amongst much general singing, dancing and firework explosions.
  • Pushkar Camel Fair:
    Held in early November in the beautiful Rajasthani town of Pushkar, this famous fair could almost be described as a Kumbh Mela of camels and cattle. Around 50,000 slobbering beasts dressed in their finest ‘coats’ come to town accompanied by thousands of pilgrims and traders, but with masses of musicians, acrobats, and mystics there’s more than just ships of the desert to this fair.