You need at least a year to be able to say that you truly saw India. Everything about this country is captivating. When it comes to culture, India sure knows how to stand out. The mythology, the temples, the festivals, everything is just very different from anything you’ve ever seen before. The Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of some of the world’s major religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikh, etc) but there are so many small other religion also present. Indians used to celebrate nearly each every day of year but as the time passes this was reduced to a good number of around 25-30 festivals per year. Amazing, huh? So here are the 10 best festivals you could join to celebrate the heritage, culture and traditions.
Diwali (or the Festival of Lights) is the the longest and biggest holiday in India. It is a festival that honors the victory of good over evil and brightness over darkness. In Indian mythology, Diwali celebrates Lord Rama and his wife Sita returning to their kingdom, following the defeat of the the evil King Ravana and rescue of Sita from his evil. It’s known as the “Festival of Lights” for all the fireworks, small clay lamps, and candles that are lit. The candlelight makes Diwali a very warm and atmospheric festival, and it’s observed with much joy and happiness. It is pretty much celebrated all over the country, unlike the rest of the events that can be specific to few states. However, the best place you can aim for during this time is Varanasi, the most sacred city in the country on the Ganga river. You will be at the right place and right time watching all those candles floating in the river with all the chantings and rituals, just be careful not to actually get wet, the water there is not particularly clean.
Of all the colourful days you will witness in India, Holi is the most colourful of all. After all, it is called the festival of colors. How do you celebrate it? You literally throw colored powder and water all over each other, have parties, and dance under water sprinklers. A personal advise though, wear clothes that you’re planning to throw away after, and make sure you don’t have any formal meetings the following week as your hair will resemble that of a clown’s (even if you wash it 35 times).
The spectacular eleven-day Ganesh Chaturthi festival honors the birth of the Hindu elephant-headed god, Lord Ganesha. The start of the festival sees huge, elaborately crafted statutes of Ganesha installed in homes and podiums, which have been especially constructed and beautifully decorated. At the end of the festival, the statutes are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, till you drop them in rivers. If you think all the dancing in Bollywood movies is exaggerated, wait until you attend one of those.
The south Indian state of Kerala is filled with temples that are renowned for their exotic temple festivals. The large processions of elephants, resplendent in ornaments, are the main attractions of these festivals. The area is famous for the very very colored mask dancers (Theyyam), and it’s so different from the way celebrations take place in the north. Kerala is also famous for its very beautiful beaches and forests. It basically has everything. OmanAir has a variety of routes that reach out to a number of cities all around India, so it’s easy to get around.
Well, that’s not an official festival, but you will get to feel how much of a big deal it is when you attend one. Forget the four-seasons extravagant ballrooms, Punjabis know how to throw a perfect wedding. There will be really good food, crazy dancing, and a fashion show for all those wonderful Saris (if you want to bring out your inner Bollywood diva, check Ritu Kumar, she is one of the greatest Indian designers). It’s actually pretty warm and happy just being there. Oh, and don’t stress about waiting for the invitation, crashing weddings is completely socially accepted and welcomes in India.