It’s no secret that India is an incredibly spiritual country, and with spirituality comes festivities. Every year, India is home to some of the biggest and best festivals in the world. For some, locals flock to the streets to engage in incredible events which might see people covered in color (Holi) or scrambling to form human pyramids meters high (Govinda). For others, locals might be expected to stay at home and celebrate with family. Yet there’s always more to them than meets the eye for the several defining festivals of India which are both unique and amazing.
That’s why you should plan a trip to India, to experience them for yourself. However, we know that these festivals are spread out across the year. So, take a look below and find one which catches your eye. Then all you’ll have to do is book up your travel plans and look forward to experiencing one of the defining festivals of India.
Diwali – The Celebration of Light
Diwali’s nickname is the ‘festival of lights’. It is the biggest celebration of the year in India and is really a time for families to come together and be with each other. Because of this, the best place to be during Diwali, if you want to celebrate it properly, is with an Indian family. However, if you’re not able to make it there, then you can always head to the streets to celebrate it as well.
The festival is about the conquering of evil by good and celebrates it with lots of lights being lit. Streets, houses, markets, and more are made as bright as possible during the 5-day long festival.
If you head to Varanasi, you’ll be able to see a constant barrage of fireworks and firecrackers being lit and sent off into the sky. During the night, you’ll be able to see the fireworks reflected off of the surface of the Ganges. It’s an incredible sight and an amazing thing to do during the festival. Alternatively, you can always head to the illuminated markets of Jaipur, where a dazzling display of lights will welcome you into the festivities.
When to be there: October 17, 2017
Holi – The Festival of Colors
One of India’s most colorful festivals. Holi is literally about throwing colors at everyone and then watching them throw colors back at you. Why do people do this? Because it’s supposed to celebrate the victory of good over evil. Because of the whole ‘throwing colors at each other’ thing, this festival is often dubbed the ‘festival of colors’ or even the ‘festival of love’.
Whilst the Festival is technically an ancient Hindu festival, it is often observed by other religious groups as well, such as Sikhs, Jains, Newar Buddhists, and many non-religious people. This is because when it comes to the day of Holi, the streets are covered in the paint powder the people throw at each other, and it’s practically impossible to avoid.
If you want to get involved in this festival, head to any city in India and join in with the festivities. Holi is definitely one of the defining festivals of India, but it isn’t the only place to celebrate Holi; several other countries including Nepal and the Philippines do as well.
When to be there: March 8, 2018
Navratri – A Divine Ceremony
Navratri is the name given to the 9 days preceding Dussehra. During these 9 days, people dance in order to honor the mother goddess. These dances aim to give thanks in preparation for celebrating Lord Rama’s defeat of the demon king Ravana. This festival is one of the country’s most spectacle filled events and is definitely something which should be seen at least once in a lifetime by outsiders.
The dances performed are known as garba and dandiya raas. They consist of the locals dressing up in bright colors and traditional clothing, to dance around in circles with each other. In many places, they’re more than happen to let others join them in the celebration, just show up. It is a time for happiness.
Some of the best places to see this festival are along the Ganges river. Here, huge statues and idols to the goddess are often built by people and then submerged in the water. People dance around the water and celebrate the submerging. It’s quite the event.
When to be there: September 21-30, 2017
Govinda – The Birthday of Lord Krishna
Also known as Krishna Janmashtami, this celebration is in honor of the birthday of Lord Krishna, and is possibly one of the more active festivals in India. Festival goers are expected to form tall human pyramids. From which they can then reach clay pots filled with curd. Once they have reached them… That’s right, they smash them. Locally, this is known as the Dahi Handi and is celebrated on the second day of the festival.
Obviously, one of the best places to experience this festival is in Mumbai. The festival also involves fasting by the locals, along with many visits to temples to celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna and offer prayers.
When to be there: September 2, 2018
Yugadi/ Ugadi – Ushering in the New Year
As the Indian New Year, Yugadi is one of the country’s biggest and most important festivals. It is defiantly one of the most defining festivals of India. The day is all about new beginnings and new things. People will usually start the day by putting on fresh clothes which they haven’t worn before, and then visit temples to pay their respects. People also use the day as an excuse to clean their homes from top to bottom, making sure that they’re the cleanest they can be.
What makes Yugadi so great though, is the food. Enormous quantities of the stuff is cooked and consumed by the locals. A special dish known as ‘Pachadi’ also makes an appearance. What is it? Well, you’ll just have to visit India during Yugadi to find out. What we will say though, is that it’s one of the most incredible blends of sweet, salty, bitter, spicy and sour you’ll ever taste.
When to be there: March 18, 2018
Explore India through its Culture
Put some time aside to explore India through its festivals and celebrations. You’ll be able to see the country in a way you wouldn’t otherwise see it. Just make sure that you’re ready to eat a lot of great food or do a lot of physical activities!
Which Indian Festival do you want to visit?
32 thoughts on “5 Festivals Which Define India”
As a long time follower of your blog, I wish you had done more research before publishing this post with the word ‘define’ in the title. As an Indian, and a non-Hindu, i find so much joy in celebrating Christmas, Ramzan, Baisakhi and many such other festivals of other religious wit equal zest. I feel in a predominantly Hindu country, it is such a treat when other religious celebrations are given so much attention and have added an element of Indian-ness to it despite not having its roots in India.
Don’t mean to be preachy or offend you, but while the festivals you mentioned are lovely, they definitely do not define India. The best part of living in a diverse country like India is being able to celebrate festivals from all religions with people of all religions and share our traditions, customs and food with each other.
Thanks for sharing! I really appreciate your opinion and the way you shared it. I do believe these festivals define India along with other factors such as food and other traditions.
I have heard so much about Holi and Diwali! It is definitely on my bucket list to visit!
Glad to hear that, Mao! ;)
I love how you added the dates of the next celebration. Navrati sounds like fun. I should think about seeing that when I get over there.
I’m glad you like it, Leanne! ;)
So much culture to explore, India is a such a unique country!
That’s completely true, Becky! :)
I missed the festivals, when we visited India, but I’ve seen the colour throwing in Modena, Italy, earlier this summer.
That must have been an awesome experience in Italy, Mette! ;)
Exploring India through its festivals and culture is a fantastic idea! I, being an Indian, find my country’s culture and traditions so fascinating. There’s always something new and interesting to discover.
You should be very proud, Renuka! :)
wow! I knew about Diwali and Holi but thanks didn’t know about the others! Such a brilliant country!
It really is a magnificent country, Andy! :)
I love this post – very unique! Not surprisingly I’ve only heard of the first two festivals. India is definitely on my list of places to go, I need to make it happen in the next 2 years!
Hope you get there sooner than expected, Sandra! ;)
Love how you have taken so much effort and shared about some of the festivals in my country, Agness :) India is truly rich with its traditions and cultures. Whenever we visit India, we try & schedule it so that we can catch up with at least one festival & celebrate it with our family.
I appreciate your comment, Sha! You should be proud of your country! ;)
Love the post, and love Indian festivals. There are so many of them. I was in India for 2 months, and I felt there were festivals all the time. However, there are many of these fesitivals I have not been to. They looks interessting and fun.
Thanks a lot! India is indeed charming. ;)
i m from India and suddenly saw your blog. i think you did a good research about Indian culture. appreciating article
Thanks a bunch! :)
This compilation is just awesome. The celebration time is amazing in India, thanks for sharing this on etramping!!
Thanks a lot, Charu! Cheers! ;)
India is the country of festivals. there are many small but awesome festival.
Indeed there are, Aiman! :)
Nice and colorful read about India. You have highlighted some of the best festivals to convey the message through this post for defining India. Thanks for this great post!
Thanks a bunch for the nice words, Shashank! ;)
I really appreciate your pick in the form of the festival to define India as a destination. It was a good read. Thanks!
Thanks a lot, Prashant! ;)
I would like to add 2 more to this list that are mega celebrations and defines India-
1. Navratri along the Ganges is Durga Puja (the huge idols you mentioned): Sept last, West Bengal, It’s a color + food riot. Kolkata
2. Ganesh Chaturthi: August last, Maharastra. Mumbai comes to a standstill.
Thanks a bunch for the contribution, Chandan! ;)