Lesser known Festivals celebrated in India

When David Letterman tried to deride the abundance of musicals in the Bollywood films, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, responded to him that it was reflective of our very culture which is a celebration. That is exactly what the plural, multi and poly culture of India essentially constitutes and propagates- celebration of life and gaiety. What’s more, no one average Indian would even be acquainted with the plethora of festivals that India and her Indians witness the year throughout.

Take a tour and acquaint yourself with the lesser known festivals celebrated in India through this article.

1. UTTARAYAN- INTERNATIONAL KITE FESTIVAL

Kite Festival 1
Photo by Rajesh_India
Kite Festival 2
Photo by Penn State

Uttarayan – the International Kite Festival of India, celebrated in Gujarat, is considered as one of the biggest festivals yet overshadowed by the mainstream Hindu festivals of India. This festival marks the harvesting season for the farmers, celebrated as Makar Sankranti. A huge trade between the buyers and sellers of kites in bulk takes place during this season, especially in the ‘patang bazaar’, one of the most famous kite markets in Ahmedabad. Gujarat Tourism hosts this International Kite Festival, inviting people from all over the world to display their spectacular kites of various shapes and sizes along with their kite flying skills. This festival attracts a lot of foreigners and has become a major tourism attraction.

WHEN: January 14.

WHERE: Gujarat, majorly in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Nadiad and Surat.

2. CHHATH PUJA

Photo by Rajesh Sarkar
Photo by Rajesh Sarkar

Chhath is an antique Hindu festival celebrated every year as a tribute to the God of Energy, also known as Surya(the Sun). It is assumed that the first Chhath Puja was performed by the Suryaputra, Karna. On this day, people worship Chhathi Maiya(consort of Lord Surya) and pray to her to ease their life and make it free of troubles and for the ultimate liberation. During the four days long period of Chhath, the worshipper takes holy bath in pious rivers like Ganga and Yamuna, and lives a life of abstinence for this period. Prasad offered to Lord Surya includes sweets, kheer, thekua and fruits, served in a bamboo tokari. The rituals performed in Chhath Puja help in detoxifying both body and the soul of all the negative elements of anger, jealousy and the like.

WHEN:  October or November.

WHERE: Bihar, Jharkhand, Eastern UP and Terai regions of Nepal.

3. HORNBILL FESTIVAL

Hornbill Festival
A Naga tribe performing at the Hornbill festival

Hornbill Festival is called the ‘festival of festivals’. The festival is organized by the State tourism and art and culture departments and brings together a variety of cultures under a single roof. The festival  is named after Hornbill, a large and colourful forest bird. In this week long festival, people unite together and enjoy vibrant performances, games, crafts, traditional art and sports.

The place reverberates with the sound of log war drums and the songs of the head hunting ceremony with people wearing traditional dresses and tattoos on their bodies.

WHEN: 1st-7th December.

WHERE: Naga heritage village, Kisama which is about 12kms from Kohima.

4. TEEJ

teej-swing
Young women playing at swings during Haryali Teej

Teej is a monsoon festival  dedicated to Goddess Parvati and her union with Lord Shiva. It is primarily celebrated by young women and girls, welcoming the season of monsoon. The festival of Teej is celebrated in three different forms- Haryali teej, Kajari teej and Hartalika teej.  During the festival, young women and girls indulge in singing, dancing, wearing henna on their hands and feet, getting together with friends and telling stories, clad in vibrant hues of red, yellow and green, sharing festive foods and playing on swings under trees.

WHEN:  July/August/September.

WHERE: Majorly in North India.

5. INTERNATIONAL THEATRE FESTIVAL  OF KERALA (ITFoK)

A performer at the International Theatre festive of Kerala
A performer at the International Theatre festive of Kerala

Organized by Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, the nodal body for promotion of theatre, music and allied performing arts of Kerala, ITFoK is a newly born festival, started 7 years back. Over this short span, this festival has emerged as a major cultural festival of international appeal and repute. ITFoK takes place in the premises of the Akademi at Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala, and lasts for eight days. The flagship events of the festival are open-air performances and Kerala’s traditional theatre amalgamated with local contemporary practices. The vital components of the festival comprise seminars, workshops and exposition sessions, exhibitions, screening of films etc. The festival is not in line with the mainstream festivals celebrated in India which majorly worship Gods and Goddesses and rather aims at promoting performing arts and culture of Kerala.

WHEN: December.

WHERE: Kerala.

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