Whether you are a music enthusiast or a traveller in pursuit of unique cultures, the Indian festival scene has come into its own in the past few years. From high-brow literature festivals to underground music gigs, here’s the list of places where you can make the most of your time and experience a new culture and art forms.
The Mask Dances of Hemis
One of the key highlights in the weekend filter is The Hemis festival, with colourful dances and fascinating masks, is held annually in the months of June and July at the Hemis monastery and offers an interesting glimpse into Ladhaki Buddhist culture. The 17th century Hemis monastery, is at once magical and imposing beneath the jagged peaks. Each year the charm grows manifold when it plays host to one of the biggest and most popular festivals of Ladakh – the Hemis Festival. Celebrated in honour of Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava (one of the founders of Tibetan Buddhism), the traditional music and the mask dances, or Chams, performed in the monastery courtyard is a spectacle. Complete with sound and visual effects, from the large drums and the long copper trumpets. Do keep in mind that the festival is naturally very popular, so be prepared to be pushed and shoved.
Where: Hemis, Ladakh
When: June – July
While you are there: Also make time for spotting the ancient rock paintings, petroglyphs created 2000 to 4000 years ago in the nearby Dah Hanu and Batalik region. Few paintings are carefully preserved in the Domkhar Rock Art Sanctuary even as many are vandalized due to ignorance.
If you’re there for a week or more, you can hike on the popular Markha Valley and camp at friendly villages in homestays along the trail.
Nehru Boat Race
One of the most popular boat races in Kerala, Nehru Boat Race, on the serene waters of Punnamada Lake, draws huge crowds from across the country. Witness hundreds of men working in clockwork-like unison to paddle 100-feet long canoes – Chundan Vallam (most of us know them as snake boats) – along a 1.4-kilometre long course. Several Vallam Kali (boat games) events happen across the state during autumn as part of the harvest festival. The Nehru Boat Race has carved a space for itself since its inception in 1952 when it started as a welcoming event for Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, and later morphed into a race.
Where: Allapuzha, Kerala
While you are there: Steal a quick trip to the palm-fringed backwaters of Kuttanad that’s not only famous for its verdant rice fields but also for being 2.2 meters below sea level, a geological peculiarity.
Ziro Music Festival
If the lush rice paddies of Ziro or the extremely affable folks of Apatani tribe aren’t a reason enough for you to visit this cluster of villages in the heart of Arunachal Pradesh, this eclectic music festival might just persuade you to pack your bags right away. Featuring a generous mix of musical talent from the Northeast and the rest of the country, this 4-day music festival in the open grounds of the stunning Ziro valley is a treat for both the ears and eyes. This festival too is one of the key highlights in the event filter and is something one must not miss it.
Where: Ziro, Arunachal
While you are there: Experience the lovely hospitality of Apatanis by foraging in the forest for ferns with them, chugging down copious amounts of apong (rice beer) in bamboo glasses and making merry in general, around the kitchen hearth that’s the centre of all socializing in Ziro.
Rajasthan International folk festival
Rajasthan International Folk Festival is set against the backdrop of the jaw-dropping Mehrangarh Fort. The event celebrates the folk sounds of the state by showcasing local artists as well as innovative collaborations with leading international musicians over a 5-day musical extravaganza. Featuring over 250 artists, multiple venues in and around the fort and daytime activities for families, the RIFF offers a unique lens through which to explore the famed blue city and its iconic fort, beyond the usual.
While you are there: Don’t Miss to take a morning walk through one of the many trails at the Rao Jodha Desert National Park, located behind the Mehrangarh Fort. This unique desert ecosystem has been painstakingly restored and recreated over the last few years by weeding out invasive species and replanting native desert species. The park not only offers great walks through well-marked trails with a trained naturalist but also spectacular unique views of the fort and Jaswant Thada.
The beautifully restored 1740s ‘Toorji Ka Jhalra’ or Toorji’s Stepwell with the descending layers of stairs with niches and carvings in the famed red sandstone of the region is Instagram worthy spot.
(Inputs by : Cleartrip)