India is a land of rich cultural diversity where people celebrate life and heritage through festivals that comprise rituals, food, cultural programs, costumes with lots of love and sharing of goodwill.
It’s a time when one would not just like to see but participate in each festival, for that’s what festivals are for – fun, joy, sharing and most of all, celebrating life.
The month of July is a monsoon month in India and besides a rich bounty of rain, the country offers some of the most colourful festivals that you would not want to miss.
Here’s a list of festivals celebrated across India in the month of July.
People of the state of Odisha celebrate the annual arrival of their patron god Lord Jagannath, who is believed to be the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna, as per Hindu mythology.
To commemorate his arrival, along with his sister Subhadra and elder brother Balabhadra at his birthplace Puri, devotees bring out Lord Jagannath in a hand-drawn chariot, which is followed by two more chariots carrying his sister and elder brother.
People from all over the country come to attend this highly revered annual festival. Just a glimpse or a touch of the chariot is considered to be extremely auspicious.
You will want to be there to experience the excitement, colour and energy of the devotees who vie with each other for an opportunity to pull the chariot.
The festival will be held from 6 to 8 July at the Lord Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha.
Ramadan is the holy month of fasting when devout Muslims abstain from consuming food or water from dawn to dusk for an entire month. By fasting, Muslims commemorate the first revelation of the Holy Quran to Prophet Muhammad. The holy month culminates with Id-ul-fitr, a festival to celebrate brotherhood, love, caring and sharing.
India is known for its diversity of culinary variety but the month of Ramadan stands out for its very exclusive food varieties and delicacies which have their genesis in central Asia and which traveled to India through generations of Mughals who made India their home.
At each dusk during the month of Ramadan, all Muslims break their daylong fast with sweets, savories and some of the best mouthwatering non-vegetarian dishes.
The streets and by-lanes of Chandni Chowk in Delhi, Mahim and Haji Ali area of Mumbai, Hazratganj and Imam Bara in Lucknow and Charminar of Hyderabad, are some of the finest places to savour and experience Mughlai cuisine. If you are a foodie then this is one festival you would not want to miss.
Festival dates: 6 June through 6 July
The Hemis Festival is a two-day celebration at the Hemis Monastery in Leh, Ladakh. The festival celebrates the birth of Guru Padmasambhava who is the founder of Tantric Buddhism and is revered by all people of Tibetan descent. This is a time to join the local people of Ladakh and experience their unique culture and cuisine. There are various cultural programs during these two days when locals turn up in their finest colourful traditional attires.
Festival dates: 14 and 15 July 2016
Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey
When in Ladakh, do not miss the 13th edition of the Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey that will see motorcycle enthusiasts embark on a challenging journey from Delhi to Leh in Ladakh and return via Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. This year’s edition will include a special edition for women bikers who will be taking part in the gruelling race for the first time. This is a not-to-miss event in Leh.
Event dates: 9-23 July 2016
Njangattiri Aanayaoottu: The Elephant Feeding Festival
This unique festival in southern coastal state of Kerala is held to celebrate the elephant. In Kerala, the elephant is revered and worshipped as an incarnation of Lord Ganesha.
What makes the festival of Njangattiri Aanayaoottu unique, is the exclusive focus on elephants, wherein they are brought to the temples without the ceremonial decorations and fed with their favourite food comprising bananas, jaggery, coconuts and sugarcane leaves, in an attempt to appease Lord Ganesha.
This festival is yet another reason to visit the state around monsoons.
Festival date: 22 July 2016
Kerala is a great place to be during the monsoons and Wayanad district is known to celebrate the monsoon season by organizing the three day Splash Carnival. In its eight year now, Splash is a unique carnival unlike any other. Three days of fun-filled outdoor and indoor events makes this a must-visit place. Special boat races, river rafting, crab catching, mud football, archery, mountain biking, along with a lot of local music and dance, makes this carnival one big jamboree of celebration.
Vythiri Village in Wayanad District is the place to be in Mid-July.
Arunachal Pradesh is one of the most beautiful states in India and is yet to be discovered by most. Besides its natural beauty, its warm and friendly people make visiting Arunachal Pradesh a great experience.
The Apatani Tribe celebrates the Dree Festival as a mark of respect to the Gods who protect their land and agriculture. The festival begins with sacrificial offerings to the gods and is followed by delicious local cuisines. The cultural pomp and pageantry includes folk dances and music. Besides, sporting events like local games and archery are organized. They also have a ‘Mr Dree’ contest to select the strongest, most agile and intelligent man!
Ziro, located around 115 kms from the state capital Itanagar, is the place to be in the first week of July. Go Dree!
The Amarnath temple near Pahalgam in Kashmir Valley is one of the most revered sites for Hindus, as it houses a unique Lingam made naturally from ice. This temple of Lord Shiva opens for pilgrimage only for a brief period each year.
This year, between 2 July and 18 August, the temple will be open to the public and people can visit on foot or cover part of the distance by mule or car. For those who can afford it, a helicopter service is also run during this time.
With the onset of monsoons, Kashmir Valley is cold but very beautiful and if you happen to be religious minded, then this is a good time to visit the temple and seek divine blessings.
Pilgrimage dates: 2 July – 18 July. Access from Pahalgam, J&K