Festivals are an important event in the cultural and spiritual calendar of the Indian Subcontinent. These occasions are a great chance to see these countries at their most carefree and exuberant.
In the first weeks of every spring, the Indian Subcontinent erupts in a flurry of colour.
Holi Festival of Colours is one of the most iconic and exciting Hindu festivals—thousands of revellers across northern India, Nepal and Pakistan take to the streets for two days of throwing powder paint and water at each other, in a joyful and vibrant carnival of fertility and harvest.
Social conventions are turned on their head as a rainbow procession of young and old dance and sing through the streets. Holi is celebrated across this region—go to Delhi for large crowds and colourful chaos, or for a calmer affair, try Nepal.
Celebrated every year across the world, Diwali is a vibrant and much-anticipated occasion for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.
The festival is often likened to Christmas—houses and streets across the Indian Subcontinent are decorated, and gifts of mithai (Indian sweets) are exchanged. The holiday is held in the autumn and varies from region to region. For visitors, Jaipur, Amritsar and Mumbai are fantastic places to get involved in Diwali.
Elephant Festival Jaipur
Held in early spring, this is similar to Holi, but with an elephant twist. Elephants are considered by Hindus to be divine creatures—the Jaipur Elephant Festival is a regional celebration visited by people from all over Rajasthan.
As well as beautifully painted elephants, other attractions include elephant races, elephant polo, and elephant tug of war.
Esala Perahera Sri Lanka
Also known as ‘the festival of the tooth’, Esala Perahera is an important Buddhist event held annually in Sri Lanka. For ten whole days in the lead-up to the August full moon, the country buzzes with excitement.
Elephants are another major feature in this festival—the elephant parade in the city of Kandy is a dazzling spectacle, complete with drums, dancing, acrobatics and fire juggling on the backs of these important creatures.
Camel Fair Pushkar
Around the time of the November full moon, thousands of camels travel to the desert town of Pushkar in Rajasthan.
This annual pilgrimage has been taking place for many centuries—today the Pushkar Camel Fair is one of the last truly traditional mela-style Indian festivals, where around 300,000 travellers meet to trade and spread merrymaking. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll purchase a camel, there are many bazaars and handicrafts to explore.
What festivals in the Indian Subcontinent have you always wanted to visit? Let us know in the comments.