The best festivals in India for tourists

India is an amalgam of different cultures and religions, many of which are celebrated with festivals throughout the year. Find out about some of the best ones here.

By Saga team

Published 13 May 2024

Every festival has its own merits, and each one is worth experiencing to gain a greater understanding of this wonderful country. Here are just a few the most popular – try to attend at least one on your next Indian holiday.

When: November

Where: Pushkar, Aimer district, Rajasthan

Every year in November, 50,000 camels descend on Rajasthan’s desert and head to the tiny city of Pushkar.

One of the oldest cities in India, built on the banks of a lake, Pushkar’s population swells with the arrival of artisans, musicians, actors, craftsmen and of course, camels.

The animals are elaborately adorned and decorated by their owners, and then take part in a series of competitions, from racing to beauty contests.

This is a chance for visitors to embrace Rajasthani culture, try the local food and buy beautiful handmade crafts.

There is much to see outside the fair too; visit one of the 52 ghats where pilgrims come to bathe in the holy waters and wander the colourful stone temples where you can see morning puja (prayers) taking place.

When: January

Where: all across India

This Hindu religious harvest festival is known by many different names in India and has several variations.

In the Gujarat and Maharashtra states of India, colourful kites of all kinds mark a path through the blue skies.

In Punjab, which is coldest at this time of year, the harvest season is known as Lohri and bonfires are lit. In Uttar Pradesh, it is called Kicheri, and people bathe in holy rivers.

To the south, particularly in Tamil Nadu, the festival is known as Pongal, where farmers celebrate the gifts nature has given.

The celebrations last three days, and food is offered to family and the Sun God. You will also see cattle decorated with flowers and bells – they are given precedence because they till the fields.

When: the month changes each year

Where: everywhere, especially in large Muslim communities

India’s Muslim citizens make up around 14% of the population, and their most joyful festival is Eid. It marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, where people break their fast by hosting lavish meals.

You will see Muslims all over the world dressing up, giving gifts and taking part in processions, while services are held outside the mosques giving thanks to Allah.

The festival dates change every year according to the cycles of the moon.

When: March

Where: northern India

This festival of colours is probably the most fun Indian event on this list. A tribute to Lord Vishnu, the God of Preservation, it celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

This annual festival always takes place in March, the day after the full moon. Participants usually wear white and then throw paint, dyed powder and water to douse themselves in colour.

This is a joyful occasion, and people of all ages in India take part. However, it is important to note that the celebrations can get a little rambunctious.

It’s recommended that if you do plan on heading out into the streets during your holiday, you go in the morning before the crowds get rowdy and make sure to take someone with you for safety.

When: October/November

Where: all over the country

Perhaps the best known of India’s religious festivals, Diwali is often called ‘the festival of lights’ and takes place over five days between October and November (the start of the year according to the Hindu calendar).

Houses are spring-cleaned and decorated, and presents are bought for loved ones. The main events take place on the third day; lamps and candles are lit to ward off the darkness, symbolising hope over despair.

Fireworks too are a large part of the festivities on this day, and you will see the sky light up as people all across India set off their own in celebration of Diwali. This is a happy festival and a fantastic time to be in India.

Just bear in mind that you might not get the best night’s sleep, as the fireworks continue all night long!

With its dazzling breadth of experiences and deep spirituality, India never fails to delight the senses and uplift the soul. Find out about our holidays to India.

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