Celebrate the spirit of India in all its glory at these unique and vibrant festivals coming up in March.
By Satyaki Sarkar
1. International Yoga Festival, March 1-7
Started in 1989, the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh is one of the biggest events for in the world for yoga lovers. Yogis and yoginis, as well as beginners and teachers from all over the world arrive at the holy city for the festival. Apart from a host of music and dance performances, the festival also offers several courses on various types of yoga including Ashtanga, Bhakti, Iyengar, Kundalini, Bharat, and more. More than 70 presenters from 20 different countries are expected to be in attendance this year, with over 150 yoga sessions being conducted over the eight days of the festival.
2. Lathmar Holi, March 12
While the festival of Holi is celebrated all over the country, Lathmar Holi is a celebration of a slightly different kind, taking place the day before the actual Holi festival. Celebrated in Barsana, in the holy city of Mathura, the festival is quite a unique and bewildering one. Inspired by Krishna and Radha’s story, the festival involves men armed with shields trying to woo the women by singing, and the women chasing them away with sticks. Celebrated entirely in good spirits, the men come dressed in padding to protect themselves. Sometimes the men are also dressed up like women and made to dance on songs. People from all over the world come to witness this unique and fun-filled festival.
Photograph: Narender9/Creative Commons
3. Jaipur Elephant Festival, March 13
One of the biggest festivals in Jaipur, the Elephant Festival is an annual event that proudly shows off the city’s splendour and royal heritage. Elephants are adorned in embellished ornaments, while their trunks are painted in vibrant colours and designs, and showcased on the streets. The majestic animals are the primary focus of the festival, and participate in games of Polo as well as the Holi celebrations that take place afterwards.
Photograph: Anne Roberts/Flickr
4. Hola Mohalla, March 13-15
Starting every year on the day after Holi, this Sikh festival marks the beginning of the New Year as per the lunar Nanakshahi calendar of the Sikhs. Commemorating the bravery and humanity of the Sikh community, this festival in Rupnagar in Punjab is a celebration of what it means to be a Sikh. The Martial Arts festival showcases a number of different techniques of self-defense including Gatka, sword fighting, archery, and horse racing. Martial arts parades are also organised, led by the Nishan Sahibs of the Gurdwaras, followed by poetry readings and music competitions.
Photograph: Gaurav Agrawal/Flickr
5. Basanta Utsav, March 13
Basanta Utsav or the Spring Festival was started by Rabindranath Tagore to recreate the magic of the festival of Holi in Bengal. It takes place in Shantiniketan, West Bengal, and is celebrated by the residents of the town, especially the students. Tourists and anyone who wishes to take part in the festivities are given a warm welcome. Revellers traditionally wear bright yellow outfits, smearing each other’s faces with coloured powder. Apart from this, the festivities also include cultural performances by students, where they showcase their talents and the whole town is lit up in a lively frenzy of music, colours, and spirited celebration.
Photograph: Kuntal Gupta/Flickr
6. Shigmotsav, March 24 – April 07
One of the biggest and most well known festivals in Goa, Shigmotsav is a street festival held every year during the month of March. It originated as a Spring festival commemorating the return of the city’s residents who had left home to fight invaders. Nowadays, the celebrants dress up in bright, colourful clothes and take to the streets on floats, armed with drums and various other props to celebrate the day. Sometimes, as part of the festivities, people also play with colours, like in Holi, and gift traditional sweets to each other. It’s a long festival as each town has a parade on a different day.
Photograph: Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India