10 Festivals and Fairs in India to Make Your December-January Getaway Perfect

festivals and fairs in India

December and January are the months when the weather is usually pleasant in India, making them an ideal time to plan a getaway. With the much coveted relief from heat and humidity, these winter months also see a number of open-air festivals and fairs across the country. If you’re planning a getaway in December-January and looking for unforgettable memories and fantastic photography opportunities, experience the rich cultural flavours of India.

Here is a list of ten festivals and fairs in December-January to help you choose your destination for winter adventure.

1. Rann Utsav

Rann Utsav

Rann Utsav

This festival which showcases Gujarat’s hospitality, cuisine and handicrafts is held in the salt flats of the Rann of Kutch. It begins in November and continues for about 3 months till February or March. A temporary ‘Tent City’, self-sufficient with conference halls, rejuvenation centre, cafe and club house is spread over an area of 5,00,000 sq. m. in the village of Dhordo, about 85kms from Bhuj.

Rann Utsav provides a great platform to local artisans to showcase their talent in mirrored embroidery, wood carving, lacquer art, mud wall painting and the ancient Rogan Art. The festival infuses the blindingly white, monotonous topography with all the warm colours in the palette, the exuberance of traditional folk music and dance, bustling handicrafts, the spinning of the potter’s wheel moulding dreams in clay, and nimble fingers weaving magic with thread and fabric. You will be transported to a different time zone the moment you step into this celebration.

To help you cope with cultural oversaturation, there are also meditation pavilions, camel cart rides, spa centres, dirt biking and para-motoring options as an excellent foil. The festival is at its mesmerizing best during a full moon night when the carnival of dance and music is played out against the surreal backdrop of the white sand, awash with moonlight. Plan your dates accordingly!

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2. Kumbhalgarh Festival

Kumbhalgarh Festival

Kumbhalgarh Festival

This classical dance festival is held every year either in December or January in the Kumbhalgarh Fort of Mewar located atop one of the highest peaks of Aravalli hills at 1014 m above the sea level. The enormous fort which is capable of accommodating hundreds of people looks formidable by day and provides a stunning fairy-tale backdrop to the festivities at night when it is illuminated by yellow lights.

Daytime is dedicated to local talent, and the performances of folk artists. Several competitions are also held to keep tourists actively involved. The evening, however, is when real magic begins when the country’s renowned exponents of classical music and dance come together to present their art within the haloed walls of the Kumbhalgarh Fort before an appreciative audience.

3. The Hornbill Festival

The Hornbill Festival

The Hornbill Festival

It is an annual Naga festival named after the large and colourful lndian Hornbill which features in the folklore of most Naga tribes. It is held from 1st-10th December at Kisama, the Naga Heritage Village about 12kms from Kohima to revive and promote the rich, diverse Naga culture and traditions.

Entire Nagaland comes together in this week-long festival to participate or just enjoy the performances, food fairs, ceremonies, games, crafts, sports, herbal medicine stalls and flower shows. The traditional and modern commingle here – ancient art forms of wood carving and sculpting, skills in traditional archery, and wrestling are on display beside models sashaying down the runway or the Miss Nagaland Beauty Contest.

Various Naga troupes perform folk music and dance and the evenings are taken over by music concerts which ensure that the festivities continue through the night. The highlight of this festival is the Hornbill International Rock Festival where both international and local rock bands perform.

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4. Mount Abu Winter Festival

Mount Abu Winter Festival

Mount Abu Winter Festival

The Mount Abu Winter Festival makes the only hill-station of Rajasthan abuzz with life for 3 days starting 29th– 30th December every year. It combines the winning formula of a rich, centuries-old culture, a display of stunning handicrafts, lip-smacking food and a picturesque backdrop.

The festival kicks off with a grand procession that begins from the Hotel Shikhar and culminates in setting afloat hundreds of lit earthen lamps on the Nakki Lake as a mark of reverence. Every evening, the festivities are brought to an end by a brilliant display of fireworks that lights up the Lake and the towering mountains and never fails to impress with their beauty.

Rajasthani folk singers belt out their songs in their soulful voice that makes one yearn for something long lost on a cold wintry night. You will connect back with the energy of your soul as the dance performers belt out Ghoomar, Gair, Dhap and Kalbelia dance forms.

This festival brings together craftsmen and performers from all the corners of the state, so you can expect to be steeped in the rich, colourful Rajasthani culture and heritage. Sports and entertainment feature in this festival too with events like kite-flying, rowing, ‘gilli-danda’, cricket 20-20 and poetry reading sessions.

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5. Poush Mela

Poush Mela

Poush Mela

This is an annual festival that is generally held between 23rd – 26th of December in Shantiniketan, located in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. It commences on the 7th day of the Bengali month of Poush and marks the beginning of the harvest season.

The festival traces its roots to 7th Poush, 1843 when Devendranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore’s father, got initiated into the Brahmo Samaj creed. A Brahmo Mandir was established in Shantiniketan on 7th Poush, 1891 to commemorate the occasion and on 7th Poush, 1894 a small fair was organized to mark the occasion. That small homely affair has taken on epic proportions over the years and attracts thousands of both national and international tourists.

Around 1500 stalls selling handicrafts of artisans both local and from around the country; books by and about the Bard, Santhal literature; Madhubani and Patachitra artwork; home decorations; clothing items done in  Batik paintwork and Kantha stitch embroidery; paintings by students of Kala Bhavan; and savoury and sweet delicacies of Bengal, etc. are set up.

What really attracts tourists is the fact that the artisans hone their skill in front of them. The highlight of the festival is live performances by Baul and folk artists who spread out around the fair and enthral visitors with their earthy songs and soulful music. Evenings draw huge crowds due to the splendid performances by local artists and students of Vishwa Bharati University. It is the rural flavour of the fair, the rich culture and heritage of Bengal that have put this fair on the international map.

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6. The Red Panda Winter Festival

The Red Panda Winter Festival

The Red Panda Winter Festival

Held every year in the wintry months of December or January in Gangtok, this festival highlights the culture and traditions of the Sikkimese people. The carnival brings together locals and tourists to participate in different events and activities.

Apart from the culture and heritage of Sikkim that is showcased here through various dance and musical performances, the other attractions of this festival are the delicious food of the local tribes and communities, flower shows, photography contests, handloom and handicraft exhibitions, rock-music shows, etc.

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7. Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav

Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav

Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav

It is an annual Indian classical music festival held in Pune every year generally between the 6th – 10th of December. This festival was begun by the Hindustani classical music maestro Pandit Bhimsen Joshi in 1953 to honour the achievements of his guru, the legendary Pandit Sawai Gandharva.

It attracts renowned exponents of classical gharanas like Gwalior, Agra, Kirana, Atrauli, Jaipur and Rampur-Sahaswan and provides a platform to budding young talents. But though the emphasis is on Hindustani Classical music, Carnatic, Bhakti and Ghazal musicians, dancers and instrumentalists participate too.

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8. Modhera Dance Festival

Modhera Dance Festival

Modhera Dance Festival

This 3-day festival, also known as the Uttarardh Mahotsavor Modhera Utsavis, is held at the Modhera Sun Temple of Gujarat every year around the third week of January. Dark, balmy January nights provide the perfect ambience for the dance festival which is held at the architecturally exquisite masterpiece of the Golden Age of the Solanki empire.

Every nook and cranny of the temple is lit by red, yellow and green lights and the chiaroscuro effect that it creates throws the stone figurines into sharp relief and provides a grandiose backdrop for the dance performances.

This dance festival not only provides a platform for the local dance forms of the region but brings together dance troupes practicing different dance forms and types from all over the country. The beat of musical instruments and the rhythm of dance breathe life into the ancient temple.

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9. Perumthitta Tharavad

Perumthitta Tharavad

Perumthitta Tharavad

A popular annual festival of Kerala celebrated at Kottamkuzhy, this festival is celebrated on a grand scale where it showcases various forms of Theyyam, the oldest Indian folk art form which is not just a single dance form but a collection of 400 dance forms each one revolving around a separate mythological or historical character.

Forms of Theyyam like Elayor, Chamundi, Panchoorla and Muthor are performed during the festival which also includes other art forms like mime and music. This 10-day festival which provides high-octane entertainment with colourful costumes, body painting in vibrant colours, high-energy trance like performances, also has great religious significance which is adhered to strictly in the form of worship of heroes and ancestral spirits.

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10. Bishnupur Festival

Bishnupur Festival

Bishnupur Festival

This annual festival is held between 27th and 31st December near the Madanamohana temple in Bishnupur, the temple town of West Bengal which is located about 100kms from its capital Kolkata. The erstwhile capital of the Malla kings, Bishnupur boasts a rich heritage of beautiful terracotta temples, exquisite silk sarees, and beautifully fashioned handicrafts. The festival showcases printed and woven cloths, sculptures, handicrafts, food, folk music and art forms and classical music belonging to the Bishnupur gharana.

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Our country is so diverse, each region with its unique cultural heritage, that we are spoilt for choice as far as cultural festivals are concerned. Make your plans and book your tickets soon!

 

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