As the heat of summer approaches, the number of events in India dwindles. However, there are a few festivals that will be a highlight of your trip. Here's the best of what's on in India in April, listed by 2020 dates.
Karni Mata Festival
The famous 600-year-old Karni Mata temple is home to thousands of rats, which are considered to be sacred. The temple is dedicated to an ancient mystic who's believed to have been a reincarnation of the Goddess Durga, and the souls of Karni Mata's devotees are said to reside in the rats. Twice a year, during Navaratri, devotees come to the temple to worship the goddess. Food is offered to her, and it's considered most auspicious to eat what the rats have salivated over. Even better, let them run over your feet for added good luck!
- When: March 25-April 3 and October 17-25, 2020.
- Where: Karni Mata temple, Deshnok village, around 45 minutes south of Bikaner in Rajasthan.
This 10-day festival, celebrated by the royal family of Travencore (a former princely state in south Kerala), sees towering fiberglass statues of the Pandavas (the five sons of Pandu in the Hindu epic the Mahabharata) placed at the eastern entrance to the temple to please the Rain God, Indra. On the last day, the male members of the royal family take the idols in procession to be immersed at Sanghumugham beach.
- When: March 30 to April 8, 2020.
- Where: Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Trivandrum, Kerala.
See newly hatched, endangered Olive Ridley turtles take their amazing march into the sea at the annual Turtle Festival. As well as this, you'll get to sample traditional Indian village life by stopping over at local homestays in the area (dormitory rooms only).
- When: From early March to May (refer to the website for the best times and dates, as it depends on nesting).
- Where: Velas village, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.
Spring is when Kashmir is at its most picturesque, and is also the season for flowering tulips. This special time of year is beautifully captured by the Tulip Festival in Srinagar, home to Asia's largest tulip garden. As well as the arresting sight of more than a million blooms, the festival features daily cultural programs, Kashmiri folk songs, sale of local handicrafts, and traditional Kashmiri cuisine. This year, there are more than 50 varieties of tulips and several new fountains installed in the garden.
- When: First two weeks of April.
- Where: Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden, Srinagar, Kashmir. It's located in the foothills of Zabarwan range, overlooking Dal Lake.
- Read More: Srinagar Essential Travel Guide.
The Aoling Festival of the Konyak Tribe
Once deadly headhunters, the fascinating Konyak tribe now lives peacefully, spending most of their time practicing agriculture, drinking local alcohol, smoking opium (and occasionally hunting). After having completed the sowing of seeds each year, the tribe celebrates their most important festival, the Aoling Festival, which marks the beginning of spring season and a new year.
Another popular type of temple festival in Kerala, the Nenmara Vallangi Vela occurs after the paddy harvest. Two neighboring villages compete with each other to put on the best display of traditional art forms and percussion music performances. There's also a procession of decorated elephants.
- When: April 2, 2020.
- Where: Nellikulangara Bhagavathy temple, Nemmara, Palakkad district, Kerala.
The festival of Ram Navami marks the birthday of Lord Ram, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It's celebrated in a religious manner all over India.
Mopin is the harvest festival of the hospitable Galo tribe, focused on the worship of goddess Mopin. It's celebrated to drive away evil spirits, and for acquiring prosperity and wealth. An indigenous folk dance called Popir, performed by young women, is a highlight of the festival. Traditional rice wine (apong), prepared by Galo women, is also served.
- When: April 5-8 each year.
- Where: East Siang and West Siang districts of Arunachal Pradesh in North East India. Festivities take place on a grand scale at Mopin Ground, Naharlagun, near capital city Itanagar.
Yet another Kerala temple festival, the Arattupuzha Pooram is a particularly large elephant pageant featuring around 60 elephants bearing brightly colored silk parasols. It's one of the oldest temple festivals in Kerala. Legend has it that on the day of the festival, 101 gods and goddesses from the neighboring villages visited Sree Ayyappan, the presiding deity of the Arattupuzha Temple.
- When: April 6, 2020.
- Where: Arattupuzha Temple, in the Thrissur district of Kerala.
Genesis Foundation, an organization that supports critically ill under-privileged children with congenital heart defects, holds this flagship music festival in the hills every year to raise money. This year's line-up includes Tochi Raina, Bolly Jazz, Rocknaama, Malavika Manoj, Big Bang Blues, and Ameya Dabli.
- When: April 10-11, 2020.
- Where: Baikunth Resort, Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh.
Easter is celebrated in India, although the Christian population is a minority in the country. Many traditions seen throughout the world are part of the festival, including decorated eggs and Easter bunnies. Those who are religious also attend church. Easter is most prevalent in Mumbai, Goa, and Kerala.
- When: April 10-12, 2020.
- Where: Mainly in Mumbai, Goa, and Kerala.
The first Sankat Mochan Music Festival was held in 1923, and since then it's attracted acclaimed classical musicians and dancers to perform from all over India. Recitals are held every evening in the temple courtyard and go on until dawn, as part of Hanuman Jayanti (birthday of Lord Hanuman) celebrations.
- When: April 12-17, 2020.
- Where: Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
- Read More: Varanasi Essential Travel Guide.
Baisakhi is a harvest festival, a Punjabi new year festival, and commemoration of the founding of the Khalsa (Sikh religion brotherhood) all rolled into one occasion. It's celebrated with a great deal of feasting, bhangra dancing, folk music, and fairs. Major celebrations are organized at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and it becomes carnival-like outside. There's also a street procession.
Bihu is the main festival of Assam, in Northeast India. This agricultural festival occurs three times a year but the biggest celebration, known as Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu, happens in April. It's celebrated for three days and marks the start of the new year there, as well as seeding time in spring. The first day is dedicated to the cows, which are vital to agriculture. The second day is spent visiting friends and relatives, along with plenty of singing and dancing. On the third day, deities are worshiped.
- When: April 13-15, 2020.
- Where: Assam.
- Read More: 13 Popular North East India Festivals.
Padayani is an ancient ritual art form of southern Kerala. It's performed to appease the deities of certain temples, and is carried out by villagers accompanied by traditional music and drumming. The performers dress up in costumes consisting of huge masks. The main ones embody Bhairavi (Kali), Kalan (god of death), Yakshi (fairy) and Pakshi (bird).
- When: April 14-20, 2020.
- Where: Kadammanitta Devi temple, Pathanamthitta district, Kerala.
The Chithirai Festival is one of the biggest celebrations in Madurai. It re-enacts the wedding of Lord Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva) and Goddess Meenakshi (Lord Vishnu's sister). Legend has it that Lord Vishnu came to Madurai, mounted on a golden horse, to witness the wedding.