The famous festival season gets underway in August in India. Visitors can enjoy some of India's most popular and traditional festivals and events. Here's the pick of them (listed by date).
The Nehru Trophy snake boat race is undoubtedly the most exciting boat race of the year in Kerala. This race is held in memory of India's late Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru. An impromptu snake boat race was held in 1952 when the Prime Minister visited Alleppey. Apparently, he was so impressed with the welcome and the race, he donated a trophy. The race has continued on ever since. It takes place annually on the second Saturday of August and around 70 boats usually participate in it. This year will be its 66th edition. Read more about snake boat races in Kerala. It's possible to see the race aboard a houseboat. Johnson's offers special event packages.
- When: Postponed due to flooding.
- Where: Punnamda Lake, Alleppey in Kerala.
- Tickets: Tickets are available from local government and tourism offices (see listing). The rates range from 100 rupees up to 3,000 rupees per person for a Gold Pass.
- Stay: 9 Best Homestays in Alleppey on the Kerala Backwaters.
The Teej festival is an important festival for women, and much anticipated monsoon festival in Rajasthan. It commemorates the reunion of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Women apply henna to their hands and feet, get dressed up, and parade around. Artists such as folk singers and dancers follow the procession. Caparisoned elephants, bullock carts, and chariots add to the spectacle.
India celebrates the nation's independence from British rule on 15 August 1947. Most of the festivities take place around the Red Fort in Delhi. There's a flag hoisting ceremony, kite flying, and cultural programs. Extra special, extended arrangements are expected to be made this year, as it's India's 70th Independence Day. This is likely to include patriotic film screenings, exhibitions showcasing the might of India's armed forces, and food and cultural events that capture India’s diversity.
- When: August 15, annually.
- Where: Across India but especially in Delhi.
There isn't a more colorful start to Kerala's Onam festival than the Athachamayam festival, which kicks off celebrations. The festival features a street parade accompanied by decorated elephants and floats, musicians, and various traditional Kerala art forms.
- When: August 15, 2018.
- Where: Tripunithura, near Ernakulam in Kochi.
Nag Panchami, the festival of snakes, isn't for the faint of heart! This festival involves the worship of snakes, which are especially dug out and gathered for the occasion. On the day of Nag Panchami, villagers dance to music and carry the snakes in procession to the temple.
- When: August 15, 2018.
- Where: Mostly in rural areas, particularly Battis Shirala village, Maharashtra. Other popular places include Adiesha Temple in Andhra Pradesh, Nagaraja Temple in Kerala, Nagathamman Temple in Chennai, and Hardevja Temple in Jaipur.
Another snake festival, Jhapan means a stage set up to exhibit tricks with snakes. And that's exactly what happens at the Jhapan Mela. Snake charmers, called Jhampanias, bring king cobras and other snakes in cane baskets and perform astonishing acts with them. The festival, which is largely of tribal origin, is celebrated in honor of the serpent Goddess Manasa, the daughter of Lord Shiva. She's worshiped for good rainfall and fertile land. It takes place on the last day of the Bengali month of Shraban/Shravan (mid August).
- When: August 17, 2018.
- Where: The western region of West Bengal, at Bishnupur/Vishnupur (same place, just sometimes spelled differently due to translation) in the Bankura district.
Back for the sixth edition and bigger than ever this year! The Covelong Point Surf, Music and Yoga Festival will feature a national level surfing competition, diverse musicians from around the globe, yoga on the beach, meditation workshops, massage, healing music therapies, organic food stalls, Indian and international cinema, and recreational activities including water gun fights, beach volleyball, and kayak races. Entry is free.
- When: August 17-19, 2018.
- Where: Covelong Point Social Surf School, Kovalam village near Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
- Read about How Covelong Point Surf School is Transforming Lives.
Madras Day, on August 22, commemorates the founding of the city of Madras (now Chennai). Celebrations have been extended for a whole week to enlarge participation. Activities include heritage walks, food festivals, photo exhibitions, and bike tours.
- When: August 20-27, 2018.
- Where: Chennai, Tamil Nadu
- Do: 10 Top Attractions to Experience Chennai and its Culture.
- Stay: 12 Best Hotels in Chennai for All Budgets.
Onam is a traditional 10 day harvest festival that marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali. It's a festival rich in culture and heritage. People decorate the ground in front of their houses with flowers arranged in beautiful patterns to welcome the King. The festival is also celebrated with new clothes, feasts served on banana leaves, dancing, sports, games, and snake boat races.
- When: August 25, 2018 (celebrations start 10 days prior and continue for around a week after).
- Where: Kerala. The most spectacular celebrations take place in Trivandrum, Thrissur, and Kottayam.
Want to experience a captivating rural fair? The Tarnetar Fair is centered around the temple of Triniteshwar Mahadev (a form of Lord Shiva), and was originally held to facilitate the search for a spouse by members of the surrounding tribal communities. It's evolved into a spectacle of men and animals dressed up in colorful traditional attire, dare-devil stunts, folk dances, carnival rides, and handicraft stalls. Gujarat Tourism offers comfortable tented accommodations and packages.
- When: August 24-27, 2018.
- Where: Tarnetar village, near Thangadh, in the Surendranagar district of Gujarat.
Celebrated on the fourth Saturday of August every year, this traditional flag festival originates from disputes over property in parts of the village. Flags were put up to mark boundaries but rival groups knocked them down. These days, the festival makes a parody of the past with mock fights and a carnival with street parade.
- When: August 25, 2018.
- Where: Divar Island, off the coast near Panjim, Goa.
On Raksha Bandhan, sisters tie a rakhi (a beautifully crafted and decorated thread) on the right wrist of their brothers as a reminder of love and protection. The brother vows to take care of his sister and in return offers her gifts and sweets. The festival is a wonderful way of bringing the family closer together. Many women also tie rakhis on their close friends and neighbors as a sign of caring and harmony in their social lives.
- When: August 26, 2018.
- Where: All over India.
The Payippad Boat Race is one of the oldest in Kerala and has the largest participation of snake boats after the important Nehru Trophy boat race in August. It's held to commemorate the installation of the idol at the local Subrahmanya Swamy temple. Read more about snake boat races in Kerala.
- When: August 27, 2018.
- Where: Along the Payippad River at Harippad in Kerala's Alleppey district.
Onam Pulikkali Tiger Play
Hundreds of grown men dressed up as tigers and dancing to the beat of traditional percussion instruments are an unexpected feature of Onam celebrations. Although this display of the art of Pulikkali may be one of the quirkiest festivals in India, it's actually very serious business!
- When: August 28, 2018.
- Where: Swaraj Round in Thrissur, Kerala.
The Aranmula Boat Race is a predominantly religious occasion, that forms part of Onam celebrations. Rather than being a contest, it's more about retracing the time offerings were carried on snake boats to the Aranmula Parthasarthy Temple. The whole occasion is a celebration of the day Lord Krishna crossed the river.
- When: August 29, 2018.
- Where: Along the Pampa River at Aranmula near Chengannur, south of Alleppey in Kerala.