As the monsoon eases off, the famous festival season gets underway in August in India. Here's the pick of popular and traditional festivals in India to enjoy this month (listed by date for 2020).
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.
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 3, 2020.
- Where: All over India.
The famed 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 about 70 boats usually participate in it. This year will be its 67th edition. Read more about snake boat races in Kerala. It's possible to see the race aboard a houseboat. Johnson offers special event packages aboard his Eco Houseboats.
- When: August 8, 2020. Canceled.
- Where: Punnamda Lake, Alleppey in Kerala.
- Tickets: Tickets are available online, and from local government and tourism offices. See the website for more information.
- Stay: Best Homestays in Alleppey on the Kerala Backwaters.
This festival celebrates the birthday of Lord Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The festival is also referred to as Gokulashtami, or Govinda in Maharashtra. Lord Krishna is revered for his wisdom about how to live life on earth. The highlight on the second day is the Dahi Handi event. Clay pots containing butter, curd, and money are strung up high from buildings and young Govindas form a human pyramid, and compete to reach the pots and break them open.
- When: August 11-12, 2020. The Dahi Handi event will not take place this year.
- Where: Mumbai, Maharashtra.
India celebrates its 73rd Independence Day this year. The occasion marks the nation's independence from British rule on 15 August 1947. Most of the festivities take place around the Red Fort in Delhi, where the first Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru unfurled the Indian flag. There's a flag hoisting ceremony, speech by the current Prime Minister, march of the Indian Armed Forces and paramilitary forces, kite flying, and cultural programs.
- When: August 15, annually.
- Where: Across India but especially in Delhi.
Madras Day, on August 22, commemorates the founding of the city of Madras (now called Chennai). Celebrations have been extended for a whole week around the occasion to enlarge participation. Activities include heritage walks, food festivals, photo exhibitions, and bike tours.
- When: August 16-23, 2020. (To be confirmed).
- Where: Chennai, Tamil Nadu
- Do: 22 Things to Do to Experience Chennai and its Culture.
- Stay: Best Hotels in Chennai for All Budgets.
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 Shrabon/Shravan (mid August).
- When: August 17, 2020.
- Where: The western region of West Bengal, at Bishnupur/Vishnupur (same place, just sometimes spelled differently due to translation) in the Bankura district.
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. The fair starts the day before Ganesh Chaturthi. Gujarat Tourism offers comfortable tented accommodations and packages.
- When: August 21-23, 2020.
- 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 22, 2020.
- Where: Divar Island, off the coast near Panjim, Goa.
The spectacular 11-day Ganesh Chaturthi festival honors the birth of the beloved Hindu elephant-headed god, Lord Ganesha. The start of the festival sees huge, elaborately crafted statutes of Ganesh installed in homes and podiums, which have been specially constructed and beautifully decorated. At the end of the festival, the statues are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, and then submerged in the ocean.
- When: August 22 to September 1, 2020. The festival will go ahead in most places with small idols and no public processions.
- Where: Mostly in the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. One of the best places to experience the festival is in the city of Mumbai.
This 10-day classical music and dance festival is held during the Ganesh festival every year, in honor of the erstwhile king and musician Chakradhar Singh of Chhattisgarh's cultural capital. He wrote many books on music and dance, as well as developed a new form of Kathak dance. Talented artists from all over India come to perform at the festival. There's also a sound and light show.
- When: August 22 to September 1, 2020.
- Where: Raigarh, Chhattisgarh.
The biggest festival of the year in Kerala, Onam is a traditional 10-day harvest festival that marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali. 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. These pictures of Onam show the festival's splendor. Read more about Onam festival attractions and what to see.
- When: August 22 to September 2, 2020. The main day is August 31.
- Where: Kerala.
Muharram Festival and Taziya Procession
The Muharram festival is a Muslim festival that commemorates the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Holy Prophet. It takes place during the first month of the Islamic calendar. On the tenth and last day of the festival, known as Ashura, Sunni Muslims take taziyas (coffins of the dead, and in this case replicas of Imam Hussain’s shrine) out in procession during the evening.
Back for the seventh 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. Covelong Point Social Surf School is doing inspiring work transforming the lives of young locals.
- When: To be announced.
- Where: Covelong Point Social Surf School, Kovalam village near Chennai, Tamil Nadu.