India comes alive in December with an eclectic mix of traditional and modern festivals and events. From classical to electronic dance music, and local performers to international DJs, it's all on offer. Not to forget Christmas celebrations as well! Here's the best of what's on in December in India (listed by date).
Set against the surreal backdrop of Kutch's white salt desert, the Rann Utsav showcases the region's culture and heritage (although it's unfortunately become rather commercial and overcrowded). Activities include folk dances and music, food stalls, ATV rides, camel cart excursions, paramotoring, meditation, yoga, and trips to surrounding destinations. A luxury tent village is constructed on the fringe of the salt desert to accommodate visitors. Gujarat Tourism offers package tours. Read more about how to visit the Great Rann of Kutch.
- When: Until February 23, 2020. It's best on full moon nights to see the moon shining on the salt. (November 12, December 12, January 11 and February 9).
- Where: Great Rann of Kutch salt desert, Dhordo, Gujarat.
Magnificent Kumbhalgarh Fort near Udaipur provides the setting for this annual three-day festival organized by Rajasthan Tourism. It features performances by folk artists, art camp, puppet show, and puppet-making exhibition.
- When: December 1-3 every year.
- Where: Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan.
The official Konark Festival, organized by Odisha Tourism, has a range of classical Odissi, Bharathnatyam, Manipuri, Kathak and Chau dance performances. Added attractions are an exhibition of temple sculptures, sand art exhibition, and crafts fair. The festival has been taking place since 1989. Plan your trip with this Konark Sun Temple essential visitor's guide.
- When: December 1-5 every year.
- Where: Open air auditorium, Natamandir, at the Konark Temple in Odisha.
- Read More about music and dance festivals in Odisha.
International Sand Art Festival
Held to coincide with the five-day Konark Festival in the same area, the International Sand Art Festival sees renowned international and local artists competing to create the best sand sculptures.
- When: December 1-5 every year.
- Where: Chandrabhaga Beach, Konark, Odisha.
The Hornbill Festival, named after the bird, shows just how diverse a country India really is. Held in a tiny and remote north eastern state of India, the festival is one of the largest celebrations of the indigenous warrior tribes of the region. It features traditional arts, dances, folk songs, games, and music concerts in the evenings. Local handicrafts are also on sale during the festival.
Feast of Francis Xavier
This annual celebration is held in honor of Saint Francis Xavier, one of the greatest Christian missionaries to visit India. His mummified body is kept in a casket inside the captivating Bom Jesus Basilica in Old Goa, and every year people come to pray on the anniversary of his burial. The festival, which lasts for several days before and after the feast and includes a large fair, is one of the most important Christian events in Goa. The morning mass attracts people from all over the world.
- When: December 3 every year.
- Where: Bom Jesus Basilica, near Panaji, Old Goa.
- Read More: Goa Beyond the Beaches and Bars.
India Craft Week celebrates the country's handicrafts and artisans. It brings together craftsmen, designers and brands through craft installations, workshops live demonstrations and discussions. Responsible luxury, ethical and sustainable handmade products are showcased and sold at the festival.
- When: December 4-8, 2019.
- Where: Aerocity, Delhi.
Billed as India's Biggest Biker Rave, this festival draws motorcycle enthusiasts from all over India and the world. Attractions include the most well known names in bike design and manufacturer, the rarest bikes and accessories, music, graffiti art, barbecues, beer gardens, training academies, and track racing.
- When: December 6-7, 2019.
- Where: Vagator, North Goa.
India's first ecologically-crafted music festival that promotes sustainable living, Echoes of Earth, is back for the 4th edition this year. 40 artists from diverse genres will preform across four stages set on 150 acres of greenery. The numerous art installations, built from recycled materials, are another highlight. There will also be workshops, flea market, and film screenings.
- When: December 7-8, 2019.
- Where: Bangalore in Karnataka. Venue to be announced.
From the producers of the iconic New York Comic Con, this is India's greatest pop culture celebration. The festival started in 2011 and features the best of comics, movies, television, gaming and cosplay.
- When: December 7-8, 2019 and December 20-22, 2019.
- Where: Mumbai and Delhi, respectively.
A festival celebrated by Hindus in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, Karthigai Deepam takes place in a particularly spectacular way in the holy town of Tiruvannamalai. On the evening of Karthigai day, a huge fire lamp is lit high up on Mount Arunachala. Pilgrims come from far and wide to walk around the mountain, and to pray to Lord Shiva. It's believed that Lord Shiva appeared as an endless flame of light before Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. Hence, oil lamps are lit in homes as well.
- When: December 10, 2019. (The festival starts 10 days prior to this, and there are daily street processions of various gods. The gods are also taken out on floats for three days after the main day).
- Where: Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu.
India's first adventure and music festival has a huge lineup of bands and sports for adrenaline-pumping fun in a remote location. Activities include motor-cross, ATV rides, 4-wheel driving, white water rafting, mud run, and zip-lining.
- When: December 12-15, 2019.
- Where: Dambuk, Arunachal Pradesh.
Dastkar is dedicated to improving the economic status of craftspeople and promoting traditional crafts. One way they do this is by holding regular markets to provide a platform for craftspeople from all over India to come and sell their wares. The Winter Mela, organized in conjunction with Delhi Tourism, is one such market and it's a highlight of the Christmas season. It features winter textiles, herbal and organic products, cultural performances, and Christmas food.
- When: December 12-23, 2019.
- Where: Kisan Haat, Andheria Modh, Anuvrat Marg, Chattarpur, South Delhi.
Magnetic Fields Festival is an intimate affair, limited to 500 people and held at a restored 17th century palace hotel in Rajasthan. On offer is cutting-edge music from both bands and DJs, plus fashion, art, and food. Attendees can either camp in luxury tents or stay in rooms at the hotel. The property is extensive and includes courtyards, swimming pool and ballrooms. Decorations are expected to create the vibe of a magical, fantasy carnival.
- When: December 13-15, 2019.
- Where: Alsisar Mahal, Shekhawati Region of Rajasthan (five hours from Delhi and four hours from Jaipur).
India's Military Literature Festival showcases the strength of the armed forces through literature, art, music, photography, seminars and discussions. It brings together top Indian and international defense experts, historians, authors, poets, publishers and media personalities. One of its aims is to invoking patriotism among the youth by educating them about the important military history of Punjab. Numerous events and exhibitions will be held in the lead-up to main three days of the festival.
- When: December 13-15, 2019.
- Where: Chandigarh.
The popular Times Litfest features a range of discussions and book launches, centered around a different theme every year. All sessions are free to attend and you can register at the gate.
- When: December 13-15, 2019.
- Where: Mehboob Studio, Bandra West, Mumbai.
This eight-day interdisciplinary arts festival features 70 projects, including 40 commissioned projects, spread across multiple venues. It encompasses photography, Goan crafts and architecture, visual arts, theater, music, dance and culinary arts. The festival aims to expose more people to art, as a medium to advance society by provoking, questioning and breaking barriers. It will address issues including arts education, patronage, and accessibility.
- When: December 15-22, 2019.
- Where: Panjim, Goa.
Toshali Crafts Mela
Odisha's biggest handicraft fair is back for the fourteenth edition this year. It's organized by the state Handlooms, Handicrafts and Textiles department and has in excess of 350 stalls with products from across India. Participants include 130 weavers and more than 150 artisans. Other attractions are a food court, cultural performances, and themed pavilion that showcases handlooms of Odisha.
- When: December 15-27, 2019.
- Where: Janta Maidan, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha.
- Read More: Top 10 Things to Do in Bhubaneshwar.
This hugely popular and much anticipated month long festival, which is often described as the world's largest cultural event, serves up a plethora of traditional south Indian Carnatic music, dance, and other arts. Over 1,000 performances take place during the festival, along with music related seminars, discussions, and demonstrations. It's also referred to as the December Season.
The regional masked Chhau dance of eastern India is characterized by acrobatic twists and turns. It incorporates stories based on mythological tales that promote moral and ethical values. One of the best places to see it is at the annual Chhau Jhumur Utsav in Purulia, where nearly 2,000 artists are engaged in performing this folk art tradition. You can also visit Charida village to see the mask artists at work.
- When: December 20-22, 2019.
- Where: Balarampur village, Purulia, West Bengal.
Ranakpur, between Udaipur and Jodhpur in Rajasthan, is famous for its magnificent Jain temples. Rajasthan Tourism holds an annual festival there to showcase India's classical music, dance and culture. Fun activities such as the best mustache and turban tying also take place. It can be visited on a day trip from Udaipur.
- When: December 21-22 every year.
- Where: Ranakpur, Pali district, Rajasthan.
- Read More: 9 Interesting Places to See Near Udaipur.
Love shopping? Try and catch this impressive arts and crafts fair. Over 400 artisans and craftsmen from all over India attend the fair, which happens in a sprawling artisans' village set up by the government. Folk dances and cultural programs are also held as part of the festival.
- When: December 21-30 every year.
- Where: Shilpgram, near Udaipur, Rajasthan.
- Read More: What to See and Do in Udaipur
An annual festival featuring Bengali folk music, particularly baul music, the Poush Mela also has dancing, tribal sports, and thousands of stalls selling an array of merchandise including handicrafts. It celebrates the founding of the university town of Shantiniketan by Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, father of Noble Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore, in 1860. Unfortunately, the festival has lost some of its charm in recent years. Do be prepared for the crowds!
- When: December 24-26, 2019.
- Where: Shantiniketan, West Bengal.
Although Christians make up less than 5% of India's population, Christmas is a significant religious occasion in India. You'll be able to find traditional Christmas cheer in many parts of the country. See pictures of how Christmas is celebrated in India in this photo gallery.
- When: December 25 every year.
- Where: Various locations in India.
The National Association of Street Vendors of India holds this annual food festival, which is into its eleventh year and showcases various types of street food from all over India. If you love street food, or just want to try it, don't miss attending!
- When: December 25-29, 2019.
- Where: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi.
- Read More: Best Places to Get Delicious Delhi Street Food.
The open air India Dance Festival is held against a background of rock sculptures in the beach town of Mamallapuram, just south of Chennai. It runs for a month and showcases a range of classical and folk dances from all over India.
- When: December 25 to January 25 every year.
- Where: Arjuna's Penance, Mamallapuram, near Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
The artist communities of the Sundarban celebrate the third edition of the Sundarban Folk Festival this year. Visitors can watch local folk artists presenting Bon Bibir Pala (a mythological play with a storyline revolving around the man-animal conflict in the jungles), traditional Jhumur song and dance, and Bhatiyali (songs is inspired by the mystic rivers and lives of the river boatmen) along with folk artists from other regions of Bengal. Plan your trip with this Sundarban National Park travel guide.
- When: December 27-29, 2019.
- Where: Pakhiralay, Gosaba, Sundarban, West Bengal.
The iconic Sunburn Festival is Asia's largest commercial electronic dance music festival. It returns to Goa this year with headlining acts including DJ Martin Garrix, The Chainsmokers, DJ FLUME, Jonas Blue, Fedde Le Grand, Julian Jordan, and Lost Frequencies. A new underground music venture called SOLARIS will feature underground house and techno acts on two dedicated stages. There is also a psychedelic stage. Sunburn Campout campsite will be set up to provide accommodations and a festival vibe.
- When: December 27-29, 2019.
- Where: Vagator, North Goa.
The Tamara Carnival brings together music, dance, food and experiences to showcase the cultural heritage of India. There are different performances on different days including folk dance, classical dance, traditional martial arts, Salsa dancing, Blues music, and stand-up comedy. In order to attend the carnival, it's necessary to stay at The Tamara resort. There are other activities as well, such as yoga, hiking, bird watching, cookery, pottery, and plantation tours.
- When: Last week of December.
- Where: The Tamara resort, Coorg, Karnataka.
The colorful Cochin Carnival evolved from Portuguese new year celebrations held in Cochin during colonial days. Rather than being a traditional cultural event, it's more about feasting and fun, with competitions, games, beach sports, dirt bike races, dancing, and fireworks. The carnival concludes with the burning of a Santa effigy on New Year's Eve (yes, really) and a huge procession on New Year's Day.
- When: Last week of December to January 1 every year.
- Where: Fort Kochi, Kerala.
- Read More: Top 14 Things to Do in Kochi.
This is another of Kerala's biggest theyyam ritual festivals. Nearly 400 theyyams are performed together at the epic Kanathoor Nalvar Bhoothasthanam, dedicated to the Mother Goddess.
- When: December 28 to January 1 every year.
- Where: Kanathoor village, Karasgod district, northern Kerala.
Mt Abu Winter Festival
Surprisingly, Rajasthan isn't all desert! The cool, green hill settlement of Mt Abu is like an oasis, full of flourishing rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and forests. It becomes vibrant during the annual Winter Festival (a Summer Festival is also held there in May each year), which captures the spirit of Rajasthani tribal life and culture. Enjoy ceremonial processions, folk performances, fireworks, and competitions such as skating races, boat races, horse races, and tug-of-war.
- When: December 29-31 every year.
- Where: Mt Abu, Rajasthan.
- Read More: Top 10 Things to Do in Mount Abu.
Want to experience a legendary Goa psychedelic trance party? Head to Hill Top for its annual NYE bash. More than a dozen international artists and local legends will perform non-stop for over 24 hours of madness. It kicks off at 4 p.m.
- When: December 31, 2019.
- Where: Hill Top, Vagator, North Goa.