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).
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The second edition of the St+art Mumbai Festival transforms an unused warehouse at Sassoon Dock with a multitude of urban art installations by Indian and international artists, many of which are themed on the Koli fishing community. Free 1-hour curated guided tours are offered but you'll need to book in advance.
- When: Thursday to Sunday, until December 30, 2017.
- Where: Sassoon Dock, Colaba, Mumbai.
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This desert festival highlights the vibrancy of the Kutch region's culture and heritage, although it's become increasingly commercial and overcrowded. The days are filled with folk dances and music, adventure sports, handicrafts, food stalls, and excursions to surrounding destinations. Hundreds of luxury tents are set up on the fringe of the white salt desert to accommodate visitors. Gujarat Tourism offers packages.
- When: Ongoing until February 20, 2018. It's best on full moon nights to see the moon shining on the salt. (December 3, January 1, and January 31).
- Where: Great Rann of Kutch salt desert, Dhordo, Gujarat.
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Set against the backdrop of magnificent Kumbhalgarh Fort near Udaipur, this three day festival features performances by folk artists, and art camp, puppet show, and puppet-making exhibition.
- When: December 1-3, 2017.
- Where: Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan.
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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.
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- When: December 1-5 every year.
- Where: Open air auditorium, Natamandir, at the Konark Temple.
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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, 2017.
- Where: Chandrabhaga Beach, Konark, Odisha.
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The unique 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.
- When: December 1-10, 2017.
- Where: Kisama Heritage Village (near Kohima town), Nagaland.
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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 2, 2017. (The festival starts 10 days prior to this, and there are daily street processions of various gods).
- Where: Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu.
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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.
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- When: December 3 every year.
- Where: Bom Jesus Basilica, near Panaji, Old Goa.
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India's inaugural Military Literature Festival will showcase the strength of the armed forces through literature, art, music, photography, seminars and discussions. It will bring together top Indian and international defense experts, authors, poets, publishers and media personalities. Several eminent historians, including William Dalrymple, will also be present at the festival.
- When: December 7-9, 2017.
- Where: Lake Club, Chandigarh.
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Billed as the biggest "pop-culture event of the year" in Delhi, Comic Con is back for its sixth edition. The festival will feature DJ Elliot, Walt Disney World's official DJ, and actor/stand-up comedian Gaurav Gera (best known for his ‘Shopkeeper’ videos). Other attractions include exclusive gaming zones such as Stars Wars Story, WWE, Bahubali, Alto K10 Gaming, AXN Experience, and Rogue One. In addition, there will be panel discussions and book launched of Indian comics, and a dressing-up competition.
- When: December 9-12, 2017.
- Where: NSIC Grounds, Okhla, south Delhi.
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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 14-25, 2017.
- Where: Kisan Haat, Andheria Modh, Anuvrat Marg, Chattarpur, south Delhi.
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Red Earth, a private arts organization, promotes Indian culture in its numerous and unique forms. This December, at the start of the Music Season, the Sari Festival comes to Chennai. It showcases sari makers, weavers, and designers from all over India.
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- When: December 15-16, 2017.
- Where: Amethyst, 11 Whites Road, Chennai.
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The popular Times Litfest features a range of discussions and book launches. The theme this year is "That Man-Woman Thing", given the recent election in the US. It explores the relationship between men and women "across time, place, space, profession, family, and literature". All sessions are free to attend and you can register at the gate.
- When: December 15-17, 2017.
- Where: Mehboob Studio, Bandra West, Mumbai.
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India's first adventure and music festival has a huge lineup of bands and sports for adrenaline-pumping fun in a remote location. The headlining act is Richie Kotzen (lead guitarist of Poison and Mr. Big, and frontman of The Winery Dogs), who will be appearing in India for the first time. Activities include motorcross, ATV rides, 4-wheel driving, white water rafting, mud run, and zip-lining.
- When: December 15-18 each year.
- Where: Dambuk, Arunachal Pradesh.
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India's newest music festival is an intimate affair, limited to 500 people, which will be held on two stages at a restored 17th century palace hotel in Rajasthan. On offer will be cutting-edge music from both bands and DJs, fashion, art, and food. Attendees can either camp in luxury tents or stay in rooms at the hotel. Its premises are extensive and include courtyards, swimming pool, and ballrooms. Decorations are expected to create the vibe of a magical, fantasy carnival.
- When: December 15-17, 2017.
- Where: Alsisar Mahal, Shekhawati Region of Rajasthan. (5 hours from Delhi/4 hours from Jaipur).
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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. Note: The music festival is continuing despite the tragic Chennai floods.
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- When: Mid December to mid January every year.
- Where: Music halls all over Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
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Billed as an "Adventure in Music", the Enchanted Valley Carnival will host over 60 DJs (including some of the biggest names in electronic music from India and internationally) and other artists across four stages. There will also be camping, with India's largest campsite, and adventure sports.
- When: December 16 and 17, 2017.
- Where: Festival Arena, Aamby Valley City, Maharashtra. (2 hours drive from Mumbai).
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A festival of "music, meditation and yoga", the Sacred Pushkar features a range of activities designed to provide a soulful experience. These include morning yoga, sound meditation and healing, devotional music, organic cooking, and heritage and food walks, Packages including accommodations, meals, and all activities are available.
- When: December 16 and 17, 2017.
- Where: Pushkar, Rajasthan.
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Love momos? Then don't miss the annual GoBuzzinga Momo Festival. You'll be able to try an astonishing 100 varieties of momos, including some really unusual fillings such as Oreos, bacon, vodka, Maggie, peanut butter, and paan. There's entertainment as well!
- When: December 16-17, 2017.
- Where: Garden of Five Senses, Saket, south Delhi.
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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.
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- When: December 17-22, 2017.
- Where: Panjim, Goa.
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Anyone who loves shopping should make it a point to try and catch this impressive arts and crafts fair. Over 400 artisans and craftsmen from all over India come to set up stalls at the fair, which takes place in a sprawling artisans' village set up by the government. Folk dances and cultural programs are also held as part of the festival. It's a great way to experience rural India culture.
- When: December 21-30 every year.
- Where: Shilpgram, near Udaipur, Rajasthan.
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An annual festival featuring Bengali folk music, especially baul music, the three-day Poush Mela also offers 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. The festival starts on the seventh day of the month of Poush on the Bengali calendar. West Bengal Tourism offers package tours to the festival. Do be prepared for the crowds!
- When: December 22-26, 2017.
- Where: Shantiniketan, West Bengal.
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This three-day boutique music festival will feature more than 30 renowned artists from contemporary, classical and folk music genres, performing across four stages at two venues. In addition, there will be arts and crafts, adventure activities, interactive workshops, gastronomic experiences featuring local cuisine, and royal hospitality (the festival is being hosted in collaboration with the Royal Family of Mandawa).
- When: December 23-25, 2017.
- Where: Castle Mandawa and Desert Resort, Mandawa, in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan.
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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.
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- When: December 25 every year.
- Where: Various locations in India.
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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, 2017 to January 25, 2018.
- Where: Arjuna's Penance, Mamallapuram, near Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
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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.
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Nearly 400 theyyams, ritual dances representing mythological, divine or ancestral spirits, are performed together at the fascinating Kanathoor Nalvar Bhoothasthanam. Dedicated to the Mother Goddess, this is one of the state's biggest theyyam events.
- When: December 28, 2017 to January 1, 2018.
- Where: Kanathoor village, Karasgod district, Kerala.
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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.
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- When: December 29-31 every year.
- Where: Mt Abu, Rajasthan.
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The Tamara Carnival brings together music, dance, drama and theater 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.
- When: Dates to be announced.
- Where: The Tamara resort, Coorg, Karnataka.
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Want to experience an iconic Goa psychedelic trance party? Head to Hill Top for its annual NYE ritual bash. More than 11 international artists and four local legends will perform non-stop for over 24 hours of madness. It kicks off at 4 p.m.
- When: December 31, 2017.
- Where: Hill Top, Vagator, north Goa.