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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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). The days are filled with folk dances and music, adventure sports, handicrafts, food stalls, and excursions to surrounding destinations. A tent village, with hundreds of luxury tents, is constructed to accommodate visitors. Gujarat Tourism offers package tours.
- When: November 1, 2018 to February 20, 2019. It's best on full moon nights to see the moon shining on the salt. (November 23, December 22, January 21 and February 19).
- Where: Great Rann of Kutch salt desert, Dhordo, Gujarat.
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India's first ecologically-crafted music festival that promotes sustainable living, Echoes of Earth, is back for the third edition this year. The theme is centered around ocean and marine conservation. 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 1-2, 2018.
- Where: The Embassy of International Riding School, Kuduragere, near Bangalore in Karnataka.
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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.
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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 in Odisha.
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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 every year.
- Where: Chandrabhaga Beach, Konark, Odisha.
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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.
- When: December 1-10 every year.
- Where: Kisama Heritage Village (near Kohima town), Nagaland.
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India's signature arts festival was founded in 2017 and hosts performers from all over the world. It aims to encourage cultural and emotional ties between people, and promote cultural tourism. The festival is multi-discipline, incorporating music, dance, theater, film, cuisine, art exhibitions, literature and poetry. More than 50 venues and 15 countries are involved.
- When: December 1-10, 2018.
- Where: Across Delhi.
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The biggest vegan festival in India (formerly known as The Ahimsa Festival) is back for the third year this year, with more than 100 stalls and an organic farmers' market. The festival will showcase cruelty-free products, and promote awareness of environmental and animal issues. Plus, you can try lots of yummy vegan food!
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- When: December 2, 2018.
- Where: JVPD Ground, Juhu, Mumbai, Maharashtra.
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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.
- When: December 3 every year.
- Where: Bom Jesus Basilica, near Panaji, Old Goa.
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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 7-9, 2018.
- Where: Lake Club, Chandigarh.
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This 10-day theyyam festival is one of the most prominent festivals of its kind in Kerala. Theyyam features fascinating ritual dances representing mythological, divine or ancestral spirits. Numerous types are performed over the 10 days.
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- When: December 7-16, 2018.
- Where: Perumthitta near Chandrapuram, in Kasaragod district, northern Kerala.
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The fourth edition of the Kochi-Muzhiris Biennale takes place this year. This festival is the biggest exhibition and contemporary arts festival in Asia. The exhibitions encompass all kinds of mediums and are held in various galleries, heritage buildings and public spaces. There's also an extensive program of talks, seminars, screenings, music, workshops and educational activities for students.
- When: December 12, 2018 to March 29, 2019.
- Where: Kochi, Kerala.
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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 13-24, 2018.
- Where: Kisan Haat, Andheria Modh, Anuvrat Marg, Chattarpur, South Delhi.
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The National Association of Street Vendors of India holds this annual food festival, which is into its tenth 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 14-16, 2018.
- Where: Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, Man Singh Road, Rajpath area, New Delhi.
- Best Places to Get Delicious Delhi Street Food
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The residents of Charida village in the Purulia district of West Bengal are involved in making masks for the ancient regional chhau folk dance of eastern India. Purulia has been developed as a rural crafts hub by the Government of West Bengal and UNESCO, and this festival celebrates the mask makers. You can buy a mask to take home! Want to see the dance being performed? Don't miss the annual Chhau Jhumur Utsav that's held later in December (see below).
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- When: December 14-16, 2018.
- Where: Charida village, Purulia, West Bengal. It's about six hours from Kolkata. Or, take a train to Purulia. From there, Charida is an hour away.
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Magnetic Fields Festival is an intimate affair, limited to 500 people, which is 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 14-16, 2018.
- Where: Alsisar Mahal, Shekhawati Region of Rajasthan (five hours from Delhi and four hours from Jaipur).
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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. Activities include motor-cross, ATV rides, 4-wheel driving, white water rafting, mud run, and zip-lining.
- When: December 15-18 every year.
- Where: Dambuk, Arunachal Pradesh.
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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 15-22, 2018.
- Where: Panjim, Goa.
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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.
- When: Mid December to mid January every year.
- Where: Music halls all over Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
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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.
- When: December 21-22, 2018.
- Where: Amethyst, 11 Whites Road, Chennai.
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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.
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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.Continue to 25 of 33 below.
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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 22-28, 2018.
- Where: Bamnia village, Purulia, West Bengal.
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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: December 22-31, 2018.
- Where: The Tamara resort, Coorg, Karnataka.
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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. West Bengal Tourism offers package tours to the festival. Unfortunately, the festival has lost some of its charm in recent years. Do be prepared for the crowds!
- When: December 23-26, 2018.
- Where: Shantiniketan, West Bengal.
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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 to January 25 every year.
- 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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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.
- Top 10 Things to Do in Mount Abu
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Want to experience an iconic Goa psychedelic trance party? Head to Hill Top for its legendary 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, 2018.
- Where: Hill Top, Vagator, north Goa.