February in India is all about enjoying the last of the cooler winter weather, at festivals in some of the best destinations across the country including the Taj Mahal, Rajasthan, and Kerala. Here's the best of what's on in India in February 2020 (listed by date).
Now in its sixth year, the annual Pondicherry Heritage Festival was conceived as a way of drawing attention to the need to conserve the town's outstanding architectural legacy. It has since expanded to embrace the diverse traditions and cultural practices that give Pondicherry its distinctive flavor. This year, the emphasis will be on the city's wetlands and water bodies, with planned field trips and other related activities.
- When: January 25 to February 12, 2020.
- Where: Pondicherry, about four hours south of Chennai in Tamil Nadu.
- Read More: 11 Cultural Things to Do in Pondicherry
- Stay: 12 Hotels in Pondicherry Near the Beach for All Budgets
The Adivasi Mela provides an outstanding opportunity to learn about Odisha's tribal heritage (and do some shopping!). This annual event celebrates the culture and handicrafts of the state's large tribal population, with more than 60 different tribes in attendance. Attractions include informative exhibits, art, food, and dance performances.
- When: January 26 to February 9, 2020.
- Where: IDCO Exhibition Ground, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha.
- Read More: Top 10 Things to Do in Bhubaneshwar.
The Nagaur Fair
The rural town of Nagaur comes alive with India's second largest cattle fair, which sees the trading of around 70,000 bullocks, camels and horses. Entertainment is provided in the form of folk dances, tug of war competitions, and camel races. You can also expect to see lavishly decorated animals, a huge red chili market, and traditional handicrafts. Rajasthan Tourism sets up a tourist village to accommodate visitors.
- When: January 30 to February 2, 2020.
- Where: Nagaur, about three hours northeast of Jodhpur in Rajasthan.
The India Art Fair, founded in 2008, sees more than 75 galleries showcase a breadth of modern and contemporary South Asian art including painting, sculpture, new media, installation and performance art. The Fair has a diverse program that includes a three-day Speakers Forum, Performances, Book Launches, Curated Walks, and an art bookstore.
- When: January 30 to February 2, 2020.
- Where: NSIC Exhibition Grounds, Okhla Industrial Estate, New Delhi.
Previously known as the Sufi Sutra International Sufi Music Festival, this Sufi music festival is a free event presented by social enterprise Bangla Natak. It features top local and international Sufi musicians. Sufi music is qualified as "soul music" for Muslim mystics. It's often used to transcend the physical realm into the spiritual one. There are music workshops all day and free concerts all evening, as well as an exhibition.
- When: January 31 to February 3, 2020 in Kolkata. February 5-7, 2020 in Goa. February 8-10 in Jaipur.
- Where: Rabindra Sadan-Nandan campus, Kolkata. Kala Academy, Goa. Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur.
The Magh Mela is promoted as the "Mini Kumbh Mela". It takes place every year at the same place as the Kumbh Mela, at the confluence of the holy Saraswati, Yamuna and Ganges rivers. The festival is widely believed to be older than the actual Kumbh Mela. Similar to the Kumbh Mela, hordes of pilgrims and sadhus (Hindu holy men) come to bath in the water and cleanse their sins. The most important bathing dates are January 10 (Paush Purnima), January 15 (Makar Sankranti), January 24 (Mauni Amavasya), January 30 (Basant Panchami), February 9 (Maghi Purnima), and February 21 (Maha Shivratri).
- When: Until February 21, 2020.
- Where: Prayag (Allahabad), Uttar Pradesh.
- Read More: Essential Guide to the Mystical Kumbh Mela in India.
- 20 Evocative Photos Explain the Hindu Kumbh Mela.
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 rides, 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.
Bigger and better than ever, SulaFest celebrates its 13th edition this year! Expect an eclectic mix of music, wine, food, fashion and shopping. There will be more than 100 artists performing across three stages. Fancy camping out among the grape vines? Let's Camp Out erects a special tent city for festival-goers, not far from the amphitheater. Local hotel accommodations are also available.
- When: February 1-2, 2020.
- Where: Sula Vineyard amphitheater, Nashik, Maharashtra.
- Read More: 5 Nashik Vineyards with Tasting Rooms.
The Kala Ghoda (Black Horse) arts festival is a nine-day extravaganza that sees Mumbai's Kala Ghoda Arts Precinct transformed into an open-air exhibition space and stage show. This vibrant street festival includes arts and crafts, exhibitions, workshops, dance performances, music, theater, heritage walks, and special events for children. The great thing about it is that it's all free!
Into its 34nd year this year, the Surajkund Crafts Mela showcases the finest hand-loom, handicrafts, and Indian cuisine. 1,000 artisans display and demonstrate their crafts from across India and the world. It's an outstanding place to shop! There are also cultural programs and an amusement zone for children. The mela has a different state theme and partner nation every year.
- When: February 1-17 each year.
- Where: Surajkund, in the Faridabad district a short distance from South Delhi. It's around 35 minutes drive from Delhi airport.
Love heritage? Back for the third edition this year, the award-winning India Heritage Walk Festival offers almost 80 FREE immersive curated walks in more than 35 cities across India. The walks are designed to be thought-provoking and cover issues such as architectural heritage, sustainable tourism, gender-related issues and cultural infusion. Locations include museums, monuments and markets. Participants get an opportunity to interact with local residents and see the cities from a new perspective.
- When: February 1-29, 2020.
- Where: Across India.
The Indian Derby is one of the biggest events on the Mumbai social calendar and India's premier horse race. A huge lifestyle sporting event, it attracts around 25,000 people. In addition to horse racing, there are fashion events, food, a mini flea market, DJs, and live bands. It's sponsored by Kingfisher. Dress to impress!
Kerala's first elephant pageant for the year, the end of the 10 day festival at Parthasarathy temple features a procession of decorated elephants. Traditional art forms such a panchavadyam (a musical ensemble with five different types of instruments) accompany the parade. The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and a multitude of cultural events take place during the 10 days as well.
- When: February 4, 2020.
- Where: Adoor, Kerala, approximately 90 kilometers from Trivandrum. The nearest railway station is at Chengannur, around 25 kilometers away.
This popular tribal fair features members of the Bhil tribe, who travel from surrounding Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to take a holy bath in the river. Other highlights are the performance of traditional folk songs and dances, magic shows, acrobatic stunts, and carnival rides.
- When: February 5-9, 2020.
- Where: Sabla village in Rajasthan. It's about two and a half hours southeast of Udaipur, in Dungarpur district.
The magnificent 15-acre Mughal Gardens at the President of India's residence are thrown open to the public for a month each year, for the annual Udyanotsav. On display are hundreds of varieties of flowers and trees including roses, tulips and bougainvillea. In addition, guests can visit special themed gardens such as the Spiritual Garden, Herbal Garden, Bonsai Garden and Musical Garden.
- When: February 5 to March 8, 2020.
- Where: Rashtrapati Bhavan, Delhi. Enter through Gate Number 35 of the President’s Estate, which is located at the extreme end of the Church Road.
Jaisalmer Desert Festival
This exuberant desert festival is a wonderful opportunity to experience the sandstone city of Jaisalmer at its magical best. A parade of camels and fancily dressed locals, camel races and polo matches, turban tying competitions, competitions for the finest facial hair, acrobats, puppeteers, and jugglers are all part of the festival. You're sure to be amused!
India's first multi-regional culture festival is dedicated to keeping the meaning of Indian culture alive. The festival aims to create a platform for lovers of art and culture to learn and celebrate Indian culture across all its dimensions. It has a wide focus on literature, society, music, traditions, history and art. The program features lectures and panel discussions by 100+ scholars, intellectuals, journalists, authors, artists and members of parliament. Plus, more than 20 workshops ranging from Indic arts to Indic martial arts, a curated expo focusing on Indic crafts, music and dance performances, and an elaborate food flea.
- When: February 7-9, 2020.
- Where: Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, Delhi.
The Udaipur World Music Festival returns for the fifth edition this year. As its name suggests, more than 100 artists from around the world collaborate to give an eclectic variety of performances at this meaningful cultural event. Entry is free.
The Dhauli-Kalinga Mahotsav is hosted by the Odisha Dance Academy (ODA) and Art Vision. It combines martial dance, which celebrates the victory of peace over war, with classical and folk dances of the state. The festival's location is evocative. It's held in the hills alongside the historic Daya River, at the place where Emperor Ashok is believed to have fought the last battle of the Kalinga war before surrendering the sword and embracing Buddhism.
- When: First Friday-Sunday in February each year. February 7-9, 2020. Attendees should check event updates on the website.
- Where: Shanti Stupa/Peace Pagoda, Dhauli Hill, on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar.
Joranda Mela (Mahima Mela)
The Joranda Mela is the annual fair of the ascetics of the unusual Mahima Cult. Among other things, they must keep moving, and eat and sleep in a different place every day. The highlight of the fair is the jhada deepa (sacred fire ceremony) at the four gates of the temple, whereby thousands of liters of ghee are offered and burned in havan (fire) amid mass prayer to ensure the welfare of mankind. It commences around 5 p.m. However, the festival rituals get underway much before that, when the door of the temple are opened at around 3 a.m. Stop at nearby Sadeibareni village to see artisans at work making dokra figurines.
This unusual festival in India is celebrated by the Tamil community and is dedicated to Lord Murugan (also known as Kartikeya), the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Devotees show their endurance to the Lord, so he will help them overcome obstacles and lessen their life burdens. Many walk long distances carrying a kavadi (an offering that can take various forms such as a pot of milk or a decorative altar on a frame). Those who are fanatical go as far as to pierce various parts of their bodies with small metal hooks and skewers. One of the biggest Thaipusam celebrations takes place at Palani, near Madurai in Tamil Nadu. It lasts for 10 days, although most of the action takes place on days six to 10. The main day (the seventh day), when the temple deity is taken out in procession for a bath, is the most significant.
- When: February 8, 2020.
- Where: Arulmigu Dhandayuthapani Swamy Temple, Palani, Tamil Nadu.
Thaipooyam Mahotsavam, Kerala's version of Thaipusam, is held in honour of Lord Subrahmanya (another name for Shiva and Parvati's son, Kartikeya). The highlight is the performance of the kavadiyattam ritualistic dance by devotees carrying kavadis. They twirl and spin in a trance-like manner to the beat of drums please the lord.
- When: February 8, 2020.
- Where: Koorkancherry Sree Maheswara temple, Thrissur district, Kerala. Sree Subrahmanya Swamy temple, Harippad, Alleppey district, Kerala.
Yet another version of Thaipusam takes place, in a particularly gruesome way, in a village about two hours north of Kolkata. Devotees prevalently perform ritual body piercing to worship the divine vel (spear), which Goddess Parvati presented to Lord Murugan to defeat demon Soorapadman. They enter a trance-like state beforehand and claim it doesn't hurt!
- When: February 8, 2020.
- Where: Bandel, West Bengal.
Asia's finest and largest blues festival brings artists from around the world to perform in Mumbai. It will be back again this year, with live blues for your soul.
- When: February 8-9, 2020.
- Where: Mehboob Studio, Bandra West, Mumbai.
With magnificent Mehrangarh Fort as its backdrop, the World Sacred Spirit Festival aims to take patrons on an "amazing spiritual and musical journey" with dance, song and ritual theater. There will be performers from India and abroad.
If you're interested in admiring the old painted havelis (mansions) that the Shekhawati region is famous for, the Shekhawati Festival is the perfect time to do so. As well as visiting the region, you can see locals exhibiting their skills and talent. Enjoy organized tours, country rides to farms, cultural programs, arts and crafts workshops, local games, fireworks, and an organic food court.
- When: February 13-16, 2020
- Where: Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. The main location is Surya Mandal Stadium in Nawalgarh.
- Read More: Shekhawati Region Ultimate Travel Guide.
Pariyanampetta Pooram falls on the last day of the seven-day festival at Pariyanampetta Bhagavathy temple. It features Kalamezhuthu Pattu (a ritual in which images of goddesses are drawn on the floor using colored powder) and a procession of decorated elephants. The preceding part of the festival includes shadow puppetry every evening and folk arts.
- When: February 14-20, 2020.
- Where: Pariyanampetta Bhagavathy temple, Kattukulam, Palakkad district of Kerala.
The Taj Mahotsav takes place at Shilpgram in Agra, right near the eastern entry gate to the Taj Mahal. The focus of this festival is on arts, crafts, Indian culture, and recreating the Mughal era. It gets underway with a spectacular procession that includes elephants, camels and drummers. Apart from camel rides, there are games for the kids and a food festival. The venue has special significance, as it's said to be situated on the site where the artisans who built the Taj Mahal once lived. A full program of events is available on the website.
- When: February 18-27 each year.
- Where: Agra, Uttar Pradesh.
- Cost: Free for foreign tourists. Indian adults pay 50 rupees, and children aged between five and 12 pay 10 rupees. Normal entry fees apply to the Taj Mahal.
- Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Taj Mahal.
See a procession of decorated horse effigies called kuthirakolams, offered to the temple deity on the last day of this five-day temple festival. There's also a parade of elephants in the evening, accompanied by traditional percussion.
- When: February 20, 2020.
- Where: Machattu Thiruvanikavu temple, Vadakkancherry, Thrissur district, Kerala.
The Khajuraho Dance Festival takes place against the alluring backdrop of one of India's top historical destinations -- the Khajuraho erotic temples. The festival, which has entertained audiences since 1975, showcases classical dance style from all over India. The dances are performed in the Western group of temples, mainly at the Chitragupta Temple (dedicated to Surya the Sun God) and the Vishwanatha Temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva). Entry is free.
Mahashivaratri, the Great Night of Shiva, is when Lord Shiva is believed to have performed his cosmic Tandava dance -- the source of the cycle of creation, preservation, and destruction. Devotees worship Lord Shiva on this occasion to gain release from this cycle of death and rebirth. Most of the festivities take place throughout the night when vigils are maintained at Shiva temples. Devotees fast from sunrise, swim in the holy Ganges river, offer prayers at the temples, and chant devotional songs. Many people also consume bhang, a substance derived from cannabis. There's a street procession in Varanasi.
- When: February 21, 2020.
- Where: Shiva temples all over India.
One of India's most unusual festivals, the Angalamman Festival sees tens of thousands of devotees dressing themselves up to worship the Goddess Angalamman, a reincarnation of Goddess Pavarti (the wife of Lord Shiva). The goddess is considered to be extremely fierce and must be appeased with blood. Some devotees go to the extreme of piercing lemons all over their torsos to please her.
- When: The day after Maha Shivratri, February 22, 2020.
- Where: Kaveripattinam, Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu, approximately two hours southeast of Bangalore in Karnataka. The nearest railway station is Krishnagiri City Junction, about 15 minutes away.
This grand theyyam festival showcases most of the theyyam forms of Kerala. Theyyam is a sacred dance ritual that's popular in the northern part of Kerala. The artists dress up and, in a trance, channel gods and goddesses through their bodies.
- When: February 23-26, 2020.
- Where: Kuttikkol Thampuratty Bhagavathy temple at Kuttikkol, Kasaragod district of Kerala. The nearest railway station is at Kasaragod, 28 kilometers away. The nearest airport is at Mangalore, about 50 kilometers away.
The colorful Goa Carnival, which began as a local feast by the Portuguese in the 18th century, has developed into the state's most famous event. During the festival, the streets come alive with parades, floats, music, and masked dances. It culminates with the Red and Black Dance, a formal ball in Panaji, where the dress code is red and black. The festivities kick off with a Food and Culture Festival in Panaji.
- When: Before Lent each year. February 22-25, 2020.
- Where: The carnival moves from city to city (Panaji, Margao, Vasco and Mapusa) in Goa. The parade starts out from Panaji.
- Read More: 72 Hours in Goa, the Perfect Itinerary.
A visual and cultural spectacular, the highlight of the Chettikulangara Bharani temple festival is a stunning event called Kettukazhcha, featuring a procession of brightly decorated structures. The festival is dedicated to Goddess Bhagavathy.
- When: February 29, 2020.
- Where: Chettikulangara temple, Mavelikara, Alleppey district, Kerala.