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 (listed by date).
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 31 to February 3, 2019.
- Where: NSIC Exhibition Grounds, Okhla Industrial Estate, New Delhi.
The Adavasi 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, 2019.
- Where: IDCO Exhibition Ground, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha.
Set against the incredible 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: Ongoing until 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.
Ardh Kumbh Mela
India's famous Kumbh Mela is regarded as the biggest religious gathering in the world and has been included on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. A smaller ardh (half) version of it happens every six years in Allahabad on the occasion of the annual Magh Mela. Sadhus (Hindu holy men) and pilgrims converge to bathe in the holy water of the river and discuss spirituality. There are two royal bathing dates of the sadhus in February, when much of the action happens. These are February 4 (Mauni Amavasya), the main royal bath, and February 10 (Basant Panchami). February 19 (Maghi Poornima) is also an auspicious bathing date. Special accommodations and facilities are set up for foreign tourists.
- When: January 14 to March 4, 2019.
- Where: Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh.
- Essential Guide to the Mystical Kumbh Mela in India
- 20 Evocative Photos Explain the Hindu Kumbh Mela
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: Ongoing until March 29, 2019.
- Where: Kochi, Kerala.
Now in its fifth 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. In addition, don't miss Pondy's Pink Bungalow Fete with a pop-up marketplace that includes live music, food, and sustainable products. It takes place on February 9.
- When: January 27 to February 11, 2019.
- Where: Pondicherry, about four hours south of Chennai in Tamil Nadu.
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Love heritage? Back for the second 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: Throughout February 2019.
- Where: Across India.
The Kila Raipur Sports Festival, also known as the Rural Olympics, is a quirky rural festival that's grown over eight decades (beginning in 1933) to draw competitors from across the globe. The adrenaline-pumping bullock cart race is the main attraction. Other events that are big on entertainment include a tractor race, and a tug-of-war. You'll also get to see some really off-beat activities such as people lifting bicycles and pulling cars with their teeth, riding a bicycle ringed with a burning tire, and other daredevil stunts. There are daily bhangra and gidha music performances too.
- When: February 1-3, 2019.
- Where: Near Ludhiana, in Punjab.
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: February 1-3, 2019 in Kolkata. February 6-8, 2019 in Goa.
- Where: Rabindra Sadan-Nandan campus, Kolkata. Kala Academy, Goa.
The St+Art India Foundation's Lodhi Art Festival is back to add more vibrant street art to the Lodhi Art District in Delhi. This third edition of the much acclaimed festival will add 20 new murals that celebrate a host of causes including LGBTQ rights to women’s empowerment. 30 new artists, musicians, chefs and performers from around the world will be featured. There will also be workshops, curated walks, and public screenings of old Bollywood movies.
- When: February 1 to March 15, 2019.
- Where: Khanna Market and Meher Chand Market, Lodhi Colony, Delhi.
Bigger and better than ever, SulaFest celebrates its 12th 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.
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 33nd 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. This year, these are Maharashtra and Thailand respectively.
- 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.
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!
This festival involves an astonishing amount of turmeric being thrown all over the temple premises by energetic devotees, who also sing and dance. At noon, the temple deity is taken out in procession and given a holy bath in the nearby river, which is the main highlight of the occasion. The festival happens on Somvati Amavasya. This is a new moon day that falls on a Monday. It usually occurs two or three times a year.
- When: February 4, 2019.
- Where: Khandoba temple in Jejuri, about an hour and a half southeast of Pune in Maharashtra. It's possible to visit it on a day trip from Mumbai if you hire a car. However, travel time one-way will be about five hours. Hence, it's more convenient to go there from Pune.
Chinese New Year
You may be surprise to find Chinese New Year being celebrated in India. However, Kolkata has a large Chinese community. The city's prosperity and cosmopolitan atmosphere drew an influx of Chinese migrants, starting from the late 18th century when they came to work at its ports. Traditional lion dancing is a popular feature of the occasion. The Indian Chinese Association for Culture, Welfare and Development holds a Lion Dance and Cultural Festival in Tiretti Bazaar a couple of days before the main day (on February 3 this year).
- When: February 5, 2019.
- Where: Chinatown, Tiretti Bazaar and Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal.
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 6 to March 10, 2019.
- 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.
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 7-10, 2019.
- Where: Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. The main location is Surya Mandal Stadium in Nawalgarh.
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 8-10, 2019.
- Where: Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, Delhi.
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 9 and 10, 2019.
- Where: Mehboob Studio, Bandra West, Mumbai.
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: February 10-13, 2019.
- Where: Nagaur, about three hours northeast of Jodhpur in Rajasthan.
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 13-19, 2019.
- Where: Pariyanampetta Bhagavathy temple, Kattukulam, Palakkad district of Kerala.
This temple festival presents a rare opportunity to witness a spectacular procession of golden elephants, which were offered to the deity by the erstwhile ruler of Travancore, Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma. It's accompanied by traditional musicians.
- When: February 14, 2019.
- Where: Ettumanoor Mahadeva temple, Kottayam district, Kerala.
The Udaipur World Music Festival returns for the fourth 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.
- When: February 15-17, 2019.
- Where: Gandhi Ground and Fateh Sagar Paal, Udaipur in Rajasthan.
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 15-19, 2019.
- Where: Sabla village in Rajasthan. It's about two and a half hours southeast of Udaipur, in Dungarpur district.
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!
- When: February 17-19, 2019.
- Where: Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.
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.
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 19, 2019.
- Where: Machattu Thiruvanikavu temple, Vadakkancherry, Thrissur district, Kerala.
The last day of the festival at Chinakkathoor Bhagavathy temple features an unusual and colorful procession, accompanied by decorated elephants and traditional drumming. In the 17 days leading up to the Chinakkathoor Pooram, you can also see shadow puppet performances every evening at the temple premises.
- When: February 19, 2019.
- Where: Chinakkathoor Bhagavathi temple, Palappuram, Palakkad district, Kerala.
Trivandrum goes up in smoke on the occasion of Attukal Pongala, when the world's largest gathering of women for a religious activity cooks up a special offering for the goddess Attukalama. The festival earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1997, when 1.5 million women attended it. Numbers have been on the rise ever since!
- When: February 20, 2019.
- Where: Attukal Bhagavathi Temple, Trivandrum, 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.
- When: February 20-26, 2019.
- Where: Chitragupta Temple and Vishwanatha Temple, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh.
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.
- When: February 22-24, 2019.
- Where: Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
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, 2019.
- 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.