January 2018 India Festivals and Events Guide

What's On in India in January

Theyyam performer.
Theyyam performer. Kerala Tourism

Visit India in January and you'll be able to enjoy popular musical and dance events, as well as traditional festivals and parades. Kites, camels, and cattle are just some of what's on offer! Here's the best of what's on in January in India (listed by date).

  • 01 of 23
    Theyyam in Kerala.
    Christophe Boisvieux / GettyImages

    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. However, numerous smaller events also take place in the area during January.

    • When: December 28, 2017 to January 1, 2018.
    • Where: Kanathoor village, Karasgod district, Kerala.
  • 02 of 23
    Indian classical music
    RBB/Getty Images

    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.

    • When: Mid December to mid January each year.
    • Where: Music halls all over Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
  • 03 of 23
    Dance festival Mamallapuram
    Dinodia Photo/Getty Images

    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.
  • 04 of 23
    Rann Utsav.
    Veena Nair/Getty Images

    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. Read reviews on Tripadvisor.

    • 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.
    Continue to 5 of 23 below.
  • 05 of 23
    Mylapore festival kolam drawing.
    Paddy Photography/Getty Images

    The Mylapore Festival began as a simple kolam contest, organized by the local newspaper, in 2001. It's now grown into a four day extravaganza, with more than 30 events and 200 artists spread over 12 venues. Attractions include heritage walks, classical music and dance, folk art, crafts zone, exhibitions and street food. Download the festival program.

  • 06 of 23
    Tabla player.
    RBB/Getty Images

    The week-long Swathi Music Festival pays tribute to the compositions of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, who was the king of Travancore in the early 19th century. The entire festival is devoted to his compositions, of which there are more than 400 in both Carnatic and Hindustani music. It attracts eminent musicians from all over India. Entry is free.

    • When: January 4-13 every year.
    • Where: Kuthiramalika Palace, East Fort, Trivandrum, Kerala.
  • 07 of 23
    International Kite Festival
    anand purohit/Getty Images

    See millions of brightly colored kites take over the sky from sunrise until sunset at this festival, which marks the occasion of Makar Sankranti (the transition of the sun into the northern hemisphere) and celebrates life and fertility. The event attracts kite flyers from many different countries. In addition to kite flying, there's aerial acrobats, kite painting competitions, and kite making workshops. Great fun for kids!

    • When: January 7-14, 2018.
    • Where: Sabarmati River Front, Ashram Road, Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Also at Jaipur in Rajasthan (January 14).
  • 08 of 23
    India street food
    Photography by Indian Simmer/Getty Images

    The National Association of Street Vendors of India holds this annual food festival, which 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!

    Continue to 9 of 23 below.
  • 09 of 23

    Pongal

    Making the Pongal dish.
    Dinodia Photo/Getty Images

    Pongal, a huge harvest festival in southern India, is India's equivalent of Thanksgiving. The most important part of the festival is cooking the Pongal dish, made out of boiled milk and rice, on the auspicious second day. Families gather to feast and dance.

  • 10 of 23

    Bikaner Camel Fair

    Bikaner Camel Fair
    Stephan Rebernik Photography/Getty Images

    As its name suggests, the focus of this festival (organized by the Rajasthan government's Department of Tourism, Art & Culture), is camels -- and plenty of them. The festival kicks off with a procession of camels decorated in their finest attire, and continues on with camel beauty pageants, camel races, and camel dancing. Who ever thought camels could dance? It's worth attending the festival just to see that performance! The festival ends with entertainment by Rajasthani folk artists, and fireworks.

    • When: January 13-14, 2018.
    • Where: Bikaner, Rajasthan.
  • 11 of 23

    Kenduli Mela

    Kenduli Mela
    H G M / Flickr

    For an unforgettable dose of West Bengal folk music don't miss the Kenduli Mela, where the mystical wandering Baul musicians gather to perform. Dressed in saffron robes, and playing a distinctive instrument called the Ektara, they sing uniquely about life's philosophy.

    • When: January 14-16, 2018.
    • Where: Kenduli village, around 30 kilometers from Shantiniketan in West Bengal. West Bengal Tourism offers package tours.
  • 12 of 23

    Mukteshwar Dance Festival

    Mukteshwar Dance Festival
    Courtesy of Orissa Tourism

    The Mukteshwar Dance Festival, which concentrates on Odissi dance and music, offers solo, duet and group Odissi performances. This year, a number of reputed troupes from Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, New Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, and the US will perform at the festival. It takes place in the courtyard of one of Bhubaneswar's most prominent and well-preserved temple complexes.

    Continue to 13 of 23 below.
  • 13 of 23

    Rajarani Music Festival

    Rajarani Music Festival
    RBB/Getty Images

    Entrancing performances by well-known Odissi and Hindustani vocal and music maestros bring alive the architectural beauty of the Rajarani temple at this festival. The temple, often referred to as the Khajuraho of the east, is famous for its elaborate erotic sculptured figurines.

  • 14 of 23
    Sun Temple at Modhera
    Dinodia Photo/Getty Images

    The ancient 11th century Sun Temple, dedicated to Surya the Sun God, provides an evocative backdrop for this annual classical dance festival. It features artists from various states in India. The performances take place in the evenings, while the monument is colorfully illuminated.

    • When: January 19-21, 2018.
    • Where: Modhera, Gujarat
  • 15 of 23
    Kathakali performance, Kerala.
    Kathakali performance, Kerala. Exotica.im/Getty Images

    This week long Kerala temple festival is devoted to the deity of the Shiva Temple in Ernakulum, near Kochi. It features a flag hoisting ceremony, parading and bathing of the temple god, fireworks, and numerous decorated elephants. Temple arts are also promoted during the festival and you'll be able to see music and dance performances, as well check out as local handicrafts.

    • When: January 22-29, 2018
    • Where: Shiva Temple in Ernakulam, Kochi, Kerala.
  • 16 of 23

    The Nagaur Fair

    Nagaur Fair, India.
    Andrew Holbrooke / Getty Images

    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 23-25, 2018.
    • Where: Nagaur, around 150 kilometers from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. 
    Continue to 17 of 23 below.
  • 17 of 23
    A session at the Jaipur Literature Festival.
    A session at the Jaipur Literature Festival. Sharell Cook

    Lovers of literature shouldn't miss this fantastic opportunity to meet with renowned national and international authors and listen to them speak -- and all for free! The Jaipur Literature Festival is an annual event that's considered to be one of the most important literature events in Asia. A festival program and details of attending authors are available on the event's website. The list is extensive and impressive.

    • When: January 24-29, 2018.
    • Where: Diggi Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan.
  • 18 of 23
    Indian Army marching contingents during Republic Day Parade
    Blaine Harrington III/Getty Images

    In celebration of the Constitution of India being founded in 1950, a spectacular Republic Day parade is held in New Delhi. The parade, which marches down Delhi's central Rajpath avenue, features the three divisions of the armed forces (Army, Navy and Air Force) who showcase their strength. It also includes traditional dance troupes, and culminates with helicopters and other aircraft dramatically flying past.

  • 19 of 23

    GOAT Festival

    GOAT festival, Goa.
    GOAT Festival/ Carys Lavin

    Following its widely successful first edition last year in Goa, the GOAT Festival is back again with its immersive boutique music and arts experience. It offers an alluring mix of live music, DJs, visual arts, theater, dance, local food, and wellness therapies. Plus, awesome intense vibes!

    • When: January 26-28, 2018.
    • Where: An undisclosed location near Ashwem Beach, north Goa.
  • 20 of 23
    Kerala temple elephants.
    Images Etc Ltd/Getty Images

    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.

    • When: January 27, 2018.
    • Where: Adoor, Kerala, approximately 90 kilometers from Trivandrum. The nearest railway station is at Chengannur, around 25 kilometers away.
    Continue to 21 of 23 below.
  • 21 of 23

    Baneshwar Fair

    Settings India, Rajasthan State, Baneshwar, Banjawara tribeswomen
    BODY Philippe / hemis.fr / Getty Images

    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: January 27-31, 2018.
    • Where: Sabla village in Rajasthan. It's about 2.5 hours southeast of Udaipur, in Dungarpur district.
  • 22 of 23

    Jaisalmer Desert Festival

    Jaisalmer Desert Festival
    Ami Vitale / Stringer / Getty Images

    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: January 29-31, 2018.
    • Where: Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.
  • 23 of 23
    A devotees carries a Kavadi frame at the Thai Pusam festival - Palani, Tamil Nadu
    Paul Beinssen/Getty Images

    This unusual festival in India is celebrated by the Tamil community and is dedicated to Lord Murugan, 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: January 31, 2018.
    • Where: Arulmigu Dhandayuthapani Swamy Temple, Palani, Tamil Nadu.