January 2021 India Festivals and Events Guide

What's On in India in January

Sadhu at Makar Sankranti Festival during Magh Mela

Prabhat Kumar Verma/Getty Images

 

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 2021 in India (listed by date).

Do note that celebrations may be curtailed or canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Details, where available, are provided below.

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Chennai Music Festival (Madras Music Season)

Indian classical music
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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. It's also referred to as the December Season.

  • When: Mid December to mid January every year. Will be a combination of virtual and open-air concerts.
  • Where: Music halls all over Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The Music Academy Madras hosts the most notable events.
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Rann Utsav

Rann Utsav

Rann Utsav/Gujarat Tourism.

 

Set against the surreal backdrop of Kutch's white salt desert, the Rann Utsav showcases the region's culture and heritage (although it has unfortunately become rather commercial and overcrowded). Activities include folk dances and music, food stalls, ATV rides, camel cart excursions, para-motoring, 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.

  • When: Ongoing until February 28, 2021. It's best on full moon nights (January 29, 2021) to see the moon shining on the salt.
  • Where: Great Rann of Kutch salt desert, Dhordo, Gujarat.
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Chitra Santhe

Chitra Santhe

Chitra Santhe

Want to buy some new art? Head to the annual Chitra Santhe (art fair), organized by Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath. It brings art out of galleries and museums and into the streets. The 18th edition of the fair will feature paintings by 1,500 artists from 10 states across India. There's art for all budgets, ranging from 100 rupees to 100,00 rupees.

  • When: Usually the first Sunday of January each year. This year, the event will be held online only, for a month from January 3, 2021. Each artist will have a page on the website.
  • Where: Kumara Krupa Road, Bangalore, Karnataka.
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Swathi Sangeetholsavam

Tabla player.
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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 4-14, 2021.
  • Where: Kuthiramalika Palace, East Fort, Trivandrum, Kerala.
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National Chilika Bird Festival

Mangalajodi, Odisha

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In addition to outstanding opportunities for birding, the third edition of the National Chilika Bird Festival features a bird photography exhibition and a technical session with expert speakers. Guests will also get to visit protected Nalabana Bird Sanctuary, on an island in Chilika Lake. It's one of the largest breeding grounds for Greater Flamingos and is only open to visitors during the festival. Odisha Tourism offers various packages.

  • When: January 8-10, 2021.
  • Where: Mangalajodi, Odisha.
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International Kite Festival

International Kite Festival.

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Millions of brightly colored kites take over the sky from sunrise until sunset at this festival. It's part of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti (the transition of the sun into the northern hemisphere), which 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 10-14, 2021. To be confirmed.
  • Where: Sabarmati River Front, Ashram Road, Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Also at Jaipur in Rajasthan (January 14).
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Spituk Gustor

Monks performing masked cham dance in Ladakh.

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A highlight of winter in Ladakh, monastery monks perform captivating cham dances wearing colorful (and rather scary looking) clay masks. This sacrifice festival celebrates the victory of good over evil , and effigies of evil characters are also burned. Try and be there for the special morning prayers when the monks all chant melodically in unison.

  • When: January 11-12, 2021.
  • Where: Spituk Monastery, near Leh in Ladakh.
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Bikaner Camel Fair

Bikaner camel festival.

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Less crowded than the Pushkar Camel Fair, the Bikaner Camel Festival offers an alternate opportunity to have an encounter with 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 12-13, 2021. To be confirmed.
  • Where: Bikaner, Rajasthan.
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Mylapore Festival

Mylapore festival kolam drawing.
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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 100 artists spread over 12 venues. Attractions include heritage walks, classical music and dance, folk art, crafts zone, exhibitions and street food.

  • When: Second week of January. To be confirmed. Festival may take place on a smaller scale this year.
  • Where: Sri Kapaleeswarar temple and Nageswara Rao Park, Mylapore, Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
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Pongal

Making the Pongal dish.
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Pongal is a huge harvest and thanksgiving festival in southern India. 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. An International Pongal Festival is held at Bremajothi Farms near Tuticorin, about two hours up the coast from Kanyakumari. It blends ancient tradition with hip genres of arts and music.

  • When: January 13-16, 2021.
  • Where: Across Tamil Nadu.
  • Read More: Essential Guide to the Pongal Festival.
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Tamil Nadu International Balloon Festival

Tamil Nadu International Balloon Festival

Tamil Nadu International Balloon Festival

 

Hot air ballooning is growing in popularity in India and the seventh edition of the popular Tamil Nadu International Balloon Festival is happening this year. The event started out to promote Pollachi as a tourist destination but has since expanded to Chennai as well. However, the Chennai event (held in early January) only has tethered balloon flights. Music concerts and contests for kids provide added entertainment.

  • When: January 13-17, 2021. To be confirmed.
  • Where: Sakthi Mills Ground, Pollachi, and hour and a half south of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.
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Magh Mela

A sadhu offer prayer after taking holydip in Sangam, the confluence of River Ganga, Yamuna and mythological Saraswati on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya(the main bathing day) during Magh mela festival

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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. Every twelfth year, the festival transforms into the Kumbh Mela there. The Magh Mela 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 14 (Makar Sankranti), January 28 (Poush Purnima), February 11 (Mauni Amavasya), February 16 (Basant Panchami), February 27 (Maghi Purnima), and March 11 (Maha Shivratri).

  • When: January 14 to March 11, 2021.
  • Where: Prayag (Allahabad), Uttar Pradesh.
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Kumbh Mela

Kumbh Mela at Haridwar.

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The largest religious gathering in the world, the Kumbh Mela brings Hindu holy men together to discuss their faith and disseminate information about their religion. Holy men and pilgrims also take a dip in the river on auspicious days to cleanse themselves of sins. The Kumbh Mela is attended by millions of people each day. In December 2017, UNESCO included the festival on its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in recognition of its importance.

  • When: January 14 to April 27, 2021.
  • Where: Haridwar, Uttarakhand.
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Mukteshwar Dance Festival

Mukteshwar Dance Festival

Courtesy of Odisha Tourism

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

  • When: January 14-16, 2021.
  • Where: Mukteshwar Temple Complex, Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
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Kenduli Mela

Bauls Playing Music in Kenduli

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For an unforgettable dose of West Bengal folk music don't miss the Kenduli Mela, where the mystical wandering Baul musicians gather to perform during Makar Sankranti. Dressed in saffron robes, and playing a distinctive stringed instrument called the ektara, they sing uniquely about life's philosophy. The festival is attended by all kinds of holy men. It has been curiously labeled as a cross between Woodstock, Burning Man, and the Kumbh Mela. Interested? West Bengal Tourism offers package tours.

  • When: January 14-16, 2021.
  • Where: Kenduli village, near Shantiniketan in West Bengal.
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Modhera Dance Festival

Sun Temple at Modhera
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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 15-17, 2021.
  • Where: Modhera, Gujarat
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Araku Balloon Festival

Araku Balloon Festival

Araku Balloon Festival

 

This offbeat balloon festival returns for its third edition, in the picturesque Araku Valley of Andhra Pradesh. The festival aims to promote adventure tourism in the state and showcase the Araku Valley, which has views of the Eastern Ghat mountains. Apart from balloon flights and displays, there will be entertainment such as para-motoring, music, and games. A luxury tented camp is set up to accommodate guests.

  • When: January 17-19, 2021. To be confirmed.
  • Where: Araku, about three hours from Vizag in Andhra Pradesh. Buses and trains are available.
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Rajarani Music Festival

Rajarani Music Festival
Wikimedia Commona

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 the elaborate erotic sculptured figurine on its walls.

  • When: January 18-20, 2021.
  • Where: Rajarani Temple, Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
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Nishagandhi Dance Festival

Kathakali performance, Kerala.
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See a range of classical Indian dance forms in a regal palace setting at Kerala Tourism's annual Nishagandhi Dance Festival. The festival runs for seven evenings, with each dedicated to a different genre of dance such as Odissi, Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Manipuri, Mohiniyattam, Chhau, and Kuchipudi. There will be kathakali performances as well.

  • When: January 20-26, 2021.
  • Where: Nishagandhi Auditorium, Kanakakkunnu Palace, Trivandrum, Kerala.
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Adoor Gajamela

Kerala temple elephants.

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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: January 24, 2021. No public celebration.
  • Where: Adoor, Kerala, approximately 90 kilometers from Trivandrum. The nearest railway station is at Chengannur, around 25 kilometers away.
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Republic Day Parade

Indian Army marching contingents during Republic Day Parade
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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.

  • When: January 26 every year.
  • Where: Delhi.
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Adivasi Mela

Odisha tribal woman.


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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 26-31, 2021. To be confirmed.
  • Where: IDCO Exhibition Ground, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha.
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Thaipusam (Tamil Nadu)

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 (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: January 28, 2021.
  • Where: Arulmigu Dhandayuthapani Swamy Temple, Palani, Tamil Nadu.
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Thaipooyam Mahotsavam (Kerala)

Thaipooyam celebrations

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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: January 28, 2021.
  • Where: Koorkancherry Sree Maheswara temple, Thrissur district, Kerala. Sree Subrahmanya Swamy temple, Harippad, Alleppey district, Kerala.
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Vel Festival

Vel festival.

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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: January 28, 2021.
  • Where: Bandel, West Bengal.
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Ernakulathappan Uthsavam

Traditional drummers at Kerala festival.

ajijchan/Getty Images

 

This week long Kerala temple festival is devoted to the deity of the Ernakulathappan Shiva temple in Ernakulum, near Kochi. It features a flag hoisting ceremony, parading and bathing of the temple god, fireworks, and numerous decorated elephants (which won't please everyone). Temple arts are also promoted during the festival and you'll be able to see traditional music and dance performances, as well check out as local handicrafts.

  • When: To be announced.
  • Where: Ernakulathappa Shiva temple in Ernakulam, Kochi, Kerala.
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Bird Festival of Goa

Bulbul

Edwin Godinho/EyeEm/Getty Images

 

Nearly 30% of India's bird species are found in Goa, and you can learn about them and spot them at this festival held by the Goa Forest Department. The festival program consists of early morning bird-watching walks in lesser-known parts of the state's Western Ghat mountains, followed by talks by prominent ornithologists from around the globe, photography workshops and exhibitions, live painting demonstrations, and art shows.

  • When: To be announced.
  • Where: Forest Training School Complex, Valpoi, Goa.
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Lucknow Mahotsav

Lucknow Mahotsav

Lucknow Mahotsav

 

Enjoy the culture of the "City of Nawabs" at the annual Lucknow Mahotsav. This flagship tourism festival of the state government features music and dance performances, poety readings, handicraft and food stalls, carnival rides, and exhibitions.

  • When: To be announced.
  • Where: Ramabai Ambedkar Maidan, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
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SunSplash

SunSplash

SunSplash

 

Love reggae? You won't want to miss this festival, which provides something different to the usual psychedelic trance in Goa. It's India's largest reggae festival and the action happens across three stages right by the beach.

  • When: To be announced.
  • Where: Riva Beach Resort, Mandrem beach, North Goa.
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Mamallapuram Indian Dance Festival

Dance festival Mamallapuram
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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: Cancelled.
  • Where: Arjuna's Penance, Mamallapuram, near Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
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Dhaatu International Puppet Festival

Puppets in India

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Love puppets? You won't want to miss this annual festival devoted to all kinds of them, with more than 100 artists from five countries including India. This year it will feature a puppetry workshop by Master Puppeteer Giancarlo from Italy, a talk on "Puppets & Control Systems", puppet parade, and non-stop puppet shows.

  • When: Cancelled.
  • Where: JSS Auditorium Jayanagar 8th Block, Bangalore, Karnataka.
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Dhanu Jatra

Dhanu Jatra

Wikipedia/C0 1.0 

Known as the world's largest open-air theater (it's mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records), the Dhanu Jatra features enactments of the mythological story of Lord Krishna (locally known as Krushna) and his demon uncle Kansa. During the performance, Kansa can punish people with a penalty for their mistakes (Biju Patnaik, the former Chief Minister of Odisha was once fined).

  • When: Cancelled.
  • Where: Bargarh, Sambalpur district, western Odisha near the Chattisgarh border.
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