January 2019 India Festivals and Events Guide

What's On in India in January

Sadhu at the Kumbh Mela.


Himanshu Khagta/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 in India (listed by date).

  • 01 of 20
    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.

    • When: Mid December to mid January every year.
    • Where: Music halls all over Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
  • 02 of 20
    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 to January 25 every year.
    • Where: Arjuna's Penance, Mamallapuram, near Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
  • 03 of 20
    Rann Utsav

    Rann Utsav/Gujarat Tourism.

     

    The Rann Utsav showcases the Kutch region's culture and heritage, although it's become rather 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 package tours.

    • When: Ongoing 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.
  • 04 of 20
    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.

    • When: First week of January. Dates to be announced for 2019.
    • Where: Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple and Nageswara Rao Park, Mylapore, Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
    Continue to 5 of 20 below.
  • 05 of 20
    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.
  • 06 of 20
    International Kite Festival.

    anand purohit/Getty Images

     

    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 6-14, 2019.
    • Where: Sabarmati River Front, Ashram Road, Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Also at Jaipur in Rajasthan (January 14).
  • 07 of 20

    Bikaner Camel Fair

    Bikaner camel festival.

    vidalidali/Getty Images

     

    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, 2019.
    • Where: Bikaner, Rajasthan.
  • 08 of 20
    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 traditional music and dance performances, as well check out as local handicrafts.

    • When: January 12-19, 2019.
    • Where: Shiva Temple in Ernakulam, Kochi, Kerala.
    Continue to 9 of 20 below.
  • 09 of 20

    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. 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.

  • 10 of 20

    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.

  • 11 of 20

    Ardh Kumbh Mela

    Sadhus at the Kumbh Mela.

    Peter Adams/Getty Images

     

    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 auspicious bathing dates in January, when much of the action happens. These are January 15 (Makar Sankranti) and January 21 (Paush Purnima). January 15 is the first Shahi Snan (Royal Bath) of the sadhus. Special accommodations and facilities are set up for foreign tourists.

  • 12 of 20
    Bauls Playing Music in Kenduli

    Christophe Boisvieux/Getty Images

     

    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 stringed instrument called the ektara, they sing uniquely about life's philosophy. West Bengal Tourism offers package tours.

    • When: January 15-17, 2019.
    • Where: Kenduli village, around 30 kilometers from Shantiniketan in West Bengal.
    Continue to 13 of 20 below.
  • 13 of 20

    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 20
    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 18-20, 2019.
    • Where: Modhera, Gujarat
  • 15 of 20
    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 21, 2019.
    • Where: Arulmigu Dhandayuthapani Swamy Temple, Palani, Tamil Nadu.
  • 16 of 20
    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 24-28, 2019.
    • Where: Diggi Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan.
    Continue to 17 of 20 below.
  • 17 of 20
    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.
  • 18 of 20
    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!

  • 19 of 20

    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: Dates to be announced for 2019.
    • Where: An undisclosed location near Ashwem Beach, north Goa.
  • 20 of 20
    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: Dates to be announced for 2019.
    • Where: Adoor, Kerala, approximately 90 kilometers from Trivandrum. The nearest railway station is at Chengannur, around 25 kilometers away.