If you're spending time in India in March, the states of Goa, Rajasthan and Kerala are where you should head to catch most of the action. Holi, one of the most popular festivals in India, is celebrated in March too. Here's the pick of the best March festivals in India.
The International Yoga Festival is a must anyone interested in yoga! With more than 2,000 participants from over 80 countries, it's grown to become one of the largest yoga gatherings in the world. The festival offers yoga classes from world-class Yoga teachers, evening discussions with some of India's leading spiritual leaders, and other events including vegetarian cooking classes and Indian classical dance workshops. More information and a detailed festival program is available on the website.
Chapchar Kut is a harvest festival named after bamboo that has been cut, and is drying for burning and subsequent cultivation. The traditional bamboo dance performed by women (while men sit on the ground and beat bamboo sticks against each other), called cheraw, is a big part of the festival. Different styles of tribal dance performances take place amidst symbol clashes and beats of drums. There's art, handicrafts, concerts, flower shows, and food as well.
- When: First week of March each year.
- Where: Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram in northeast India. Also in Lunglei and Saiha.
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: March 3, 2020.
- Where: Ettumanoor Mahadeva temple, Kottayam district, Kerala.
Braj Holi Mahotsav
The Braj Holi festival is dedicated to Lord Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who is believed to have spent much of his childhood in the Braj region of Rajasthan. It celebrates the love between Radha and Krishna. A highlight is the performance of the traditional Raslila dance, which brings to life their love story. People also dress up as Radha and Krishna, sing and dance, and throw color on each other. In addition, Rajasthan Tourism facilitates fun activities such as nature walks, photography exhibitions, traditional rural sports, turban tying, and Bollywood music concerts.
- When: March 5-6, 2020.
- Where: Bharatpur, Deeg and Kaman in Rajasthan.
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: March 8, 2020.
- 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: March 9, 2020.
- Where: Attukal Bhagavathi Temple, Trivandrum, Kerala.
On the eve of Holi, people light bonfires to mark the occasion and ward of evil spirits in a ritual called Holika Dahan. For an unforgettable regal experience, join in the celebration of the Mewar royal family. There will be a magnificent palace procession from the royal residence to Manek Chowk, including bedecked horses and a royal band. Later, the traditional sacred fire will be lit and an effigy of Holika burnt.
- When: March 9, 2020.
- Where: City Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan
Holi is commonly referred to as the "Festival of Colors." People exuberantly throw colored powder and water all over each other, have parties, and dance under water sprinklers. Bhang (a paste made from cannabis plants) is also traditionally consumed during the celebrations. Holi is a very carefree festival that's great fun to participate in if you don’t mind getting wet and dirty. Find out the best ways and places to celebrate Holi in India.
- When: March 10, 2020.
- Where: All over India, particularly in the north. Celebrations in the south have a more religious focus.
Goa's biggest spring festival, Shigmo, is the state's version of Holi. It's a Hindu festival that's filled with bright decorations, parades, singing, dancing, and colors. One traditional dance that's often performed is the Ghode Modni martial arts horse dance.
- When: March 10-25, 2020.
- Where: All over Goa. Street parades start in Ponda and follow to other towns. They feature floats depicting Ramayana and Mahabharata scenes, drums, and folk dancing. Cultural programs are also held in Panjim. Celebrations are more authentic in rural areas. Expect plenty of authentic Goan cuisine and feni (the local alcoholic drink).
For an unusual tribal experience, head to the Kavant Fair. This rural harvest festival is a gathering of the Rathva tribe, who dress up as gods and demons from Hindu mythology and dance wildly to the beat of drunken drumming to celebrate the joy of life. The festival takes place a few days after Holi each year. Rural Pleasure conducts a guided tour to the fair from Vadodara.
- When: March 13, 2020.
- Where: Kavant village, near Chhota Udepur about two hours east of Vadodara.
If you're interested in a traditional tribal festival off the beaten track, don't miss the Myoko festival of the Apatani Tribe. It includes rituals for prosperity, fertility, purification and sacrifice performed by the village shaman or priest, and many interesting cultural elements such as folk performances and processions.
- When: March 20-30, 2020. The most interesting days for visitors are the second, third, and fourth days.
- Where: Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh.
Patayani is a type of ancient ritual folk art form that is performed to appease goddesses at Bhadrakali temples in central Kerala. It features traditional percussionists, masked dances, and mythological characters. A highlight at this festival is the Bhairavi kolam, an arrangement made from 1001 painted areca nut fronds. The most interesting activities happen on the last day.
- When: March 22 to April 1, 2020.
- Where: Sree Puthukulangara Devi Temple, Othara, Pathanamthitta district, Kerala.
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: March 23, 2020.
- 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.
The 10-day Thirunakkara Arattu is another of Kerala's famous temple festivals. As is the norm with these festivals, the highlight on the last day is a procession of decorated elephants. Accompanied by drummers and other performers, they carry the temple god to be bathed. Other attractions of the festival are traditional Kathakali dancers, which perform throughout the night on the third and fourth days of the festival, and folk arts such as the Mayilattom (peacock dance) in the temple compound.
- When: March 23, 2020.
- Where: Thirunakkara Mahadeva Temple, Kottayam district, Kerala.
Gudi Padwa Shoba Yatra
Gudi Padwa, the Maharashtrian New Year, sees huge parades taking place across Mumbai. The biggest one happens in the morning at Girgaum, in south Mumbai. Locals turn out wearing their finest traditional clothing, many dressed to reflect the reign of great warrior Chhatrapati Shivaji. The parade also features sari-clad women riding motorbikes, and more than 50 floats depicting the culture of the state.
- When: March 25, 2020.
- Where: Mumbai, Maharashtra.
- Read More: Complete Guide to Visiting Mumbai.
In contrast to many of Kerala's temple festivals where the focus is on elephants, the Attuvela Mahotsavam is a delightful water carnival. During the festival, a procession of warmly illuminated canoes carry huge temple replicas through the water towards the temple. They're accompanied by lots of colorfully decorated small canoes and temple percussion music.
- When: March 26-27, 2020.
- Where: Elankavu Sree Bhagavathy temple, Vadayar, Kottayam district, Kerala.
This is a festival you won't forget in a hurry! Thousands of sword-wielding oracles, both male and female, swarm the temple premises. The oracles run in around a trance and proclaim their communion with the Mother Goddess. Meanwhile. devotees strike the temple rafters with sticks and hurl offerings over the roof and onto the quadrangle. It's one of the quirkiest festivals in India.
- When: March 26-28, 2020.
- Where: Kodungalloor Bhagavathy temple, Kodungalloor, Thrissur district, Kerala.
At this temple festival, decorated structures are carried in procession accompanied by a traditional orchestra of drums. Some of the structures are 70 feet and 80 feet tall. They're competitively made by people of the surrounding villages. The structures are either carried on people's shoulders or taken out on chariots.
- When: March 27, 2020.
- Where: Poruvazhi Malanada temple, Adoor, Pathanamthitta district, Kerala.
One of the most important festivals in Rajasthan, Gangaur is all about honoring the goddess Gauri. A manifestation of Parvati (Lord Shiva's wife), she represents purity and austerity. This festival is predominantly for women. Colorful processions of bejeweled images of the goddess Gauri wind their way all over cities and villages, accompanied by local bands.
At Gangaur Ghat, on the banks of Lake Pichola in Udaipur, images of goddess Gauri are transferred onto boats amidst much singing and and taken out onto the lake. The festival continues with more singing, dancing, and cultural programs and finishes off with a huge display of fireworks. It's a fantastic opportunity to see a range of traditional musical instruments being played.
- When: March 27-29, 2020.
- Where: Udaipur, Rajasthan.
Organized by Rajasthan Tourism to celebrate the state's foundation day, this festival is packed with cultural events for all age groups from morning until night. This includes chanting, folk dance, musical performances, film screenings, and fashion shows.
- When: March 27-30, 2020.
- Where: Various venues in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
This 10-day festival, celebrated by the royal family of Travencore (a former princely state in south Kerala), sees towering fiberglass statues of the Pandavas (the five sons of Pandu in the Hindu epic the Mahabharata) placed at the eastern entrance to the temple to please the Rain God, Indra. On the last day, the male members of the royal family take the idols in procession to be immersed at Sanghumugham beach.
- When: March 30 to April 8, 2020.
- Where: Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Trivandrum, Kerala.
See newly hatched, endangered Olive Ridley turtles take their amazing march into the sea at the annual Turtle Festival. As well as this, you'll get to sample traditional Indian village life by stopping over at local homestays in the area (dormitory rooms only).
- When: From early March to May (refer to the website for the best times and dates, as it depends on nesting).
- Where: Velas village, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.