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. Of course Holi is celebrated across India in March too! Here's the best March festivals in India (listed by date).
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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 royal band. Later the traditional sacred fire will be lit and an effigy of Holika burnt.
For passes contact Mr. Adityaveer Singh Ranawat
- When: March 1, 2018.
- Where: City Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan
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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 1, 2018.
- Where: Chinakkathoor Bhagavathi Temple, Palappuram, Palakkad district, Kerala.
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This special four-day destination festival has been curated to showcase and celebrate the essence of Bharat (India). It will feature the best live Indian music, literature, debate, celebrity discussions, yoga and meditation, Ayurveda, healthy food, and a Holi party with organic colors. Tickets are available here.
- When: March 1-4, 2018.
- Where: Tijara Fort Palace, Alwar, Rajasthan.
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The International Yoga Festival is a must for anyone interested in yoga! With more than 400 people from over 30 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 the Yoga Aid Challenge charity fundraiser. More information and a detailed festival program is available on the website.
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- When: March 1-7, 2018.
- Where: Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand.
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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.
- When: March 2, 2018.
- Where: All over India, particularly in the north. Celebrations in the south have a more religious focus.
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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 Friday of March every year. March 2, 2018.
- Where: Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram in northeast India. Also in Lunglei and Saiha.
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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 2, 2018.
- Where: Attukal Bhagavathi Temple, Trivandrum, Kerala.
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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.
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- When: March 3-17, 2018.
- 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).
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One of Kerala's most impressive temple festivals, the Paripally Gajamela features around 50 richly decorated elephants. They form part of a ritual offering to the temple goddess, by temple devotees, for prosperity.
- When: March 4, 2018.
- Where: Paripally Kodimootil Sree Bhadrakaali Temple, around an hour north of Trivandrum in the Kollam district of Kerala.
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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 couple of days after Holi each year.
- When: March 4, 2018.
- Where: Kavant village, about 1.5 hours from Vadodara (Baroda) in Gujarat.
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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 March 10, 2018 (refer to website for best times and dates, as it depends on nesting).
- Where: Velas village, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.
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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.
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- When: March 18, 2018.
- Where: Mumbai, Maharashtra.
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Karni Mata Festival
The famous 600 year-old Karni Mata temple is home to thousands of rats, which are considered to be sacred. The temple is dedicated to an ancient mystic who's believed to have been a reincarnation of the Goddess Durga, and the souls of Karni Mata's devotees are said to reside in the rats. Twice a year, during Navaratri, devotees come to the temple to worship the goddess. Food is offered to her, and it's considered most auspicious to eat what the rats have salivated over. Even better, let them run over your feet for added good luck!
- When: March 18-26, 2018.
- Where: Karni Mata temple, Deshnok village, around 45 minutes south of Bikaner in Rajasthan.
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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.
- When: March 20-21, 2018.
- Where: All over Rajasthan, however the festivities in Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, and Nathdwara are the most notable.
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The Mewar Festival welcomes the arrival of spring. At Gangaur Ghat on the banks of Lake Pichola in Udaipur, images of goddess Gauri are transferred onto boats amidst much singing and celebrating, and taken out onto the Lake. The festival continues with a plenty of 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 20-22, 2018.
- Where: Udaipur, Rajasthan.
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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.
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- When: March 20-21, 2018.
- Where: Elankavu Sree Bhagavathy Temple, Vadayar, Kottayam District, Kerala.
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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 20-21, 2018.
- Where: Kodungalloor Bhagavathy Temple, Kodungalloor, Thrissur district, Kerala.
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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, 2018. The most interesting days for visitors are the second, third, and fourth days.
- Where: Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh.
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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 23, 2018.
- Where: Poruvazhi Malanada Temple, Adoor, Pathanamthitta district, Kerala.
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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.
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- When: March 23-31, 2018.
- Where: Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Trivandrum, Kerala.
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The 10 day Thirunakkara Arattu is another of Kerala's famous temple festivals. As is the norm with these festivals, the highlight is a procession of decorated elephants. Accompanied by drummers and other performers, they carry the temple god to be bathed. Nine elephants usually participate in the Thirunakkara Arattu. 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 24, 2018.
- Where: Thirunakkara Mahadeva Temple, Kottayam district, Kerala.
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The festival of Ram Navami marks the birthday of Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It's celebrated in a religious manner all over India.
- When: March 25, 2018.
- Where: Religious celebrations and processions take place at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, Bhadrachalam in Andhra Pradesh (there's a popular ceremonial wedding of Ram and Sita), and Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.
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Yet another Kerala temple festival, the Arattupuzha Pooram is a particularly large elephant pageant featuring around 60 elephants bearing brightly colored silk parasols. It's one of the oldest temple festivals in Kerala. Legend has it that on the day of the festival, 101 gods and goddesses from the neighboring villages visited Sree Ayyappan, the presiding deity of the Arattupuzha Temple.
- When: March 29, 2018.
- Where: Arattupuzha Temple, in the Thrissur district of Kerala.