If you don't mind the summer heat, you'll be able to enjoy some big festivals in India in May. Fortunately, many of them take place in the hills, where it's not too hot. Here's the best of what's on in May 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.
The holy Muslim month of Ramadan is a fantastic opportunity to feast on fresh street food. During Ramadan, Muslims traditionally fast daily from sunrise until sunset. In the evenings, the streets in traditional Muslim areas are flooded with people and the tantalizing aroma of meat being freshly roasted to feed the famished. The revelry continues all night. Ramadan concludes with the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, with more feasting and shopping.
Celebrated by the Ao tribe of Nagaland, the Moatsu Festival is a time of great rejoicing as the planting season comes to an end. All activities are associated with the harvest. You can expect a lot of singing, dancing, and merry-making at this festival. The main event is Sangpangtu. Men and women dress up in their best attire and sit around a fire, eating meat and wine. See more North East India Festivals.
- When: First week of May each year.
- Where: Mokokchung district villages (particularly Chuchuyimlang village), Nagaland.
- Read More: Exploring Nagaland: Villages, Homestays and Men in the Kitchen.
India's first international yoga, Ayurveda and wellness expo features a wide variety of practitioners and natural products such as organic food and clothing, and herbal cosmetics. There will be 150 exhibitors and speakers from 20 countries. Attractions include workshops, seminars, interactive activities, health consultations, and astrology consultations. The festival is back for the fourth year this year.
- When: May 7-9, 2021.
- Where: Pragati Maidan, Delhi.
The three-day Dhungri Mela takes place in honor of Goddess Hadimba's birthday in Manali. She was the wife of Bhima, one of the five Pandavas brothers from the great Hindu epic the Mahabharata. Her temple is one of the most important ones in the region, and gods and goddesses from surrounding villages are carried in procession to attend the celebrations. A fairground is set up with stalls and carnival rides as well. The festival involves much singing and dancing, including performances of the Kullu Natti folk dance. It provides an interesting glimpse of local culture.
Ooty is a popular hill station in Tamil Nadu. Every May, it comes alive with the Summer Festival. The top events are the Spice Show at Gudalur, Vegetable Show at Nehru Park in Kotagiri, Rose Show at the Government Rose Garden, Fruit Show at Sim's Park in Coonoor and the famous Flower Show at Ooty Botanical Gardens. There will also be a night bazaar on Commercial Road. To get to Ooty, take the Nilgiri Mountain Railway toy train.
- When: Mid May. Dates to be announced.
- Where: Ooty and surrounding areas, Tamil Nadu.
- Read More: 19 Top Tamil Nadu Tourist Places.
This grand finale of summer temple festivals in Kerala's Palakkad-Thrissur region is a scaled down version of the famous Thrissur Pooram. Two local groups lead the celebrations and compete with each other to stage the most impressive procession towards the temple, accompanied by decorated elephants and traditional musicians. There are also fire works and cultural performances.
- When: May 24, 2021.
- Where: Sree Kurumba Temple, Kannambra, Kerala.
Buddha Jayanti, also known as Buddha Purnima, celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha. It's the most sacred Buddhist festival. Activities include prayer meets, sermons and religious discourses, recitation of Buddhist scriptures, group meditation, processions, and worship of the statue of Buddha. Indian Railways runs a special Mahaparinirvan Express Buddhist Tourist Train that visits all Buddhist pilgrimage places in India.
Saga Dawa is the fourth month of Tibetan lunar calendar and the holiest month for Tibetan Buddhists. The most important celebration falls on the full moon day of the month, when the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha is honored (Buddha Purnima). In Gangtok, a procession of monks carries the holy book from Tsuklakhang Palace Monastery around town. It's accompanied by the blowing of horns, beating of drums, and burning of incense. Colorful masked dances also take place at Rumtek Monastery.
Mount Abu Summer Festival
The Mount Abu Summer Festival kicks off with ballad singing, followed by regional folk dancing. The festival also offers sports such as boat racing on Nakki Lake, and a roller skating race. It concludes with a fireworks display. The highlight of the festival is the Sham-e-Qawwali musical show, which features some of the most renowned qawwalis from various parts of India.
- When: May 29-30, 2021. To be confirmed.
- Where: Mount Abu, Rajasthan.
- Read More: Top 10 Things to Do in Mount Abu.
The annual 28 day Kottiyoor festival takes place at two temples -- Akkare Kottiyoor and Ikkare Kottiyoor -- on opposite sides of the Bavali River and surrounded by dense forest. The Akkare Kottiyoor temple is only open during the festival. There's no formal structure. Rather the idol of the deity, a swayambhoo lingam (self-created idol of Lord Shiva), is seated on the ground and formed by a small heap of stones called manithara. The Neyyattam ritual on the first day and the Thirukalasattu ritual on the last day attract the most spectators and devotees.
- When: May 25 to June 20, 2021.
- Where: Kottiyoor, Kannur district, Kerala.