May 2021 India Festivals and Events Guide

What's On in India in May

Gods at Hadimba temple festival, Manali.


cococinema / Getty Images

 

May lands smack dab in the middle of summer in India, making it one of the hotter months to travel to this destination. Still, if you don't mind the summer heat, tourist crowds will be low and traditional festivals are held all month long, some worth planning your vacation around. Ramadan offers a look into the culturally rich Muslim religion, and the Ooty Summer Festival celebrates India's treasures, like fruit, spices, and flowers. Many of the events take place in rural hillside villages, where it's not too hot, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the Indian lifestyle without getting too far out of your comfort zone.

Many celebrations may be curtailed or canceled in 2021. Please check with event organizers or local governments for the most up-to-date information before traveling.

01 of 10

Ramadan

Muslims break their Ramadan fasting at Khatri Masjid in Pydhonie, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
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The holy Muslim month of Ramadan offers a fantastic opportunity to feast on fresh street food. During Ramadan, Muslims traditionally fast daily, from sunrise until sunset. But in the evenings, the streets come alive with people and the tantalizing aroma of freshly-roasted meat to feed the famished. The revelry continues all night long. Ramadan concludes on May 12 with Eid-ul-Fitr (the "Festival of Breaking the Fast"), complete with food, crafts, and fireworks.

  • When: April 12 to May 12, 2021
  • Where: Mumbai and Delhi celebrate Ramadan extensively, as well as Lucknow and Hyderabad
02 of 10

Moatsu Festival

Tribes in Nagaland.
Hira Punjabi/Getty Images.

Celebrated by the Ao tribe of Nagaland, the Moatsu Festival is a time of great rejoicing, as sowing season comes to an end. All activities revolve around the harvest where men compete to make the best rice beer and to rear the fattest livestock, while the women use their skills to make garments and fine art. At the featured event, Sangpangtu, the men and women dress up in their best handmade attire, sit around a fire, eat the meat that was raised, drink wine, and compose warrior love songs.

03 of 10

The Yoga Shala Expo

Yoga and meditation.
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India's first international yoga, Ayurveda, and wellness expo features a wide variety of practitioners and natural products, like organic food and clothing and herbal cosmetics. Over 25 wellness and mindfulness professionals from 20 countries will speak on various health topics. Offerings include workshops, seminars, interactive activities, health consultations, and astrology readings. A live painting contest will take place on May 7 and 8 where the works of three artists will be selected based on composition, application, and aesthetic appeal.

  • When: May 7 through 9, 2021
  • Where: Pragati Maidan, Delhi
04 of 10

Dhungri Mela

Gods and goddessees at Hadimba temple.
Sharell Cook.

The three-day Dhungri Mela festival takes place on the birthday of Goddess Hadimba, the wife of Bhima, one of the five Pandavas brothers from the great Hindu epic, Mahabharata. On this day, the idols of gods and goddesses from surrounding villages are carried in on procession to Hadimba's ancient cave temple at the foot of the Himalayas. A fairground is set up with stalls and carnival rides, and the festival includes singing and performances of the Kullu Natti folk dance.

  • When: May 14 through 16
  • Where: Hadimba Temple, Manali, Himachal Pradesh
Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

Ooty Summer Festival

Ooty, Tamil Nadu.
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Ooty is a popular hill station (a high-altitude town used for recreation in India) located in Tamil Nadu. Every May, it comes alive with a festival celebrating the lifestyle and culture of hillside villages. The flower and spice show are the featured events of this festival organized by the Tourism Department of Tamil Nadu. You can also enjoy a vegetable and fruit show, alongside boat races that take place on Ooty Lake, and a night bazaar on Commercial Road. To get there, take the Nilgiri Mountain Railway toy train from Mettupalyam.

  • When: Mid May (dates TBD)
  • Where: Ooty and surrounding areas, Tamil Nadu
06 of 10

Kannambra Vela

Musicians at Kerala temple festival.

ajijchan/Getty Images

This grand finale of summer temple festivals in Kerala's Palakkad-Thrissur region is a scaled-down version of the famous Thrissur Pooram (an annual temple festival held on the day when the moon rises with the Pooram star). Two local groups lead the celebrations and compete with each other to stage the most impressive procession towards the temple, indicating the arrival of the Goddess. An elephant pageantry, complete with decorated elephants and traditional musicians, marks the highlight of this festival. Fireworks and cultural performances kick off at noon.

  • When: May 24, 2021
  • Where: Sree Kurumba Temple, Kannambra, Kerala.
07 of 10

Buddha Purnima and Buddha Jayanti

Buddha statue at Mahabodhi temple.
Dinodia Photo/Getty Images

Buddha Jayanti, also known as Buddha Purnima, celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Lord Buddha. This most sacred Buddhist festival includes prayer meetings, sermons and religious discourses, recitation of Buddhist scriptures, group meditation, processions, and the worshipping of a statue of Buddha. To get there, Indian Railways runs the Mahaparinirvan Express, a Buddhist tourist train that visits all Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India.

  • When: May 26, 2021
  • Where: Various Buddhist sites across India, particularly Bodhgaya. The festival is also celebrated in Buddha Jayanti Park, Delhi.
08 of 10

Saga Dawa

Saga Dawa at Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim.
Satyaki Basu / Getty Images.

Saga Dawa is celebrated on the fourth month of the Tibetan lunar calendar and the holiest month for Tibetan Buddhists. The most important festivities fall on the full moon when the birth, enlightenment, and death of Lord Buddha are honored (Buddha Purnima). In Gangtok, a procession of monks carries the holy book from Tsuklakhang Palace Monastery around town. The procession includes the blowing of horns, beating of drums, and burning of incense. Colorful masked dances also take place at Rumtek Monastery.

  • When: May 26, 2021
  • Where: Gangtok, and other monasteries throughout Sikkim and Darjeeling
Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Mount Abu Summer Festival

Woman in traditional dress at Mount Abu.
Keren Su/Getty Images

The Mount Abu Summer Festival, a celebration of the local hill station's culture, kicks off with ballad singing, followed by regional folk dancing. Competitors engage in sporting events, like boat races on Nakki Lake, camel and horse races, tug of war, and a roller-skating race. The highlight of the festival is the Sham-e-Qawwali musical show, featuring some of the most renowned qawwalis from various parts of India. A fireworks display marks the conclusion of festivities.

  • When: May 29 to 30 (TBD)
  • Where: Mount Abu, Rajasthan.
10 of 10

Kottiyoor Utsavam

Kottiyoor Utsavam
Kerala Tourism.

The annual 27-day Kottiyoor pilgrimage commences at two temples and honors the Mythology of Daksha Yaga. The temples, Akkare Kottiyoor and Ikkare Kottiyoor, sit on opposite sides of the raging Bavali River, surrounded by dense forest. Both temples are only open to the public during the festival in which an idol of the deity, swayambhoo lingam (a self-created idol of Lord Shiva), is seated on a platform of river stones and worshipped. Fresh coconut is offered, and the water is poured on the deity by the head priest.

  • When: May 25 to June 20
  • Where: Kottiyoor, Kannur district, Kerala
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