8 Most Popular Festivals in India

Festivals for Experiencing Indian Culture at its Best

Being a highly spiritual country, festivals are at the heart of people’s lives in India. The numerous and varied festivals that are held throughout the year offer a unique way of seeing Indian culture at its best. Don't miss these following popular festivals in India.

  • 01 of 08

    Diwali

    Four women take part in a diwali celebration.
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    Diwali honors the victory of good over evil and brightness over darkness. It celebrates Lord Ram and his wife Sita returning to their kingdom of Ayodhya. This follows Ram's and monkey god Hanuman's defeat of the demon King Ravana, and rescue of Sita from his evil clutches. It's known as the "Festival of Lights" for all the fireworks, small clay lamps, and candles that are lit. For most Indian families, Diwali is the biggest and most anticipated festival of the year.

  • 02 of 08

    Ganesh Chaturthi

    Ganesh festival in Mumbai.
    ••• Ganesh festival in Mumbai. Sharell Cook

    The spectacular Ganesh Chaturthi festival honors the birth of the beloved Hindu elephant-headed god, Lord Ganesha. The start of the festival sees huge, elaborately crafted statutes of Ganesha installed in homes and public podiums, which have been especially constructed and beautifully decorated. At the end of the festival, the statutes are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, and then submerged in the ocean. The best place to experience it is in Mumbai.

  • 03 of 08

    Holi

    Women dance during the colorful festival of holi
    ••• Ferrantraite/Getty Images

    Holi also celebrates the victory of good over evil, as well as the abundance of the spring harvest season. It's 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.

  • 04 of 08

    Navaratri, Dussehra, and Durga Puja

    A Durga idol
    ••• Tapas Biswas Photography/Getty Images

    The first nine days of this festival are known as Navaratri, and are filled with dance in honor of the Mother Goddess. The tenth day, called Dussehra, is devoted to celebrating the defeat of the demon king Ravana by Lord Ram. It also coincides with revered warrior Goddess Durga's victory over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. In eastern India, the festival is observed as Durga Puja. It's the biggest festival of the year in Kolkata. Huge statues of the Goddess are made and immersed in the river there. In Delhi, nightly plays are held around the Red Fort, recounting episodes from the life of Lord Ram.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Onam

    Three women decorate during Onam
    ••• Visage/Getty Images

    Onam is the biggest festival of the year in Kerala. This lengthy 10-day harvest festival marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali. It’s a festival rich in culture and heritage. People strikingly decorate the ground in front of their houses with flowers arranged in beautiful patterns to welcome the King. The festival is also celebrated with new clothes, feasts served on banana leaves, dancing, sports, games, and snake boat races.

  • 06 of 08

    Krishna Janmashtami (Govinda)

    Human Pyramid trying to break dahi handi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
    ••• Human Pyramid trying to break dahi handi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. Dinodia Photo/Getty Images

    Krishna Janmashtami, also known as Govinda, commemorates the birthday of Lord Krishna. An extremely fun part of the festival involves teams of guys climbing on each other to form a human pyramid to try and reach and break open clay pots filled with curd, which have been strung up high from buildings. This activity, called Dahi Handi, falls on the second day. It's best experienced in Mumbai.

  • 07 of 08

    Pushkar Camel Fair

    Camel at the Pushkar Fair.
    ••• Camel at the Pushkar Fair. Mlenny Photography/Getty Images.

    An astonishing number of camels converge on the tiny desert town of Pushkar, in India's state of Rajasthan, for the Pushkar Camel Fair. The camels are dressed up, paraded, shaved, entered into beauty contests, raced, and of course traded. It's a great opportunity to witness an old, traditional style Indian festival.

  • 08 of 08
    Kerala temple festival.
    ••• Andrea Booher/Getty Images

    The south Indian state of Kerala is filled with temples that are renowned for their exotic temple festivals. The large processions of elephants, resplendent in ornaments, are the main attractions of these festivals. The processions are accompanied by colorful floats, drummers and other musicians.

    • Dates: Throughout Kerala, from January until May each year.