Some of the biggest religious festivals in India take place during September, as the festival season is in full swing. The colorful spectacle is captivating. Here's the best of what's on in September in India (in date order).
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The festival of Krishna Janmashtami, also known as Govinda, commemorates the birthday of Lord Krishna. In Mumbai, on the second day, an extremely fun part of the festival involves people climbing on each other and forming a human pyramid to try and reach and break open clay pots filled with curd, which have been strung up high from buildings.
- When: September 2-3, 2018.
- Where: Throughout India. One of the best places to experience the festival is in the city of Mumbai. Celebrations take place at hundreds of locations throughout the city. The huge ISKCON temple complex, in the beach side suburb of Juhu, also runs a special cultural program. The most elaborate rituals are performed at Mathura in northern India, where Lord Krishna was born and spent his childhood.
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The Gogamedi Fair is a traditional Rajasthani cattle and handicraft fair. It's held to pay tribute to regional hero Gogaji, believed to be a snake God. One of the big attractions of the fair is the rustic singing and dancing. It starts on Goga Navami, the ninth day of the Krishna Paksha (waning phase of moon) in the Hindu month Bhadrapad, and goes for three days.
- When: September 4-6, 2018.
- Where: Ganganagar, on the northern Rajasthan border.
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This unusual temple festival extends for 16 nights of folk rituals, and sees gods and goddesses descend from the heavens. It culminates in a procession of huge effigies of swans (some of which are more than 40 feet tall) and other mythological characters. They are offered to the temple goddess by devotees to get their wishes fulfilled.
- When: September 9, 2018.
- Where: Palli Bhagavathi temple, Neelamperoor, Alleppey district, Kerala.
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This annual two-day festival is held to promote rural tourism. It features cultural performances from a number of states across India, Rajasthani song and dance, puppet shows, camel cart rides, and a fairground. The events take place against the evocative backdrops of the Harshat Mata Temple and ancient Chand Baori (step well).
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- When: September 10-13, 2018.
- Where: Abhaneri village, Rajasthan (on the Agra-Jaipur Road).
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The spectacular 11 day 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 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.
- When: September 13-23, 2018.
- Where: Mostly in the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. One of the best places to experience the festival is in the city of Mumbai.
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The Naropa Festival is dedicated to celebrating the life of Indian Scholar-Saint Naropa, who lived from 1016 to 1100 and whose teachings are considered to be the core tenets of Buddhism. The festival is likened to the Buddhist Kumbh Mela of the Himalayas. It features some rare cultural events that are believed to grant spiritual liberation upon sight. This includes the unfurling of the largest silk embroidery of Buddha Amitabha. Its height extends for several stories and it's only displayed to the public during the festival. A holy set of ancient Buddhist relics will also be on display. Other highlights include talks and discussions, a traditional Ladakhi archery competition, fashion parade, Bollywood music concert, and local folk dance performances.
- When: September 16-20, 2018.
- Where: Hemis Monastery, near Leh, Ladakh.
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28th Onam Kala Kettu Festival
This unusual harvest thanksgiving festival in Kerala sees gigantic idols of bulls, made out of straw and cloth by locals, pulled on wheels to the temple. The procession is known as Kala Kettu, and there are about 100 such bulls in it from surrounding villages. They're believed to be Nandhikesha, the vehicle of the temple deity Parabrahmam (the highest Brahman). There's a competition for the biggest and best one, which can cost 50 lakh rupees ($75,000) to make! The festival takes place on the 28th day after the first day of Onam.
- When: September 21, 2018.
- Where: Parabrahma temple, Ochira, Kerala. It's about an hour north of Kollam and about an hour south of Alleppey.
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Muharram Festival and Taziya Procession
The Muharram festival is a Muslim festival that commemorates the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Holy Prophet. It takes place during the first month of the Islamic calendar. On the tenth and last day of the festival, known as Ashura, Sunni Muslims take taziyas (coffins of the dead, and in this case replicas of Imam Hussain’s shrine) out in procession during the evening.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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The world's oldest Ramlila, which reenacts the story of the Hindu epic the Ramayana, has been running for nearly 200 years. It commences with the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Rama, to save humanity from demon king Ravana. The Ramilia takes place over a month every year from Anant Chaturdashi and ends on the full moon night.
- When: September 23-October 24, 2018.
- Where: Ramnagar, on the banks of the Ganges River opposite Varanasi.
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The Ladakh Festival is a cultural extravaganza and showcase event for the region, which was created to extend the tourist season. It has plenty to offer visitors including polo-match, music concerts, mask dances from the monasteries, archery, river rafting, and folk performances. Hotel and local transport discounts are available for the duration of the festival.
- When: Third week of September (exact dates to be announced).
- Where: Leh and surrounding villages.
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A renowned outdoor music festival in one of India's most remote and picturesque locations (think lush paddy fields and pine clad mountains), Ziro features a combination of 30 indie bands from across the world and top folk acts from across northeast India. Camping facilities are provided. Kite Manja has the happiest campsite there!
- When: September 27-30, 2018.
- Where: Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh.
- Guide to North East India States and Places to Visit
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Into its sixth year this year, the Pune International Literary Festival is another opportunity to interact with authors in India. More than 100 acclaimed authors and creative personalities from India and abroad will speak at the festival, which also includes panel discussions, workshops and book launches.
- When: September 28-30, 2018.
- Where: Pune, about 3 hours from Mumbai in Maharashtra.