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 (listed by date for 2020).
Do note than many celebrations have been curtailed or canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The spectacular 10-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 specially constructed and beautifully decorated. At the end of the festival, the statues are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, and then submerged in nearby rivers.
- When: August 22 to September 1, 2020. (The festival is going ahead in a subdued manner without elaborate decorations and public processions).
- 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.
This 10-day classical music and dance festival is held during the Ganesh festival every year, in honor of the erstwhile king and musician Chakradhar Singh of Chhattisgarh's cultural capital. He wrote many books on music and dance, as well as developed a new form of Kathak dance. Talented artists from all over India come to perform at the festival. There's also a sound and light show.
- When: August 22 to September 1, 2020. (Performances can be viewed online only).
- Where: Raigarh, Chhattisgarh.
The biggest festival of the year in Kerala, Onam is a traditional 10-day harvest festival that marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali. People 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. These pictures of Onam show the festival's splendor. Read more about Onam festival attractions and what to see.
- When: August 22 to September 2, 2020. The main day is August 31. (Public celebrations are prohibited. Shops and restaurants are allowed to open but social distancing norms must be followed).
- Where: Kerala.
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 traditionally takes place for 31 days, from Anant Chaturdashi and ending on the full moon night.
- When: September 1 to October 2, 2020. (To be confirmed).
- Where: Ramnagar, on the banks of the Ganges River opposite Varanasi.
The Payippad Boat Race is one of the oldest snake boat races in Kerala and has the largest participation after the important Nehru Trophy boat race in August. It's held to commemorate the installation of the idol at the local Subrahmanya Swamy temple. Read more about snake boat races in Kerala.
- When: September 2, 2020. (Canceled).
- Where: Along the Payippad River at Haripad in Kerala's Alleppey district.
Hundreds of grown men dressed up as tigers and dancing to the beat of traditional percussion instruments are an unexpected feature of Onam celebrations. Although this display of the art of Pulikali may be one of the quirkiest festivals in India, it's actually very serious business!
- When: September 3, 2020. (Canceled).
- Where: Swaraj Round in Thrissur, Kerala.
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 17, 2020. (No public celebrations).
- Where: Palli Bhagavathi Temple, Neelamperoor, Alappuzha district, Kerala.
The annual two-day Abhaneri Festival is held to promote rural tourism in Rajasthan. 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).
- When: September 17-19, 2020. (Canceled).
- Where: Abhaneri village, Rajasthan (on the Agra-Jaipur Road).
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-matches, music concerts, mask dances from the monasteries, archery, river rafting, photo exhibitions, and folk performances. Hotel and local transport discounts are available for the duration of the festival.
- When: September 25-28, 2020. (Canceled).
- Where: Leh and surrounding villages.
Into its eighth 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: Postponed. Dates to be announced.
- Where: Pune, about three hours from Mumbai in Maharashtra.
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: Postponed. Dates to be announced.
- Where: Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh.