We typically think of spring bringing with it a sense of rejuvenation and coming back to life after the winter. However, in the vast nation of India, where the climate has only three main seasons (winter, summer, and monsoon), spring is largely based on Vedic astrology and a season on the Hindu calendar rather than a change in weather. Hence, many of the spring festivals in India have religious reasons behind them, and others have agricultural significance.
In accordance with the Hindu calendar, spring in India runs from around mid-February to mid-April and is known as Vasant (or Basant). The vernal equinox on March 20 or 21, which marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, occurs midway through Vasant. During this time of year, Sikhs also celebrate the start of a new year, and many cultures commemorate the end of their spring harvests with rituals and festivities.
These popular spring festivals all provide unique experiences for appreciating Indian culture, including the country's lesser-known tribal cultures, and are great reasons to visit India at this time of the year.
Vasant, or Basant, Panchami, marks the beginning of spring on the Hindu calendar and is considered an auspicious day for new beginnings such as starting a new business, getting married, holding a housewarming ceremony, or other important work. It's celebrated across India in various ways depending on the region. Yellow, which represents the brilliance of nature, widely features in the festivities. In the agricultural state of Punjab in northern India, people dress in yellow to match the yellow mustard fields in full bloom. Goddess Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge and the arts, is also worshiped on this day.
Vasant Panchami is on February 16, 2021.
The doors of the magnificent 15-acre Mughal Gardens at the President of India's residence, Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi, are thrown open to the public for a month each year. Hundreds of varieties of flowers and trees are on display, including roses, tulips, and bougainvillea. Guests can also visit special themed gardens such as the Spiritual Garden, Herbal Garden, Bonsai Garden, and Musical Garden.
The Mughal Gardens is open from February 13 to March 21, 2021.
Khajuraho Dance Festival
The Khajuraho monuments are a series of historic temples located in Madhya Pradesh state, and this renowned festival allows visitors to see displays of a range of classical dance styles that are found all over India. The festival is held for a week in late February every year against the backdrop of the temples.
The Khajuraho Dance Festival takes place from February 20 to 26, 2021.
The arrival of spring in the state of Goa is marked by the Goa Carnival, which the Portuguese started in the 18th century as a local feast just before Lent. It's now the state's most famous event, with colorful street parades and a formal ball. It is the only place where you can find a carnival celebration in India, with four cities—Panaji, Margao, Vasco, and Mapusa—hosting the main parades.
The Goa Carnival is from February 13 to 16, 2021.
In Mizoram, in Northeast India, the popular spring festival of Chapchar Kut celebrates the completion of bamboo harvesting. The festival features a skillful bamboo dance, called Cheraw, that's performed by women to the accompanying beat of bamboo sticks. Other attractions include various styles of tribal dance, traditional costumes, and a fair with handicrafts and food.
Chapchar Kut takes place during the first week of March each year after the harvest is complete.
This festival is one of the best known outside of India, and it is often referred to as the Festival of Colors. People celebrate by joyously throwing colored powder on each other and squirting each other with water guns. At the end of the day, everyone is covered in a brightly colored mixture. These fun activities are related to Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colors. The festival is also centered around the story of demoness Holika, who was burned to death with the help of Lord Vishnu.
Holi takes place from March 28 to 29, 2021.
Kavant Gher Fair
The Kavant, or Kawant, Gher Festival is a rural harvest festival in Gujarat is a gathering of the Rathva tribe, who dress up as gods and demons from Hindu mythology and dance wildly to the beat of drunken drumming to celebrate the joy of life. The festival takes place a few days after Holi each year.
The Kavant Gher Festival is on March 31, 2021.
Shigmo, or Shishirotsava, Goa's biggest spring festival, starts the day after Holi and concludes on Gudi Padwa (the first day of the Hindu new year in the state). It's a two-week Hindu festival that's filled with pretty decorations, parades, singing, and dancing. The parades happen on different dates in various places in Goa. One traditional dance that's widely performed is the Ghode Modni martial arts horse dance. Folk dances are also held in remote Goan villages at night.
Shigmo takes place from March 30 to April 13, 2021.
The fascinating annual springtime festival of the Apatani tribe in the Ziro district of Arunachal Pradesh is conducted for purification, prosperity, and fertility. It has many cultural elements such as folk performances, processions, and rituals carried out by the village shaman (priest). Each of the eight Atapani villages takes turns hosting the festival. Some festival traditions, like the slaughtering of pigs, may be hard for some to watch. During the festival, local homes are kept open and guests are welcome inside for food and rice beer.
The Myoko Festival is from March 20 to 30 every year.
Nenmara Vallangi Vela
This Kerala temple festival is held after the paddy harvest at Nellikulangara Bhagavathy temple, in the state's Palakkad district. It features two neighboring villages competing with each other to put on the best display of traditional art forms and percussion music performances.
The Kerala Festival is on April 3, 2021.
One of two annual Navratri festivals in India, Vasant Navratri, or Chaitra Navratri, starts on the first day of the Hindu lunisolar calendar (on the new moon following the equinox) and is known as the holy nine nights of spring. The festival is mainly celebrated in northern India. Different forms of Shakti (female energy) are worshiped for each day to seek the blessings of the divine mother goddess. The birthday of Lord Rama sometimes falls on the last day.
Vasant Navratri takes place from April 13 to 22, 2021.
Gudi Padwa is the Maharashtrian and Goan Hindu new year, celebrated on the first day of Vasant Navami. The best place to experience it is Mumbai, where a spectacular parade happens in the morning at Girgaum. It features sari-clad women riding motorbikes, floats depicting the culture of the state, and locals dressed in their finest traditional clothing.
Gudi Padwa is on April 13, 2021.
Ugadi is another new year festival that falls on the first day of Vasant Navami. It marks the beginning of the new year in the Deccan region of India, particularly the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Family meals are the highlight, with a traditional dish made of neem buds, jaggery, green chili, salt, tamarind juice, and unripened mango. Each ingredient is chosen to signify six emotions that people can feel.
Ugadi takes place on April 13, 2021.
An important spring festival in Rajasthan, Gangaur is held to celebrate wheat harvest in the state and to honor the goddess Gauri (an incarnation of Parvati, Lord Shiva's wife). It starts the day after Holi, when the ashes gathered from the fires are used to grow seeds, and continues for 18 days. Women worship decorated statues of the goddess and carry them out in procession to be immersed on the last day. The biggest processions take place in Jaipur and Udaipur.
Gangaur is from April 14 to 15, 2021.
After the sowing of seeds is done, the Konyak tribe of Nagaland's Mon district celebrates their spring festival with a great deal of merriment. During the Aoling, or Aoleng, Festival, people dress in traditional costumes, sing, dance, drink, and eat throughout the day and night. Special rice beer is brewed in advance and consumed in excess.
The Aoling Festival is the first week of April each year.
This harvest festival of the hospitable Galo tribe in Arunachal Pradesh involves the worship of goddess Mopin to get rid of evil spirits and bring prosperity. Young women perform an indigenous folk dance called Popir. Traditional rice wine (apong), prepared by Galo women, is also served. It traditionally takes place in the town of Along, also know as Aalo.
The Mopin Festival takes place from April 5 to 8 each year.
The annual Tulip Festival is a feature of spring in Kashmir. It takes place in Srinagar at the Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden, which is the largest tulip garden in Asia and has over 50 varieties of blooms. In addition to tulips, there are daily cultural programs, Kashmiri folk songs, traditional cuisine, and handicrafts for sale.
The Tulip Festival takes place during the first two weeks of April each year.
Another lot of new year and spring harvest festivals occur in India during the sidereal equinox, on April 13 or 14 each year. Baisakhi, or Vaisakhi, celebrated in the agricultural state of Punjab, is one of them. This festival is particularly significant because it also commemorates the founding of the Khalsa (Sikh religion brotherhood). It's also known as the Sikh New Year. Funfairs are common across the state, along with traditional bhangra music and dance. Major celebrations are organized at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
The Baisakhi Festival is on April 14, 2021.
Bihu is the main festival of Assam, in Northeast India. This agricultural festival happens three times a year but the prominent celebration, known as Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu, starts on the sidereal equinox in April. This is seeding time in spring. The first day is dedicated to cows, which are vital to agriculture. The second day is spent visiting friends and relatives, along with plenty of singing and dancing. On the third day, deities are worshiped.
The Bihu Festival takes place from April 14 to 16, 2021.