The colourful mosaic of Indian festivals and fairs - as diverse as the land, is an eternal expression of the spirit of celebration. They are colourful commemorations of religi ous or historical events or celebrations of the change of seasons. They reflect the vigour and life style of its people. Vibrant colours, music and festivities make the country come alive throughout the year.

Every season brings along new festivals, each a true celebration of the bounties of the rich traditions followed since time immemorial. Observed with enthusiasm and gaiety, festivals are a time for prayer, for pageantry a time to rejoice.
There are countless festivals held all over the Indian subcontinent and this section highlights only the major ones.

Bikaner Camel Festival (Bikaner, Rajasthan)

Dedicated to the indispensable ship of the desert, the festival starts off with a magnificent procession of bedecked camels. Several competitions are held, marked with typical Rajasthani colour, music and gay festivities.

Republic Day (All over India)

Commemorating the day India became a Republic, 26th of January every year is witness to a colourful affair with soldiers marching in unison, followed by folk dancers, school children and floats from different states.

Beating Retreat (Delhi)

After three days of Republic Day parade, a moving ceremony known as "Beating Retreat" is held at the Vijay Chowk in New Delhi. This ceremony revives an ancient war custom according to which troops used to stop fighting at sunset. Bugles announcing the sunset would sound in the battlefield. As soon as soldiers heard these bugles they would stand still in the battlefield and war would be stopped for the day.

Crafts and state Fairs at Dilli Haat (Delhi)

Situated in the heart of Delhi, the unique Delhi Haat is an upgraded version of the traditional weekly market, offering a delightful amalgam of craft, food and cultural activities. However, while the village Haat is a mobile, flexible arrangement, at Dilli Haat, a permanent Haat, it is the craftsmen who are mobile and ever - changing thereby offering a kaleidoscopic view of the richness and diversity of Indian handicrafts and artefacts.

Khajuraho Dance Festival (Khajuraho, Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh)

The week-long festival is conducted as a celebration of the cultural heritage of Khajuraho temples. It highlights the richness of the various Indian classical dance styles such as Kathak, Bharat Natyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri and Kathakali with performances of some of the best exponents in the field. Along with the renowned performers, a number of craftsmen display their crafts to the visitors. There is an open market where local articles are for sale.

Holi (All over India)

Holi, celebrated mainly in North India, is a very popular festival of colours. It heralds the end of winter and the beginning of spring. People throw coloured powder at each other and make merry at this two-day festival.

Independence Day (All over India)
Commemorating the day India attained freedom (15th August), Independence Day is celebrated with flag hoisting ceremonies and cultural programmes in the state capitals. The Prime Minister's speech at the Red Fort in Delhi is the major highlight.

Ganesh Chaturthi (Maharashtra)

This day is dedicated to Lord Ganesha (son of Shiva), the elephant-headed god of all good beginnings and success. Held annually, this festival is a ten day long event. Giant models of the deity are taken out in a procession and immersed in the sea or rivers. Classical dance, music performances, poetry recitations, folk dances, theatre and film festival are the main features of this festival.

Durga Puja (All over India)

Durga Puja is celebrated with joy all over India, especially West Bengal in worship of Goddess Durga. Singing, dancing, sweets and gaiety are an integral part of this festival.

Dassera (All over India)

This Hindu festival is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm for ten continuous days to mark the defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama. Dassera symbolises the triumph of good over evil. The 'Ramlila' - an enactment of the life of Lord Rama, is held during the nine days preceding Dassera. On the tenth day, larger than life effigies of Ravana, his son and brother, Meghnath and Kumbhakarna, are set alight.

Diwali (All over India)

This festival of lights is one of the most lively and colourful festivals in India and is celebrated 20 days after Dassera. It commemorates the return of Lord Rama, the hero of the epic Ramayana, to Ayodhya after a fourteen-year exile. The flickering lights of the traditional clay lamps or 'diyas' illuminate the houses and fireworks resound through the night. The goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi, is worshipped on this day. The exchanging of gifts and sweets among friends and relatives is an integral part of the celebrations.

Pushkar Mela (Pushkar, Rajasthan)

Pushkar is transformed into a spectacular fair ground for twelve days as it hosts the largest cattle fair in the world, which attracts thousands of people from different parts of India and abroad. Trading of cattle, camel races and dazzling displays of bangles, brassware, clothes, camel saddles and halters, acrobatics, folkdance and music are the major attractions of this colourful event. Devotees come to take a ritual dip in the lake on the day of Kartik Purnima (full moon night of the Kartika month) and worship at the Brahma temple.

Christmas (All over India)

Christmas, the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ, is celebrated with great fervour where all the major cities wear a festive look. Carol singing, get-togethers and the exchanging of gifts enhance the Christmas spirit. Christmas parties launch off celebrations for the New Year, thus retaining the festive mood for at least a week.

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