Hemis Festival

Hemis Festival, Ladakh

Quick Facts
Time : June - July
Venue : Courtyard, Hemis monastery
Duration : Two days
Highlights : The celebration of Guru Padmasambhava's victory over evil spirits. Chhams, and traditional mask dances which are performed by the Lama's of the monastery.
Hemis monastery, the biggest, richest and the most important monastery in Ladakh is the venue of the world famous Hemis festival. It is settled a little off the main Leh-Manali road, almost 49 km to south of Leh. It was established on 17th century by the Ladakhi Dharma king and ever since it is enjoying the patronage of the royal family.

The Festival
Hemis festival generally held on the tenth and eleventh day of the fifth Tibetan lunar month. These two days are celebrated as the public holidays by the local government. This festival celebrates Guru Padmasambhava's victorious activities over the evil forces. This heritage festival is a integral part of the native People's life. This summer timed festival attracts foreign tourist in a huge amount due to its grandeur and luster and they also took part in this event dressed in the local traditional dresses. Ladakh government draws big bucks out of the tourism during this festival.
The first day festival begins at 10 am in the ceremonies in the yard of the monastery. Glorious masked dances and auspicious plays by the lamas which are also known as the “Chhams” are performed around the flag pole. These activities are performed with the accompany of cymbals,drums, and long horns. This masks which are worn by the lamas represent various guardian divinities of Buddhism. Lamas recites various hymns on the various episodes of the Chhams.

A jazzy fair, manifesting some beautiful handicrafts of Ladakhi tradition, is the special highlight of the festival.
The 'devil dances' during this fair is an important factor in the social entertainment of the Ladakhis. The sharp song-and-dance mirth, created by these mask dances, which invariably depict the victory of the right over evil. After it consumption of huge bowls of 'chang', Ladakh's own country liquor also an added attraction to the the tourist. Even reaching there is not an issue now a days by car, Hemis is an easy day trip from Leh . By bus, services are only frequent during the festival.

Pushkar Festival

Quick Facts
Celebrated in : Rajasthan
City : Pushkar
Festival Time : November (Kartik)
Duration : 7 Days
Highlights : Largest Camel Fair and colourful cultural events

Pushkar Festival - A Time of Celebration
November is the time when the famous Pushkar Camel Fair takes place in the beautiful state of Rajasthan in India. The Pushkar Camel Fair is the world's largest camel fair and is a colourful event that lasts for seven days. Pushkar Fair attracts people from all over Rajasthan, as well as tourists from across India and the world, who flock to witness this mega event, and the range of camels and cattle on display.
The last day of the fair coincides with the Kartik Purnima, the period of the autumn full moon. Thousands of devotees come to bathe in the holy lake of Pushakar, where mythology has it that Lord Brahma, the Hindu Creator, had performed a Yagna and where a lake had emerged, at the spot where a lotus fell from His hand.
Pushkar Camel Festival is a fair that combines worship and trade and even acts a meeting place for arranging marriages. So when one participates in this fair, it becomes mandatory that he stays for five days at Pushkar. So, after performing puja and taking holy dips, people engage themselves trading animals and wares, thus utilizing the five days to the maximum.

The sale of animals is quite an interesting affair, as the animals are made to display their skills so that the owner gets a good bargain. Exciting camel-cart races and cultural events are the highlights of the Pushkar Camel Festival.

The fair has diversified stalls marketing everything from silver jewellery to clothes to tattoos. Ferris wheels and other circus attractions are also hugely popular here. The city also has a large number of eateries selling everything from falafel, pastas and pizzas to veritable Rajasthani cuisine. As the sand descends in the night the sounds of folk music, storytellers, dances and partying carries well out into the desert.
The encompassing warmth of the Rajasthani people makes the fair, over the top with cultural events, that locals, traders, pilgrims and tourists mingle and celebrate together. If you are a traveler here don't be astonished to find yourself dressed in a colourful costume, dancing, playing games and competing at games you may have never even have heard of. Travelers are also given concessional rates on camels if they’d like to buy one.

On the last night of the fair the waters of the lake are beautified with thousands of lamps and flowers floating on its surface. A beautiful and beseeming end to this vivid celebration.

Desert Festival

Quick Facts
Celebrated in : Rajasthan
City : Jaisalmer
Festival Time : February
Duration : 3 Days
Highlights : Songs, Dances, shows and Camel embellishment.

Desert Festival of Jaisalmer - The Camel Show
Sponsored by the Rajasthan State Tourism Corporation, the Desert Festival is a colourful, joyous celebration of the rich heritage of Rajasthan. This festival takes place in Jaisalmer in the month of February and lasts for three days.
During the desert festival, the sands around Jaisalmer are adorned with vibrant hues of music and dance, accompanied with sounds of laughter and joy. Musicians entice you with haunting ballads - a mixture of romantic verses weaved together with tunes of tragic pain. The fair has snake charmers, puppeteers, acrobats and folk performers. Camels, also play a stellar role. This desert festival of India closes with an enchanting sound and light show amid the sand dunes on a moonlit night.
Though the festival is mainly a grand display of performing arts, there are several other events that give a glimpse of the desert culture. Exquisitely embroidered skirts, hand-woven shawls, rugs, carvings on wood and stone, camel decorations, embroidered leather bags, ethnic silver jewelry and terracotta can be bought at this desert fair.

Evenings are meant for the main shows of music and dance. Continuing till late into the night, the number of spectators increases by each night and on the final day, under the full moonlit night, the whole place is swarming with people who make it a point to be there to witness this mega show.

The city bends into a jumbo crafts bazaar, craftsmen even from the very interiors and the distant corners of the desert exhibit their work here during the festival. The visitor gets a chance to pick up some pagan stuff and even communicate with the artists who created them. Finely embroidered skirts, hand-woven shawls, rugs, carvings on wood and stone, camel decorations, embroidered leather bags, ethnic silver jewelry and terracotta are some of the products which are offered.
The dance, music and drams usually begins in the evening. The dances of Rajasthan are mind-boggling with men and women moving in absolute co-ordination to the beating sound of desert drums. The colourful scarves and skirts of women spin creating a colourful aura. Rajasthani men, known for their boldness, also display some items like acrobatic feats and some amazing feats of bravery. Fire eaters, sword swallower's and some exclusive type of art is shown.

Dressed in brilliant attires the people dance and sing stalking ballads of valor, romance and tragedy. Camels, of course, play an astral role in this festival, where the rich and colorful folk culture of Rajasthan is on show. The festival concludes with a delighting sound and light show among the sand dunes on a moonlit night.

Fairs & Festivals of India

The ancient tradition of celebrating festivals goes back to the Vedic times of the Aryans. Ancient Indians used to express these occasions through the words SAMAJA (a gathering of people), UTSAVA (a festival) and YATRA (a pilgrimage or temple chariot procession). And today we use the word MELA (meaning a fair) rather than a SAMAJA. The Vedic scriptures and literature give many references to festivals when celebrations were carried on to honor gods, rivers, trees, mountains, the coming of monsoons, the end of winter or the first flush of spring. The celebrations not only include fasting & prayers, but also equally events of social & cultural significance, Performances of music, dance and drama took place side by side with more rugged physical activities. Even today, festivals are symbolic of a link between the home, the villages and a larger outside world. Colour, contribution, enthusiasm, prayers and rituals are the characteristics of the Festivals of India. The travellers are attracted to the scale and elaboration of the merrymaking that populate the cultural scene of the country. The various festivals in the country can be categorized on the national, regional, local, religious, seasonal and social grounds. The popularity of Indian fairs and festivals are spread far and wide and attract a large number of foreign tourists. 
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