A chaotic crossroad of art and spirituality, India promises a year full of colors, flavors, rituals and cultural exchange. The buzzing country’s mind-stirring mix of landscapes and heritage bristles with art exhibitions, outstanding festivals and unique forms of creative expression. Here is a selection of India’s unmissable cultural events each year, from Mumbai to New Delhi and from Goa to the Himalayas.

Bangla Sahib, New Delhi, India

Bangla Sahib, New Delhi | © Ram Singh/WikiCommons

St. ART Delhi

In a groundbreaking street art rendezvous, a selection of the best Indian and international street artists take over the streets of Delhi for a month full of murals, installations, performances and workshops. St.ART Delhi art festival attempts to convert the urban environment into a permanent walking gallery. Through its innovative ‘walks and talks’ around the Indian capital, it aims to cultivate the art of graffiti on an Indian landscape. Different art styles, techniques and backgrounds compose the secret recipe of the first-ever street art exhibition in India, aptly named This is not Street Art. Alina Vergnano, Alias, Anpu, Bond, Daku, Harsh Raman, M-City, Yantr, and Okuda, along with many more unconventional street artists, will lead the post-modernist and post-graffiti phenomenon of Delhi’s urban art. Creative stencils, posters, and site-specific works are just some of the great elements of this spectacular event.

St. ART Delhi, Hauz Khas Village, Delhi, India

 

St. ART Delhi, India
© St. ART Delhi

Holi – The Festival of Colors

Celebrated on the last full moon of the lunar month every year, the vibrant Holi Festivalmarks the end of winter and the abundance of the upcoming spring harvest season. Among the most distinct culturally rooted festivals, Holi is famously associated with colors and water balloons. Tons of brightly colored powder are spread in the air all around India. On the eve of the Festival of Colours, large bonfires are lit to mark the occasion and chase away evil spirits. According to Indian wisdom, the essence of Holi is acknowledging the spirit of oneness and devotion. Mathura, Vrindavan and Nandgaon in Uttar Pradesh are the bastions of Holi celebrations.

The festival takes place throughout India

 Holi Festival, India

Holi Festival | © J.S. Jaimohan/Flickr

Kochi Muziris Biennale

The enchanting Fort Kochi hosts hundreds of inspiring artists from different countries for each year’s Kochi Muziris Biennale. In an effort to reconnect the myth of the Muziris ancient port with the modern Kochi metropolis – where pre-colonial traditions of cultural pluralism continue to flourish – the Biennale brings the best of contemporary art to Kerala’s picturesque venues. The numerous exhibitions focus on a variety of artwork, such as paintings, sculptures, installations, films, digital media and performing arts.

Kochi Biennale Foundation, 1/1903 Kunnumpuram, Fort Kochi, Kerala, India, +91 484 2215297

 Kochi Muziris Biennale 2014

© Kochi Muziris Biennale 2014

Mudra Dance Festival

An annual summer event, Mudra Dance Festival takes place in the artistic city of Mumbai. Held at the National Centre for Performing Arts, the festival usually comprises of magnificent performances, dance, photography workshops and exhibitions, film previews, as well as lectures and interactive sessions.

Mudra Dance Festival, National Centre of Performing Arts, Nariman Point, Mumbai, India, +91 22 6622 3737

 Mudra Dance Festival 2014

Mudra Dance Festival | © Ratheesh Sundaram 2013

Dharamsala Film Festival

Set in a magnificent Himalayan destination, the Dharamsala Film Festival was conceived by its creators, Julien L. Balmer and Monika Nataraj, as a means of bringing high-quality contemporary, independent cinema to the culturally diverse location of Dharamshala. The festival welcomes films that value the human spirit and its creative expression around the world.

Dharamsala Film Festival, Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA), TIPA Road, Upper Dharamsala, District Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, India

Dharamsala Film Festival 2014
© Dharamsala Film Festival 2014

International Mango Festival

One of New Delhi’s most popular events, the International Mango Festival celebrates the king of all tropical fruit, the ubiquitous Indian mango. It showcases hundreds of varieties of mangoes, introducing even the most exotic ones. Organized in the form of a traditional marketplace, the mouth-watering festival features fascinating culinary demonstrations by leading chefs and several recreational events and activities associated with the mango, such as eating competitions, mango slogan writing and mango carving. Traditional music, dance and cultural performances complete the ‘delicious’ atmosphere.

Dharamsala Film Festival, Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA), TIPA Road, Upper Dharamsala, District Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, India

Onam

Deeply traditional and rich in culture and heritage, Onam Festival is a ten-day harvest festival, celebrated with great devotion and enthusiasm in Kerala. This ancient Hindu Festival is about expressing heartfelt gratitude for the bounties of land and all that nature provides. Onam marks the homecoming of King Mahabali, a legendary king, who ruled Kerala during a period believed to be a golden age, characterized by complete harmony and prosperity. Dazzling carnivals of elephants, fireworks, blooming flowers set in beautiful patterns, exotic food, songs and dance, games and the famous snake boat races are among the festivities. The most spectacular celebrations take place in Kochi, Trivandrum, Thrissur, and Kottayam.

Throughout Kerala, India

Onam 2014
© Onam 2014

Jodphur RIFF

Set against the grand backdrop of the Mehrangarh Fort in the royal city of Jodhpur, Rajasthan’s International Folk Festival is timed is to harmonize with the brightest full moon of the year in northern India, called Sharad Purnima. In a celebration of Rajasthan’s musical heritage, 250 musical maestros and performing artists from India and across the world come together in order to create music through innovative collaborations, accompanied by an interesting fusion of international and local folk music and exciting performances. Endorsed by UNESCO as a ‘peoples’ platform for creativity and sustainable development’, this traditional folk music and arts festival also presents an assortment of events such as a jazz night, a Rajasthani night, and gypsy and traditional dances.

Rajasthan’s International Folk Festival, Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

Jodphur RIFF
Jodphur RIFF | © Kavi Bhansali

Diwali – The Festival of Lights

India’s most atmospheric holiday of the year, Diwali is known as the festival of lights. Over a period of five days, celebrating the start of the Hindu New Year, houses, shops and public places are decorated with hundreds of candles and small earthenware oil lamps, diyasFireworks are let off everywhere, symbolizing the inner light that protects us from spiritual darkness. Although the legends linked to Diwali vary around India, the festival is usually related to the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. Over the centuries, the Festival of Lights has become a national festival that is enjoyed by most Indians regardless of faith: Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.

Diwali takes place throughout India.

 Diwali, India

Diwali | © Vinoth Chandar/WikiCommons

Sunburn Festival Goa

Just before the New Year Celebrations, Goa – with its dynamic party culture – hosts the biggest electronic music festival in the country. The Sunburn Festival takes place at Vagator and features massive international artists and Indian DJs. The three-day party presents different genres of music, which range from house to drum ‘n’ bass. Trampolines and dancers create a stunning blend of theater and dance music, while exceptional pyrotechnics, lasers and a gigantic flying sphere will make this event a must-see for all party animals.

 

Sunburn Goa

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