FAIR AND FESTIVE
Midwinter cool lingers throughout the north and it’s downright cold in the desert night air. Pleasant daytime weather and several festivals make it a popular time to travel, so book ahead.
Sankranti, the Hindu festival marking the sun’s passage across the Tropic of Capricorn, is celebrated in many ways throughout India. In Jaipur it’s the mass kite-flying that steals the show. Held on 14 or 15 January.
Jaipur Literature Festival
The Jaipur Literature Festival has grown into the world's biggest free literature festival, attracting local and international authors and poets. Readings, debates, music and even the odd controversy keep it energised.
The weather remains comfortable in Rajasthan, with very little rain and plenty of festivals. The days are getting marginally warmer but it’s still ideal travelling weather.
Held in February or March, Shivaratri, a day of Hindu fasting, recalls the tandava (cosmic victory dance) of Lord Shiva. Temple processions are followed by the chanting of mantras and the anointing of linga (phallic images of Shiva). Upcoming dates: 21 February 2020, 11 March 2021.
Jaisalmer Desert Festival
Three-day celebration of desert culture, with many events in the Sam Sand dunes. Camel races, turban-tying contests, traditional puppetry and the famous Mr Desert competition are part of the fun. It may fall in February.
Hindus dress in yellow and place books, musical instruments and other educational objects in front of idols of Saraswati, the goddess of learning, to receive her blessing. The holiday may fall in January.
The end of the main travel season, March sees the last of the cool days of winter as daytime temperatures creep above 30°C.
One of North India’s most exuberant festivals; Hindus celebrate the beginning of spring, in either February or March, by throwing coloured water and gulal (powder) at anyone within range. On the night before Holi, bonfires symbolise the demise of the demoness Holika. Upcoming dates: 9 March 2020, 28 March 2021.
Jaipur Elephant Festival
Taking place on the day before Holi (so it can fall in February), the Jaipur Elephant Festival celebrates the pachyderm’s place in Indian culture. There are elephant dress parades and competitions such as polo and tug-of-war, but animal welfare groups have criticised the treatment of elephants taking part in these events.
As the weather warms up and water sources dry out, animals tend to congregate at the few remaining sources of water. This can improve your chances of spotting tigers and leopards.
During Ramanavami (one to nine days) in March or April, Hindus celebrate Rama's birth with processions, music, fasting and feasting, enactments of the Ramayana, and ceremonial weddings of Rama and Sita idols. Upcoming dates: 2 April 2020, 21 April 2021.
Thirty days of dawn-to-dusk fasting mark the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims traditionally turn their attention to God, with a focus on prayer and purification. Ramadan begins around 24 April 2020 and 13 April 2021.
The region heats up with daytime temperatures over 40°C. Life slows down as the humidity builds up in anticipation of the monsoon.
Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan with three days of festivities, starting 30 days after the start of the fast. Upcoming dates: 24 May 2020, 13 May 2021.
Rajasthan’s very own hill station, the delightful Mt Abu, celebrates summer (or perhaps the town’s climatological defiance of summer) with a three-day carnival. There are boat races on Nakki Lake, fireworks and traditional music and dances.
Mangoes are indigenous to India, which might be why they’re so ridiculously good here. The season starts in March, but in May the fruit is sweet, juicy and everywhere. A hundred varieties grow here, but the Alphonso is known as ‘king’.
Life retreats indoors during the hot days when temperatures still soar over 40°C. Monsoon storms increase in energy, bringing much-needed respite, though the nights remain hot and humid.
Now it’s really raining, with many a dusty road becoming an impassable quagmire. You may be tempted by the reduced accommodation rates and smaller crowds though.
Muslims commemorate Ibrahim’s readiness to sacrifice his son to God by slaughtering a goat or sheep and sharing it. Around 31 July 2020 and 19 July 2021.
It’s very much monsoon season and the relief is palpable. In a good season there’s copious, but not constant, rainfall and temperatures are noticeably lower (but still steamy).
Brothers and Sisters
On Raksha Bandhan (Narial Purnima), girls fix amulets known as rakhis to the wrists of brothers and close male friends to protect them in the coming year. Brothers reciprocate with gifts and promises to take care of their sisters.
This public holiday on 15 August marks the anniversary of India’s independence from Britain in 1947. Celebrations are a countrywide expression of patriotism, with flag-hoisting ceremonies (the biggest one is in Delhi), parades and patriotic cultural programs.
Held in August or September, Krishna's birthday celebrations are marked by fasting, puja (prayers), offering sweets, and other rituals. Upcoming dates: 11 August 2020, 30 August 2021.
Hindus celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, the birth of the elephant-headed god, with verve in August or September, particularly in Ranthambhore Fort. Thousands gather at the abandoned fort and clay idols of Ganesh are paraded. Upcoming dates: 22 August 2020 and 10 September 2021.
The festival of Teej in July or August celebrates the arrival of the monsoon and the marriage of Parvati to Shiva. Three-day celebrations across Rajasthan, particularly Jaipur, culminate in a street procession of the Teej idol.
The rain begins to ease, though temperatures are still high. By the end of September, Rajasthan and Delhi are all but finished with the monsoon.
Occasional heavy showers aside, this is when North India starts to get its travel mojo on. October brings festivals, national park openings and more comfortable temperatures, with post-monsoon lushness.
Held in September or October, the Hindu ‘Festival of Nine Nights’ leading up to Dussehra celebrates the goddess Durga in all her incarnations. Special dances are performed and the goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati are also venerated. Most areas will celebrate around 17 October 2020 and 7 October 2021.
In September or October, colourful Dussehra celebrates the victory of the Hindu god Rama over the demon-king Ravana and the triumph of good over evil. Dussehra is big in Kota, where effigies of Ravana are ritually burned. Upcoming dates: 8 October 2019, 25 October 2020, 14 October 2021.
The national holiday of Gandhi Jayanti is a solemn celebration of Mohandas Gandhi’s birth, on 2 October, with prayer meetings at his cremation site at Raj Ghat in Delhi. Schools and businesses close for the day.
In the lunar month of Kartika, in October or November, Hindus celebrate Diwali for five days, giving gifts, lighting fireworks and burning lamps to lead Lord Rama home. This is India’s main holiday time and it is hard to get transport or hotel rooms. Upcoming dates: 27 October 2019, 14 November 2020, 4 November 2021.
The climate is blissful, with warm days and cooler nights. The peak season is getting into full swing. Lower temperatures mean higher prices and more tourist buses.
Pushkar Camel Fair
Rajasthan’s premier cultural event takes place in the Hindu lunar month of Kartika (October or November). As well as camel trading, there is horse and cattle trading and an amazing fairground atmosphere. It culminates with ritual bathing in Pushkar’s holy lake.
The Islamic festival of Eid-Milad-un-Nabi celebrates the birth of the Prophet Mohammed with prayers and processions. It falls in the third month of the Islamic calendar. Upcoming dates: around 10 November 2019, 29 October 2020, 19 October 2021.
December is peak tourist season for a reason: the daytime weather is glorious, the humidity is low and the nights are cool. The mood is festive and it seems everyone is getting married.
Marriage season peaks in December and you may see a baraat (bridegroom’s procession), replete with white horse and brass band, on your travels. Across Rajasthan, loud music and spectacular parties are the way they roll, with brides in mehndi (ornate henna designs) and pure gold.
Many of India’s spectacular winter migrants complete their travels and set up nesting colonies. Keoladeo National Park is an internationally renowned wetland and birdwatching destination.
Camel Treks in Rajasthan
The cool winter (November to February) is the time to mount a camel and ride through the Rajasthan sands. See the Thar Desert from a whole new perspective: observe gazelles, make dinner over an open fire and camp out in the dunes.
With all these, has features even for corporate clients as special discounts for car rental, Organizing meetings, and conferences. For more information, visit ; www.thenarayanresort.com