Festivals are a way to celebrate the unique cultural aspects of any place. They tell us about the way of living of the people belonging to a particular country and also bring us closer to the vivaciousness of the age old rituals practiced in that place. If you wish to get an insight into the amazing cultural diversity stored the himalayan regions, a tour to India, Nepal and Bhutan often proves to be a profound one as one gets to witness the unadulterated beauty of these places in its brightest form in the local festivals.
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These three countries pack in a wealth of traditions curated over thousands of years which are beautifully portrayed in their famous festival tours. Let us take a look at some popular festivals in India, Nepal and Bhutan you must not miss if you plan to travel to these regions in the month of March.
The world famous festival of colours, Holi is celebrated with great enthusiasm all over India. Holi festival in Brij in Bharatpur district in Rajasthan is known for its grand celebrations which start a couple of days before the actual day. The venue of this festival is Deeg Palace which comes alive with colours a few days preceding the festival. The most striking part of the festival is the colourful fountains inside the palace which add a touch of exclusivity to the elaborate celebrations.
The International Yoga festival in the holy city of Rishikesh is the perfect opportunity to learn more about this ancient healing technique. The festival is organized at Parmarth Niketan Ashram where noted yoga scholars and masters from India and abroad come together to build awareness about Yoga among the commoners. The festival throws light on the different yoga postures ranging from Kundalini Yoga, Vindasana Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar Yoga and Bhakti Yoga through a course of lectures and yoga sessions running upto 70 hours. The event also highlights the role of sattvic food, mantras and devotional music in achieving complete physical and mental well being.
This exuberant festival belonging to the state of Punjab is a joyous celebration of colours, music, culture, food and crafts that portray a rare cheerfulness, the very characteristic of the people of Punjab. Hola Mohalla is a three day festival celebrated in Anandpur Sahib to fine tune the armoury skills of sikh men through a display of mock battles. The festival also features sprinkling of colours which turns the location into a vibrant landscape. The nihangs dressed in their colourful robes take away most of the attention during the fair. The matchless service of local sikhs who willingly participate in preparing langars at the camps reveals the culture of generosity which is a core element of sikh religion.
If you’re planning a trip to Goa in the month of March, be prepared to witness the Shigmo festival celebrated by the Konkans. The festival closely resembles the holi festival celebrated all over India as it marks the arrival of spring season. Shigmo festival gives a glimpse of the Konkan music and dance displayed in the parades on the streets of Goa in the evening. People dressed in colourful costumes holding flags participate in the parade with the beating of drums and other folk musical instruments. The festival kicks off several days before the Holi festival and lends a cheerful vibe to the streets of Goa at the beginning of spring season.
Ghyalpo Losar is a highly revered festival of Nepal that marks the Tibetan New Year. The festival starts in the first week of March and the festivities continue till about two weeks. The first three days, however, are considered the most important. Gyalpo losar is celebrated with great vigour specifically by the sherpas, Tamang and bhutia Tibetans. Each of these communities have developed a unique way of celebrating the festival. Houses are cleaned and decorated and special dishes are made. Many rituals are performed in the monasteries in Nepal including a special enactment of fight between the king and the deer.
Holi festival is also celebrated by the hindu community in Nepal. If you want to experience the festival in all its glory in Nepal, head straight to Pokhra. The city wears a garb of fun and excitement with people dancing and playing crazily with colours. In the week long festivities, the first day of the festival is observed by burning a tall wooden pole around which Nepali women dressed in saris gather together and pray. On the second day a bonfire is lit which denotes the burning of Holika. The remaining days are spent frolicking on the streets playing with colours.
Renowned as one of the most elaborate festivals of Bhutan, Paro Tshechu is a week long event that kicks off with a couple of masked dance performances which bring out the rich cultural tapestry of Bhutan. The festival is celebrated to honour Guru Rimpoche, who introduced buddhist religion in Bhutan. The monks and other people carry out special ceremonies to mark the occasion. On the final day of the festival, a huge thangka is put on display to let the people receive the blessings.
An illustrious festival observed in Gomphu Kora region in Bhutan, Gomphu festival celebrates the victory of good over evil. People dressed in traditional attires actively participate in the festivities that run upto three days. The festival depicts the rich culture of Bhutanese in the various rituals and ceremonies that take place during these three days. People belonging to drakpa tribe in Arunachal Pradesh travel for days on foot under extreme conditions to attend the festival. Gomphu festival is considered an excellent oportunity for the locals to reconnect with their past.
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