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Unique Festivals of India that will leave you Overwhelmed

India is country that is proud of its rich traditions, rituals, communities, culture and biodiversity. Each year the country celebrated over a thousand festivals. Each one with its unique significance and traditions. While some of these festivals are regional, some are celebrated all over the country. While some of the unique festivals of India are exclusively religious, others bring with them great joy and an occasion to let loose. Additionally, many of these festivals are marked by the immense popularity, piety, beauty and extraordinariness.

Indians, who have immigrated overseas, have carried with them their traditional festivals and celebrate them with unmatched enthusiasm and rigour no matter where they live. Some Indian festivals like Diwali, are world renowned and are declared public holidays in countries like USA and Canada.

Festivals are a time of joy, celebration, feasting, gaming etc. These are times when families get together for celebrations irrespective of where they may live, people forgive and forget their difference and rejoice together, but most important festivals in India honour the spirit of India people and pay homage to century-old traditions.

People start preparing months in advance for some of these festivals that are often celebrated for days at a time. Festivals like Diwali, Durga Puja, Ganesh Chaturthi and Onam are celebrated for ten days. On the other hand, festivals like Rakhi and Bhaiya Dhuj, have no religious significance are celebrated to honour the bond between siblings. Similarly, festivals like Basant Panchami and Lori honour the hard-working farmers of India and are celebrated to rejoice a bountiful harvest.

Among these thousand festivals, there are some that can be classified as truly unique Festivals of India. These include the likes of Hemis Festival, Onam Festival, Viva sa Joao Festival among others.

Check out the best Indian Tourism packages to know the unique significance and traditions in India.

The most Amazing and Unique Festivals of India

SI.No.Unique Festivals of IndiaWhenWhere
1Hemis Festival23rd-24th JuneHemis Monastery in Leh
2Dahi Handi, Janmashtami2nd SeptemberMathura, UP
3Rural Olympics, Kila Raipur2nd, 3rd, 4th, FebruaryKila Raipur Village, Near Ludhiana
4Onam15 AugustKerela
5Matho Nagrang Festival1st and 2nd MarchMatho Nagrang Monastery (Leh)
6Sao Joao24th JuneGoa

1. Hemis Festival

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The popular Hemis Festival is held every year in June at the Hemis Gompa (Monastery) in Ladakh and is one of the unique festivals of India. The Hemis Monastery is the biggest and largest Buddhist Monastery in the region. The Hemis Festival is without a doubt one of the Unique Festival in India. It’s a 2-day long extravaganza that is celebrated to honour the founder of Tantric Buddhism in the country of Tibet, Guru Padmasambhava. During the festivals, the locals dress up in traditional clothing. The men can be seen wearing traditional cummerbunds, and the women adorn beautiful headgears and lots of jewellery.

The Lamas, perform a traditional masked dance called Chaam. The dances are performed to the tunes of trumpets, drums and cymbals. The most intriguing aspect of the festival is mystic dance performances. The Chaam dances are synonymous to Buddhist Tantrism and are performed only at monasteries that follow the Tantric Buddhist teachings of Vajrayana.

  • Where: The Festival takes place at the Hemis Monastery in Leh
  • When: 23rd-24th June
  • What is it About: The festival is celebrated to honour the founder of Tantric Buddhism in the country of Tibet, Guru Padmasambhava.
  • The WOW Factor: The festival has many great highlights and activities. However, the most striking among them all is the masked dances performed by the lamas. They adorn beautifully designed large size masks. Every mask represents a different character such as wizard, slayer of demons, Guru Trapko, Yama (God of Death), Guru Padmasambhava, Demons among others.

The dances performed during the festivals represent tales of triumph over evil. In addition to the masks, the outfits adorned by the lamas are equally elaborate and are made with the richest quality silk and brocades. The performances are quite peculiar and unlike anything else you have seen before. The traditional dances are performed to the tunes of trumpets, drums and cymbals. This is a unique and enlightens festival, and everyone must attend it at least once in their lifetime.

 2. Dahi Handi, Janmashtami

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Lord Krishna, is one of the most revered God’s in India. His countless triumphs over evil serve as an inspiration to children and adults alike. So, it’s no surprise that Krishna Janmashtami (Birthday of Lord Krishna), is one of the most celebrated festivals in the country. And the fun aspect of Dahi Handi certainly qualifies Janmashtami as one of the Unique Festivals of India.

  •  Where: The Festival is celebrated all over India, but since the birthplace of Lord Krishna in Mathura, UP, the festivities there are grander than elsewhere.
  • When: 2nd September 2018
  • What is it About: The Dahi Handi, is a fun recreation of an infamous yet adorable habit of young Lord Krishna. Who was notorious for stealing freshly made butter stored in earthen pots, prepared by the village Belles.Every Year during the time of Krishna Janmashtami (Birthday of Lord Krishna), people of all over celebrate the day with organising fun competitions centred around the game of Dahi (Yogurt) Handi (Earthen Pots). The string an earthen pot containing butter, several meters above the ground and then form pyramids to retrieve the pot. Although, more often than not, they end up breaking the pot, which to be fair is part of the fun and festivities.
  • The WOW Factor: Modern day interpretation of this age-old tradition has managed to retain its significance but, in any way, has also changed it. Now a day, many communities organise the competition, and the winners end up making a lot of money. In a way, the competitiveness has taken the fun out of it.
    Nonetheless, money or no money, young children all over the country look forward to this day, they start practising days in advance, and you can see a lot of young boys dressed up as Lord Krishna, all the bits and bobs, right down to the flute and elaborate headgear.

3. Rural Olympics, Kila Raipur

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This is probably the most unknown and unique festivals of India. However, the spirit and enthusiasm behind it certainly qualify it as a truly Unique Festivals of India. The festival is an honest representation of the spirit Rural India and the State of Punjab.

The festival was envisioned by local philanthropist Mr Inder Grewal. He envisioned an annual event where people from the local and neighbouring farming communities would gather each year and test their physical endurance. This idea laid the foundation for the “Rural Olympics” a truly Unique Festivals of India.
The first edition of the Rural Olympics was held in 1933 and has been going strong for nearly 60 years. Locals and Sports Enthusiast around the world eagerly await this festival, and more than 4000 sportsmen participate in it each year.

The Solitary aim of the games is “Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body”, and the core belief of the games is centred around the idea of “Excellence”. The games provide an excellent platform for young girls and boys, women and men and veterans to show off the physical acumen and sports ability. It’s a great opportunity for many, who otherwise would not have had the chance to show off their skills and aptitude.

  • Where: Kila Raipur Village, Near Ludhiana (Punjab)
  • When: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, February
  • What is it About: The Rural Olympics or more formally The Kila Raipur Sports Festival is a 3-day extravaganza celebrated in Punjab. Locals and Sports Enthusiast around the world eagerly await this festival. The festival has been around for nearly 60 years, and more than 4000 sportsmen participate in it each year.
  • The WOW Factor: In addition to traditional sporting events, the festival includes many unusual events, including the likes off, tractor, camel & dog racing. Other events at the festival include horse dancing and extreme display of strength in events such as pulling of bikes and cards with one’s teeth, riding cycles that have been set ablaze among other stunts and events.

Read this: Indian Cultural Festivals You Must Attend

4.  Onam

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Although Onam is a reasonably well-known and unique festivals of India, it’s rightfully earned its place among the many Unique Festivals of India.

Onam one of the biggest festivals celebrated in the state of Kerela and by Malayali Communities all over India and the world. The festival is held each year to celebrate a bountiful harvest and the homecoming of legendary king Mahabali. Although the festival is 4-day long, it often turns into a 10-day long extravaganza.
The celebrations include the making of intricately designed colourful Rangolis, games such as snake boat races, tug of war etc., Traditional dance performances knows as Kaikottikali and preparing elaborate meals. You can also get to see grant Elephant Processions during the festival days. Women can be seen traditional sarees called Mundus; they are off-white with ornate gold borders. The traditional dance knows as local Malayali women perform Kaikottikali during the Onam festivals.

  • Where: The festival is celebrated in Kerela and by Malayali Communities all over India and the world.
  • When: 15 August
  • What is it About: Onam is a type of harvest. It’s held in September to celebrate a bountiful Harvest. Onam is a 10-day long extravagant celebration that includes the likes of feasting, dancing and singing.
  • The WOW Factor: On the last of Onam festivals, trained dancers perform elaborate dances, dressed as tigers in bright red, yellow, black and white colours. The dances are performed to the beats of the Pulikali, a traditional musical instrument. The name Pulikali translated into “Play of Tigers”.It takes the performers’ hours to dress up in the elaborate costumes that include a lot of faces and body painting. Irrespective of the painstaking process thousands of locals descend on the streets of Kerela, during Onam and celebrate the festival with immense enthusiasm and rigour. If you happen to be in Kerela during this time, make sure you join in on the festivities and shake a leg with the dancers.

5. Matho Nagrang Festival

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Matho Nagrang Festival is among some of the Unique Festivals of India. The festival is celebrated over two days with great enthusiasm and extravagant festivities. The monks perform masked dances. They adorn beautifully robes made with the most beautiful quality silk and elaborate brocades. The mask represents the various god and goddesses worshipped at the monastery. A striking feature of the festival is a special appearance by two oracles.
These oracles emerge from month-long isolation and mediation. Masked dancers accompany them into the monastery courtyard where they predict the future. Locals and visitors from far off places come to the festivals just to seek their advice and blessings.

  • Where: The festival is celebrated at the Matho Nagrang Monastery (Leh)
  • When: 1st and 2nd March
  • What is it About: Matho Nagrang or the Tibetan New Year, is celebrated each year in Leh at the Matho Nagrang Monastery. The festival is attended by thousands of visitors each year. Festivities include prayer ceremonies, cultural performers among other things.
  • The WOW Factor: The masked and dramatic performance by the lamas are a striking feature of the festival, the remarkable feature is the appearance of two oracles and their unbelievable fetes. These prophets are monks knows as Rongstad. These monks begin preparation for the festivals month in advance. They undergo taxing rituals of penance, fasting, meditation, isolation and mind and soul purification.

On the day of the festival, the oracles are accompanied on to the monasteries courtyard by masked dancers. The prophets go into a trance state and have been known to make perdition about the future. Locals and visitors from far off places come to the festivals just to seek their advice and blessings. During their trance state, they sometimes cut themselves with knives and climb up the monastery blindfolded.

6.     Sao Joao

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Viva Sao Joao is hand down one the Unique Festivals of India. It is celebrated on 24th June. And young men and children all jump in various Goan water bodies and retrieve gifts thrown in by villagers.

As per history, the tradition can be traced back to the bible. According to it, Baptist John is said to have left in the womb of his mother Elizabeth when Mother Marry visited her. It is said that John could feel the presence of Jesus and leapt out of pure joy. In modern times people jump into a river as a symbol or representation of the joy they feel for Jesus as did John.

On the day, people from all over goa gather around river and lake and dive into them. They do so after imbibing the infamous Goan Fenni (a popular local liquor) and singing the tunes of the song “Viva Sao Joao”.

As part of the celebrations, youngsters hold processions and go door to door collecting fruits and liquors. They then offer their collectables and prayers in the local water bodies. People then dive in to retrieve these goodies. Young girls or marriable girls too, throw fruits, vegetables and flowers into the water for the fulfilment of their wishes.

  • Where: The festival is celebrated in Goa
  • When: 24th June
  • What is it About: As per history, the tradition can be traced back to the bible. According to it, Baptist John is said to have left in the womb of his mother Elizabeth when Mother Marry visited her. It is said that John could feel the presence of Jesus and leapt out of pure joy. In modern times people jump into the river as a symbol or representation of the joy they feel for Jesus as did John.
  • The WOW Factor: The highlight of the festival is a floating platform called sangodd. People accompany the float singing hymns and songs.

Most Recommended: Popular Indian Festivals You Cannot Ignore

FAQ’s

1. What are the Unique Festivals of India?

Some of the Unique Festivals in India are:

  • Hemis Festival
  • Dahi Handi, Janmashtami
  • Rural Olympics
  • Onam
  • Matho Nagrang Festival
  • Viva Sao Joao

2. Why is the Hemis Festival Celebrated?

Hemis Festival is celebrated to honour the founder of Tantric Buddhism in the country of Tibet, Guru Padmasambhava.

3. Why do we break Dahi Handi’s during Janmashtami?

The Dahi Handi is a modern-day representation of the annoying yet adorable habit of Lord Krishan who was nitrous for stealing freshly made butter stored in earthen pots, prepared by the village Belles.

4. What’s the most striking feature of the Matho Nagrang Festival?

A striking feature of the festival is a special appearance by two oracles. These oracles emerge from month-long isolation and mediation. They predict the future and offer their blessing and advice to anyone who seeks them.

5. What are the games played during Onam?

Games such as snake boat races, tug of war etc. are played during Onam.

6. What are the unique non-sporting events held during the Rural Olympics?

Non-sporting events held during the Rural Olympics include the likes off, tractor, camel, dog racing, horse dancing, pulling of bikes and cards with one’s teeth, riding cycles that have been set ablaze.

 

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