There are many important festivals in India each year. It is a large country with a diverse population made up of many different ethnic and religious groups. Each region, religion, and people have their own traditions and reasons to celebrate.
Many of India’s festivals bring people together regardless of religion, celebrating important moments of the year, such as harvest, remembering important moments in the country’s history, or simply providing an occasion to enjoy with friends, family, and neighbors.
Visitors from all over the world are welcome at the majority of festivals in India, as long as they are respectful while participating in these important cultural occasions.
It is easy to travel to the country for its most important festivals with the India eVisa.
How Many Festivals Are There in India?
It is difficult to say exactly how many festivals there are in India because there are so many.
There are certain festivals that are important for different religious groups, some of which may be celebrated in the country but are not necessarily considered “Indian festivals” (such as Christmas or Eid).
The different types of festivals in India include important days for the nation’s Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, and Sikh populations as well as secular holidays, such as India’s Independence Day.
There are also many festivals (religious and otherwise) that are only celebrated in certain regions of the country. These are important to the area’s culture, history, and/or religious groups, but the occasion may not be marked in other parts of India.
In total, there are easily more than 80 festivals in India each year. Some of the most significant include the following:
- Makar Sakranti
- Maha Shivrati
- Buddha Jayanti
- Eid al-Fitr
- Independence Day
- Ganesh Chaturthi
What Are the Most Important Hindu Festivals
Religious festivals of India tend to be the biggest occasions of the year and most widely-celebrated. Specifically, there are several festivals that are primarily associated with Hinduism (although some are also celebrated by Jains, Buddhists, and/or Sikhs) that are among the biggest events in the national calendar.
Many of the largest Hindu festivals are also celebrated by non-Hindus as cultural occasions, rather than religious ones.
The following Hindu festivals offer unique cultural experiences for visitors with an India tourist visa.
Diwali (or Divali) is the festival of lights and is arguably the most important celebration of the year in India. Not only is the occasion celebrated by Hindus, but also by practitioners of Jainism and Sikhism.
The 5-day festival commemorates the victory of the forces of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. There are various different stories in Hindu and Jain mythology that connect to Diwali. The gods and goddesses who are honored vary according to religion and the region of India.
Whatever the reason for celebrating the festival of lights, Diwali brings people together. Candles and lanterns are lit, fireworks light up the skies, and many communities organize events such as parades and music.
Diwali takes place in the fall, on the 15th day of the lunar month of Kartik (usually in November on the Gregorian calendar).
Known as the “festival of colors”, Holi is an ancient Hindu festival that is also popular among Indians of other religions. It marks the end of winter and the arrival of spring and usually takes place in March.
Holi is celebrated all over India, with particularly huge festivals in Vrindavan and Mathura (both around an hour’s journey from Agra.
The first night of Holi is marked with a bonfire known as a Holika Dahan, symbolizing the burning away of evil.
The following morning is the Rangwali Holi, where the “festival of colors” earns its name. People take to the streets and throw colored powder and use water guns and water balloons to spray each other with dyed water. It is a playful occasion where everyone is fair game and locals and visitors alike finish up covered in a rainbow of different colors.
There is also music, dancing, customary delicacies, and traditional beverages as well as time spent with friends and family. Holi is a truly unique experience for visitors to India.
A celebration commemorating the birth of the elephant-headed deity Ganesh (or Ganesha), this festival is known for the clay statues of the god that are made and then carried into water, where they dissolve. While each family usually has a small statue, some of these effigies are colossal and are paraded around the streets.
Ganesh Chaturthi usually occurs in August or September, coming in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada. It is an important festival in Western India, especially in Maharashtra state and the city of Mumbai.
In addition to the parade of statues, there are also performances in the streets, including music, theatre, and dancing. It is also a religious festival of India, with worship of Ganesha at temples and in people’s homes.
Makar Sankranti is the most important of the sun festivals in India, welcoming the longer days after the winter solstice. It is marked with colorful decorations, bonfires, fairs, and kite-flying.
Many people bathe in lakes and rivers that hold religious significance as a way of cleansing their sins and honoring the sun.
Gift-giving and socializing is also important during this Indian festival. Different regions of the country celebrate in different ways. Most have their own traditional delicacies for the occasion.
Makar Sankranti is one of the few Hindu festivals that falls at more-or-less the same time every year on the Gregorian calendar (January 14 or 15, depending on the year). This is because it is based on the solar cycle, rather than the lunar cycle, as with most Hindu festivals.
Arguably more of a cultural festival than a religious one, Onam is celebrated by the Malayali people around the world and is a huge occasion in their homeland, the Indian state or Kerala.
Falling in August or September, Onam is significant as being the start of the Malayalam calendar, doubling up as a new year and a harvest festival. The celebrations last for 10 days, with the final day, Thiruvonam, being the most important.
Visitors to Kerala during Onam can expect to see traditional “tiger dances” (Pulikali), parades, live music played with trumpets and indigenous folk instruments, and epic firework displays.
Floral decorations are common, with many households making special flower rangoli called Pookkalam. Finally, men compete in a boat race called the Vallam kali, considered to be one of the essential events of Onam.
How to Visit Festivals in India
International travelers can attend India’s many festivals as long as they have permission to enter the country. For most visitors, this means obtaining a visa.
Many nationalities are able to complete an India eVisa application form online, avoiding the need to go to an embassy. This saves time and effort, as the online platform is quicker and easier than an in-person application.
Individuals must meet the Indian eVisa requirements to apply online successfully.
Once travelers have decided which festival they want to see, they should book their trip at the correct time of year. It is a good idea to read up on the best places in India to celebrate the festival of their choice and organize their trip accordingly.