Festivals are an integral part of the Indian culture. Whilst travelling you can enjoy and take part in so many colorful celebrations all over the country. Find here all the festival information on when, where and why.

Odissi Dance is one of the highlights of Konark Festival

Konark Festival

1) About Konark festival 2) Odissi Dance 3) Hariprasad Chaurasia 4) Watch the maestro of Indian flute 5) Shahid Parvez Khan-Sitar 6) Watch Shahid Parvez Khan on video 7) Festival Program 8) How to reach Konark festival 9) Get directions

Unfortunately, we’re a little late with this post about the Konark festival, but it’s better late than never right? (Feel free to leave a complaint in our message box! :)). Anyways, if you’re sitting in the Main Bazzar in Delhi doing nothing, chilling out on one of Goa’s gorgeous beaches, or you just finished a guided tour, have some few days extra and don’t know what to do about it – we say go to Konark festival in Odissa. Run Forest run because the festival has already begun.

About Konark Festival

Konark festival is probably the biggest of all Indian dance and music festivals.  Every year from the 19th to 23rd of February, the beautiful 700 year old Natya Mandir Temple showcases some of the most talented and appreciated artists in India.

Artists from various disciplines of stage art participate and perform performances such as Odissi dance, Kathak , Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, and other classical, folk and tribal dances. This year the famous Kathakali Theater act (see our Kathakali post) will be the main closing event of the Konark festival.

Live Odissi Dance in Konark festival Odissa

Odissi dance, Konark Festival

Konark festival is not only dedicated to stage arts, but to classical Indian music as well. That itself is a reason to visit this festival. Konark festival traditionally hosts the best musicians in India. To get them all on the same stage is a golden opportunity, and gives you the best introduction possible to the brilliance of Indian music.

If all this is not enough, then the Konark sun temple in Odissa (Orissa) definitely will be. Laying on the east west access of path of the sun, the temple was built for the worship of the sun god, who was considered as the primary source of energy. The temple was built on a model of a chariot that is about to make its first flight. That is what the remains of chariot structure in the center of the temple show us. Konark temple is known as one of India’s greatest architectural masterpieces. The 13th century temple was built by 12,000 craftsmen, and the tradition of master craftsmanship is still alive almost in every village in Odissa today.

Poetry on stones is not the only tradition of Konark which is still alive today. Odissi Dance is also part of Konark’s long lasting legacy. The contours on the temple stones were an inspiration for the revival of this unique dance form that you can find in so many schools of dance all around Konark temple.

Odissi Dance is one of the highlights of Konark Festival

Odissi Dance

The Odissi dance was dug out of the ground, literally. It comes from the ground because the dance is a reconstruction of archaeological evidence found in excavations held in the state of Odissa. All evidence indicates that the Odissi traditional dance can be traced back to 1st century BC. Since then, classical Odissi dance has had quite a few changes, from being an absolutely secular dance ,performed for kings and queens, to a devotional religious dance preformed for the Gods themselves at the temples. For The Mahiris (female dancers and servant of God) the dance and movement is a realm where they can crush the unbearable gap between them and God, making it the most intimate form of love making with god.

Odissi Dance sculptured on the sun  temple walls

Movement on stones

Although the Odissi dance is directed towards many gods and goddess in the Indian pantheon, who better to appreciate the art of dance than lord Shiva, whose second name is Natraj-King of Dance? He got his name for his mythical cosmic dance, called ‘Anandatandava,’ meaning the Dance of Bliss. This dance symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction.

Throughout the years, the Maharis were responsible for keeping the dance alive, even amidst the unstable political and social atmosphere. They have suffered greatly from this dedication, even being portrayed as temple prostitutes in society. Regardless of the labels and rumors, they have managed to perfect a technique of an unequal division of weight and firm footwork balancing. This technique delivers a particular sensuality that is trademark in classical dance styles in India.

The Konark festival is in a way celebrating the victory of art and love over evil. The Oddisi dance is at the front of the stage, representing a mastery of art form.

Here is a small taste of what you should expect from the music festival. Two maestros that I personally believe we must mention:

Hariprasad Chaurasia

Hariprasad chourisya on flute in Konark festival

Flute master Hariprasad Chaurasia

Hariprasad Chaurasia is one of the most influential musicians in contemporary India. The 75 year old musician has been playing the Bhansoori (Indian Bamboo flute) since he was 15. It would have been a great tragedy and a huge blow to India’s contemporary music, had Hariprasad followed his father’s dream of becoming a professional wrestler.

Hariprasad Chaurisia has collaborated with many great musicians, Indian and international.  By working with talents ranging anywhere from George Harrison and the Beatles, to Yehudi Menuhin and John McLaughlin, he has propelled India’s music and style into international spotlight. His innovative and unique style is one of the reasons why Indian traditional music remains contemporary and accessible.

If you want to catch his amazing musical talents, you can attend his performance at the festival on Thursday, February 21st.  

Hariprasad Chaurasia,  Classical segment – check it out

Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan

Shahid Parvez Kahan  on the sitar in Konark Festival 2013

Shahid Parvez Kahan
Image by harmonyom.org

Unlike Hariprasad Chaurasia, who had to learn music from his neighbor secretly from under his father’s radar, Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan was introduced to music as soon as he was born by his father, Ustad Aziz Khan. He grew up in a world of sounds and Ragas (Indian melodies). He is a sitar genius with dazzling virtuosity.

May be the best way to describe Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan, and his significance in classical Indian music, is to quote Zakir Hussain, another virtuoso of Indian classical music:

“To play with Shahid bhai I have to think a lot. I have to be on my toes and concentrate constantly. Playing with him is never a casual affair. He plays very serious music…

Ustad Zakir Hussain commenting about accompanying Shahid Ji ( Ji is a casual form of saying sir in Hindu).

Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan on the Sitar

Shahid Pravez Khan will be performing on Wednesday February 20th, 2013 at the Konark Festival.

 Konark Festival Program

The image was taken from the official site. We added a link too at the below

Konark festival program

 

How to reach Konark Temple?

By Air – The Bhubaneswar airport is the easiest point for entering the city with a number of flights connecting Konark to Kolkata, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Chennai flying out on a regular basis.

By Train – Located in the between cities of Puri and Bhubaneswar, the railway stations at Konark are linked with almost all the major destinations in India via regular trains.

By Road- You can reach Konark through any of India’s national and state highways, linked through Puri, Bhubaneswar, and other major Orissa cities.

For more information, and booking details, please contact the organizers directly at: http://www.konarkfestival.com/ 

Map

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The ganga river in Haridwar attracts thousands of pilgrims

Kumbh Mela : Take a Look at the Craziness!

  • Date: 27th Jan (lasts for 55 days)
  • Location: Allahabad
Join the Sadhus at the Kumbh Mela

Sadhus gathering at the Kumbh Mela

What is the Kumbh Mela?

Kumbh Mela is a Hindu festival, fair and religious gathering which attracts millions of pilgrims from all over India. It is the largest human gathering event in the world. In 2007 more than 75 million people gathered in Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela. There are four places where the event is held and they are considered to be some of the holiest Hindu places in India:

  • Godavari river in Nashik in the state of Maharastra

    Pilgrims

    Kumbh Mela 2010 took place Haridwar

  • Shipra river in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh
  • Ganges river in Haridwar in Uttarakhand
  • Allahabad or Prayag in Uttar Pradesh

For Hindus, bathing in these holy waters is the highest aspiration for it is associated with the mythological God’s nectar mentioned in Indian mythology and is known as Amrit- immortal nectar. Who wouldn’t want to have that?

Kumbh Mela 2013?

The festival happens every 4 years usually in Jan or Feb depend on the astrological constellation. The Kumbha Mela 2013 is not just an ordinary one it is the Maha Kumbha Mela which is the biggest one which will be in Allahabad only every 6 and 12 years. Allahabad or Prayag is where the waters of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers join together. It is called Sangam- convergence.

Pilgrims

Pilgrims pray by the river at the Kumbh Mela

It is not only the water that joins together but also India’s past future and present converge in this place. Stories that had arrived with pilgrims from the remotest corners of India merge together into one collective narrative that spread out like tiny rivers for those who were left behind.

Some even would argue that the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad played a major role in redefining the Hindu identity in the time of colonial India and helped to spread the nationalist message throughout the sub-continent. Taking a bath in the Sangam which is the heart of the Kumbh Mela festival is the place where differences and unfamiliarity can be overcome.

Here is how Swami Vishwadevananda Ji Maharaj put it:

“The Sangam of three rivers is giving one message. From different directions, three rivers are coming here with great force. They have their own respective backgrounds and uniqueness. Before they meet they had their own directions and after the meeting all the three merged their identities into one even their flow was not disrupted we must try to merge ourselves as one” 

Quotation from Pilgrimage and Power: The Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, 1765-1954 by Kama Maclean

Kumbh Mela an Indian Sadhus freak show

For Hindu pilgrims, the major reason that motivates them to leave everything behind and hit the road is no less than to see Sadhus (ascetic who has left behind all material goods) in action!

The Kumbh Mela festival hosts the entire spectrum of Hindu society but more than everything else it is identified (historically and principally) with Indian Sadhus.

In 2001, more than 180,000 Sadhus from various Akharas (groups) travelled from all  over India to attend the festival.

But what makes Sadhus so attractive in the eyes of Indian people?

A Sadhu at the Kumbh Mela

A Sadhu at the Kumbh Mela

Since the beginning of Indian civilization Sadhus were considered to know something ordinary people did not.

Sadhus are willing to go where no one else has the courage to go and to do what other people won’t dare to do. They are willing to cross the lines of the most precious values of Indian society. Death, for Indian people represents the absolute form of impurity.

During the Kumbh Mela Indians  come to look at them displaying their bizarre ways of expressing indifference to pain; lying on thorns, endure extremes of heat and cold and deform their bodies in ways you can’t possibly imagine.

“The only people who see the whole picture are the ones who step outside the frame” Salman Rushdi

You might consider this as a freak show like most Indian people who witness these kind Yogis practices. The Kumbha Mela is the Sadhus crazy celebration. However, there is something deeper in this craziness like Salman Rushdi once said ‘Only the outsider can see the whole picture’. Craziness allows Sadhus to step outside of the day-to-day picture; it allows them to challenge the Brahmins purity (upper caste), it enables them to fly above the restrictions of human body.

Who are sadhus?

Sadhus, are those that have left the material life, they are socially dead to their kin and throughout their Yogi practice they continue to articulate this deadness. They smear their body with ash (vibhuty) as a sign that the body is mere ash. Sadhus are inherently powerful beings capable of bestowing blessing on the pilgrims who seek Darshan (blessing which can be attained only from the act of looking). In certain ways, they possess the quality of Gods as they are fearless. The famous encounter between Rajas (Kings) and Sadhus in Indian literature demonstrate how strong the appeal of Sadhus are, as powerful characters in the Indian collective thought.

Sadhus, because they step outside of the ‘picture’ and keep questioning each and every core value of Hindu society they are such a cohesive force, a mirror image of the culture. This is probably what many pilgrims see when they look deep in the water of the Sangam in Allahabad where the three rivers joined together.

This article is also available on BlogDash

During Holi Celebration in India

Holi Celebration – See How Easily you Can Enjoy it!

4 places to enjoy the Holi celelebration

best of India- Food in India

Best of India

There are many places to be during Holi in India but here are four that are known for their big celebrations:

Mathura and Vrindavan: This is the most famous place to celebrate the festival in India. Located only four hours from Delhi. It is said that Mathura is the birth place of Lord Krishna and Vrindavan is the place where he spent his early childhood. Festivities usually last around a week and different temples of Lord Krishna celebrate Holi on different days.

Varanasi: The city is transformed during the festival. The streets are packed full of celebrators going wild. If you are lucky enough to stay in a hotel with a view to the river you will see the ghats filled with people throwing colour and partying. May be only in Mathura and Vrindavan it is crazier.

Jaipur: If you love elephants then Jaipur is the place to be during Holi. The celebration begins with an elephant festival held at Chaugan Stadium starting late afternoon. Elephants are paraded around, there is lots of music, dance and elephant tug of war.

Delhi: Being in the capital during the festival makes for a lot of fun and parties.  Definitely worth getting tickets for is the Holi Cow festival of music and madness https://www.facebook.com/holicowfestival

Holi celebration in the Ganges

Holi celebration on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi

Where not to celebrate

The south of India is not the place to be if you want to have a big Holi celebration. The festival there is much quieter and does not have the electricity and charm like the celebrations in the north of the country.

Holi is a time to bring everyone together

As much fun as the partying is what is really special and unique about Holi is that it allows a break of the rigid social structure and brings people from various social statuses together. During Holi there is equality between men and women, young and old, rich and poor and people of different castes as they all happily celebrate side by side.

Food to taste during Holi celebration

Food is an important part of the Holi celebration and something that should not be missed. Depending on where you are different food and drink are enjoyed. One of the most popular is a drink called Thandai made from almonds, fennel seeds, rose petals, saffron, milk and many other spices.  Shakarpara and gujias which are sweets filled with coconut, nuts and dried fruits. Other delights include puran poli, dahi vada, besan papri, khichidj, laddoos and mathri. So go ahead and indulge your sweet tooth in some of these tasty treats.

Safety information during Holi celebration

Women traveling alone should avoid going out during the Holi celebration. This is due to the over consumption of alcohol and bang lassi’s by many young men during this time which pose a safety threat towards women.

Beware of some of the colours that are used during the festival. Many contain chemicals and can cause skin rashes and other skin problems such as dryness, dermatitis, irritation and itching.

 

Holi festival is one of the most important festivals in India

Celebrate Holi Festival of Colors 2013-Local Style

Indians celebrate Holi Festival In Banras

Join the Holi Festival Celebration on The Ganga bank in Varanassi

What is Holi Festival of Colors and when is celebrated?

Holi festival of colors, or in its full name Holika, is one of the main festivals in India and Nepal, and certainly the most colorful one. Holi is celebrated by both the Hindu and Sikh communities at the end of March during the spring season which symbolizes the end of the winter. Hindus celebrate the fertility of the soil and the separation from the coldness of winter. Holi also has a religious significance and is designed to commemorate events from Indian mythology.

Date of celebration 2013: Wednesday, March 27th

The legend of Holi festival

There are many legends surrounding the origins of the Holi festival. The most famous is about the king of the demons who wanted to have a status of a god. To achieve this he required from his subjects that they stop worshiping Vishnu (one of the main gods of the Hindu trinity) and worship him instead. The king’s son a devotee of Vishnu refused and in response the king wanted his execution. The king asked his daughter Holika to march hand in hand with her brother into the flames. Holika agreed thinking that she was immune to fire but she did not realize that her immunity was only valid when walking along into the flames. She was burnt but Vishnu saved the king’s son from the flames and killed the father. The king’s son inherited the throne and in memory the sacrifice of Holika, bonfires are lit to symbolize the burning of desires and evil. Also Holi is also considered to be a festival of love as it is identified with the love story of Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha.

It’s time for a big party

Holi festival of colors 2013  is going to be  big, bombastic festival and you know it is Holi when it arrives. To be part of this celebration is a really fun and memorable experience so if you are in India during this time try and arrive to a place that is known for its crazy celebrations. The atmosphere is electric, energy levels rise and the celebrators go loud and wild. Who knows what causes this but may be it is because of the happiness that it is the end of winter, or maybe it’s the full moon or even because of the use of narcotics and alcohol (this is the only day of the year in which the sale of hashish in Nepal is legal). On a more spiritual level, Hindus explain the joy and happiness down to it being Krishna’s favourite holiday. Whatever the reason it’s not hard to get involved in all the fun and colour. During the festivities many places are filled with tourists who don’t want to miss out on the big party. Brightly coloured powder called Galal is thrown at everyone and anyone, coloured water is sprayed randomly and water balloons are bursting everywhere. Other customs are lighting bonfires, prayers, drinking bang lassi (marijuana missed with milk) and traditional songs and dance.

The Indian Obsession for Cricket could be Cool travel experience

Follow the Ball – Travel with the Cricket Obsession

Cricket in India – Real Travel Opportunity!

Getting into the Indian cricket obsession is one of the greatest travel experiences!

Indians play cricket all the time, all over the country. It could be on a potato field in an altitude of 4000m on the great Himalayan ridge, or on some city’s dump yard  in the vast plains between the Ganga and the Yamuna, or under the palm trees in the south. It doesn’t matter where, as long as they can hit the ball and run as fast as the wind blows.

Any square yard of ground is good enough for children and adults to come together to throw the ball. It doesn’t have to be a yard it could be on the streets, alleys between traffic, any space is suitable for these dreamers to join the great legends of India’s modern history. These legends that have inspired generations to play cricket. Cricket is a religion in India. It doesn’t matter where you are traveling, the India cricket Josh (spirit, enthusiasm) is all over.

Cricket in India- Going to Agra? Don't miss any cricket match

Traveling to Agra to see the Taj? Don’t miss a cricket match!

You don’t need to understand the game, you don’t even have to love it, but don’t miss the opportunity that cricket opens you to as a traveler. So many tourists do not even notice the true devotion that is displayed towards the game.

Here is what someone told me on one of my trips when I was leaving a temple that I had visited in Uttar Khand in northern India. A group of children were crowded in the temples courtyard playing a game of cricket. “What do you want from us? We’re here for the ‘spirit’ of India…not to watch silly cricket matches”! Well let me tell you the spirit of modern Indian is very much connected with Cricket. Cricket provides the ultimate Tamasha (entertainment) and that means everything to the locals.

The cricket madness (Pagalpaan) is all over!

Cricket in India- Happy Crowd in a local neighbourhood after the Indian cricket team glorious victory

Indian Cricket team delivers what no else can – Pure happiness and joy
Photo by theatlantic

When school is off there is nothing more fun than to go to the nearest park or school yard to play cricket. Sometimes, you can see so many people going there to watch the games, just sitting there cheering the teams like it is the IPL (Indian premier league) finals. This is true neighbourhood entertainment that drives the crowd wild. Maybe it is the unique, unexpected moments in the game, the spontaneity of the matches that is the great appeal of cricket in India. This is the core of the Tamasha.

So if a school yard game can be such an attractive sporting event where people gather together to enjoy the game and cheer, just think what happens when the Indian national team plays against Pakistan for example. It stops traffic on the streets, usually busy roads are in a deep silence, everybody’s gathering around the television to watch the game. Even the cows!

[highlight style=’magenta’]Click here to read more about Cricket In India : How it all started and how it has became a national obsession![/highlight]