Everyone has heard of the Diwali festival right? This is one of the most famous Indian festivals which is celebrated all over the world, from Delhi to London to New York.

But there are so many more festivals you really need to know about, and to actually experience in person in India really is a special experience. Some are know around the world, whilst others are more local and lesser known.

If you are keen to plan a trip to this incredible country, check out India tours for tailor-made specialist holidays and small group trips. Experience the highlights of India and also incoporate festivals into your itinerary. 

Now check out our list of amazing Indian festivals which you might now have even heard about before.


1. Diwali

Diwali fireworks

Diwali is one of the more well known festivals on the yearly calendar in India and around the world. Diwali is a huge festival of lights and is one of the major festivals celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs.

This is one of the biggest festivals in the world and usually lasts five days and is celebrated during the Hindu lunisolar month Kartika. If you want to be in India for Diwali, plan a visit during October. This is definitely one of the best festivals to see in Asia.


2. Holi


Holi is one of the most fun Indian festivals, where everyone can get involved. Holi is a giant festival of colour, noise and entertainment held in March every year. Known as the Festival of Spring, expect colour, colour and more colour.

Streets become alive with people having a big colour friendly fight - wear old clothes and join in the festivities. Holi is celebrated all over India. For more information view our guide to the Holi festival in India.


3. Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti is celebrated all over India in January. Its universality definitely doesn’t lead to uniformity though and your experience will very much depend on where you’re based. In the south it’s known as Pongal, a ‘harvest festival’ where offerings are made to the Sun and Moon Gods, where as in the colder Punjab region bonfires are lit in celebration of the coming of summer.


4. Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Turban tying competitions, camel racing, singing, puppeteers, acrobats and a prize for the best moustache? Where do we sign! This festival is held annually in Rajasthan and is a chance for the villagers to come together in the relative winter cool and show the many visitors their traditions and celebrate the year to come. 


5. Maha Shivaratri

The night of Shiva, the Hindu god of transformation, is usually celebrated around late February/early March. As well as meditation and worship at Shiva’s temples, bonfires are lit and women offer prayers for a blissful married life.

The spiritual home of this festival is said by many to be Amarnath Temple, a cave high in the mountains of Kashmir where pilgrims walk, sometimes for days, to worship at the foot of a massive ice stalactite.


6. Krishna Janmashtami (Dahi Handi)

As we’ve already seen a festival which celebrates a particular god in the Hindu pantheon is pretty common. Making massive human pyramids to break a pot full of buttermilk? Less so.

Dahi Handi is an entertainment and competitive event associated with Krishna Janmashtami, the Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Krishna. 

The Dahi Handi festival is nationwide with sporting events organised across cities especially in Maharashtra and other states in western India. Dahi Handi is usually celebrated at the end of August each year.


7. Ganesh Chaturthi

The festival to worship the elephant headed Ganesh is as bright and colourful as the statues of the god himself. It’s particularly popular in Goa where fireworks and feasts abound until, at the end of the festivities, huge idols of Ganesh are carried to the sea and fully immersed.

Like most Indian festivals the dates of Ganesh Chaturthi change every year but it’s usually held between 20 Aug – 20 Sep.


8. Goa Carnival

Goa is one of the most popular tourism destinations in India with foreigners due to the beaches, resorts and laid back lifestyle. If you plan a visit during February or March you will be able to take part in the popular local Goa Carnival. This is usually celebrated before the onset of Lent and festivities go on for four days and nights.


9. International Kite Festival

The International Kite Festival is held on the 14th of January 14 every year, this is one of the most visually stunning festivals to see live. The festival in held in Ahmedabad in Gujarat state, and thousands of kite fans, locals and tourist visit to see the spectacular air show.


10. Onam Festival

Diwali India

Onam festival is another of the more important Indian festivals on the annual calendar held at the end of August. Onam is an annual Indian harvest festival celebrated by predominantly by Hindus in Kerala.

Expect to see street parades, folk dance, people with face paint and costumes, river events, food and so much more. If you are in India for Onam you’ll get to sample some of the most delicious traditional dishes over a ten day period.

Kerala is also one of the most popular destinations in India and there are so many tourist attractions and day trips available here.


Other Festivals

India has so many festivals and celebrations, these are some more which didn’t quite make it to our top 10, but are still worth researching and seeing live if you get the chance:

• Miu Festival, Nagaland
• Mim Kut festival, Mizoram
• Madai festival, Chattisgarh
• Bikaner Camel Festival.
• Kerala Village Fair (Gramam)
• Bihu – Harvest Festival of Assam
• Ooty Summer Festival

No matter what time of year you plan to visit India, you will be sure to find a festival taking place. And this really will add to the magic of your trip.

If you still need some convincing that India is the country for you, visit the Incredible India tourism board website for more information about this fascinating country.

If you are thinking about navigating India independently and going backpacking you might like to view this India budget travel guide which features tons of tips and recommendations for where to go and things to do. This site can help you organise a trip to suit your personal wanderlust and budget, and maybe build in a festival or two too!

Check out our India volunteer programs if you would like to visit India and enjoy a really rewarding experience.