5 of the Best Indian Festivals

Mar 25, 2013, 05:07 ET from Cox & Kings

LONDON, March 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Last month saw the end of the 55-day Kumbh Mela festival in India, when an estimated 80 million Hindu pilgrims descended on Allahabad for the largest religious gathering on Earth. With the next epic Kumbh Mela 12 years away, Cox & Kings, experts at arranging luxury India tours, have suggested some other lesser-known festivals across the Subcontinent.

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Kutch Utsav festival

In the state of Gujarat, the region of Kutch has a rich and diverse tribal culture that is celebrated annually during the Kutch Utsav festival. From the detailed embroidery of the Ahir women to colourful dancers, Sindhi Bhajan performances and Langa desert music, the festival is a colourful celebration of all the traditional arts, music and dance of the Gujarati.

Khajuraho dance festival

This one-week festival, held in February against the backdrop of the Khajuraho, showcases both classical Indian dances such as Kathak, Bharathanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri and Kathakali along with new, more contemporary modern dances. The open-air auditorium is usually built in front of the beautiful Chitragupta Temple, which is dedicated to the sun god Surya, and features a stunning backdrop to an exhibition of Indian dance performed by some of the world's leading exponents.

The Jaipur elephant festival

Held to coincide with Holi celebrations, the elephant festival is a colourful event that begins with a spectacular parade of decorated elephants, before an afternoon of music and folk dancing, culminating in an enormous game of elephant polo. The day-long festival is a celebration of the elephant, the traditional bearers of royalty throughout the ages and a symbol of power.

The Sankat Mochan music festival, Varanasi

The Sankat Mochan music festival, held at the Sankat Mochan Temple in Varanasi, one of the most ancient in India, is dedicated to the Hindu god Hanuman. Sankat Mocham aptly means 'reliever from troubles' and attracts artists from all over India for the festivities that last through the night. Top performers of Indian classical music will often play for free, which provides a rare chance for those who might not otherwise be able to hear them play.

Hemis Tsechu and Phyand Tsedup at Leh

Hemis Tse Chu, a two-day festival and one of the biggest and most famous held in Ladakh, is dedicated to Padmasambhava, the patron saint of Tibetan Buddhism who brought Buddhism from India to Tibet. The celebrations take the form of traditional dance-dramas called chhams performed by the monks that depict the magical feats of Padmasmbhava in his eight different manifestations as he crushes the enemies of Buddhism. Another festival in Leh is the Phyand Tsedup. Monks perform chhams and every three years a giant 10-metre brocaded silk Thangka is displayed for the culmination of the festival. Situated in the Himalaya with stunning views dominated by the Leh Palace, the colourful summer monastic festivals show life in the most northern Indian state of Ladakh.

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