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12 Things We Bet You Didnt Know About Ladakh

Ladakh in the northern most stretch of India is a land of possibilities, nature’s extreme and religion. One thing that holds all these in one thread is the element of mystery. Over the past years, the mainstream world has significantly shown interest in this mystic land, but still have not been able to explore all of its faces. These enigmatic faces are usual to the locals (Ladakhis) and so are its secrets.

If you happen to travel to Ladakh anytime, try to hear out stories of all the below mentioned from a wise local. Well, these are some secrets of Ladakh which we, the mainstream world are completely unaware of:

1. Kung Fu Nuns of Ladakh

Kung Fu Nuns of ‪Ladakh‬ Dress up in Pyjamas and Yellow sashes..
Kung Fu Nuns of ‪Ladakh‬ Dress up in Pyjamas and Yellow sashes.
The clichéd Kung fu image of the Asians, which we happen to tag with every chap having mongoloid features is somewhat true for the Ladakhis too. Although Kung Fu is not a part of the mainstream Ladakhi (Tibetan) culture, echoes of hee-yaas can be sometime heard across the hills. That’s right, there is one self-empowered branch of feminist Buddhism in Ladakh, Drukpa Nunnery, the disciples of which are known to practice the ancient Kung Fu at the very early hours of the morning.

Surprising fact is, these disciples are no martial art aspirants, but Buddhist nuns. Watching the Buddhist nuns, who are usually known for their peace loving nature and relentless towards any sort of violence, getting involved in an act of physical combat is certainly a rare sight in Ladakh.

2. In 1971, The War with Pakistan was Paused to Celebrate Losar 

India-Pakistan 1971 war was paused to celebrate Losar Festival
India-Pakistan 1971 war was paused to celebrate Losar
Who says military men can be no better than war junkies? I do not know about the most advanced Seals or Marines, but the men in uniform of India and Pakistan certainly proved this theory wrong. And that too at such a time when they were at their most ugly form against each other. Very few from either side of the borders know that the historic war in which their country took part four decades before, was put on a halt for some time, so that the locals, who were in the middle of such crises, can carry on with some festival in peace.

It was the 1971 war between India and Pakistan. Gunfires, grenades, continuous bombardments from the tanks were dismantling the Turtok village (in possession of Indian army) in Ladakh. Then suddenly, the then Commanding officer of that post, Colonel Chewang Rinchen got a conscious call, felt sentimental, and paused the war for some time. Reason being, Losar festival celebrations were about to start. I wonder how the other side fell for it and also stood at peace. The Losar festival continued for some days and so the ceasefire. Later on, the Colonel was awarded the Mahavir Chakra for his noble act.

3. Magnetic Hills 

Magnetic Hill of Ladakh
Magnetic Hill of Ladakh
One of its kind in the world is the Magnetic Hill. True to its name, the hill is known to defy gravity by pulling the cars towards it, just like a magnet. The mysterious hill is located on the Leh-Kargil-Srinagar national highway, at a height of 11,000 feet.

Locals of Ladakh have a superficial explanation about the hill. They believe that there was once a pathway (the highway connecting to the hill), which used to lead straight to heaven. Those who deserve heavenly pleasures are pulled right away by the hill, whereas who does not deserve are not.

However, modern minds take it as a nature’s phenomenon and believe magnetism of earth is the root cause of this attraction. Leh resides at one of the highest altitudes on Earth and receive the maximum radiation of the sun. This causes the magnetic pull, and fluctuations in the presence and absence of sun are bound to happen. That’s why, at the day time the magnetism is more intense than the night time.

4. Shrine of OP Baba

Enterance Gate to Shrine of OP Baba
Enterance Gate to Shrine of OP Baba
Siachen is the highest and toughest battle field in the world. Since many decades, Indian army has made its presence to this inhospitable region, where mere survival itself becomes a challenge. Apart from the physical and mental agility, the thing that keeps them going is the unwavering faith towards a legendary soldier; the fellow soldiers prefer to consider him as their guardian deity. Legends has it that once a brave soldier named Om Prakash, single-handedly put a valiant fight against an enemy attack that took place at the Malaun post. In an attempt to safeguard the post, he laid down his life.

Today, soldiers posted there have a firm belief that the spirit of that martyr, commonly known as the ‘OP Baba’, protects the Siachen past against all odds, nature or enemy. Owing to this belief, they also made a sacred shrine of him, right at the basecamp of Siachen. 

5. The Myth of Tso Kar Lake

Mysterious Tso Kar Lake of Ladakh
Mysterious Tso Kar Lake of Ladakh
Ladakh surely has a mystic charm that shines out from every of its wonderful spots. One such spot is the Tso Kar Lake, which is one of the highest and the most beautiful high altitude lakes in India. The lake is crystal clear blue with patches of white (salt) on its shore. Such amalgamation of colors make it a popular tourist attraction. However, the lake hasn’t been like this in the past, as the locals talk about its story.

The myth goes like this, millions of years back, Tso Kar used to be gigantic. There was a devil, who started with the task of drinking the whole of the lake. After a point, when he got totally full and couldn’t hold any longer, he ended up spraying all of it on earth. Some amount of it spluttered towards Korzok, which formed Tso Moriri, while the rest of the water gave rise to Starspapukh and Regul Tso.

6. Rocks of Viagra

Rocks of Viagra in Ladakh
Rocks of Viagra
One of the most important ingredients of Viagra, ‘Shilajit’ has its best quality origins in the Himalayan hills of Ladakh. In the cities, this precious natural drug, known to improve sexual stamina and libido is sold at high prices, but in the barren lands of Ladakh, it is available for free.

Just like rubber, this antioxidant oozes out from the rocks and is found in great abundance. However, if you come across such rocks, don’t just start scraping it off from the rocks because it requires proper processing to get the desired drug. 

7. Indian Army Training People to Build Homestay

Being a border disputed region, Ladakh in the extreme north of India has military presence since many decades. Indian army not only protects the Ladakhi borders, but also safeguards the interests of the local population. As a noble attempt, Indian army has taken the charge of training the locals to build comfortable homes for them.

Environmental conditions at Ladakh are highly unpredictable and hostile. Thus, for the rural population to be independent, the men in uniform have started this endeavor. They also contribute in the local economy by supplying fruits and vegetable at the time of shortage.

8. Road Across Khardungla

World's Highest Motorable Road
Many of us, especially the bikers who take Ladakh as an ultimate sojourn for off-road biking trips, would have been lucky to travel or simply know the highest motorable road (18,380 feet) in the world, Khardungla. But, how many of them know about the bridge that takes you to the other side of the pass? Hardly few. Well, here is another one for the great Indian army.

It was around the year 1982, when troops of the army started with the construction of a bridge that would run over, what was a glaciated patch of hard frozen rice, right ahead the Khardungla pass. Known as the Baily Bridge, it is located between the Dras and the Suru River at Khardungla pass and is the highest bridge in the world.

It was built to facilitate travel to the other high altitudes of Ladakh, and today it still stands strong, bearing the load of hundreds of army trucks and tourist vehicles on its shoulders. Unfortunately, 18 men lost their lives in the construction of the bridge.   

9. The Tradition of The Order

The tradition of the order in Ladakh
The Tradition of Ladakh
Synonymous with Buddhist monasteries, Ladakh has monks in hundreds associated with these religious spots. These red clad peace loving monks are of every age. As per one compulsive tradition of Ladakh, the youngest child of a family would be bounded to join a monastery as per his sect and live life like a monk.

This practice was very much in common in the years of the past, but now it rarely happens. Although the region is not short of teens willing to voluntarily join the monasteries as per the order.  

10 Blow a Conch to Call 120 Lamas for Lunch

Blow a conch to call 120 lamas for lunch
Blow a conch to call for lunch
Monasteries located entirely on the edge of a cliff are some of the usual sights that you can have in Ladakh. One such structure is the Karsha Gompa which has a collection of 30 buildings built all on a vertical climb. All these buildings, whether the prayer halls, libraries or living quarters are places where 120 monks get their routine indulgences, and to call all of them for lunch and dinner can be quite a task, if you do not have an effective medium.

For that, the monastery makes use a conch shell. Every afternoon and evening, this conch shell is blown, and it resonates the whole of the monastery. The lamas or the Buddhist monks call it the call for food.    

11. Druk White Lotus School 

Druk White Lotus School
Druk White Lotus School
Located in the Shey region of Ladakh is a structure that can withstand the most hostile weather conditions and still stand unaffected. Known as the Druk White Lotus School, it was set up to instil rich cultural traditions in the students. Interesting fact about the property is that local building materials and techniques are used in the construction of it.

Considering various possibilities of extreme weather conditions that Ladakh faces, an environmental design has been chosen for the school. This sustainable design has also won the school an international reputation.

12. Where the Snake King Slept

One of the most significant and important monasteries in Ladakh, Likir is situated at a hilltop. Besides the religious significance, the monastery is popular for a different reason as well. Buddhists believe that the monastery was the place where the snake king Jokpo once slept. Infact, naming of the monastery itself signifies its association with the snake king. Likir is derived from the word Lukhgil, which means ‘coiled snake’. Monks believe that the sacred monastery is under the guard of the spirits of two legendary snakes-Nanda and Taksako.

[ You may also check-out here the list of 28 Ladakh Tour Packages to explore the land of mystery ]
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Fair & Festivals in India in September 2015

September brings India into a full swing. It is that time of the year, when the country celebrates some of its biggest festivals in a manner that reflects how deep it is rooted to its culture and traditions. Mentioned below are some of the popular festivals in India in September, the celebrations of which spread to its every corner.  

Krishna Janmashtami

Making Pyramid of Humans for breaking the Dahi Handi
Making Pyramid of Humans for breaking the Dahi Handi.  CR Shelare/Getty Images.
It is the birthday of the Hindu Lord, Krishna (the blue-skinned incarnation of Lord Vishnu). Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated in the whole of India, but in different forms. When the northern part of India (especially Mathura and Vrindavan) wakes up before dawn, decorates their Vaishnava temples and events including Kirtan (devotional songs), drama, dance become the part of the celebrations which continue till midnight, It is the other half of India, which gets resonated with an epic show of devotion towards the Lord.

Coming on top of the cities with celebrations of these kinds is Mumbai. Its major highlight being the ‘Dahi Handi’, represents Lord Krishna’s love for curd and butter. An earthen pot containing curd, money and butter is tied up high and young ‘Govindas’ (as they like to call themselves) make human pyramids of themselves to reach the Handi. Well, this use to be the story of Mumbai, and several other parts of Maharashtra during the Krishna Janmashtmi.

Do enjoy specially made for the occasion, delicious peda and buttery lassi, if you happen to visit Mathura (Lord Krishna’s birth place) and Gokul at this time of the year in India.    

When: September 5-6, 2015
Places to be during this time: To witness the festivities of Krishna Janmashtmi in India, make a visit to Mathura. The birth place of Lord Krishna is known to celebrate this festival with elaborate rituals. Other than this, the city of Mumbai throws the best bet. The ‘Dahi handi’ ritual along with celebrations at the famous ISKCON temple complex in Mumbai brings a gala time.    

Ziro Festival of Music 

Ziro Festival of Music in the Ziro Valley of Arunachal Pradesh.
Artists performing at a rock music festival : Zero Fest
If you wish to experience what impact a music festival can leave to your mind, then you must head for the Ziro festival of music. Not as great as the Woodstock, but certainly this one is enough for your soul to fly like a free bird.

Some call it the wilderness effect, created by the magical landscapes and mystical mountains of the breathtaking North-east, while others believe it’s the fusion of artists (global and local) that defines the beauty of this festival. Whatever it is! The Ziro music festival is one fun trip that every music lover must cling on to.
The Ziro festival of Music goes on for 4 days and is a chance to live your hippie dream (staying in camps, merry making and the unescapable charm of music).  

When: September 24-27, 2015
Address: Ziro valley, Arunachal Pradesh

Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesh Chaturthi : Submergence of the idol of the Lord Ganesha
Submergence of the idol of the Lord Ganesha
Hindu’s most adorable Lord, Lord Ganesha, gets a special attention in the month of September. And it so happens in the city of Mumbai again. A birthday celebration that goes on for 11 days, Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most auspicious festivals in this part of India. Huge and elaborated clay statues of Lord Ganesha make their way to the residences and podiums of the city. This represents the homecoming of the lord and on the last and the final 11th day (Ananta Chaturdashi), the statue of the lord is submerged into the sea, with a belief that every of their worries and problems will also be carried away with him. Before the submergence of the idol of the divine, they are paraded on the streets with full processions that include a lot of singing (Ganpati Bappa Moriya) and dancing.

Festivities of this scale can also be seen in the other southern states of India (TamilNadu, Kerala, Goa and Karnataka) as well.

When: September 17-27, 2015
Places to be during this time: Ganesh Chaturthi is the favorite festival of the state of Maharashtra and especially Mumbai’s. You can also visit Goa, TamilNadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh to witness the festivities.

[ Read more about Ganesh Chaturthi Festival ]

Ladakh Festival

Cham Dance performance at Ladakh festival
Cham Dance performance at Ladakh festival
For all those who take Ladakh as a cold, rusty, barren land, where the vibrancy of mass human gatherings or civilization is highly remote, the Ladakh festival celebrated in the month of September is a mind changer. The Ladakh festival is an annual fiesta that let the locals cherish their deep-rooted culture and traditions, which are the same since time immemorial. It all starts with a procession of dancers, school children and sometimes local leaders.

This gets followed by yak, lion and mask dances. By this time, the festivities turn into a big time high; not to forget the contribution of the locally made barley beer, known as Chang. The festival also talks about sports in the form of archery contests and polo matches. Adventure sports, being one of the faces of Ladakh, become the same for this festival as well. During this time various adventure expeditions like white water rafting, trekking and motor-biking are organized.

In a nutshell, the Ladakh festival is one last reason for the region to ride in the wave of celebration and partying, because after that it’s nothing but a cold and dull spell of winters.

When: September 20-26, 2015
Places to be: Leh and its surrounding villages  

[ Read more about Ladakh Festival and plan your trip ]

Ramnagar Ramlila 

Sita Putting the jaymala around the neck of Rama
Sita Putting the jaymala around the neck of Rama
Ramlila is one of the best ways Hindus depict their epic Ramayana (the story of Lord Rama). And to enjoy the best of the numerous Ramlilas that are staged all across the Northern part of India, you need to schedule your plans to Ramnagar near Varanasi. Being dwelling in the mystic charm of Varanasi, it is quite obvious the connection it would be having with the prime religion of India, Hinduism.

The emulsification of Hinduism in one of the oldest habitats in the world, gave the people of Ramnagar a sense to reenact the story of Lord Vishnu’s incarnation, Lord Rama in the form of a play, some 200 years ago. This started the trend of Ramlila in India. Unlike the other small budgetary Ramlila’s in the country, this one has lavish sets and permanent structures that resemble a lot like those of the locations mentioned in the mythology. All this makes the whole city look like a giant set, where every soul is immersed completely in his respective role. When the other Ramlilas in India bail out after a period of 10 days, it continues for 31 days.

When: September 27-October 2015
Address: Ramnagar, on the banks of Ganges River, opposite Varanasi

Eid al-Adha, Bakrid

Also known as Id-ul-Zuha, it is one of the most auspicious festivals of the Muslim world and is celebrated all over the globe. Indians prefer to call it Bakr-id because of the tradition of sacrificing a goat (Bakri) being involved.

The sacrifice has an interesting story behind it. Muslims have a belief that Allah (God) ordered Ibrahim to put his son forward as a mark of sacrifice. While following the Lord’s commands, the son accidentally got replaced with a sheep at the very last moment.

As part of the celebrations, visits to mosques in new outfits become the order of the day. People offer special prayers and exchange gifts with their loved ones.

When: Every year, Eid-al-Adha falls in the last month of lunar Islamic calendar, Dhu-al-Hijjah. For the year 2015, it is going to be on 25 September 2015.

Vishwakarma Puja

TSR 1st battalion worshiping their Arms & Rifles
TSR 1st battalion worshiping their Arms & Rifles
Hindu religion address him as ‘Devashilpi’ or the ‘Architect of Gods’. He, Lord Vishwakarma, is the divine engineer and is worshipped mainly by the professionals. Hindus believe that Lord Vishwakarma fabricated the entire universe as per the wishes of Lord Brahma. Thus, as a mark of reverence to the lord, Vishwakarma Puja is carried on by artists, craftsman, weavers and Industrial houses. Idols of the Lord and his elephant are put on display at decorated Pandals. The occasion also attracts kite flyers. Owing to which, several multi-colored kites can be seen ruling the skies.

When: September 17, 2015
Where: Karnataka, Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Tripura. 

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Fair & Festivals in India in August 2015

Festivals are the mirrors of society! And with a bucketful of them available for every month, it’s not hard to guess India’s love for celebration. To teach you more about the country’s propensity, here is a list of wonderful festivals and events in August 2015:

The Monsoon Festival

Monsoon Festivals in India in August
With monsoons, comes fertility; and fertility is not only limited to crops, but has its wings spread over the art of expression as well. Some Indian minds have come with a unique way of celebrating the multi-faced monsoons.

And it happens in the capital city, Delhi. Since a decade, Delhi has been celebrating the much awaited monsoon season with a cultural festival that includes everything from music to drama, and art to poetry. The main essence of the monsoon festival is to revive this king of seasons in India.

With contemporaries of visual art, the festival tends to depict the love, nature has towards monsoons and how it connects to the human soul.  By banishing the atrocities of the urban life, it works with the richness of human emotions to contemplate over the awakenings of Indian monsoons.

In other words, the monsoon festival with a plethora of activities like workshops, theater, visual art and fashion walks, welcome the lovely monsoons.

It is going to be the 10th edition of it this year and will be flaunting the ethnic theme of Lord Krishna.

When: August 20-28, 2015
Where: Delhi  

Independence Day

Independence Day - Festivals in India in August
This is the day when India gained freedom. Amongst the most popular events in August, Independence day is celebrated all over India, with a special program in Delhi. It all starts a day before, President of India, addresses the whole nation with a patriotic speech.

Then comes the D-Day and it starts with hoisting of the Indian tricolor by the Prime Minister on the historic Red Fort, which is followed by twenty-one gun shots of honor. As a tribute to the national heroes of Indian freedom struggle, various divisions of the Indian Armed Forces along with the paramilitary put a march past show.

Well, this happens officially in New Delhi. Similar processions are carried on by chief ministers of different states. Not just in Government quarters and premises, the celebrations make home at schools and educational institutions also. As it is marked as a National holiday, cultural events and performances are held for the students a day before.

For some, it is also an excuse to fly kites all day long. Days before the auspicious day, skies of the city get dotted with colorful kites of different sizes. To catch the best kite flying action, visit Chandni Chowk area of Old Delhi.

When: August 15, 2015. Starting from 2 pm
Where: Jain Mandir to Fatehpuri Masjid, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi   

Teej Festival

Teej Festival in India in August

The thing about Indian festivals is they have a religious or a mythological angle attached to almost everyone of them. Now the civilization has a festival attached to monsoons as well, and that too named after a small red insect, Teej, which emerges out in the rainy season.

But why it is celebrated? Well, the answer is no where related to the insect. Rather, the festival is a mark of reunion of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

It is not a festival that pans all over India, but in the parts of Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab. And primarily, its Rajasthan that devotes itself to it in a massive scale. It happens in the form of a fair, known as Sawan Mela.

Lots of singing, dancing, and feasting, followed by a convoy of decorated elephants, horses and chariots. All this is done in honor of Goddess Teej (a form of Goddess Parvati). Tripolia Gate, Gangauri Bazaar and Chhoti Chaupar in Jaipur must be your ideal place to be during Teej.

When: August 17-18, 2015
Where: Rajasthan, particularly in Jaipur 

Nag Panchami

 Nag Panchami - Festival in India in August
Lucky are the snakes of India!. Here, these reptiles are not just a wildlife show, but divine like the Lords. Visit the southern states of India during Nag Panchami and you will see the country’s love for the serpent.

Although different regions of India have their own set of traditions and rituals to celebrate this unique festival. A treat of milk and honey to the snake, particularly a cobra, is one of the main aspects of Nag Panchami. People worship temples of Lord Shiva to worship and seek blessings during the festival, as snakes are dear to the Lord. Don’t panic, if someone comes to you asking for milk or alms, carrying a dormant cobra. They won’t bite!

When to visit: August 19, 2015. 
Where: Rural areas of Maharashtra, particularly Battis Shirala Village. Adisha temple in Andhra Pradesh, Nagathamman temple in Chennai, Hardevja temple in Jaipur and Nagaraja temple in Kerala are the popular places to visit during NagPanchami. 

Onam Festival

 Onam Festival in India in August

It’s the homecoming of the Devil king, Mahabali, and the Malayalis love it. With complete traditions and rituals, they welcome him at their home. And is the state festival of Kerala, Onam.

The festival is one of the most ancient in India, but has not lost its traditional festive shine in today’s modern times. Onam is basically a harvest festival, which beautifully showcases the culture and heritage of Kerala. Decorations known as Pookalam mark the entrances of the homes.

Women dressed in colorful attires serve guests with authentic Kerala cuisines that are a part of a ritual named Onasadya. And on the streets, processions and parades in the form of Pulikkali Tiger Play, whereas the backwaters, being raced down by traditional snake boats,  depict the festive spirit of the auspicious Onam.  

When: August 28, 2015 (celebrations start 10 days prior and continue for around a week after).
Where: Kerala. The most spectacular celebrations take place in Trivandrum, Thrissur, and Kottayam. For Aranmulla snake boat race, travel to Pampa river, near Chengannur, South of Alleppey in Kerala.  

Shravani Mela

 Shravani Mela - Festivals in India in August

Celebrated through out the monsoon months in India, Shravani Mela is a festival dedicated to the almighty Shiva. In an attempt to pay obeisance to Baba Baidyanath Shiva, thousands of Saffron clad devotees march for more than 100 km.

The tradition says it starts on the Amavasya (No moon) day in the month of monsoon and ends by the Purnima (Full moon) day. In between all this, devotees have to fetch the holy waters of Ganga and shower it at Deoghar Baidyanath temple.

When: 1 August to 30 August 2015.
Where: All over India.

Bonderam Festival

Bonderam Festival in India in August
Removing the animosity between two communities, which is in existence since the Potuguese era, Bonderam festival is one such event Goa waits eagerly. In the company of thousands-locals and tourists, this harvest festival is held every year at the Divar island in old Goa.

As per the merry making spirit of Goa, the festival becomes a paradise of melodious music and dance. Parades and processions by different villages in the vicinity, and continuous recitation of Viva Bonderam keeps alive the carnival ambience of the festival.

When:  Bonderam Festival  is celebrated on the fourth Saturday of August every year.

Where: Divar island in Goa

Raksha Bandhan

Raksha Bandhan - Festivals in India in August

The much awaited festival for sisters in India, Raksha Bandhan celebrates the love they share with their brothers. It is one of the prime festivals in Indian societies and is celebrated all over the country.

Some states call it Nariyal Poornima, Kajari Poornima, while for most, its Rakhi Poornima. As a mark of the chaste love, sisters tie beautifully crafted ‘Rakhis’ on the wrists of their brothers. It is not only confined to brothers and sisters.

Above than the deep blood bonds, Rakhi can be tied by a wife to her husband or a disciple to his guru.

When: August 29, 2015.
Where: All over India. 

Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race

 Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race - Festivals in India in August

One of the major events that take place in God’s own country is the Nehru Trophy Snake Boat race. Piercing the silence of the exotic Punnamada lake in Alappuzha, the snake boats put the blue tracks on fire.

It has been like this since 1952, and every year a great show, infront of an huge audience is put forth.  The Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race is a prestigious event and features ceremonial water processions, that is like no other in the world.

When: 8 August 2015
Where: Lake Punnamada, Alappuzha, Kerala

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Fair & Festivals in India in July 2015

Monsoons are the reason to go out and holiday after a scorching spell of the summers. July being the prime month of rains in most parts of India, brings with itself hefty opportunities, not just to enjoy the bliss of nature, but also explore the varied shades of incredible India.

These shades are depicted through different festivals, which are celebrated across boundaries of castes and community. Mentioned below is a list of some of the popular festivals in India that will certainly make your July 2015 memorable.

1. Kumbh Mela, Nashik

Nashik Kumbh Mela : Largest Human Gathering on Earth
Nashik Kumbh Mela : Largest Human Gathering on Earth
If Woodstock comes in your mind, whenever you think of massive human gatherings, then it’s time, you read about the Kumbh. Famous as Kumbh Mela in India, it is one of the most divine festivals for Hindus in the country.

Chances of a festival similar to the scale of Kumbh, in any part of the world are very minute. Such is its intensity and divinity, Kumbh Mela is itself a self proclaimed religion.

Legends has it that its origin happened long before the ancient Vedic scriptures were written. As per Hindu mythology, once the Demigods and Demons got involved in the task of churning the ocean in order to produce the nectar of immortality.

When the nectar was retained after thousands of years of ocean churning, the demigods fled the spot with the pot of nectar (Kumbh), as they feared the ill-intent of the demons. This angered the demons and they went after the demigods, which resulted in fierce battles between the two.

In all this, few drops of nectar splashed out from the pot and fell to four places in India-Haridwar, Ujjain, Allahabad and Nasik. Some texts also say that the demons were the one who seized the pot of nectar and were chased by the other side. And this chase continued for twelve days and nights, which as per the ancient texts is equal to 12 human years.

Owing to this legend, Kumbh Mela is celebrated once in every twelve years at each of the four sacred places. And this time, it’s the turn of Nashik city to immerse into the eternal spirituality of the Kumbh.

Venue for the Kumbh Mela in Nashik  will be the same like always; Trimbakeshwar district, on the banks of the sacred Godavari river.

As per the reputation, Kumbh Mela for this year is likely to attract millions of pilgrims and tourists from all over the globe. Hindus believe that by taking a holy dip in the nectar mixed river during the Kumbh Mela, one gets free from all of his sins and attains eternal bliss.

The chaos of spirituality and divinity revolves in its every face, be it in the  form of the outrageous and naked ‘Naga Sadhus’, which are also known as  the ‘Aghoris’, the Babas, yogis or the simple Hindu pilgrims  from the mainstream of the country.

Thus, head to this unforgettable event this July and give religion a chance to govern yourself.

[ Plan your trip through Kumbh Mela Tour Package  ]

2. Amarnath Yatra

An experience that is bound to change the way you value any religion, Amarnath Yatra is an annual affair for lakhs of pilgrims, wishing to pay their obeisance to Lord Shiva. Since times immemorial, Amarnath cave has been a place of worship for the Hindus. Legends has it that Lord Shiva used the Amarnath cave to narrate the secrets of immortality to his consort, Goddess Parvati.

There are many epics revolving about the discovery of the cave by humans. Some say that a shepherd named Buta Malik accidentally discovered it, while others stick to the tale of Bhrigu Rishi  being the founder of Amarnath shrine. Whosoever is the founder, Amarnath cave is one of the most sacred shrines for Hindus in this whole world. It is the place where pilgrims avail eternal happiness in the shadow of the almighty Shiva.

The high altitude cave shrine has an iced stalagmite Lingam, which Hindus believe to be a part of the lord. Adjacent to the Shiva Lingam, there are other two more ice Lingams, which belong to Goddess Parvati and Lord Ganesha. The sacred shrine remains snow covered for most part of the year, but during a brief period in summers, it opens  its doors for the pilgrims.

Every year during the months of Shravan of the Hindu calendar (July and August), Amarnath Yatra is organized, which lasts for approx two months. The holy Amarnath cave resides at an altitude of around 12,756 ft which has to be trekked on foot. The journey is tough as it goes through undulated terrains and grounds. But with the spirit of the almighty in one’s heart, no route feels difficult. There are two routes made available from Jammu. One goes through Pahalgam, while the other is via Baltal.

In between the journey, various spiritual sites, like the Sheshnag lake, Mahaganesh mountain and Bail Gaon, all linked to the legends of Lord Shiva, will be coming your way. If you are lucky, you might catch the sight of a pair of pigeons at the doorstep of Amarnath. Some connect it to the immortal pair of birds, the description of which is mentioned in the mythological story of the shrine.

But before heading on to the spiritual journey, one must get himself registered for the Yatra, which is done by Jammu and Kashmir Government.

[ Check-out the list of Amarnath Yatra Packages ]

3. Rath Yatra

In Puri, it is a carnival like festival. Its that occasion, which is marked by three mammoth like chariots being pulled on the streets by devotees.

But what makes these men participate in such a huge procession? (can be tough lover for some).

Locals of Puri call it their immense devotion and love for Lord Jagannath, that drive them to celebrate in this fashion. The city, which is world renowned for the Jagannath temple, makes it a duty to completely devote itself in the celebrations of its favored deity, Lord Jagannath. And  they show it the best through the Rath Yatra or Car Festival, as the foreigners would say.

It all starts on the second day of the Shukla Paksha in the 3rd month of the lunar calendar.  Lord Jagannath along with his elder brother, Lord Balabhadra and sister Subhadra is worshipped in the famous Jagannath temple.

The tradition forbids some castes to enter into the temple, so for them the Rath Yatra or the Chariot journey is the only mean to seek blessings from the three Lords. The chariots start their journey from Jagannath temple and ends at Gundicha Mandir.

As per Hindu mythology, Gundicha is the place of their aunt, so after staying there for 9 days, the return trip of the chariots back to Jagannath temple takes place.

The Rath Yatra festival is amongst the most sacred festivals in India, thus, it draws pilgrims and tourists from all over the world.  This year the Ratha Yatra is going to be little more auspicious than the usual.

The tradition says that after every 19 years, the idols of the deities get a new avatar, and the Rath Yatra gets named as Nabakalebar. Thus, this year it’s going to be Nabakalebar Rath Yatra which will be commencing in the second half of July 2015.

4. Karsha Gustor Festival

A Masked Dancer At The Karsha Gustor Festival
A Masked Dancer At The Karsha Gustor Festival
If you are planning a trip to Ladakh in the month of July, then you have your chances to witness its cultural’s anatomy saved. As in July, Ladakh celebrates Karsha Gustor festival at its very famous Karsha monastery.

The Gompa resides on a mountain slope in Zanskar, thus you have to climb all  the way to the site. . No doubt, this Himalayan region enthralls visitors with captivating sights that look so impossible to be scheduled in the urban mundane.

From the top its like a picture perfect paradise, and with the friendlies (Lamas) in their disarming best, do not hesitate in submerging yourself in their festivity.

Ladakhis, being highly grounded to their roots,  very well know how to celebrate. But certainly not like the merrymaking affairs of Goa or down south. They dance in their traditional way, narrating a story and during the Gustor, its the victory of good over evil. If you have been to any festival in Ladakh before, then watching the masked dance performances of the chums won’t be a new thing for you.

However, the festival also features a special black hat dance performance by the monks, that is highly delightful to watch. The monastery has a lot to explore and every nook and corner of it narrate a different tale.

5. Eid-Ul-Fitr

Ed-Ul-Fitr is a very popular festival for Muslims all over the world. It is an annual affair for the community and is also known as ‘Breaking of the Fast’ festival. Here fast is in context of the month long Ramadan festival, in which Muslims keep fasts and are abstained from doing any unlawful activity described by Islam.

A tough ordeal, but surely in the right faith of religion.

Coming back to Eid-Ul-Fitr. The festival depends on the sighting of the moon, and the night before it holds great significance. As a mark of celebration, Muslims go for special Eid shopping, offer prayers at mosques, invite friends and families for grand feasts.

And the feasts are just not the usual ones. If you haven’t been into one, now it’s the time. These feasts highly speak of lip-smacking Sheer Korma, which is a traditional dish, that has vermicelli, milk, sugar served with sprinkles of dates, pistachios and almonds.

Plus, it is customary for Muslim households to serve this yummy dish to whosoever turns up on their doorstep.

6. Guru Purnima

Guru Purnima

The Indian version of ‘Teacher’s Day’ of the west, Guru Purnima is a festival in honor of spiritual and academic teachers. In India, the festival is celebrated by followers of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.

Hindu scholars and ascetics prefer to call it Vyas Purnima also, in a sense of gratitude to one of the most spiritual gurus of all time, Maharisi Veda Vyasa. As per Hindu traditions, the auspicious Guru Purnima festival is celebrated on a full moon day of the Ashad month i.e the months of July and August.

For the year 2015, The festival is scheduled to take place on 31st July. As the day  is dedicated to the spiritual gurus, rather than modern day academic teachers, it is celebrated with austerity in the various Yogic ashrams of India.

Move  to the Himalayan ashrams in Rishikesh on this day to see the colors of Guru Purnima. It is more of a worship occasion to the Guru rather than a celebration over there. However, spiritual organizations also organize cultural performances and programs especially for the day.      

7. Splash

India’s answer to the water festivals of Europe and the West, Splash, is the new way to celebrate monsoons in the country. And what better way than the evergreen, monsoon host of India, Kerala, to mark this occasion. To be precise, the Splash festival in India is celebrated in the Wayanad region of Kerala.

Facts say that Wayanad, being one of the most beautiful spots in Kerala, attracts a lot of tourists. True, but now you have one more reason to travel to this part of India. The three day Splash event is a  mix of both indoors as well as outdoor activities, and it will bring back your childhood days.

River rafting, crab catching, splash football, splash volleyball, paddy transplantation, treasure hunt and climbing the slippery pole are some activities that will keep you busy, even if you are a spectator.

You can also try your hand in other activities like cycling, bamboo rafting, river crossing, archery and trail walking. Splash also helps in promoting the traditional art forms of Kerala. ‘Keraleeyam’, which is an indoor program at the Splash event, showcases dance and musical performances.  

8. Dree Festival

Far from the mainstreams of India, lies an unexplored beauty, Arunachal Pradesh, which celebrates a festival known as the Dree festival. As the state has agriculture as its main occupation, most of its festivals are based on it.

Dree, being one of them, is celebrated in the month of July, when the state is under the spell of the monsoons. The Dree festival at the ritual level belongs to the Apatani tribe of Arunachal and involves certain sacrifices to be done in the name of the Gods.

For the rest of the population, Dree is a festival of joy where celebrations are in the form of folk music and dance competitions. The festival takes place every year in the month of July.  

9. International Mango Festival, Delhi

Mango is the king of all fruits, and as the spring comes, we just can’t have enough of this pulpy fruit. But imagine a festival dedicated to this tropical delight. Yes, you heard it right! The capital of India, Delhi, every year celebrates its love for Mango with an International festival.

The Mango festival invites specialties of mangoes from all corners of the country. Be it, Alphonso, Dasheri, Falsa or Bombay green, the festival has it all. This one of a kind opportunity to relish so many flavors of the super fruit, bring mango lovers from far off distances.

Interesting fact about the International Mango Festival is, besides, sucking on the mangoes, recreational events and activities like mango eating competition, mango folk performances, mango slogan writing and mango carving are also the highlights of the festival. Mango products like Aam Papad, Aam Panna, Mango Pulp, pickles and jam are also put on sale.

So what are you waiting for?, the festival is only for two days.  

10. Champakulam Moolam Boat Race

A scene from the Champakulam Moolam Boat Race in Alappuzha
A scene from the Champakulam Moolam Boat Race in Alappuzha
Kerala backwaters soothe every purpose. Be it serving the tourists by narrating about the lush green beauty and captivating natural surroundings of the state, or playing a host to some of the most spectacular boat races in the world.

One such event that supports tourism on Kerala backwaters is the Champakulam Moolam boat race, which takes place during the monsoons. The exact date of the race is decided as per the Malayalam calendar and local traditions, so it is bound to change every year, yet the month remains the same.

On the race day, huge boats, decorated in traditional designs get lined up on the river Pembu in Moolam.  Some of these boats are believed to be more than 100 ft long and have elevated prows, which gave them a renowned name of snake boats.

Champakulam Moolam Boat race is the oldest of its kind and besides being a spectator boat, is a test of endurance, skill and agility of the rowers. As it’s no easy job, the rowers undergo tough training prior the competition.

Related Post: 
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Fair and Festivals in India in November
Fair and Festivals in India in December 

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Nashik Kumbh Mela 2015 Travel Guide

Sage playing the conch in Nashik Kumbh Mela

The largest human gathering on earth, Kumbh Mela is known to be one of the most sacred Hindu festivals. Nashik Kumbh Mela is one of its faces and is celebrated over a period of 12 years on the banks of Godavari river.

Precisely, the celebrations of this extravaganza take place at the origins of the sacred Godavari river, Trimbakeshwar district in Nashik, Maharashtra. In an attempt to delve completely into the spiritual flow of the Kumbh festival, pilgrims and tourists in figures of millions, flock to this part of the globe. The main essence of the festival is the dip in the holy waters, which Hindus believe washes away all the sins of this mortal world.

Highly fascinating is the sight of saffron clad or the naked ‘Sadhus’. As per Hindu traditions, Nashik Kumbh Mela invites 14 sects of Sadhus, known as Akharas. Out of these 14, 11 are Lord Shiva followers, including the fully naked Naga Sadhus, while the other 3 sects are dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

Significance of Nashik Kumbh Mela 2015

Hindy mythology describes the origins of Nashik Kumbh Mela somewhat like this. Lord Brahma, creator of the Universe once advised Gods to perform the task of churning of the ocean, in order to obtain nectar, which will make them rid of their weaknesses. They soon realized it’s a tough task, so sought help from the demons, on the pretext of giving the other half of the nectar to them.

When the churning resulted into the extraction of a nectar pot, the Gods did not keep their promise and ran away with it. On seeing their pact being broken by the Gods, demons got furious and started a chase on them. The chase continued for 12 days and nights all around the globe, and in all this, few drops of the precious nectar got sprinkled at four places in India. These places in the modern world are known as Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nashik. To commemorate this mythological event, Hindus celebrate this festival in their respective times.

The festival of Kumbh in Nashik is divided into various dates which are considered highly auspicious. These dates or events are scheduled as per the positions of the moon, Jupiter and sun. Unlike the other Kumbh festivals in India, Kumbh Mela in Nashik falls partially during the Hindu month of Shravan (Lord Shiva) and Bhadrapada (Lord Vishnu).

Therefore, the proceedings differ a little. On the last day of the month of Shravana, falls ‘Purnima’ (full moon), and Hindus go by the belief of offering water to Lord Shiva on this day as it is considered very auspicious.

On the other hand, a no moon night or ‘Amavasaya’ in the month of Bhadrapad, a holy dip in the sacred river is something that every Hindu pilgrim looks for.            

Nashik Kumbh Mela 2015 Dates

Devotees Taking A holy dip during Kumbh Mela festival.

Before attending the sacred Nashik Kumbh Mela, it is good to know about the dates and schedule. These are listed as follows :
  • July 14,2015 : Flag hoisting ceremony of the Kumbh takes place on this day. In other words, it marks the beginning of this sacred festival.
  • August 9, 2015 : This is the day when the lifeline of the Kumbh, the ‘Sadhus’ take the center stage. On this date, flag hoisting ceremony of the various Akharas (sects) at Sadhugram takes place.
  • August 26, 2015 : Day of the first Snan/bath, also known as ‘Shravan Pratham’  
  • August 29, 2015 : Shravan Purnima (First Shahi Snan/Royal Bath)
  • September 13, 2015 : September marks the beginning of the month of Bhadrapada. And on this date, the second Shahi Snan/Royal Bath and main bathing day take place. Hindu traditions name this date as Bhadrapad Amavasya.
  • September 18, 2015 : Third Shahi Snan/Royal Bath, known as Bhadrapad Rishi Panchami.
  • September 25, 2015 : Bhadrapad Shukla Tritiya.

Bathing Ritual During the Main Day 

Most important day (13 September 2015)  of the Nashik Kumbh Mela is characterized by a bathing ritual that starts with the sunrise and continues all day long. People from all walks of life take part in this large scale ritual, whereas the different sects of ‘Sadhus’ indulge in the spiritual bath as per their set order and time.  

How to Reach Nashik Kumbh Mela

Nashik in the state of Maharashtra is very well connected to the major cities of the state. It is around 180 km from Mumbai and 220 km from the city of Pune. The city has an extensive system of transport that connects with both of these important cities.

Reach by Air :

Nashik does not have a fully functional airport yet. Thus, in order to reach the Kumbh festival, one can make use of Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport in Mumbai. CST is an international airport and it operates regular flights from all over the globe.

Reach by Rail :

Nashik railway station, which is one of the most important junctions of central railway is 38 km (approx) from the site of the Kumbh Mela. Being a major rail route junction, it frequently operates trains from the various parts of India.

Reach by Road :  

The city of Pune also is fairly close to Mumbai and Pune. Thus, travelling here via road is no such problem. Private and State government buses regularly run between these cities.

Things to be Kept in Mind

Nashik Kumbh festival takes place during the time of monsoons. As the city falls in a highly wet zone of India, heavy rainfall is expected throughout the season. Thus, it is advised one must keep a check on the accommodations and necessary items. 

And, if you are planning to camp on site, then you may check-out the Price Guide for Nashik kumbh mela 2015 to make sure your journey to visit "Aastha ka Kumbh".
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