Did you know that India’s ubiquitous auto-rickshaw is also being used for cross country rides and that too on a competitive scale? Well you have to be in Shillong in Meghalaya on August 2 to see the competitors from across the world take their rickshaws on a test drive before the Rickshaw Run competition is flagged off on August 5. The participants will travel from Shillong to Kochi (Cochin) covering a distance of 3,500 km. The competition draws to a close on August 20 with a parade and a party. While the rickshaws leave on their pan-India journey, you can enjoy the beauty of Shillong and Cherrapunji before returning home. www.theadventurists.com
If you have no qualms about rolling in the mud and clearing a few difficult obstacles on the way, then this little known festival is just for you. The quiet shores of the Dudhani Lake, about 40km from Silvassa, capital of the Union Territory of Dadra & Nagar Haveli, will be the venue of the Mud Rush 2015. Here competitors wallow in the mud as they rush to overcome a series mind-boggling hurdles across a 5-km stretch. “The obstacles are designed to push you to your mental and emotional limits,” claims the organisers. Waterbodies, barrier walls, a stretch of tires, fire, ice, are a few of the obstacles that the competitors have to clear.
Shout yourself hoarse at the Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race that will be held at the Punnamada Lake in Kerala’s famous backwater town of Alappuzha (Alleppey). Besides watching the keenly contested boat races, you can also enjoy Kathakali programmes and local cuisine.
Poet, noble laureate Rabindranath Tagore decided that the festival calendar of Viswa Bharati, the university founded by him in Shantiniketan, West Bengal, would be guided by the seasons. As the monsoon is an important season for an agrarian country like India, he mooted two festivals, Halakarshan (ploughing) and Vriksharopan (tree planting). The university’s teachers, students and other staff participate in these festivals.
No matter where you are in India on this day, get up early to pay your respect to the Indian Tricolour and join your fellow countrymen to sing the national anthem as we remember this solemn day – our Independence Day. Many organisations hold welfare programmes, cultural events, etc. on this day. You can also plan for a weekend getaway this year.
If you happen to be in Puducherry on August 15, do not miss the annual Car Festival of Veerampattinam. This coastal village of Puducherry (Pondicherry) is located at a distance of 7km from the Pondicherry city. The festival is held in honour of the presiding deity Sengazhuneer Amman.
Extend your Independence Day weekend holiday to romance the rains at Mandu in Madhya Pradesh. Few places in India can beat this historical town’s beauty during the rainy season. Madhya Pradesh Tourism has organised a three-day weekend Tourism Festival in Mandu starting on August 16, 2015. It will include a heritage walk and a slew of programmes at the Jami Masjid Ground – folk dance and music, art camps, food festival, photography competition, etc. Immerse yourself in the ballads that sing about the romance of Baz Bahadur and Roopmati.
Observed at many places in northern India, Teej is best enjoyed in Rajasthan. Held in honour of the divine couple, Shiva and Parvati, this festival is largely observed by married women. In many places, an idol of goddess Parvati is carried out in a colourful procession. As this is a festival that also marks the monsoon month of Shravan, swings are erected in many households and decorated with flowers; family members and friends have fun swinging together.
Tucked into the Birbhum district of West Bengal, the town of Bishnupur is known for its terracotta temples and toys, the silk baluchari saree and many other handicrafts. On the last day of the month of Shravan, people in this region observe the Manasa Puja to honour the snake goddess Manasa. On the following day, snake charmers from West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, even Bangladesh, gather here for demonstrating their skills in handling live snakes; this is known as Jhapan. Earlier, patronised by the royal family, the best snake charmer would be honoured with a procession where he would ride a clay tiger. But of late the glamour of the jhapan festival is on the wane.
Nag Panchami is observed to propitiate the snakes. Based on mythical beliefs, most worship symbols or idols, bathing them with milk and offering ritualistic food. While the festival is observed across India, Battis Shirala in Maharashtra’s Sangli district is known for its Nag Panchami festival. Earlier live snakes used to be brought in for worship, a practice halted by the Bombay High Court in 2002.
Catch the performance of some of Kerala’s folk art forms at the Athachamayam, a cultural festival that marks the beginning of the 10-day Onam festival. Held at the historical town of Thripunithura near Kochi in Ernakulam district, its main attraction is the colourful procession that includes caparisoned elephants, colourful floats and musical ensembles. Onam is celebrated throughout Kerala. On the fourth day of Onam, Pulikali folk artists (who dress up as brightly painted tigers and hunters) gather at Thrissur to display their skills.
If you have missed the celebrations marking the beginning of Kerala’s Onam festival, you can attend the Thiruvonam festival, the day being the most auspicious. According to the legends, this is the day when their mythical king Mahabali returns to meet his subjects. Special feasts, games and cultural functions mark the day.
Traditionally, Rakshabandhan is a household event to celebrate the camaraderie that exists between brothers and sisters through rituals and with sisters tying the 'rakhi' to the brothers' wrists. But the perspective has now broadened and you will find public functions held at many places where people tie 'rakhis' on each other's wrists as a mark of friendship.
Payippad and Kumarakom in Kerala hold their respective boat races.
The last chance to attend this year’s seasonal boat race of Kerala. The Aranmula Boat Race marks the close of the season. And on your way back, do not forget to bring home the Aranmula kannadi, the traditional handcrafted mirrors made of polished metal.
August 31-September 1
If you have missed the earlier Teej festival, drop in at Bundi at the end of the month. This Rajasthani town, known for its forts, palaces and miniature paintings, observes a special version called Kajli Teej. The idol of the Teej goddess is carried from the Nawal Sagar to the Azad Park in a colourful procession. A huge fair is also held to mark the occasion. More details here.
Note: As most of the social or religious festivals depend on the regional calendars, always check with the local tourist office before planning.