Madhya Pradesh emulates the festive fervour that runs through the veins of India. Bounded by five different states, this land of contrasts has absorbed a little culture and tradition from each, and yet has an identity wholly its own. This aspect is most evident in its festivals. While Madhya Pradesh also celebrates pan-Indian festivals such as Holi, Dussehra, Id and Diwali with fervour, there are several festivals, both religious and cultural, which are exclusive to the state. Considering their sheer number, odds are that tourists will get to participate in or experience at least one while visiting MP.
Lokrang, a popular five-day festival, begins every year on 26th January. Organised by the Madhya Pradesh Adivasi Lok Kala Academy, it is a celebration of the traditions and cultural practices of Madhya Pradesh. The highlights are tribal and classical dances, performance arts and exhibitions.
Jhabuaa and West Nimar: Bhagoria Haat Festival
Celebrated in the month of March, just before Holi, Bhagoria is a festival observed by the Bhil tribe of Madhya Pradesh.
Although it is primarily a harvest festival, its most popular draw is the haat, which is organised in the form of a swayamvar (an age-old practice, where a woman would choose a groom from several suitors). Young men and women come here to find partners and ritualistically elope, after which they are recognised as a married couple by the society.
Ujjain: Kumbh Mela
Regarded as one of the seven sacred cities in the Hindu canon, Ujjain hosts the world-famous Kumbh Mela every 12 years.
Dewas: Pandit Kumar Gandharva Samaroh
Each April, performers come together to honour the birth anniversary of Pandit Kumar Gandharva, a famous vocalist. It is also known for being a platform to promote young talent. Musicians try to emulate the maestro’s legacy by blending both folk and classical music.
Ujjain: Akhil Bharatiya Kalidasa Samaroh
This festival commemorates the great poet Kalidasa each year in August. Inaugurated by Dr. Rajendra Prasad in 1958, it has always managed to attract the who’s who of the country. Theatrical performances addressing a wide array of contemporary issues are staged.
Gwalior: Rashtriya Ramleela Mela
Although ramleelas are held in every part of the country, if you happen to be in Gwalior during the end of September or beginning of October, do not miss this theatrical extravaganza. Traditionally ramleelas portray the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, and in extension, of good over evil. This dramatic musical concludes with an effigy of Ravana being set on fire, followed by a fireworks display.
Gwalior: Tansen Sangeet Samaroh
One of the oldest music festivals in Madhya Pradesh, the Tansen Sangeet Samaroh honours the greatest musician of the country. Talented musicians are invited by the Department of Culture to regale the audience. Held in November or December, this celebration of music is carried on throughout the night at Tansen’s tomb.
Organised by the Adivasi Lok Kala Academy, Lokranjan is popularly known as the Khajuraho Festival of Dances. Intended for the exposition of India’s folk, tribal and classical dances, it attracts exponents of dance from far and wide. Live performances are the major draw of this festival, held each December in the stunning Khajuraho temple complex.
Pachmarhi: Pachmarhi Utsav
Held every year for six days beginning the 25th of December, the Pachmarhi Utsav is nothing short of a carnival. There are cultural programmes, comedy shows, folk dances, and even sports activities, essentially, something for everyone.
Bhopal: Dhrupad Samaroh
If you are a music aficionado, make sure your visit to Bhopal coincides with this music gala. Witness stalwarts of the music industry perform serene compositions of the Dhrupad and be mesmerised.
Indore: Ameer Khan Festival
Dedicated to the founder of the Indore Gharana of Indian Classical Music, the Ameer Khan Festival bring old and new generations together. Talented performers captivate audiences with their soulful renditions.
Bhopal: Rahtriya Hindi Natya Samaroh
A famous platform for the promotion of Hindi theatre, this natya samaroh (celebration of theatre) has commanded performances by some great artists. This stage has upheld the rich thespian heritage of the country as well as brought pertinent contemporary issues to the fore. Many superb theatre companies showcase their repertoires here, thus attracting a wide and varied audience. If you happen to be in Bhopal during this festival, do be sure to catch a play.