As the heat of summer approaches, the number of events in India dwindles. However, there are a few festivals that will be a highlight of your trip.
If you’re spending time in India in March, there are places where you should head to, in order to catch most of the action. There are plenty of temple festivals with elephants happening all over Kerala. Of course Holi is celebrated across India in March too!
Here are the best March festivals in India (listed by date).
Eternal Mewar Holika Dahan
On the eve of Holi, people light bonfires to mark the occasion and ward of evil spirits in a ritual called Holika Dahan. For an unforgettable regal experience, join in the celebration of the Mewar royal family. There will be a magnificent palace procession from the royal residence to Manek Chowk, including bedecked horses and royal band. Later the traditional sacred fire will be lit and an effigy of Holika burnt.
When: March 1, 2018.
Where: City Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan
International Yoga Festival
The International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh is a must for anyone interested in yoga! With more than 400 people from over 30 countries, it’s grown to become one of the largest yoga gatherings in the world. The festival offers yoga classes from world class yoga teachers, evening discussions with some of India’s leading spiritual leaders, and other events including vegetarian cooking classes and the Yoga Aid Challenge charity fundraiser.
When: March 1-7, 2018.
Where: Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand.
Holi is commonly referred to as the “Festival of Colours”. People exuberantly throw coloured powder and water all over each other, have parties, and dance under water sprinklers. Bhang (a paste made from cannabis plants) is also traditionally consumed during the celebrations. Holi is a very carefree festival that’s great fun to participate in if you don’t mind getting wet and dirty.
When: March 2, 2018.
Where: All over India, particularly in the north. Celebrations in the south have a more religious focus.
Trivandrum goes up in smoke on the occasion of Attukal Pongala, when the world’s largest gathering of women for a religious activity cooks up a special offering for the goddess Attukalama. The festival earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1997, when 1.5 million women attended it. Numbers have been on the rise ever since!
When: March 2, 2018.
Where: Attukal Bhagavathi Temple, Trivandrum, Kerala.
This Kerala temple festival is dedicated to the Goddess Kali. In the evening, be delighted by rituals and folk art performances under the glow of traditional temple lamps. The highlight of the Uthralikavu Pooram is an all-night elephant pageant, backed by resounding traditional drumming. There’s a huge fireworks display at around 4 a.m. the next day.
When: March 2, 2018.
Where: Sree Ruthira Mahakalikavu Temple, Vadakkancherry, Thrissur, Kerala.
Gudi Padwa Shobha Yatra
Gudi Padwa, the Maharashtrian New Year, sees huge parades taking place across Mumbai. The biggest one happens in the morning at Girgaum, in south Mumbai. Locals turn out wearing their finest traditional clothing; many dressed to reflect the reign of great warrior Chatrapati Shivaji. The parade also features sari-clad women riding motorbikes, and more than 50 floats depicting the culture of the state.
When: March 18, 2018.
Where: Mumbai, Maharashtra.
Karni Mata Festival
The famous 600 year-old Karni Mata temple is home to thousands of rats, which are considered to be sacred. The temple is dedicated to an ancient mystic who’s believed to have been a reincarnation of the Goddess Durga, and the souls of Karni Mata’s devotees are said to reside in the rats. Twice a year, during Navaratri, devotees come to the temple to worship the goddess. Food is offered to her, and it’s considered most auspicious to eat what the rats have salivated over. Even better, let them run over your feet for added good luck!
When: March 18-26, 2018.
Where: Karni Mata temple, Deshnok village, around 45 minutes south of Bikaner in Rajasthan.
If you’re interested in a traditional tribal festival off the beaten track, don’t miss the month-long Myoko festival of the Apatani Tribe. It includes rituals for prosperity, fertility, purification and sacrifice performed by the village shaman or priest, and many interesting cultural elements such as folk performances and processions.
When: March 20-30, 2018 (to be confirmed). The most interesting days for visitors are the second, third, and fourth days.
Where: Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh.
The festival of Ram Navami marks the birthday of Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The festival celebrates the descent of god Vishnu as Rama avatar, through his birth to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya in Ayodhya. It’s celebrated in a religious manner all over India.
Charitable events to help those in need and community meals are organized by temples and Vaishnava organizations, and for many Hindus it is an occasion for moral reflection. Bhadrachalam temple in Telangana is one of the major Rama Navami celebration sites.
In eastern Indian states such as Odisha, Jharkhand, and West Bengal, the Jagannath temples and regional Vaishnava community observe Rama Navami, and treat it as the day when preparations begin for their annual Jagannath Ratha Yatra in summer.
When: March 25, 2018.
Where: Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, Bhadrachalam in Andhra Pradesh and Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.
Konkan Turtle Festival
Velas is a small eco-village in Ratnagiri district which is famous for the Olive Ridley turtle population that visits the Velas beach every year and lays their eggs. Witnessing a baby turtle coming out of the egg and then finding its way to the sea by those baby steps is an unforgettable moment.
See newly hatched, endangered Olive Ridley turtles take their amazing march into the sea at the annual Turtle Festival. As well as this, you’ll get to sample traditional Indian village life by stopping over at local homestays in the area (dormitory rooms only).
When: March, 2018.
Where: Velas village, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.