There’s a never ending supply of festivals and celebrations in Delhi, so stripping this list down to just a dozen wasn’t easy. Here goes, these are he best of the best.
Dusshera, Diwali and Eid al Fitr are on this list, but there’s some unusual ones like Muharram, Chaath Puja and Phoolwallen Ki Sair that make the cut.
When planning what to see and do, remember that religious festivals are based solar and lunar cycles, rather than the Gregorian Calendar. To find out the exact date of festivals, take a look at the links in this post.
Right, let’s get started. Here’s a rough chronological run down of the dozen festival and celebrations that you should get involved in while in Delhi.
1) Lohri – January
Lohri is big, bigger than Holi, for many north Indians. With the sun at its furthest point from the earth, the Rabi (winter crop) harvested and the cold weather settling in, it’s time to celebrate nature’s bounty and keep warm by the bonfire. Learn more about Lohri at this post.
2) Republic Day – Always on the 26 January
One of the biggest days of the year and one of only three public holidays observed nationwide. Read this link to learn why the 26th January is such a special day.
Parades, military processions, carnivals and a fly past please the crowds on Janpath. Tickets are hard to come by, but it’s shown live on the television. Tourist Offices are the best bet for tickets. Security is tight. Super tight.
3) Holi (Festival of Colours) – March
A festival celebrating the victory of good over evil, holi parties happen all over the city. Local neighbourhood associations come together to play colours, warehouse and open air parties are organised for young people and the revelry brings everyone together.
4) Mahavira Jayanti – March or April
India is the birthplace of four of the world’s great religions and Jainism is one of them.
Mahavira Jayanti celebrates the birthday of the 24th and last Jain Tirthankar, born in modern day Bihar around 600 BC.
Prayers and celebrations take place at Jain Mandirs, deities are given a royal baths and then taken on parade in grand processions. Take a look at this post about Jainism and find out about Jain temples in Delhi.
5) Ramadan and Eid al Fitr : Falling in May and June until 2022
Based on the Umm-al-Qura calendar, the dates of Ramadan and Eid shift significantly over time. Up until 2022, Ramadan starts in either June or May.
One of the five pillars of Islam, sees Muslims fast, partake in extra prayers and celebrate historical events during the month. Find out more about Islam and Delhi’s mosques and shines at this post.
Eid al Fitr, which means breaking of the fast, see’s huge celebrations in mosques and great feasts with family and friends.
6) Ganesha Chaturthi – August or September
Hindu’s right across India get ready to immerse the elephant headed god, Ganesha in lakes, rivers and seas. In praise of the remover of obstacles, here’s a rundown of what’s on Lord Ganesha’s CV. Massive in Mumbai. Truly massive. Don’t forget to eat some Modak – Lord Ganesha’s special sweet.
7) Phoolwalon ki Sair (Festival of Flower Sellers) – September
A three day festival by the flowers sellers of Delhi in Mehrauli, South Delhi. A secular festival celebrated by Hindus and Muslims, processions head to the shrine of Devi Yog Maya and the durgah of Sufi saint Khwaja Bahkhityar Kaki, at the northern edge of Mehrauli (the bus station side).
In the south there’s more processions, mosques and shrines are decked up in flowers, there’s qwallis and music, and the fair comes to town to help everyone celebrate.
The fair is phenomenal. As well as rides there’s amazing people to meet, like Vasanteao Kadam, a Yogi who floats on water.
8) Durga Puja – October or November
Taking place on the same day as Dussehra, Delhi’s sizeable Bengali community celebrate Durga Puga in style.
Bengal may be the festival’s spiritual home, but Bengali’s wherever they live don’t mess about when it comes to matters that involve Ma Durga. Visit the pandals around community associations, hang out in CR Park and head to the ghats for immersion of Ma. Find out more at this post about what happens at Durga Puja.
9) Dussehra – October
For a fortnight scenes from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, are played out across India and family and friends gather to watch the story unfold. It comes to a head when Lord Ram and Ravana engage in their final battle, but who will be victorious?
You don’t know? Jai Sri Ram! Jai Sri Ram! Huge performance on the Red Fort Lawns, Ramlila Ground and JLN Stadium with massive effigies of Ravana and his compatriots bursting into flames after the final battle. Hanuman, the monkey god, plays a massive part in proceedings.
See how Dussehra is celebrated and find out a bit more about this massive festival, at this post.
10) Diwali – October or November
The biggest celebration of them all, but what is Diwali (or is it Deepavali) all about? This idiots guide will give you some of the answers at this Hindu festival.
Remember to clean your house, Goddess Laksmi, won’t visit unless it is nice and tidy. Find out more why you need to get cleaning at this post.
Jains celebrate Mahavirs enlightment, whilst Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas (the day of Liberation) on the same day.
Everyone, gets involved, there’s lots of shopping at Diwali melas and everyone lights diyas. And yes, everyone eats shed loads of sweets.
11) Day of Ashura (Muhhuram) – October
On the day of Ashura the death of Husayn (Hussein), grandson of Muhammad is commemorated. This is one of Delhi’s less well known and less attended festivals, which means that it’s a must attend. In the mornings and early afternoon men compete in combative games, whilst the processions arrive from all around India from late afternoon onwards and well into the night.
The Karbala, Jor Bagh, South Delhi, is at the centre of the commemorations. This post takes a look at the commemorations in 2016 to give you an idea of what is going on. .
12) Chaath Puja – October or November
If you thought the biggest celebration in the Hindu calendar was Diwali you were right, but for Biharis Chaath Puja comes a very close second.
The ghats around the Yamuna river come to life as the faithful descend around 7 days after Diwali. Watch men travel on their stomachs to the water and women salute the sun in the river as the evening comes to a close. Another amazing experience. Find out more about Chaath Puja at this post.