Tag Archive | india

Celebrating life: the colourful festivals of India

India’s festival calendar has something for every religion, nationality and belief, all heralded with elaborate preparation and an exuberant joy rarely found elsewhere. Gifts are exchanged, houses are decorated, song and dance fills the streets and each state and town has its own unique take on a festival occasion. Some events are regional and some national, but all are emblematic of a country which displays diversity at every turn and a people well-tuned to the spirit of celebration. Here are just a few of the major festivals you’ll find in India throughout the year.

Republic Day

India may be a land of Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and many more religious groups, but the start of the year sees a more secular holiday recognised by all. Republic Day on the 26th January marks the anniversary of the Constitution of 1950, when the modern Indian state was born. Parades are particularly spectacular in Delhi, focusing on the India Gate, attended by the Indian President and accompanied by awards and other rituals. Locally, school children perform cultural dances and receive sweets from the government and the tri-coloured flag is seen everywhere.


The meaning of the original term, Deepawali, translates as ‘rows of lamps’ and today, Diwali is known all over the world for its nocturnal light displays. Probably one of the biggest annual events and widely celebrated across India, Diwali falls in November and is significant to multiple religious groups, as well as being a great occasion to witness as a visitor, if you’re lucky enough to coincide this with your cheap flights to India in 2013 that are widely available online. The main tradition of lighting the oil lamps represents the victory of good over evil, while people prepare their households in advance and make vibrant rangoli floor art, commonly meant to welcome the wealth goddess Lakshmi and promote luck.


Held at the turn of the Hindu calendar and the coming of the full moon in late March, Holi is perhaps one of the most recognisable festivals of India: coloured powders and water tossed high into the air, coating everybody and everything in rainbow shades. The aim of the festivities is to celebrate the new season and nature’s return to full bloom after the winter. Northern and southern states associate it with different gods, from the burning of the evil Holika to the story of the God of Love, Kamadeva, who loosed an arrow at Shiva instead of his wife and paid the consequences with fire. Whichever is believed, the end of Holi is usually marked with a symbolic bonfire.

Ganesh Chaturthi

This September festival revolves around the birthday of Ganesha, the mischievous elephant God, with intense celebrations in the Bombay and Madras areas, though popular across the country. Ganesha reigns in Buddhism and Hinduism and clay idols both homemade and statuesque are worshipped, alongside plenty of feasting, performance and poetry. On the last or tenth day the people give the elephant god his watery send-off, as he is paraded through the streets of places like Maharashtra, and submerged into the river or floated out to sea.

Pushkar Camel Fair

One of India’s more regional and traditional affairs is held solely in Pushkar, a town in the desert state of Rajasthan. The Camel Fair began as a trade-off between camel and cattle buyers during the Kartik Purnima festival but now draws in crowds from all over the world to see camel races, beauty parades and even camel fashion shows as the lucky – or unfortunate – animals are dressed in the finest clothes. Also a November occasion, it lasts for five days and includes carnival acts such as magicians, live music and acrobats.

In fact, India has many smaller and no-less noteworthy festivals which are worth looking up if you’re in the country. Why not make a stop at the August Nagaland festivals and celebrate with the Yimchunger tribes, or join in with Novidade in Goa to mark the first harvest crops in September?


Image of Republic Day by rajkumar1220 used under creative commons licence


Go to Goa

Goa was once the destination for hippies and other counterculture devotees who wanted to drop out of the commercial world. That element still exists here, but another side of Goa has emerged. This is a side that is flashy, hip and endlessly fun. Goans enjoy the highest per capita income in India. Its well-heeled inhabitants live a luxurious lifestyle, shopping at designer retail stores for their clothing and household goods.

Goa may be the smallest state in India, but it enjoys a vibrant lifestyle. Its location on the coast gives it beautiful beaches that draw millions of tourists from around the world each year. Even travellers from within India flock here to experience firsthand the Goa slogan: Take it easy.

This is easily achieved in Goa as the entire state exhibits a rather relaxed, ‘anything goes’ sensibility. The Portuguese occupied the region for nearly 500 years and their influence can be felt throughout. Many Goans are Catholic and it is not unusual to find Hindu temples and Catholic churches standing in relatively close proximity. The Portuguese influenced the language and architecture here as well, making Goa a fascinating destination that interestingly blends two diverse cultures. The lifestyle is so laid back here that anyone can feel at home.

A variety of accommodations are available throughout the state, but most visitors are concentrated along the bustling coastline. Interesting, and quieter, lodgings can be discovered inland where travellers are less frequent. Anyone wishing to escape the crowds should head inland and avoid the coastal areas. Villas are available for rent to travellers with discriminating and luxurious taste. Although these properties tend to be expensive, they are the last word in elegance and taste, many of them coming with full staff and hundreds of amenities.

Frugal travellers will find plenty of comfortable lodgings as well, though they may not be as luxurious. Some are former hippie hideaways; others provide gorgeous views of the beach and thoughtful amenities. Generally, speaking there are plenty of options for everyone.

Goa is widely recognized for its pulsing nightlife. Rave parties have become almost commonplace and many nightclubs offer an opportunity to dance the night away. To really experience a Goan party, though, it is necessary to inquire among some of the beachside shacks. Gatherings called full moon parties – though they may happen in the middle of the day – are often kept hushed up to avoid police involvement. Essentially these are underground parties where dancing, music and good times prevail. Intoxicants are freely imbibed, even the illegal ones, generally making for a wild time. Another attraction is the Silent Noise Headphone Party where attendees dance to the music on their headphones in deference to a 10:00pm noise ban.

Goa is gorgeous by day and lively by night. It truly has something for everyone, from breathtaking landscapes to wild parties. To really get the most out of one of India’s most spectacular destinations, visitors should take advantage of American Express credit card rewards.  By using an Amex card, travellers can collect points whilst enjoying one of Asia’s great holiday destinations.

Travel Tips for India

India is a country of contrasts. On the one hand you have a country which is home to some of the world’s most beautiful monuments: the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Aga Khan Palace and Gandhi National Memorial, and the Gateway of India. On the other hand it features in the news for all the wrong reasons: armed robbery, kidnapping, extortion and terrorism-related incidents. I was never very keen on visiting India, but seeing the tourist attractions appealed to me.

I did overcome my fears and eventually I organised my holidays in Delhi. My conclusion is that you will either love it or hate it. I loved it….and so I have compiled some tips to help you enjoy your stay in India.

  1. Book your flights early. Long-haul flights are expensive if you leave it to the last minute. I flew direct with Continental Airlines – it was the only company I could find which didn’t have stopovers. Flight time New York – Delhi was about 14 hours.
  2. Take photocopies of all your documentation: passport, airline tickets and Indian visa.
  3. Organise vaccinations which you may need before going on holiday. Bear in mind that you may need to get them 6 months before travelling. Check with your GP.
  4. Don’t accept drinks or food in the street or when taking public transport as it may be drugged.
  5. It is not a good idea to travel alone, especially if you are a female traveller.
  6. Carry cash or travellers cheques in case your card gets swallowed by the ATM or the machine itself doesn’t work.
  7. Never set off without a good travel insurance.
  8. Beware of scammers. Many locals will try to get you to buy something which looks expensive, but isn’t.
  9. If you are paying by debit or credit card, make sure you insist that the transaction is carried out at the shop counter.

Do not be afraid of traveling to India. I had a fantastic time in Goa and really recommend it.


goa beaches

A tropical paradise located on the west coast of India, Goa offers some of the best beaches in Asia. Goa has a varied and rich past being a Portuguese colony with a large number of cathedrals and Christian architecture, and although it is India’s smallest state it boasts one of the largest Christian populations. The capital of Goa, Panaji offers a breath of local culture topped with rich ambience that makes it one of the country’s favourite tourist destinations.

Most holiday packages to Goa are tailored around beach holidays and most flights to Goa transit through Mumbai, but there are also first class coaches that travel between Goa and Mumbai. It is not a difficult flight at all and most airlines have fantastic service that makes the hours fly coming from North America.

Once in Goa, there is no shortage of what to do or places to visit. The state is renowned for its sandy beaches, water sports, easygoing lifestyle and exotic festivals. Goa also boasts a rich tropical flora and fauna habitat that preserves a wild range of exotic wildlife. You should check in advance on the seasons as Goa is much more enjoyable in the sunny summer seasons. If you are there off peak you will miss the other tourists but also the sun, which is not as fun if you are planning to work on your tan.

Goa has a large collection of hotels that range from basic to five star ones which offer superb amenities of luxurious standard. You can always find cheap flights to Goa with a lot of travel companies offering packages and flight deals.

What makes Goa stand out as a perfect holiday destination in India is that it has a diverse and rich history influenced by being a former colony of the British Empire and the Portuguese colony which embolden the spirit of the state leading to a flowering, creative and undeviating character of its people. Goa is a place with soul, history and because it’s not so well know, is an excellent place to go to discover new horizons.