Jammu and Kashmir
A celebratory bouquet of festivals
Fun. Frolic. Festivities.
The cultural heritage of Kashmir valley is an amalgamation of sorts. Its diverse array of festivals are woven around this variegated cultural tapestry. The numerous civilizations that have inhabited the Kashmir valley from time to time have left their impression on the culture of Kashmir. The state of Kashmir abounds in ancient literature, language, religion, arts, crafts, dance, music, etc. The renowned folk songs and dances are an integral part of the Kashmir culture. Music and dance are a way of celebrating festivities for the people of Kashmir. It is a fact that the festivals of Jammu and Kashmir present a multi-dimensional mosaic of Kashmir and its people. This following gives you a sneak-peak into this festive fervour. Indeed, the rich and deep-rooted ancient tradition of the Indian culture stills retains its place in the heart of Kashmir.
FESTIVALS OF KASHMIR
Tulip Festival, Srinagar:
The next time sprawling tulip fields catch your imagination in a Bollywood blockbuster, don’t think of Holland. For, Jammu and Kashmir has Asia’s largest tulip garden. The festival is celebrated when the tulip bloom is at its most magnificent – last week of March to first week of April.
Kheer Bhawani Mela, Tumula, Srinagar:
The Kheer Bhavani temple is situated at Tullamula in the Srinagar district. Steams and Chinar trees surround the place where the temple stands. A revered Hindu shrine, the Kheer Bhavani temple is devoted to Ragnya Devi, a Hindu Goddess. Representing the goddess is a sacred hexagonal spring at Tullamula village, which houses a small marble temple. The legend associated with the temple goes that Lord Rama worshipped Ragnya Devi during his exile. After the exile period got over, Rama asked Lord Hanuman to shift the seat of the goddess. The seat of the goddess was brought by Lord Hanuman first to Shadipora and later shifted to the site where the temple now stands.
It is believed that it was the wish of Mother Ragnya that her seat be place at Khir Bhavani Mandir in Kashmir, India. And this wish was conveyed in dream to a pandit, Rugnath Gadroo. The temple of Ragnya Devi is called "Kheer Bhawani" because numerous devotees offer milk and kheer (Indian sweet dish) to the sacred spring. It is believed that milk and kheer turn to black color to warn of any impending disaster. Maharaja Pratap Singh got the temple constructed in 1912. Later, Maharaja Hari Singh undertook the repair and restoration work on the temple.
The eighth day of the full moon in May holds great significance for the devotees of Ragnya Devi. They fast on this particular day and gather at the temple in huge numbers. It is believed that on this day, the goddess changes the color of the spring's waters. The Kheer Bhavani temple serves as the venue for an annual festival held in May-June, on the occasion of Jesht Ashtami. During this festival, a large number of Hindus visit the temple to seek blessings of the goddess. Another occasion on which the Kheer Bhavani temple gains special importance is Shukla Paksh Ashtami. On this day, havans/yagnas are performed to please the goddess.
Kashmir Snow Festival, Gulmarg (24th December to 26th December):
The bouquet of delights includes skiing, snow sledging, snow-boarding and ice skating as competitive events. A food festival and cultural programmes by Kashmiri folk artists are also a part of the event.
The festival of Baisakhi in Kashmir is celebrated in the Hindu month of Vaisakh (April-May), giving the name of Vaisakhi. The usual date of Baisakhi is the 13th of April, though it may vary by a day or two. The festival marks starting of the harvest season in Northern India and is also considered auspicious for marriage.
Baisakhi holds special importance for Sikhs as it represents the birth anniversary of their sect. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, founded the Panth Khalsa (sect) on the day of Baisakhi in the year 1699. On this day, a number of devotees plunge in the holy rivers, canals and ponds of their region for a holy dip. The Baisakhi festival in Kashmir is also characterized by a number of fairs that are organized on the day. The usual features of the Baisakhi are the performance of the bhangra and gidda dance.
Gardens of Paradise Festival, Srinagar:
The fabled Mughal Gardens of Srinagar are the venue for this festival. The programme includes food stalls and cultural events amidst terraced gardens with cascading fountains.
Shikara Festival, Srinagar: (July/August)
The placid waters of the Dal are full of traditional Kashmiri Boats, the Shikaras. The festival is marked by rides in Shikaras past willow fringed lake-ways amidst Lotus Patches and Floating Vegetable Markets.
Gurez Festival, Gurez: (Last week of June)
The Festival showcases folk songs and dances by Gurez locals, performances by local school children besides a rafting camp in the scenic and unexplored valley of Gurez.
Saffron Festival, Srinagar: (Last week of October)
Saffron from Kashmir is prized by connoisseurs all over the world. This event has almost every variety of Saffron grown in the region amalgamated for purchase by Saffron lovers.
Apple Festival, Kashmir: (2nd Week of September)
This is a summer festival when the bounteous earth spills its treasures through trees laden with luscious apples. The festival is celebrated across Kashmir.
Baba Nagri Festival – Kangol: ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cherry Festival, Kashmir: (2nd week of May)
A plentiful of Cherry varieties can be purchased in summer at the Cherry Festivals, held across Kashmir.
Water Sports Festival, Srinagar: (July/August)
Nageen Lake, Manasbal Lake and Dal Lake are the venues for sporting activities like water skiing, boat races, water scooter rides etc.
FESTIVALS OF JAMMU
Like all other places in India the festivals of Lohri is celebrated on the 13th of January in the Jammu city as well. Mainly a Punjabi festival, Lohri welcomes the commencement of the spring season, after the end of winter. This festival is celebrated mainly after sunset. A bonfire is lit and people offer things like sweets, puffed rice, popcorn, etc into it.
This festival is also known as Makar Sankranti. The whole region wears a festive look on this day. A special dance called the 'Chajja' is held on the occasion of Lohri.
Baisakhi marks the commencement of harvesting season in northern India. On this day, melas (fairs) are organized in the Jammu city. Other attractions of Baisakhi in Jammu include Bhangra and other dance performances.
Bahu Mela, Jammu City:
It is a major festival, held at the Kali Temple in Bahu Fort, twice a year.
Chaitre Chaudash, Jammu:
Chaitre Chaudash is celebrated at Uttar Behni, about 25 kms from Jammu. Uttar Behni gets its name from the fact that the Devak river (locally also known as Gupt Ganga) flows here in the northerly direction.
Purmandal Mela, Jammu:
Location: Approx 39 km from Jammu Time of Celebration: February or March Significance: Celebrates the marriage of Lord Shiva with goddess Parvati
Purmandal Mela is organized at a venue that is 39 km from Jammu. This three-day fair is held during the time of Shivratri. It is a celebration of the marriage of Lord Shiva with goddess Parvati. Pur Mandal Mela of Kashmir has no fixed date, but generally falls in the month of February or March. Devotees of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati dress in their best attire and visit the temples. The shrine of Peer Khoh, the Ranbireshwar Temple and Panjbhaktar Temple gain special significance at the time of Purmandal Mela in Kashmir.
Purmandal is 39 kms from Jammu city. On Shivratri, the town wears a festive look for three days as people celebrate the marriage of Lord Shiva to Goddess Parvati. The people of Jammu also come out in their colourful best to celebrate Shivratri at Peer Khoh, the Ranbireshwar Temple and the Panjbhaktar Temple.
Jhiri Mela, Jammu
Time of Celebration: October-November Significance: Commemorates the martyrdom of Jitu Baba
Jhiri Mela is organized in the month of October-November to commemorate the martyrdom of Jitu Baba. Baba Jitu was a simple and honest farmer, who lived in the Jhiri Village, 14 km from Jammu. He was often troubled by his tyrant landlord and harassed to give away his crop. One day, fed up with the oppression, he killed himself, as a protest against the atrocities of the local landlord. The Jhiri Mela is held every year in Kashmir to honor the audacity and integrity of the Baba. It is also believed that on the day of the Jhiri Mela the followers of Baba gather at Jhiri from every corner of North India.
An annual fair is held in the name of Baba Jitu, a simple and honest farmer who preferred to kill himself rather than submit to the unjust demands of the local landlord to part with his crop.
Navratra Festival, Katra:
Though the yatra to the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is a round-the-year event, the one undertaken during the Navratras is considered the most auspicious. In order to showcase and highlight the regional culture, heritage and traditions of the area during this period, the State Tourism Department has instituted the Navratra Festival as an annual event to be held during September / October for all the nine auspicious days of the Navratras. A large number of tourists pay their obeisance to the deity during this period. This festival showcases the religious traditions as well as the popular culture of the region among the millions of pilgrims who visit the Vaishnodeviji Shrine during this period.
FESTIVALS OF LADAKH
Kargil / Zanskar Festival, Kargil (Last week of June):
The festival presents local culture, folk heritage traditional sports like Horse Polo Archery and Adventure Sports over a period of five days at Kargil & Padum (Zanskar).
Apricot Festival, Kargil:
A plethora of prized Kargil Apricots amidst cultural programmes are the highlights of this festival.
Sindhu Darshan Festival, Ladakh:
Also called Singhe Kabaab Festival
Sindhu Darshan is a festival focuses on river Sindhu, also known as the Indus. The Government of Jammu and Kashmir organizes the Sindhu Darshan festival at Leh in the month of May-June. In this festival, people come for a Darshan and Puja (worship) of the River Sindhu (Indus). The Sindhu River is regarded as a symbol of the rich culture, communal harmony and peaceful co-existence in India. It also acts as a tribute to the brave soldiers of India who have bravely fought for their country.
This Festival is celebrated on the full moon day (Guru Poornima) in the month of June. It stretches on for three days. The main reason behind the celebration of the Festival is to endorse the Indus River (Sindhu River) as an icon of the communal harmony and unity of India.
Ladakh Festival, LEH (1st to 15th September)
The Ladakh Festival is organized every year by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department with the help of the local communities. The district administrations of Leh and Kargil also cooperate in organizing this festival. The Ladakh Festival is celebrated every year from 1st to 15th September.
The main aim for organizing this festival was to revive and encourage the richness and grandeur of the age-old culture, traditions and folk heritage of Ladakh.
The inaugural function of Ladakh Festival is held at Leh. The major attraction of the function is the spectacular procession participated by people in their complete ceremonial costumes, singing songs and performing various traditional dances. Series of musical concerts and dance programs are performed in the festival.
Another attraction of the Ladakh Festival, polo tournament is known as the “Ladakh Festival Cup”. Polo teams from various parts of Jammu and Kashmir come here to participate in the festival. Other attractions include the Central Asian trade mart arranged in Leh Bazaar, where the caravans display the goods of traders. In the Leh bazaar the skilled artists dress themselves in period-costumes and act as merchants involved in trading, bartering and other related activities.
Ladakh festival continues for 15 days with regular cultural programs in different villages. The various program of the festival includes Polo, Mask Dances from the Buddhist monasteries, archery, traditional dances performed by men and women of villages. During the Ladakh Festival the festive air is all around the town of Leh with everybody is in cheerful mood.
The celebrations of the Ladakh festival last for 15 days, usually from 1st September to 15th September. Music, theatre, polo, archery, mask and folk dances, showcasing of the local arts and crafts, etc are the highlights of this festival. The main objective behind the festival is to revive and promote the rich culture, traditions and folk heritage of Ladakh.
The Ladakh Festival showcases Ladakh’s age-old traditions and customs, its cultural heritage and the performing arts over a period stretching over fifteen days. Events include Horse Polo, Archery etc.
The biggest and the most popular festivals held in monasteries in Ladakh is the Hemis Festival.. The festival is celebrated in later half of June or the first half of July (12 – 13 July). Hemis festival is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Guru Padmasambhava. The legend has it that he fought with demons to protect the people of Ladakh. On this day, after every 12 years, a huge thangka, a religious icon painted or embroidered on cloth, is displayed.
Monastic Festivals, Monasteries across Ladakh: The monastic festivals are annual events of the major monasteries which the local people eagerly look forward to attending, both for attaining religious merit and as a means of social entertainment. These are generally held to commemorate the establishment of a particular monastery, the birth anniversary of its patron saint or some major events in the history and evolution of Tibetan Buddhism. Display of Thangkas, Mask Dances like Chamms etc and other folk songs and dances mark these festivals. The most important among the monastic festivals is the Hemis Festival held at Hemis Monastery..