There is possibly not a single month, when Varanasi is not preparing or in the midst of a festival. The city celebrates its festivals with such zealous fervour, that it is difficult not to get drawn into the carnivalesque atmosphere. Pick any month and you will find somefestival to plan your trip around. Some of the best picks for the city are below. Apart from these major festivals people also visit Varanasi for other festivals including Chhat Puja, Buddh Purnima, Navratris, Ganesh Chaturthi, Kumbh Mela, Ganga Dussehera, Durga Puja and many more. There is never a dull moment in the city.
The dusty streets of Varanasi are doused in colour and bhaang during the Hindu festival of Holi. Brave the crowds in the streets and join in the festivities, though we suggest you may be better off watching the fun from a rooftop and playing Holi with people you know. Many youngsters on the road urge travellers to join in for an authentic experience of Holi, but untoward incidents are not uncommon. Though caution during the festival is recommended, one cannot but help love the carefree vibe and the zealous celebrations in the city of Shiva.
If you want to celebrate Deepavali with the Gods, Varanasi is where you should be headed. The fifteenth day of Diwali is when, devotees believe, that the Gods descend from the heavens to celebrate the festival on the ghats. The ghats are washed, cleaned and the hundreds of people come and make Rangolis before lighting thousands of clay lamps (diyas) on the steps—visually, the scene is absolutely spectacular. The Ganga Mahotsav precedes the festival, and the ghats come alive as a platform to present Varanasi’s performing arts and crafts for four days. Kushti competitions, traditional games, different cuisines, music and dance performances are held for the duration of the festival which ends with Dev Deepavali. The festival takes place in October or November.
Join in the marriage procession (baraat) of none other than Lord Shiva on this day. The city is thrown into a frenzy as hundreds of small troupes carry a bedecked Shiva idols in processions to the Shiva temples. According to mythology, this day celebrates Shiva’s marriage to Goddess Parvati. In true Varanasi style, the day cannot be bereft from bhaang and sweets, which are offered on roadsides to anyone passing by. The processions usually start in the evenings and the celebrations go on until the wee hours of the morning. An entry into the Kashi Vishwanath temple on this day is almost impossible, but give it a shot anyway.
One of the most sacred festivals celebrated in the city, the Ramlila of Varanasi is an overwhelming experience. The month long festival which basically involves storytelling sessions and enactments from the epic Ramayana, takes place in the satellite town of Ramnagar. A large field, a school stage, a lake and the fort become part of the moving stages. Children, who play the part of the lead roles in the story move from one stage to another with the whole town in tow. The festival is almost holy for the locals here and these children are treated like the Gods for the entire month. If heading towards the holy city of Kashi, join the locals for a truly unique experience.
Five days of musical extravaganza unfolds on the Tulsi Ghat in Varanasi every year. Dhrupad is one of the oldest type of Hindustani classical music, which was made popular by Swami Haridas, the Guru of Tansen. The festival takes place to commemorate his contribution to music, bringing many famous musicians of India on one platform. The festival has become a major tourist attraction over the years—book your stay well in advance.