A celebration of life at its best, the fairs and festivals of Uttar Pradesh aptly reflect the vigour and fervour of its people. The social rituals, the festivities and the celebrations are an intrinsic part of the day-to-day life in this historic and culturally rich state. Tourists from all over the world come here to be amazed by the vibrant festivities and the colourful celebrations of life, creating memories for a lifetime.
A massive act of faith, Kumbh Mela is considered to be “the largest congregation of religious pilgrims” (The Kumbh Mela,2001 : Indianembassy.org) anywhere in the world. It is one of the greatest spiritual festivals ever held in the history of the world. Pilgrims from all walks of life come to attend this spiritual and religious phenomenon with an “unflinching trust in something sublime”. The Purna (complete) Kumbh occurs every twelve years on a rotational basis in four of the most holy Hindu places in India — on the banks of the Godavari River in Nashik, the Shipra River in Ujjain, the Ganges River in Haridwar, and confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and mythical Saraswati rivers (known as Sangam) in Allahabad. Bathing in these rivers during the Kumbha Mela is considered an endeavour of great merit, cleansing both body and soul.
The spicy aroma from the food stalls mingles with the perfume emanating from attars and incense sticks, the chorus of roadside vendors accompany the tune of bhajans and the ash smeared bodies of sadhus stand in stark contrast with the colourful panorama of pilgrims from all over the world.
The Kumbha mela is one of the most unique religious and cultural experiences that one can be a part of , anywhere in the world. It is a festival of faith, of diversity and a confluence of philosophy, spirituality and religious fervour.
An extravaganza of art, craft, culture and cuisine, Taj Mahotsav is a 10-day carnival at Shilpgram in Agra. Organised by UP Tourism, this event is celebrated every year since 1992. Undoubtedly, the romance of the splendid Taj Mahal adorns the event.
This spectacular event is an enabling platform for craftsmen and artists from all over the country to showcase their talents in front of an appreciative crowd. The creme de la creme of Indian folk artists, musicians, dramatists and artisans flock to this annual extravaganza and add their bit of colour and character to the festival. The mahotsav is a shopaholic’s delight with innumerable handicrafts, antiques, woodwork and ivory work on display. The unique assortment of incredible crafts include pottery from Khurja, chikan work from Lucknow, silk & zari work from Varanasi, wood/stone carvings from Tamil Nadu, bamboo/cane work from North East India, Paper maiche products from South India, the marble and zardozi work of Agra, carved furniture from Saharanpur, brassware from Moradabad, handmade carpets from Bhadohi, shawls & carpets from Kashmir/Gujarat, Kantha stitch from West Bengal etc.
A veritable feast for the foodie in you, the mahotsav offers a sumptuous buffet of lip smacking traditional delights. The soul stirring performances, the artistry of the performers and craftsmen on display and the delectable food choices, make for a celebration that overwhelms the visitors. A fair filled with excitement for entire family, Taj Mahotsav remains a compact representation of the Indian cultural diversity.
The heart and soul of Dussehra celebrations, Ramlila is a dramatic presentation of the life of Lord Rama, starting from his birth, through his exile, encompassing his battle with the Asura king Ravana and his victorious return to Ayodhya. As described in the Hindu religious epic Ramayana, Ramlila is an old religious and cultural tradition that plays on stage every year for the 10 successive nights.
The majority of the Ramlilas recount episodes from Tulsidas’ Ramacharitmanas through a series of performances. The story is typically narrated in a folksy style, interspersed with devotional songs, hymns and melodramatic dialogues. The most dramatic aspect of the celebration is the final day when the actors dressed as Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman shoot arrows tipped with fire at the massive effigies of the ten headed Ravana, his brother Kumbhakarna and his son Meghanada. Brilliant displays of fireworks accompany the eventual collapse of these towering effigies eliciting resounding cheers from thousands of viewers. The bazaars and village fairs put together alongside the theatrical performances provide additional attraction for the visitors. Marking the victory of good over evil, the age old tradition of Ramlila has been proclaimed as a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ by UNESCO.
Celebrated in honour of Lord Shiva, Kailash Fair is a colourful carnival held at the Kailash temple, 12km from Agra. As the story goes, Shiva supposedly appeared here in the form of a stone lingam and devotees from all over the country visit the fair to pay obeisance to their favourite deity from the Hindu pantheon of gods. The people believe that attending the fair and worshipping the presiding deity heps fulfill all their wishes as the great lord himself resides in the stone lingam, ever present to answer their prayers.
The festive ambience spreads out from the temples and engulfs the entire town. The streets are festooned with colourful streamers and important places of worship are bedecked with flowers and lights. Many shops are set up selling toys, foods, sweets, ornaments, etc. It is indeed a visual delight to see the lively gathering in this blissful state. The fair is celebrated every year in the months of August and September. So mark your calendars now and come witness the celebration of faith and devotion like no other
Also referred as Barabanki Mela, Deva Mela is celebrated annually at Deva, 10 km from Barabanki at the revered shrine of the Sufi saint Haji Waris Ali Shah. Organized in the months of October and November, Deva mela at Barabanki showcases the spirit of communal harmony in the nation. The fair is celebrated as the ‘Urs’ or commemoration of the sacred shrine of the Sufi saint attended by devotees from all religious denominations. True to the sufi traditions, the fair stands out for its communal harmony and lack of class distinctions. As such, the fairground becomes a site of national integration representing the very spirit of our motherland.
Deva mela features mushairas, games, music, poetry conferences and offers a great shopping experience for those looking for traditional handicrafts. There are sports tournaments, kite flying contests and traditional games that are open for participation to the visitors. The cultural and spiritual experience culminates in a grand fireworks display on the final night of the fair. A must visit fair for the spiritually inclined and those interested in the secular traditions of Uttar Pradesh.
Rejoicing the scintillating culture of the city of Nawabs, Lucknow Mahotsav, like the Agra Mahotsav, provides a state sponsored platform to celebrate the arts and crafts of the state. Vibrant processions, old-style dramas, musical recitals and dance performances are the highlights of the fiesta. The Nawabi ambience is recaptured spirit enlivens with exciting events like ekka races, kite flying, cock fighting etc. There are stalls by the craftsmen of various states presenting a composite culture of the entire country.
Also, the festival tempts food aficionados as it offers a sumptuous spread of Awadhi cuisine. This cultural bonanza is indeed a platform to showcase the unique creativity and the finer aspects of the lifestyle of Lucknowites. Famous musical as well as comical artists enhance the carnival. Capturing the undying elegance and splendour of Awadh, the festival is once-in-a-lifetime experience for the visitors.
The age old festivals of India celebrate the joy, the spirit and the cultural legacy of the nation. Being the most populous state of the country, Uttar Pradesh revels in and celebrates the cultural diversity of the nation and the festivals of the region offer the best vantage point to soak in the famed cultural and mythological heritage of the country.