July brings in monsoon proper; rain sweeps through the country, ending the repressive summer heat and bringing new life to the landscape, barren after the summer months. They say that India is at its most beautiful during this season, so take a few days off this July 2017 and explore the country with the monsoon for company. In fact, there will be quite a few festivals and events in India in July 2017 worth visiting and experiencing. So pack your bags and head to these festivals to celebrate the monsoon and India’s incredible culture. ALSO READ: List of long weekends in India in 2017: Escape to these amazing holiday destinations this year
Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra
Rath Yatra in Puri, Photograph courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
The Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra has already begun on 25 June, with three massive chariots transporting the gods Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra from the Puri Jagannath Temple in Odisha to the Gundicha Temple, around 3 km away. The chariots are pulled by thousands of devotees, and the festival ends with the return of the gods back to the 12th century Jagannath Temple, on 3 July. Over a million people are expected to attend this year, braving the monsoon rains to offer their prayers and take part in the festivities.
When: June 25-July 3, 2017
Where: Jagannath Temple and Gundicha Temple, Puri, Odisha
Considered one of the holiest pilgrimages in Hindu culture, the Amarnath Yatra is an annual event that sees hundreds of thousands of devotees make the long and arduous trek to the holy Amarnath cave temple in Jammu and Kashmir. The temple lies around 141 km or a 3-4 hour drive from Srinagar and the 45 km trek itself starts from the scenic town of Pahalgam. Amarnath is accessible only during a brief 45-day window in the year; it is covered in snow for the remainder. The tough pilgrimage sees devotees facing off against the unpredictable weather and slippery and often dangerous terrain, all to get a glimpse of the Shiv Lingam made of ice within the cave.
When: June 29-August 7, 2017
Where: Amarnath temple, Jammu and Kashmir
Every year, the popular Hemis Gompa, which is the largest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh, hosts the Hemis festival for two days. The festival happens on the tenth and eleventh days of the Tibetan lunar calendar, and it celebrates the birth of Padmasambhava, who founded Tibetan Buddhism. The festival is famous for the masked dance called Chaam that the monastery’s Lamas perform to the tune of cymbals, long horns and drums. Meanwhile, the locals can be seen wearing their most vibrant clothes, with elaborate headgear and jewelry. The masked dance of Hemis is so popular that a lot of other dances in Ladakhi monasteries are also sometimes referred to as Chaam dances. Apart from the dance and the festivities, there is also a bustling fair full of handicrafts and other items that you must explore.
When: July 3-4, 2017
Where: Hemis Monastery, Leh, Ladakh
Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh
The fertility festival of Dree is celebrated by the Apatani in Arunachal Pradesh to appease the sun and moon gods Danyi Pilo, Metii and Tamu. Animals and eggs are sacrificed to the appease the gods and prevent a famine, with four main altars called agyangs installed: Harniang, Metii, Tamu and Danyi. Rice beer is prepared and women present the beer to their brothers, sisters and others as a symbol of affection. More importantly, there is a Dree flag song to inaugurate the festival at the Dree altar, with games, sports and song and dance to mark the occasion. Visit Ziro Valley, where the Apatani tribe reside, to observe and experience the festivities of Dree. Just remember to carry your raincoats, because the valley sees significant rainfall over the monsoon season.
When: July 4-7, 2017
Where: Ziro valley, Arunachal Pradesh
Champakulam Boat Race
Champakulam Boat Race
Ever heard of the traditional snake boat race in Kerala? The Champakulam Boat Race is the one that flags off the season of snake boat races in the state, and it is also the oldest one. As such, this is an event that is celebrated with much fanfare, with a large procession that includes water floats, highly decorated boats and music and dance performances. The otherwise calm waters of Pampa River turn into a race track, with the slender snake boats piercing their way to the rhythmic beat of drums. The Champakulam Boat Race happens in a village of the same name in Alappuzha, with people coming from all over the country to witness the incredible event and cheer the teams of oarsmen. Apart form the snake boats, you can also find boats of other kinds participating in the races.
When: July 8, 2017
Where: Champakulam, Alappuzha, Kerala
Guru Purnima, Photograph Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Celebrated on the full moon day or Purmina of the Ashada month in the Hindu calendar, Guru Purnima is a day dedicated to teachers, especially spiritual gurus. It actually marks the birth of Ved Vyasa, an ancient sage who is said to have authored several scriptures and stories that are holy in Hinduism, including the Mahabharata and the Vedas and Puranas. And despite its deep ties with Hinduism, Guru Purnima is also celebrated by Buddhists. Monks remain in their temples to meditate. Others venerate their spiritual leaders and gurus, with several temples holding Vyasa Pujas on the occasion. Some hold special recitals of the scriptures, and several education institutes hold events to celebrate the contribution of teachers as well. ALSO READ: Hindu Calendar 2017: Month-wise list of auspicious Hindu days of 2017
When: July 9, 2017
Where: All over India, especially in Rishikesh
Devotee dressed and decorated as Pothuraju during Bonalu festival
The festival of Bonalu is celebrated at the Ujjaini Mahankali Temple in Secundarabad, Telangana, with the rituals happening every Sunday in the month of Ashada. The name of this festival literally translates to feast, in a nod to the offerings of food that is presented to the goddess Shakti. The festivities begin at the Mahankali Temple located in the historic Golconda fort before it is moved to the Ujjaini temple. A procession of the goddess is held, with the idol placed on an elephant and paraded through the streets. The festival culminates with a massive procession at the Akanna Madanna Temple, in Old Hyderabad’s Lal Darwaza.
When: July 9, 10, 23, 2017
Where: Secunderabad and Hyderabad, Telangana
Once more we move to the Northeast, this time in Jaintia hills of Meghalaya, where the Pnar tribe resides. The people will be celebrating Behdienkhlam around the middle of July, marking the end of the sowing period in their agricultural calendar. The name of this festival roughly translates to ‘driving away the plague’, and is meant to get rid of any evil influences that could damage the tribe’s upcoming yield. The festival goes on for three days, including a football match that determines who gets a better harvest and a procession with chariots.
When: July 16, 2017.
Where: Jowai, Meghalaya
Elephants bathing in the Periyar River
Elephants are a big part of festivities in Kerala, and so it makes sense that there would be a festival entirely dedicated to feeding these massive beasts. Njangattiri Aanayoottu is an elephant feeding festival where, unlike other temple festivals in Kerala, the elephants are without decoration or jewelry. The elephants are brought into the Njangattiri Bhagavathi temple in Palakkad and fed a veritable feast, including jaggery, sugarcane leaves, coconuts and other produce donated by the devotees who come to attend the festival and pay their respects to the animals. The ritual is done as a way to appease the Hindu god Ganesha.
When: July 21, 2017
Where: Njangattiri Bhagavathi temple, Pattambi, Palakkad
Meanwhile, in Rajasthan, women will be looking forward to the festival of Teej. The festival is meant to celebrate the monsoon and traditionally the union of the god Shiva and goddess Parvati. Women and girls celebrate this festival the most, applying henna and taking part in the processions and parades. There are chariots, elephants and folk singers and dancers involved as well. Special foods are made, and women can be seen dressed in red, green or yellow, primarily as a symbol of the arrival of monsoon. The festival is also celebrated in Punjab as Teeyan, with women performing the traditional dance of Gidda together.
When: July 26-27, 2017
Where: Jaipur, Rajasthan and Amritsar, Punjab
A tamer version of Nag Panchami celebrations in Nagpur, Maharashtra
And finally, we have the festival of snakes. The one-of-a-kind festival sees devotees worship and sing praises of the snake gods. The rituals vary from place to place. Some villages have special ceremonies that venerate idols, while others carry processions of snakes to the temple. There are also some temples, like the one in Maharashtra’s Battis Shirala village, where live snakes are worshiped and fed. The offerings to the snakes and serpent idols can include milk, sweets and more. NOW READ: 10 most bizarre traditions of India
When: July 27, 2017.
Where: All over India, including places like Battis Shirala village (Maharashtra), Hardevja Temple (Jaipur), Adiesha Temple (Andhra Pradesh) and Nagaraja Temple (Kerala)
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