As India celebrates its 67th Republic Day, The Sherp takes a look at all those Indian festivals that have helped further the country’s culture to the global map!
Our country’s culture is so ingeniously diverse that one can never narrow it down to one basic feature. It’s visually ethereal, traditionally grounded and intrinsically brilliant, while boasting of great amount of variety. While India’s culture is constantly evolving, so are India’s music and arts, which are growing into a wonderful fusion of all available influences. In that space, some cultural organisers have assumed the responsibility of celebrating this artistic expression in a brilliant manner.
India has slowly grown to be a dominant festival organising host in Asia, with newer festivals cropping up by the year. And that should come as no surprise. The country always had the art, the audience and the artist, and most international names too find a great deal of reception from India. And it is some of these festivals which are bringing all these forces together!
The Sherp celebrates all these festivals that make India proud!
1. Kumbh Mela
How can we speak of Indian festivals, and leave the traditionally celebratory ones behind? Of the many countless religious gatherings that can be seen in India every year, from the eid celebrations at the famous Ajmer Ali Dargah to the morning arati seekers at Tirupati, Kumbh Mela continues to churn the largest known gathering. The Maha Kumbh Mela brings in over 100 million people who gather in religious submission for the various ceremonies held during the event.
Not just devotees, but people from around the world gather to witness this cultural spectacle. From people taking a dip in the holy waters to aghori sadhus bearing a whimsical sight to the country’s cultural studies,this peaceful gathering of people is one of the biggest proofs of India’s confluence as a religiously inclined nation, and is something the country should rightfully be proud of.
2. Jaipur Literature Festival
India’s literary history is linguistically distinct and assorted with works of literature published in many of the country’s languages and dialects. This coupled with the fact that global literature finds one of its largest readerships in the country, makes it an art worth celebrating. Doing just that is Jaipur Literature Festival, as every year, it brings the most notable names from Indian and global literature in a wonderfully worded gathering of readers.
Conversations are thrown open between various authors, discussions are held, contemporary trends in literature and the publishing industry are discussed with enthused intellect, and people, established and newbie authors, and readers alike walk away with a number of titles waiting to be read.
P. S. Shoutout to Mumbai’s Tata Lit Live! for its brilliant editions of literature festivals in Mumbai every year!
3. Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival held every winter in South Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda region is a wonderful celebration of art in all its forms, from exhibitions of paintings, visual art forms and crafts, to clothes and jewelry, and even household objects, to music, cinema, food and literature. The nine day festival watches the diaspora of the culturally relevant city, from young students and art enthusiasts to celebrated artists mingle and interact in a creatively liberated expression.
Kala Ghoda is worth celebrating in its attempt to revamp the city of finance with a cultural prerogative!
4. Bacardi NH7 Weekender
The festival that has helped put underground homegrown independent talent with musical genius from other countries, the Bacardi NH7 Weekender can be credited with helping foster a music festival culture on a large scale. NH7 which annually holds festivals in Pune, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkatta and now Shillong, has indeed contributed to making India’s independent music scene a lot more relevant. As the festival grows in scale and size year after year, along with its acts involving several prominent names, Indian and international, The Sherp tips its hand to Weekender’s genuine musical passion!
5. Sunburn Festival
Electronic Dance Music is a revolution and it has only grown in importance and popularity over the years. Bringing that phenomenon to India goes to Sunburn Festival which, since its inception in 2007, has brought in some of the world’s biggest music producers like Avicii, Dmitri Vegas and Like Mike, Armin Van Buuren, Hardwell, Carl Cox to India’s electronic music loving crowd. This has also helped the growth spurt in electronic music in the country, with many Indian producers taking centre-stage at such events, due to which India’s electronic music is finally finding representation on global platforms! Now in its 9th year, Sunburn, the leading force of India’s electronic music movement is only growing in form!
6. Ziro Festival of Music
India is a country of picturesque valleys and roaring seas; a geographical paradox. But unfortunately, most of the action can be seen limited to the popular metros. Debunking this idea is the Ziro Festival which takes music to the musically sound hill of North East India!
The North-East of India is often discussed to be the hotbed of a growing music scene, with local bands often celebrated for their vivacious talent. Very rarely is this talent allowed to take the main stage. The Ziro Festival of Music, held in the breathtaking state of Arunachal Pradesh, is an organic gathering of music lovers, where independent music is allowed to thrive and is much loved. This, coupled with the travel to the scenic Ziro valley, where music can be enjoyed double-folds makes Ziro a truly distinctive blessing to the festival scene.
7. Mumbai Film Festival
India has several thriving movie industries, with dominating production budgets. Indian movies are not just made up of the entertaining blockbusters, but also of the quaint productions that boast of brilliant content. India is one of the leading forces in world cinema, so it’s only fair that India has its own film festival that celebrates the best of local and international talent.
Mumbai Film Festival, or MAMI as it is more popularly called as, is one doing just that. Every year, MAMI rakes in the best of India’s homegrown cinematic ingenuity, while also inviting stalwarts from various global film industries to partake in a phenomenal global exchange. This coupled with the various competitions MAMI organises for young, amateur filmmakers who get a chance to interact with the industry greats makes it a genuine festival for any film enthusiast.
Rajasthan has always been a hotbed for cultural tourism, with its rich, colourful vibrancy always a draw for foreign tourists. Rajasthan’s deserts too have been a major draw, in that space. Bringing music, folk and independent to India’s great desert is the festival of Ragasthan, which combines the love for traveling, tourism, camping, culture and music to make for a ethereal passage!
9. Magnetic Fields Festival
Magnetic Fields Festival is the musically playground for the culturally elite. It’s India’s offering of a creatively put together boutique festival, which takes you to a Royal Palace of Rajasthan, where music, art and creative expression come together in an eclectic fashion. India’s royalty, an impressive curative of independent music, flea markets and the state’s culture are some of the umpteen offerings at the festival.
10. World Sufi Spirit Festival
Rajasthan is clearly India’s growing musical powerhouse, and another festival to its glowing list is World Sufi Spirit Festival. The festival is a celebration of world music, especially sufi and sees talents from around the world grace the venue for some extensive global fusion. The reach of the festival can be estimated from the fact that Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead was present last year to perform with Shye Bentzur. This is a specimen of India’s growing contribution to world music.
11. Jodhpur Riff
Speaking of world music, how can Jodhpur Riff be left far behind? If the line-up of artistes at every edition of the Jodhpur RIFF – Rajasthan International Folk Festival– is anything to go by, the festival promises to be a melting pot of exotic music from around the globe. Last year’s edition in October saw Indian folk artistes sharing the stage with musicians from Scotland, Australia and Yemen. For listeners of world music, Jodhpur Riff stands a must-visit.
12. Hill Top Festival
Psychedelic music finds takers aplenty in India, because the genre itself finds its outtakes from traditional Indian music. And India’s growing stake in psytrance festivals proves just that! Hill Top Festival in Goa Goa is one of the country’s most intriguingly vibrant psytrance festivals. The festival, so literally called as it takes place on top of a scenic hill at Goa’s Vagator Beach, sees an idiosyncratic gathering of psy music lovers and ravers and is quite the event to be at!
13. Pushkar International Balloon Festival
India is a country best experienced when ballooned over, as you fly across its landscape viewing its distinctively beautiful panorama from a height. Making this possible is the Pushkar International Balloon Festival, a one of a kind event with artistically decorated balloons attractive enough to invite people into participation. And the fact that it happens in one of India’s scenic states, Rajasthan just makes it that much better.
They called themselves a ‘World Gourmet Music Festival’ and we say why not? Taking India’s underrated love for wine, gourmet cooking and music to a high-fashion atmosphere is the SulaFest. Taking place in Nasik’s Sula Vineyards, which churns wine specimens of superior quality, the festival watches people come in the best selves enjoying this wine, right from its nascent process, and music as well as a collection of celebrated food items.
15. Hornbill Festival
The north east part of India is the bed of cultural variety. Celebrating Nagaland’s tribal Naga culture is the Hornbill Festival. The Hornbill Festival is Nagaland’s biggest state-sponsored cultural festival, aimed at promoting inter-tribe interaction as well as the rich cultural heritage of the state. Hosted during the first week/ten days of December, the festival also features a exciting bunch of contemporary activities like the Hornbill Rock Festival in Kohima, the biggest and most popular event at the fest. Adventure car rallies, chilli eating contests and other interesting events are also part and parcel of this fest.
The Hornbill Rock Festival also hosts Hornbill International Rock Competition, which has earned the reputation of being a launchpad for many promising bands.
16. Mahindra Blues
India’s affiliation with blues music is well known but not so well documented. Making India’s intrinsic love for this genre of music possible if the Mahindra Blues Festival. Mahindra Blues has over the past four years single handedly united Blues music enthusiasts across the country, by bringing down some world class musicians to perform, along with providing a platform for upcoming Blues talent in the country.
Global techno project, Awakenings from Netherlands is one of the pioneering collectives of techno music in the world. Having hosted a stage at several music festivals around the world, including a much respected slot at Amsterdam Dance Event every year, Awakenings did make their Indian debut last year, and for that we cannot thank Supersonic enough. Fans of techno were treated to a stage curated with global and Indian techno giants and with a visual setup that was off the charts. But that’s hardly a surprise, for Supersonic has been a pioneering electronic music festival since its inception!
18. Enchanted Valley Carnival
India’s largest camping festival, Enchanted Valley Carnival has grown to be so popular that it has had many festivals follow suit. With a lineup featuring electronic music acts from across the spectrum, a thriving community culture, camping – an experience heightened with a range of activities, with the beautiful backdrop of Ambey Valley to boot. EVC does get it right in copious amounts.