North India is a vast expanse of land with great diversity in climate, terrain, people and culture. Though it is a tourist’s paradise throughout the year, there are a few specific times when one can experience several unique cultural aspects of the region.
Khajuraho Dance Festival at Khajuraho
Khajuraho lies in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, about 350 miles from New Delhi, India’s capital city. Only 20 Khajuraho temples remain today, and these are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Indian government conducts the Khajuraho Dance Festival here every February/March. The festival is a wonderful opportunity to experience India’s classical dance and music with the country’s best performers.
Besides the dance festival, the temple is itself definitely worth a visit. Khajuraho was a thriving community of art, architecture and religion one thousand years ago, when the Chandela dynasty’s kings built the beautiful temples. The temples are covered with exquisite sculptures depicting various practices, which according to the system of tantra raise the kundalini or psychic energy.
Mahabharat Festival at Kurukshetra
The Mahabharat is the longest poem in the world at over 100,000 verses, and tells the tale of the great battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas. The Mahabharat Festival held in December at Kurukshetra in the state of Haryana includes celebrations of the literary traditions inspired by the Mahabharat story as well as an epic reconstruction of the epic’s finale, the Kurukshetra war. The festival also includes folk dances by performers from across India, whose performances focus on the themes of the Mahabharat.
Guru Poornima at Kashi
Kashi or Varanasi as it is known today, is considered among the most sacred cities in India. It is said to be one of the abodes of Shiva, who is seen as the Adi Guru or first Guru and teacher. The festival of Guru Poornima, held in honor of Shiva, is therefore celebrated with great pomp and fervor in Kashi. The festival falls in the months of June or July every year.
Guru Poornima includes special rituals at the Kashi Vishwanath temple, the central shrine in the city, and also several rituals at the ghats or platforms on the banks of the river Ganga. Kashi is also a center for Indian music and dance, and the cultural festivals held at this time of the year offer a feast for the cultural connoisseur.
The Indian Tourism Ministry’s website has many more details regarding travel in India and various other tourist destinations.