Fairs and festivals in India
Goa Fair (Carnival). February heralds the carnival in Goa. The streets were buzzing with colour for 3 days and 3 nights. The week-long event, held in mid-February, is a time for lively parades, floats, guitar sounds, graceful dances and non-stop festivity. One of India’s most famous carnivals, the Goa Festival is completely sold out in terms of tourist capacity.
Surajkund Mela (1-15 February). As spring arrives full of warmth and vibrancy, leaving the grey winter behind, Surajkund is adorned with colourful traditional handicrafts from India. Artisans from all over the country gather in Surajkund in the first two weeks of February to participate in the annual celebration, the Surajkund Crafts Mela.
Holi. The spring festival in India, Holi is a festival of colours. Celebrated in March or April, according to the Hindu calendar, it was meant to welcome spring and gain the blessings of the gods for good harvests and the fertility of the land. As with all Hindu festivals, there are many interesting legends associated with Holi. The most famous is that of Prince Prahlad, who was a devoted follower of Lord Vishnu. It is the second most important festival in India after Diwali. Holi is a festival of fun and frolic in India and is associated with the undying love of Krishna and Radha. The exuberance and festivity of the season are remarkable.
Diwali. Diwali – the festival of lights – which illuminates the darkness of the New Year moon, is said to strengthen close friendships and the knowledge gained through self-realization. Diwali is celebrated nationwide every year on Amavasya – the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of Ashwin (Oct/Nov). It symbolises that ancient culture of India that teaches to conquer the ignorance that oppresses humanity and to dispel the darkness that engulfs the light of knowledge. The festival of lights still projects India’s rich and glorious past.
Pushkar Mela. The sleepy town of Pushkar in Rajasthan comes alive with colour and excitement every November during the Pushkar Fair. Few fairs in the world can match the vibrancy of Pushkar. It includes the largest camel fair in the world, but is much more than that.
Sport in India
- Cricket. India is a cricket-obsessed country and cricket is in the blood of most Indians. India plays an important role in world cricket and has been world champion twice in the ICC Cricket World Cup, in 1983 by beating the mighty West Indies in the final and most recently in 2011 by beating Sri Lanka. India also triumphed in the inaugural ICC T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007, beating arch-rivals Pakistan in a thrilling final. The popularity of cricket in India is like no other game, so much so that it is very common to see children playing cricket in parks and alleys with rubber balls and makeshift wickets. Until 2008, Indian cricket was all about the national team competing against other countries in one-day matches or epic 5-day Test marathons, but the advent of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has, for better or worse, brought fast-paced, commercialised ‘Twenty20’ cricket to the fore, complete with cheerleaders and high salaries. In international matches, Australia and South Africa are viable opponents, but the biggest rivalry is by far with neighbouring Pakistan, and matches between the two teams are often highly charged affairs. About half a dozen Indian stadiums have a capacity of over 45,000 spectators, and watching a cricket match can be quite an experience. The Eden Gardens Cricket Stadium in Kolkata is the highest capacity stadium in Asia, with over 90,000 seats. Built in 1865, it is the oldest cricket stadium in the Indian subcontinent and is comparable to the House of Lords Stadium in London as well as the MCG in Melbourne.The atmosphere at most matches is electric. Almost all international matches are sold out and it is quite common for fans to bribe officials to gain entry. Ticket prices are quite reasonable; they can be as low as 250-300 ₹. India and Pakistan have always been arch-rivals, and cricket matches between the two nations attract up to a billion television viewers.
- Football. Like cricket, you can find young boys playing with a football in any open space that is available. Club football is very popular, especially among young people, and you can find people arguing about their favourite teams in public places. Many people also support national teams other than India’s, but this usually depends on the nationality of their favourite players. The most famous and electrifying club derby is the one between the Mohun Bagan Athletic Club (est. 1889) and the East Bengal Football Club (est. 1920) at the Salt Lake Stadium (the second largest stadium in the world not used for car racing) in Kolkata, the football capital of India and an enormously football-crazy city.
- Hockey (Field Hockey). As India’s national game, hockey retains a prominent place in the hearts of many Indians despite the craze for cricket and football. Although spectator numbers have declined significantly (compared to the golden era before cricket came to the fore in the mid-1980s), it has not completely disappeared. It still has a significant fan base, especially in northern India, some eastern parts like Jharkhand, Odisha and the north-eastern states. The introduction of the Premier Hockey League has helped regain its popularity in recent times.
- Formula 1. Historically not very popular in India, Formula 1 has become much more popular recently. People now know the names of drivers like Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, whereas ten years earlier few knew the sport. One can enjoy Formula 1 in Noida, where the Airtel Indian Grand Prix is held every year in the last week of October.