The city of Varanasi has a very strong cultural as well as religious tradition backing it and that causes Varanasi to celebrate festivals all year. Each month of the year has a festival to be celebrated in the land of Varanasi. These festivals are celebrated with remarkable religious fervour and strictly in a traditional way. The mirthful, carnivalesque ambiance during the Varanasi festivals is a sure shot attention grabber and would definitely entice any tourist to plan a tour to Varanasi around the festival time. Some of the most top-rated festivals of Varanasi are listed below-
Here is the List of Fairs and Festivals Celebrated in Varanasi
01. Maha Shivaratri
Mahashivratri is celebrated with great grandeur in Varanasi during the Hindu month of Phalguna. During this festival, frenzied crowds of devotees take part in Lord Shiva’s marriage procession that starts from Mrityunjaya temple of Varanasi and moves towards the Kashi Vishwanath temple via Daranagar. The procession commences in the late evening and continues all through the night only to end at dawn the next day. This festival actually commemorates the wedding of Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati in the typical, gorgeous Varanasi wedding style. Devotees who take part in this procession carry with them Shiva idols beautifully decked with flowers and jewels. All the Shiva temples in the city too are decked with strings of flowers and lights. Priest keeps chanting Shlokas from holy books and devotees queue up to offer flowers, milk, bhang, Datura fruit and flower, Bel Patra etc to the Shiva lingams enshrined in the various temples. During this time, bhang, as well as sweets, is distributed among the Varanasi pedestrians.
The festival of colours, ‘Holi’ witnesses Varanasi in its most colorful avatar. Colours are thrown up gleefully into the air and the streets are doused most brilliantly in a riot of colours. A carefree and mirthful vibe pervades the entire city during the festival of Holi which is celebrated each year during the month of Phalguna. For tourists, it is best to enjoy the Holi celebrations from some secured rooftop.
03. Dev Deepawali
Dev Deepawali is a festival intended to honor the River Ganges and is celebrated on Deepawali 15th day in the Hindu month of Kartik and on the full moon day of Kartik. Days ahead of the festival, the natives of Varanasi start scrubbing, brooming and cleaning the Ghats in order to make the Ghats festival-ready. It is commonly believed that on the day of Dev Deepawali, the Gods and goddesses descend on to this earth from the heavens in order to celebrate with the masses. On the day of the festival, thousands of diyas or clay lamps are placed around the Ghats and on the steps and the adornment looks simply out of the world. Also, crowds gather at the Ghats to enjoy the various cultural programs and performing art shows organized for the occasion. Such programs include things like dance performances, musical recitals, drama, Kushti competition and so on.
04. Ganga Mahotsav
The renowned tourism festival of Ganga Mahotsav is held at Varanasi around the months of October-November. The festival commences from the day of prabodhini ekadashi and closes on the day of Kartik Poornima. The festival aptly upholds Varanasi’s scintillating cultural heritage. During this festival several cultural programs are organized and the events include martial art performance, boat races, craft fair etc.
05. Buddha Purnima
Buddha Poornima festival symbolizes the birth, the divine enlightenment plus the demise of Lord Gautam Buddha. At Sarnath this festival is held with immense fanfare as Sarnath is the place where the lord had delivered his first sermon. This festival is held in the Hindu month of Vaishakha on a full moon day. During this festival, relics of Lord Buddha are carried out in procession and are put on public display. Also, a large, colorful fair is held on the festival day.
06. Hanuman Jayanti
Hanuman Jayanti or the birth anniversary of Lord Hanuman is celebrated quite pompously at Varanasi’s Sankat Mochan temple on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Chaitra. The festival continues for 5 days and calls forth devotees and tourists from far and wide. Several musical performances and other cultural programs are organized on this occasion. Devotees adorn their foreheads with vermillion Tilak and this vermillion is usually collected from lord Hanuman’s statue all coated with vermillion. Laddoos as Prasad is offered to the lord and distributed among the pilgrims.
07. Ram Leela
The tradition of Ram Leela festival had begun in the year 1830 under the initiative of Benaras king Maharaja Udit Narayan Singh. The festival is held in the city of Ramnagar and consists in various types of enactments plus story telling acts from our famous epic Ramayana. Children of various age groups act and perform in the Ramleela festival which is held around the months September-October. During this festival the entire city of Ramnagar becomes a performance ground and several stages, settings and structures are set up all across the city for the enactment of the various episodes. The festival continues for almost a month and attracts huge crowds from far and wide.
08. Nag Nathaiya
Nag Nathaiya festival is held in Varanasi’s Tulsi Ghat around the months November-December. The festival depicts the mythological tale of Nag Nathan undertaken by lord Krishna in his childhood. During this festival, the story is presented through play acting. An actor dressed as lord Krishna plunges into the River Ganges to act out the nag Nathan Leela and huge crowds gather at the place to enjoy the scene.
09. Panch Koshi Parikrama
This is one of the most ancient religious Parikrama of India and is observed with great devotion at Varanasi. The Parikrama commences from Manikarnika Ghat and also ends therein. During the Parikrama the following five places are covered- Shivpur, Rameshwar, Kapil dhara, Bhimchandi and Kardameshwar.
10. Bharat Milap
The festival of Bharat Milap is celebrated around the months October-November on the day that immediately follows the annual Dussehra celebrations. The festival is held in Varanasi’s Nati Imli and celebrates the reunion of lord Rama with brother Bharat after his return from the long 14 years exile. During this festival the idols of lord Rama and Bharat are beautifully adorned with garlands and taken out on a procession on the streets.
11. Dhrupad Mela
If you are a lover of classical music you must visit Varanasi during the Dhrupad Mela festival. The festival continues for five days and is mainly a musical festival held in honor of the Classical and most ancient Hindustani music style; Dhrupad. The tradition of Dhrupad music was initiated by Swami Haridas who had been the musical guru of Tansen. The Dhrupad festival is a great crowd puller and foreign visitors are mainly attracted towards this musical extravaganza.