The serene beauty of Kashmir manifests itself in many ways. But it’s most prominent in the faces of the people here who welcome visitors with open arms and happy hearts. Their hospitality becomes more pronounced during the festivals of Jammu and Kashmir and there are many Kashmir festivals that you can be a part of, if you happen to be visiting the state at that time.
Colourful, happy and bright, the main festivals of Kashmir are often celebrated with families and friends. They’re certainly one of the best ways in which to understand the culture of the Kashmiris. Here’s a list of some of the famous festivals of Jammu and Kashmir that you should certainly join in if you’re in Kashmir and are invited by a local family.
With a majority of Muslim population in the state, it’s no wonder that one of the main festivals of Kashmir would be Eid. Eid-ul-Azha and Eid-ul-Fitr are the two Eids that are celebrated all over the world by Muslims and it is no different in Kashmir. People come together to offer their prayers and then visit the homes of their friends and family to spread the joy of the festival. Eid is a time for some sumptuous food. If you’re invited by a Kashmiri family for dinner, simply grab the chance to taste some authentic local fare!
A Kashmir festival that is very popular in Ladakh is the Hemis festival which is celebrated as the triumph of good over evil. The two-day festival commemorates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche) and the Hemis monastery is decorated in a colourful and vibrant manner. Masked dances are held, and sacred plays are enacted. A local drink called ‘Chang’ is offered to the people during the festival.
One of the holiest shrines for Hindus, the Amarnath cave is around 140 km from Srinagar. The cave is surrounded by snow-covered mountains and has a natural formation that is believed to be a Shiva Linga. The Amarnath Yatra is the annual pilgrimage that people undertake to visit the cave. The Yatra is strenuous as it involves a 48km trek through Pahalgam. But that doesn’t deter the huge throngs of people who are eager for a glimpse of divinity.
One of the famous festivals of Jammu and Kashmir would be the Tulip Festival which is held every year during the first fifteen days of April. It is celebrated at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden in Srinagar. This is Asia’s largest tulip garden. The sight of all the different varieties of tulips in full bloom is simply enchanting. If you’re in Kashmir during spring, you will simply love walking among the many varieties of tulips on display here.
Sankranti is celebrated with different names across India. In the South, it’s known as Pongal while in Punjab, it’s Lohri. Sankranti is celebrated to welcome spring. There are many ceremonies and traditions that are followed across temples and people take bath in holy rivers as well. In Jammu and Kashmir, a traditional ‘Chajja’ dance is performed by young boys.
Baisakhi is the harvest festival of North India where believers bathe in holy rivers and welcome the new year. Baisakhi has special meaning for the Sikhs as their guru Gobind Singhji formed the Khalsa sect on the day of Baisakhi in 1699. There are lavish celebrations for Baisakhi in Jammu and Kashmir as there are a good number of Sikhs living here.
Among the festivals of Jammu and Kashmir, Purmandal Mela is celebrated during the occasion of Maha Shivratri which takes place in February or March. Held in Purmandal Town which is near Jammu, there are colourful and vibrant celebrations at Peer Khoh, Ranbireshwar Temple and Panjbhaktar Temple.
This is a fairly recent festival which has been conceived to interest more people in the Sindhu river. This new festival of Jammu and Kashmir has been bringing people together since 1997, on the banks of the Indus in Shey, near Leh. Every year, a huge number of participants join in this festival, bringing water from their own states in earthenware pots and immersing these into the Sindhu river, as a way of promoting unity in the country.
Shikharas are the lifeline of the Dal Lake and it’s wonderful that Kashmir has earmarked a day to celebrate them. A recent festival of Jammu and Kashmir, this one takes place during the months of July or August. It includes Shikhara races, dragon boat races and canoe polo match. There are other cultural programs as well which give you a good insight into the life of the Kashmiris.
This is a traditional fair that is celebrated during Baisakhi. It is organised by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism board. It takes place at the Mansar Lake which is not too far from Jammu. The three-day fair is a gateway to the culture and arts and handicrafts of Jammu and Kashmir. It’s also a perfect time to enjoy the special cuisine of this region.
There are other festivals that are celebrated here as well, such as the Bahu Mela held at Bahu Fort, Navratri and Losar which is the Ladakhi New Year and the Ladakh Festival which is celebrated in the first fifteen days of September. Jammu and Kashmir celebrate each of their festivals with a great deal of joy and enthusiasm. If you’re in the state during any of these, be sure to participate for an unforgettable experience Kashmir experience.
If you’re planning a trip to Kashmir, do remember to check the SOTC website for some good offers and deals on Kashmir packages . They will help you decide which places you want to visit and what things you’d like to do during your Kashmir sojourn.