India In Its Various Colours: Art Festivals Across India
India is a country abundant in beauty. With miles of coastland, acres of deserts, and the Himalayas on top of it all, India boasts of an extremely unique yet diverse culture. This huge nation is steeped in arts and culture and boasts of varying local traditions every few steps. From Lucknow’s Chikankari, to the Peepliwork in Odisha, India has a lot of creativity seeping out of every state. While local traditions are still kept alive by cottage-industry artisans, celebrating these techniques has become an important part of our culture.
Each state has its own artwork and traditions, and we as a country love to celebrate the diversity of the artistry that makes us one of the most culturally significant countries in the world. Every year, thousands of tourists and travellers’ throng in through the borders to get a taste of the vast and varied arts across the subcontinent. The festival industry in India is thriving, and while music festivals take the lead, arts festivals are not far behind. Replete with performances, workshops, and exhibitions, some of India’s art festivals have made a name for themselves in the global sphere.
If you are looking to get a small sample of all that the country has to offer, here are some of the most popular, colourful, and vibrant art festivals across India:
The Rann of Kutch in itself looks like a page from an illustrated fairy-story. The white sands, starlit skies, and pristine environment only serves as the perfect medium to explore the arts and crafts of the Thar.
Gujarat is known for its many cultural and traditional festivals. Rann Utsav is one of the most popular festivals in this region. The tent city at the edge of the white desert has been set up to serve tourists from all over the world. It is a carnival which celebrates the traditions of music, dance, and art in the Rann, giving new meanings to the vibrant colours of the Thar under the untouched moonlight.
You can book a tent at the festival and live amongst the artists, under the stars. The best way to experience the Rann Utsav is by immersing yourself completely within the revels that take life on the white sands. Because it is an international lever fest, bookings and payments can be done online, so you do not have to worry about anything as you reach the land of unbridled talent.
Dates: 28 October 2019 to 23 February 2020
Set your GPS to: Bhuj
Magh mela is an annual festival where celebrations commence with fairs held in the month of January and February near riverbanks and sacred water bodies near Hindu temples. Every twelve years, the Magha mela coincides with what is believed to be an astrologically auspicious positioning of Jupiter, the sun, and the moon, and the festival is renamed the ‘Kumbh Mela.’
Dates: 10 January to 21 February
Set your GPS to: Allahabad
India Art Fair
Taking place annually in New Delhi, India Art Fair is a reflection of vast changing terrain that is the country’s art scene. Not only does India Art Fair showcase contemporary Indian artists, it also offers a well-curated insight into the cultural landscapes of neighbouring states. A melting pot of the diverse arts landscape of SouthEast Asia and a sprinkling of the West, the relatively new festival has made its way to fame with its beautiful arts and culture exhibit, that includes paintings, art installations, theatre and other performing arts, regional films, and interactive programs, among others.
The fair’s programme draws galleries, artists, private foundations, arts charities, artists’ collectives, national institutions, cultural events and festivals. It aims to enable both local and international audiences to engage with the cultural history and development of the South Asian region in new and innovative ways.
If you are interested in modern and contemporary art from India and the neighbouring regions, this is one of the festivals that you should not miss! In addition to being able to take in amazing artwork, you can also enjoy live performances, projects and workshops, an extended bookshop, and a diverse talks platform that positions the artists’ voice at its core.
Dates: 30 January to 2 February
Set your GPS to: New Delhi
The quaint Rajasthani town of Nagaur comes alive during the Nagaur Cattle Fair. Held in February, this is one of the biggest events on the desert calendar. The fair brings together the peoples from rural communities from all over the region. It is a quiet, local event where you get the chance to see a lot of camels!
While Nagaur is more geared towards local communities, rather than international tourists, it is a huge celebration of livestock and the art of livestock farming, with thousands of cows, horses and camels milling around. While the fair itself is more about livestock, races, and competitions, during your visit to Nagaur you can enjoy a private tour of the fabulously restored royal residences and audience chambers, which have some of the finest wall paintings in Rajasthan. It is an experience that you should not miss.
Dates: 10 February to 13 February
Set your GPS to: Bikaner
Odisha is famous for a plethora of tribal and folk art and tradition. From peepli to ikat, the state boasts of various culturally significant crafts. The Adivasi festival takes place each year for about ten days in the capital city of Bhubaneshwar. The Adivasi Mela in Bhubaneswar showcases Tribal Exhibitions and arts.
The festival is one of the oldest and most colourful celebrations of the tribal people of India. It showcases art, culture, music, tradition, and artefacts. The festival celebrates with presenting an exhibition of tribal jewellery, painting, as well as tribal handicrafts like printed clothing, pottery, and cane and bamboo works, amongst other things. The mela usually also includes folk dances, music, and traditional Adivasi songs.
Dates: 26 January to 9 February
Set your GPS to: Bhubaneshwar
Pondicherry Heritage Festival
With glittering beaches and gorgeous locales, Pondicherry is already one of the most beautiful and artistic communities in India. The juxtaposition of Indian and Creole cultures in the area make is a rich and thriving centre for art and tradition. The Pondicherry Heritage Festival celebrates the intersectionality of the community that lives in the union territory and tries to keep the heritage and tradition alive.
Along with traditional arts and crafts, the Pondicherry heritage festival also celebrates the local music and dance traditions, walks though the local cuisines with cooking classes and food appreciation sessions, and showcases local writers and designers as well. This is the perfect venue to sample the variety of vibrant culture that Pondicherry has to offer.
Dates: 25 January to 12 February
Set your GPS to: Auroville
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
Started in 1999 by Kala Ghoda Association as a way to promote and preserve the heritage of South Mumbai, the festival has now assumed a life of its own. Today it has become a complete exhibit of Indian art forms including theatre, concerts, street art, installations, causes, and local flavours, as well as heritage walks through the Victorian, Gothic, and varied styles of historical architecture of South Mumbai. It has also become a very lucrative shopping market for attendees.
The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is without a doubt one of the most awaited festivals each year. Held annually, it is an exhibition and celebration of theatre, music, theatre, films, comedy and world art. It is held every year in Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda art district and attracts over 150,000 people from the city and beyond. The district is blessed with rich architecture and heritage. A blend of Indo-Saracenic, Neo-Gothic, and Neoclassical style of buildings are the highlight of the district. Famous architectural wonders include the Elphinstone College, David Sassoon Library, Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay University, Prince of Wales Museum, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), and the Army and Navy buildings. The festival has grown enormously and has broken out of the confines of the Southern Mumbai area of Kala Ghoda to neighbouring auditoriums, grounds, and theatres to incorporate the surge in participation.
Dates: 1 February to 9 February
Set your GPS to: Mumbai
India is a beautiful potpourri of cultures. It has always been a fascinating and captivating mystery to the rest of the world. From the state-sanctioned street art to sarees replete with hand painted kalamkari, India has no dearth of artistic traditions. Ancient Indian folk art passed down from generation to generation is still practiced in many rural areas of the country. It exists in perfect harmony with hastily spray-painted murals of city walls.
Indian art cannot be easily put in a box and displayed. The colours, figures, and messages all jump out and intermingle with each other in the real world. In a country full of museums, the best way to appreciate traditional arts is by going to the festivals and witnessing the artists weave their magic in front of you.
So, are you ready for your own immersive arts experience in the art festivals of India?
Hi! I am Paridhi. When not downing endless cups of coffee and binge-ing on Masala Fries, I can be found deeply engrossed in contemporary novels. Delhiite by birth and nomad by passion. I travel and I know things. I write travel blogs by day and binge watch thriller and rom-com by night.