An INDIA I celebrate traveling.

03 Dec, 2014

Growing up along the southern coast now a part of Seemandhara, it was common place to have music on speakers and almost a wedding like celebration of a neighbor’s daughter attaining puberty. My friends from the North viewed this with amazement not without a twinge of disbelief. But then moving on from what not half a century ago was an area of high mortality, a girl child and her coming of age meant progeny and prosperity. Bedecked processions as rites of passage for the deceased among some communities is set to blaring music and fire crackers, the unsuspecting mute soul bathed and decked in his or her finest is made to sit on a decorated chair and driven through every street he or she must have walked through his or her living days. Strange, but if death meant giving way to a new life, it is cause enough for celebration, is it not?

In a country that has as many multiples of festivals as there are languages and states, every religious festival has its own connotation and every periodic event spells a celebration.

My travels then have sometimes taken me to some celebrations that is not any one of the popular festivals. These are Festivals that celebrate art, music, dance, culture, mysticism and therefore life and living. Even more intriguing are the modern day festivals that have made icons of destinations. You would have heard of Sunburn festival every jam and rock fan's annual ticket to Goa, have you heard of the CALM (Creative Arts, Literature and Music) in Shillong – India’s unprecedented Music capital, or the summer's Lake Side Jam in Naukuchiatal in our own Lake District in Kumaon. Lake side jam began with a rather lofty agenda when "Friends of music" a self-made group of music enthusiasts coined this jamming festival many summers ago, till last year it was an annual event that most of Delhi's young and swinging would loathe to miss.  

Two of my absolute favorites are the Chennai Music Festival celebrating Carnatic Music in all its contemporary as well as traditional nuances in the mild winter months of December. To live through a season of Chennai Music festival is to enjoy a few weeks as 'Mylapore Mami' airing my kancheevarams and tasting superb tiffins and filter coffee in the Sabhas set up to celebrate South Indian classical music. The second is the Kenduli Baul Mela, celebrated near Shantiniketan every January drawing mystics from across the world. This festival is an intense mélange of music and spiritual camaraderie not without some high notes!

The Konark, Khajuraho and the Mamallapuram festivals are now legendary celebrations of music and dance forms of India, have you heard of the latest one - the Jodhpur Flamenco and Gypsy festivalthat was organized by the Mehrangarh Trust in March in Jodhpur. This unique festival brings together the Flamenco dancers of Spain and draws parallels with our own nomadic dancers of Rajasthan.

A festival that since it began about 5 years ago is now an international favourite is the World Sufi Spirit festival held in February every year in Naguar followed by Jodhpur. A special mention also of the Sufi festivals that is celebrated in various towns like Jaipur Patna, Delhi etc. is the "Jahan-e-Khusrau" a tribute to the soulful mystic, a poetry festival for Ghalib celebrating the sultan of couplets and Urdu poetry, and the many literary festivals, important among them being the Jaipur Literary festival, a classic example of how a destination has been wedtoa festival. Every year the Jaipur Lit-fest also celebrates a few controversies!

One interesting festival that celebrates India’s inclusiveness is the Annual Eunuch Festival held every April in Koovagam in Tamil Nadu. Transgenders from all over the country meet here and ritually marry Iravan, a character from Mahabharata revered as a patron god of the transgender community. When you travel in the tribal areas of Orissa and Chattisgarh, every market day is a celebration; Music, dance, Mahua and shopping complement a day of barter and revelry.  

For the fall and spring of 2014/15, I have two festivals on my agenda – World Mouth Harp Festival in Goa and Ruins of Renaissance, Bengaluru’s mega festival to celebrate all forms of creative expressions – films, music, dance, art and after parties!

This is but a brief list of alternate festivals, I am aware of many that I do not mention in reverence to word count.  Each day I hear of something new to celebrate.  Imagine my joy on a  bus trip to Manali, my co-passenger was an astrophysicist who was curating a new festival in Goa this winter; Story of Light Festival – an intersection of science, art and culture.

I am convinced the world has much to celebrate and as I travel, I am inevitably a part of some of them !