Varanasi is the land of spirituality and the birthplace of Hinduism. This indicates that Varanasi was the birthplace of numerous cultural elements of Hinduism, which led to many festivals. Varanasi celebrates almost all religious festivals. However, here are the 20 Famous Festivals of Varanasi, during your visit.
1. Makar Sankranti
Makar Sankranti is celebrated as the harvest festival of the land. Each region of India celebrates this festival is a unique manner and with interesting rituals. In Varanasi, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with kites. The sky is painted with colorful kites throughout the day. During this festival, many delicacies are made and served to the deities. According to tradition, farmers and merchants use their first harvest produce to prepare delicacies to serve to the Gods, as gratitude. Top dishes to try during this festival are Badampatti, khichadi, tilkut, and dahi chuda.
2. Maha Shivaratri
Every month, a night is celebrated as Shivratri. However, the Mahashivratri is the most significant one. There are numerous mythological stories to why this festival is celebrated. In short, devotees stay awake the whole night performing rituals to Lord Shiva at equal intervals. In between, to avoid falling asleep they conduct many cultural programs, local games, and others. Dance, music, and other celebrations are quite common in Lord Shiva temples. Kashi Vishwanath Temple will be in grand beauty with fairs, rituals, cultural celebrations, and much more.
3. Shravan Maah
The month of Shravan starts in July and ends in August. Every Monday of this Shravan month is considered auspicious for Lord Shiva and every Tuesdays for Lord Parvathi. Thus, the eight days of Shravan are celebrated with fasting, rituals, and much more. This festival is associated with monsoon. According to literature, this fasting and ritual prepares the body to withstand the change in climate during rainfall. Every Shiva temple of Varanasi will conduct unique rituals during these eight days. Fairs will be conducted around certain temples.
4. Dev Diwali or Karthikai Deepam
Fifteen days after Diwali, people celebrate Dev Diwali by decorating the houses and temples with hundreds of small earthen lamps. People let go of thousands of small oil lamps on the River Ganges on a leaf. The lamps will slowly float along the small ripples of the water. By night, you can find many processions of deities from temple, grand fireworks, and much more. Many unique rituals take place in the temples, during this festival. If you love photography, this is the best festival to enjoy.
Four days after Diwali, Annakut is celebrated. According to mythology, this is the day when Lord Krishna lifted up Govardhan Hill to protect his folks from the wrath of Indra. People celebrate this festival by conducting rituals for Lord Krishna. Delicacies made with gram four and rice are common during this festival. You can find many drama recitals about childhood stories of Lord Krishna during this festival.
6. Rangbhari Ekadashi
Some communities within Hinduism start Holi celebration from Rangbhari Ekadashi. Rangbhari is the offspring of Lord Brahma, who can wash off humanely sins from soul. According to legends, after killing King Raavan, Lord Ram worshipped Rangbhari to wash off his sins. During this day, many rituals are conducted at Kashi Vishwanath Temple for Rangbhari and people pray to wash off their sins for ultimate salvation.
Holi is the festival of colors. People drench each other with different colors and celebrate the beginning of spring. This festival also marks the day of death of Demon Holika, who ended up killed while trying to burn her nephew, Prahalad. Bonfires are created to remember Good defeating Evil. Apart from color fight, many cultural programs including dance, music, and drama will be conducted at several places. Temple of Lord Krishna will conduct numerous rituals during this day.
Diwali is the festival of lights. This is the day when Lord Ram, Lord Sita, and his brother Lakshman returned back from exile. The locals lit lamps and burst fireworks to welcome the trio. To mark the day, people perform several rituals, decorate temples and houses with earthen lamps and burst crackers all day long. Oil bathing on Diwali is said to bring prosperity and wealth to the family. This day also indicates that Good always wins.
9. Buddha Mahotsav
Varanasi is the cultural hotspot for Buddhism and Jainism too. Buddha Mahotsav is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha. This festival takes place on a full moon night in April or May. The cream of celebrations takes place in Sarnath. Processions, fairs, and other celebrations take place in Sarnath. Religious sermons will be conducted at important religious sites in Sarnath. Remnants of the lord will be publically displayed during the procession.
10. Ram Leela
Ram Leela is one of the grandest festivals of all in Varanasi. This festival starts ten days prior to Dussehra. This marks the ten-day battle between Lord Ram and Raavan in which, Lord Ram killed Raavan on the tenth day, Dusshera. Raam leela is famous for dance drama performances, which explains the war, childhood of Ram, and other stories related to Lord Ram and Sita. Fairs, dance performances, puppet shows, and other cultural activities take place in numerous temples. Special rituals will be conducted in the temples throughout the festival.
11. Ganga Dussehra
This festival is dedicated to River Ganges, who is often personified as a demi god. Goddess Ganges is associated with prosperity, fertility, and agriculture. This day marks the anniversary of Lord Ganges visiting Earth to fertile it. It is said that on Ganga Dussehra, the River Ganges will grant salvation to anyone who dips in the water. The ten deadly sins of humanity can be erased with a single holy dip in the river. Women folk let small earthen lamps to float on the water by sunset.
12. Akshaya Tritiya
Akshaya Tritiya is associated with two mythologies. This is the birth anniversary of Lord Parsuram. This is day when Lord Ganesh started writing the epic, Mahabharata. This day is also considered as the day of Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi. This day is associated with wealth. According to mythology, any wealth procured on this day will lead to years of prosperity. People rush to buy gold and other wealth on this day.
13. Panch Koshi Parikrama
Panch Koshi Parkrama is a religious festival celebrated by the womenfolk. The ritual is assumed to be complete only when the person visits the five main religious sites of Hinduism, Rameshwar, Shivpur, Kardmeshwar, Kapildhara, and Bhimchandi. During this festival, a procession starts at Manikarnika Ghat and goes around many temples and ends at Manikarnika Ghat. Only the womenfolk participate in this procession. After the procession, women take a holy dip in the River Ganges and end their fast since morning.
14. Chhath Puja
This is one of the very few festivals and rituals, which focuses on the setting sun. This sun festivl is celebrated as Surya Shashthi or Dala Chhath. People offer their thanks to Sun God for life and prosperity. Many rituals will be conducted in the temple, and most of the rituals take place during the sunset. During this day, people fast for the entire day and offer fruits and argha to the sun. Argha is water infused with spices and dry fruits. It is believed that the rituals and celebrations can cure numerous diseases.
15. Nag Nathaiya
This festival was first celebrated in 16th century by Tulsidas, a great poet and saint. This day marks the epic battle between Lord Krishna and Kaliya Nag in the River Yamuna. At Tulsi Ghat, children dressed as Lord Krishna are made to stand on statues of snakes, on the River Ganges, near Tulsi Ghat. Many rituals and celebrations take place in the temples of Lord Krishna. Krishna Leela drama is enacted at many places during this festival.
16. Bharat Milap
This festival takes place at Nati Imli of Varanasi. This festival is celebrated as the day of reunion of Lord Ram with his brother Bharat. During this festival, a large fair is conduced and many rituals and celebrations take place in the temples. This festival celebrates the beauty of brotherly love and the fact that Good always prevails. The royal family of Varanasi visits the celebrations during this festival.
This festival marks the day when Lakshman cut the nose of Surpanakha (Raavan’s sister). The main element of this festival is the Nakkatayya drama, which is enacted by the folk artists about the scene of cutting the nose, and how it became the reason for the epic war between Lord Ram and Raavan.
18. Hanuman Jayanthi
This is the festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Hanuman, the Monkey God. This festival is celebrated with zeal at Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, and numerous other temples. This festival is marked with numerous rituals, decoration of the deity, serving delicacies to the visitors, and much more.
This is the first day of the Diwali celebration. This festival is dedicated to Dhanteras, the God of wealth. During this festival, people worship Dhanteras and Lord Lakshmi to provide prosperity and wealth. Many rituals and celebration takes place in Vishnu Temples of Varanasi.
20. Saraswathi Puja
The Saraswathi Puja or Vasant Panchami is dedicated to the Goddess of Knowledge, Saraswathi. During this day, kids start their education by writing on a plate of grains. People conduct rituals at home and start anything new like joining some classes, starting a new business and so on. New idols will be installed in the temples of Varanasi. A procession takes place inside BHU. During this procession, students wear traditional dresses, chant religious mantra and take part in other celebrations. Folk dance and music activities also take place.
21. Dhrupad Mela
The Dhrupad Mela is an annual festival of music conducted in Varanasi. This festival focuses on traditional forms of classic music. A fair is conducted for entertaining people with stalls, entertainment activities, and so on. The music performances by the artists start right after sunrise. Many cultural programs will be conducted in the Assi Ghat, every morning for four days. On the fourth day, the last day of celebration, many international music performances and folk music shows also take place.
Apart from these, there are numerous festivals to enjoy in Varanasi. It is true that the city will be colorful and exciting during the festival times. Also, it will be crowded during the celebrations. Make sure to pre-book all the amenities before you reach Varanasi. Also, be prepared for the crowd and long queues at the temples.