Front page picture from the Hyderabad Times

What is it? 

Bonalu is a folk festival celebrated in the Telangana region, Andhra Pradesh. This century-old tradition is observed with gaiety and devotional fervour. 

When is it?

It is during the month of Asadh. This is Sunday 25th June to Sunday 16th July in 2017. 

How is it celebrated?

This month long festival is marked by devotional singing and ritualistic worship of the village deities. The ‘Ghatams’ or decorated pots, filled with flowers, are the main attraction of the festival. The flower pots are carried on the heads of women in a procession. Similarly cooked rice is also carried by women on their heads to the local goddess accompanied by male drummers. Every Sunday from the end of June throughout July there are colourful celebrations ongoing.

Bonalu is celebrated chiefly in the cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad ( where we happen to be on holiday at the moment). Saree Jagadambika Temple located on the top of the Golconda Fort attracts the most devotees from the region. The state government also performs puja officially on behalf of the people. Temples are decorated. 

In Hyderabad the newspapers reported low attendance at work from female employees who were celebrating Bonalu. Some employers are allowing female staff to leave early to visit temples for puja. Office are reported to be in a festive atmosphere as ladies distribute sweets to colleagues dressed for the occasion. 

Rath Yatra

When is it?

In the month of Ashada, Sunday 25th June,2017

What is it?

It is an unusual festival in the memory of an eighty plus year old event and takes place in the month of Ashada (rainy season in Odisha usually falling in June or July) this celebration takes place in the state of Orissa.

The three dieties of Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra can be seen for the first time after a gap of a fortnight over which they remain secluded in the ‘anasara ghaa’ or retiring room of the 12th century temple.

The Festival

Rath Yatra means ‘chariot ride’ which is preserved as the gateway to the heavens by devotees.The ritual is observed in the Jagannath temple in the city of Puri in Orissa. The Jagannath temple is a trinity abode or dham dedicated to lord Krishna, his elder brother Balarama and their sister Subhadra. The images are made of new wood and adorned in splendour.

Ratha -Yatra (Puri) in the state of Odisha, India is still the oldest, biggest and most visited Rath Yatra in the world. It attracts a “large crowd” (thousands of people!).

How is it celebrated?

On the full mooon day of ashada, the images are taken out with the accompaniment of huge chariots to the streets. They are brought out onto the Bada Danda (Main Street of Puri) and travel 3km to the Shri Gundicha Temple. This allows the public to have darsana – a Holy view. Once the chariots come on the road, the continuous movement of the participants do not allow the procession to come to a halt. This ride is usually covered uphill and downhill track. The procession takes almost ten hours to reach its destination.

The English word juggernaut was originated from Jagannath that is replayed to the massive and unstoppable “Ratha” carrying Jaggannath.


The chariots, which are built new every year, are pulled by devotees. The chariots are 45 feet high, 35 feet square and take about 2 months to construct. The artists and painters of Puri decorate cars and paint flower petals and other designs on the wheels, the wood carved charioteer and horses and the inverted lotuses on the wall behind the throne.

The three chariots are being draped in multi coloured cloth for two days before Rath Yatra this year.


If you’re celebrating Rath Yatra, enjoy your day.

Yugadi –  a New Year celebration

Mysore Palace lit up for Ugadi

What is Yugadi?

The term Yugadi is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘beginning of a new yuga or a new era’ or the beginning of a new age. The festival of Ugadi is a change in the lunar orbit and the beginning of the Hindu lunar calendar i.e New Years Day.  

In 2017 it falls on Wednesday 29th March and is a public holiday. It falls on a different day every year because the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar calendar.

It is the beginning of spring, a season associated with joy and prosperity in India.

How is it celebrated?

It is celebrated with gatherings of the extended family with lots of food and feasting. Preparations begin a week before the festival with houses given a thorough wash, shopping for new clothes and buying other festival items. 

On the morning of Ugadi people wake up before dawn and take a ceremonial bath with oil and Bengal gram flour which is believed to purify the body and soul to perform the rituals. New clothes and jewellery are then worn.

The house door / entrance is decorated with fresh mango leaves to signify good crops and general well being. As they also give out oxygen it will bring freshness into the home (and good health).  Neem leaves are also used (which act as a disinfectant). People draw colourful floral designs (rangoli) at the entrance to their homes to signify they are ready to welcome guests.

People perform the ritual worship to god invoking his blessings before they start off the new year. They pray for health, wealth and prosperity and success in business -it’s a good time to start new businesses. Mantras are chanted and puja performed. The most important ritual of the day is the panchanga sravana which is an informal function where elderly and respected person reads out the almanac and predictions are made for the new year. This ritual used to be performed by priests in temple and focussed on the rain forecast for the year.

There is a symbolic eating of a dish (a paste) with six tastes called ‘Bevu-Bella’ which is only served during this festival. It symbolises that life is a different mix of different experiences and human emotions: sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise. These experiences should all be accepted equally throughout the new year. The six tastes are: sour (tamarind juice), sweet (jaggery), salt, bitter (Neem buds), astringent (unripened mango) and spicy hot (green chilli) or pungent and are called Ugadi Pachhadi. Eating this dish is believed to subdue the Arishadvargas, the six passions of the mind, desire or emotions attributed to living beings. These are: kama (desire or lust), krodha (anger), lobh or lobha (greed), moha (attachment), mada or ahankar (ego, pride) and matsarya (jealousy). These negative charactersistics are believed to prevent man achieving moksha or salvation. A harmonious blend of ingredients in the pachadi is considered to eventually help to win over self and gain eternal bliss. As a consequence great care and skill is displayed in the preparation of these dishes.

The fragrance of intense sticks waft through the warm air and in homes the aroma of puliogure (tamarind rice) and holige (a sweet dish) fill the air. These dishes are believed to bring peace and prosperity when offered to the goddess Parvathi.
In Karnataka there is a special dish called Obbattu (or Holige) which is a filling of jaggery and boiled sugar to make a paste which is stuffed inside a roti. It is eaten with ghee, milk or coconut milk and can be eaten hot or cold.

Celebrations by our friends

We bought sarees for three of our friends celebrating Ugadi. They were delighted. They are all going to t heir villages to celebrate with their families for a few days. 

Yugadi Habbada Shubhashayagalu! (Kannada for “Greetings for the festival of Ugadi”)

Holi Festival 

Happy Holi!
Holi colours

What is it?

Holi is the Festival of Colours. This is when people spray colours on each other, dance, party and eat festival delicacies. It is the time when everyone puts the gloom of winter behind them and celebrate the colours and life of Spring.

When is it?

It is the Hindu spring festival at the full moon (Phalgun Purnima) and is on Monday 13th March in 2017. The parties start on the weekend though with some on Saturday and Sunday. 

How is it celebrated?

With a lot of coloured powder, water guns and a lot of fun!

It’s a party atmosphere and people party with friends and family. People who don’t normally drink will have one or two. People partake of ‘bhaang’ (made from cannabis leaves) – although I’ve not seen this myself so I’m guessing it’s kept away from expats. Non veg people have a great and eat mutton and chicken curry whilst the veg eat spicy ‘katahal’ jackfruit. 

The night before is Holika Bonfire with religious rituals in front of the bonfire and pray that their internal evil is destroyed on the bonfire.


There is a water crisis here but that has not deterred a lot of Holi parties being planned – with water being the main advertising feature on online booking sites (rain dances and pool parties). The organisers use on site bore wells or private water tankers.

As there was no formal program arranged in our complex we just a got together on the street with the children – powders and water guns at the ready for a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun in front of the house then we went in search of others celebrating. We knocked on one of our neighbours door on the way and wished him a Happy Holi with a lot of colours too! He took it in good humour (thankfully!). We moved on in a group and when we encountered other groups we took full part in their celebrations with a lot of water and powders being liberally shared. It was such fun and a great community atmosphere.

Heading out to join other groups, well prepared.
In the middle of the Holi celebrations

The colours

Colour powder for Holi

The usual ingredients for Holi colours are as follows:

Orange and red – from flowers of the palash tree, lime and turmeric powder mixed and also saffron. Ours had Kumkum, tumeric and rice flour.

Green – mehendi and dried leaves of the gulmohur tree. Ours had tumeric, indigo and rice flour.

Yellow – tumeric (haldi) powder. Ours also had rice flour. 

Blue – indigo plant, berries, blue hibiscus and jacaranda flowers. Ours was indigo and rice flour. 

Magenta and purple – beetroot (that’s never going to wash out!). Ours also had indigo and rice flour.

Brown – dried tea leaves

Black – grapes and gooseberry (amla)


After enjoying the colours and water (a welcome relief to have a water gun fight in 34C), we headed for the shower and the clothes to the washing machine. The dye had gone through everything and has dyed my skin. Scrubbing hard has only faded the colours. I am going to be technicolour for some time. The pink, purple and yellow is particularly difficult to remove. 

The clothes were white. After the second wash I have some clothes that look like they have been tie dyed and underwear in a many different colours. It’s a look…but maybe one I’ll leave for next year.

Happy Holi everyone!


When is it?

It is an Hindu festival celebrated during the Hindu month of Phalgun which marks the end of the winter season on the first full moon day of the lunar month, which usually falls in the later part of February or March. It is on Friday 24th February in 2017.

What is it?

It is an Hindu festival celebrating the Hindu god, lord Shiva, known as the great destroyer of the universe. On this day he and his wife Parvati are worshipped by young girls and some men in the hope of getting a perfect mate for themselves; because this is the day Shiva and Parvati were married.The Maha Shrivarti festival marks the convergence of Shiva and Shakti (which means ‘power’ or ’empowerment’ and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe).

How is it celebrated?

The festival is mainly celebrated by offering Bael leaves to Shiva together will all day fasting and an all night vigil called jagaran. All through the day devotees will change “Om Namah Shiva” being the mantra of Shiva. Penances are performed in order to gain ‘boons’ in the practice of yoga or meditation in order to reach life’s highest good steadily and swiftly. The positioning of the planets is also supposed to raise ones spiritual energy more easily and the ‘powerful’ ancient Sanskrit mantras are supposed to increase greatly on this night. The ideal time to observe Shiva Pooja (prayers) is at Nishita Kala which a complicated calculation of time but is usually within an hour each side of midnight. Nishita kala is the time Shiva appeared on earth in the form of a linga. On this day all Shiva temples the most auspicious lingodbhava puja is performed.

Mahashrivaratri in Southern India.

It is celebrated widely in the temples all over Karnataka. Shiva is considered to be the Adi ( first) Guru from which the yogic tradition originates. According to tradition, the planetary positions on this night create a powerful natural upsurge in energy in the body. It is believed to be beneficial for spiritual and physical well being to stay awake throughout the night. 

The Dwadasha Jyothirlinga Temple will be kept open from 6am on Friday 24th February till 6am on Saturday 25th February. During that time several rituals related to the festival will be performed on the temple premises.

The Impu Sangeetha Samsthe, a non profit organisation which promotes music, has organised a musical marathon in Bugle Rock Park in Basavanagudi. Professional singers will will perform Kannada film devotional songs continuously from 9am on Friday 24th to 1am on Saturday 25th (16 hours) without any breaks. They are hoping to raise funds for Aparna Seva Samsthe which provides free dialysis for the poor.

In Bangalore hundreds of extra buses are being laid on for the festival… ensuring more traffic jams here. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (‘BBMP’) issued a notice on 21st February banning the sale of any kind of meat in the city on 24th February. The civic body has also banned the slaughtering of any animals on the day of the festival in the city.

The mythology 

A hunter having failed to find any prey in the forest climbed a bel tree towards the evening to spend the night there. Whilst drinking some water he dropped some on the shiva lingam hidden beneath some bushes at the bottom of the tree. A doe came to the spring to drink water and the hunter too his aim but seeing the mutual love for each other in the doe’s family he let them all go unharmed. In the morning lord Shiva appeared before the hunter and blessed him, saying that when he had sprinkled water on the shiva linga and thrown bel leaves on it he had unwittingly worshipped lord Shiva. As a consequence lord Shiva bestowed wealth and prosperity on him. From that day the shiva lingam is worshipped on the day which has become known as Maha Shrivrati.


This is the favourite day of lord Shiva as he married Shakti, and his greatness and supremacy over all other Hindu gods is highlighted. It also celebrates the night when he performed the cosmic dance named ‘Tandava’. The Tandava is a vigorous dance believed to be the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. 
On this day Shiva also saved the world from the disasterous effects of poison from the tumultuous sea by consuming it all. Shiva stopped the poison in his throat using his yogic powers but his neck turned blue due to the effects and is known as the ‘blue throated’ as a consequence.

Interesting fact

The Tripundra refers to the three horizontal stripes of ash , and sometimes a dot, applied to the forehead of Shiva worshippers. These stripes symbolise spiritual knowledge, purity (or will) and penance (spiritual practice of Yoga) (or action). They also represent the three eyes of Shiva. It is a reminder of the spiritual aims of life, the truth that the body and material things shall become ash at some point and that self realisation and knowledge is a worthy goal.

Neralu Festival

What is it?

Neralu (meaning “shade” in Kannada) is an annual crowd funded, citizen initiated, tree festival in its third year in Bangalore. Entry is free to all.

When is it?

It takes place when most of the trees are in full leaf or bloom. In 2017 the festival is taking place on 18th and 19th February.

Where is it?

All over Bangalore but the centre of activities in Cubbon Park where a festival of stories takes place and NGMA campus on Palace Road.

What happens?

There is story telling, art installations, walks, talks,games, music, street play, dance performances and drawing all designed to explore the trees in the city. The event begins with walks led by botanists, naturalists and tree experts to introduce people to trees throughout Bangalore. This is followed by talks, workshops and performances all day long on 19th February.

More details or

Modhera Dance Festival

Where is it?

Modhera is a district in North Gujarat. There is an 11th century Sun Temple at Modhra, which is ‘two hours’ north of Ahmedabad. It is 25km away from the town of Mehsana. The sun temple has step wells alongside with a world heritage site. The sun temple at Modhera was built during the reign of the Solanki King Bhimdev I. The temple is now in ruins. It is considered as one of the best specimens of Indian art and architecture. The temple is dedicated to lord Surya. The outer wall is covered with sculptures and figures of lord Surya are prominent. The whole structure is magnified by the incredible rectangular tank or Surya kund (a tank or small reservoir in which rainwater is collected for drinking). It is 100 square meters and has shrines.

The tourism corporation of Gujarat organises an annual Indian classical dance festival.  

When is it?

It is held over three days in the third week of January every year. In 2017 the festival is from 20th to 22nd January. It is after the festival of Uttarayan. 

What is it?

During the dance festival famous classical dancers are invited from all over is frequently visited by by art and dance connoisseurs from all across the world. Classical and folk dancers and musicians from different states of the country exhibit their talent and flair while enthusiasts become part of the festival to witness the event. 

Locals  from nearby villages are also a part of the festival.