Here's the best of what's on in November in India.
Diwali represents the start of the Hindu New Year and is celebrated as the victory of light over darkness. Lots of small clay lamps (called diyas) and candles are lit and placed in houses, and fireworks are let off everywhere, giving Diwali its name of "Festival of Lights". People also clean and decorate their homes with Rangoli (Hindu folk art), buy new clothes, gamble, and give each other gifts and sweets during the festival.
- When: November 3, 2013. (South India celebrates a day earlier on November 2).
- Where: Throughout India, except in the southern state of Kerala.
This north Indian festival, traditionally celebrated by the people of Bihar, has grown to be a big occasion in Mumbai as well. Chhat Puja is devoted to worshiping the sun. People flock to Juhu beach to offer prayers to the Sun God at sunset. Hymns and folk songs are sung, and women fast and pray for the wellbeing of their family and friends.
- When: November 8, 2013. (Chhath Sandhya Argh evening prayers).
- Where: Juhu Beach, Mumbai, Maharastra. The banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi are also another excellent tourist place to see it.
Kolayat Fair (Kapil Muni Fair)
The largest fair of Bikaner, in India's desert state of Rajasthan, the Kolayat Fair combines a huge cattle fair with a pilgrimage to the town's holy lake. It's quite a spectacle as buffaloes, camels, horses and cattle are traded, and pilgrims bathe and float clay lanterns in the lake.
- When: November 9-17, 2013.
- Where: Bikaner, Rajasthan.
This traditional Indian style festival sees an astonishing 50,000 camels converge on the tiny desert town of Pushkar. The camels are dressed up, shaved, entered into beauty contests, paraded, raced, and traded. An entertaining sight indeed!
- When: November 9-17, 2013. The focus of the festival shifts to religious celebrations from November 14-17, 2013.
- Where: Pushkar, Rajasthan.
Held along the banks of the holy Ganges River, this unique and mystical festival features cultural programs of classical music and dance. However, the highlight of the festival is on the last day, when more than a million clay lamps are floated down the river at dusk amidst chanting of Vedic hymns as part of Dev Deepavali.
- When: November 14-17, 20123.
- Where: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
Kartik Purnima and Bali Yatra
In a celebration dedicated to Lord Shiva, Kartik Purnima (the full moon day in the Hindu month of Kartika) is marked with great fanfare in the state of Orissa. The women make eye-catching flower designs out of colored powder, sing, and offer prayers at temples. People also remember the state's maritime glory at this time by floating tiny boats filled with flowers and incense in the water. A huge fair, known as Bali Yatra, is held in the city of Cuttack as well.
- When: November 17, 2013.
- Where: Puri and Cuttack, Orissa.
Guru Nanak Jayanti
This event is a commemoration of Guru Nanak's birthday (he was the founder of the Sikh religion), and is widely celebrated throughout Punjab but especially so at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the main shrine of the Sikhs. The day of the festival sees the holy book carried out of the temple in a huge procession, accompanied by music and drummers. The beautifully illuminated temple is an incredible sight to behold at this time.
- When: November 17, 2013.
- Where: Amritsar, Punjab.
Another festival that takes place along the banks of the Ganges River, you can see thousands of devotes (and elephants!) taking a holy dip. Livestock is traded at the fairground, including a large number of elephants. There's also an array of shops selling all kinds of merchandise. It's best to visit this fair during the first couple of days.
- When: For a fortnight, starting November 17, 2013.
- Where: Sonepur, around 25 kilometers from Patna, Bihar.
Bundi is a picturesque spot in the Hadoti region in Rajasthan. The Bundi Utsav brings it alive with the culture, folklore, traditions and craft of the region. The festival commences with a procession, and features an arts and crafts fair, traditional rural sports, cultural exhibition, and folk/classical music and dance program. There's even a turban competition. Fireworks cap off the festival.
- When: November 20-21, 2013.
- Where: Bundi, Rajasthan.
Puri Beach Festival
The annual Puri Beach Festival is one of the most popular cultural festivals in Orissa. The activities include classical and folk dances of India, handicrafts, fashion shows, rock music, fireworks, and a sand art competition.
- When: Postponed until January or February 2014 due to cyclone aftermath.
- Where: Puri, Orissa.