If you're spending time in India in March, the states of Goa, Rajasthan and Kerala are where you should head to catch most of the action. There are plenty of temple festivals with elephants happening all over Kerala. Of course Holi is celebrated across India in March too!
Here's the best March festivals in India (listed by date). This article has two pages, so don't overlook clicking on "Next" at the bottom of this page, to go to page two.
1. Goa Carnival
The colorful Goa Carnival, which began as a local feast by the Portuguese in the 18th century, has developed into the state's most famous event. During the festival, the streets come alive with parades, floats, music, and masked dances. It culminates with the Red and Black Dance, a formal ball in Panaji, where the dress code is red and black. This year, the festivities will begin with the inauguration of a Food and Culture Festival in Panaji.
- When: March 1-4, 2014.
- Where: The carnival moves from city to city (Panaji, Margao, Vasco and Mapusa) in Goa. The parade starts out from Panaji.
The International Yoga Festival is a must for anyone interested in yoga! With more than 400 people from over 30 countries, it's grown to become one of the largest yoga gatherings in the world. The festival offers yoga classes from world class Yoga teachers, evening discussions with some of India's leading spiritual leaders, and other events including vegetarian cooking classes and the Yoga Aid Challenge charity fundraiser. More information and a detailed festival program is available on the website.
- When: March 1-7, 2013.
- Where: Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand.
3. Paripally Gajamela
One of Kerala's most impressive temple festivals, the Paripally Gajamela features around 50 richly decorated elephants. They form part of a ritual offering to the temple goddess, by temple devotees, for prosperity.
- When: March 2, 2014.
- Where: Paripally Kodimootil Sree Bhadrakaali Temple, around an hour north of Trivandrum in the Kollam district of Kerala.
- When: Opens on March 3, 2014 and runs until April 2014.
- Where: Tarq, F35/36 Dhanraj Mahal, C.S.M. Marg, Apollo Bunder, Colaba, Mumbai.
- When: March 13-15, 2014.
- Where: Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
Organized by the Mewar royal family, the World Living Heritage Festival promotes the cultural diversity of the Mewar region. This is the second time the festival has been held. It consists of arts and crafts workshops, photo exhibition, food festival, musical concerts, and technical conferences to discuss issues pertaining to the preservation of Living Heritage.
- When: March 13-16, 2014.
- Where: Udaipur City Palace Complex, Rajasthan.
7. Chinakkathoor Pooram
This elephant pageant, held on the last day of the festival at the Sree Chinakkathoor Bhagavathy Temple, features 33 decorated elephants. The procession, held in the evening, is accompanied by drumming and other traditional music. In the 17 days leading up to the Chinakkathoor Pooram, you can also see shadow puppet performances every evening at the temple premises.
- When: March 14, 2014.
- Where: Sree Chinakkathoor Bhagavathy Temple, Palappuram, Palakkad district of Kerala.
8. Thirunakkara Arattu
The 10 day Thirunakkara Arattu is another of Kerala's famous temple festivals. As is the norm with these festivals, the highlight is a procession of decorated elephants. Accompanied by drummers and other performers, they carry the temple god to be bathed. Nine elephants usually participate in the Thirunakkara Arattu. Other attractions of the festival are traditional Kathakali dancers, which perform throughout the night on the third and fourth days of the festival, and folk arts such as the Mayilattom (peacock dance) in the temple compound.
- When: March 15-24 each year.
- Where: Thirunakkara Mahadeva Temple, Kottayam District, Kerala.
Goa's biggest spring festival, Shigmo, is the state's version of Holi. It's a Hindu festival that's filled with bright decorations, singing, dancing, and colors. One traditional dance that's often performed is the Ghode Modni martial arts horse dance.
- When: March 16-31, 2014.
- Where: All over Goa, particular evenings in Panjim where a huge street procession is held with floats depicting Ramayana and Mahabaratha scenes, drums, and folk dancing. Celebrations are more authentic in rural areas. Expect plenty of authentic Goan cuisine and fenni (local alcoholic drink).
Rajasthan isn't just all about camels and camel festivals. Jaipur, with its royal heritage, has plenty of prized elephants. On the eve of Holi each year, they're groomed and decorated to perfection, and paraded around. For added entertainment, don't miss the tug of war between elephants and people. Note: this event was canceled last year due to pressure from animal rights groups. A cultural program was held in its place, without the elephants. It's been confirmed that elephants will again be absent from the celebrations in 2014 and a similar cultural program will occur instead.
- When: March 16, 2014.
- Where: Jaipur, Rajasthan.