If you're spending time in India in March, the states of Rajasthan and Kerala are where you should head to catch most of the action. There are plenty of temple festivals happening all over Kerala, while Jaipur in Rajasthan has an elephant festival of its own. Of course Holi is celebrated across India in March too!
Here's the best March events in India (listed by date).
See newly hatched, endangered Olive Ridely turtles take their amazing march into the sea at the annual Turtle Festival. As well as this, you'll get to sample traditional Indian village life by stopping over at local homestays in the area.
- When: February-March, 2013 (refer to website for best times and dates).
- Where: Velas village, Ratnagiri, Maharastra.
- Cost: 225 rupees per day.
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 3, 2013.
- Where: Paripally Kodimootil Sree Bhadrakaali Temple, around an hour north of Trivandrum in the Kollam district of Kerala.
March is a festive month at Isha Yoga Center. Yaksha promises to be a celestial feast of music and dance, held over seven days and featuring some of the most renowned artists in India. Yaksha culminates in the celebration of Maha Shivaratri. A night long satsung with Sadhguru will be held to take advantage of the upsurge of energy in the human system from the planetary positions.
- When: March 3-9, 2013.
- Where: Isha Yoga Center, Velliangiri Foothills, Semmedu Post Coimbatore.
5. Maha Shivratri
Maha Shivaratri, the Great Night of Shiva, is when Lord Shiva is believed to have performed his cosmic Tandava dance -- the source of the cycle of creation, preservation, and destruction. Devotees worship Lord Shiva on this occasion to gain release from this cycle of death and rebirth. Most of the festivities take place throughout the night, when vigils are maintained at Shiva temples. Devotees fast from sunrise, swim in the holy Ganges river, offer prayers at the temples, and chant devotional songs. Many people also consume bhang, a substance derived from cannabis.
6. 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.
7. Arattupuzha Pooram
Yet another Kerala temple festival this month, the Arattupuzha Pooram is a particularly large elephant pageant featuring around 60 elephants bearing brightly colored silk parasols. It's one of the oldest temple festivals in Kerala. Legend has it that on the day of the festival, 101 gods and goddesses from the neighboring villages visited Sree Ayyappan, the presiding deity of the Arattupuzha Temple.
- When: March 25, 2013.
- Where: Arattupuzha Temple, in the Thrissur district of Kerala.
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 the city. You can also catch a game or two of elephant polo! Apparently, the sport has quite a long and distinguished history in Jaipur. For added entertainment, don't miss the tug of war between elephants and people.
- When: March 26, 2013.
- Where: Jaipur, Rajasthan.
Holi is commonly referred to as the "Festival of Colors". People exuberantly throw colored powder and water all over each other, have parties, and dance under water sprinklers. Bhang (a paste made from cannabis plants) is also traditionally consumed during the celebrations. On the eve of Holi people light bonfires to mark the occasion and ward of evil spirits. Holi is a very carefree festival that's great fun to participate in if you don’t mind getting wet and dirty.
- When: March 27, 2013.
- Where: All over India, particularly in the north. Celebrations in the south have a more religious focus.