India is a land of vibrant festivals. Festivities and celebrations mark the spirited existence of the people of the country who seek vibrancy even in mundanity. The north eastern region of India is also home to a host of cultural and religious festivals, as well as many that stem from touristry pursuits or simply those that celebrate the rich legacy and abundant beauty of the region. Here are 31 of the most popular festivals of North east India you need to experience at least once in your lifetime-
Assam Tea Festival
Assam is famous for its robust and aromatic tea that comes from its many tea gardens spread over its rush hills and vales. No wonder then that the Assam Tea Festival is one of the many festivals of north east India that is a special full fledged celebration. Sometime in the winter months from November to January, tea becomes not just the core of conversation but the conversation itself in the Jorhat district of Assam.
And not just tea, the festival is also a celebration of the rich heritage of the state. From food fiestas to adventure sports events, ethnic fairs to exciting tours, the Assam Tea Festival is unlike one you have ever witnessed in your life. Enjoy the warmth of the amazing Assamese hospitality and sip on some of the most flavourful tea of the world in this place of awesomeness called Assam!
Losar, Arunachal Pradesh
Marking the Tibetan New Year, Arunachal Pradesh’s Losar Festival is an extravaganza of pomp and gaiety. Heralding the onset of spring, Losar is celebrated to ward of evil spirits and usher in happy new beginnings. The festival is marked by elaborate arrangements, from cleaning and decorating houses to preparing special offerings for deities, the people of the Monpa tribe of Arunachal celebrate this three day festival with great excitement and reverence.
Saga Dawa, Sikkim
Sikkim’s Saga Dawa Festival is celebrated as a very auspicious occasion in the Tibetan lunar month. Also known as the Triple Blessed Festival, Saga Dawa is supposed to be the Month of Merits for Tibetan Buddhists. Saga Dawa that falls on the full moon day mid- month commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha and is marked by colorful processions and devout rituals.
Ambubachi Mela, Assam
Assam is home to one of the most unique festivals of north- east India or for that matter, of any part of the world. Ambubachi mela is a four- day long yearly extravaganza that celebrates a menstruating Goddess and is a very significant observance in the religious sphere of the country. Every year in the Assamese month of Aahar the Kamakhya Temple in Assam’s Guwahati hosts hundreds and thousands of pilgrims and sadhus, saints and devotees who throng the state in the sanctity of Ambubachi. This unique mela is definitely a one of its kind observance, not only in the spirit it encompasses but also in the frenzied conglomeration it witnesses.
Dree Festival, Arunachal Pradesh
The agrarian Apatanis of Arunachal Pradesh’s tranquil Ziro Valley celebrates their biggest festival on July 5 every year. Known as the Dree Festival the occasion is one that evokes spirituality and is also marked by extensive merry making. From worshipping the Gods to performing traditional dances, brewing local drinks and preparing elaborate delicacies, Dree Festival is just the apt summer celebration bringing the otherwise quite lands of the verdant Ziro valley to life.
Moatsu Mong, Nagaland
Moatsu Mong is the harvest festival of Nagaland’s Ao people. A three day festival held annually from the 1st of May, Moatsu marks the end of the sowing period and bears colorful semblances of the rich Naga culture. Vibrant festivities take over the Mokokchung district of the state during the celebrations marked by cultural renditions of traditional songs and dances and of course home made food and drinks.
Rass Mahutsav, Assam
Depicting the Raas leela of Lord Krishna and his Gopinis, Assam’s Rass Mahutsav is a yearly rendezvous in many places of Assam, sometime in November or December. The excitement permeating the atmosphere during Rass is palpable- one of fanfare and frantic rejoical. A festival that is a celebration of the cultural heritage of the state, the Raas Mahutsav is among the very prominent festivals of north east India.
The Manipuri New Year of the Meiteis is celebrated as Meetei Cheiraoba or Sajibu Cheiraoba sometime in March or April. Falling on the first day of the month of Sajibu, Cheiraoba ushers in new beginnings and is celebrated with extensive feasting preparations while also engaging in traditional rites and rituals. What’s perhaps the most exciting and unique aspect of this yet another New Year Festival is the climbing of the Cheiraoching peak. It is believed that the ascent up the peak also prepares individuals for such great rise in their lives.
Aoling festival, Nagaland
Nagaland’s once dreaded head hunters, the Konyaks celebrate the completion of their sowing period with the Aoling Festival. Authentic and achromatic, Aoling also marks the dawn of the Konak New Year and is held in the first week of April every year. Food and finery, dance and music, wine and celebrations mark all the six days of the festival, characterised by fun and merry making.
Shillong Autumn Festival, Meghalaya
Among the myriad of festivals that spark up north east India every season of the year is also the Shillong Autumn Festival. There’s so much to seek in what is Meghalaya’s spirited observance of life and nature- blooming cherry blossoms, traditional motif embedded dresses, delectable dishes and the finest of foods, the melody of music and so much more. Come October and the ushering in of the colors of autumn is celebrated extensively by Shillong’s namesake festival.
The seed sowing festival of the Nagas in Manipur is celebrated as Lui-ngai-ni, a two day extravaganza. Apart from feasting and merry making, rituals and rites like lighting fire and blessing the seeds are also performed. On February 15 each year, the Nagas celebrate their festival of brotherhood and harmony with utmost traditional gaiety.
Sanken Festival, Arunachal Pradesh
The festivals of north east India are a diverse mix of unique celebrations and dignified traditions of gratitude and respect. One such festival is Arunachal Pradesh’s water festival, called the Sangken festival. The Khamti people of Arunachal usher in the new year with the festivities that mark symbolic purification and cleansing. A three day festival celebrated from the 14th of February, Sanken also marks a refrain from wine and intoxication and is exclusively celebrated by sprinkling water. Even the Buddha idols are showered with clean scented water to invoke holy blessings.
Bihu Festival, Assam
A cultural observance in the state of Assam is Bihu, characterised by three distinct celebrations over the course of a single year. In mid January it is the harvest festival Magh Bihu that takes centerstage while the one in mid April called Bohag Bihu marks the onset of the Assamese New Year. Magh bihu is mainly a celebration with food and feasts, while Bohag Bihu is characterised by spirited merry making and the traditional dance and folk songs of the Assamese people. There also happens a Bihu celebration in autumn during October, called the Kati Bihu. Bihu is the lifeline of the Assamese people and is widely celebrated across the state in all its variations.
Hornbill Festival, Nagaland
Another of the agrarian festivals of north east India is Nagaland’s popular Hornbill Festival. The ten day extravaganza in the capital city Kohima is a fest of cultural vibrancy and heritage and is named after the state’s most admired bird, the Hornbill. Tribal dances and folk songs, local food and indigenous crafts are showcased widely during the course of the festival, which also hosts a night market!
A harvest festival that also celebrates the Sikkimese New Year, Losoong is a traditional celebration of the Bhutias and the Lepchas. Held in December every year, Losoong is a carnival of colors and celebrations that witnesses the famed Black Hat Dance and Cham Dance in full swing. Local brews called Chaang and Cha- fit is served to the deities and the dreariness of the winters is dispelled by the colors and frenzy of the spirited celebrations.
Nongkrem Dance Festival, Meghalaya
A harvest thanksgiving celebration of the Khashi tribe, Meghalaya’s annual Nongkrem festival is marked by elaborate traditional dance performances in ethnic attire. A colorful extravaganza, the Nongkrem dance is brought to life by young girls dressed up beautifully and frolicking about in circular patterns. Goat sacrifice is another indispensible aspect of the prominently merrymaking celebrations that continue for five days in the month of November every year.
North east India is a tourist’s paradise with its bounty of natural wonder and to further enhance the tourism prospects of the region, the state of Mizoram plays host to the Anthurium festival every September. A pretty visual extravaganza named after the flower Anthurium, the festival brings to life folk music and dance, cuisine and culture in an effort to entice people from other regions to come explore its glorious confines. With the mystic Reiek mountain as the backdrop, in the confines of the small Reiek mountain village, the three day long festival is truly a grand exploration of Mizoram in all its gaiety and glory.
Kharchi Puja, Tripura
A sacred reverence and one among the most historic in the north eastern state of Tripura is the age old royal Kharchi Puja. A ten day long religious festival marked by deity worship and animal sacrifice, Kharchi Puja is held at the temple of the fourteen gods at Old Agartala. The annual July occurrence brings people from all over India who consider it their fortune to be witness to the grand celebrations.
Brahmaputra Beach Festival, Assam
Held annually along the banks of the Brahmaputra river is an eponymous festival that coincides with the Magh bihu celebrations. Along the sandy shores of the mighty Brahmaputra river, the Beach festival is an ambitious attempt at promoting tourism and enticing visitors with its many offerings. Adventure activities, aero sports, traditional games and crafts are some of the indulgences that will have you in tow during the duration of the offbeat festival.
Chapchar Kut, Mizoram
A harvest festival named after the bamboo used in cultivation, Chapchar Kut is a religious festival of the Mizos. Bamboos really are the prime element of importance with the bamboo dance cheraw being a vital incorporation of the festival. A celebration of art and craft, food and music, Chapchar Kut is held annually sometime in March.
Wangala Festival, Meghalaya
Meghalaya’s winter festival is celebrated as the Wangala Festival every second week of November. The celebration of a successful sowing season, the Wangala festival is characterised by music and merry making, festivities and frenzy. Also called the 100 Drum Festival, Wangala is celebrated by the beating of a 100 drums and by the blowing of horns in honour of the Sun God of fertility.
Ziro Festival of Music, Arunachal Pradesh
Touted to be the coolest music festival, the Ziro Festival of Music is very much an enriching experience. The picturesque settings, the tranquility pervading the environs, the captivating sway of the mountain winds and of course the color and tones of the melodies emanating as a rich symphony of celebration of the melody in life all contribute to a delightfully visceral rendezvous with the richest of pleasures in life. Ziro festival is definitely the coolest among all the festivals of north east India.
Kang Chingba, Manipur
Kang Chiba is the biggest Hindu celebration in Manipur and is a eight day long yearly extravaganza celebrating the journey of Lord Jagannath and his cohorts. Every July large gatherings mark the frenzy of the deeply religious celebrations, characterised by rath yatras and grand feasts.
Myoko Festival, Arunachal Pradesh
A month long festival of the Apatanis of Arunachal Pradesh, Myoko is offbeat in its celebration and otherworldy in its spirit. Every year in March any three of the eight Apatani villages have it upon them to organise a volley of rituals to promote fertility and prosperity, propagated through rhythmic chants and cultural processions.
Judima Festival, Assam
A festival centred around celebrating the local brew Judima, at least in name, Assam’s Judima Festival explores also the phenomenal natural beauty of the region. Either in promoting tourism or in celebrating its treasure trove of natural bounty, the Judima festival is a pretty conglomeration in spirit. Assam’s only hill station Haflong plays host to this three day festival which has been an annual feature since the last couple of years or so.
Yaoshang is the ‘Holi of Manipur’ and is celebrated as a spring festival in the state. A five day celebration replete with dance and music, colorful affairs and cultural events, Yaoshang is one of the major festivals of north east India.
Torgya Festival, Arunachal Pradesh
Hosted by the Monpas of Arunachal Pradesh, the Torgya is an annual monastery festival that is celebrated sometime in late January. Warding off evil spirits and ushering in prosperity is the motive behind the three day festival housed by the Tawang monastery in the state. Dance performances by brightly clothed masked monks is the highlight of the festival that resonates with beats of the drums and cymbals supposed to drive evil forces away.
Dehing Patkai Festival, Assam
Encompassing the majesty of the Patkai range and the magnificence of the Dihing River is another of the festivals of north eastern India- Assam’s Dehing Patkai Festival. Vital elements of the Assam landscape and heritage including tea tours and treasure troves, community fairs and wildlife explorations et al are presented in all their aura by the annual festival.
Majuli Festival, Assam
The largest inhibited river island in the world, Majuli in Assam is home to the namesake four day festival that is an exploration of the island’s prevalent neo Vaishnavite culture. The four day festival is held in November and encompasses the celebration of local food and cuisine apart from the rich cultural heritage of the land. Be it music or matter, art or culture, the Majuli Festival is an extravaganza of a different kind altogether.
The north eastern state of Meghalaya plays host to the Behdienkhlam festival, one of the most colorful religious festivals every July. The celebrations are steeped in the prayers of a good harvest and enduring prosperity in the town of Jowai by the Jaintias. A four day long cultural and religious festival, Behdienklam is celebrated after the sowing period is over and is considered to be particularly purposeful if it rains during the course of the rituals.
Junbeel Mela, Assam
A three day annual indigenous fair of the Tiwa community, Assam’s historic Junbeel Mela perhaps is the only place of the present day world that engages in barter. Bearing close connection with the Bihu celebrations, the fair is held in the weekend of Magh Bihu and is replete with all elements of traditional relevance.