SUBJECT :Celebrating Nature across Incredible India 

Rann Utsav is a three-month mega event held annually in the Kutch district of Gujarat.

January 5, 2019: Birds, turtles, trees, rivers, or the rains, India has had a tradition to celebrate nature and its gifts for centuries. Here are some interesting festivals across the country one could visit in 2019—a great way to discover the culture, cuisine and landscape of the different regions of India.

Velas Turtle Festival, Maharashtra

Turtle hatchlings make their way out of hatcheries during a turtle festival at Velas in 2011

A small fishing village on the Konkan coast, Velas is located in the Ratnagiri district and is well known among local travellers for its pristine beaches. Every year, thousands of the vulnerable Olive Ridley Sea Turtles visit the Velas beach between February and April, compelling a local NGO to begin the Velas Turtle Festival in 2006 to spread awareness about the need to conserve these tiny creatures. Now a regular annual festival held in different dates over February, March and April (the dates differ annually according to when batches of turtles hatchlings appear and are released into the sea), it involves home stays with the village population and a chance to see the turtles, photograph them and get to know more about their habitat, behaviour and conservation. It’s a festival with a difference – instead of a concentrated few days of wild celebrations, it is a proper long celebration of the wild.

Van Mahotsav, across India

Shri Narendra Modi plants a sapling during the Van Mahotsav celebrations in Nagshwar, Gujarat on 2nd August 2013.

No day is better or worse for planting trees or celebrating the importance of forests, but for a week in July the government encourages every state to participate in Van Mahotsav, or the festival of forests. Revived after many years a couple of years ago, Van Mahotsav, usually celebrated across the country in the first week of July, is marked by various little events in schools, neighbourhoods, and forested areas where numerous activities such as talks, planting saplings and cultural festivals are organised. To take part, you can travel to join in a celebration, organise one in your neighbourhood or just plan a tree!

Bird Festival, Uttar Pradesh

File photo of an event during Uttar Pradesh Bird Festival.

Starting in 2015 in Bah, near Agra, the Bird Festival soon became the biggest gathering of ornithologists and birdlovers in the country. This year it was shifted to Dudhwa National Park from National Chambal Sanctuary (and to February from December) in an attempt to make this more of a travelling festival to promote eco-tourism in different parts of the state. With talks and nature events around the 500-plus bird species found in Uttar Pradesh and over 1,000 species in the country, this one is a must-visit for both amateur birders as well as seasoned naturalists. Apart from a wide range of migratory birds that you can see in the winter, Dudhwa National Park is also a great place to spot the tiger.


A traditional festival marking the onset of rain, Harela, literally meaning ‘green’, is a community festival held during the beginning of the Hindu calendar month of Shravan (July) across the Kumaon region in Uttarakhand. It literally worships and celebrates rain. As the great provider – of a good harvest, of greenery, to the hills of Uttarakhand – rain is the most welcome guest in these parts and people celebrate its onset with mock sowing of seeds, getting together and roasting seeds, singing, planting saplings and generally having a good time.

Amur Falcon Festival, Nagaland

Amur Falcon

A small raptor, the Amur falcon has been migrating over north-east India in huge casts at least since 2000. It is not a threatened species, breeding widely and moving in large groups (some put the number to over a million birds) every winter. In 2012, however, it was discovered that people living near the Doyang reservoir in the Wokha district of Nagaland, where the falcons visit each year, are trapping and killing the birds to eat or to sell. Over 10,000 of these birds were found to be massacred in Pangti village, a discovery that shook the conservationist community. Since then, wildlife activists and the Nagaland government have been working to protect the falcons.

In 2018, Wokha held the first ever Amur Falcon Festival, a three-day celebration of the visiting raptors from November 8-10. With events like bird-watching, nature photography, workshops on awareness of the Amur falcon migration and conservation, boating, trekking as well as food, music, dance, and other fun local activities, the festival will give the local population a reason to protect the birds in the future as it builds up in popularity and people flock in large numbers to their homeland, providing them an alternate stream of revenue... all thanks to the falcons.

The better known festival associated with a bird in Nagaland is, of course, the Hornbill Festival. That one, though, is a culture fest that just takes the name of the state bird – the Amur falcon festival is when bird lovers can actually indulge in their favourite pastime as well as get a glimpse of the Naga way of life.

Siang River Festival, Arunachal

Siang River in Arunachal Pradesh

It has changed avatars over the years but the popular Siang River Festival, now a two-day event in December (this year on December 16-17) along the Siang River (the Brahmaputra becomes the Siang in Arunachal), is held in Pasighat, Yingkiong and Tuting. Over the two days of this eco-tourism event, you can indulge in water-sports like parasailing and rafting, go for hikes or boating, and get to know the local people, food and culture of Arunachal. You will be staying at the homes of local people and travelling through some rugged country so be prepared to rough it out if you are planning to visit.

Rann Utsav, Gujarat

Tourist Tents for Rann Utsav

A three-month (November 2018-February 2019) mega event held annually in the Kutch district of Gujarat, Rann Utsav is the celebration of the salt marshes and unique landscape of Kutch, and the Kutchi people and culture. This is a great time to visit the Wild Ass Sanctuary in the Little Rann of Kutch, the only place in the world where you can see the endangered Indian Wild Ass in its natural habitat. Marked by several activities such as excursions into the Rann on camels, or full moon night tours, you can stay on tents on the endless white salt desert and indulge in the festivities and events of your choice.

Pushkaram, across India

Cauvery Maha Pushkaram at Amma Mandapam in Srirangam in Trichy during September 2017.

A festival of rivers celebrated across India, Pushkaram is held at different river locations according to a calendar that follows the zodiac signs (yes it is a bit complicated but luckily the calendar with dates and locations is widely available online). In 2018, for instance, the location was the Thamirabarani River in Tamil Nadu, where the last Pushkaram was celebrated 144 years ago. People gather to worship the river, take dips into the water, do meditation, have discourses and thank the river gods for blessing us humans. The next Pushkaram will be celebrated in Assam on the banks of the Brahmaputra on March 29, 2019.