Festivals in Asia
For a truly immersive Asian travel experience why not add a trip to one of the continent’s exuberant religious, traditional and cultural festivals to your itinerary. A wonderful way to celebrate with the locals, get into the community spirit and broaden your appreciation of Asian culture, these events promise a spectacle like none other. Showcasing a mesmerising combination of lively processions, traditional music, dance and drama, many are accompanied by food festivals, handicraft fairs and fireworks. To spark your interest, we’ve shortlisted five of our favourites.
If you’d like to experience one of Asia’s festivals, call our specialists on 020 3141 2850 for help planning a tailor-made trip.
Where? Sri Lanka - Colombo
What? Celebrated during Navam Full Moon, this annual pageant was first held in 1979 to lift the spirits of Sri Lankans during the dark days of political unrest and tension. Since then, the festival has flourished and today both locals and visitors enjoy a procession of street performers, masked dancers, drummers, acrobats, torch bearers, parading monks and beautifully-decorated elephants. Starting from Gangaramaya Temple, the main action centres around Viharamahadevi Park and South Beira Lake. Honouring the Triple Gem: Lord Buddha, Dharma and Sanga, a casket of sacred relics is tied to the back of the main tusker, who becomes the focus of the procession.
Where? Bhutan - Tashichho Dzong, Thimpu
What? One of Bhutan’s most famous and vibrant religious festivals, Thimpu Tshechu lights up the capital city during a three-day holiday every year on the 10th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. Commemorating the birth of Guru Rinpoche, who first brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century, head to the courtyard of the stunning Tashichho Dzong for a display of traditional Bhutanese culture, including Shaw Shachi (Dance of the Stags) and vividly colourful mask dances. A time for local people to celebrate, socialise, receive blessings and pray for health and happiness, the atmosphere is delightful.
Where? India - Jodhpur, Rajasthan
What? Enjoy the myths and legends of Rajput warriors and kings told through the music, folk art and dance of the Marwar region, over this vibrant two-day festival celebrated during the full moon of Sharad Poorima. Full of colourful tradition, Jodhpur’s magnificent palaces, including Mehrangarh Fort and Umaid Bhawan host the main performances. Other attractions include a turban tying competition and polo matches. The festival also boasts one of the largest fairs in Rajasthan, full of unique handicrafts, jewellery, traditional dress and souvenirs.
Black-Necked Crane Festival
Where? Bhutan - Gangtey Monastery
What? Celebrating both the arrival of the rare black-necked crane to the Phobjikha Valley and the national celebrations to honour the birthday of His Majesty the King of Bhutan, the nine-day Black-Necked Crane Festival is an annual event held in November. Conservation efforts are a major part of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness philosophy and the festival has helped to raise awareness of the important links between the local people and their habitat. Celebrated in the courtyard of the Gangtey Monastery there are masked dances, crane dances, folk songs and conservation-themed dramas performed by local children.
Where? India - Fort Kochi, Kerala
What? Buzzing with energy, colour, music and dance, the Cochin Carnival originated from the New Year festivities of the Portuguese during the 16th and 17th centuries. Recently revived, this fiesta is a celebration of life with art shows, concerts, activities and competitions galore including floor art, beach football, tug of war, boxing and kayak racing. The highlight is the burning of an effigy of Papanai followed by fireworks on New Year’s Eve to welcome in the new year. New Year’s Day is celebrated with a spectacular grand procession with an infectious party atmosphere.
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