Mumbai is one of the most colorful and lively cities you’ll ever visit, and it’s most exciting at festival time. Lucky for tourists, there are enough festivals year-round that it’s easy to plan one into your trip.
1. Ganesh Chaturthi celebrates the birthday of the elephant god Ganesh, and is the biggest Hindu festival in the city. Taking place over 10 days in August or September (based on the Hindu calendar), everyone gets some form of a colorful Ganesh statue to place within their home. Huge community celebrations featuring songs and theater take place, special sweets are cooked, and on the last day the biggest statues of Ganesh are taken to the beaches and cast out into the sea.
2. Diwali is the most famous of Indian festivals, and is also known as the Festival of Lights. It takes place over 5 days in September and October, and people of all religions celebrate Diwali together in Mumbai. Several events taking place between the Hindu gods are the focus of the holiday, but all symbolize the triumph of good and light over evil and darkness. And in Mumbai, citizens take the name “Festival of Light” quite literally, and candles, lanterns, and plenty of fireworks light up the night sky.
3. Ramadan-Id is another religious holiday that’s become more open to the whole citizenry of Mumbai, although its origins are Muslim. This day marks the end of the fast of the month of Ramadan, and what do you do at the end of a fast? You eat! The main dish served is sweet noodles, called sivaiyan, but there’s plenty more to dine on during this November festival of feasting.
4. Janmashtami is another Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna. It’s also marked by one of the most fun and unique celebrations. Large pots of buttermilk, or handis, are set up around the city dozens of feet above the ground, and participants form massive human pyramids to get within swinging reach. The person at the top of the pyramid attempts to break the handi by hitting it with a club or other object, and then the entire pyramid is doused with buttermilk after it breaks. Meant to celebrate the ability of cooperation in achieving a common goal, the ritual has also become financial in appeal, with politicians and other benefactors offering large sums of rupees to the winning group of pyramid-builders.
5. Mount Mary’s Feast takes place at the beginning of September, and although it’s a Christian holiday, anyone can enjoy the fun. Hundreds of the sick and destitute migrate to the Church in Bandra to pray for help at the time of the Virgin Mary’s birth, but everyone comes to participate in the carnival atmosphere that overtakes the entire neighborhood. If you’re thinking about souvenir shopping, save it for this festival – the area turns into its own bazaar, with tons of delicious food and beautiful crafts to be explored and sampled.
[photo courtesy of jpereira_net]