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The Best Indian Cultural Events in Autumn 2013
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The Best Indian Cultural Events in Autumn 2013

Picture of Thomas Storey
Updated: 9 February 2017
India is home to one of the most diverse and profound cultural traditions on the globe, which combines its varied religious traditions and distinctive communities, whilst also incorporating the cutting edge contemporary culture the country is becoming known for. The 2013 autumn and winter season reflects this, with a combination of traditional, contemporary and religious events, all of which are played out on a massive scale that is unique to India.

Art | United Art Fair

New Delhi: 14 — 17 September 2013

India’s art market is thriving, with a host of young up and coming talent matched by a multitude of buyers eager to snap up their wares. New Delhi’s United Art Fair claim that their fair offers a more artist focused experience than others, and allows artists who lack gallery representation to showcase their works. Artists are encouraged to submit their works for consideration directly to the curators of the fair, who will then select what they think are the best works for exhibition. It is estimated that this year’s fair will feature around 450 artists. This unique event allows visitors to bypass the trend obsessed art market and discover talent that they might not otherwise come across, and is thus a more comprehensive reflection of the depth of artistic ability that can be found across the subcontinent.

For more info visit: United Art Fair.

Culture | Onam Festival

Kerala: September 16 2013

Kerala is one of the most beautiful areas of India, and is renowned for its distinctive culture and traditions, as well as its pristine beaches and culinary delights. The Onam festival is the highlight of the Kerala cultural calendar, and transforms the state into an immense festive celebration, with a wide range of cultural events ranging from flower displays, banquet lunches, snake boat races and various religious and traditional rituals. The festival commemorates the Vamana avatar of Vishnu and the homecoming of the legendary King Mahabali, who was sent down to the underworld by Vishnu. It is also a festival to commemorate the harvest and the culinary and gastronomic offerings of Kerala, which are celebrated with gusto throughout Onam. The festival offers a variety of stunning visual spectacles throughout its ten days and welcomes both locals and visitors into its reveries.

For more info visit: Onam Festival.

Religious | Navratri Festival

Throughout India: 5 — 14 October 2013

As with all of India’s biggest festivals, the Navratri Festival, which is celebrated throughout Northern India, is a combination of cultural revelry, religious devotion and ritual celebration. The festival is dedicated to the worship of the Hindu god Durga, and takes place over the course of nine nights and ten days, during which the nine incarnations of Shakti/Devi are worshipped. Prayer is a key part of the festival and pilgrims travel from throughout India to take part in the communal celebrations. Unlike many other more sombre religious festivals, the primary form of worship in the Navratri Festival is dance and festival goers celebrate with nine nights of dancing, which bring to the fore the myriad forms of traditional and contemporary dance in the country and showcases the Indian penchant for music and movement.

For more info visit: Navratri Festival.

Film | Mumbai Film Festival

Mumbai: October 17 — 24 2013

An international film festival which brings the best of world cinema to Mumbai, the Mumbai Film Festival has become a bastion of arthouse film amidst the deluge of Bollywood cinema. Inaugurated in 1997, the festival has always maintained a focus on quality regardless of provenance, and therefore offers an equal platform to independent features and big budget studio tent poles. Various awards are handed out as part of the festival including Dimensions Mumbai, a short film competition; Indian frame, featuring the very best of Indian cinema from throughout the country; and the real reel, which showcases award-winning and critically acclaimed feature length documentaries. The 2013 edition of the festival promises a varied programme of international films and educational programmes, which will further foster its reputation as India’s foremost film festival.

For more info visit: Mumbai Film Festival.

Music | Jodhpur RIFF – Rajasthan International Folk Festival

Jodhpur: 17 — 21 October 2013

The Rajasthan International Folk Festival, or Jodhpur RIFF, has quickly grown into one of India’s most distinctive festivals and is a major draw to the ‘Blue City’ of Jodhpur. The festival celebrates the diverse manifestations of traditional folk music, both from within India and throughout the world, and brings together a multifarious bunch of folk musicians to celebrate folk traditions and artistic heritage. The five day festival is set against the stunning backdrop of Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort and features an incredible variety of performances and collaborations. Its dedication to the more obscure folk musicians and traditions makes it a fascinating introduction to the eccentric elements of the folk scene. It is also timed to coincide with ‘Sharad Purnima’, the brightest full moon of the year in North India, giving its musical performances a palpable atmosphere of mysticism and heritage.

For more info visit: Jodhpur RIFF.

Religious | Diwali Festival

Throughout India: 3 — 7 November 2013

Whilst the Indian year is packed with both regional and national religious ceremonies, and each religious community has their own observances and rituals, Diwali, or the ‘festival of lights’ remains the biggest event in the cultural calendar. This Hindu festival is now observed throughout the world but there is no other country where it takes on such a profound cultural significance, nor is it celebrated anywhere else with such fervour and passion. The festival is celebrated in various ways throughout the country but dancing and feasting are common to all regions, whilst parades, lanterns and fairs can be found in all major urban centres. The five day festival is known as the festival of lights and it lives up to this moniker throughout India, with light shows, lanterns, candles and fireworks, which make it a particularly stunning visual experience.

For more info visit: Diwali.

Culture | Pushkar Fair

Pushkar: 9 — 17 November 2013

The state of Rajasthan is renowned for its incredible desert landscapes and historical cities, as well as its distinctive cultural traditions, and there is no better way to experience these traditions than to visit the Pushkar Camel Fair. This fair takes over the small town of Pushkar every year, a sacred site of Hindu pilgrimage, bringing thousands of visitors from all around the world to the five day celebration. It combines a religious festival with a cattle market and fills the desert surrounding the town with camels, livestock, tents and markets. The spectacle of these massed tents spread out across the desert is unlike anything else in the world, and offers an incredible perspective on tradition and history in Rajasthan. The festival is now a major draw for tourism in the area, and many flock to see some of the more bizarre camel competitions which take part during the fair, including the ‘longest moustache’, and ‘bridal competition’.

For more info visit: Pushkar Camel Fair.

Raja Harishchandra (King Harishchandra) - Kolkata International Film Festival
Raja Harishchandra (King Harishchandra)

Film | Kolkata International Film Festival

Kolkata: 10 — 17 November 2013

Whilst the Mumbai Film Festival brings the best of arthouse to the capital of Bollywood, the Kolkata International Film Festival brings a smorgasbord of global cinema to the West Bengal capital. This city was once the hub of the Indian cinematic industry in the years before the rise of Bollywood, and it maintains a long and storied love affair with film, whilst fostering the careers of Indian arthouse legends such as Satyajit Ray. Set over eight days in November the festival brings together 180 films from 60 countries and 140 different directors and has thus become a highlight of the cinematic year in South Asia. The 2013 edition will see a special celebration of ‘100 Years of Indian Cinema’, with a range of classic features from the early years of Indian film. The strength of the festival is testament to the enduring love of cinema amongst West Bengal’s many film buffs who continue to flock to the festival every year.

For more info visit: Kolkata International Film Festival.

Art | India Art Festival

Mumbai: 19 — 22 December 2013

The India Art Festival offers the country’s many contemporary art galleries the chance to show their varied exhibits in the capacious surroundings of the Nehru Centre in Mumbai. The festival’s previous editions have seen the participation of 45 art galleries from four countries and 600 individual artists. It saw art galleries from throughout the country bringing the works of their artists to Mumbai, as well as many from Toronto, London, Singapore and other international cities. The accompanying speaker’s forum also saw art experts and scholars from around the world debate the state of the global art market. The 2013 edition promises to be bigger and better than ever, and will underline Mumbai’s newly found status as the art capital of South Asia.

For more info visit: India Art Festival.

Music | Madras Music Season

Chennai: December 2013 — January 2014

Chennai is the cultural hub of Tamil Nadu and one of the most rapidly growing cities in Southern India. It is home to a diverse cultural tradition that is most evident during the Madras Music Season, when a host of musical and artistic events fills the city’s venues. Madras Music Season is devoted to Indian classical music and brings Scholars, critics, organisers, festival directors, artists and art lovers from all over the world to Chennai to share their love for this rich cultural form, and to see performances by some of the icons of the classical music scene. The festival is spread over a period of two months and includes several mini-festivals devoted to one form of classical music or dance; it is an unmissable opportunity for anyone interested in Indian classical music to delve into the riches of the contemporary scene.

For more info visit: Madras Music Season.

By Thomas Storey