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Darjeeling Fair and Festivals

Hinduism, Buddhism and to an extent Christianity, remain the predominant religion and Nepali, Hindi, Bengali and English are the prevailing languages.Fair and Festivals

The Nepali culture is rich with hidden cultural treasures. It has various castes and each cast has a set of their own language apart from the common Nepali which is used for conversation. Tibetan is used by the refugees and some other tribal people.

Owing to the diversity of the population of Darjeeling, some festival or the other is celebrated almost every month. Most of the Hindu and Tibetan festivals follow the lunar calendar and so the date of the festival does not fall on the exact date the next year. Also a public holiday means that all the Government offices and Banks remain closed that day.

In addition to Durga Puja, Diwali, Saraswati Puja and Shivratri etc. there are local festivals peculiar only to the area. The Lepchas and Bhutias celebrate the New Year in January, while the Tibetans have their Devil dances to celebrate their New Year in their monasteries from the last week of February to March. As in the Chinese tradition, the snake or dragon dances curl through the streets. In February the Pedong Mela and agricultural fair is held in Kalimpong; along the banks of the confluence of the Teesta and Rangeet held the large fair called Makar Sankranti and in the second week of January the Beni Mela is celebrated in the streets of Teesta Bazar when folk dances fill the air with joy and music. In mid June processions, celebrate the Birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

A Brief Description of the Darjeeling Festivals round the Year
JANUARY

  1. New Year's eve and New Years Day is always a special day celebration for the hill people. They spend the night mostly on local nightclubs like Purple or with a live band at the Glenarys. Some spend it by drinking and merry making.
  2. Around the middle of the month Nepalis celebrate Maghe Sankrati (first day of Nepali month Magh) by eating Tarool, tuber of various edible species of Dioscorea, known collectively as yam.
  3. The end of January marks the end of the Tibetan Year. They have a festival to avert the negativity of the Old Year, and most of the Monasteries in the area will have Cham (Tibetan Dance) during this time of the year. In Thupten Sangag Choling Monastery (also known as Dali monastery) they have a special Chakrasambhara (Mandala) prayer where one can see the colourful Mandala made of brightly coloured powder.
  4. 26th January is India's Republic Day. This is a public holiday and different areas of Darjeeling celebrate this occasion with special programmes.

 

FEBRUARY

  1. Tibetan celebrate Losar (Tibetan New Year), this is the most important festival in the Tibetan calendar. They celebrate this for about a week with good food like specially cooked momos, new clothes and dances.
  2. In the Shri Panchami or Saraswati Puja, Hindus of Darjeeling worship the goddess of knowledge Saraswati and the next day they take the idol singing and dancing to immerse in the nearest stream. This is an important day in the Nepalese calendar as this day is meant for a new beginning like a new account, sowing of seeds, etc.
  3. On 11th January Tibetans celebrate Cho Nga Chopa in order to increase the merit and aid the devotion of future disciples of Buddha.

 

MARCH

  1. In the beginning of this month Hindus in Darjeeling (specially people from the plains of India) celebrate Holi by smearing each other with coloured powder.
  2. Ram Nawami (Lord Ram's birthday), a Hindu festival, is celebrated by Hindus of Darjeeling by taking out a procession of the holy chariot with Lord Ram's idol. This day the business class Hindus start their new account. This day is also Chaite Dasai (original dasai of Nepali Hindus) and the day is celebrated with prayer to Devi (Shakti) for the triumph of good over evil. This day Nepalese put coloured rice (brightly coloured rice mixed with curd) tika (mark on the forehead) as blessings from the elders of the house.
  3. Around March Muslims of Darjeeling celebrate Id-ul Zuha remembering Allah's prophet Ibrahim. On this day Muslims in Darjeeling like other Indian Muslims eat mutton. In India this festival is also known as Bakr (Goat) Id.
  4. Tibetans celebrate Chotrul Duechen (Day of Offerings) during this month.

 

APRIL

  1. Buddha Jayanti, birth anniversary of Lord Buddha, is celebrated with procession from Buddhist monasteries with Lamas (Tibetan Monks) musical troupe followed by Lord Buddha's idol, and the procession usually carries the Buddhist holy books around town.
  2. Sansari Puja, is a Nepali Hindu ceremony for the good of the world. This day they worship Devi (Mai) (Goddess). They believe that if this Goddess is angry then you get diseases like measles, small pox, etc.
  3. Good Friday and Easter Sunday is celebrated in different Churches in town.
  4. Muslims celebrate Muharram during the first month of the Islamic year remembering Hasan's battle against Yezid with street procession depicting mock battles.

 

MAY

  1. At the beginning of May Tibetans celebrate Saga Dawa and other Buddhists celebrate Buddha Shakyamuni's Enlightenment and Parinirvana. At the age of thirty-five Buddha attained enlightenment at Bodhgaya. This day also marks the anniversary of his Parinirvana.

JUNE

  1. Around the end of June Muslims celebrate Milad-un-nabi Mohammad's birth anniversary.
  2. Ashar ko Pandra (15th day of Nepali month Asar) is a special day for Nepalis to eat curd and chewra (beaten rice). They say that goddess Parbati had given Lord Shiva curd and chewra on this day, so if you take the same this day, you get salvation.

JULY

  1. On 6th July Tibetans celebrate the birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
  2. During the first week of July Tibetans celebrate Dzam Ling Chi Sang - Local Deities' Day.
  3. At the end of July Tibetans celebrate Chokhor Duchen - for seven weeks after Buddha's enlightenment, he did not teach. Finally, encouraged by Lord Indra and Lord Brahma, he turned the Wheel of Dharma for the first time, at Saranath, by teaching the 'Four Noble Truths'.
  4. Sawane Sankranti, is the first day of the Nepali month Sawan. This day they offer prayer to the youngest Devi (Goddess). They believe that if this Devi is angry with someone then he gets scabies. This evening Nepalis in villages shout loudly "Dung Dung Raati Sankrati" meaning "go away scabies".

AUGUST

  1. On 8th August Lepchas celebrate Tendong Lho Rumfaat, the prayer of Tendong mountain. Lepchas believe that they are the descendents of the people who survived the 40 days and 40 nights of rain by going to the top of this mountain.
  2. The full moon of the Nepali month of Bhadau is Newar's (a Nepali caste) Kwati Purne. This day they eat a special gruel/broth made of sprouted legumes.

    Guru Purnima (Full moon of the Gurus) is a special day for Nepali Shamanism. This day different Jhankris (witch doctors) come dancing with their special dress and musical instruments to welcome the gods and goddesses on their return after the slumber in Sawan (the Nepali month). On the same full moon day is Hindu's Raksha Bandhan (Thread of Protection) - this day is celebrated by Nepali Hindus as Raksha Bandhan and the priests go to different house and bind a thread on the right hand as a mark of Protection that the Gods will give for another year.
  3. 15th August is India's Independence Day and a public holiday. This day is celebrated with different functions all over the town. Main celebrations are held at the Public Ground at Lebong, with students march-past and drills followed by football (soccer) Final match. Kalimpong (a part of the Darjeeling Hills) celebrates this day in a big way.
  4. In the middle of August is Naag (Snake) Panchami (5th day of the month) which is celebrated by the Nepali Hindus. Priests go from door to door with special prayer and paste the picture of snakes protecting Lord Bishnu, as protection of Naag for that house.