Cover Photo by Arif Khan
Is there a heaven? Yes, there is. Where lakes cast serenity in the airs, the valleys stand tall yet humble, where meadows are flowery all year long, and where festivals have a celestial charm of their own, it is heaven on earth… It is the State of Kashmir and Jammu. No matter what time of the year you decide to visit Jammu and Kashmir, the place will always leave you mesmerized. And it is not just the beauty of nature that captivates, it is the people, it is the rustic way of life, and it is the vigour of the festivals celebrated here. Yes, festivals of Jammu and Kashmir are a stunning affair to be a part of.
India is the land of festivities. Here, we do not live from moment to moment but from festival to festival! And if you are fortunate enough to witness any traditional festival of Jammu and Kashmir, you will know how the grandest of festivals have a simplicity about them.
Let’s look at some of the important festivals of Jammu and Kashmir:
As the name suggests, Tulip Festival is one of the most iconic festivals of Jammu and Kashmir. Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden is amongst the top places to visit in Kashmir during Tulip Festival, with over 65 varieties of Tulips on the display. The colourful Tulip Festival marks the onset of spring and brings all the more beauty to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Festivals bring joy, no matter what kind and the Tulip Festival is for everyone, witnessing so many species of Tulips can be an enriching experience for children of all ages while the newlyweds can spend some Bollywood-Esque quality time with each other amidst the colourful rows of Tulips, and for the gastronomes, it is the perfect opportunity to relish the authentic Kashmiri dishes at the stalls located outside the garden area.
The Shikaras in Jammu and Kashmir are nothing short of magnificent pieces of art floating on the clear water. Reflecting the rich culture and tradition of Jammu and Kashmir, these Shikaras are primarily used for the purpose of fishing and aquatic harvesting. During the Shikara Festival, you can witness the Shikara race in Dal Lake. Started in the year 2016, it is one of the most important festivals in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Usually, Shikara rides are best known to offer a serene experience, a peaceful ride in the calm waters of the lake, and the Shikara race is the only time you will see the lake reverberating with enthusiasm. Apart from the Shikara race, the tourists and travellers can witness Dragon Boat Race and Canoe Polo. The fervour in Shikara rowers decorating and their Shikaras before the race, the joy and excitement during the race, is a sight to behold.
With the enchanting aroma of saffron in the air, Saffron Festival is another one-of-a-kind festival of Jammu and Kashmir. The only state in India to harvest the finest quality of saffron, Jammu and Kashmir acknowledge this aromatic bestowment with Saffron Festival. Jammu Kashmir is all about traditions and culture and during festivals like these, you will get to witness the best of Kashmiri culture. You make even help the farmers out with saffron plucking and see for yourself all the effort that goes into the making of the dainty Kashmiri saffron. After the harvest, you may witness the traditional folk music and dance along with sipping on the ambrosial saffron kahwa. Saffron Festival of Jammu and Kashmir is famous all over the world and travellers, especially, visit Jammu and Kashmir to be a part of this glorious event.
Baisakhi is the harvest festival of Jammu and Kashmir and the entire North India. Just like all the other festivals, Baisakhi has a unique charm in Jammu and Kashmir. Baisakhi holds a special significance for the Sikhs as their guru Gobind Singh Ji formed the Khalsa sect on the day of Baisakhi in 1699. The Sikh community living in Jammu and Kashmir makes sure that the valleys are filled with the joyous shouts of “Jo Bole So Nihal… Sat Sri Akal.” One of the main festivals of Jammu and Kashmir, Baisakhi is celebrated the grandest here. Surrounded by the lush valleys, several fairs and carnivals are organized where you can witness the Punjabi folk dance, people clad in traditional Punjabi clothes, and may even get to taste the authentic Punjabi dishes. People throng the Gurudwaras, offer prayers and volunteer in langar Sewa.
The mubarak and the paak, Eid is the festival that you must not miss when in Jammu and Kashmir. Another main festival of Jammu and Kashmir, Eid-ul-Fitr is extravagant in Jammu and Kashmir. The valleys witness the grand merrymaking, great feasts, and profound reverence. The local markets swarm with festive shoppers, the homes are decorated, people wear their best, and lastly, the joy prevails throughout the festival. If you happen to visit Jammu and Kashmir, you will witness people greeting each other with ‘Eid Mubarak’ and nothing will be more beautiful to see the camaraderie.
Celebrated in the Valleys of Gurez, the festival is another opportunity to celebrate. Gurez valley hosts the annual festival that allows travellers from the entire world to experience the culture and tradition of Kashmir, the intricate handicraft, and traditional cuisine. Around 123km from the capital of Kashmir, Gurez gives you a glimpse into the real village life in the valleys. Unlike all the other Jammu Kashmir festivals, Gurez Festival isn’t as grand, instead allows the travellers and tourists to revel in the simplicity of Kashmiri culture, to see the untainted valleys. During the festival, one can take part in river rafting, zorbing, trekking, etc. but the best part remains the soft flute music and folk Kashmiri songs from the shepherds. Gurez shows you how simplicity is the biggest celebration.
For people, festivals have always been important and so has been travel. When you bring these two together, it is a wholesome experience. The heavenly Jammu and Kashmir acquire a different charm altogether on festivals. If you are booking Jammu and Kashmir tour packages, make sure you get to witness one of these festivals. May the fervour be with you!