Varanasi Events and Festivals

(Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India)

Photo of locals paying at a waterfront ghatWith such a rich and cultural heritage, Varanasi rewards its visitors will a glittering array of festivals, with plenty of things to do, and fun events to get involved with. Varanasi has become a major Indian destination for Hindu pilgrimage and therefore many of its biggest events are of a religious nature, and often held along the banks of the River Ganga (Ganges).

One of the biggest of all the annual events staged in Varanasi is without question the cities ever-popular Ganga Festival (Ganga Mahotsav), which takes place over a period of five days each October or November. The Ganga Festival is dedicated to the city's very important goddess Ganga and involves a number of different rituals, including worshipping the great river itself, which has brought the state of Uttar Pradesh much prosperity over the years.

Close-up picture showing locals praying in the River Ganges

Varanasi Calendar of Events and Festivals 2014 / 2015: What to Expect, and When

Spring is always a cause for much celebration in India and Varanasi is no exception to this, meaning that tourists arriving during this popular holiday season will be very likely to find things to do of interest. In late February or early March, the Shivaratri (Mahashivratri) really stands out and although this is a national Indian event, the festivities within Varanasi are really quite special and relate to Lord Shiva himself, including Indian music and the drinking of a Cannibis-based 'bhang' drink, which is really best left to the locals!

The month of May sees the arrival of the very religious Buddha Purnima Festival, which takes place in the nearby town of Sarnath, some 13 km / 8 miles directly north-east of Varanasi, on the day that is it said, Lord Buddha was actually born.

In September or October, the annual Ram Lila (Ramila) drama festival has taken place in Varanasi since the early part of the 19th century, and so is of great historical significance to the city. The event marks the marriage of Lord Rama and his bridge Sita, and involves many enjoyable rituals, with bright costumes, elaborate masks, dancing, Indian music, enormous papier-maché figures, fireworks and even some hot-air balloons. All of this is spread over 30 evenings and based around Varanasi's Ramnagar Fort (Ram Nagar).