FESTIVALS represent the culture of a region and the fascinating diversity of Jammu and Kashmir is evident in the number of festivals that are celebrated in these regions.
The vibrant and joyous celebrations add to the beauty of Jammu and Kashmir, which is situated on the country’s northern-most tip.
Jammu is known as the city of temples due to the presence of many shrines. While all major Hindu festivals such as Navratri, Holi, Ramnavami, Diwali and Shivratri are celebrated here, there are festivals that are unique to Jammu.
The Bahu Mela is one such celebration that’s held in the Bahu Fort in Jammu. Visitors to the fair can get a glimpse of the grand traditions of the people of Jammu through the various art forms that are presented here during the time.
Located 5km from the main city, the Bahu Fort acts as a major place of worship to Goddess Kali, and during the festival, flowers and garlands are abundantly offered to the deity. The festival is celebrated twice a year, once during March-April, and again in September-October. Local vendors set up stalls where visitors can find products such as accessories, pottery, handicrafts, garments, utensils and sweets. Food stalls offering the cuisine of the state are ever-present.
The Purmandal Mela is yet another religious festival that’s celebrated in the region. It usually falls in February and celebrates the marriage of Lord Shiva with goddess Parvati. The shrine of Peer Khoh, the Ranbireshwar Temple and Panjbhaktar Temple, gains special significance during this time. Purmandal is 39km from Jammu city and festivities usually last for three days.
Meanwhile, the Jhiri Mela in Jammu, celebrated in October-November, commemorates the martyrdom of Baba Jitto, a farmer who lived in the Jhiri Village, 14km from Jammu.
The Jhiri Mela honours the sacrifices made by Jitu for the liberation of the farming community. People from all over the country gather during the Jhiri Mela to pay tribute to the farmer.
What makes the festivals of Jammu different from other parts of the subcontinent is the traditional dance and music of the Dogra Pahari region of Jammu. These songs and dances are performed on the occasion of feasts, festivals and marriages.
The Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation organises a special food and craft festival during Baisakhi in the month of April.
Kheer Bhawani Mela will be a delight for tourists visiting Srinagar in May-June. The Kheer Bhavani temple serves as the venue for this annual festival, during which time Hindus visit the temple to seek blessings of the goddess. This is one of the most important temples for Kashmiri Pandits.
The Gurez Festival, held in the month of June is unique to the region. Gurez is a valley in the Himalayas that’s around 123km from Srinagar.The Gurez Festival showcases the handicrafts, cuisines, and culture of Gurez people. The festival also involves fun activities such as river rafting, trekking, zorbing, and cycling. Many musical programmes displaying Kashmiri culture are organised during this time.
Kashmir being a Muslim-dominated region, Eid ul Azha and Eid ul Fitr see huge participation. Besides these religious festivals, the people of Jammu and Kashmir also pay tribute to the lifeline and identity of the Dal Lake with the Shikara Festival.
Started in 2016 by the state government to promote tourism, the Shikara Festival usually takes place in the months of July or August. It intertwines the native cultural programmes, along with adventurous games and competitions such as the thrilling shikara race, dragon boat race, kayaking and canoe polo match.
The onset of spring in Jammu & Kashmir is marked by the blooming of flowers, and the ideal place to enjoy this is by visiting the Tulip Festival at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden in Srinagar.
Connoisseurs, tourists and locals flock to this area during the first 15 days of April every year to attend Asia’s largest tulip show.
About 50 varieties and dozens of colours of tulips are prepared for the festival. The Tulip Festival also attracts a lot of filmmakers who opt to shoot romantic songs with the picturesque tulips as the backdrop. Tulip Gardens are easily accessible from Srinagar airport. One can also avail taxi and bus services.
Other festivals that are celebrated include Saffron Festival, Srinagar, in the last week of October; Apple Festival in the second week of September and Cherry Festival in the second week of May. All these festivals are celebrated with much pomp and splendour in Jammu and Kashmir.