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5 Monsoon Festivals to Look Out for

What’s your favourite rain memory? Splashing into muddy puddles, sailing paper boats in the street or piping hot chai and snacks? This year, don’t just sit there in your cozy corner — get out and experience the magical monsoons. If you are travelling, check out these five traditional Monsoon festivals in different parts of the country.
Inputs by TS Intern Avni Arora

Hareli

WHERE: Chhattisgarh and parts of Madhya Pradesh
WHEN: 14th-15th august 2015

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“Hareli” (literally “greenery”) is the Gond tribe’s celebration of a new farming season. As they pray for a good crop, you can head straight to the table and sample some local delicacies. On the Menu? Kanda bhaji, Kochai patta, Chowlai bhaji, Lal bhaji, Muthiya, Bore Bassi, Bohar bhaji and Kohda for the main course; Doodh fara, Bidiya, Bafauli, Kusli, khurmi and Balooshahi for desserts. For entertainment, take front row seats for the Gedi race – the Gonda kids make walking on bamboo sticks look easy!

Minjar Mela

WHERE: Chamba District of Himachal Pradesh
WHEN:  Last sunday of July and continues for a week (26th July 2015)

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A grand flag hoisting ceremony at Chaugan marks the week long celebration.The locals show up clad in silk with a stalk of Minjar attached to their garments – a promise for a good crop. Get your dose of entertainment with Kunjari Malhar of folk dance and music performances. There will be a procession of deities on chariots too. On the final day of the festival, a parade is also held from the Akhand Chandi Palace.

Dree

WHERE: Arunachal Pradesh
WHEN: 4th July to 7th July 2015

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The Apatani tradition of Dree is celebrated to appease the Gods and avoid famines. The festival centre is decorated with branded bamboos and community feasts are held here. Try the Dree Taku and wash it down with Dree O, a rice or millet beer. Another must-try and a beverage every household prepares is the Apong, a rice beer. It’s not all about eating and drinking though – Pri-Dances, Daminda and other folk dances along with folk song competitions like Dree Biisi ar not to be missed.

Behdienkhalam

WHERE: Meghalaya

WHEN: 11th-14th July 2015

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The Jaintia tribe at Jowai celebrates this festival to chase away the demon of cholera and plague. The men dance to the tunes of pipes and drums in muddy ponds, while the women prepare sacrificial food. Tall-decorated structures called ‘Raths’ are then brought into the pool. Later the celebrations turn to a  game of a wooden football called ‘dad-lawakor’.

Nariyal Purnima

WHERE: Coastal areas of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa

WHEN: 29th August 2015

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Celebrated at the end of monsoon season, it marks the commencement of new fishing season.. People offer coconuts to the sea as a symbol of thanksgiving and adorn their boats with beautiful flags, paint and tiny oil lamps – a good scene for the cameras to capture. Pieces of broken coconut are given out as prasad. Don’t miss the festival dish – coconut rice – at a local’s home.

Got an interesting monsoon festival story to share? Tell us in the comments below.

What are some of the best Monsoon getaways in India?

We took your question to Aloke Bajpai, Founder Partner of The Explorers India, a travel organisation that specialises in experiential tourism and adventure.

Over to him:

Come monsoon and most people begin to dread endless traffic and having to wade to office through water logged roads. But you only have to travel a short distance from the cities to soak in a light drizzle, the sound of a gushing waterfall, the sight of abundant greenery, and the monsoons don’t seem so bad at all.

Monsoon getaways 1 - by Aloke Bajpai

Pack a light lunch, put on a trench coat and head on a monsoon hike – it’s the best way to welcome the rains. To begin with, those in Mumbai could trek from Vasai to the waterfall in Tungareshwar. The flattish path lies between thick woods and is a great way of being close to nature without being too far from the city.  The adventurous can either consider Chanderi for a difficult but worthwhile two-day hike or embark on the gradual climb to Kalsubai, Sahyadri’s highest peak. If you’re considering a trip to the hill station Matheran this season, skip the toy train or road and trek through the Garbett Plateau instead. You’ll be rewarded with great views as soon as you begin.

Monsoon getaways 4

As most national parks close entry to visitors come rains, you could drive to the small town of Ramnagar in Uttarakhand from Delhi and hike through the buffer zone of Corbett National Park. It’s highly recommended for wildlife enthusiasts who can learn about the flora, spot birds and animals from a close distance, and enjoy the trek all the way till Nainital. Rishikesh and Kasauli are great bases for some short monsoon treks as well and so is B.R. Hills in Karnataka.

Monsoon getaways 2 - by Aloke Bajpai

Another activity that is best enjoyed in the monsoons, especially in Mahrashtra, is Waterfall Rappelling. Kune waterfall near Lonavla can be accessed after a two-hour long trek and once there, through a certified agency and guide, one can start rappelling at a height of 75-80 feet. Kondana caves near Karjat are a good spot too. For those interested, rain-fed rivers like Kundalika and Pej offer opportunities of rafting.

Cycling through the countryside also makes for an extremely pleasant activity during monsoon. Karnataka provides plenty of traffic-free, scenic routes to cyclists. The Bangalore-Mysore Highway is a great way to start and you can cycle onwards to Ramnagara, a small town about 50 km from the city known for its 400 year old Big Banyan Tree, and Manchinbele Dam. Those in Mumbai can consider cycling towards Vasai to the beachfront of Arnala or you could take the route from Alibaug to Murud Janjira that goes through Korlai fort and small hospitable villages.

Monsoon getaways 5

If you can, however, manage to take a few days off work, skip all the above options and escape to Wayanad in Kerala instead. Whether it be a trek in the drizzle from Kalpetta to Soochipara falls, gliding through the backwaters or cycling across stretches of tea gardens and forests – you’ll have plenty to do and thank the rain gods for.

 Aloke Bajpai spoke to TS Correspondent Sarita Santoshini.

Photos courtesy The Explorers India

Q: Would you jump into a lake in your jeans?

APARUPA RAY GANGULY did. Her delightful story gives a new meaning to ‘taking the plunge.’ 

It was a wet monsoon afternoon. My favourite cousin had come over from Kolkata with his girlfriend, and we were catching up on old times over a hearty, comforting meal of Aloo posto, Mochar ghonto, Cholar daal and Doi maach. Out of the blue, my brother said, “How about we drive down to Binsar for a few days to enjoy the rains?” We have always been a tad partial to Binsar for its sheer, untamed beauty. The thought of rain-drenched silver-oak forests was so tempting! No electricity, just plain darkness and solitude in the middle of a forest called for a deep, spiritual experience.

“Why not,” I thought. The weather was a seductress that year. The rain gods had been kind and Delhi gleamed a glorious green under dark rain-bearing clouds. I have always been blessed with gracious bosses, so I took the liberty of calling up to take the next couple of days off. We packed within 45 minutes and zipped out on the roads. The 10-hour long road trip hardly left a dent of fatigue in us. We were in high spirits, the weather was cool and driving on the rain-lashed roads from Delhi to the Himalayas was a trippy feeling. Occasionally I popped my head out to feel the gush of the wet, earthy wind kiss my face. How wonderfully it refreshed my soul and stripped me of my city stress!

Binsar

As we drove up the gorgeous Himalayas, the landscape changed colour and texture. The hard, rocky mountains lay wrapped in velvety robes of moss. As if that wasn’t glamorous enough, the sky seemed to play along, often bursting into a bright crimson contrasted against a dark, sedate grey.

And then we saw it:  high up on a mountain, a shimmering natural lake.  No name, no signboards and no tourists. It glittered like an emerald studded on the rugged mountains and thick forest that seemed to arch protectively around it.

“We have to stop here,” I said.  I wanted to be up there, I wanted to feel the water, touch it, be one with it. I wasn’t the only one with that thought—no sooner had I said the words than my cousin applied the brakes.

binsar oak forestsWe parked our car on one side of the road and started making our way through the dense oak forests, stepping gingerly on slippery wet leaves and parting the near-impenetrable foliage that layered the ground. Our footsteps were shaky and unsure. We didn’t know if it was a sensible thing to do. The forest was really quiet and the quietness was indeed intimidating. We all huddled close and just kept walking, making our way, treading carefully down the steep incline. It was mid-noon, yet our hearts skipped a beat, every now and then. The fear of the unknown and the possibility of a lone leopard lurking in the bushes made us nervous.   After an arduous walk of almost an hour, we had our reward: there she lay, a wonderful, virgin mountain beauty!

Hidden from the prying eyes of human beings, safely tucked into the laps of the mighty Himalayas.  Shy and vulnerable, she commanded respect and dignity for herself. We spent hours sitting by the lake, awestruck by its magnificent presence. The snow capped mountains stood proud. The dark rain bearing clouds made way for a crisp, silvery light that illuminated the lake. We were spellbound. It was a jaw-dropping picture.

Too soon, it was time to resume our journey. But we almost couldn’t bear to let go. So, we did something that was totally in the moment. Tempted to just feel her one last time, we all jumped into the lake and swam till the far end—with our clothes on!. Yes, we swam in the pristine, green waters along with fish and water snakes. It was the most exhilarating, liberating of all feelings. The initial touch of the cold water had a stinging sensation on the skin, but very soon it transformed into such a pleasurable feeling that we never wanted to get out. A free, boundless, infinite sky beckoned us to savour the feeling and seize the moment.

About Binsar

 Located in the Almora District of Uttarakhand. It is at an elevation of 2400 metres

 Major attractions- in Binsar are the snow-clad peaks of Chaukhamba, Panchachuli, Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Kedarnath, which are clearly visible from the here.

Bineshwar Mahadev Temple
Bineshwar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple was built by King Kalyan during 13 century and presents the brilliant architectural style of the  erstwhile eras.

Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary is home to more than 200 species of birds and wild animals like the Barking Deer, Himalayan Bear, Leopard, Fox, Musk Deer, Langur, Porcupine, Panthers, Wild Boars, Monkeys, Flying Squirrel, Chital etc.

Day trips from Binsar

Bageshwar:

(60 kms)
An excursion to Bageshwar offers a chance to witness the mighty confluence of the pious rivers of Gomti and Saryu. The place derived its name from a popular temple-Bagnath. Devoted to the worship of Lord Shiva, the temple attracts thousands of pilgrims from different parts of the world.

Jageshwar:

(60 kms)

The divine temple town of Jageshwar houses one of the 12 Jyotirlingas found in India. It is located on the Almora-Pithoragarth road, in the beautiful Jataganga valley. The grand temple complex, consisting of 124 temples is famous not only for its exquisite craftsmanship but also for being located amidst thick deodar woods which add to its fame.

How To Get to Binsar

 

By Air:

Binsar is located 152 kms away from PantnagarAirport. Daily flights connect Pantnagar with Delhi.

By Rail:

Kathgodam Railway Station is situated 119 kms away from Binsar. One could reach Kathgodam from any of the major Indian cities like Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata etc. Also, private cabs and local buses ply between Kathgodam and Binsar.

By Road:

Binsar is well connected by motorable roads with major destinations of Kumaon and cities of northern India. Buses are easily available from ISBT Anand Vihar to Haldwani, Nainital, and Almora. Taxis are also available from major cities of Kumaon region and Garhwal region to Binsar. Binsar can be reached easily by car, taxi or by luxury bus coaches.

Place to Stay

Binsar has many stay options which include The Binsar Tourist Rest House, Mountain Resort- Khali Estate, Binsar Eco Camp, The Binsar Retreat, Grand Oak Manor, ImperialHeights and many more.

Climate

Binsar has a comfortable climate all year round. During summer, the temperature fluctuates between 25 degree centigrade to 11 degree centigrade, while in winter the temperature rises to a maximum of 15 degree centigrade and sees a minimum of 4 degree centigrade.

Best Time to visit

April to June and September to November

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