Uttar Pradesh is one of the most colorful states in the country. Celebrations of festivals and fairs are filled with pomp and enthusiasm here. Traveling to these states to attend these festivals is a unique experience.

Some of the few famous festivals include:

1) Lath Maar Holi

Lath Maar Holi is a unique style of celebrating the festival. Legend has it that Radha and her friends beat up Sri Krishna and his friends with wooden sticks when the latter came to throw colors on them. Lath Maar Holi is celebrated as a reenactment of this. Women dress up as gopis and playfully strike men with sticks while men tease and sing songs to irk the women. The men who are caught are dressed up as women and then join in the festivities. All this in the spirit of the festival. State Tourism Board arranges a special viewing of Lath Maar Holi celebrations on the ground in the outskirts of the town.

When:  Few days before the festival of Holi. Usually in March.

Where: Mathura, Barsana, and Nandgaon in Uttar Pradesh.

Experience– Enjoy the playfulness between men and women while they try to dodge each other.

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Women and men enjoying the celebration of Lath Maar Holi. Photo credit: deccanherald

2) Ayudha Mela and Puja

Ayudha is the birthplace of Lord Ram. During Ayudha Puja, devotees visit the temples of Ram and Sita and pray fervently. Worship of instruments and weapons is a part of rituals at this festival. These instruments and weapons hold a sacred place in the lives of devotees as it helps them earn their livelihood. People wear new festive clothes and distribute sweets to one another.

When– On the 9th day of Navratri every year. Usually in September or October.

Where– Across Uttar Pradesh.

Experience– Enjoy the traditional dances and musical events.

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Women worship weapons on Ayudha Puja. Photo credit: DNA India

3) Ganga Dussehra/ Gangavataran

As per mythology, Goddess Ganga descended on earth on this auspicious day. Since then, taking a bath in the river Ganga is believed to cleanse one of all their sins. On the occasion of Ganga Dussehra, devotees bathe in the Ganges in the morning and then place offerings of flowers and incense on a betel leaf which is then immersed in water. Donating food and fruits is considered auspicious and brings prosperity and happiness. People enjoy various delicacies on this day, but rice kheer has a special place in everyone’s heart.

When– In June for ten days.

Where- Varanasi, Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh

Experience- Devotees dip in the holy water of Ganga from the wee hours of the morning and then perform aarti to pray for their prosperity.

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Devotees taking a dip in Ganga. Photo credit: english.jagran.com

4) Prayag Kumbh Mela

Legend has it that Lord Vishnu was carrying a kumbh (pot) with nectar inside. It broke and led to four drops being spilled in Prayag, Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain. Thus Prayag became one of the four tirthas (where the devout can get salvation). Prayag Kumbh Mela’s celebration draws religious people like sadhus and mahants from mountains, caves, and forests. Days are spent chanting mantras and performing dances against the setting of holy ghats illuminated by lamps. A huge township set up having facilities for a comfortable stay is arranged for devotees during this time.

When– January or February for over a month

Where– Allahabad

Experience– Devotees throng for bathing in the holy waters of sacred Triveni Sangam where Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati rivers meet.

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Sadhu taking a dip in river Ganga at Prayag kumbh mela. Photo credit: oneindia.com

5) Taj Mahotsav

Taj Mahotsav was started by the Department of Tourism, Government of India. It is dedicated to the promotion of art and craft, dance, music, and cuisines. You can expect to see things like Zari and silk work sarees from Banaras, rugs, and carpets which are hand knitted from Kashmir valley, clay and ceramics from Khurja, wood carvings from Saharanpur, etc. One of the major attractions includes the food festival where you can enjoy some of the oldest and most unique delicacies from the interiors of Uttar Pradesh. Timings of Taj Mahotsav are from 10 am to 10 pm but may fluctuate.

When– February or March for ten days.

Where– Shilpgram, Agra

Experience– Processions are in Mughal era style with decorated elephants and camels. There are beautiful folk dances and performances by artists from every nook and corner of the country. The year 2023 will mark the 30th-anniversary celebration of the Taj Mahotsav.

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Performances happening at Taj Mahotsav. Photo Credit: tajtourguide.com

6) Lucknow Mahotsav

Organized by UP Tourism and the Lucknow district administration, Lucknow Mahotsav boasts of performances by artists of different genres like poets, shayars, singers, etc. Craftsmen set up stalls and kiosks making it a paradise for shoppers. Visitors can enjoy a musical night with sitar and sarangi recitals from famous performers. Ghazals, Qawali, Kavi Sammelan, and classical dance performances can be enjoyed by one and all. Food includes nawab specialties like kebabs, parathas, Kesar doodh, etc.

When– Usually between 25th November to 5th December

Where– Lucknow

Experience– besides art and craft displays, kite flying, cock fighting, and other traditional village games can be enjoyed.

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Celebrations at Lucknow Mahotsav. Photo Credit- nativeplanet.com

7) Ganga water rally

Ganga water rally is organized to promote adventure sports in Uttar Pradesh. The water rally starts from Prayagraj(Allahabad) to Varanasi via Mirzapur and Chunar. Various teams from around the world come together to compete in water sports. They use kayaks, canoes,and rowboats. Performance of these activities have a message of keeping the river Ganga clean.

When– November for 3 days.

Where– Prayagraj

Experience– Enjoy scenic beauty while engaging in water sports.

Ganga water rally

Kayaking during Ganga water rally. Photo credit: prokerala.com