Varanasi & Sarnath Fairs & Festivals
Varanasi is the city of fairs & festivals that go on throughout the year. Some of the important ones are-
Buddha Purnima (Buddha Mahotsava)
Buddha Purnima is celebrated in Sarnath on full moon day in Vaishakh month (April/May) when a large fair ‘Buddha Mahotsava’ is held here to mark the birth day, enlightenment & Nirvana days of Lord Buddha. The casket carrying the relics of Buddha enshrined in Mulgandha Kuti Vihar, are taken out for public display in a procession around the tiny city of Sarnath. Various functions are organized during this period. The festival attracts a large number of Buddhist pilgrims, who offer prayer, in different Buddhist temples of Sarnath.
Since Varanasi is the abode of Lord Shiva, Shivratri is an important festival here. On this day every Shiv temple of Varanasi is decorated. On this day a marriage procession of Lord Shiva is taken out starting from Mahamritunjaya temple, Daranagar to Kashi Vishwanath temple, via Chowk and Panch Koshi Parikrama passes through five places- Kardmeshwar, Bhimchandi, Raneshwar, Shivpur & Kapildhara. The main attraction on this day is Kashi Vishwanath temple, where people throng in large number to offer prayers to the residing deity of the Varanasi.
Dev Deepawali falls on Kartik Purnima (Nov.), when a large number of devotees take holy dip in the River Ganges, on different prominent ghats. Devotees start gathering at prominent ghats from early morning hours and the rituals continue throughout the day. Special worships of deities at prominent temples like Kashi Vishwanath temple, Durga temple (Durga Kund) and Sankat Mochan temple are also conducted on this day. In the evening specially decorated ghats, glitter with earthen lamps (diyas) to celebrate Dev Deepawali. Special Arti is held on Dashashwamedha ghat. A number of ghats from Ravidas ghat to Raj ghat & kunds are lit up by a series of earthen lamps (diyas), placed along the stairs & platforms & special decoration of adjoining buildings with magnificent lighting all along the crescent shaped ghats makes it a celestial affair. Dept. of Tourism organizes a festival ‘Ganga Mahotsava’ that culminates on this day at Dashashwamedha ghat. Reputed artists, from all over the country come here & perform and make this occasion a memorable one. Many Nepali people also visit Varanasi on this occasion to offer Akashdeep to their forefathers. .
Bharat Milap (Oct.-Nov.)
It is an important festival of Varanasi. Ram’s union with his brother Bharat after returning from exile of years is celebrated on the day following Dushehra. This reunion is celebrated at Nati Imli and is attended by the Royal family of Kashi Naresh.
Ramleela of Ramnagar, based on Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas, is an extravagant celebration. During Ramleela in Oct. month, the whole city turns into a stage where different acts of Ramcharitmanas are staged. It also includes a procession in which Royal antiques such as vintage cars, royal palanquins and ivory items are displayed.
Dhupad Mela (March)
This five day music festival is organized on Tulsi ghat which is attended by renowned artists from all over the country. It attracts Indian music lovers from India & abroad as well.
This five day long Sankat Mochan music & drama festival (April) is held at Sankat Mochan temple to celebrate the birthday of Lord Hanuman. During these days various plays are performed depicting various events of Ram, Krishnaleela & Hanuman Charitra. Many great Indian classical singers and musicians have performed here and still continue to do so.
This festival is also based on Ramayana. The episode of Ramayana where Ravan’s sister Suprnakha tries to convince Laxman to marry her but Laxman cuts her nose instead and she goes back to Ravana crying. This event is staged at Chetganj locality of Varanasi and attracts thousands of people.
This festival depicts replication of the event when Krishna jumps into yamuna for Nag Nathan and is performed at Tulsi ghat in the month of Oct./Nov. Many other festivals are also celebrated in Varanasi, viz., Ganga Dusheshra (June), Matki leela (Sept.), Ram Leela (Sept.-Oct.),Magh Mela (Purnima) in (Feb.), Rathyatra Mela (July), Prabodhani Ekadashi (Oct.-Nov.), Shravan Mela (July-Aug.) & Navratri Mela (Oct.) are celebrated with fun fair.
Apart from Buddha Purnima (Buddha Mahotsava), Anniversary of Buddha’s first sermon (Full moon day of Kartik month) in Nov. & Shivratri at Sarangnath temple are celebrated here.