India is a melting pot of many cultures, myths and traditions. With a population of over one billion, India is a hugely diverse country in terms of its traditions, and as a result, it can provide tourists with an almost limitless variety of cultural experiences. Some of the world’s oldest civilisations originated there, and for ages,it served as the centre of learning. India has something for everyone, from passionate trekkers in Himachal to spiritual seekers in Dharamshala. Exploring India is a sensory-rich experience, from its stunning architecture to its enticing cuisine. More than just a mesmerising experience, its many artistic and cultural expressions are a reflection of the land, people, religion, and values of the country. Check out some of the most extraordinary and incredible unique cultural experiences that you will only find in India. (Also read: Travel to experience the essence of India )
1. Bhoota Kola
If you have seen the movie Kantara, you undoubtedly found the traditional “Bhoota Kola” performance to be mesmerising. Bhoota Kola is a yearly rite in which local spirits or deities are honoured by Tulu-speaking people in coastal Karnataka. It’s thought that everyone who performs the rite momentarily transforms into a deity. To the sound of drums and the explosion of fireworks, idols that represent ‘bhoothas’ are taken out in a procession. In remote areas of the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts, it is practised in tiny local communities. This fascinating cultural experience is something you must see.
2. Ganga arti at Varanasi
Don’t miss Varanasi’s Ganga Arti for a captivating spiritual experience. Its intricate and exquisite light show and melodic bhajans will mesmerise you. It is said to evoke spirituality even in the soulless! Despite this, 6 million tourists visit Banaras each year to take in this customary ceremony. On the well-known Dashashwamedh Ghat, the Aarti starts at approximately 6.45 p.m. A unique way to attend and experience the Aarti is by taking a boat trip on the Holy River Ganges.
3. Purulia Chhau Dance
Chhau, the traditional warrior’s masked dance, is extremely popular among the tribal regions of West Bengal and Bihar. The show is a memorable experience due to its magnificent outsized masks, dazzling acrobatics, chaotic fights, and comedic sequences complemented by intense drumming. The Chhau, which started in soldiers’ barracks when Rarh (now a portion of Bengal and Bihar state of India) was a powerful military country, is perhaps the oldest masked dance in history. The Chhau dance was included on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.
4. Kumbh Mela
If you are looking to experience something truly unique in India, you must attend Kumbh Mela at least once. This significant Hindu festival, which is observed every twelve years, attracts the largest number of pilgrims who come to offer prayers and take a holy bath at the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati to atone for their sins. The Mela is held in four different cities: Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik, and Prayagraj. The next Maha Kumbh Mela will take place in Prayagraj in 2025.
5. World’s largest camel fair in Pushkar
Rajasthan, a dynamic state, is renowned for holding some of the nation’s most stunning festivals and events. However, the Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan is a worthwhile cultural feast to see. This vibrant and distinctive carnival, also known as the Pushkar Fair or Pushkar Camel Fair, attracts some 50,000 animals, including camels, horses, and cattle. This extraordinary occasion is well known for being the biggest livestock fair in the world. Every year, it takes place around the revered Kartik Purnima.