Five Indian festivals that celebrate nature

Regional festivals become a tool for environment conservation as well as showcasing unique cultural identity

Culture

July 28, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

indian festival

Van Mahotsava celebration includes tree plantation drives are conducted at various schools and communal grounds. (festivalsofindia.in)

Traditionally, Indians have honoured nature and Indian cultural practices are in perfect harmony with the environment. There are also numerous festivals across the nation that celebrate nature and pass on the importance of preservation of the environment from one generation to the next.

The first week of July witnessed the celebration of ‘Van Mahotsava’ of the ‘Festival of forests’ across India. Van Mahotsava aims to spread mass awareness about the contribution of tree plantation and conservation of forests for maintaining ecological balance. The festival was launched way back in 1950 by the then minister for agriculture K M Munshi.

As part of the celebration, tree plantation drives are conducted at various schools and communal grounds. A number of events such as exhibitions, seminars, distribution of saplings and awareness walks are also held.

While Van Mahotsavais celebrated pan India, there are several other regional festivals that focus on worshipping nature and conservation of the environment.

Participants pray to the trees during Sarhul, which in the local tribal language means worship of trees (Photo: cm.jharkhand.gov)

Sarhul, Jharkhand

Sarhul is a key festival celebrated across the mainly tribal state of Jharkhand in central India. Participants pray to the trees during Sarhul, which in the local tribal language means worship of trees. Marking the beginning of the local New Year, it lasts from advent of spring in March to practically end of summer in June. It is mainly celebrated by the Oraon, the Munda and the Ho tribes in the state.

People start the celebration by gorging on sarai, a local wild fruit, as well as rice beer. They dance to the tunes of a variety of local musical instruments. This three-day festival is at its liveliest on the final day when tribals, and visitors alike, dance their way through the streets in a shobha yatra (grand procession) while singing and dancing to local songs.

indian festival

Turtles move to beaches to lay eggs (Photo: velasturtlefestival.com)

Velas Turtle Festival, Maharashtra

Velas, located in Ratnagiri district in south-western Maharashtra, is a small village, well known among tourists for its pristine beaches. Every year, thousands of the rare Olive Ridley Sea Turtles visit the beach between February and April to lay eggs. A local NGO started the Velas Turtle Festival in 2006 to spread awareness about the need to conserve these creatures. Now a regular annual festival is held on different dates over February, March and April, according to when batches of turtle’s hatchlings appear and are released into the sea. It involves home stays with the village population and a chance to see the turtles, photograph them and get to know more about their habitat, behaviour and conservation. Locals of Velas claim that number of sea turtles has grown in the last few years.

This festival is a must-visit for both amateur birders as well as seasoned naturalists (Photo: uponline.com)

Bird Festival, Uttar Pradesh

Starting in 2015 in Bah, near Agra in UP, the Bird Festival soon became the biggest gathering of ornithologists and bird lovers in the country. This year it was shifted to a wetland at Haiderpur about 150 km east of the national capital New Delhi. With talks and nature events around the 500-plus bird species found in Uttar Pradesh and over 1,000 species in the country, this festival is a must-visit for both amateur birders as well as seasoned naturalists.

indian festival 2020

Women make ‘boddemma’ (small idols of goddess Durga, made with mud) and decorate it with flowers (Photo: telanganatourism.gov)

Bathukamma, Telangana

Bathukamma or ‘the floral festival’ celebrates the relationship between earth, water and human beings. Celebrated during the latter half of monsoon, before the onset of winter in Telangana, it has become a symbol of the state’s cultural identity.

Women make ‘boddemma’ (small idols of goddess Durga, made only with mud) and decorate it with flowers. After 9 days, the idols are immersed in nearby ponds.  This helps reinforce the pond and helps it retain more water. Certain flowers, when immersed in abundance, also purify the water. The festival heralds the beauty of nature and the collective spirit of women folks towards preserving the resources of nature.

Nagaland government have been working to protect the falcons (Photo: birdlife.org)

Amur Falcon Festival, Nagaland

In 2018, Wokha, located about 25 kilometres from the state capital Kohima, held the first-ever Amur Falcon Festival. The story of how the festival began is rather terrifying. In 2012, over 10,000 of these birds were massacred for their meat by poachers in Pangti village in Nagaland. This discovery shook the conservationist community in Nagaland. Since then, wildlife activists and the Nagaland government have been working to protect the falcons. Amur Falcon festival is an initiative in this direction.

During the three-day celebration, numerous events are organised, including bird-watching, nature photography, workshops on awareness of the Amur falcon migration and conservation. Participants can also try their hand at boating and relish food, music, dance, and other fun local activities. The festival educates people about protecting nature. Also, as it becomes more popular, attracting more tourists, it has led to an alternative source of revenues to the locals.

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