Ganga aarti prayer
I had mentioned this before when I first visited Varanasi. Varanasi can only be described in one word – magical.   I stayed near Meer Ghat in a dingy guesthouse, paying about 150 rupees for a room that smelled so much of Marijuana, that I could have sworn it was owned by the Cali cartel. But, I enjoyed the vibe. Of the room, of the hippies who were my neighbours, and of Varanasi.   Varanasi is pretty much the centre of the hindu ideology in india, especially due to its relationship with death. But what made it even more exotic was […]

In Pictures: The Ganga Aarti at Varanasi

Rengma dress nagaland 2
Anyone who knows me also knows that I have an insatiable urge to chase festivals. I love large gatherings, especially if they are cultural festivals – and I never let an opportunity go past me to visit another one where large group of people flock together. “More people. Give me more people!!”, I sometimes cry in my sleep. Not really. That’s just melodrama, but you get the point.   But then, there are some festivals that I never heard of before, and never planned to visit. And when they magically fall out of a calendar right onto my lap, ahhh, […]

The Other Festival of Kohima: Ngada Festival of the Rengmas

LGBT pride flag
Amsterdam in August is one the best places to be for experiencing the subdued Dutch Summers. It’s mildly hot, the sun paints brilliant canvases on the blue skies and exuberant reflections on the canals below, and there are the occasional bouts of rain whenever you feel that the heat is creeping up on you.   And it is also the month of love and pride. Further Reading: The time that I saw a Fokker at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. No windmills. But plenty of canals. Before visiting Amsterdam, I had harboured images of a city full of windmills. Because that is […]

Celebrating love on a Canal: Amsterdam, Netherlands

womens chundan vallam
As everything that is good and amazing begins in Kerala, this adventure started with a glass of toddy too.   It was August of 2016. It was hot, perfect for a glass of chilled toddy (they now even have grape-flavoured versions!), and the traditional Vallam Kali (boat games) of Kerala. Which is funny when you think of it, because I hail from the northern end of Kerala. Where I come from is the bastion of communism in Southern India, but is not so much famous for boat games – which everyone in India thinks is a common sight anywhere in […]

Toddy and a bunch of boats: Glimpses from the Nehru Trophy Boat Race

kisama amphitheatre 7
Woovly calls me the guy who chases festivals around the world. So, as you can relate, it was a life-long dream for me to visit the Hornbill festival in Nagaland. And it almost turned into a nightmare.   How on earth did I end up Camping at the Hornbill Festival? I was riding near Shillong in early November, and then realised that the Hornbill festival would take place in Kohima from December 1st to 10th. I wanted to get to Kibithoo by December 20th, for the K2K2K ride that I am currently on. So, the Hornbill fest looked like a […]

7 Lessons I learnt from Camping at the Hornbill Festival

phuket vegetarian festival
The masong had her eyes closed. I’ve seen her with her eyes closed for the last 10 minutes, which cut a very different foreground to the fire that raged behind her in the background. Anybody would have assumed that she had gone to sleep, standing up. Or that she was simply closing her eyes for that much-needed respite from the smoke that was everywhere. But because this was Thailand, I had the luxury of getting up close to her to take a closer look.   Only to see that she was not sleeping. She was crying. A tear rolled down […]

Of fire and fireworks: Phuket Vegetarian festival, Thailand

people loy krathong chiang mai
It was a bittersweet culmination of a dream I had harboured for many years. To see the Loy Krathong festival. Or, as hippie instagrammers often called it, the lantern festival.   Bittersweet, because it was everything I had expected. And much more. But we will come to the ‘much more’, later in this post. Thanking the Lannas   It had been a long road from Phuket to Bangkok. Thanks to some seasonal floods that were happening in central Thailand, my long, arduous 21 hour bus ride from Phuket to Chiang Mai, had become a long, arduous 27 hour bus ride […]

Mixed emotions at the Loy Krathong Lantern festival: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Waterfight songkran chiangmai 2
This was not my first Songkran. I had previously been to the Songkran of Khaosan Road, in Bangkok. 4 years ago, which also had me witness a full-blown protest. And the 3 days spent there were the craziest 3 days of my life. Street parties are a very rambunctious and boisterous affair, but a street party with water involved; it almost feels like the whole atmosphere is jacked up on steroids. Read: Churning of the milk ocean, in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport Songkran is Thai New Year. And if you are wondering why the name seems so familiar, it is because it’s […]

A 3-step guide to enjoying the Songkran festival in ChiangMai

Namrata Rai performing Kathak at Namaste India, in Bucharest, Romania
6th June 2015 – Bucharest, Romania A mere 25 days waited in front of me, To find myself back in the warmth of home. But then, home found its own way to come to me. After all, home is wherever your heart decides to roam. I decided to go back to the Herastrau park again today. But not to enjoy the public domain, rather for 2 other reasons. One was to see the Dimitrie Gusti National village museum. Another was to get a little taste of home. And I found the perfect partner to go along with. Cristina Istrati was not only a published […]

Project 365: Day 340 – From Bucharest. Namaste India.

Masskara festival photography
After living in Manila for nearly 3 years, the Masskara festival in Bacolod was the first time that I got a real taste of street life in the Philippines. You see, I lived in Taguig. And worked in Makati. Both are very well-developed commercial centers in the Philippines. There was not much of street life that I could see there, except for the rare times that I visited Ermita for the times that I took Spanish classes at Instituto Cervantes. Bacolod was a revelation, as the people gathered in huge numbers at the festival. There were stalls of all kinds, selling everything […]

Images from the street – Masskara festival, Philippines

Galungan celebrations in Bali 2
The first time I visited Bali was at the end of March 2013. The date is critical, because it coincided with one of the best Balinese local festivals, which is simply named, the Galungan. I have previously written about other colorful festivals in the South East Asia region, namely Masskara, Panagbenga and Thaipusam, so a post on Galungan is highly apt.   ============================================================== Check out images from the Campuhan ridge walk in Bali! ==============================================================   Indonesia is mostly a Muslim country, but the island of Bali is unique with its Hindu majority and hence remarkably different customs from the rest […]

Images from the Galungan Festival : Bali, Indonesia

It’s February already, and this is the month of the awesome Panagbenga! Now, I’ve mentioned this before that Philippines is the land of festivals, with some amazing events like Masskara, Sinulog and Ati Aklan. All of these require you to take a short flight or ferry out of Manila. But, in Baguio, the summer capital of Philippines, a month-long festival is celebrated every February. And if you happen to be there to witness it, you will know why I rate Panagbenga so high.   ======================================================================== Click here to check out my photos from the Masskara festival of Philippines. ======================================================================== Some […]

In Photos: The Panagbenga flower festival of Baguio, Philippines

The mystery of the lemon in thaipusam. 3
If you are in Singapore during the month of January, you should not miss out on one of the best festivals ever. It’s weird. It’s scary. It can capture your deepest imaginations. But Thaipusam is something that you should see atleast once in your life. I have lived in Chennai for 3 years, but I did not, even once, get to see the Thaipusam festival there, despite the festival being centred around the Tamils. I had to get all the way to Singapore, before I saw it for the first time last year. A little background could help here. For the […]

In Photos: Thaipusam festival in Singapore

Year of the horse celebrations in Singapore 1
It was raining buckets in Singapore yesterday. The whole city-state cast a gloomy face, with puddles of water everywhere and dark clouds till the end of the horizon. In the midst of all this,  we set out to see the Chinese New year light-up and opening ceremony. It wasn’t a good start, right from Joo Chiat Place. The rain-gods were already putting up a clear sign as to how the rest of the evening would turn out. This is not the first time that I was visiting Chinatown, and it has become one of my favorite spots in Singapore. But today, […]

Ushering the year of the horse : Chinatown, Singapore

In 2010, I visited Bacolod city in the Philippines, for 2 of my most colorful days ever. What follows is an account of the masskara festival that happens in Bacolod city every October. Wait a minute. Where is Bacolod? Many folks will tell you that Bacolod is one of the best cities in the Philippines, even better than Manila and Cebu on some accounts. Known as the city of smiles, Bacolod is the capital of the Negros Occidental province of Philippines, and the home of the annual Masskara festival.   How do I get there? Assuming that you have already […]

Streetdancing at the Masskara : Bacolod, Philippines

Burning incense at the mid autumn festival
The mid autumn festival, or the moon-cake festival, happens every year in Chinatown around mid September. With not a clue what it was all about, I went over to check it out.   When is it, again? The mid-autumn festival is on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, which falls during September or October in our Gregorian calendar. The date varies each year. In 2012, when I took the pictures below, it was on September 30th. In 2015, it is on September 15th.   Where is the best place to catch it? Obviously, China. But I have been lucky to […]

Mid autumn festival : Singapore

St. Angelo's Fort, Kannur 4
Onam brings about a sense of family bonding in Kerala, which is equalled only by cricket. Entire families (for the uninitiated, Kerala mostly follows a close-knit, joint family system) get together on this special day. Or days, depending upon how you celebrate it. Onam is actually a 10 day festival, but the last day, or Thiruvonam, is the most important. When is Onam, again? Onam is based on the malayalam calendar, and the tenth day of Thiruvonam is on ‘thiruvonam nakshatram’ in the month of ‘chingam’. Translating this to good, old Gregorian means that this falls on different dates each year. […]

Onam and two forts in North Kerala: India