From Cape to Comorin, Indian cultural diversity is as varied as all of the other continents put together. Each state in India is a cultural jewel in its own right. From celebrating the birth of a mythological God to welcoming the season of harvest, Indians have umpteen number of reasons to celebrate with pomp.
What makes each cultural celebration a reason to indulge is its riot of colors, traditional dresses of indescribable beauty, sweets and delicacies that tease your tongue buds. But, there is no one state or region in India where everything can be savored in equal measure. You have to move about, visit places and most importantly visit them, when it is just time for celebration.
Wondering where to go?
Presenting India’s cultural destinations where art, celebration, food and happiness flow in immeasurable quantities.
#1 Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Image by Tushar Dayal via Flickr
Once the seat of governance of the Nawabs, today Lucknow is a conglomeration of art, literature, poetry, music and business enterprises. The denizens of Lucknow, who are often referred to as Lakhnavi, are famous for their polite and respectful way of talking.
The alternated ruling of Hindu and Muslim rulers has gifted Lucknow with an amalgamated culture that shines bright with exquisite features from both religions. Lucknow Mahotsav, Lucknow Literature Festival, Bada Mangal are some of the noted cultural festivals of Lucknow that exhibit the city’s vibrant culture.
#2 Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Image by Jaimil joshi via Wikimedia
Gujarat is home to various ethnic group of people, including Marwaris, Malayalis, Tamils, Marathis, Sindhis among many others. The State of Gujarat and the city of Ahmedabad are renowned for their diverse culture that its residents add to the environments.
Jainism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism and their religious festivals add further color to the city’s glorious culture. The best time to visit Ahmedabad is during the days of Navratri or the ‘nine nights’ during which the whole region comes to life with Garba and Dandiya dance, music and street processions.
#3 Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Image by Airunp via Wikimedia
Khajuraho can be rightly called the Gateway to India’s glorious art and cultural past. There are two major highlights in this tiny hamlet. It is home to the popular Group of Monuments – a collection of ancient stone-etched temples belonging to the medieval era.
Secondly, it is the venue for the annual Khajuraho dance festival held in the month of February when renowned artists from all over the country and the world come to perform Indian dance styles like Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri, etc. in an open-air auditorium.
#4 Fort Kochi, Kerala
Image by sandeepachetan.com travel photography via Flickr
Once a port of call for trade ships, then a place of revolt against British Empire and now an amalgam of history and modernity, Kochi is too difficult to express in words. It is characterized by several cultural monuments, remains of yesteryear buildings, mosques, Chinese fishing nets, 400-year-old Jewish synagogue and much more.
Kochi is also one of the top tourist place in Kerala where you can get close to nature with a backwater houseboat cruise or a quick trip to Athirapally, Vazhachal Falls and the many other unexplored and hidden gems of pristine natural beauty.
#5 Amritsar, Punjab
Image by Arian Zwegers via Flickr
Amritsar is a platter of cultural experiences. The legendary Golden Temple is considered to be a religious and architectural icon in the cultural landscape of India. The pathway which borders the man-made water tank is considered to have healing powers.
Step out of the Golden temple and wander across Punjab, you will notice how overwhelming is the culture and folklore of the Sikh community. The energetic Garba dance, the rhythmic accent of Punjabi men, home brewed Lassi, fine dressing of the Punjabi women, legendary stories of valour and generosity all make Punjab any traveler’s favorite destination.
#6 Bhubaneswar, Orissa
Image by Andrew Moore via Flickr
Orissa, presently called Odisha, can be rightly called the capital of Buddhism in India. Odisha is the ancient city of Kalinga where Emperor Ashoka underwent spiritual reformation and started preaching peace as a virtue all over the world. As a result, the city has numerous Buddhism inspired monuments and places of worship that jostle for space with centuries old Hindu temples like the Jagannath temple and the lakes.
The Odisha Rath Yatra (Car festival) is the cultural landmark event of the city. The Puri beach is another cultural destination where water sports, beach surfing and youthful lifestyle reins in full strength.
#7 Mysore, Karnataka
Image by Spiros Vathis via Flickr
Mysore (now Mysuru) holds the honor of being the cultural capital of Karnataka. The city has in its folds a charm that can enchant any first-time visitor. A historically rich lineage that features alternative ruling by Islam and Hindu rulers and the British Empire is the highlight of Mysore’s cultural scene.
Mysore has so many royal palaces and heritage sites that is fondly called the ‘City of Palaces’. Other epithets by which Mysore is commonly referred include the ‘City of Yoga’ and the ‘Sandalwood City.’ Head to Mysore during the Navratri season during which the Royal Palace is all decorated with vibrant lighting. The royal family also makes it a point to participate in the celebration which will feature elephants and paraphernalia decked up in full decor.
#8 Jaipur, Rajasthan
Image by Morgan Burke via Flickr
The name Rajasthan conjures up the image of dusty plains, never-ending deserts and camels. but, Jaipur is an altogether a different scene. From palaces with sophisticated designs that put to shame modern-day urban structures to massive physical astronomical calculators, Jaipur a.k.a the Pink City is a place of wonder. It has a colorful culture that features folklore dating back to centuries, the Ghoomar dance form, blue pottery and handwoven carpets.
The Jaipur Hawa Mahal is the most prominent landmark in the city which was designed to allow the royal household enjoy the street festivals without attracting public glare. It is a symbol of the architectural and design prowess that the country had in its past.
India’s cultural scene is one that changes from State to State. As a country of rich historic past, literature, arts and architecture forms the major ingredients of the national culture. These 8 cities are cultural gems that depict the beauty of India in its truest form.
Sunu Philip is the Inbound Marketing and Creative Head for Paradise Holidays, Cochin – a Kerala based tour operator. She loves reading, exploring new places and trying out different cuisines!