Music in the hills at Ziro Festival of Music, Arunachal Pradesh

Ziro festival of music. Photo credit:|YouTube

Head to Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh for four days of live music under the stars with rice beer and mountain vistas. The cult festival has grown steadily in the last few years and this edition will host indie rock, folk, pop and acts from Israel, Nepal and Bali alongside homegrown musicians from across the country. There’s always a strong focus on music from the North East, and dazzling new acts to discover. Camp out at the festival or opt for a homestay to learn more about the unique Apatani culture of the region. Set against a backdrop of terraced rice fields and sweeping mountains, the festival grounds have stalls selling crafts, art, local food, and plenty of apong or aforementioned rice beer. Popular artists this year include the Reggae Rajahs, Damo Suzuki, and Thaalavattam.

Trek through a Carpet of Flowers at Kaas Plateau, Maharashtra

Kaas Plateau in Satara, Maharashtra. Photo credit: Ashish Shetty/Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-4.0

Maharashtra’s very own Valley of Flowers bursts into bloom right after the monsoon. September is the best time to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site carpeted with wildflowers. The biodiversity hotspot in the Western Ghats transforms from its usual shade of brown into a plateau of lush green, riddled with waterfalls and interspersed with sheets of white, purple, and yellow flowers. Catch a glimpse of rare carnivorous plant species such as the purple-hued Sita’s Tears, and the tiny, insectivorous Indian Sundew – Drosera Indica. With more than 800 plant species, many are easy to miss, so walk slowly amidst the meadows of white tuberous pipewort, the bulbous lantern flower and wild orchids to make the most of this yearly phenomenon.

Dance with Tigers at Onam Pulikali, Kerala

Photo credit: Arun Sankar/AFP

Of Kerala’s many vibrant celebrations, the Pulikali is amongst the most flamboyant. Thrissur’s Swaraj Round is awash in yellow and black as local men paint their bodies like tigers – large feline faces adorning their torsos – wear masks and dance to frenzied percussion beats. Pulikali takes place on the fourth day of Onam celebrations, when folk artists from across the region perform the traditional ‘tiger dance’. Watch as the artistes painstakingly prepare, letting the paint dry for hours, and join the hordes to celebrate one of Thrissur’s most colourful parades.

Witness the Ganesh Chaturthi Visarjan in Mumbai

Photo credit: Punit Paranjpe/AFP

Maximum city erupts in a celebration of epic proportions on September 5, as the 10-day festival of Ganesh Chaturthi draws to a close. Elaborately decorated idols of the elephant-headed god are paraded through the streets amidst frenzied drumming, music and dancing to finally be immersed in the ocean. Before the visarjan, devotees throng pandals across the city, offer modak – a rice-flour-and-coconut sweet, and decorate the idols with flowers. Brave the crowds and the queues to catch a glimpse of the grandest idols in town – the Lalbaugcha Raja and Khetwadi Ganraj – and head to Chowpatty or Juhu Beach for the famed immersion.

Celebrate Durga Puja in Kolkata

Hindu women apply 'sindhur' on each other after worshipping the idol of Durga on the last day of the Durga Puja festival in Kolkata. Photo credit: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

Kolkata pulls out all the stops during the ten-day festival with non-stop revelry and feasting. During the last five days of the festival, the frenetic drumming of dhakis fills the city’s streets and the extravagant pandals, housing idols of the ten-armed goddess, bustle with action. Go pandal-hopping to see how pandals strive to outdo each other with creative themes. Catch theatre, music and dance performances, feast on traditional Bengali specialties like ghugni, kosha mangsho, biryani and luchi. If you’re in time for Mahalaya – the first day of the festival – it’s worth it to visit Kumartuli to see the elaborate idols get their finishing touches, before being transported to pandals across the city.

Cultural celebrations at the Ladakh Festival

Folk Dancers performing on the occasion of Ladakh Festival. Photo credit: Public Resource Org/Flickr

Head to Leh for a celebration of Ladakhi culture, monastic rituals, music, art and sport. Leh and its surrounding villages play host to throngs of locals from across Ladakh, who gather to showcase their unique rituals and heritage. Watch vibrant masked chaam dances – a common feature in Ladakh’s monastery festivals – thangka painting, polo matches and archery contests. Use this time to explore Leh’s bazaar, which are buzzing with activity during this period and hike up to the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa.

Dance at the GoMadras Festival of Electronic Music, Tamil Nadu

In it’s ninth edition, the GoMadras festival features two days of electronic music from around the world under the open skies of Mahabalipuram. Artists and DJs from around India, even as far as France and Berlin are on the line-up. Performers include Shiva Moon, Blot, Ash Roy, Matt Minimal and Henning Richter. Apart from techno, trance and electro acts, expect stalls with art, food and activities.

Trail the Hangul at Dachigam National Park, Jammu and Kashmir

Himalayan langurs rest on a tree inside Dachigam national park on the outskirts of Srinagar. Photo credit: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters

While many of India’s national parks remain closed for the monsoon, September is a good time to visit the Dachigam National Park in Jammu and Kashmir. Chances of spotting the Indian black bear are high in this season, as they emerge to feed on acorns and walnuts before they go into hibernation for the winter. Dachigam in the Western Himalaya, is one of the last known habitats of the endangered Kashmir Stag, or hangul. Visit after mid-September to catch the rutting season and keep an eye out for other species, such as the civet, red fox, long-tailed marmots and birds like magpies and pheasants.

Attend the Pune International Literary Festival

Photo credit: PILF

Pune will host writers, actors, poets and filmmakers from India and around the world for a three-day literary festival. Expect an exhibition on Jane Austen, short film screenings, dance performances, talks on a variety of subjects and panel discussions. In the past, activities on the sidelines have included haiku and astrology workshops, book readings, yoga, and live capoeira demonstrations. Speakers this year include Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Neil Hollander and Ira Trivedi.

Explore Mysore during Dasara

Statue of goddess Chamundeshwari. Photo credit: Navrooz Singh/Flickr

Time your Mysore visit to coincide with the 10-day festival of Dasara, celebrated with much pomp to celebrate the goddess Durga, or Chamundeshwari, slaying Mahisasura in this very town. Explore the lavish interiors of the 100-year-old Mysore Palace built for the Wadiyar Rajas who ruled the city for centuries. Crowds gather in the evenings to watch as the palace is illuminated in gold. On the final day, a grand procession walks through the city, with decorated elephants carrying the deity on a golden howdah. Exhibitions and cultural shows fill the days during this season, and it’s the best time to explore Mysore’s charming art galleries and street food.