Enjoy music in the moonlight in Jodhpur

Photo credit: Jodhpur RIFF - Rajasthan International Folk Festival/Facebook

When the moon shines brightest, Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort comes alive with five days of music and festivities. The annual Rajasthan International Folk Festival celebrates the state’s folk artistry, with its many communities – including the Langa, the Manganiyars, the Bhil and the Mirasi – coming together to showcase their unique musical heritage. Events from October 5 to October 9 are set against stunning backdrops: the rocky Rao Jodha Park, the cenotaphs of the Jaswant Thada, and Mehrangarh Fort’s courtyards, which afford a bird’s eye view of the blue city. Interactive sessions offer insights into the fast-fading cultural heritage of Rajasthan’s indigenous communities. Among the international artists making an appearance this year are Mexican guitarist Paco Renteria, Welsh folk musicians, and a Scottish flautist and fiddle player.

Head into the wilderness at the Palamau National Park, Jharkhand

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC by S.A-4.0]

October marks the beginning of the best season to head deep into the often-overlooked sal forests of Jharkhand. Spread across hills and valleys and riddled with waterfalls, the reserve (also known at Betla National Park) is home to a fast-dwindling number of tigers and leopards. Apart from the big cat, watch out for neelgai, wild boar, gaur, elephants, cheetal and more than a hundred species of avian life. Take a detour through thickets of teak and bamboo to explore the Lodh waterfall. Deep within the jungles lie the ruins of two forts, constructed by the kings of the Chero dynasty.

Attend the NH7 Weekender Music Festival in Meghalaya

Photo credit: OML/Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC by 3.0]

The “happiest music festival” heads to the hills of Meghalaya on October 27 for its second innings in the state. Two days of live acts on multiple stages, set within lush hills, will offer a chance to discover new music, local food and culture. Highlights include guitar virtuoso Steve Vai and acclaimed Indian acts across genres: Indian Ocean, Blackstratblues, Karsh Kale Collective, Aqua Dominatrix, Dualist Enquiry, Ganesh Talkies, and many others. Homegrown musicians from the region include The Rudy Wallang Guitar Jamboree and Khasi Bloodz. While in the area, don’t miss a pork-and-rice meal at one of Shillong’s jadoh stalls.

Cultural extravaganza at the Pushkar Fair, Rajasthan

Photo credit: M Tracy Hunter/Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC by 2.0]

The melee of camels, cattle, pilgrims and visitors that descend on the tiny temple town of Pushkar each year provide great camera fodder to photographers and culture seekers. Originally a platform to trade cattle, the Pushkar Fair has evolved into a major tourist draw, as thousands of camels occupy the fairgrounds. Bedecked in finery, the animals are paraded in beauty contests and participate in races. Alongside, there are moustache competitions, folk music and several other fairground attractions. Use the time to explore the temples and ghats around Pushkar Lake. From October 28 to November 4.

Drive through the salt flats at the Rann of Kutch, Gujarat

Photo credit: Anurag Agnihotri/Flickr [Licensed under CC by 2.0]

The great salt flats of the Rann reveal themselves in October after months of rain. The Rann is among the largest salt deserts in the world, spread across 7,500 square kilometres. Vast plains of parched earth stretch like an endless white sea in every direction. Jeep safaris are the best way to take in the region’s landscape and wildlife. Hordes of migratory birds flock to the marshy water bodies during this season, adding a burst of colour to the monochromatic landscape. Pink flamingos, pelicans, and cranes are common sights. Don’t miss the rare Indian wild ass, or ghudkar, in the Wild Ass sanctuary in the Little Rann of Kutch, which, spread across 5000 square kilometres, is anything but what its name suggests.

Watch cinema at the Mumbai Film Festival

Village Rockstars

Film buffs should head to Mumbai on October 12 for a week of 200 films from India and across the world at the annual film festival by MAMI (Mumbai Academy of Moving images). Independent cinema across categories will be screened in theatres around the city. Indian films include Walking with the Wind (in Ladakhi) and Village Rockstars (in Assamese), amongst others. International cinema features Spanish, Japanese, Creole and Turkish films by both debutante directors and acclaimed filmmakers.

Wildlife spotting at the Panna National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke/Flickr [Licensed under CC by 2.0]

Central India’s national parks reopen in October, enlivened by the monsoon, when the thick cover of teak, mahua, bamboo and sal teem with birdlife. A tiger reintroduction programme in 2009 has led to a significant increase in the population of the big cat in the Panna National Park. The River Ken winds through the undulating landscape, carving out gorges and waterfalls, and supporting a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna. Spot gharials sunning themselves on the banks of the Ken. On jeep safaris, keep an eye out for hyenas and wild dogs, jackals, sloth bear, sambar, chital, and leopards, if you’re lucky. Birding enthusiasts will appreciate the nearly 200 species of birdlife in the park, including king vultures and white-necked storks.

Trek through the Kudremukh National Park, Karnataka

Photo credit: Ramesh Desai/Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC by 4.0]

Explore the stunning biodiversity of the Western Ghats in the short window between the end of the monsoon in September, and before the grass starts to brown in November. Though summiting the 6,200-foot high horse-shaped Kudremukh peak remains the goal for most trekkers, it’s well worth it to linger along the route, enjoying the dense cover of the shola forests and scanning the wide grasslands for sambar, spotted deer and wild boar. Situated on the fringes of Chikmagalur, views along the route are of rain-washed ghats wrapped in green. The forest is riddled with narrow streams and offers many charming trails suited for beginner hikers who would rather not attempt the daylong 18-kilometre route to the peak.

Experience the oldest Ramlila at Ramnagar, Varanasi

Photo credit: AFP photo/STR

The oldest – and among the grandest – of India’s Ramlilas takes place on the banks of the Ganga opposite Varanasi’s ghats. Ramnagar is transformed into a hub of activity, as the story of the epic Ramayana is enacted on a spectacular scale – decorated pavilions, costumed actors, and elephants all feature in the performances – with episodes spanning across several weeks. During the day, explore Varanasi’s busy alleys and sample the array of innovative street food on offer: palak chaat, cardamom lassi and hot jalebis.

Break bread and explore histories in Goa

As Goa wakes up to the tourist season in October, the shacks reopen and the beaches are abuzz again. Dip into the state’s history through its art at Subodh Kerkar’s Museum of Goa. Filled with eclectic installations and contemporary artworks by both Indian and international artists, the space features an exhibition on the Histories of Goa, where years of Portuguese rule and the state’s ties with the ocean are portrayed through various mediums. From October 1 to October 3, the humble pao takes centre stage as the Poderachem Fest brings together bakers and fresh breads at the Soccorro village.