Mumbai has a very eventful and fast life but even saying that the rich textures and colors of the city in its diverse range of religious and cultural festival simply cannot be overlooked. With its cosmopolitan background the city has a good share of festivals. The festivals are of varied nature ranging from religious to art, culture, film and music. Some of the popular festivals of Mumbai celebrated with highest grandeur include Ganesh Chaturthi, Navratri, Eid, Christmas, Kala Ghoda festival and many more.
Famous Ganesha Chaturthi Festival of Mumbai
Among all the popular festivals of Mumbai, Ganesh Chaturthi holds a special place as it is considered to be most popular not only in this city but across the whole state. Ganesh Chaturthy is the birthday of Lord Ganesha when devotees throughout India worship the Lord of Wisdom. The festival is observed in month of Bhaadrapada which falls between the month of August and September. Starting on Chaturhi, the fourth day of the waxing moon the festival ends on Anant Chaturdashi, the fourteenth day of waxing moon. Known popularly as Ganapati Festival in Mumbai it is so famous that it pulls crowd in millions. Special celebrations take place at the famous Siddhivinayak temple, dedicated to Lord Ganesha located in Prabhadevi and devotees stand in never ending lines with their offerings to their loving God. What brings real festivity in Mumbai is public worship in innumerable Mandaps or art crafted temporary abodes of icon of the deity built in every area through the city. Theme of Mandap decoration, the statues in all sizes, some being very high, lighting is of great attraction. Immersion of idols takes place in the sea via the famous beaches of Mumbai which are taken in colorful procession with music and dance at the end of festival. The crowd chanting "Ganpati bappa moriya, Pudcya varshi luvker ya" by millions of devotees almost make the sea wind rustle with desperation if not in joy. Mumbai city life gets on its toes in respect of crowd and activities because of the huge crowd pulling of this festival.
Navaratri Festival Celebration in Mumbai
Navaratri like all over India is celebrated with utmost sincerity and devotion here also. Navaratri or the festival of "nine nights" is celebrated mainly by the Gujarati community. Systematically it is celebrated five times a year as Vasanta Navaratri, Ashadha Navaratri, the Sharada Navaratri, and the Paush/Magha Navaratri. Sharada Navaratri celebrated in the month of Puratashi and Vasanta Navaratri of the Vasanta kala are considered most important.
In Mumbai usually Sharada Navaratri celebrated in the month of Puratashi (Septemper/October) is celebrated on a huge scale. Also called Maha Navaratri it is celebrated in the 'pratipada' that is the first day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvina during the Sharad kaal that is beginning of the winter season around September/October. Entire Mumbai dances to the rhythm of Garba and Raas the dance forms of the Gujarati community. If festivals of Mumbai are to be mentioned then Navratri is to be mentioned with special importance mainly because of its offering of diverse cultural milieu in festivities.
Navaratri is celebrated in Mumbai in a very extravagant manner. The whole city gets lighted up as the hearts of the people. New colorful dresses, gifts and pleasantries, meeting friends and family, food, sweets, dance makes it a festival of joy and fulfillment. Gujrati folk dance festivals of garba and dandia forms are organized and the whole of Mumbai irrespective of region dances to its tunes for hours. One can also get authentic navaratri dresses on rent during the festival. One such place is Bhuleshwar. Many famous bands for Navratri festival like Falguni Pathak orchestra, Preeti Pinki Orchestra, and others put up mind blowing performances with their singing and music and mesmerize the audience who joins in the celebration.
Diwali Festival of Mumbai
Diwali or Dipawali or as the translation goes festival of light is nationally regarded to be the most popular festival across the country and Mumbai being almost a mini India with the presence of people from all cultural, social and ethnic background is surely a very special place to be in the time of Diwali. One of the most awaited festivals of Mumbai,"Diwali" or Deepawali" or the festival of lights make people from all social strata and cultural or ethnic backdrop with the same mirth. Celebrated around October-November on the thirteenth day of Ashwin month in Marathi calendar this festival is believed to symbolize the victory of the truth over evil, of holy light over spiritual darkness. Diyas or lamps made of clay are used to light the houses. All the households dazzle with the lights of the diyas.
An apparently busy Mumbai preoccupied with professional concerns becomes all lit up with lights and crackers of festivity and mirth. A beautiful artwork known as "Rangoli" usually designed by the ladies of the house using different colors are seen on the door steps. All the places lights up with diyas and rangolis and even the fireworks illuminating the sky, with people enjoying with family and friends and praying for a prosperous coming year, Diwali comes out to be a festival of happiness, fulfillment and prosperity. Mumbai is always colorful but Diwali can add some unforgettable glow to that color in your travel.
Talking of festivals of Mumbai this auspicious occasion is irreplaceable considering especially the huge number of devotees and spiritual establishments dedicated to Lord Krishna. Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated in remembrance of birth of Shri Krishna. According to Hindu mythology birth of Shri Krishna signifies incarnation of Lord Vishnu as human being. Krishna temples sport special decor, hymns in praise of Krishna are chanted accompanying gong of bells and blowing of conch shells to welcome God very close to heart. Janmastami also known as Krishna Jayanti in Mumbai is both a house-hold and mass celebration. Homes are decorated with Rangoli, beautiful designs made with various colors. Mass celebrations take place in all localities. A handi, an earthen pot, filled with butter milk is hung at great height with lot of prize money. Groups of youngsters climb over one another in pyramid fashion in great zeal to break the earthen pot while the residents keep throwing colored water on the group, but in the end one who overcomes all obstacles and successfully climb to break the pot becomes the winner of the prize money. This particular mode of celebrating Janmashtami is observed in different areas of Mumbai and is popularly called Dahi Handi.
Holi Festival in Mumbai
Holi is quintessentially a festival of color of North India and Mumbai being the city of diverse cultural milleu from all parts of the nation like all other cities provides its own brand of Holy festival celebration. Mumbai observes Holi, a most popular festival of colors on Falguni Purnima, the full moon day in the month of March as also celebrated throughout India. It is a day off from the fast life in Mumbai for everyone, be an industrialist, film star or a commoner. People irrespective of age play with special powdery colors called Abir and colors dissolved in water for spraying to each-other using a sort of a special pump called pichkari. Children also resort to fill up balloons with color water for bursting on others. The festival signifies crazy playfulness, friendliness, greetings and spirit of unity. Holi holds a special place among the festivals of Mumbai as in Mumbai Holi is an occasion for all city people, irrespective of religion, caste and creed. Distribution of sweets and sharing of locally made drink called bhang is very common.
Gudhi Padava (Mar-Apr)
Gudhi Padava also known as "Ugadi" is a Marathi festival celebrated as Maharashtrian New Year's Day on the first day of Chaitra. Mumbai being the capital of Maharashtra this quintessential Marathi festival has an indigenous flavor than other festivals of Mumbai. This day is considered as the start of the Hindu Solar Year and also as the birthday of "The Mother Earth". The day starts very early with people cleaning their houses and thereafter decorating the house with Rangolis (A beautiful piece of art using different colors). Gudhis or bamboo sticks decorated with silk clothes with a kalash or a brass goblet tied on the top is hoisted. Special sweets called Gaohi, along with mango leaf, neem leafs, and garlands are also tied with the Gudhis. The Gudhis are considered to drive away all evils from home.
Gudhi signifies Bhramhadhvaj where Dhvaj means a flag. It symbolizes the win of Lord Rama over the evil demon Ravana and thereafter his return back home in the Ayodhya kingdom. Red and yellow flowers, garlands hung on the lintels of the doors and windows of each house, along with other decorations make it look very vibrant and colorful. Any new venture like starting to plough a land, buying or booking a new house, flat or land, investing in gold, launching new projects are all considered good in this auspicious time of festival by the Marathis.
A considerable portion of Mumbai population is Muslim and Muslims in this city have a huge impact on the cultural and social makeup of the city. Mohammed Ali Road, Byculla and Abdul Rehman Street are popular areas where you see the Eid celebration is in full swing. Haji Ali Dargah, Mahim Dargah and Jama Masjid are some of the most celebrated mosques of Muslim heritage in the city where you can experience Mumbai Eid in its traditional splendor.
Mumbai has sizable Christian community particularly in areas like Colaba, Mahim, Bandra, Vile Parle and Santacruz Our Lady of Salvation Church at Dadar, Mahim Church near Mahim causeway, Mount Mary Church near Bandra Bandstand, Hoy Family Church at Andheri are some of the Christmas hotspots to celebrate this auspicious occasion. A thoroughly sparkling Mumbai with soft glow of candle light and street lighting provides a different specter of the city. Mumbai Christmas is attended and enjoyed across the communities irrespective of cast, creed and social strata making Mumbai a truly cosmopolitan city with great diversity of mass culture.
Eleplanta Festival in Mumbai
The Elephanta Festival is celebrated in the Eleplanta Islands located in a small island in the Arabian Sea about 11 km from the Mumbai harbor near the Gateway of India. It is listed as one of the World Heritage Sites in India. The site discovered in the 6th century has Elephanta caves with magnificent carvings and sculptures along with a temple of the Hindu God the Lord Shiva. The island capital of the Konkan Mauryas famous for its beautiful caves, formerly known as the Gharapuri meaning the peaceful abode of the Lord Shiva, was later christened with the name Elephanta Caves by the Portugese.
Every year in the month of February MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation) organizes the Elephanta Festival in an extravagant manner with the view to promote culture and tourism in Mumbai. The two day long festival witnesses renowned dancers and musicians as well as upcoming artists performing outside the caves to a select audience. Folk dance shows of the local fishermen are an important part of this festival. The colossus statue of the Lord is also magnificently illuminated.
Special launch services can be availed from the Gateway of India for visiting the caves. The delicious local food served during the festivals catering to the taste buds of the foodies are also not to be forgotten. Overall a festival of art, culture, dance, food and enjoyment makes it an affair not to be missed when planning a trip to Mumbai during the month of February.
Kala Ghoda Festival
The Kala Ghoda Art Festival is usually celebrated from the month of November to February every year near the Jehangir Art Gallery. This festival of art and crafts is scheduled every Sunday during the abovesaid period from 10 am to 9 pm. Art lovers plunge into the festival where one can know the history of different forms of art and craft from the masters themselves.
The festival is organized by the Kala Ghoda Association established in 1988, with the main objective of improving and improvising the existing infrastructure of the area, reviving arts across Mumbai and giving it a distinct identity as separate art district in the heart of Mumbai. As the sun sets in the whole area is lightened up giving it a beautiful look with artists performing music and concerts. The venue is generally made by National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), David Sasson Library Garden and Jehangir Art Gallery with Max Muller Bhavan hosting some award winning Indian films.
This typically art and craft focused secular festival of Mumbai is a treat for all art lovers. It takes the form of a carnival as apart from the art lovers, tourists as also the locals throng into the engulfing atmosphere that includes artistic paintings displayed by the painters, amazing sculptures by potters, tattoo artists, mehendi artists. Book shops, music shops, magic shows, puppet shows, talking parrots foretelling one's future, mouth-watering local cuisines and so on enkindles the whole venue and makes it a memorable evening.
The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) organizes a music festival every year in the picturesque Malabar Hills at the Banganga tank, Walkeshwar, Mumbai. Renowned artists perform live functions including classical music concerts. The festival is attended in large numbers by music lovers and enthusiasts. Walkeswar is a Shiva temple located at the highest point of the city of Mumbai near Malabar Hill on Walkeswar Road. The temple is also popularly called Banganga after The Tank believed to hold holy water of river Ganga.
One of the most awaited music festivals, the banganga Festival is celebrated for two days every year in the month of January. Many Indian classical music maestros participate in the festival. Classical music lovers not only from India but across the world try to make it to the festival. Apart from the Banganga festival, the Hindustani classical music festival is also held at the site. One gets a soulful feeling listening to the maestros playing some of their masterpiece. It seems that this two-day music carnival inflicts life and soul in the heart of the busiest city in the country.
All India Sufi & Mystic Music Festival
"All India Sufi & Mystic Music Festival" is the biggest Sufi music festival celebrated in Mumbai. The festival witnesses' performances of some of the maestros in folk, Sufi and classical music who are literally discovered from the roots of the villages and who are for generations associated with such music forms. International musicians and maestros from countries like Turkey, Syria, and Egypt also participate in the festival. If you are looking for a soul soothing musical experience only this one among the festivals of Mumbai can provide you that.
Mumbai International Film Festival
How can a city with one of the largest film industries and home of such huge film and cinema technicians can work without a film festival of its own. Though Mumbai Film Festival started as mainly a festival for documentary, short films and animation films to be held every two years in Mumbai it made its mark down the year to earn respect from critics and film lovers from all over the world.
MIFF is joined by international film makers from around fifty countries and has special places for the Seven South Asian countries. It holds competition and Film makers of renowned standing across the globe are invited as Jury. Besides competition MIFF dedicates sections to Homage, Retrospectives and Open Forum & Seminar. A veteran documentary film maker is honored every year with the "Dr. V. Shantaram Lifetime Achievement Award".
Sangat Music Festival
With the view to create awareness and understanding of western classical music amongst the people an establishment called Mehli Mehta Foundation was set up. The foundation organizes public performance programs of internationally renowned artists and orchestras. It also organizes a Discover Music class where children are taught classical music and also other instruments. Acclaimed musicians and music teachers from abroad are invited as visiting faculties to impart music education.
One of the main endeavors of Mehli Mehta Foundation was to start the Sangat Music Festival in the year 1995 which is now considered a popular festival among the music lovers. The festival held every year during December is now being recognized as an International Chamber Music Festival. True to its name "Sangat"(meaning coming together) the festival marks the togetherness of musicians of Indian origin or in some way associated. Interaction of participants, students, music gurus, workshops, rehearsals, classes taken by masters is all part of this festival. Entry to the workshops is free for one and all. It serves as a good interactive platform for beginners in music, learners and teachers.
The main attraction of the festival is the concerts. It is a two week festival with daily evening concerts being organized in the Tata Theatre. It turns up into an electrifying evening by watching the maestros who are now settled abroad, performing.
Aarohi is a musical term for ascending notes. All acclaimed musicians have passed through Aarohi phase in building their musical craft specialy during formative stage and attaining skill. Aarohi Music Festival in Mumbai is a prestigious platform for upcoming musicians from all over India.
With so many festivals celebrated around the year, one can take a chance to experience some while on a tour to get a feel of the festive pulse of Mumbai from close encounter.