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Festivals in Mumbai, India

Mumbai is technically a Maharashtrian city, but the Marathi culture has long since been mixed into a melting-pot of all the different cultures from every state and corner in India. All of Mumbai now celebrates Navratri, Krishna Jayanti and Holi just as enthusiastically as Diwali and Ganesh Chaturthi.

Diwali is probably the most fun for visitors, because all the shops and streets are lit bright and everyone is in holiday mode distributing gifts and sweets for a week or more. For two days, the streets will turn into war zones with massive quantities of firecrackers being set off in every single street in the city. It’s absolute bedlam and you can’t help but join in and do your own bit of damage.

The Ganesh Chaturthi festival is celebrated all over India, but nowhere is it remotely close to the magnificent spectacle that it is in Mumbai. Clay statues of the Lord Ganesha, ranging from pint-sized to ones that tower above buildings, are built and kept in display for 10 days.

Navratri (literally means nine nights) is likewise a time for Gujurati feasts and a community dance called Garba after dark. Holi is the festival of colors – again a whole lot of fun with everyone free to throw colors, colored water and water balloons at anyone else. If you plan to go out wearing your best clothes on Holi – well…don’t. Some communities will even put up large vats or dig holes and fill them up with colored water, and dunk anyone and everyone they can get their hands on.

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Top 10 Festivals in Mumbai, India

  • Diwali – Hindu festival of lights, usually falls in October. People wear new clothes, and exchange gifts and sweets. The firecrackers are what you will remember, though.
  • Ganesh Chaturthi – Festival held in Aug/Sept in honor of Lord Ganesha – he’s the one with an elephant head and trunk, and a fondness for sweets. Mumbai is especially famous for its massive Ganesha statues that are taken out in processions to be set afloat in the ocean.
  • Navratri – Gujurati festival that falls in Sept/Oct. All the fun is after dark, when the Garba dancing and Gujurati food is cooked for community feasts. You can buy tickets to these community events, and join in and dance all night
  • Janmashtami – This is the celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna (falls in August), who is known for his fondness of freshly churned butter. That’s why the highlight of this festival are the contests on the streets to build human pyramids and reach and break a pot of butter that’s dangling high up above
  • Gudi Padava – This is the Marathi New Year’s day (falls in March), and you’ll be wolfing down sweets and holiday feasts at your new Maharashtrian friend’s home.
  • Eid – A significant part of Mumbai’s population is Muslim, and certain areas like Byculla and Mohammed Ali Road will be transformed with a holiday vibe for Eid, during July/Aug Eid – A significant part of Mumbai’s population is Muslim, and certain areas like Byculla and Mohammed Ali Road will be transformed with a holiday vibe for Eid, during July/Aug
  • Christmas – The western suburbs, and especially Colaba, Ville Parle and Bandra, have large contingents of Christian populations who celebrate Christmas, and you’re invited to be a part of the holiday celebrations.
  • Maha Shivratri – Hindu festival celebrated in February to honor the Lord Shiva. It literally means Great Night of the Lord Shiva. It’s a great night for people celebrating the holiday too, because it’s an excuse to get drunk on bhang (pot-laced milk).
  • Sankranti – A festival that falls in January – something to do with the sun and solar calendars. Practically speaking, what happens is that people give and receive “til gud” and will tell you “til gud ghya aani goad-goad bola.” Til here is sesame seeds, and gud is jaggery. What you get are these little sweet delicious balls of til gud, and what they’re saying is to take the til gud and say only good things.

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Highlighted Festivals in Mumbai, India

  • Diwali – This is the Hindu festival of lights, usually falls in October, and meant to celebrate the victory of good over evil, with Lord Rama returning victorious after defeating the demons led by Ravana. People wear new clothes, and exchange gifts and sweets. The firecrackers are what you will remember, though. It’s a war zone on every street, and you’re likely to have a rocket wizzing up your pants if you decide to take a walk.
  • Ganesh Chaturthi – Festival held in Aug/Sept in honor of Lord Ganesha – he’s the one with an elephant head and trunk, and a fondness for sweets. It’s a spectacular sight in Mumbai for ten days when people go around all over the city to see the biggest and best decorations and massive Lord Ganesha statues. It all comes to an end with a never-ending flow of trucks coming in from all over Mumbai, taking the Lord to the beaches to be set afloat in the ocean.
  • Holi – Festival of colors that falls in March. Either don’t go out or be ready to come back looking like a piece of modern art, painted black, red, yellow, green, blue, silver and a lot of other nasty smelling paints that you’ll have to scrub off later with industrial-grade paint removers. It doesn’t come off your hair for at least a week!