Madhya Pradesh has a long-drawn history of religious sites, rulers, their monuments, etc. Every nook and cranny of this “heart of Incredible India” can be seen bustling with this temple or that mosque, sharing space with forts, stepwells, memorial monuments, and the likes. But this deep-rooted historical importance of the state has also formed yet another mesmerizing cultural aspect that not many outsiders know about. The festivals of Madhya Pradesh go far and wide in number. Whether it is a musical gathering, a tribal harvest festival or a religious affair – different parts of Madhya Pradesh can be seen lit up, hosting a boisterous amount of people every year.
01. Lokrang Festival
Madhya Pradesh has a significant tribal population and is home to 46 tribes. To celebrate this rich tribal presence in the state, the Lokrang Festival is celebrated. This annual festival takes place in Bhopal city and is organized by the Adivasi Lok Kala Academy. This four-day-long festival takes place in January and folk musicians and dancers from these tribal communities perform on the stage. There is food and handicrafts stall of different tribes set up for the visitors as well.
02. Akhil Bharatiya Kalidas Samaroh
The Akhil Bharatiya Kalidas Samaroh is an annual event that takes place in the city of Ujjain. This fair celebrates Sanskrit poets and writers like Kalidas and Vatsyayana, as well as Hindi literary giants like Pandit Surya Narayan Vyas and Shivmangal Singh Suman. This event is a platform to indulge in poetry, theatre and music. This festival was first inaugurated in 1958 by India’s first president, Dr Rajendra Prasad. and takes place in the months of November and December every year.
03. Lokranjan or Khajuraho Festival
Organized by the Lok Kala Academy, the Lokranjan Festival is also fondly known as the Khajuraho Dance Festival. It takes place in Khajuraho every year from 8th to 12th December. This five-day-long festival sees folk dance artists from all over the country, performing and sharing one stage. This festival vibrantly displays the many folk and tribal dances of India.
04. Bhagoria Haat Festival
The Bhagoria Festival is one of Madhya Pradesh’s most widely celebrated festivals. It has a special importance in the regions of Jhabua, Badwani, Khargone and Alirajpur districts of Madhya Pradesh. It is a tribal festival which is celebrated by the Barela, Bhil and Bhilala tribes of the state. It is celebrated at the end of the crop harvesting season. Adjoining parts of Maharashtra also celebrate this festival which occurs just before Holi and lasts for seven days. It includes community activities like cooking special delicacies, performing folk dances and singing folk songs. The village markets deck up with a special market known as Bhagoria Haat and the last day of the Bhagoria Haat coincides with the rituals of Holika Dahan.
05. Ujjain Kumbh Mela
The Ujjain Kumbh Mela, also known as Ujjain Simhastha, is a Hindu religious fair that takes place in the city of Ujjain every 12 years. It is believed that Lord Vishnu dropped four drops of Amrit on Earth from a Kumbh or pot. These four sites are today known to be the Kumbh Mela sites – of which Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh is one. Kumbh Mela is largely a river-side festival. In Ujjain, it takes place by the Shipra River. The last Ujjain Kumbh Mela took place in 2016 and is a major Hindu festival that sees millions of pilgrims.
06. Malwa Utsav
The Malwa Utsav is an annual, five days long festival that takes place in the cities of Ujjain and Indore. This festival is organized to celebrate the cultural beauty of the Malwa region that lies in the north-west side of Madhya Pradesh, adjoined by Rajasthan. The festival includes several traditional music and dance performances, along with an arts and handicrafts exhibition of the region. The festival pays homage to the Natya Shastra which was compiled by sage Bharata Muni.
07. Nagaji Fair
The Nagaji Fair is celebrated in the Morena district of Madhya Pradesh. This festival honours Sain Nagaji who lived during the rule of Akbar. The hotspot for the festivities of this fair is the Porsa village, where Nagaji used to live. This fair goes on for almost a month and is celebrated in the month of November or December. One of the highlights of this festival includes the trade of monkeys in the village markets. A lot of marriages also take place during this one month, since this is regarded as an auspicious time. This is majorly a tribal festival which is celebrated by tribes like Saharia, Bedia and others.
08. Chethiyagiri Vihara Festival
The Chethiyagiri Vihara Festival is a major festival of the Buddhist people. It is celebrated in Sanchi in the Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh each year in November. During the festival, the two important relics of Buddhism by Sai Puttha and Maha Moggallana are taken out for the pilgrims to see and offer prayers to. Sai Puttha and Maha Moggallana were two of Buddha’s earliest disciples and their relics were found in the Stupa No. 3 of Sanchi in 1853 and were placed in the Chaitygiri Temple. This two-day long festival was started in 1952 and always takes place on a weekend. Buddhist pilgrims from as far as Japan and Sri Lanka visit this festival to pay their respects.
09. Tansen Sangeet Samaroh
The Tansen Sangeet Samaroh is a musical extravaganza that takes place every year in the Behat village of Gwalior District. This four-day-long festival is celebrated in the memory of Tansen, a great Hindustani classical musician who lived in the 16th century. The Samaroh is organized by the Ustad Alauddin Khan Kala Evam Sangeet Academy, near the tomb of Tansen. Some of the country’s greatest musicians are invited to this gathering to deliver performances. Every year, the National Tansen Samman, which is an award of great prestige, is conferred upon a musician during the festival.
10. Ameer Khan Festival
The Ameer Khan Festival is celebrated in the Bhopal and Indore cities of Madhya Pradesh to celebrate devotional Sufi music and one can see various Sufi performances here. This is a one-day long festival and Kathak performances are also a part of this event. This festival is celebrated in Honour of Ameer Khan Sahab who was an esteemed musician and is fondly known as the founder of the Indore Gharana.
11. Dhrupad Samaroh
The Dhrupad Samaroh is organized to celebrate the Dhrupad form of Hindustani classical music. The Dhrupad style of music is devotional and spiritual, which was also renowned during the Mughal Empire. This musical festival takes place in Bhopal and includes a number of Dhrupad music performances.
12. Rashtriya Hindi Natya Samaroh
The Rashtriya Hindi Natya Samaroh takes place every year. This is one of the biggest festivals that celebrates Hindi theatres. The event comprises of a number of drama performances on several thought-provoking topics pertaining to politics and society. It is truly a treat for those who are passionate about theatre.
13. Alami Tablighi Ijtima
Also known as the Bhopal Tablighi Ijtema, this is an annual Islamic congregation. This festival was first started by Masjid Shakoor Khan in 1949 in Bhopal. But since 2005, the venue was shifted to Taj-ul-Masjid in a nearby town called Ghasipur. This annual gathering takes place in November and starts on a Friday and goes on until Monday and sees large numbers of pilgrims attending each year. This event consists of a series of lectures on various topics, including the Six Principles of Islam and the Islamic way of life.
14. Bundeli Utsav
The Bundeli Utsav is a celebration of the arts, crafts, music, dance, and food of the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. This annual fair takes place each year on the day of Basant Panchami and goes on for the next seven days. The festival is organized in the Basari Village of Chhatarpur district by the Bundeli Vikas Sansthan. The festival includes a number of events and competitions like folk dance, music, archery etc. and participants from eight districts of Madhya Pradesh and six districts of Uttar Pradesh that form the Bundelkhand region come together to compete. Many Bundelkhandi folk dances like Raai, Diwari, and Ravala and folk music like Faag, Khayal, and Lamtera amongst other are performed during the festival.
Hareli is an agricultural festival celebrated by a number of tribal communities, especially the Gondi people in Madhya Pradesh and the adjoining state of Chhattisgarh. It is a prominent festival which worships Kutki Dai, the goddess of the crop. Hareli is celebrated during the monsoons, usually in July or August, when the sowed seeds finally start germinating, giving way to a lot of greenery or Hariyali, and hence its name. One of the major attractions of this festival is the game of “Gedi” in which children walk on bamboo stick stilts around the fields. Agricultural tools like shovel, axe, and hoe are also worshipped, and this festival is truly a cultural experience to behold!