Durga Puja is a 5 day-religious festival in India, extremely popular in West Bengal. This festival is beyond religion and is more of a social, cultural, artistic, and secular event. It is declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Durga Puja merges with the last 5 days of Navratri. Schools and Colleges are shut and courts, businesses, and offices remain closed too. So Durga Puja is a good time to plan for a vacation. This festival is generally celebrated anytime between September and October, by the Hindu calendar. It is the autumn season when the weather is just perfect for a holiday. India has a huge number of places to explore and from there we bring to you a short list of Durga Puja holiday destinations in India.
For those who have not witnessed Durga Puja of Kolkata firsthand, it is impossible to understand the grand scale of the celebrations. For 5 days of Puja, artists and artisans work throughout the year. Thematic pandals and the idols inside them are works of art. Lights, music, new clothes, ornaments, cultural events, and food make these festive days just pass by so soon. Durga Puja in West Bengal is a seasonal industry feeding hundreds of families. With UNESCO’s recognition of this festival as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2021, Kolkata is gearing up for a hike in international travelers during Durga Pujo. So definitely Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal, is one of the major Durga Puja holiday destinations in India for locals and visitors.
Srinagar in Kashmir
Srinagar must top the list of your Durga Puja holiday destinations in India if ‘the colors of fall’ is on your mind. Kashmir has not been named, “Heaven on Earth”, in vain. Not every place during Indian Autumn will offer one with a red carpet of thick foliage and shades of gold and scarlet. The radiant leaves of the Chinar trees of Srinagar create this magic in the heavenly landscape. Hues of red, purple, orange, yellow, and amber all around due to the shedding of chinar leaves mark the onset of autumn in the valley. The locals call autumn ‘Harud’ and the shedding of Chinar leaves ‘Buen’. The Dal Lake and the Mughal Gardens amidst the gorgeous Himalayas and the surroundings adorned with mystic flames of Chinar make Srinagar one of the world’s most romantic places in autumn.
Dooars in West Bengal
While West Bengal is in a frenzied festive fervor during Durga Puja, there are some pockets that are far from the madding crowd. People who like peace and calm should consider Dooars as one of their Durga Puja holiday destinations in India. Dooars is the doorway to the Eastern Himalayas. Set at the foothills, in autumn, just after the monsoon. The green rolling landscape gets greener, the deep forests get deeper and the rivers and streams are fuller.
Dooars is dotted with several National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries like Jaldapara National Park, Gorumara National Park, Buxa Tiger Reserve, Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary, Chilapata Forests, and Rajabhatkhawa Forests. The safaris are extremely exciting and the sighting of animals like elephants, rhinos, deer, wild boar, gaurs, and others is definite. From September elephant corridors remain busy and it is a grand opportunity for jungle lovers. Dooars is also a bird lovers’ paradise. Peacocks flock around and several others are also noticed. Tea estates and scenic spots like Chalsa, Murti, Samsing, and Suntalekhola are the best places to escape the rush of Durga Puja crowds.
Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh
After the monsoon, with autumn setting in, the sky clears, and the majestic snow-capped peaks of Dhauladhar welcome visitors at Dharamshala wide-armed. Glistening white peaks against a blue sky is magical. And then there’s magic in this little hill town too with its buzz at McLeod Ganj. McLeod Ganj is upper Dharamshala where Tibetan Government-in-exile is headquartered. Namgyal Monastery even houses the residence of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama.
The place is always bustling with joy and life. Colorful prayer flags and Buddhist monks roam around the streets adorned with cool cafes, souvenir shops, and curios. Dharamshala is also known for the beautiful HPCA Cricket Stadium and the serene War Museum. St. John in the Wilderness Church is a place where the calm and wilderness are like a balm to the urban soul. Do not miss Bhagsunag falls. In fact, the weather too is perfectly pleasant for adding Dharamshala to your Durga Puja holiday destinations. There are various treks from Dharamshala which can be done to witness the beauty of the ‘fall’ Season.
Cherapunji in Meghalaya
Meghalaya, the abode of clouds, is magical in October. Even though it witnesses huge rainfall throughout the year, October is comparatively less wet. Cherapunji is the land of waterfalls, caves, and living root bridges. The waterfalls are gorgeous after the monsoon is over and fewer showers of rain provide easier access to the caves and the root bridges. Seven Sister Falls, Nohkalikai Falls, Mawsmai Caves, Arwah Caves, Garden of caves, and Double-decker living Root Bridge make the trip to Cherapunji adventurous. The misty weather woven with the unique landscape of Khasi Hills has earned Cherapunji the title, ‘Scotland of the East. Give it a thought when you finally choose from your list of Durga Puja holiday destinations.
Munnar in Kerala
Do add Munnar, the lush paradise of Kerala, to the list of Durga Puja holiday destinations. The weather in Munnar is very pleasant in autumn. Trek to the Echo point and observe the slithering roads through lush tea gardens on the rolling hills and pastures. Kundala Lake, Mattupetty Dam, and Lakkam Waterfalls are at their best as monsoons wrap up by September. Safari at Eravikulam National Park is another gem to be explored at the Nilgiri Hills.
Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand
Several places in Uttarakhand deserve to fill the chart of Durga Puja holiday destinations. Yet let’s focus on the Valley of Flowers trek (above 10000 feet) in the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarakhand. This trek teleports you to dreamland with grassy meadows, rugged gigantic mountains, the Tipra Glacier, the Pushpawati River, and more than 500 types of flowers. During September and October, the flowers are in full bloom and by end of October, the roads are closed. The Valley of Flowers National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is an exotic and breathtaking holiday destination, bound to leave the experience etched in our minds forever.
India is a vast land with unlimited varieties; from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. We have a land of the Thar Desert and the world’s largest mangrove forest, the grand Himalayas, and the Indian Ocean. India is a mixed bag of various cultures and traditions, creating a massive heritage with numerous historical sites. Making a list of Durga Puja holiday destinations in India is tough and finally boiling down to one is even tougher.
A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.