Events Planner: Religious festivals

Where to worship gods, from Bhutan to Zanzibar



14-22 October, Vegetarian Festival, Phuket

This slightly unnerving festival dates back to the late 19th century when a Chinese opera company hired to entertain a community of ex-pat workers in Phuket fell ill and consequently missed their daily worship of the nine emperor gods. Fearing that sickness would strike again the following year, the community abstained from all impurities, including eating meat, drinking alcohol, engaging in sexual activity and killing. They also practised self-mutilation to cleanse themselves, piercing parts of their anatomy with sharpened implements. Today the festival involves lively invocation of the gods with drums and offerings, processions with images of the gods, fire walking, bathing in hot oil, walking on blades and letting off fireworks. Further information from Tourism Authority of Thailand on 020-7925 2511;


19-25 September, Thimphu Tsechu Festival, Thimphu

Every September the Bhutanese capital of Thimphu resounds with celebrations for this major tsechu, or tantric Buddhist festival. It honours the guru Padmasambhava, born from a lotus flower. Communities gather in the dzong (a walled fortress inside which the monasteries stand) to watch medieval dances and religious rituals that include a masked sword dance. Thousands of devotees dressed in colourfully embroidered silk are kept in order by clowns brandishing wooden phalluses. The climax is the unveiling of a tapestry of the guru, an act that, for those who witness it, is said to lead to enlightenment. Details from Bhutan Ministry of Tourism (00 975 2 323252;


18 October, Cirio de Nazare, Belem

At the mouth of the Amazon lies Belem, where, each October, the virgin of Nazare is honoured. Originally, she is said to have rescued a dignitary who had fallen from his horse in Portugal, and later the story was transported to Brazil, where she is reputed to have saved an Amazonian hunter. At the Belem festival, a procession follows an effigy of the virgin - placed on a litter that is adorned with hundreds of flowers and other decorations - around the city, ending up at the Basilica of Nazare. Behind the litter are floats carrying priests and children dressed as angels, with devotees circling the litter with a rope, to represent the unbreakable bond between themselves

and the virgin. After the effigy has been transported to the basilica, the festivities continue in true Latin-American style, with plenty of music, dancing, eating and drinking, and fireworks. For more information, contact the Embassy of Brazil (020-7399 9000;


31 October- 2 November, Day of the Dead, Patzcuaro (Michoacan)

Far from being a morbid graveside ceremony, the Day of the Dead is a joyous celebration of the continuity of life, with candlelit vigils, vibrant decorations, flowers and humorous skeleton models. The tradition dates back to the Zapotec Indians, who believed that the spirits of the dead visited their loved ones once a year, and that families must prepare a celebration for them to enjoy on this day. So, on 1 November, cemeteries are illuminated with hundreds of candles and decorations. One of the best places to witness the event is in Patzcuaro, a small colonial town in Michoacan, inhabited mostly by Purepecha Indians. Expect spooky decorations, costumes, music, food and dancing. Further information from the Mexico Tourist Board (020-7488 9392).


13-18 November, Eid Ul-Fitr

After a month of strict fasting during Ramadan, the Muslim community of Zanzibar celebrates with four days of lively festivities. One of the traditional rites of Eid Ul-Fitr is that men pretend to chase each other with branches from banana trees, while women follow behind singing and dancing. Feasts are held across the island, and passages are read from the Koran. Taarab musicians also take to the streets to play their distinct style of music, which combines Indian and Arabic influences and is traditionally sung in Swahili. The best place to observe the festivities is in the grounds of Mnazi Moja. Visitors to Zanzibar during Ramadan should note that restaurants will close during the day, and strict dress codes should be adhered to. Further information from the Tanzania Tourist Board (00 255 22 213 6177;


18 September, Ganesh Chaturthi Festival, Mumbai

Held across the India, the Ganesh Chaturthi festival celebrates Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god of knowledge and wisdom who rides on a mouse. The pre-festival rituals involve purifying the home by cleaning or whitewashing, then displaying images of the deity. Large clay idols, some measuring more than eight metres high, are created and placed in pavilions and temples. In the days leading up to the festival, priests invoke life into the idols by chanting mantras and making offerings. On the day of the festival the idols are taken in mass processions to the sea or to rivers, accompanied by singing and dancing, where they are immersed in the water. One of the best places to see the festival is Mumbai, where the celebrations are particularly grand and lively.

Further information from India Tourism on 020-7437 3677;

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations should be regarded as an offensive act
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Morrissey pictured in 2013
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices