Events Planner: Religious festivals

Where to worship gods, from Bhutan to Zanzibar


THAILAND

THAILAND

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; www.phuket.com

BHUTAN

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; www.kingdomofbhutan.com).

BRAZIL

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; www.brazil.org.uk).

MEXICO

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).

ZANZIBAR

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; www.tanzaniatouristboard.com).

INDIA

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; www.indiatouristoffice.org

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones