Free India, January
Ganesh Chaturthi, August or September
Durga Puja, October
Navratri & Dussehra, September or October
Diwali, October or November
Post-monsoon cool lingers, with chilly mornings, but comfortable midday temperatures. Pleasant weather and several festivals make it a popular time to travel in India, while Delhi hosts big Republic Day celebrations.
Sankranti, the Hindu festival marking the sun’s passage into Capricorn, takes place on either 14 or 15 January, and is celebrated with mass kite-flying events across North India, including at Connaught Place in Delhi.
On Vasant Panchami, Hindus dress in yellow and place books, musical instruments and other educational objects in front of idols of Saraswati, the goddess of learning, to receive her blessing. The holiday falls on 29 January 2020 and 16 February 2021.
The winter chill is beginning to lift in Delhi, though mornings are still cold. Usually less fog than in the other winter months.
Tibetan New Year
The Tibetan enclave of Majnu-ka-Tilla is the place to be in Delhi during Losar which falls on 25 February 2020 and 11 February 2021.
This day of Hindu fasting recalls the tandava (cosmic victory dance) of Lord Shiva. Temple processions are followed by the chanting of mantras and anointing of linga (phallic images of Shiva). Shivaratri falls on 21 February 2020 and 11 March 2021.
Delhi Literary Festival
Annual three-day festival at Dilli Haat market, with book readings, poetry recitals, music and drama.
The transition from winter to summer is one of the best times to visit Delhi. There's a slight nip in the air in the mornings, but afternoons are pleasantly balmy.
One of North India’s most ecstatic festivals; Hindus celebrate the beginning of spring by throwing coloured water and gulal (powder) at anyone within range. Bonfires the night before symbolise the demise of demoness Holika. (Upcoming dates: 10 March 2020; 29 March 2021; 8 March 2022.)
The heat has officially arrived with temperatures soaring above 30°C (86°F), although the start of the month is more comfortable.
During Rama Navami, which lasts anywhere from one to nine days, Hindus celebrate Rama's birth with processions, music, fasting and feasting, enactments of scenes from the Ramayana and, at some temples, ceremonial weddings of Rama and Sita idols. (Upcoming dates: 2 April 2020; 21 April 2021; 10 April 2022.)
Mahavir Jayanti commemorates the birth of Jainism’s 24th and most important tirthankar (teacher and enlightened being). Temples are decorated and visited, Mahavir statues are given ritual baths, processions are held and offerings are given to the poor. (Upcoming dates: 6 April 2020; 25 April 2021; 14 April 2022.)
Easter Sunday services are held at churches across the city. Top-end hotels host Easter lunches. (Upcoming dates: 12 April 2020; 4 April 2021; 17 April 2022.)
Thirty days of dawn-to-dusk fasting mark the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims traditionally turn their attention to God, with a focus on prayer and purification. Ramadan begins around 24 April 2020; 12 April 2021; 2 April 2022.
It's hot – really hot – as humidity builds up, awaiting the release of the rain.
Buddha Jayanti is quiet but moving: devotees dress simply, eat vegetarian food, listen to dharma talks and visit temples. (Upcoming dates: 30 April 2020; 8 April 2021; 8 April 2022.)
Mangoes are indigenous to India, which is why they’re so ridiculously good here (seriously, it’s ridiculous). The season starts in March; in May the fruit is sweet, juicy and everywhere.
Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan with three days of festivities. Prayers, shopping, gift-giving and, for women and girls, mehndi (henna designs) may all be part of the celebrations. (Upcoming dates: 24 May 2020; 12 May 2021; 2 May 2022.)
June is low, low season for travellers in India due to the heat, and Delhi is no exception with temperatures reaching to 45°C (104°F) and festivals taking a back seat. Monsoon rains sometimes begin at the end of the month.
All going well, the rains should be here by now, allowing for more manageable (but still very hot) temperatures. Downpours can leave streets ankle deep in water at times.
Muslims commemorate Ibrahim’s readiness to sacrifice his son to God by slaughtering a goat or sheep and sharing it with family, the community and the poor. (Upcoming dates: 31 July 2020; 19 July 2021; 9 July 2022.)
Monsoon rains are still taking the sting out of the summer heat, but although it's not as bad as May, June and July, it is still very hot for some people.
This public holiday on 15 August celebrates India’s Independence from Britain in 1947. The Prime Minister addresses the nation from the Red Fort and there's pigeon racing and kite flying in Old Delhi.
Hindus celebrate the 10-day Ganesh Chaturthi, the celebration of the birth of the much-loved elephant-headed god, with verve. Ganesh temples are decked out for the occasion, and clay idols of Ganesh are paraded through the streets before being ceremonially immersed in the Yamuna River. (Upcoming dates: 22 August 2020; 10 September 2021; 31 August 2022.)
Janmastami celebrations can last a week in Krishna’s birthplace, Mathura; in Delhi the festivities range from fasting to puja (prayers) and offering sweets, to drawing elaborate rangoli (rice-paste designs) outside homes. (Upcoming dates: 23 August 2020; 30 August 2021; 18 August 2022.)
The rain is now petering out (with temperatures still relatively high), although there are still a few sporadic downpours.
Shiite Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson Imam Hussain, an event known as Ashura, with fasting, beautiful processions and a month of grieving and remembrance. (Upcoming dates: 9 September 2019, 28 August 2020; 18 August 2021.)
This is when India's travel season starts to kick off in earnest. October, aka shoulder season, brings festivals, decent weather with reasonably comfy temperatures, and post-rain greenery in the city's parks.
The national holiday of Gandhi Jayanti is a solemn celebration of Mohandas Gandhi’s birth, on 2 October, with prayer meetings at his cremation site at Raj Ghat.
The conquest of good over evil is exemplified by the goddess Durga’s victory over buffalo-headed demon Mahishasura. Large pandals (temporary religious structures) are erected at various sites, with the oldest at Kashmere Gate. Durga idols are then transported (sometimes by bullock-cart) to the river to be immersed. It falls on 1 October 2019, 22 October 2020 and 15 October 2021.
The exuberant Hindu ‘Festival of Nine Nights’ leading up to Dussehra celebrates the goddess Durga in all her incarnations. Dances and shows are held across the city; Dilli Haat market usually hosts some. (Upcoming start dates: 29 September 2019, 17 October 2020; 6 October 2021; 26 September 2022.)
Colourful Dussehra celebrates the victory of the Hindu god Rama over the demon-king Ravana and the triumph of good over evil, and towering effigies of Ravana, Meghnad, and Kumbhakaran are burned to the ground (Upcoming dates: 7 October 2019, 25 October 2020; 15 October 2021; 5 October 2022.)
Several days of Sufi singing and classical dance against the beautiful backdrop of the Qutab Minar Complex.
Temperatures are very comfortable, but the city is often choked in smog, partly from the usual big-city pollution, but also from Diwali fire-crackers and the seasonal crop-burning in surrounding regions.
The Prophet Mohammed's Birthday
The Islamic festival of Eid-Milad-un-Nabi celebrates the birth of the Prophet Mohammed with prayers and processions. (Upcoming dates: 9 November 2019; 28 October 2020; 18 October 2021.)
Diwali (Festival of Lights)
In the lunar month of Kartika, Hindus celebrate Diwali for five days. There's massive build up to this, and on the day people exchange gifts, set off fireworks and fire-crackers, and light lamps to lead Lord Rama home from exile. One of India’s noisiest festivals. (Upcoming dates: 27 October 2019, 14 November 2020; 4 November 2021.)
Guru Nanak's Birthday
Nanak Jayanti, birthday of Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism, is celebrated with prayer, kirtan (devotional singing) and processions for three days. Head to Bangla Sahib, Delhi's largest gurdwara (Sikh temple). (Upcoming dates: 12 November 2019; 30 November 2020; 19 November 2021.)
The smog improves (slightly), but temperatures drop to quite chilly levels by the middle of December, though it's still pleasantly warm in the midday sun.
Marriage season peaks in December, and you may see a baraat (bridegroom’s procession), featuring white horse, nervous protagonist and fireworks, on your travels. Loud music and spectacular several-day parties are the way they roll, with brides in mehndi (henna) and pure gold.
Many of India’s 1250-plus bird species perform their winter migration from November to January or February, and top birdwatching spots, such as Sultanpur National Park just outside Delhi, are peppered with twitchers; www.birding.in is an excellent resource.
Delhi International Arts Festival
This festival features three weeks of international classical and contemporary dance, music, performing arts and exhibitions at venues Delhi-wide.
Delhi International Film Festival
Annual film festival screening around 200 films from 50-odd countries over a week-long period.
Midnight Masses are held at some churches on Christmas Eve (the one at the Vatican Embassy Chapel is particularly atmospheric), and Christmas Day lunch can be had at some top-end hotels (the Imperial, for example). Christmas markets pop up around this time too.
Many festivals follow the Indian lunar calendar (a complex system based on astrology) or the Islamic calendar (which falls about 11 days earlier each year), and therefore change annually relative to the Gregorian calendar. Contact local tourist offices for festival dates.