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USEFUL INFO

CUSTOMS & RITUALS

India is a land of often bewildering diversity.  It is a jigsaw puzzle of people – of every faith and religion, living together to create a unique and colourful mosaic.  There is a festival for every reason and for every season.  Many festivals celebrate the various harvests, commemorate great historical figures and events, while many express devotion to the deities of different religions. Every celebration centres around the rituals of prayer, seeking blessings, exchanging goodwill, decorating houses, wearing new clothes, music, dance and feasting.

Namaskar –  Namaskar or Namaste is the most popular form of greeting in India.  It is a general salutation that is used to welcome somebody and also for bidding farewell. While doing namaskar, both the palms are placed together and raised below the face to greet a person. It is believed that both the hands symbolise one mind, or the self meeting the self.  While the right hand represents higher nature, the left hand denotes wordly or lower nature.  Other common forms of greetings by various communities and regions in India are Sat-sri-akal by the Sikhs, Adaab by the Muslims, Vannakkam by the Tamilians, Juley by the Laddhakis and Tashi Delag by the Sikkimese, amongst others.

Tilak –  Tilak is a ritual mark on the forehead.  It can be put in many forms as a sign of blessing, greeting or auspiciousness.  The tilak is usually made out of a red vermilion paste (kumkum) which is a mixture of turmeric, alum, iodine, camphor, etc.  It can also be of a sandalwood paste (chandan) blended with musk. The tilak is applied on the spot between the brows which is considered the seat of latent wisdom and mental concentration, and is very important for worship.  This is the spot on which yogis meditate to become one with Lord Brahma. It also indicates the point at which the spiritual eye opens. All thoughts and actions are said to be governed by this spot.  Putting of the coloured mark symbolises the quest for the ‘opening’ of the third eye.

All rites and ceremonies of the Hindus begin with a tilak topped with a few grains of rice placed on this spot with the indix finger or the thumb. The same custom is followed while welcoming or biddig farewell to guests or relations.

Arati – All rites and ceremonies of the Hindus begin eith a tilak topped with a few grains of rice placed on this spot with the index finger or the thumb. The same custom is followed while welcoming or bidding farewell to guests or relations.

Arati – Is performed as an act of veneration and love.  It is often performed as a mark of worship and to seek blessings from God, to welcome the guests, for children on their birthdays, family members on auspicious occasions or to welcome a newly wedded couple.  Five small lamps called niranjanas are filled with ghee or oil and arranged in a small tray made of metal.  A wick is made out of cotton wool and placed in the lamps. A conch-shell filled with water, auspicious leaves or flowers, incense or lighted camphor are also placed in the tray. The lamps are lit and the tray is rotated in a circular motion in front of the deity or the person to be welcomed.  The purpose of performing arati is to ward off evil effects and the influence of the ‘evil eye’.

Garlanding  –  Flower garlands are generally offered as a mark of respect and honour.  They are offered to welcome the visitors or in honour to the Gods and Goddesses.  The garlands are generally made with white jasmine and orange marigold flowers.  They are weaved in thread tied at the end with the help of a knot.

Bindi  – A bindi is an auspicious mark worn by young girls and women. Bidi is derived from bindu, the Sanskrit word for dot.  It is usually a red dot made with vermilion powder which is worn by women between their eyebrows on their forehead.  Considered a symbol of Goddess Parvati, a bindi signifies female energy and is belived to protect women and their husbands. Traditionally, a symbol of marriage, it has become decorative and is worn today by unmarried girls and women as well.  No longer restricted in colour or shape, bindis are seen in many bright colours and in different shape and designs. They are also made of coloured felt and embellished with coloured glass or glitter.

Nose Pin – Many Indian women wear a pin on their nose studded with stones, called a nose pin. A symbol of purity and marriage, the nose pin is today adorned by many unmarried girls as well.

Mangalsutra –  Is a necklace made of black beads, worn only by the married women as a mark of being married. It is the Indian equivalent of the western wedding ring.  The mangalsutra is tied by the groom around his bride’s neck.  Mangalsutra is generally made out of two strings of small black beads with a gold pendant. The black beads are believed to act as protection against evil. The married women wear this to protect their marriage and the life of their husband.  In southern India, the mangalsutra is called ‘tali’. It is a small gold ornament, strung on a cotton cord or a gold chain.

Shakha-Paula  –  are a pair of shell (shakha) and red coral (paula) bangles worn as marriage symbols by the Bengali women.


GENERAL BOOKING INFO

Visas
All UK visitors to India must obtain a valid visa prior to arrival. The standard tourist visa is valid for 6 months from the date of issue and allows multiple entry into India.  Your passport must be valid for a minimum of 190 days from the date the visa is issued, with at least two completely clean blank pages. Additional conditions may apply to non-UK passport holders, those who originate from other countries eg. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and those of certain professions eg. journalists, musicians and other performers.

Holiday Money
Please ensure that you have enough money for your needs.  You can change sterling with reputable money agents at the arriving airport after clearing through customs. Hotels and travel agents will change money but will charge higher commission.  Travellers cheques are the safest and easiest way to take money abroad.  All major credit cards are accepted in larger resorts but debit cards are not. Please be very careful with any cash you take with you.  Indian currency (rupees) may not be imported or exported from India.

Travel insurance
It is advisable to take out your travel insurance at the time of booking your trip as cover will commence for pre-departure cancellation from the policy issue date. This will, therefore, provide cover should you have to cancel your trip for an insured reason such as illness or serious accident.  We strongly recommend that you and all members of your party are adequately insured, providing financial protection against unforeseen circumstances. Cover should include medical expenses and repatriation in the event of accident or illness. In addition, we strongly recommend that you have cover for personal belongings, delay at your outward or homeward point of departure, personal liability, overseas legal expenses and cancellation. If you are undertaking any sports or adventurous activities, including trekking on your trip, you should also make sure that your policy covers these. Please also ensure you read the policy conditions and exclusions.  We are unable to provide you with detailed information and you should contact the company concerned directly for this. Please note this is general information only. We are not providing any specific advice on travel insurance or recommending any particular policy or insurer.

Financial security
Avion Holidays holds an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL) issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (ATOL number 3590). All the flight-inclusive holidays that we provide are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay, you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked is listed on it.  Please see our booking conditions for further information about financial protection andwww.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate for further information on the ATOL Certificate.

This financial protection means your money will be refunded or you will be returned to the starting point of your contracted arrangements if already abroad in the unlikely event of our being unable to provide your holiday due to our insolvency.

Health
It is essential that you see your GP or a travel clinic before booking your trip and before travelling to make sure that you have taken all the necessary health precautions. Some vaccinations require more than one visit with a period of weeks between injections. You should visit your GP at least six weeks before departure. For up to date medical advice you may wish to use the Medical Advisory Service for Travellers Abroad (MASTA). Visit www.masta-travel-health.com to obtain a ‘Health Brief’ specifically tailored to your journey. Your brief will give information about immunisations and malaria as well as any Foreign Office advice and the latest health news.

Other health information services are available, including www.nathnac.org and www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
The majority of international airlines now issue advice on how to lessen the risk of DVT, however, if you have any concerns, we recommend that you consult your doctor.

Pre-existing medical conditions/Disabled passengers
It is essential that you advise us before booking if you have any disability or pre-existing medical condition which may affect your holiday, or any special requirements as a result of any disability or medical condition (including any which affect the booking process) so that we can assist you in considering the suitability of the arrangements and/or making the booking. It will also enable us to make sure you receive the relevant level of assistance when you fly.  Full details must be confirmed in writing at the time of booking and whenever any change in the condition or disability occurs. You must also promptly advise us if any medical condition or disability which may affect your holiday develops after your booking has been confirmed.  The nature of many of the destinations we travel to means that in the majority of cases they are unsuitable for those who are wheelchair-bound or have a lack of mobility. We will be delighted to discuss the feasibility of creating a tailor-made itinerary for you that takes into consideration your level of mobility.

Smoking
Airlines do not permit smoking on the aircraft.  For smokers travelling on a tailor-made tour we request that you check with your driver or guide whether smoking is permitted in the vehicle.

Health and safety standards
Each country has its own regulations and enforcement levels relating to health and safety standards. These do not always match the very high standards we are used to in the UK. We therefore recommend that you follow a few precautionary safety procedures. Always check where the nearest fire exit is and how to raise the fire alarm. Do not enter a swimming pool before checking the water depth first.

Travel advice
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office Travel Advice Unit monitors all overseas destinations and offers safety advice to British travellers. To view the advice you can visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

Flights and airlines
The difference between a direct flight and a non-stop flight can cause confusion. To clarify, on a direct flight no change of aircraft is scheduled but touchdowns will be made en route either to refuel or to board or disembark passengers. On nonstop flights no change of aircraft is required and no stops are made en route. Exact details of your route will be given in your itinerary.

Premium Economy, Business and First Class
If you require business or first class flights these can be arranged on most airlines at competitive rates. Premium economy can be arranged on certain airlines, please call us for details.

Specific seat requests
We will do all we can to try to reserve a specific seat for you, if you have a preference. However, whilst airlines may allow us to request seats, they will not guarantee any specific seat reservation. If this is important to you, it is always best to arrive for your flight early, regardless of having made this request in advance. Please make it clear on your booking form if you have a specific request.

Flight amendments
We generally use special ‘inclusive tour’ fares when we purchase your air tickets from the airlines. While these fares are very good value they are inflexible in terms of changes and offer no refunds once the tickets are issued. Once your flight is confirmed the airlines will charge an amendment fee or insist on the purchase of a completely new ticket if you make changes.

Internal flights
Smaller local airlines are often more likely to change their schedule at short notice.  We will endeavour to inform you of any changes in advance of travelling but this may not always be possible.

Frequent Flyer Clubs
If you collect points through any of the airline frequent flyer clubs please provide your membership details on the booking form and we will ensure that these are recorded against your flight reservation.  Please note that on some of our specially negotiated ‘inclusive tour’ fares points are not always awarded.

Hotel information
There is often confusion over the terminology used for bed arrangements in hotel rooms. A ‘double’ is recognised as meaning a room with a double bed, this may be two single beds pushed together. A ‘twin’ is a room with two single beds. Please note that all rooms are allocated at the discretion of the hotel and cannot be guaranteed.

Single rooms
Single rooms tend to be smaller than double or twin rooms, however, many hotels do not have single rooms, in which case you will be allocated a twin or double room.

Special dietary requirements
Special diets should be requested in advance of travel; however, it is unrealistic to expect special diets to be catered for in some of the destinations we feature.  We will advise the hotels and airlines of your request but we cannot guarantee their availability. If you have an airborne nut allergy you must make us aware at the time of booking as most airlines require this information in advance of travel.

Accuracy of information
We thoroughly check all the information that is included in individual tour itineraries; however, changes do occur and errors are occasionally made. Airlines may change their schedules, roads may close and government regulations may alter. Should there be any changes to the travel arrangements you have booked we will do our best to keep you informed of the situation prior to departure.

Travel in the developing world
Many of our destinations are in the developing world where attitudes, infrastructure, priorities, lifestyles and cultures are very different from our own.  This is often the very reason to visit the destination but certain aspects may be frustrating. We always advise that the first thing you should pack is your sense of humour topped up with lots of patience. This can prove invaluable when travelling over rougher roads, waiting for a delayed aircraft and communicating with hotel staff whose first language is not English.

Legal liability
Avion Holidays are a UK company and hence must fully comply with English law. When booking with us you can be rest assured that your arrangements are carefully planned as we have a reputation to maintain and are legally liable for any omissions or negligent acts.

Data Protection Act
We will hold your name, address and any other details you supply us with on our database. This information will be used to make your travel arrangements and to send you information about Avion Holidays. In order to make your travel arrangements we will need to pass your details to companies and individuals outside the EU where less stringent data protection controls may be in place. We will not pass on your details to third parties for any other purposes.

OUR RESPONSIBILITY

(i) We promise to make sure that all parts of the holiday we have agreed to arrange, perform or provide as part of our contract with you are arranged, performed or provided with reasonable skill and care. This means that, subject to these booking conditions, we will accept responsibility if, for example, you suffer death or personal injury or your contracted holiday arrangements are not provided as promised or prove deficient as a result of the failure of ourselves, our employees, agents or suppliers to use reasonable skill and care in making, performing or providing, as applicable, your contracted holiday arrangements. Please note, it is your responsibility to show that reasonable skill and care has not been used if you wish to make a claim against us. In addition, we will only be responsible for what our employees, agents and suppliers do or do not do if they were at the time acting within the course of their employment (for employees) or carrying out work we had asked them to do (for agents and suppliers). We will not be responsible for any injury, illness, death, loss (including loss of enjoyment), damage, expense, cost or other sum or claim of any description whatsoever which results from any of the following:-
(a) the fault of the person(s) affected or any member(s) of their party or (b) the fault of a third party not connected with the provision of your holiday which we could not have predicted or avoided or (c) an event or circumstance which we or the supplier of the service(s) in question could not have predicted or avoided even after taking all reasonable care (see clause 5) (d) the fault of anyone who is not carrying out work for us (generally or in particular) at the time. In addition, we will not be responsible where you do not enjoy your holiday or suffer any problems because of a reason you did not tell us about when you booked your holiday or where any problems you suffer did not result from any breach of our contract or other fault of ourselves or, where we were responsible for them, our suppliers or agents or where any losses, expenses, costs or other sum you have suffered relate to any business. Please note: we cannot accept responsibility for any services which do not form part of our contract. This includes, for example, any additional services or facilities which your hotel or any other supplier agrees to provide for you where the services or facilities are not advertised in our brochure and we have not agreed to arrange them as part of our contract and any excursion you purchase during your holiday.
(ii) The promises we make to you about the services we have agreed to provide or arrange as part of our contract – and the laws and regulations of the country in which your claim or complaint occurred – will be used as the basis for deciding whether the services in question had been properly provided. If the particular services which gave rise to the claim or complaint complied with local laws and regulations applicable to those services at the time, the services will be treated as having been properly provided.  This will be the case even if the services did not comply with the laws and regulations of the UK which would have applied had those services been provided in the UK. The exception to this is where the claim or complaint concerns the absence of a safety feature which might lead a reasonable holiday maker to refuse to take the holiday in question.
(iii) We limit the maximum amount we may have to pay you for any and all claims or parts of claims which do not involve personal injury, illness or death. Except where loss of and/or damage to luggage or personal possessions is concerned or a lower limitation of liability applies to your claim, the maximum amount we will have to pay you for such non personal injury claims if we are found liable to you on any basis is twice the price (excluding any amendment charges) paid by or on behalf of the person(s) affected in total. This maximum amount will only be payable where everything has gone wrong and you have not received any benefit at all from your holiday. Where we are found liable for loss of and/or damage to any luggage or personal possessions (including money), the maximum amount we will have to pay you is £150 per person affected as you are assumed to have taken out adequate insurance at the time of booking. Please also see clause 7(iv) below.
(iv) Where any claim or part of a claim concerns or is based on any travel arrangements (including the process of getting on and/or off the transport concerned) provided by any air, sea, rail or road carrier or any stay in a hotel, the maximum amount of compensation we will have to pay you will be limited. The most we will have to pay you for that claim or that part of a claim if we are found liable to you on any basis is the most the carrier or hotel keeper concerned would have to pay under the international convention or regulation which applies to the travel arrangements or hotel stay in question (for example, the Warsaw Convention as amended for international travel by air and/or for airlines with an operating licence granted by an EU country, the EU Regulation on Air Carrier Liability for national and international travel by air, the Athens Convention for international travel by sea and COTIF, the Convention on International Travel by Rail). Please note: Where a carrier or hotel would not be obliged to make any payment to you under the applicable International Convention or Regulation in respect of a claim or part of a claim, we similarly are not obliged to make a payment to you for that claim or part of the claim. When making any payment, we are entitled to deduct any money which you have received or are entitled to receive from the transport provider or hotelier for the complaint or claim in question.
(v) You must provide ourselves and our insurers with all assistance we may reasonably require. You must also tell us and the supplier concerned about your claim or complaint as set out in clause 9 below.

BOOKING CONDITIONS

Please read the following conditions carefully. All holidays are sold by us subject to these conditions and the other general information contained on our website and our brochures.

Avion Holidays is the trading name of Luftavion Travel and Tours Limited whose offices are at 59 Gloucester Road, New Barnet, Barnet, Herts, EN5 1NB; VAT registration No. 629 0057 49

1. Paying for your holiday
(i) The procedure for making a booking is shown in your itinerary quotation and on our website. All bookings are subject to these terms and conditions and by asking us to confirm your booking, the person who makes the booking is taken to have accepted these booking conditions on behalf of all persons named on the booking. Once we have received the applicable payment(s) due at the time of booking (see below), we will, subject to availability of the requested arrangements, send you your invoice. It is at the point when we issue this to you that a valid contract will come into existence between us. Please check your confirmation/invoice and all tickets/documents carefully as soon as you receive them and contact us immediately if you think any details are incorrect. We regret we cannot accept any liability if we are not notified of any inaccuracies (for which we are responsible) in any document within ten days of our sending it out (five days for tickets).We will do our best to rectify any mistake notified to us outside these time limits but you must meet any costs involved in doing so.
(ii) The deposit is part payment of the holiday. The deposit required will be shown on the invoice/itinerary. In addition to the deposit, full or part payment of certain elements of your holiday (such as flights) may be required at the time of booking or at some point between booking and balance due date. Also see clause I (iv). The deposit and all such additional payments are non refundable except as set out in clause 4. The balance must be paid not later than the date specified on the invoice. This is normally no less than 8 weeks before the departure date. However, there are a few destinations or trip components that require payment no less than 12 weeks before the departure date which will be specified on your invoice.  Please note if we do not receive all payments due in full and on time, we are entitled to assume that you wish to cancel your booking. In this case, we will be entitled to keep all amounts paid or due at that date. If we do not cancel straight away because you have promised to make payment, you must pay the cancellation charges shown in clause 3 depending on the date we reasonably treat your booking as cancelled.
(iii) Full payment is required at the time of booking for all bookings made after balance due date as above.
(iv) On occasions, we may be asked by suppliers to make payment to them earlier than normal. Such requests may, for example, be made in order to secure accommodation and other services during periods of peak demand. Whilst suppliers may have no contractual right to make such requests, failure to comply with them may result in the loss of confirmed arrangements. Where this situation arises, we reserve the right to ask you to make payment of the requested sum within a stipulated period and prior to balance due date. We will of course endeavour to avoid doing so if we can. Any such early payment will be non refundable except as set out in clause 4.
(v) If you are booking your holiday through one of our authorised travel agents the balance must be paid to the agent two weeks prior to the applicable balance due date as specified on the invoice. All payments made to one of our authorised travel agents for the arrangements we have contracted to provide will be held by them on our behalf. If you book your holiday through a travel agent who is not a member of ABTA, all payments must be made to us directly and not your travel agent.

2. Force majeure
Except as set out in these terms and conditions, we cannot accept liability or pay any compensation where the performance or prompt performance of our contractual obligations is prevented or affected, or you otherwise suffer any loss or damage (as more fully described in clause 7 (i) below) as a result of circumstances amounting to ‘force majeure’. In these terms and conditions ‘force majeure’ means any event or circumstances which we or the supplier of the services in question could not foresee or avoid even with all due care. Such events and circumstances may include, whether actual or threatened, war, insurrection, riots, strikes, civil action, decisions by governments or governing authority, technical or maintenance problems with transport, changes of schedules or operational decisions of air carriers, terrorist activity, industrial action, natural or nuclear activity, epidemics/pandemics, adverse weather conditions, fire and all similar events outside our control.

3. Surcharges
Once the price of your chosen holiday has been confirmed at the time of booking, we will only increase or decrease it in the following circumstances. Price increases or decreases after booking will be passed on by way of a surcharge or refund. A surcharge or refund (as applicable) will be payable, subject to the conditions set out in this clause, if transportation costs (e.g. fuel, scheduled airfares and any other airline surcharges which are part of the contract between airlines (and their agents) and the tour operator) or dues, taxes or fees payable for services such as landing taxes or embarkation or disembarkation fees at ports or airports change.  Even in the above cases, only if the amount of the increase in our costs exceeds 2% of the total cost of your holiday (excluding any amendment charges), will we levy a surcharge. If any surcharge is greater than 10% of the cost of your holiday (excluding any amendment charges), you will be entitled to cancel your booking and receive a full refund of all monies you have paid to us (except for any amendment charges) or alternatively purchase another holiday from us as referred to in clause 4 ‘If we change your holiday’. Please note that travel arrangements are not always purchased in local currency and some apparent changes have no impact on the price of your travel due to contractual and other protection in place.  A refund will only be payable if the decrease in our costs exceeds 2% as set out above. Where a refund is due, we will pay you the full amount of the decrease in our costs.  You have 14 days from the issue date printed on the surcharge invoice to tell us if you want to cancel or purchase another holiday where applicable. If you do not tell us that you wish to do so within this period of time, we are entitled to assume that you will pay the surcharge. Any surcharge must be paid with the balance of the cost of the holiday or within 14 days of the issue date printed on the surcharge invoice, whichever is the later.  We reserve the right to make changes to and correct errors in quoted prices at any time before your holiday is confirmed. We will advise you of any error of which we are aware and of the then applicable price at the time of booking.

4. Complaints
Should you have any complaints about any aspect of your holiday arrangements, you must inform our local representative or tour leader immediately and the supplier of the arrangements concerned. Problems can most easily be dealt with on the spot. Please note, if you do not report a problem or complaint which, if it had been reported at the time it occurred could have been resolved there and then we cannot accept any liability in respect of that problem or complaint. It is sensible to expect a client travelling in the developing world to be reasonably resourceful if things go wrong. If you experience any difficulties, contact us in the UK on our 24 hour emergency telephone service. The number will be found on your pre departure information and with your tickets. In the unlikely event that an acceptable solution cannot be found, you should then write to us within 28 days of your return with full details of your complaint. If you fail to follow this complaints procedure, your right to claim the compensation you may otherwise have been entitled to may be affected or even lost as a result.

5. The brochure and quotation
We have taken every care in ensuring that the information in the brochure and given in itineraries is correct at the time of publication. However we are sure you will appreciate that subsequently minor alterations may arise. We reserve the right to change any of the prices, services or other particulars contained in this brochure or any quotation at any time before we enter into a contract with you. If there is any change we will notify you before we enter into such contract. Where we state that additional information, a fact sheet or a dossier is available on a particular itinerary or programme, this information should be regarded as a term of the contract.  The hotel classifications given in our website and brochure are for guidance only. They are not based on any national or international classification system, they are the opinions of our staff or agents and are quite subjective.

6. Special requests
If you have any special request, you must advise us in writing at the time of booking.  Although we will endeavour to pass any reasonable requests on to the relevant supplier, we regret we cannot guarantee any request will be met unless we have specifically confirmed this. For your own protection, you should obtain confirmation in writing from us that your request will be complied with (where it is possible for us to give this) if your request is important to you. Confirmation that a special request has been noted or passed on to the supplier or the inclusion of the special request on your confirmation invoice or any other documentation is not confirmation that the request will be met. Unless and until specifically confirmed, all special requests are subject to availability.  We regret we cannot accept any conditional bookings, i.e. any booking which is specified to be conditional on the fulfilment of a particular request. All such bookings will be treated as ‘standard’ bookings subject to the above provisions on special requests. If you have any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please tell us before you confirm your booking so that we can advise as to the suitability of the chosen arrangements. In any event, you must give us full details in writing at the time of booking. You must also promptly advise us if any medical condition or disability which may affect your holiday develops after your booking has been confirmed. If we reasonably feel unable to properly accommodate the particular needs of the person concerned, we must reserve the right to decline their reservation or, if full details are not given at the time of booking, cancel when we become aware of these details.

7. Excursions
Please note that we do not provide or arrange excursions other than those listed in your itinerary and forming part of the arrangements booked and paid for in the UK. Our local representatives or guides may put you in touch with local organisers of excursions if you request but we can have no liability for such excursions, as your contract for such excursions will be with a local company providing the services and not with us.

8. Prices and Brochure Accuracy
Please note, the information and prices shown in our brochures and/or quotations may have changed by the time you come to book your holiday. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the brochures, quotations and prices at the time of printing or when they are given to you, regrettably errors do occasionally occur. You must therefore ensure you check all details of your chosen holiday (including the price) with us at the time of booking.

1. If you change your holiday
If, after the contract between us has come into existence, you want to change your holiday we will do our best to pass your request to the relevant supplier, however we cannot guarantee that such changes can be made. Where a change can be made, we will charge for any additional costs incurred including any costs imposed or incurred by any of our suppliers, and including for example cancellation charges that may be incurred for sectors cancelled. You should note, for example, that a change of name on or other alteration to an airline ticket will usually incur a 100% cancellation charge and full rebooking fee.

2. If we change your holiday
We start planning the holidays we offer many months in advance. Occasionally, we have to make changes to and correct errors in itineraries and other details both before and after bookings have been confirmed and cancel confirmed bookings. Whilst we always endeavour to avoid changes and cancellations, we must reserve the right to do so. However, we promise we will only cancel your confirmed booking after balance due date where you have failed to comply with any requirement of these booking conditions entitling us to cancel (such as paying on time) or where we are forced to do so as a result of ‘force majeure’ as defined in clause 5 below. We will not cancel after this date for any other reason. Most changes are minor. Occasionally, we have to make a ‘significant change’. A significant change is a change made before departure which, taking account of the information you give us at the time of booking and which we can reasonably be expected to know as a tour operator, we can reasonably expect to have a major effect on your holiday. Significant changes are likely to include the following changes when made before departure; a change of accommodation to that of a lower official classification or standard for the whole or a major part of the time you are away, a change of accommodation area for the whole or a major part of the time you are away, a change of UK outward departure time or overall length of time you are away of twelve or more hours, or a change of UK departure airport to one which is more inconvenient for you (except as between Gatwick and Heathrow).
Please note: A change affecting a stay in a hotel during a tour where the hotel itself is not the focus of the tour, does not constitute a significant change.  If we have to make a significant change or cancel, we will tell you as soon as possible. If there is time to do so before departure, we will offer you the choice of the following options:-
(a) (for significant changes) accepting the changed arrangements or (b) purchasing an alternative holiday from us, of a similar standard to that originally booked if available. Please note: Due to the original and individual nature of our holidays it frequently may not be possible to offer you a comparable holiday to that originally booked (c) cancelling or accepting the cancellation in which case you will receive a full and quick refund of all monies you have paid to us. You must advise us of your decision within 7 days of the date on which we notified you of the significant change or cancellation. Please note, the above options are not available where any change made is a minor one. A minor change is any change which, taking account of the information you have given us at the time of booking or which we can reasonably be expected to know as a tour operator, we could not reasonably expect to have a significant effect on your confirmed holiday. If we have to make a significant change or cancellation we will pay you the compensation set out below subject to the following exceptions. Compensation will not be payable and no liability beyond offering the above mentioned choices can be accepted where (1) we are forced to make a change or cancel as a result of unusual and unforeseeable circumstances beyond our control, the consequences of which we could not have avoided even with all due care or (2) we have to cancel because the minimum number of bookings necessary for us to operate your holiday has not been reached – in this case we will notify you no less than 60 days before departure. Please note: all escorted group trips are based on group arrangements involving a given minimum number of passengers. No compensation will be payable and the above options will not be available if we cancel as a result of your failure to comply with any requirement of these booking conditions entitling us to cancel (such as paying on time).

Period before scheduled departure within which a major change is notified to you or your travel agent. Compensation per person
More than 60 days NIL
60 – 43 days £10
42 – 29 days £20
28 – 15 days £30
14 days or less £40

In the unlikely event that we become unable to provide a significant proportion of the services you have booked after you depart, we will make alternative arrangements for you at no extra charge, or, if this is impossible, or you do not accept these alternative arrangements for a good reason, we will provide you with transport back to the point where your holiday arrangements with us commenced. If we are forced by ‘force majeure’ (see clause 5) to change or terminate your holiday after departure but before the scheduled end of your time away, we regret we will be unable to make any refunds (unless we obtain any refunds from our suppliers), pay you any compensation or meet any costs or expenses you incur as a result except as set out above.

If you cancel your holiday
If you have to cancel part of the booking or cancel the entire booking once it has been confirmed by us, written notification must be sent to us by recorded delivery post or by email. As proof of receipt by email of your notification to cancel you must receive and retain written acknowledgement from Avion Holidays. Charges will be applied from the date the letter is received, or the email is acknowledged by Avion Holidays, according to the scale below. The charges are applied as a percentage of the total holiday cost excluding any amendment charges and any amounts paid in addition to the deposit at the time of booking or before balance due date (see clauses 1(ii) and I(iv)) which are non refundable in the event of cancellation.

The following cancellation charges apply if your final balance due date is 8 weeks prior to departure. Please note, different cancellation charges apply in relation to certain products – please see your invoice for details.

Period before departure within which notification of cancellation is received by us. Cancellation charge per person cancelling
More than 56 days Deposit only
Between 43 and 55 days 40%
Between 29 and 42 days 60%
Between 15 and 28 days 90%
14 days or less 100%

Alterations or cancellations by you after commencement of travel and unused services
We will do our best to implement any changes to your arrangements you request once they have commenced, but we cannot guarantee this will be possible. In the event of such amendments being made you will be liable for any cancellation charges that may be levied for the services originally booked, and for the cost of booking the revised arrangements and the arrangements themselves. As a basic principle, no refunds will be paid to clients who do not complete a tour. However where we ourselves are able to obtain a refund from hotels or principals for services not used, we will pass this on to you, less any reasonable administration charges.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TRAVEL INSURANCE
If you have taken out holiday insurance you may, depending on the detail of your policy, be able to recover the cancellation charges, check your policy for details. Never travel without insurance, the unexpected can always happen. It is your responsibility to ensure you are adequately covered by insurance. Please read your policy and take it on holiday with you.

FAIRS AND FESTIVALS

Fairs and festivals in India find their ecstatic, if somewhat giddy expression in dancing.  But each celebration has a reason, season and presiding deity that makes it unique. Like Diwali, the festival of Truth and Light, celebrated in every corner of the country, iIt gets its nomenclature from “Deepawali” or row of lights – a name that describes the festivity.  Earthenware lamps – diyas – stand sentinel in every home on Diwali, ushering in the goddess of peace and prosperity, Lakshmi.

NAVRATRI is another festival celebrated throughout the country.  It is dedicated to the Goddess Durga and her nine incarnations. Prayers are offered to each over nine successive nights.

Every region in the country has its own unique festival – each with its repertoire of folklore, its spread of sweetmeats, its robust hues.  What weaves them all into the fabric of one country is the joy of the people who celebrate.

DUSSEHRA, all over India (October)

This festival is a celebration of the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana (good over evil). The Ramlila – an enactment of the life of Lord Rama, is held nine days before Dussehra.  On the tenth day, larger than life effigies of Ravana, his son Meghnath and brother Kumbhkarna are set alight.  The festivities acquire a local significance in different parts of the country.  For instance, in Himachal Pradesh, Dussehra is celebrated with a week-long fair at Kullu. Mysore comes alive with majestic processions, a torch light parade as well as dance and musical events.

DIWALI, all over India (October/November)

Deepawali or Diwali, the most popular of all Hindu festivals, celebrates the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness.  It commemorates Lord Rama’s return to his kingdom Ayodhya, after completing his 14-year exile.  Twinkling oil lamps or diyas light up every home.  Splendid firework displays reflect the way in which the festival is celebrated.  The goddess Lakshmi (consort of Lord Vishnu), who is the symbol of wealth and prosperity, is also worshipped on this day. This festive occasion also marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year. Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god who symbolises wisdom, is also worshipped in most Hindu homes on this day.

RAKSHABANDHAN, North India

This is a Hindu sister’s day when brothers and sisters reaffirm their bonds of affections.  Sisters tie colourful threads or rakhis on their brothers’ wrists. The brothers in turn promise to protect their sisters and give them gifts.

TEEJ FESTIVAL, Rajasthan/Delhi (August)

A festival that welcomes cloudy skies and rainy days.  Held every year during the Hindu month of Shravan, it celebrates the divine union of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva.  As the rains pour down, Nature flaunts resplendent colours – like the young girls and new bridge who pray to Goddess Parvati for good husbands and conjugal bliss.

PUSHKAR FAIR Rajasthan (November)

Experience on of India’s most fascinating festivals, the annual Pushkar Fair in Rajasthan.  Every year, thousands of Rajasthani villagers converge int his picturesque town to buy and sell camels and other cattle.  They come for the entertaining camel-races and local circuses  Crowdsof village folk also browse the local markets for camel saddles, textiles, glass bangles and silver jewellery.  They wash away the day’s fatigue at the Pushkar Lake (considered sacred).  Beyond the bustle of the markets is the sweeping expanse of desert, dotted with thousands of camping families.  All around, there is a riot of colour and a throng of warm, joyous faaces.

GANGAUR FAIR, Jaipur (April)

The Gangaur Festival, a spirited celebration, gets underway every year during the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April). It marks the end of winter and heralds the spring.  ‘Gan’ is a synonym for Lord Shiva and ‘Gaur’or ‘Gauri’ for Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva.  The festivat celebrates conjugal bliss and marital happiness.  During the festival, the ladies decorate their palms and fingers with intircate patterns of mehendi (henna). A traditional procession is headed by a colourful pageantry of elephants, camels,horses, musicians, old palanquins, chariots and bullock carts.  People purchase and worship idols of Gauri and Isar.  The room where the prayer ceremony is conducted is usually whitewashed.

YOGA WEEK Varanasi (February)

Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together, says Mark Twain of the city where the science of Yoga originated.  Yoga Week is dedicated to this practice.  And Varanasi is the perfect setting for the festival – for it is here, along the banks of some of the most holy rivers, that Yoga can be practised in its purest form. Private hotels, tour operators and renowned Yoga institutes offer packages for 7, 10 and 14 days. The programmes include asana practice, pranayam, meditation and discussions by revered spiritual leaders.

URS AJMER SHARIF, Ajmer (August)

Held in the holy town of Ajmer, in honour of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Christi, the celebration unites people of all faiths.  Special prayers ar offered at the mosque, and consecrated food is served to one and all, from the large, steaming cauldrons that were a gift from the Mughal Emperor, Akhar.  The festivities continue well into the night, with impassioned quawwali singers fuelling the spirit of devotion and selfless love.

HOLLA MOHALLA, Punjab (3rd week of March)

The fair begins a few days before Holi and is marked by the congregation of Sikh devotees from all over the state.  A large number of langars (community kitchens) offer free food to the poor and the rich alike. The day after Holi, called Hol, is ushered in with the singing of divine hymns in the early morning hours.  With the dawning of the day, the Nihangs, called the Guru’s beloved force,together with the colourful sects of the Sikhs, acquire centre-stage.  They wear traditional robes of blue and saffron as well as armour of steel.

BAISAKHI, Punjab (13th/14th April)

This is a celebration of Mother Nautre’s bounty.  Farmers, amidst dancing, singing and reveltry, carry a portion of the first harvest of wheat and offer it at a Gurudwara (place of worship, sacred to the Sikhs).  Devotees gather from far-flung places and run free kitchens.  The next day is heralded by a display of martial arts by the Nihangs.

KULLU-DUSSEHRA FESTIVAL, Himachal Pradesh (October)

This festival is held just after Dussehra is celebrated in other parts of the country.  Colourful processions of devotees, bearing magnificent images of gods and goddesses, move towards Kullu from all parts of the valley.  Homage is paid to Lord Raghunath on the first day.  Rituals, grafecul natti dances and folk songs are performed over the remaining nine days.  As part of the festival, traders from all over the valley set up temporary stalls, where woollen shawls, caps, blankets, pullan (traditional footwear made from plant fibre and goat hair) and other interesting articles are displayed.  This is the best time to see the crafts of the Kullu Valley.

JAHAN-E-KHUSRAU,Delhi (Last week of February)

This is an impassioned musical festival associated with Hazrat Amir Khusrau – one of the great followers of Hazrat Nizamuddin.  Only Sufi music is played.  The festival promotes cross-cultural music collaboration, as performers from all over the world participate. Trance inducing, fervent and joyous, this Dufi music fiesta is an intriguing experience for the discerning listener.

QUTUB FESTIVAL, Delhi (November-December)

Set amidst the historical background of the Qutub Minar, a number of cultural events are held as a part of the festival.  Veterans of Indian classical music and folk dance give spectacular performances.  There are Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, and various classical dance performances by famous artistes from all over the nation.  Sarangi and sitar recitals mesmerise the audience, while ghazals and qawwalis mark the end of the festival.  Artistes like the illustrious three generations of the Sarabhai family, Mrinalini, Mallika and Anahita Sarabhai, as well as ghazal maestros Ustaad Ahmad Jussain and Ustaad Mohammad Hussein are amongst the many stalwarts who have made the festival a memorable one.  The regional food stalls at the complex add a local flavour to the evening with cuisine from Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and the North-Eastern states.

ANANYA, Delhi (Last week of August)

Ananya means peerless. This week-long festival – true to its name – showcases the rich, unparalleled cultural heritage of India.  Renowned artistes are also invited to perform, in a celebration of the country’s music and dance history, in the backdrop of Delhi’s Purana Qila.

KHAJURAHO DANCE FESTIVAL, Madhya Pradesh (March)

The Khajuraho Dance Festival is held every spring in the town of Khajuraho – renowned for its sculptured temples.  It celebrates the glory of the temples and the life-like dance forms carved on the stone walls. The festival showcases the finest classical dances in the country.

TAJ MAHOTSAV, Agra (18th-27th February)

The Taj Mahotsav is an apt introduction to the majesty of the country and its cultural variety.  The festival is a vibrant mosaic that brings to fore the finest of Indian arats, crafts and cultural nuances.

INTERNATIONAL YOGA FESTIVAL, Rishikesh (February)

The ‘yoga capital of the world’ is an appropriate setting for an introduction to this ancient practice.  This annual festival attracts great yogic masters from all over the world, who arrive at the banks of the Ganges to demonstrate and explore the major traditions of Yoga (hatha, raja, karma, bhakti, mantra, laya and jnana).  There are so many ashrams in Rishikesh that offer courses on meditation.

DESERT FESTIVAL, Jaisalmer (February)

The festival is a showcase of the performing arts of the region, on the stretches of sand around the desert citadel of Jaisalmer.  It is characterised by a number of amusing turban tying competitions and camel races.  The region also has its very own Mr. Desert contest. Lively craft bazaars and a sound and light spectacle make it a celebration of life amidst an arid landscape. Folk artistes performing against a backdrop of sand dunes, on a full-moon night, heighten the romantic lure of the desert.

JAIPUR HERITAGE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL, Jaipur (January)

If one were to capture the essence of this festival in a single sentence, it would be – to save the vibrant culture of Jaipur, by stimulating alternatiave ways of development that are rooted in the unique strengths of the people.

Spread over fourteen days and in locations difficult to find anywhere else in the world, the festival stands out for its superb events.  Children’s programmes, sports, exhibitions, crafts bazaars, and a succession of seminars on key issues, make it a rich, dynamic interaction amongst the people of the city.

The Jaipur Heritage International Festival pays homage to the beauty of the old, reflects on the contemporary relevance of past wisdom and leads to a better understanding of the city’s fabulous resources and assets.

TANSEN SAMAROH, Gwalior (November)

The great classical vocalist, Miyan Tansen, was one of the ‘nine jewels’ in Emperor Akbar’s court.  His memorial, in Gwalior, is a classic representation of Mughal architecture.  It is also the venue of the annual Indian classical festival held in November.  Renowned singers of the land regale audiences with five mesmerising sessions of the much-loved classical ragas.  An interesting fact is that performers, before the sessions begin, chew the leaves of a tamarind tree by the tomb. This is believed to make the voice better.

HEMIS FESTIVAL, Ladakh (June)

The Hemis Festival is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava, revered as the representative reincarnate of the Buddha.  It is believed that the purpose of his life was to improve the spiritual condition of all living beings.  The festival takes place in the rectangular courtyard of the Hemis Monastery.  A raised dais, with a richly cushioned seata and a finely painted small Tibetan table, is placed with the ceremonial items – cups full of holy water, uncooked rice, tormas made of dough and butter, as well as incense sticks.  A number of musicians play traditional music with four pairs of cymbals, pan drums, small trumpets and large wind instruments.

SINDHU DARSHAN FESTIVAL, Ladakh (June)

The Sindhu Darshan Festival, as the name suggests, is a celebration of the river Sindhu (also known as the Indus).  People travel for a darshan and puja of this river, which originates from the Mansarovar in Tibet. The festival aims at projecting the Sindhu river as a symbol of multi-dimensional cultural identity, communal harmony and peaceful co-existence in India.  Whilst promoting tourism in this area, the festival is also a tribute to the brave soldiers of India who have valiantly fought the odds at Siachen, Kargil and other places.

SURAJKUND CRAFTS MELA, outskirts of Delhi (1st-15th February)

The Surajkund Crafts Mela, organised by Haryana Tourism, celebrates the finest handlooms and handicrafts traditions of the country.  It is a fortnight-long event, during which master craftspersons display their assortment of wares like mirror-work embroidery, delicate lace work, folk motifs on terracotta forms, metal and cane ware, bangles of all hues, iridescent silks and beautifully-crafted toys.  The Mela is more than just a celebration of crafts. At the fan-shaped, open-air theatre, ‘Natyashala’, rich folk dances and musical evenings keep crowds of tourists entertained.

DURGA PUJA, West Bengal (October)

Durga Puja is one of the largest and most splended festivals in the country.  Community pujas (prayer service) in Bengal are organised in every locality.  Families visit each other and spread the communal goodwill.  On Bijoya Day, idols of Durga are taken in elaborate processions and immersed in the river or sea.

SONEPUR CATTLE FAIR, Bihar (26th November – 12th December)

A traditional fair that has remained pristine in its charm through the ages. Legend has it that two brothers, devotees of Lord Vishnu, one wily and the other honest, cast a spell upon each other.  As a result of this, one became an elephant and the other a crocodile.  On a Kartik Purnima day, the honest elephant went to the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga and Gandak to bathe and was attacked by thewily corcodile.  Lord Vishnu himself intervened and delivered good from evil.  The central draw of the fair is cattle trade. All species of birds, poultry, bovines and beasts of burden, especially elephants, have a market here. The fair entertains visitors with nautankis – typical musical drama performances. Other attractions are the circus, fortune-telling parrots and peddlers of fancy goods.

BIHU, Assam (14th April)

The festival ushers in the New Year, with dancing, music and feasting.  There are three such festivals in Assam – in the months of Bohaag (April), Maagh (January), and Kaati (Kartik or October).  Each Bihu coincides with a distinctive phase in the farming calendar.  The Bohaag Bihu is also called the Rongaali Bihu or the Festival of Merriment.  True to its name, it ushers in the period of greatest enjoyment and marks the arrival of spring.  The festival lasts for several days during which ‘the young people in the village may be seen moving about in groups, gaily dressed or forming circles in the midst of which the prettiest girls dance.’ In towns and cities, there are well-organised Bihu fairs, where professional or amateur troupes perform songs on stage, with accompanying dancing. Bihu Kunwori (The Princess of the Bihu) contests are also held. Young women compete in dancing to the tune of Bihu songs. The best dancer is given the title of Bihu Kunwori.

RATH YATRA, Puri (July)

Every year in July, the sacred coastal town of Puri celebrates the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath.  According to popular legend, Lord Jagannath is said to have expressed his desire to visit his birthplace, Gundicha Ghar. Yet another mythological story in the Bhagavad Puran attributes the festival to Lord Krishna and Balaram, who went to Mathura on the invitation of Kansa (their evil uncle), to participate in a competition. The entire Ratha Yatra is a symbolic humanisation of God. All rituals associated with the festival demonstrate an attempt to bring God down from His pedestal of glory to a more human level. Three chariots of yellow and blue lie waiting outside the temple. The deities are then carried to their chariots, each is swept with a golden broom and blessed with scented water by the King of Puri. The deities finally embark on their journey to the Gundicha Ghar in resplendent chariots, pulled along by enthusiastic devotees.

KONARK DANCE FESTIVAL,Orissa (December)

The Konark Dance Festival brings to fore India’s eminent classical dancers, who perform againt the backdrop of the floodlit Sun Temple. The temple has been described as a poem in stone and is one of India’s greatest architectural sights.  During the festival, the building reverberates with the beats of Raga and Tala, as the performers present their interpretations of various classical dance forms, including Odissi, Bharat Natyam, Manipuri, Kathak and Chhau Dance.

TEESTA TEA FESTIVAL, Darjeeling (Nov-Dec)

This festival commences in Darjeeling and Sikkim and ends in Dooars. There is a variety of cultural programmes, one can enjoy a pleasant ride through beautaiful landscapes, in the toy train at Darjeeling, recognised as a World Heritage Site. The express train runs through tea gardens and lush forests. Abundance of wildlife and exotic birds are found as the train chugs along the meandering tracks.

GANGA SAGAR MELA, West Bengal (January)

This festival is celebrated on the day of Makar Sankranti at Ganga Saar Island in the Ganges delta.  People convene to take a holy dip at the confluence of the sea and the river Ganga. A large fair is held for three days during this period.

DOVER LAND MUSIC CONFERENCE, Kolkata (22nd-26th January)

The largest Indian classical musical event in Kolkata, the Dover Lane Music Conference has been taking place for the last 25 years. The festival is presented annually at Nazrul Mancha.

NATIONAL THEATRE FESTIVAL, Kolkata (December)

This is one of the largest theatre festivals of th country with troupes participating from several neighbouring countries.

HORNBILL FESTIVAL, Nagaland (December)

The festival showcases Nagaland’s heritage in all its diversity and grandeur.  It is a tribute to the Hornbill – the most revered bird of the Naga tribes.

GANESH FESTIVAL, Maharashtra (Sept/Oct)

Lord Ganesh, with his elephant head, is the God of good omen in the Hindu pantheon. He is revered by his followers, who carry clay models of him in grand processions,to the sound of cumbals and drums. The festival – Ganesh Chaturthi – is held on the fourth day of Bhadrapad.

GOA CARNIVAL, Goa (February-March)

The carnival is a secular event, celebrated all over Goa for three days and nights. On the eve of the festival a colourful procession of bedecked floats and costumes, led by King Momo, is taken through the main streets in the large cities. Traditionally this carnival takes place the weekend before Lent starts because during Lent all Christians fast in preparation for Easter. The carnival is a time for merriment and celebrations for the 3 days only.

NAVRATRI, Gujarat (Sept-Oct)

Navratri is the celebration for the divine goddess, Durga.  According to the Hindu calendar, the festival occurs four times a year but the one in th emonth of Ashwin (Sept/Oct) is the most popular. During the festivities, the streets throng with devotees performing the Garbas and the Raas (unique folk dance forms) especially in the state of Gujarat.

ELEPHANTA FESTIVAL, Elephanta Island, Mumbai (February)

Nine nautical miles away from Mumbai, the Elephanta Island is now a World Heritage Site, in recognition of the second and sixth century cave temples found there.  The festival celebrates classical music and dance forms.  It is recognised as a hub of creative activity across the country.

KALA GHODA FAIR, K.Dubash Marg, Mumbai(On eight successive Sundays from Nov-Jan)

This fair showcases traditional Indian arts & crafts, ethnic food, street Performances as well as village and classical arts.  The event is very popular among the people of Mumbai and Tourists alike.

KITE FESTIVAL, Ahmedabad (14th January)

This festival is celebrated on Makara Sankranti.  This day has a special significance. For the sun, symbolising knowledge, wisdom and spiritual light – that recedes from us when we revel in the darkness of ignorance, delusion and sensuality – now joyously turns on its northward course and rushes towards one and all, to shed its light and warmth in abundance.  The day prior to Makara Sankranti is called the Bhogi Festival. On this day, old, worn-out and diery things are discarded and burnt. Houses are cleaned and whitewashed. Kites are flown, in a celebration of the light and warmth of the sun.

KALIDAS FESTIVAL, Nagpur (November)

This festival is dedicated to the great Sanskrit Poet Kavi Kulguru Kalidas. Celebrated since 1995,it presents Indian classical dance and music to enthusiasts both in the country and abroad.Versatile artistes, together with local upcoming ones, participating in making the festival an enriching experience.

PONGAL, Tamil Nadu (14th January)

It marks the harvest festivities of the agricultural communities.  It is observed for three days in Tamil Nadu as well as in Andhra Pradesh. The first day is celebrated as a family festival. Second day is dedicated to the Sun and third day is when their cattle are decorated with ornaments. Pongal (rice cooked in milk and jaggery) is boiled and offered to the Sun on this day.

UGADI, Andhra Pradesh/Karnataka (April)

Ugadi or the New Year Festival follows Holi (the festival of colours). The flame of the forest tree is in full bloom signifying affluence and beauty. Lord Brahma started his work of creation on this day, an the great Indian mathematician Bhaskaracharya’s calculations proclaimed Ugadi as the beginning of the New Year. The onset of spring marks the start of new life. Ugadi is heralded with the heavy perfume of jasmine blooms. Garlands are woven and offered to the gods.

ONAM FESTIVAL AND SNAKE BOAT RACES, Kerala (August)

The people of Kerala celebrate the return of their legendary king, Mahabali. A special group dance and song is performed dueing the festival. Onam is a 10-day festival with elephant processions, classical and folk dances, music recitals,cultural pageants and boat races, making it a spectacular display of the state and its heritage. Snake boats compete with each other, racing along the rivers making a spectacular annual event full of colour and excitement.

NATYANJALI FESTIVAL, Chidambaram (Feb-March)

A 5-day festival with dancers from all over the ecountry paying tribute to Lord Nataraja (Lord Shiva).

FETE DE PONDICHERRY/YOGA FESTIVAL, Pondicherry (15-17th August)

A cultural pageant, coinciding with the Liberation Day of the stat. The Park monument is brilliantly decorated with lights.

NISHAGANDHI FESTIVAL, Thiruvananthapuram (April)

A festival of dance and music in Kerala.

CHENNAI MUSIC SEASON, Chennai (Dec-Jan)

The season begins in the first week of December and goes on till mid-January. It promises a sumptuous treat to the rasikas (local enthusiasts) and tourists alkie. For it celebrates Carnatic Music and its expression in voal, instrumental as well as dance forms.

MAMALLAPURAM DANCE FESTIVAL, Tamin Nadu (Dec-Jan)

Dancers and musicians participate from across the country, in this festival. It is conducted with Arjuna’s Penance, at Mamallapuram as its backdrop.

HAMPI DANCE FESTIVAL, Karnataka (1st week of November)

The ruins of the magnificent city of hampi, 353 kms from Bangalore, come alive during this dance and music fiesta.

Hampi was once the capita of the ancient Vijaynagar Empire (one of the most powerful in the country). Its ruins of stone temples, elephant stables, barracks and palaces offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the people who once resided there.  The Hampi Festival is a concoction of dance, drama, music, fireworks, puppet shows and spectacular processions that recreate the grandeur of the bygone era.

THRISSUR POORAM, Kerala (April-May)

The Thrissur Pooram Festival is a mammoth spectacle with rows upon rows of caparisoned elephants bedecked with ornaments. The elephants face each other in two straight, disciplined rows – with the grace and nobility of a royal entourage. The ancient resonance of Panchavadyan, the five instruments comprising the conch, symbals, trumpet and two kinds of drums, build up the final, glorious crescendo of the spectacle.

LOHRI, Punjab

This is the only Hindu festival which falls on 14th January every year.  Lohri is the time after which the biting cold of winter begins to taper off.  On this day children go from door to door to collect funds for community bonfires which are lit in the evening.  The birth of a son or the first year of marriage is celebrated with great festivity. Songs are sung around the bonfile to the beat of vigorous claps with sweets, rice and popcorn offered to the flames.

THAI PUSAM, Tamil Nadu

This festival takes place in the temples dedicated to kartikeya or Mariamman where trenches of bruning coal are laid out for the devotees to walk over.  It has been seen that people who volunteer to undertake this experience with faith, come away unharmed and unscathed.  The chief priest and twelve hero-youths who perform this feat first go out in a procession from the temple to bathe, smear athemselves with turmeric powder and begin the dance. Then they walk over a long pit covered with burning coals and come out unscathed. This is followed by singing and feasting which continues until late night.

BIKANER FESTIVAL, Rajasthan

This festival starts off with a magnificent procession of bedecked camels. It is a colourful spectacle of beautifully decorated camels displaying charm and grace.  Several competitions are held, marked with typical Rajasthani colour, joyous music and lilting rhythms and gay festivities.

HOLI, North India

The most boisterous of all Hindu festivals, observed all over the North of India.  It heralds the end of winter and the beginning of the spring. The night before the full moon, crowds of people gather together and light huge bonfires to burn dried leaves and twigs.  People throw coloured water and powders at each other and make merry.  Singing and dancing add to the gaiety of the occasion.

KHAJURAHO DANCE FESTIVAL, Madhya Pradesh

It is a week-long festival of classical dances held at the Khajuraho Temples, built by the Chandella Kings.

EASTER – All over India

Is a festival of rejuvenation of life and living.  On this day, Lord Jesus Christ rose again after his death.  Chocolate eggs and small chicks of cotton wool and almond sweets are bought for children.  Easter eggs are eaten, made of full chocolate in the shape of eggs of different sizes as a tradition. Prayer services are held in the churches to end the mourning period.  Easter is a celebration of life.

CHRISTMAS – All over India

Celebrated by the Christians and non-Christians alike with special enthusiasm.  All the major India cities wear a festive look with shops decorated with coloured lights.  All Christian houses have a big decorated star put up at the front of the house.  There is carol singing and get-togethers, dances, and exchanging of gifts to celebrate Christmas.  This is the day that Jesus was born, on 25 December.  There are church services especially the midnight Mass held in all churches.  It is a day for families to get together to celebrate as well as with friends and neighbours, sharing cake, sweets and giving presents. Traditionally every house has a Christmas tree with lights and decorations which is kept for about 12 days. Mostly children enjoy concerts, dramas, games and toys, and receiving gifts from Santa Claus.

All major religious festivals in India are celebrated as per the local lunar calendar. Please check the actual dates with the nearest India tourism office.