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Fantastic February festivals celebrated around the world

The month of February is chock-a-block full of opportunities to plan a truly busy and exciting vacation itinerary. Check them out.

Want to go beyond the usual touristy fare and engage with the local culture during your vacations? Luckily for you, the month of February is chock-a-block full of opportunities to plan a truly busy and exciting itinerary. Here are some major festivals from across the world being celebrated in February this year.

Rang Mahotsav, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Jammu, Thiruvananthapuram, Bhubaneshwar (till Feb 21): Rang Mahotsav is the annual theatre festival organised by the prestigious National School of Drama (NSD) — that has given us some beloved names like Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher and Om Puri. This year, the 17th edition will see performances — 82 plays in 23 languages from 13 countries — based on the theme of 'breaking the borders'. For the first time, Rang Mahotsav will feature rock-shows by college bands and a theatre bazaar, where one can pick up theatre related items like masks, costumes, make-up, puppets etc. (Source: Express Photo by Amit Mehra)

Surajkund Mela, Haryana (till Feb 15): Surajkund Mela is India's beloved traditional crafts festival in which craftsmen — such as artists, painters, weavers and sculptors — from all over India come together to showcase their heritage. Products being showcased usually include paintings, wood stock, textiles, pottery, ivory work, stonework, terracotta and grass work. Surajkund Mela is famed for its rustic flavour. Other non-shopping attractions involve folk music, dance and rural cuisine from different parts of the country. The inclusion of a theme state every year was done to promote the rich culture of that state in totality. The state in focus this year is Telangana. (Source: Express Photo)

Probably the most popular carnival in the world — foreign visitors alone account for about 50,000 people — the Rio Carnival is known for its unabashed flamboyance and festive spirit. The streets of Rio de Janeiro is occupied by revellers in carnival-mood bursting into spontaneous acts of singing, partying and, of course, dancing the Samba. The Samba parade is serious business though, with special carnival-workshops organised by Samba schools months ahead of the carnival. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Battle of the oranges, Italy (Feb 6 - 9): The La Tomatina has a serious competitor. The battle of the oranges organised in Ivrea, Italy is a much more structured counterpart of La Tomatina. Reportedly, 500,000kg of oranges pummelled amongst the crowd. This messy festival, however, has rather romantic origins. It took on its modern avatar from the time girls used to drop oranges on boys they fancied, who would reciprocate by doing them the same favour. (Source: Gio-S.p.o.t.s via Flickr)

Kala Ghoda Festival, Mumbai (Feb 6- 14): Mumbai's pride, the Kala Ghoda festival was initiated in 1999 to promote and preserve the culture of art. The festival is known for its high quality of events, leaving culture-lovers spoilt for choice and torn between different events and venues. The festival sections include visual arts, dance, music, theatre, cinema, literature — including children's literature — workshops, heritage walks, urban design and architecture, food and vibrant flea markets. Plan your itinerary now so you could avoid disappointment later. (Source: Harini Calamur via Flickr)

Losar, Tibet (Feb 8): Losar is the Tibetan new year, and one of Tibetans' most important festivals. The Dalai Lama takes the reign and leads the monks in prayers and rituals conducted in the Boudhanath Stupa. The ceremonies and rituals depict the age-old battle between good and evil — the most famous being the masked dance by Tibetan monks. The Boudhanath Stupa is decorated and every household in the area undergoes cleaning and purification. People exchange gifts, rice wine and dough balls filled with items. Alcohol consumption during the festival is actually encouraged to symbolise the determination to be bolder in the coming year. Each year is associated with a gender, element and animal — 2016 being the year of the male fire monkey. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Chinese New Year, China (Feb 8): The Chinese new year is undoubtedly the grandest of all of their festivals. It dates back nearly 4,000 years and honours every year with an animal energy. 2016 is the year of the monkey, not unlike the Tibetan new year. The customs are not much unlike those of Christmas and are associated with cleaning, gifting, decorations, religious processions and symbolic acts that take place over 15 days. There are several Dos and Don'ts involved and it is highly recommended to familiarise oneself with the rules. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Mardi Gras (Feb 9): Mardi Gras refers to the carnival celebrations commencing on Epiphany in different parts of the world. It is known for its celebratory excesses — such as late night hogging of food on the eve of the fasting season of Lenten — that have earned it nicknames like 'fat Tuesday'. Popular festive activities include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery... Sounds familiar? Mardi Gras can be called the mother of all carnivals as it is celebrated in various countries, each deviating a little with their own cultural practices. Popular ones include the Rio Carnival in Brazil, Carnival of Binche in Belgium and the battle of the oranges in Italy. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Valentine's Day has an interesting history in India. Ancient India worshipped Kamadeva — the lord of love — as is visible in the erotic carvings of the Khajuraho temples and Kamasutra. The practice of worshipping Kamadeva declined in the Middle Ages and nearly disappeared until MTV and greeting card companies like Hallmark and Archies opened up in India. While Lord Kamadeva may not be worshipped in the traditional sense, the youth of the country indulges in the day of love with gifts, dates etc. Valentine's day is eagerly awaited every year, and is celebrated with enthusiasm in the same fashion as in rest of the world. (Source: Thinkstock Images)

Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, Taiwan (Feb 19): The Chinese New Year festivities tend to overshadow Taiwan's new year celebrations. Around 150,000 hot air balloons — with dreams and wishes scribbled on them — are released into the night sky. Originally used as a signalling device, the release of the lanterns today symbolises shedding of the rusted, old ways and to make way to usher in an optimistic and more promising new year. (Source: Sheng-Fa Lin via Flickr)

Hadaka Matsuri, Japan (Feb 20): Hadaka Matsuri is also known as the naked festival of Japan. However, don't get misled by the nick name. Nobody is naked, only garbed in minimal clothing. Tens of thousands of Japanese men run through a pool of freezing water, before the main event where they compete against each other to catch hold of sticks thrown from the top of a temple by the priests. The winner gets the title of the 'lucky man'. In the 8th century, the belief that nakedness absorbs bad luck was common. A man was then selected and made to wade naked through a mass of people dying to transfer their bad luck onto him — before he got banished altogether. Over thousands of years, the concept got flipped to become the opposite of its tradition. (Source: Hiromy via Flickr)

Jaisalmer Desert Festival, Jaisalmer (Feb 20): This desert festival celebrates the colourful and rich life in an otherwise barren desert. Events hosted are quirky — such as the mustache contest, turban tying, Miss Moomal and Mr. Desert competitions — apart from the regular traditional fare of folk dances, music, acrobats etc. The main draw of the festival, however, happens to be the camel race between local polo clubs and the Border Security Force (BSF). (Source: Karen via Flickr)

Manipur, Imphal, Sankirtana, Manipur Sankirtana, International Sankirtana Day, India, Indian Express

Abu Simbel Festival, Egypt (Feb 22): The Abu Simbel temple in Egypt — built in the honour of King Ramses II — is marvelled for the architectural wonder that its. Made keeping the astronomical positions and phenomena in mind, the inner sanctum gets lit up twice a year — on the king's birthday and on the day of his ascension of the throne — illuminating on its way the statues of Ramses, sun god Ra and the king of the gods Amun. After witnessing the spectacle, the crowd disperses into celebrations with music, dance, eating, drinking, shopping etc. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Envision Festival, Costa Rica (Feb 25): The Envision festival's slogan is 'viva la experiencia' — live the experience — and it more than lives up to it. The Envision festival is not just about music — spiritual and wellness activities like yoga and sacred movement (drumming, kirtan, etc.), healing modalities, art and plant healing are devoted just as much time and resources. It's usually held in a fairly remote spot, making the experience as intimate and as least commercialised as possible. Moreover, the organisers make an effort to make it an environmentally sustainable affair — focusing especially on reforestation and savig baby turtles. (Source: Joeshacks via Flickr)