North Central India's Festivals
Agra's Taj Mahotsav (10 days in February) is a festival celebrating the arts, crafts, and culture of North India. The Khajuraho Festival of Dance (a week between late February and March) is geared primarily to visitors. It's a spectacular event that attracts classically trained dancers from all parts of the country, who perform against a magnificently floodlighted backdrop of the temples.
In Varanasi there's a major religious festival practically every week, but their dates shift every year (check www.incredibleindia.org for upcoming dates). Varanasi's great bathing days, when thousands stream down the ghats into the Ganges, include Makar Sankranti (January), the full moon of the Hindu month Kartik (October or November), and Ganga Dussehra (May or June). Durga Puja (September or October) ends with the city's large Bengali community marching to the river at sunset to immerse large mud-daubed images of the goddess Durga. The Bharat Milap festival, held in October or November, occurs the day after the major Hindu festival of Dussehra. It marks Lord Rama's return from exile (from the epic Ramayana). It's held in Nati Imli in Varanasi.
Buddhists from Tibet and all over Asia celebrate their festivals in Sarnath. The Buddha Jayanti is celebrated on a full moon day in April or May. It celebrates the Buddha's birth anniversary as well as his day of enlightenment.