It is the rich cultural and traditional heritage of India that we celebrate endless number of festivals and fairs, every month or the other. One such festival is Holi – one of the most popular, fun-loving and colourful festival of India. The essence of Holi is the same all over India, but it is celebrated a little different from the other in many parts of the country, particularly in Northern India. The selection of the destination is completely based on what type of experience you want to have. Check out the places in India with different Holi festival celebrations that, for sure, will attract you the most.
But first, a Brief of the Mythology Behind Holi Celebrations
The Indian mythology is interesting beyond believe. There is an array of unending stories and tangy tales narrated to every Indian kid by their parents, or if they are lucky, by their grandparents. There is an interesting legend related to the colorful festival of Holi. Starting off, Hindu mythology is a close knitted combination of Good and evil, good being Gods and evil being the Asura (demon). Hiranyakashipu was an evil lord who was blessed with a baby boy, after his queen secretly prayed to God Vishnu for a child, who grew up to be a kind-hearted boy himself. There was nothing evil about the little prince and this concerned Hiranyakashipu and infuriated him gradually over time. The demon king ordered various attempts to kill his own son, but after everything failed, he ordered his sister Holika, who was blessed with a magical shawl that would prevent her from burning, to sit on the burning pyre with Prahalad. The little boy prayed Lord Vishnu for help and the blessing of Holika reversed; Prahalad remained unhurt and Holika was burnt to death.
From this day onwards, a day before Holi, in the night, a pyre is set on grounds and Holika is burned. It is an important part of Holi celebration and commemorates the victory of good over evil. So when you take part in the Holi celebrations this year and see Holika burning, remember this story and share.
1. Cultural Holi in Jaipur
The first day of Holi is celebrated as the Holika Dahan. On this day, people set a bonfire and worship it with beliefs that it brings prosperity and they will be saved by all the impurities just as the mythological legend Prahlad did. People start by throwing colours to each other and kids spray colours with water guns and water balloons. People visit each others houses and greet by putting colours on each other’s faces. To make Holi more fun & frolic, regular events like folk dances, tug-of-war, and other exciting events are organized.
And to add to the extra wow feeling to your experience of Holi in Jaipur, you can attend a local Holi Festival celebration at a Heritage property in Jaipur by being part of the special tour offered by GeTS Holidays. At this Heritage Hotel, the traditional Indian family will join you and you can cherish the experience of a lifetime.
2. Lath Maar Holi in Barsana, Uttar Pradesh
Indian men don’t always rule the roost! In what is known as Lathmar Holi celebrations, Womenfolk of Barsana – a village near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh greets the men of Nandgaon (the birthplace of Krishna) with sticks (aka laathis). Lathmar Holi is conducted a week before the main day of Holi so this year it will happen on February 25. The celebrations starts at the Radha Rani Temple in Barsana. Though completely aware men come fully padded and enjoy the hits on their shield from the spirited women. The unlucky ones are made to wear female attire and dance in public. The next day, the men of Barsana respond by entering Nandgaon and playing Holi with the womenfolk of Nandgaon. The festivities doesn’t end here; participants dance, sing and immerse themselves in colour alongside the occasional consumption of thandai – a traditional drink synonymous to the festival of Holi, which is sometimes intoxicating.
So Why Lathmar – Holi With Sticks?
The festival is said to be a recreation of a famous Hindu legend, according to which, Lord Krishna (who was from the Nandgaon village) visited his beloved Radha’s town – Barsana. If legends are to be true, Krishna teased Radha and her friends (gopis), who in turn responded by taking offense at his advances and driving him out of Barsana.
3. Traditional Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan
To feel the real essence of Holi the best place to be is Mathura & Vrindavan- the land of Krishna. Mathura located at a distance of 04 to 05 hours from Delhi is the birthplace of Lord Krishna whereas Vrindavan is the place where he spent his childhood. The legends of Holi is associated with Radha-Krishna and with the cowgirls called gopis. In Mathura and Vrindavan, the festival of Holi is celebrated for over a week. The famous Banke Bihari temple and Dwarkadheesh Temple in Mathura is the best place to catch the throwing of colors. At Vishram Ghat, you can see the priests making bhang.
Good to Know: Widow’s Holi
Vrindavan also celebrates the unique Widow’s Holi. It began in the recent years as a move to break the orthodox traditions that prevented widows from playing with colors or wearing colored clothes. Breaking & defying all taboos and shackles of age old traditions, these women too celebrate Holi with equal fervor. An overwhelming experience it is! Widows in India are treated as outcasts by the conservative Hindu society in India as well as their families, after the death of their husbands. Vrindavan is home to thousands of destitute women who make their way to Vrindavan (India’s temple city) as last resort, and hence Vrindavan is also known as the city of widows.
4. Basant Utsav in West Bengal
The Indian state of West Bengal celebrates Holi by the name of Basant Utsav. The Nobel laureate and poet Pt. Rabindra Nath Tagore kick-started the celebrations at Shantiniketan, the University founded by him. As compared to the boisterous Holi which is celebrated in the whole of India, here at Shantiniketan it is celebrated with grace and dignified manner. In the calm ambience of Shantiniketan the spring is not only welcomed with colours but with songs, dance, and chanting of hymns. If someone gets a chance to be part of this elegant way of celebrating Holi, he/she remembers it with fond memory for the rest of their life.
5. Hola Mohalla in Punjab
Holi is known as Hola Mohalla in the state of Punjab. Likewise the name, the celebrations, its significance and meaning are also entirely different. On the day following the festival of Holi, an annual fair by the name of Hola Mohalla is organized on a large scale at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. The initiative of holding the fair was taken by Guru Gobind Singh – the tenth Sikh guru. During the fair, the daring Sikh community display their physical strength by performing dare-devil acts like bareback horse-riding, standing erect on two speeding horses, Gatka (mock encounters), tent pegging is to name a few. Sikh people welcome the Sikh New Year with this festival.
6. Holi in the Holy City of Varanasi
In the city of Lord Shiva, Varanasi, only the brave travellers who love the carefree vibe and the enthusiastic celebrations can celebrate Holi. To add some fun to Holi, bhang (a mild intoxicating prepared from the leaves of Cannabis) mixed in laddoos (ball-shaped Indian sweets or milk is served to the people. During Holi, the people and the roads are all slathered in different colours. The mania around colours remains only until noon. During the evening, you can go towards Ghats to enjoy the mellow of unimaginable colours. Do treat your taste buds with traditional homemade gujiya prepared by the local womenfolk.
7. Carnival of Colours in Goa
Holi in Goa is celebrated as Shigmotsav and is a kind of mixture between the full-fledged carnival and the festival of colours. Irrespective of religion, caste, creed and colour, people from all walks of life come together to drench each other in water and colour. The festival is celebrated over an entire fortnight and on the grand finale, colourful parades and folk dance parade are organised by the local Goans.
8. Hampi in Karnataka
South India is generally overlooked in case anyone wants to celebrate an exuberant Holi. Reason being Holi is primarily a north Indian festival; it’s quite subdued at most places in the south. However, Hampi in Karnataka is an exception! Amid loud music of the drums and dance, the whole town comes out to on the streets to play Holi. Afterwards, the crowd slowly moves to the river to wash all the color off.
Now you know where to go to celebrate Holi in India. Don’t miss to be in India on 10th March, 2020, during the festival of colours – Holi. Your experience will enhance manifold with special Holi tours crafted by GeTS holidays.