Exuberant with colors and innumerable emotions, holi is a festival of India, the likes of which are not to be found anywhere else in the world. It is vibrantly celebrated with religious essence and divine devotion as well as dance and music and of course the forceful scrubbing of abeer and gulal on friends, family and foes. India being a diverse country, this festival too is celebrated in diverse ways across the different states. Each state has its own way of acknowledging the festival and honouring it with unique traditions.
Following are the must-visit places in India to see how differently they celebrate the occasion:
- Holi at Mathura and Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh –
Holi in Braj is especially famous and attracts tourists and pilgrims from all over the world because of its special customs and traditions. Braj is a historical region which covers the area of Mathura and Vrindavan. Mathura is the birth-place of Lord Krishna and Vrindavan is the place where he grew up in his childhood.
When Krishna was young, he cribbed to his mother about Radha (his friend) being fair while Krishna himself was dark complexioned. Upon this, his mother, Yashoda suggested that Krishna could colour Radha with colours in a playful manner. Over the years, Krishna from his village Nandgaon used to go to Barsana (Radha’s village) to color Radha and other Gopis, other friends. They also used to playfully beat him with sticks, and hence the tradition evolved of ‘laathimaar’ and playing with abeer and gulal.
Holi at Mathura
Women @ Vrindavan beating up men with laathi as a part of the festival custom
2. Jaipur, Rajasthan Holi –
In Jaipur, Holi is not only played among humans, but for the longest time, on the occasion of Holi, Jaipur hosted the Elephant Festival at the Amber Fort. The Jaipur Elephant Festival celebrated on holi eve is a great opportunity to see the sturdy symbol of Rajput royalty, the elephant, at its finest. The festival gets underway with a traditional procession of decorated elephants. They proudly parade up and down to an appreciative crowd. Elephant beauty contests, folk dances, and tug-of-war between elephants are regular events. However, the Elephant festival has been discontinued since 2012 because the festival was categorized under Animal Performances, which angered the Animal Welfare Association and the festival has since not received a clearance, as it implied cruelty towards animals.
3.Purulia, West Bengal –
The Bengal district of Purulia has retained a strong Bengali folk presence. The celebration of colour, of spring, of a new beginning is a wonderful occasion for us to celebrate our yearly event Basanta Utsav at Purulia during the Holi Festival in March. The three days festival takes place in Purulia district of West Bengal. The festival area is covered in folk art, and a variety of local folk music soundtracks your every step, much of it played by the region’s wandering Baul musicians.
People smear abeer on each other, drink Mahua (country liquor) and sway to the local ‘Jhumur’ tunes and folk dances such as the disciplined, martial Chhau. The ambience of Purulia along with the hysteria makes this experience truly cherishing.
4.Anandpur Sahib, Punjab –
In lieu of the traditional Holi, it is said that Guru Gobind Singh Jee (the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs) revived the spirit of Holi and weaved its essence into a festival called “Holaa Mahallaa“, this annual festival of Sikhs was created by Guru Gobind Singh Jee in his own way. At the time Guru Gobind Singh Jee introduced it, he was battling the Mughal empire and the hill kings. On this day, he held a military parade of the Sikhs, who came out in their best and went through a sort of mock battle at the historic township of Anandpur Sahib. It was to remind the people of togetherness, brotherhood, valor and defense preparedness. Hola is the masculine form of the feminine Holi. Holaa Mahallaa usually falls in March (spring season in India) a day after Holi. Although, initially, Anandpur Sahib played host to Holaa Mahallaa, now it is also replicated at other Gurdawaras worldwide.
5. Shimgo, Goa –
Shigmo parade is a street festival filled with colors, music, dance and float parade. The life of a Goan is depicted in elaborate folk performances by local men and women who dance tirelessly in huge processions along with the parade. The Shigmo or Shigmotsav festival is celebrated in the month of Phalguna (March) from the 9th moon day to full moon day as per the Hindu calendar. It is the biggest festival for the Hindus in Goa. The 5th day is called ‘Rang Panchami‘. This day of rejoicing is celebrated with the abundant use of gulal or red powder. The goan hindus dance and sing various folk songs in the temple court yard to the beat of the drums.
These are interspersed with small groups that move along the route with their traditional Goan drums. The grand finale is the beautifully designed and lit floats. These floats are taken out at different locations on various days in Goa.