Bonfires, an abundance of colours and food – Holi is undoubtedly one of the worlds most colourful festival. Faces masked with colour, and social rules relaxed for a few days, it is no wonder that almost every region of the country, celebrates this day in a spectacular manner. Head to these places, especially if you love to travel and are looking to combine your wanderlust with some unique local experiences.
Lathmar Holi – Barsana village, Uttar Pradesh
Not always do Indian men rule the roost In Barsana and Nandgaon villages, located near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, women beat up men with lathis or canes. Celebrated at the Radha Rani temple complex, which is the only temple dedicated to Radha in the country, many people from around the world visit this region to attend the festivities.
According to Indian mythology, Krishna was extremely mischievous and playful, during his younger days. Although he used to live in Nandgaon, he often visited Barsana, the village where his beloved Radha used to live. Once, days before Holi, the Indian festival of colours, Krishna visited Barsana with his friends and, together, they teased Radha and her companions. Taking offence to this, Radhas friends chased the men away with sticks. Lath Mar Holi festival is a re-enactment of this legend.
Phoolon wali Holi (Holi with Flowers) in Vrindavan
As the name suggest, this kind of Holi is celebrated a day before Holi on Ekadashi. On this day, the celebrations take an unconventional turn where the festival is marked with flowers, rather than conventional dry or wet colours. That is why this festival is called Phoolon Wali Holi and it takes place at the Banke Bihari temple. Although, it does not draw huge crowds, this is a unique experience that will leave a lasting impression on your mind.
The gates of the temple open around 4 p.m. for the celebration. However, unlike other Holi festivities, this is a short affair of just about 15-20 minutes during which flowers are thrown at the devotees by the temple priests. If you are not on time, your chances of missing the festivity are very high. In case youre planning to capture it with your camera, reach early and be at the gate just when it opens, so that you have the best opportunity to click some good pics.
Folk Holi at Purulia, West Bengal
To mark the occasion of Holi, a three day Basanta Utsav folk festival takes place in Purulia, in West Bengal. The three days are two days before holi and on the actual day of the festival. Here you will get a chance to interact with local musicians and also enjoy a wide variety of folk arts as well. This includes the remarkable Chau dance, Darbari Jhumur, Natua dance, and songs of West Bengal’s wandering Baul musicians. What makes the festival special is that it’s organized by villagers as a way of helping sustain themselves.
Hola Mohalla in Punjab
An annual festival held at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, Hola Mohalla was initiated by the tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, as a gathering of Sikhs for military exercises and mock battles on the day following the festival of Holi. This festival is also a reminder for the people, about the importance of courage and valour, especially in times of crisis. These values were extremely important to the Sikh Gurus, who instituted this festival during the time, when they were battling against the Mughals.
The Nihang Singhs (members of the Sikh army that was founded by Guru Govind Singh) carry on the martial tradition with mock battles and displays of swordsmanship and horse riding.
On the last day a long procession, led by Panj Pyaras, starts from Takth Keshgarh Sahib, one of the five Sikh religious seats, and passes through various important gurdwaras like Qila Anandgarh, Lohgarh Sahib, Mata Jitoji and terminates at the Takth. Also, for people visiting Anandpur Sahib during this time, langars (voluntary community kitchens) are organized by the local people as a part of sewa (community service).
Royal Holi in Udaipur, Rajasthan
A day before Holi, locals in Udaipur light bonfires to mark the occasion and get rid of evil spirits in the holika dahan. This celebration is done at a grand level by Udaipur’s Mewar royal family. The fancy procession includes decorated horses and the royal band. Later, the traditional sacred fire is lit and an effigy of Holika is burnt.
Cultural Holi at Shantiniketan, West Bengal: Cultural Holi
Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore is responsible for starting the Basanta Utsav (Spring Festival), which is inspired by spring and the colors of Holi. He introduced the occasion as an annual event in Vishva Bharati University, where students dress up in spring colors and put on a huge cultural program for visitors, including dances to Tagore’s songs. This is followed by the usual throwing of colors. Basanta Utsav has become a cherished part of Bengali history and culture, and is today a major draw for travellers from across the country.