Holi is a boisterous affair celebrated with equal fervour and gaiety in both urban and rural India. The legend of Holi draws its inspiration from Indian mythology and the playful flirtations of Radha and Krishna. his phenomenon of celebrating life, love, goodness and the onset of spring has many variations across India.. The festival of colors is celebrated in every corner of the country, but the way of celebration varies throughout. Holi is often used in symbolism related to India. India is a land of infinite cultures and races coexisting peacefully in an ecosystem. Holi, with its myriads of colors, represents this ecosystem and each color denotes a different culture prevalent in India and the mixture of all these make Holi and the country what they are. Here are some of the famous and unique ways in which people of India choose to celebrate Holi.
Steeped in history, Vrindavan is one of the best places to play Holi in India. Vrindavan was where Radha and Krishna met for their secret rendezvous at the garden of Krishna Leela. This is where it all began. Vrindavan celebrates Holi with great candour. The festival is observed here over a week’s time. Thousands of devotees converge on this occasion. Tourists from all over the world are also drawn to Vrindavan to catch a glimpse of India in all its colourful vibrancy. Priests throw colours on devotees from the threshold of the temples. The celebrations also include parades, performances of “Raas-Leela” and cultural shows. Krishna is celebrated for having accepted all downtrodden, rejected and widowed women as his queens. Vrindavan, being the home of Lord Krishna, attracts many widows and estranged women from all over the country. Widows in India have been treated with great apathy through the ages. In a heartening development, Vrindavan recently broke the shackles of this stifling tradition by including widows in Holi festivities. Hundreds of widows now participate in the grand Holi festivities of Vrindavan, throwing colours and flowers on each other.
Holi celebrations in the birthplace of Krishna are the loudest and most exuberant as the young and the old come together to lose themselves with a gaiety and abandon unmatched. Mathura is an absolute uproar during the Holi month. Yes, you heard it right, a whole month of Holi! The place is totally hijacked by over-excited revellers and that is what makes Holi in Mathura so much fun to witness.
Holi in Mathura is not just a time for disorder. Age old traditions are observed with utmost respect and reverence. Lathmar Holi is celebrated in the nearby villages of Nandgaon and Barsana. Men from Nandgaon travel to Barsana to tease the women there. The women retaliate by hitting them with sticks, hence the name Lathmar Holi. Men are allowed to protect themselves with shields but cannot hit back. According to the legend, Barsana was the home of Radha where Krishna went to tease and torment her. An infuriated Radha, with the help of her friends, chased him away with sticks. The celebrations of Lathmar Holi are a unique experience.
The Holi festival is celebrated as Basanta Utsav or Spring Festival in Shantiniketan, West Bengal. This festival was started as an annual event by famous Bengali poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in his Vishva Bharati University at Shantiniketan. The students of Vishva Bharati celebrate Basanta Utsav in very special way. Students dress up in yellow color and present some wonderful folk dances and cultural programs followed by the throwing of colours. The celebrations start a day earlier than Holi and are now considered an important part of the Bengali heritage. A huge number of tourists arrive every year at Shantiniketan to witness and participate in these celebrations.
Sikhs celebrate Holi (called as Hola Mohalla) in their own style at Anandpur Sahib, Punjab. Hola Mohalla is an annual fair celebrated a day after the Hindu festival of Holi. It was first organized by Sikh Guru Gobind Singh to celebrate Holi. Apparently, the name Hola is the masculine name of the feminine Holi. While the vibrant Holi festival boasts of sprinkling colors, Hola Mohalla takes the form of demonstrating martial skills in simulated battles. On this three-day grand festival, mock battles, exhibitions, display of weapons, etc., are held followed by kirtan, music and poetry competitions. The participants perform daring feats, such as Gatka (mock encounters with real weapons), tent pegging, bareback horse-riding, standing erect on two speeding horses and various other feats of bravery.
The festival of Holi is called Shigmostav in Goa. Festivities start with prayers to the village gods and goddesses. It is the biggest festival for Hindus and is spread over a fortnight. The parades are held on last five days of the festival. Shigmostav is highlighted with performances of troupes in the form of parades and cultural dramas. Festivities reach the peak on the fifth day when gulal is used to colour everyone. Most of the festivities are mainly concentrated in Panjim, Vasco and Margao. The main beaches also turn colorful on the day of Holi with large number of locals & tourists gathering on the shores to play with colors.
The hill town of Kullu began Holi celebrations on the day of Basant Panchami in January. The festivities date back to 1660 AD when, Jagat Singh, the then King of Kullu, brought the idol of Lord Raghunath (Lord Rama) from Ayodhya and installed it at a temple in Sultanpur in Kullu. Since then, locals gather at the temple every year and apply gulaal or colors to the idol. Following a special ritual, the chariot of Lord Rama is wheeled to a festival ground, amidst the sound of drums and trumpets, where temporary camp is set up by devotees. Prayers and colors are offered for 40 days until the day of Holi. The festivities will definitely add to the charm of the snow-clad hill town, we think.
Holi is a major festival in Mumbai and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. There are also Holi parties arranged in the city. The celebrations include hanging a pot full of buttermilk and men clamber on top of one another and try to reach the pot. One that succeeds in breaking the pot is named Holi King of that year. Doing such things revives acts of Krishna. Physically challenged people also actively take part in this festival. Even Bollywood celebrities play with color during this festival. On this occasion people in Mumbai send sweets, gift articles to each other.
There is no other place better than Rajasthan when it comes to rich culture and celebrations. Nourished with amazing cultural and traditions fills the life of people with different colors. Udaipur, the city of lakes celebrates Holi in its own royal style. Holi is of particular importance to the people of Udaipur because of the special interest the members of the royal family take in bringing the festival of colour to their people. The first day of Holika Dahan is observed at the City Palace every year in the presence of Mewar’s Royal family. The customs of lighting the Holi pyre is traditionally performed by the current custodian of the Mewar dynasty. An elaborate function then takes place at the City Palace.