Holi is around and the festive spirit is in the air. Thinking of Holi immediately brings in lots of excitement and fun which we miss throughout the year. This festival is celebrated in the month of March during the full moon day every year. Holi is the right time to forgive all the differences we had. It is the time to show a kind and a happy gesture to all who come across our way. Now sending greetings have become easier due to social networking sites which include WhatsApp, twitter, facebook and lots more. Throughout the day we encounter the people who are painted thoroughly with bright and vibrant colours. Stretching from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Holi is played keeping some rituals in mind and this includes: Lightening of bonfires, drinking of bhaang and listening to bhajans.
The story of Lord Narashima, Hiranyakashyap, Prahlada, and Holika reminds us of the fact that truth and humanity are forces to be reckoned with. Let us all dip in the hues of love, trust, and happiness and enjoy this colourful festival of Holi.
Here are some of the best destinations where Holi is celebrated with great excitement:
Mathura and Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
Woven with the tales of divine love between Krishna and Radha, the Braj Region had spread this festival all over India. The towns of Mathura, Vrindavan, Gokul, and Nandgaon document the birth and childhood of Krishna. Test your endurance at world-famous Lath mar Holi at Radha Rani Temple in Barsana, go for temple-hopping in the lanes of Mathura, or partake in Raasleela at Bankey Bihari Mandir in Vrindavan. And when the 16-day-long celebrations are over, stick around to volunteer for widows.
Varanasi (Banaras), Uttar Pradesh
Chillum-smoking sadhus and pilgrims at river-ghats and evening rituals of Aarti and floating diyas in the Ganga River is the first image that comes to mind. Being the face of spiritual India, celebrating Holi in the Holy City of India is a unique experience. The roads are slathered with colours, bhaang-flavoured thandai is a common drink, and eating gujias is a must. Basically, anyone unarmed – whether a desi or videsi – and whose clothes are not completely drenched is a fair game.
Known for revered ashrams, wellness retreats, and pleasant weather, Rishikesh is a hotspot for Holi celebrations. The festive air of excitement in the lanes of this town and colourful faces of firangis are ever present. Hug strangers and cover them in powder or break the ice with foreigners in a café and you’ll realise that they know this town like it’s their backyard.
Holi in Rajasthan is more or less the same as northern India but with a royal twist. The ‘Pink City’ coats itself a different hue in the two-day-long celebrations of Holi. Khasa Kothi hotel and Rambagh polo ground feature traditional Rajasthani folk music, cultural programmes, and of course the colours. This festival infuses vibrancy and enthusiasm among locals and tourists. Another choice is to go to Udaipur where the royal Rajput family hosts special functions.
Sikhs bring their own style and energy to any Indian festival, along with Holi. A week-long period called Holashtak kick-starts the preparations for the arrival of Holi in Punjab. The Durgiana Temple in Amritsar is the ground zero for Holi celebrations and thus, draws a large number of devotees from across the state. Hola Mohalla is a popular three-day festival among Nihang Sikhs who put on elaborate deep-blue turbans and demonstrate jaw-dropping stunts in Anandpur Sahib.
Once you celebrate Holi in Gujarat, you’ll not miss Dandiya and Navaratri celebrations. Holi receives its celebratory origins from this state mainly with dance, food, and music. Dyed water is shot from water guns, kids throw water-filled balloons at revellers from terrace, and human pyramids are made to break the buttermilk pots. The coastal town of Dwarka takes part in festivities with great fervour and passion at the Dwarkadheesh Temple.
There is a fine line between party and anarchy in Goa. Konkan festival Shimgmotav coincides with Hindu festival of Holi. A street carnival with bands, parades, and buzzing musical fares in the night is carried out. The troupe performances and cultural dramas with mythological stories are major highlights to see in Panjim.
Shantiniketan, West Bengal
In the cultural breeding grounds of West Bengal, Holi has a special flavour. The Basanta Utsav, which marks the advent of spring in Shantiniketan, was started by Rabindranath Tagore. Being a pilgrimage for art, culture, and folk dance, it smudges not just bodies but souls with joyousness. The informal vibe of its historic institution welcomes anyone with curiosity. Visitors can sample traditional sweets like Rasgulla, Malpua, Mishti Doi, Sandesh and Payesh.
Indore, Madhya Pradesh
The city of Indore witnesses a range of celebrations, rooted in the history of Marathas, for five days. On the final day, which is called Pancham Holi, colours and water buckets come out. Local authorities support the celebrations by sprinkling coloured water on the narrow lanes of old city. For a slightly rustic experience of Holi, travel to Ujjain and Ratlam where tribal folks put on their traditional dance Gair which has similarities with garba.
Amidst loud bhajans and vibrant atmosphere, the picturesquely decorated palanquin with the idol of Lord Jagannath is pulled out in a grand procession in Dola Yatra. The drumming, dancing, and non-stop fun of splashing ‘abeer’ and ‘gulaal’ is a rare sight in an otherwise laid-back town. Later in the evening, Holika is burnt by locals as a symbol of triumph of good over evil. Then, married women collect the bonfire ashes and use it with rice and water to make drawings.
Hampi, Patna, Raipur, and Chandigarh are other places to vigorously celebrate Holi. If your face doesn’t end up looking like a rainbow-coloured clown or an oompa loompa; you are missing out on precious little joys of life.