INDIA: India is a land of a mix of rituals, languages, music, dialects, clothes, and festivals. Holi, the festival of colours, is no different and has a multicultural character depending on the regions of India – North, East, West, and South.
The festival has different names, and also the traditions followed vary as one moves from one state to another. Majorly, it is a festival when people spend the day smearing coloured powder all over each other’s faces, throwing colored water at each other, and relishing delicious foods especially made for the occasion. Bhang (cannabis) is also traditionally consumed on Holi.
The festivities range from traditional temple rituals to modern parties. At various places, along with colours, people also enjoy celebrating Holi with mud. Folk songs and dances are an essential part of celebrations and so is drinking Thandai made with bhang, milk, and spices.
Let’s take a look at major celebrations in different parts of India, which is primarily a celebration associated with spring harvest, wherein farmers celebrate the festival as a part of their happiness after the new crops. The list is quite exhaustive, so we will take it up in two parts. Here is the first part:
Mathura in Braj region
Mathura in the Braj region of Uttar Pradesh is the birthplace of traditional Holi celebrations which were started by Lord Krishna. The celebrations begin on Vasant Panchami, exactly 40 days before Holi, in the temple towns of Mathura, Vrindavan, Barsana, and Nandgaon.
Every day, different types of celebrations are there, like:
- Lath-mar (beat up) Holi celebrations in Barsana Village in the week before the main day of Holi where ladies of the village beat up men with sticks,
- Laddoo Holi festivities at Shriji Temple where laddoos are thrown around and distributed as prasad,
- Week-long celebrations at Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan which culminate with the throwing of flower petals (Phoolon Wali Holi), and colors on the day before Holi,
- Widow Holi in Vrindavan,
- The colorful Holi procession at Mathura,
- The throwing of colors is Dwarkadheesh Temple in Mathura, and also see priests making bhang at Vishram Ghat.
- The day after, women gather to beat and strip men at Daoji temple in Baldeo.
Dol Jatra – West Bengal
Holi festival is celebrated a day earlier in West Bengal. It is also called Dol Purnima or the Swing Festival.
Holi is called Dol Jatra in West Bengal and like Holi, it is dedicated to Lord Krishna; the idols of Radha and Krishna are placed on a decorated palanquin and taken out in a procession. The devotees take turns to swing them while women dance around the swing and sing devotional songs. During these activities, lots of dry colours – gulal, and abeer is flown on women.
Holi is celebrated in a cultural way at Shantiniketan, West Bengal. It was started by famous Bengali poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore who celebrated Holi in his Vishwabharati University as Spring Festival or Vasanta Utsav. Students of the university and youths dress up in bright yellow colorful dresses symbolising the color of Vasanta.
Nimdih, another place in the Purulia district of West Bengal also celebrates a three-day Vasanta Utsav folk festival, where people sing and play Holi, as well as enjoy a wide variety of unique folk art, namely Chau dance, Darbari Jhumur, Natua dance, and songs of West Bengal’s wandering Baul musicians.
Holla Mohalla, Anandpur Sahib, Punjab
Punjab has a unique spin to he festival in a very athletic way at Anandpur Sahib. in Punjab. Instead of throwing colors, a demonstration of physical agility is showcased through wrestling, martial arts, mock sword fights, acrobatic military exercises, and turban tying. Guru Gobind Singh first celebrated Holi all the way back in 1701 to develop the martial skills of the community, and since then it is celebrated as Hola Mohalla, also known as Warrior Holi. It is celebrated a day after Holi by Nihang Sikhs.
Yosang – Manipur
In Manipur, this colourful festival is celebrated for six days and is popularly known as Yawol Shang, to pay tribute to Manipur God Pakhangba, and is celebrated by burning hut called Yaosang Mei Thaba, and by spraying water and colours on each other.
Manjul Kuli – Kerala
Holi is celebrated on a subdued manner in most Southern parts. Holi in Kerala is known by the name Manjul Kuli, wherein people spray on each other coloured water, which contains turmeric, and dance on traditional folk songs.
Shigmo – Goa
In Goa, people enjoy Holi, known as Shigmo, Dhakto Shigmo (small), and Vhadlo Shigmo (big) by organising traditional folk and street dances. Shigmo festival is meant to celebrate the spring season in Goa. Boats are decorated with regional and spiritual themes.
In the Konkan region, Holi is called Ukkuli, and is celebrated around the Konkani temple, Gosripuram temple, and lasts for about a month.
Holi is celebrated in other unique styles at various other places in India and outside India. More details in the next post.
Read Also: Colours Of The Festival Of Colours – Holi