Holi marks the onset of the spring season in India. Held in the month of March, it is the most colorful festival of the country and definitely one of the most popular. Holi is a traditional ancient Hindu festival which has become popular even among the non-Hindu communities. The festival has, in recent times, spread in parts of Europe and North Americas as a spring celebration of love, frolic and colors. Holi is celebrated at the approach of vernal equinox, on the Phalguna Purnima (Full Moon).
The festival of Holi has numerous legends and mythological stories associated with its celebrations. The cultural rites of holi have been mentioned in the Puranas, Dasakumara Charita and by the famous India poet Kalidasa during the 4th century reign of Chandragupta II. The festival is signified by the legend of Holika. It is said that Holika (a demon), the sister of King Hiranyakashipu and aunt of Prahlad was burnt to death with help of Lord Vishnu, in order to save Prahlad. Her death marked the victory of good over evil and thus the celebration of Holi came into existence.
Beside the religious angle, there are numerous other reasons which can be attributed for the celebration of Holi across the country. In many culture, Holi marks the beginning of the spring season, the festive day to end and rid oneself of past errors, end conflicts by meeting others.
There are several cultural rituals associated with Holi. Celebrations begin many days before the festival, with people gathering wood and combustible materials for the bonfire in parks, community centers, near temples and other open spaces. On the night before the holi, an effigy signifying ‘Holika’ is put atop the pyre and burnt. Inside the homes, food, party drinks and festive seasonal foods such as gujiya, mathri, malpuas and other regional delicacies are savoured. The most enjoyable part of the festival is playing with colors which begin in the morning after the Holika bonfire and enjoying the traditional drink, ‘bhang’.
Celebrations of Holi across India
Holi is celebrated all over India with great pomp and show. It will not be an understatement to say that the whole country gets drenched in the color and revelry of this festival. If you want to enjoy the true essence of Holi then take up packages of Mathura Vrindavan, which is famous for its traditional festivities. Here the celebrations begin 40 day prior and dancers from various parts of India put on shows depicting Krishna's flirtations with the village maidens. Folk music and 5 day celebration held in the famous Shri Banke Bihari Temple here is legendary. The ‘Lath Mar Holi’ celebrated in the town of Barsana, near Mathura is a unique local celebration.
To enjoy loud and extravagant holi celebration, go to Mumbai, where high profile parties are arranged. Due to the presence of many Bollywood celebrities, extravagant private parties are organized to play holi. Similar is the case in Delhi where frenzy of music, colour and madness coupled with bhang lassi, street food, and sprinklers can be enjoyed.
|Elephant Festival at Jaipur|
If you happen to be on a trip to Jaipur, during the time of Holi, then do not miss the Elephant festival which takes place at Jaipur's Chaugan Stadium from 4 pm until 7 pm. Elephant parades, elephant beauty contests, folk dances and tug-of-war between elephants are some of the main events at the festival. Tourists in Rajasthan can also go to Banaswara to enjoy the tribal way of celebrating Holi. Local villagers dressed in traditional attire and carrying a sword is a common sight. If you want to enjoy the traditional Gair dance, then this is the best time to go.
The unique tradition of celebrating Holi in Shantiniketan in West Bengal can be attributed to the famous noble laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. Annual events where students dress up in spring colors and perform cultural programs are conducted here and everyone, including the foreigners is allowed to participate. Purulia is another town in West Bengal where holi is celebrated in folk style. Along with folk dances like Chau dance, Darbari Jhumur, Natua dance, and songs of West Bengal's wandering Baul musician, tent accommodation with portable toilet is available for the tourists. Purulia is a small town which can be easily reached by taking up packages from Kolkata.
Each region and state has their own unique way of celebrating Holi and no matter where you are, the colors, festivities and joy of Holi will not leave you untouched.