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iXiGOers Mar 12 2013

What are the various ways in which Holi is celebrated in India?

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There are various ways in which Holi is celebrated in India. Clouds of colours in the air, kids running armed with pichkaris, gulal smeared faces, an excuse to get high on bhaang spiked Thandai and gorge on Malpuas, Dahi Badas and Gujia--no wonder Holi is a such a popular Indian festival! While the above is a constant for most Hindus all over the world, the festival also comes with some unique regional ceremonies! Take a look at the following places and decide for yourself which part of the country you would like to celebrate Holi in 2015.

Mathura and Vrindavan

Here’s something very unique about the Holi celebrations in Mathura and Vrindavan, two of the popular cities in Uttar Pradesh--the festivities last a full 40 days, concluding finally on the day of Holi! The best of classical and folk dancers come together from all over the country to depict the love story of Krishna and Radha. Not only this, but also the best voices of the country perform folk songs here during this time. Out of all the venues across the twin cities, the most notable shows are organized at Shree Krishna Janmasthan a week before the festival.



Photo of Holi Celebration (by J.S. Jaimohan)

What’s more, the fun doesn’t end with colourful performances! A few days before the actual festival is the lath-maar holi, celebrated when the cowherds from Nandgaon in Mathura visit the gopis of Radha’s village, Barsana. Legend has it the Krishna once visited this village to tease Radha and her friends and was affectionately shoo-ed away with laths or bamboo sticks. This tradition has continued in the form of Lath-Maar Holi here, where women get a chance to playfully hit their men with lathis. The atmosphere is frenzied and charged with excitement, with loud songs accompanying the action in the arena.


Devotees playing Lath-Maar Holi at Krishna Temple in Nandgaon (by Narender9)

Mathura and Vrindavan are situated about 4 hours away from Delhi, by road. The cities are also connected to the capital by train.

Banswara

At this small village in Rajasthan, Holi is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and fanfare. The tribals of this village and the surrounding area bring out their traditional clothing and jewellery to participate in community dances using sticks and swords as their props. This is known as the Gair Dance and it is usually organized on the eve of Holi, and also follows Hollika Dahan. The people are very warm and welcoming, and as this custom is little known, its not commercialized, offering a great window to local customs and rituals. It is one of the various ways in which Holi is celebrated in India.

Reaching Banswara can be slightly difficult as it is a small place. You can either take a taxi to the place from Udaipur (165 km) or from Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh (85 km).

Uttarakhand

The Holi celebrations in the hill station of Uttarakhand have a honey-like musical flavour! The Kumaoni population of the state celebrates Holi in three ways, known as Baithaki Holi, Khari Holi and Mahila Holi. In the Baithaki Holi, devotees of Lord Krishna sing classical ragas to please the deity. People gather along the course of the day at the temple premises, in performance centres and at homes, where ragas particular to specific times of the day are sung. The Mahila Holi is also similar to Baithaki Holi, only these gatherings comprise of women.


Photo of Holi Celebration (by Steven Gerner)

In Khari Holi, people dress up in the traditional wear of Nokidaar Topi, Kurta and Churidaar and dance to the beats of local instruments like hurka and dhol. This celebration usually follows the Baithaki Holi and also involves singing folk songs.

West Bengal

West Bengal has various ways of celebrating Holi, and amongst them, there are some very unique in character. Take the Holi celebrations at Shantiniketan--one of the famous places near Kolkata. Here, the celebration of Holi as the Vasant Utsav was started by Rabindranath Tagore. The students of the Vishva Bharti Institute dress up in lively hues of spring and perform to all the songs written by the Nobel Laureate. This is followed by water showers and smearing colours. Such is the flavour of this celebration, that it has grown to become one of the most cherished events and attracts tourists from all over the world.


Photo of a Celebration in Shantiniketan (by Official Tourism Website)

Another unique custom of Holi in West Bengal is the ritual of Doi Jatra or Dol Purnima. In this, students dressed in bright saffron colours carry intricately decorated palanquins of Radha and Lord Krishna through the streets. This procession is accompanied with song, dance and water sprays, giving the whole atmosphere a vibrant and lively feel. It is also celebrated with much enthusiasm and merry abandonment in Kolkata--the capital city of West Bengal.

Jaipur

When spring comes, the Pink City, gears up for a twin celebration, that of Holi and the Elephant Festival. Apart from the beautifully adorned elephants, the heart racing Elephant Polo matches and the grand processions of folk dancers and singers, the most unique aspect about celebrating Holi in Jaipur is enjoying smearing colour on your loved ones faces on elephant backs!


Photo of Elephant Festival (by johntrathome)

Apart from all the above, India also celebrates Holi in unique forms in states like Bihar, Assam and Goa, some of the famous cities in India. If you are tired of the same old neighbourhood party you attend every Holi, how about packing your bags and enjoying the various ways in which Holi is celebrated in India. After all, HOLI HAI!


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