India is the epitome of diversity; a treasure of cultures and traditions. And what adds to the beauty of these different cultures is that they celebrate each tradition and festival uniquely!
Holi is celebrated throughout India with immense joy and fervor. The day of Phalgun purmina according to the lunar calendar of the Hindus is celebrated as Holi and marks the end of the winter season. Though the festival is celebrated in most parts of India, each part of the country have their own regional influence in the rituals and culture.
Lathmar Holi, Uttar Pradesh
As per legends, the traditional of Holi began here in the Braj region, i.e. Vrindavan, Mathura, Nandgaon and Barsana. The festival of Holi is celebrated for at least month here and not just with colors! Yes, the women in Barsana chase men with Laths or lathis. Because they will be hit with laths, men come prepared too.
Hola Mohalla, Punjab
Holla Mohalla, as it is called in Punjab, the festival is celebrated by the Sikhs in their own style and elan. Lip smacking food, sweets are an essential part of the festivities. The Punjabis thpugh, do not follow the tradition of bonfire. Anantpur Sahib where the late Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Guru, instituted Pahul (the baptism of the kalsas), militarized his followers into the order of Nihangs (Warrior-mendicants) and elected the Panj Pyare (the beloved fire), the festival is celebrated with gusto. Martial arts and other spectacular art forms of dare-devilry are performed by the Nihang Sikhs. A community feast, Langar, is open throughout the day for everybody.
In the Northeastern state of Manipur, the Holi celebrations are most interesting. Here, the celebrations begin on the day of Holi and go on for six days. The Yaosang festival of Manipur that dates back a hundred years was amalgamated with the celebration of Holi after the introduction of Vaishnavism in the 18th century. A tradition of preparing a thatched hut made of hay, twigs and sticks are built and set ablaze to mark Holi. ‘Thabal Chongba’, a traditional form of Manipuri dance associated with this festival is performed on all six days. Thabal means moonlight and chonga means dance in the local language.
Khadi Holi, Uttarakhand
Khadi holi is played in the Kumaon region that includes mainly towns in Uttrakhand. As a part of the celebration, the locals wear traditional clothes, sing khari songs and dance in groups. They move in tolis, and greet the people they pass by. In this region, Holi is usually a musical gathering in different versions known as Baithika Holi, Khadi Holi and Mahila Holi.
Celebrated with great pomp and grandeur among the Konkani community, the Shigmo festival is huge in Goa! People dress in vibrant colours and dance to energetic tunes. A spring festival, Holi is celebrated as a part of this festival among the local farmers.
Manjal Kuli, Kerala
As we already know the festival of colors, i.e. Holi is not played on a grand scale like in North India. Some communities in the southern part of the country celebrate the festival with different traditions and name. In Kerala, Holi is celebrated as Manjal Kuli. It is celebrated in the Konkani temple of Gosripuram Thirumala.
Bihar and Holi go hand in hand. The festival is known as Phaguwa in the local Bhojpuri dialect. However, in Bihar, it’s important to light the Holika pyre before playing Holi. After that, Holi is played with folk songs, water and powdered colors derived from natural sources. Consumption of Bhang is also a part of the holi celebrations in the state.
Dol Jatra, West Bengal
In West Bengal, the eastern state of India, the Holi celebrations are different and interesting. Dol Jatra (the festival of swings), as it is called locally is celebrated with idols of Krishna and Radha placed on swings and are swung by devotees on turn. Abeer (Colored powder) and colored water are sprayed at each other while women devotional songs and traditional dancing around the swings. However, as times are changing, this tradition is being lost gradually and a modern tradition of playing with colors along with street processions with music and drums are taking precedence in Bengal. The celebration of Holi as Basant Utsav was started by Bengali poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in Shantiniketan where it is celebrated with great enthusiasm. In Bengal, the date of Holi generally falls a day before the celebrations are to take place in rest of India.
Royal Holi, Rajasthan
On the eve of Holi, locals light bonfires to mark the occasion and get rid of evil spirits in the holika dahan. This celebration is done at a grand level by Udaipur’s Mewar royal family. The fancy procession includes decorated horses and the royal band. Later, the traditional sacred fire is lit and an effigy of Holika is burnt.
In the state of Assam, Holi is known as Phakuwa and is similar to the Holi celebrated in Bengal ‘Dol Jatra’. Here, the festival is celebrated over two days. On the 1st day, clay huts are burnt signifying the legend of Holika dahan and on day two, locals celebrate with powdered colors.