It is that time of the year when there are colours all around! Holi, one of the most vibrant festivals of India is just around the corner and there is an atmosphere of excitement all around. The festival that signifies the victory of good over evil also marks the beginning of the spring season in India. Essentially a festival of colours, Holi is also known for the myriad of different ways in which it is celebrated across India. Let’s have a look at the many facets and the regional uniqueness of Holi Celebrations in India.
In Western India, particularly in Maharashtra, Holi is colloquially known as Rang Panchami or Shimga. The celebrations include all the Holika Dahan, a common tradition which involves lighting a firewood pyre on the night before the actual celebrations. On the following morning, which is the Rang Panchami day, people celebrate Holi with wet and dry colours and water. The festivities here can go on for a week.
Holika Dahan at Night
All day long Holi Celebrations on the following day
Moving further north to Udaipur, Rajasthan, locals here too follow the traditional practice of Holika Dahan, albeit a bit differently. The celebrations here are known to be truly grand and are organized by the royal Mewar family of Udaipur. There is a fancy procession as part of the festivities and it includes several decorated horses and the royal band. The traditional fire is lit later and an effigy of Holika is set on fire.
Holika Dahan at Night
Grand Procession by the royal Mewar Family of Udaipur
As we go further up north to Sadda Punjab, an interesting fact comes up. Holi here is actually known as Holla Mohalla here. It is celebrated a day after Holi and is, in fact, a celebration commemorating the bravery of Sikh Warriors. The celebrations are characteristic of a particular sect, known as the Nihang Sikhs. The festivities include an extensive display of traditional martial arts which is later followed by music and dancing.
Martial Arts Display
Music and Dance Celebrations
4. Kahila Holi aka Khadi Holi aka Baithaki Holi – Uttarakhand
Moving to our final destination of North India, Uttarakhand, we discover that Holi here is actually known by a number of different names. Baithaki Holi, Mahila Holi, Khadi Holi are all common names for the festival here. Festivities here include revellers donning traditional attire and singing & dancing to folk tunes going around the city. This gathering of people is known as a Toli and locals greet each other by smearing colour on each other’s faces and dancing and singing all along. Unlike other parts of India, song and dance are an essential part of the Holi celebrations in Uttarakhand.
Traditional Attire of the Locals
Dancing and Singing Tolis
5. Lathmar Holi – Uttar Pradesh, one of the popular Holi celebrations in India
Our journey continues to Uttar Pradesh, the largest state of India and also one of the most interesting Holi celebrations in India. Lathmar Holi as it is known in local Bhojpuri has a really different approach to the entire Holi festivities. Women here are armed with lathis, canes meant to hit the men and boys playfully during the festivities. The men, in turn, come prepared with a dhal, or a shield to protect themselves. The unlucky men who happen to get caught by the women are made to dress in female attire and dance on the streets. All of this is done primarily in jest and not aggressively.
Largely celebrated all across Uttar Pradesh, Lathmar Holi finds its origins in Hindu Mythology. It is believed that Lord Krishna tried to tease Radha and play Holi with her in her village Barsana. The local women got angry and chased him away with lathis.
We now eastwards to Bihar where Holi is known as Phaguwa in the local dialect, Bhojpuri. Like many other Indian states, Holika Dahan is an integral part of the celebrations here as well. The celebrations of Holika Dahan too are similar to other states. On the following day, Holi is celebrated with wet and dry colours and traditional music and folk songs throughout the day.
Holika Dahan at night
All day long Holi celebrations on the following day
Next up is the Northeastern Gem, Manipur! Holi here is celebrated over six long days and is locally known as Yaosang. The festivities here blend indigenous North Eastern and Hindi traditions. While there is a celebration of Holi with colours both dry and wet, the highlight of Holi here is the Thabal Chongba, a traditional Manipuri folk dance that is performed during the celebrations.
The rich and seamless blend of Manipuri and Hindu Traditions
As we continue our journey of the different Indian states, we now take a stop at the land of roshagulla, West Bengal! Holi here is known as Basant Utsav or Dol Jatra. Basant essentially means spring in Bengali while Utsav means festival. Women here dress mainly in yellow, a colour that signifies abundance. If you want to get the best seats to watch the celebrations here, head to Shanti Niketan in a quaint location known as Bolpur. This little place is the epicentre of everything that depicts the rich Bengali culture. Holi celebrations here are unparalleled till date. In addition to the many colours that are always a part of Holi, there is also recitals of Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry and traditional song & dance programs.
The day after Holi is celebrated as Dol Jatra. On this day, a grand procession of Lord Krishna is taken through the streets of Bengal accompanied by singing and dancing revellers. This is often accompanied by the traditional smearing of colour on the faces of friends, family and at times even strangers who are celebrating!
9th on our list of different Holi celebrations in India is Dola, celebrated in the northern state of Odisha. Holi celebrations here are quite similar to those in West Bengal. The main highlight, however, is that Holi in Odisha celebrates Lord Jagannath, also known as Dolagovinda. Along with the traditional smearing of wet and dry colours, there are processions of Lord Jagannath seen throughout the many different cities and towns.
We now go down under to God’s Own Country, Kerala. This state has its own unique version of Holi in the form of Manjal Kuli, also known as Ukuli. The Kudumbi and Konkani communities of Kerala are known to celebrate in this traditional manner and the festivities should not be missed! Unlike many other states of India, here the major colour used is turmeric or Manjal Kuli.
Traditional Holi Celebrations with Turmeric and other Natural Colours.
We conclude our trip in Goa, the party capital of India. Shigmo, the local name for Holi in Goa is a massive celebration of spring. Street dances and traditional folk songs are performed by the local farmers. And like every celebration in Goa, tourists take part with equal fervour in the Shigmo festivities as well. There are also many traditional Shigmo Parades conducted in various parts of the state which are a sight for the sore eyes!
Traditional Folk Performances by Farmers
The best Goa packages will allow you to have wonderful moments in the party capital of India.
Like every other festival celebrated here, Holi too has many flavours that keep varying as go along the country. Together, they make the melting pot of several different cultures, festivities and traditions that we know as India!