Holi, the festival of colors, celebrated with equal fervor and gaiety in both urban and rural India. This phenomenon of celebrating life, love, goodness and the onset of spring has many variations across India. The best places to play Holi are those that add a twist to the usual celebration of throwing colored water and smearing paint on each other. As Holi is not all about painting each other in various hues. Holi is a lot more and the celebrations in these 5 places in India certainly are proof of the variance in tradition and way of celebrating this enjoyable festival.
1. Varanasi, Barsana Holi with Sticks
Holi of Barsana, the birthplace of Radha, a village, 42 kms away from Mathura, is of particular interest. To this day, the village women have the freedom to literally take up cudgels against their menfolk, a right they exercise with all enthusiasm and shower colored water as an expression of joy.The main celebrations at Barsana, take place at the Ladliji temple, dedicated to Sri Radha Rani. Hindu devotees daubed in colours gather at the Radhe-Krishna temple to celebrate Holi. In a Holi tradition unique to Barsana and Nandgaon villages, men sing provocative songs to gain the attention of women, who then “beat” them with bamboo sticks called “lathis”. The women, draped in vibrant saris, then go on the offensive and use long staves called ‘laathis’ to beat the men, who protect themselves with shields.
2. Mathura – Vrindavan Holi
Holi celebrations get underway on Vasant Panchami, 40 days before the main Holi day, in the temple towns of Mathura and Vrindavan, four hours from Delhi. Mathura is where Lord Krishna was born, while Vrindavan was where he spent his childhood. The Sri Krishna Janmastham in Mathura holds a renowned show in the week before Holi. The week long celebrations at Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan are also legendary, and culminate with the throwing of colors on Dhulendi. In the afternoon head to Mathura to see the colorful Holi procession that starts from Vishram Ghat and finishes near Holi Gate. The best place to catch the throwing of colors is Dwarkadheesh Temple in Mathura.
3. Mumbai, Matka Tod Holi
Mumbai is a well known place where all the page3 people along with all the celebrities reside, Leaving mordern celebration behind, Mumbai celebrates holi iin a traditional way too. The famous Matka breaking ritual, where a high-hanging pot filled with buttermilk is to be broken by young fellows. It is done to relive Lord Krishna’s childhood feats. The Bollywood stars throng the Mumbai Holi, making public appearances while celebrating Holi with their near ones. The streets are buzzing with Bollywood tracks and Abeer and Gulal with the pichkaris are a possession for most of the people.
4. Jaipur, Holi with Elephants
An elephant festival kicks off Holi celebrations in Jaipur every year on Holi eve. Elephant parades, elephant beauty contests, folk dances, and tug-of-war between elephants, locals and foreigners are all regular events. It makes Holi extra fun. The ‘Pink City’ coats itself a different hue in the two-day-long celebrations of Holi. The festival gets underway with a traditional procession of decorated elephants. They proudly parade up and down, like catwalk models, to an appreciative crowd. Elephant beauty contests, folk dances, and tug-of-war between elephants, locals and foreigners are all regular events. Khasa Kothi hotel and Rambagh polo ground feature traditional Rajasthani folk music, cultural programmes, and of course the colours. This festival infuses vibrancy and enthusiasm among locals and tourists. Another choice is to go to Udaipur where the royal Rajput family hosts special functions.
5. Shantiniketan, West Bengal Basant Utsav
The celebration of Holi as Basanta Utsav (Spring Festival) in Shantiniketan was started by famous Bengali poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Inspired by spring and the colors of Holi, he introduced the occasion as an annual event in his Vishva Bharati University there. Students dress up in spring colors and put on a huge cultural program for visitors, including dances to Tagore’s songs. This is followed by the usual throwing of colors. Vasanta Utsav has become a cherished part of Bengali history and culture, and it attracts numerous foreign tourists. Basant Utsav is observed as an annual event at Tagore’s Vishwa Bharati University. Students present some wonderful folk dances and cultural programmes for visitors followed by the throwing of colors. Basant Utsav has come to be a cherished tradition at Shantiniketan. Everybody is seen dressed up in spring colors. There is a song in every heart and a skip in every step. Basant Utsav takes place a day earlier than Holi and is now considered an important part of the Bengali heritage. A huge number of tourists arrive every year at Shantiniketan to witness and participate in the celebrations, which unlike the rest of the country are graceful and dignified. Young boys and girls welcome Basant, the season of hope, with an elation expressed by not just throwing colours but with beautiful songs, dance and soulful chanting of hymns in the serene environment Shantiniketan. Note that festivities happen a day earlier than the given date for Holi in other parts of India.