Holi is being celebrated in India since the ages of before Christ. The festival is part of many legends and Indian manuscripts. One legend has it that Lord Krishna started the tradition of playing with colors with Radha and other Gopis, which bought the “color” angle to the festival, earlier it was primarily a religious ritual. The meaning of festival has surely changed over the years, but the vigour with which different regions of India celebrate Holi is something to be seen to be believed.
Today, from traditional rituals to modern parties with DJs, from expensive alcohol to the local bhang, Holi is celebrated with all the pomp and fervour throughout India in varying ways. This colourful festival finds a place in the hearts of countless people for different reasons- some celebrate Holika Dahan, others celebrate it for the triumph of good over evil, some celebrate Lord Krishna’s immortal love for Radha. Others celebrate the end of the winter season and the onset of summer.
While the reasons may be numerous, Holi is still one of the most popular and celebrated festivals in India. Different places add their flavour to the celebrations. We discuss the top 10 places in India to witness the best Holi celebrations:
- Mathura and Vrindavan: Mathura is the birthplace of Lord Krishna and Vrindavan is the place where he spent his childhood. Throughout the week preceding Holi, people come out to the streets in throes and smear each other in colours while enjoying the tunes played by musicians. One day before Holi, a beautiful spectacle, unwitnessed by many happens in the form of Phoolon wali Hoii, where temple priests throw flowers at devotees.
- Shantiniketan, West Bengal: The famous poet Rabindranath Tagore started the tradition of celebrating Holi as Basant Utsav. Shantiniketan houses Vishwa Bharati University, and students dress up and hold a sprawling cultural program. This festival has become popular in recent years and attracts lots of tourists from all over the globe.
- Barsana, Uttar Pradesh: Quite different from the traditional Holi celebrations, Holi in Barsana is celebrated by women beating up men with sticks. This unbelievable spectacle is often called “Lathmar Holi”. The atmosphere created is one of mischief and fun where women can be seen giggling as they continue putting the sticks to good use. A word of relief for the men though; men are allowed to defend themselves using shields.
- Delhi: Holi celebrations in the capital are rowdy and filled with enthusiasm. Anyone who braves the streets of Delhi on Holi is subjected to colours and water thrown on them by children, shopkeepers, and residents. The “Holi Moo” festival is a grand event where many Indian and international performers participate. This is a paradise for music lovers; made even better with a diverse cuisine being served.
- Hampi, Karnataka: Although Holi celebrations in the south are much more subdued and peaceful, Hampi is an exception. Amidst the backdrop of the heritage sites of the Vijayanagra Empire, drumming accompanied by dancing attracts throngs of people to the streets. Foreign tourists flock to Hampi during Holi to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere. The celebration culminates with people rushing to the river for a nice dip.
- Punjab: Holi celebrations in Punjab differ from the rest of India. The Sikhs add Punjabi flavor to the celebration held at Anandpur Sahib. Hola Mohalla, as the festival is called here, is a demonstration of physical agility. Instead of throwing colours, people here engage in wrestling, martial arts, display of weapons, and other mock battles. There are also kirtan, poetry, and music competitions. Delicacies like gujjas, puris, and halwas are served to all.
- Jaipur, Rajasthan: Rajasthan Tourism steps in to ensure that the Holi celebrations in Jaipur are an amazing experience for everyone. The Khasa Kothi Hotel, with its sprawling lawns, hosts special events, open for all. There’s a touch of royalty in Holi celebrations here. There are performances like Rajasthani folk dance and music performances. A unique elephant festival also takes place, making the celebrations truly grand.
- Kumaon: In the Kumaon region, Holi is not a day-long event, but rather a month-long celebration. There are three different ways in which Kumaoni Holi is celebrated- Baithaki Holi, or sitting Holi involves devotees singing classical songs, praising Lord Krishna. Khadi Holi, or standing Holi involves people from all over the town coming together to sing. Mahila Holi is similar to Baithaki Holi in terms of the celebrations, but it is attended exclusively by females. This harmonious celebration is truly a sight to behold.
- Udaipur: The Holi celebrations in Udaipur are a royal affair. The royal Mewar family hosts lots of distinguished guests, tourists, and dignitaries. A bonfire is lit by the current custodian of the Mewar family to symbolize the triumph of Good over Evil. A magnificent procession, including horses, elephants, and the royal band sets off from the royal residence to the city palace. Performers treat the audience to spellbinding folk dances. A lavish dinner is hosted in the night and fireworks light up the sky at night.
- Purulia, West Bengal: Holi celebrations in Purila are preceded by a three-day long Basanta Utsav folk festival. A wide variety of dances, like Chau dance, Natua dance, and Darbari Jhoomar entertain the audience. Visitors are treated to a great welcome and affection by the locals, who showcase the local customs and traditions of this place.
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