Holi is an ancient and popular Hindu religious festival celebrated throughout India. It is a spring festival, also known as the festival of colours. The colorful festival of Holi is celebrated on Phalgun Purnima which occurs around the month of March. It is the second most widely celebrated festival of India after Diwali.
Holi festival has an ancient origin and celebrates the victory of good over bad. There are several mythological stories behind the origin of the festival. According to one belief, the festival celebrates the killing Holika, the sister of Hrinyakashyapu. Holi festival is also widely associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha. The festival also holds significance with respect to end of winter season and the onset of summer season.
Here are the best places in India to watch or play the famous Holi festival.
Mathura & Vrindavan
The Holi of Mathura and Vrindavan is extremely famous throughout the country. It attracts tourists and pilgrims from all over the world. Mathura is the birth-place of Lord Krishna and Vrindavan is the place where he spent his childhood.
According to legend, the tradition of playing colors on Holi originated from the leela of Radha and Krishna. Mathura holds a renowned show in the week before Holi. A colourful and musical procession takes place from the temples to river then to the Holi Gate, where the festival is marked. On Holi, the best place to catch the throwing of colors in Mathura is Dwarkadheesh Temple.
The Banke-Bihari Temple in Vrindavan is hosts a week long Holi celebrations. The event here takes place just a day before the main Holi festival. The temple opens up its doors to all visitors to come and play Holi.
Vrindavan – Image Source
Barsana in Uttar Pradesh is famous for Lath mar Holi. Barsana was the home of Radha where Krishna went to tease her and her friends. Taking offence at this, the women of Barsana chased him away. The main celebrations at Barsana, take place at the Ladliji temple, dedicated to Sri Radha Rani.
The two day celebrations of Lath mar Holi are a unique experience. In the first day men from Krishna’s village, Nandgaon travel to Barsana to tease the women there. The women chase men and hitting them with sticks, hence the name Lathmar Holi. Men are allowed to protect themselves with shields. The second day women from Barsana go to Nandgaon to play Holi with men of Nandgaon.
Barsana – Image Source
The Holi festival is celebrated as Basanta Utsav or Spring Festival in Shantiniketan, West Bengal. This festival was started as an annual event by famous Bengali poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in his Vishva Bharati University at Shantiniketan.
The students of Vishva Bharati celebrate Basanta Utsav in very special way. Students dress up in yellow color and present some wonderful folk dances and cultural programs followed by the throwing of colours. The celebrations start a day earlier than Holi and are now considered an important part of the Bengali heritage. A huge number of tourists arrive every year at Shantiniketan to witness and participate in these celebrations.
Shantiniketan – Image Source
Sikhs celebrate Holi (called as Hola Mohalla) in their own style at Anandpur Sahib, Punjab. Hola Mohalla is an annual fair celebrated a day after the Hindu festival of Holi. It was first organized by Sikh Guru Gobind Singh to celebrate Holi. Apparently, the name Hola is the masculine name of the feminine Holi. While the vibrant Holi festival boasts of sprinkling colors, Hola Mohalla takes the form of demonstrating martial skills in simulated battles. On this three-day grand festival, mock battles, exhibitions, display of weapons, etc., are held followed by kirtan, music and poetry competitions. The participants perform daring feats, such as Gatka (mock encounters with real weapons), tent pegging, bareback horse-riding, standing erect on two speeding horses and various other feats of bravery.
Anandpur Sahib – Image Source
Jaipur and Udaipur
Holi is one of the major festivals celebrated in Rajasthan with great patron from royal families of Rajasthan. The celebrations stretch for two days. The first day of Holika Dahan is observed at the City Palace in Udaipur. The customs of lighting the Holika Dahan is traditionally performed by the current custodian of the Mewar dynasty. The following morning, the celebrations of Holi are all out on the streets of Jaipur & Udaipur.
An elephant festival kicks off the celebrations in Jaipur. Every year the Holi festival begins with a massive parade including elaborately decorated elephants, camels, horses, and folk dancing through the streets. The owners of these animals take significant pride in how they dress up the elephants or camels, and it is often a friendly competition amongst neighbors to see who can create the most lavishly decorated animal. There are also elephant polo, elephant races and tug-of-war between elephants.
Jaipur – Image Source
The festival of Holi is called Shigmostav in Goa. Festivities start with prayers to the village gods and goddesses. It is the biggest festival for Hindus and is spread over a fortnight. The parades are held on last five days of the festival. Shigmostav is highlighted with performances of troupes in the form of parades and cultural dramas. Festivities reach the peak on the fifth day when gulal is used to colour everyone. Most of the festivities are mainly concentrated in Panjim, Vasco and Margao. The main Goa Beaches also turn colorful on the day of Holi with large number of locals & tourists gathering on the shores to play with colors.
Goa – Image Source
Holi is another important festival other than Hampi festival, which is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of Phalguna. The festival holds significance with respect to end of winter season and the onset of summer season. Holi celebrations in Hampi were held for 2 days. People gather in the streets to splash colors and dancing to the drum beats followed by a nice dip in the river. One of the top heritage sites in India turns colorful on the eve of Holi. Hampi is one of the prime faces of Karnataka Tourism. The foreign tourists actively participate in Holi celebrations along with locals.
Hampi – Image Source
Holi is a major festival in Mumbai and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. There are also Holi parties arranged in the city. The celebrations include hanging a pot full of buttermilk and men clamber on top of one another and try to reach the pot. One that succeeds in breaking the pot is named Holi King of that year. Doing such things revives acts of Krishna. Physically challenged people also actively take part in this festival. Even Bollywood celebrities play with color during this festival. On this occasion people in Mumbai send sweets, gift articles to each other.
Mumbai – Image Source
* Source of Feature Image – Wikimedia
Hampi Historical Sites
Places to visit in Goa