Truly depicting the composite essence of the sub-continent, Holi is not just a festival of colours but a celebration of life itself. It is one of the most popular, vibrant and boisterous festivals of India. Celebrated every year on the day of the full moon in March, this festival marks the advent of spring. Holi is celebrated all over India in different forms. We provide you some of the most spectacular Holi experiences across the nation.
Holi celebrates the beginning of spring, and with spring comes an abundance of colour, hence named ‘The Festival of Colours’. To get a raw feel of the festival, visit Mathura and Vrindavan; to enjoy the carefree vibe and the zealous celebrations, visit Varanasi, the city of Shiva; for some awe-inspiring mock-martial drills of the nihang Sikhs, visit Aanandpur Sahib; and last but not the least, to witness the sophestication of the festival celebrated with colourful flowers of Palash and Shimul, head to Shantiniketan, Kolkata.
Holi in Brij
Braj is a historical region that covers the area of Mathura and Vrindavan located only four hours from Delhi. Mathura is the birth place of Lord Krishna and Vrindavan is the place where he spent his early childhood. Holi celebrations get underway on Vasant Panchami (end of winter), 40 days before the main day of Holi.
In a unique Holi celebration at Barsana, Radha’s village, the celebrations begin six days before Holi. The women of Barsana village beat up men from neighbouring Nandgaon village with sticks, in what’s known as Lathmar Holi celebrations. It is played at sunset, when the women of Barsana adorn themselves as Gopika Radha and playfully beat the men. The men wear huge turbans decorated with leaves to protect themselves from the colour and beatings of the women.
The Sri Krishna Janmasthan in Mathura holds a renowned show in the week before Holi. In Mathura, the colorful Holi procession starts from Vishram Ghat and finishes near Holi Gate. Experience an atmosphere filled with the chanting and singing of Holi songs in Braj language.
Do not miss:
The week-long celebrations at Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan is legendary and culminate with the throwing of colours on Dhulendi (March 23, 2016).
It’s worth getting to Barsana a couple of days in advance to experience Laddoo Holi festivities, where sweets are thrown around and spiritual songs related to Radha and Krishna are sung. This will take place on March 16, 2016.
GoAir Connect: Mathura is located at a distance of 160 km (approx.) from Delhi. GoAir operates direct flights to Delhi from Bagdogra, Bengaluru, Leh, Kolkata and Mumbai, and easy connections from other cities across its vast network.
Experience the magnificent Hola Mohalla Festival in Anandpur Sahib, in Punjab. A Sikh festival, it is held the day after Holi. In a tradition started by the 10th Guru, Gobind Singh, the brave Nihangs display the old martial arts & horsemanship, daring skills in sword fighting, tent pegging, archery & other martial skills.
Early morning prayers at the gurdwaras mark the beginning of the festival. Many cultural activities including music, dance and poetry programmes and competitions take place in the evening to unwind the charged up atmosphere. Sikhs, especially the Nihangs, dressed in their traditional martial costumes form part of the pageant. The Nihangs also splash colour on the spectators while showcasing their skills and everyone follows suit.
Historical significance: Hola mohalla commemorates the battles of the Sikhs; the three days around holi are all about display of martial arts, mock fights and tent pegging on horses. The horses are treasured vehicles and revered by the Sikhs. There are two main dals or groups—buddha dal (old ones) and tarana dal (young ones). Buddha dal begins the proceedings.
GoAir Connect: Anandpur Sahib is 84 km from Chandigarh. GoAir operates direct flights to Chandigarh from Mumbai and convenient connections from other major cities.
A cherished tradition at Shantiniketan, started by the popular Indian poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, Basant Utsav celebrates Holi with serenity and peace. The festival heralds the season of spring (basant) and thus, the students of Vishva Bharati University arrange a huge social programme where they sing melodious songs, perform elegant dances wearing yellow-coloured clothes and shower colours at the visitors. ‘Baul Gaan’ traditional songs sung by a group of mystical minstrels from Bengal, is a major attraction of the festival.
After a day filled with music and dance, the students and teachers wish each other by applying abeer (dry coloured powder). The whole atmosphere becomes mildly scented with the fragrance of abeer. The festival attracts hordes of foreign tourists every year to see a unique facet of Holi.
GoAir Connect: Shantiniketan is 213 km from Kolkata. GoAir operates direct flights to Kolkata from Ahmedabad, Bhubaneshwar, Delhi, etc., and convenient connections from other cities.
Holi at Ghats
Varanasi, the city of Lord Shiva, gets transformed during the festival of Holi. Its dusty streets are doused in colours and bhang during the festival. The streets are packed with small groups of people throwing colour and the ghats filled with vibrant hues of pink, blue and yellow. Watch the Holi celebrations from a rooftop, and see the magnificent Ganga below, slowly turning from brown to pink, as people jumped in, splashed around and washed off the day.
Bhang, regarded as prasad of Lord Shiva, is an inseparable part of Holi celebrations in Varanasi. The abundant use of bhang ka gola, barfi or thandai mixed bhang adds extra colour and vibrance to the festival of Holi.
At Manikarnika ghat, Sadhus play Holi with ‘bhasm’ or ashes.
Do not miss: As part of the celebrations, a number of events are organised, such as Haasya Kavi sammelans, Mushairas, dance performances and music festivals during the evening. A number of renowned personalities also participate in these events.
GoAir Connect: Varanasi is 252 km (approx.) from Patna, a GoAir destination. GoAir operates direct flights to Patna from Delhi, Kolkata and Ranchi, and easy connections from Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Pune, among others. For more details, log on to www.goair.in
(Written by Neelam Singh)