Holi An Indian Festival of Colours

Holi is known to be a festival of colours. Every year, the festival is celebrated throughout India in the month of March. It starts on the purnima somewhere between the end of February and the middle of March. This year the holi will be celebrated on 13 March, 2017. The reason behind celebration of this festival is that it signifies the victory of good over evil; to celebrate the arrival of spring; end of the winter season and thanksgiving for a good harvest. On the first day of the holi, Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi and on second Dhulandi, Rangwali holi is celebrated. Holi celebrations start on the night before the festival. A bonfire is set where people gather and rituals are done. On the next day holi is celebrated where people chase or colour each other into dry powder, colored water and water balloons. The fun and frolic festival is celebrated very enthusiastically among Indians. The people gather at one place or visit their families and throw colour at each other. When gathering is there how can we forget food. Traditional Holi delicacies are served such as ghujiya, bhaang drinks, bhaang pakoras, golgappas, chutneys made out of bhaang and mint, thandai etc.

India is a country of many religions, cultures and traditions. According to every region or culture the holi is traditionally celebrated in many ways. Let us explore how the festival of colours is celebrated in different regions.

  • Rang Panchami, Maharashtra & Madhya Pradesh – In Maharashtra Holi is celebrated as Shimga which lasts for 5 to 7 days. The people of Maharashtra play holi very enthusiastically. A week before the holi people starts collecting firewood and money. In the evening of shigma the bonfire is set and lit. Everyone sits in front of bonfire and traditional delicacies Puran Poli is served. The colour celebrations take place on the 5th day after Holika dahan known as Ranga Panchami.
  • Basant Utsav and Dol Jatra, West Bengal – In this region of India holi is commonly known as Dol Jatra, Dol Purnima or Swing Festival. On Dol Purnima idols of Krishna and Radha are taken to the streets in a procession. Boys and girls dress up in saffron coloured clothes, sing and dance to celebrate and welcome the season of spring with the festivities. At the procession men spray water and colour for fun. Also there is a special celebration at Shantiniketan.
  • Lathmar Holi – Barsana village, Uttar Pradesh – The festival of colours is most enthusiastically celebrated in the region of Uttar Pradesh. Popularly known as Lath Mar Holi the festival includes not only colours but lathis (Bamboo sticks) also. This type of holi is played in the region of Banaras and Nandgaon, Mathura and Vrindavan also. According to the traditions, women chase away men with lathis. Men also provoke women by singing songs to grab the attention of women to chase them away with lathis. The story behind this tradition is that on the day of holi Lord Krishna went to meet his beloved Radha. There he playfully teased her and her friends. To this the women of banaras chased him away. Every year the men prepare themselves and visit banaras to participate in this tradition. The following day then it is the turn of men who drench women in colors. During this fun event thandai with bhang is served. After drinking they react in very funny way some people laugh, cry or eat too much.
  • Hola Mohalla, Punjab – In this region of India the walls and the verandas are decorated with chowkpurana (rangoli). Women draw tree motifs, ferns, flowers, plants, peacocks, palanquins, creepers, geometric patterns along with vertical, horizontal and oblique lines with a piece of cloth. Then like other regions, holi is played with colour and water. A day after holi, Hola Mohalla is celebrated by the Nihang Sikhs. This festival was started by the tenth Guru of Sikhs Guru Gobind Singh ji. The Nihang Sikhs throw colour at each other and play Gatka, Martial Arts and listen to kirtan, sing and do poetry. It is worth visiting Sri Anandpur Saheb during Hola Mohalla.
  • Phaguwa, Bihar – Phaguwa another name for Holi in the region of Bihar is celebrated very enthusiastically in the region. Like some other regions here also bonfire is the part of the holi traditions. A day before holi, in the evening a poja is conducted where a bornfire is lit. They put wood of Arrad, dried cow dung, Holika tree, unwanted wood leaves and freshly harvested grains in the Bonfire. On the day of holi they throw dry organic colors, colored water on each other. People dance on the folk songs and traditional food and drinks made of bhang is served.
  • Kumaoni Holi – Kumaon Region, Uttarakhand – Kumaoni holi is played in the Kumaon region of Uttrakhand. There are different forms mainly in the form of musical holi like Khari, Baithki and the Mahila Holi celebrated. As per tradition the local people wear traditional clothes, Khari songs and dance in tolis (groups) and greet the passerby.
  • Shigmo, Goa – Shigmo a holi festival in Goa is celebrated as a spring festival over a month. The farmers of the region do traditional folk and street dances. As part of the festivities Holika puja is conducted where yellow and saffron colour or Gulal are offered.
  • Royal Holi Udaipur, Rajasthan – In this region the festival is celebrated by starting poja in the evening. The bonfire is lit also known as Holika dahan. This celebration is done at a huge level by Udaipur’s Mewar royal family. The procession includes decorated horses and the royal band. Later, the traditional sacred fire is lit and an effigy of Holika is burnt.

These are some of the unique ways of playing holi in the different regions of India. How do you like to play holi, let us know in the comment section below.

One thought on “Holi An Indian Festival of Colours”

Leave a Reply