To refer to a popular Bollywood song that resurfaces annually around spring: do yourself a favour and don’t just play Holi this time. It is the year 2019, and yes, getting wild with friends while dancing to the aforementioned song sounds like a blast, but honestly, there is so much more you can do.
To inspire you to pack your bags and convince those friends to come along for a fun Holi-day (a pun which also resurfaces each year around this time), here are the best places to celebrate Holi in India this year.
Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
The Braj region sees the most vibrant Holi celebrations due to its associations with Lord Krishna. A main centre is Vrindavan (a short distance from Mathura, which also is home to many beautiful Holi events). The festival here is a grand affair, with hundreds of people dancing in a cloud of gulaal, punctuated with chants of “Radhe Radhe”.At the Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan, it is a particularly colourful day, with crowds of devotees, tourists and temple priests participating in the revelry. The temple also celebrates Phoolon Wali Holi on the eve of Holi, where priests shower visitors with flowers. However, the event lasts only about 15 minutes and can be easy to miss.
Barsana, Uttar Pradesh
Another important town in the legendary Braj is Barsana – home to the famous Barsana Ki Holi, which invites flocks of photographers every year. The event usually takes place the week before Holi – which means a date around 15th March in 2019.
The story goes: Krishna, on complaining to Yashoda about Radha being fairer than he is, is given the suggestion to go over and put colour on Radha. However, Radha and her gopis, objecting to this act, beat Krishna away with their sticks. In a re-enactment of this original episode, men from Nandgaon (Krishna’s village) arm themselves with shields and cushioned clothing and go to Barsana (Radha’s native place) each year, where the women welcome them with a generous beating with their laathis.
Anandpur Sahib, Punjab
A day after Holi, Anandpur Sahib hosts the three-day Sikh festival called Hola Mohalla. Said to be started by Guru Gobind Singh, Hola Mohalla combines elements of Holi with the customs of the Nihangs. The festival is expected to be held from 22nd to 24th March this year.During Hola Mohalla, members of the Nihang community display skilled acts of traditional martial arts and horse riding. This is followed by poetry and kirtan sessions, and ends with an elaborate procession on the last day. Community kitchens are also set up for serving langar to every person visiting and staying throughout the days of the festival.
Holi in the “City of Lakes” is a regal affair. The Holi celebration in Udaipur begin by observing Holika Dahan, with a bonfire lit on the City Palace grounds, by the monarch of Mewar and his family. This is accompanied by a performance of ‘Gair’ for the attending royalty and VIPs. For other mere mortals, the royal family takes out a grand parade, which proceeds from the Shambhu Niwas Palace till the Manek Chowk royal residence, where the night ends with a firework display.
Besides the procession, Holi in Udaipur features festive fairs, where locals and tourists can buy earthenware and herbal gulal made by villagers and tribals from neighbouring areas. The city’s temples also come alive with devotees gathering to sing bhajans and bhakti geet, and perform Krishna leelas and aartis.
Shantiniketan, West Bengal
This quiet little place welcomes the changing of the seasons with Basanta Utsav (Spring Festival) on the day of Holi. The celebrations here, started by Rabindranath Tagore himself, are marked by the charm and grace of Shantiniketan.The day sees people from the Vishwabharati University greet each other with abeer (Bengali for gulal), and take part in cultural programmes. The Basanta Utsav is enjoyed best by visitors when they join in the music and dance. Just go prepared with your best clothes in yellow and a bit of Robindro Shongeet.
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
No, Varanasi is not Holi-worthy just for its abundance of bhang lassi and other products, if you know what I mean. Holi in Varanasi involves the usual amounts of gulal and water, but with a pretty bizarre element – ashes from cremation pyres.
Called the Chita Bhasma Holi, this is celebrated by Shiva devotees who first offer their respects to the lord of the cremation ground, Mahashamashan Nath, and then play Holi by smearing each other with the ashes from the Manikarnika Ghat. While it may sound morbid, the ashes actually signify moksha, and call for celebratory singing, dancing and drum-beating. As can be expected, the ritual attracts a lot of attention each year.
Another Indian spring festival coinciding with Holi is Yaoshang, which is celebrated by the Meitei people of Manipur. It starts with the full moon of the Phalgun month, and lasts for five days.The traditional Thabal Chongba dance is an important part of Yaoshang. It is performed at night, to the tune of drums and folk songs. A straw hut is also built and burnt as a Yaoshang ritual. Children visit houses during the festival, seeking money, called nakatheng. Locals also prepare feasts, host sports events, and throw water and colour at each other to celebrate.
Indore, Madhya Pradesh
A few days after Holi comes the day of Rang Panchami. It is basically a second Holi, celebrated with great gusto in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. In Indore, it takes the form of a massive party where the entire city steps out on to the streets as part of “gers” and “faag yatras”, smearing gulal on each other and dancing to dholaks.
Another Rang Panchami attraction which sets Indore apart is the installation of water cannons and colour pumps at the monumental Rajwada. However, that practice is coming to a stop to encourage more environment-friendly celebrations.
Here’s another reason to head to the beach - Shigmotsav in Goa. The Goan counterpart of Holi is also a spring/harvest festival, which brings the people of the state together in a flurry of folk music, dance and handcrafted floats at the annual Shigmo parades. The 2019 parades are scheduled to start in Ponda and go ahead to towns like Vasco and Mapusa.
The festival is usually celebrated as Vhadlo Shigmo and Dhakto Shigmo, seen in the rural parts of Goa. Attending the Shigmotsav can be a great way of seeing folk traditions which shape the interiors of Goa, way beyond the beer and the beaches.
While Holi is not really a big deal in the Southern states, Hampi can show you a fun time. Mainly due to the tourists and foreigners in the town in this season, Holi in Hampi has grown to be a known event.
While there is never a bad time to take a spin of the Vijayanagara ruins, expect more water balloons, colours and partying if you end up in Hampi on the day of Holi. Given the small population of the town, Holi in Hampi can be a lot quieter and cosier than the raucous celebrations in most other cities.
- Published on :