Holi is the ‘Festival of Colours’ or the ‘Festival of Love’ signifying conquest of good over evil, arrival of spring, end of winter where many a people laugh and play, forgive and forget, repair broken relationships and is celebrated on the last full moon (Purnima) evening of winter, going on till the next night. The first evening is known as Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi, following comes the Rangwali Holi/Dhuelti/Dhulandi/Phagwah. Being one of the ostentatious festivals celebrated in India, there are areas or places in India where you have to experience this festival. And each experience is varied and beautiful than the next. So, here are a few places where you absolutely have to celebrate Holi, at least once… Places Celebrate Holi
Bankar Bihari Temple, Vrindavan and Sri Krishna Janmastham, Mathura
Vrindavan hosts a Holi, in great enthusiasm welcoming the advent of spring, and bid adieu to the chills of winter. The fact of this deity travelling from his birth-place, Mathura, and spending most of his childhood in Vrindavan, who is Lord Krishna, makes the Holi celebration here remarkable. The celebration get underway on Vasant Panchami (end of winter), which is 40 days before the main Holi day. On the Ekadashi before Holi, the whole city frolics Phoolon Wali Holi where instead of colours, devotees and temple priests are covered in flowers. And when this ends, head all the way to Mathura to witness the colourful Holi procession which starts form Vishram Ghat finishing near Holi Gate. The best place to catch the throwing of colours is Dwarkadeesh Temple in Mathura. Start your day early at Vishram Ghat to see priests making Bhang.
Shantiniketan, West Bengal
Celebrating Holi here as Basanta Utsav (Spring Festival), was started by a renowned Bengali poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Enthused by springs and the vibrant colours of Holi, he presented the occasion as an annual event in his Vishva Bharati Univeristy there. Students donned spring colours and performed a huge cultural program for visitors, including dances to Tagore’s songs. And, of course, following came the throwing of colours. Basanta Utsav is now a cherished part of Bengali history and culture, and it also allures a lot of tourists not just from within the country, but foreigners as well.
Purulia, West Bengal
Here, Basanta Utsav continues for three whole days in the Purulia district of West Bengal. Fun and frolic starts to lead up to the main Holi day, which includes singing, playing around with the locals, and relishing diverse and inimitable folk artwork. This comprises the impressive Chau Dance, Darbari Jhumur, Natua dance, and the nomadic Baul musicians performing folk music. What’s so special about the festival hosted here is that all of these events and performances are organised by the villagers, in a way to sustain themselves.
Udaipur and Jaipur
A true Royal Holi is hosted in this city of Rajasthan, where on the Holi eve, bonfires are lit to mark the start of the occasion and to ward off evil spirits. This particular ritual is called Holika Dahan. For an indelible regal experience, join the royal family of Mewar in their magnificent palace. The procession is from this royal residence to Manek Chowk at the city palace, together with ornamented horses and a royal band. And finally, the traditional fire would be lit and an effigy of Holika burnt. Coming to talk about Holi in Jaipur, it kicks off with beautifully coloured elephants in parades, beauty contests, folk dances, and a tug-of-war between elephants adding to the grandeur of the occasion.
Anandpur Sahib, Punjab
Sikhs have their own play Holi at Anandpur Sahib. Holi Mohalla makes for an annual fair that dates back to 1701. It was organised by the Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. However, where you might expect a grand event to throw colours at each other, you witness a demonstration of physical agility and prowess. Wrestling, martial arts, mock sword fights, acrobatic military exercises and turban tying is what is held in Holi Mohalla!
If you’re one to partake in an extravagant Holi celebration, South India is generally a lot sober. The focus remains towards the religious aspects and temple rites, making it a more subdued experience. However, in Hampi, Karnataka, people tend to make an exception. Not only do they play, the whole town comes out of their homes at the same time have a grand celebration right in the morning, amidst drumming, dancing and the evocative ruins of Vijayanagar Empire. They mark the end of the celebration as they slowly move towards the river to wash the colour off.
All of these exquisite places having one of the best Holi celebrations are truly something to experience.