Colourful, vibrant and vivacious- these are just a few words that describe the Indian festival of Holi. However, there is more to this festival than just fun and frolic.
The celebrations of Holi are just around the corner. So, let us explore this exciting festival and find out more about its significance and the various ways it is celebrated all over India.
What is the Significance of the Holi Festival in India?
Holi has been celebrated since ancient times. It is a Hindu festival, which is generally celebrated in groups and it welcomes the spring and symbolises new beginnings.
In one of the most famous mythological stories, an evil King named Hiranyakashyapu stopped his son Prahlad from worshipping God Vishnu. God Vishnu helped his devotee Prahlad and burned his wicked aunt Holika to death to signify the victory of good over evil. It is believed that Holika begged Prahlad for forgiveness. Therefore, Prahlad announced that she would be remembered every year at Holi. This is why the burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi across India and a bonfire is lit on the first day of the festival.
It is said that around this time, the Gods turn a blind eye to everything and hence, it is seen as an occasion to let oneself loose and have some fun.
People throw coloured powders on each other and the colours represent a vibrant new life. Washing off these colours indicates commitment to a better life and washing oneself of sin.
Different Types of Holi Festival Celebration in India
1. Lathmar Holi in Uttar Pradesh
It is believed that the tradition of Lathmar Holi has been around since Lord Krishna’s times. Lord Krishna and his friends used to prank Radha and the Gopis with smearing of colours. Hence, as a revenge the ladies would use bamboo sticks to hit them in a playful way.
In the village of Barsana, the women chase away the men with sticks. The men also come prepared for the beating. This is all meant in a fun and playful way.
2. Phoolon ki Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan
This celebration is a magnificent affair, where flowers are used instead of colours. The priests of the Banke Bihari Temple throw flowers to welcome the visitors on the day of Ekadashi preceding Holi.
Folklore says that Lord Krishna was envious of Radha’s fair skin and therefore, used colours to equalise their skin tones.
3. Dhulandi Holi in Haryana
Dhulandi is a celebration of the bond between a Bhabhi (sister-in-law) and her Devar (brother-in-law). There’s a bond considered to be that of pranks and of annoying each other. So, on this day, the Bhabhis get an advantage of having a payback from their Devars.
4. Rangpanchami in Maharashtra
Rangpanchami is celebrated on the fifth day preceding Phalgun Pournima. Groups of people come together and smear colour and coloured water on each other.
This celebration is a splendid affair, especially in the states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
5. Royal Holi in Jaipur
Jaipur is also known as Pink City. But around Holi, it gets a colourful makeover. There are royal celebrations by the members of the royal family and they are surely very grand! There are fancy processions with beautifully decorated horses and the royal band. Everyone, from the locals to the foreign tourists take part whole-heartedly in this fun and frolicky celebration.
On the eve of Holi, the locals light bonfires, also known as Holika Dahan. This is said to get rid of evil spirits. An effigy of Holika is also burnt.
6. Basant Utsav in West Bengal
In West Bengal, the festival of Holi is celebrated with songs, dances and chanting of hymns. The celebrations here are rather subdued and restrained than in the other parts of the country. People carry palanquins of Lord Krishna and Radha and play with gulal.
7. Sangla Holi in Himachal Pradesh
The lovely Sangla Valley in Himachal Pradesh is famous for its temples and monuments. Located on the river Baspa, the entire valley is full of colour on this auspicious day. This festival is celebrated with a lot of singing, dancing and drinking of the local wine, apart from the usual colour-smearing.
8. Yaoshang in Manipur
Holi is celebrated for six days in Manipur. It combines Hindu and indigenous traditions and begins on the full moon day. The highlight of the festival is the Thabal chongba, a Manipuri folk dance that is performed during these days. This dance has boys and girls performing in circles. It means moonlight dance is performed at night.
9. Holla Mohalla in Punjab
The Holla Mohalla is celebrated mostly by the Nihang order of the Sikh community. They display their martial art talents which have been around since the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
The Nihangs are members of the Khalsa Army. Their blue robes and orange turbans, complete with sashes, give them a very noble appearance. The festival also includes community service in the form of langars, or community kitchens.
10. Phaguwa in Bihar
The festival of Holi is known as Phaguwa in the Bhojpuri language. The lighting of the bonfire by using cow dung cakes is very important and only then do the festivities begin. Bhang, a popular Holi beverage, is also consumed here. Holi marks the beginning of the new year in Bihar.
Hence, people clean their houses and make it pleasant for prosperity to enter their houses. The auspicious day is celebrated by singing folk songs to the tune of the dholak.
11. Kaman Pandigai in Tamil Nadu
The popularity of Holi is more in the North than in the South of India. In Tamil Nadu, it is believed that Lord Kaamraja, the God of Love, was brought back to life by Lord Shiva. People here apply sandalwood to Lord Kaamraja, believing that it would relieve his pain. The grief-ridden songs of his wife, Rati are sung on this day.
12. Shigmo in Goa
The vivacious and vibrant coastal state of Goa celebrates this festival with massive processions. There are performances by dance groups and plays that depict mythology and local legendary tales.