The colourful festival of Holi is celebrated by different names in
this vast and culturally diverse country. The traditions followed for the
festival varies a little and at times a lot as one moves from one state to
other studying the various facets of the festival and getting behind the
various colours of it.
Nowhere it is celebrated with so much charm and enthusiasm as in Mathura,
Vrindavan, Barsana and Nandgaon - the places associated with the birth and
childhood of Lord Krishna. At Barsana Holi assumes the name of Lathmaar
. Here, women of Barsana give a tough time to men of Nandgaon as
they come to play Holi with them. Women drag the unlucky captives, beat
them, dress them in a female attire - yet all is in the spirit of Holi.
Women of Haryana, specifically the bhabhis too get an upper hand on the day
as they get a social sanction to beat their devars and take a sweet revenge
for all the mischiefs they have played on them. This revengeful tradition is
called the Dulandi Holi.
The most enjoyable tradition of Holi, of course, apart from the play of
colours is the tradition of breaking the pot.
It is celebrated with
much fan fair in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Here a pot of
buttermilk is hung high on the streets. Men form a huge human pyramid and
one on the top breaks the pot with his head. All this while women keep
singing Holi folk songs and throwing buckets and buckets of water. The
tradition has its roots in the mischievous nature of Lord Krishna who was so
fond of butter milk that he used to steal it from every accessible house in
the village. To hide the butter from young Krishna, womenfolk used to hang
it high. All in vain!
Holi is celebrated in the most dignified manner in the state of Bengal. At
Vishwa Bharti University, founded by Rabindranath Tagore founded the
tradition of celebrating Holi as 'Basant Utsav'
. Students decorate the campus with intricate rangolis and
carry out prabhat pheris in the morning. Clad in a traditional attire young
boys and girls sing songs composed by Gurudev and present an enchanting view
to the onlookers who gather in large number here. In other parts of Bengal,
Holi is celebrated as Dol Yatra where the idols of Radha and Krishna are
placed on a decorated palanquin and taken out in a procession.
For Sikhs, Holi calls for the display of their physical strength and
military prowess as they gather at Anandpur Sahib a day after Holi to
celebrate Hola Mohalla.
The tradition was started by the tenth and
last guru of Sikh religion, Guru Gobind Singh ji and is being religiously
In the north east, Manipuris celebrate the festival in a colourful manner
for six continuous days. Here, the centuries old Yaosang Festival
Manipur amalgated with Holi with the introduction of Vaishnavism in the
eighteenth century. The highlight of the festival here is a special Manipuri
dance, called 'Thabal Chongba'.
Well, there are many-many more ways in which Holi is celebrated. Different
states, different cities and different villages have come out with their
unique and innovative styles of playing Holi. It may not be possible to
describe all of them at one place. What is noteworthy though is the fact
that the spirit of Holi remains the same throughout. It is the festival
which generates the spirit of brotherhood and bring people close - and this
is what matters most than anything else.
What enhances the spirit of Holi though is the tradition of consuming the
intoxicating bhang. It is generally consumed with thandai or as pakoras.
People go high on it and enjoy the festival to the hilt. Other Holi
delicacies include gujiya, mathri, malpua, puranpoli, dahi badas, etc. After
a frenzied play of colours people love to gorge them up.