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Varsha Rao, Staff Writer

A riot of colours, great bonhomie, fun parties, and joyous rituals… The Hindu festival of Holi is one of the most popular festivals of India.

An enthusiastic celebration that engulfs the entire country every March, Holi is one big colourful party. It’s a historically and culturally significant festival that is celebrated by everyone, irrespective of their caste, creed and religion.

A traditional festival, Holi is steeped in legends and history. But it’s mostly celebrated to mark the arrival of the lovely season of spring after a long winter, it signals the beginning of a period of good harvest for the country. Holi is also a time to forget the past and step into a new future, leaving behind all the troubles and negativity.

The History

Holi marks the triumph of good over evil, which comes from the legendary tale of a demon king and his son. The legend suggests that the demon king Hiranyakashipu believed that he was an immortal being who deserved to be worshipped by everyone on the planet. But his son, Prahlad, was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu and refused to worship his father. This angered Hiranyakashipu who tried to kill his son by burning him. But surprisingly, none of the flames touched Prahlad and the demon king was killed by Lord Vishnu himself.

Holi is also associated with Lord Krishna as it is believed that he used to love celebrating this festival by spraying coloured water on his gopis (cowgirls).

The Festival

Over time, Holi has evolved into a cultural celebration of colours, fun and laughter. It’s a two-day festival that spells a whole lot of fun and bonhomie. On the first day, after sunset, a ceremonial bonfire is lit, around which people dance and sing.

The second day is when the real fun begins: when people get together and douse each other in coloured powder and water. Everyone takes to the streets and celebrates Holi with a riot of colours. This is usually followed by an indulgent lunch with traditional sweets such as gujiyas, malpuas and more. People also indulge in a traditional drink called thandai, a refreshing concoction of milk, sugar, saffron, nuts, spices and intoxicating herbs.

Nevertheless, Holi is a great Indian festival that aims to eliminate the barriers of caste, creed, religion and gender and brings people together for one big celebration. It emphasises the brotherhood and bonhomie amongst people. The main reason colours are a big part of Holi celebrations is the fact that with all those colours, everyone is equal, no one is above or below each other in any form or matter, thus celebrating equality.

Celebrations across India

Holi is celebrated majorly in the northern parts of India, especially in the towns of Mathura and Vrindavan, where Lord Krishna was born. In modern cities like Delhi, Holi celebrations are dotted with parties, singing and dancing.

Uttar Pradesh

In the villages of Nandgaon and Barsana near Mathura, Holi gets a funny twist. It’s celebrated as Lathmaar Holi, where women playfully hit men with wooden sticks. This fun tradition is inspired by the legendary tale of Lord Krishna (who was from the village of Nandgaon) being chased by the women of Barsana after he teased them.

In Mathura-Vrindavan, Holi is associated with the great love story of Lord Krishna and Radha. It’s said that Lord Krishna who was dusky-skinned was jealous of Radha’s fair complexion and smeared her face with colour.

Smearing one’s beloved with colours is still one of the major aspects of Holi, aptly shown in many popular Bollywood movies.

Nowhere is the spirit of Holi as festive and joyous as in Bakai-Bihari Temple in Vrindavan, which draws people from across the country and the world. You will find people drenched in colours and divinity during Holi in this grand temple.

Rajasthan

In the land of royals, Holi is celebrated with a regal flair. Udaipur’s Mewar royal family grandly celebrates the festival of colours. A grand procession is taken out in the streets of Udaipur followed by the sacred bonfire ritual.

Gujarat

Holi is celebrated in the western state of Punjab in a boisterous manner. In addition to the colour-smearing rituals, there’s also the tradition of breaking the earthen pot that is strung high. People form a human pyramid and try their best to break the matka while other revellers spray them with coloured water.

Punjab

The colourful festival is made more fun in the northern state of Punjab with Warrior Holi, a three-day event where Sikhs demonstrate their martial skills in mock battles after which revellers smear colour on each other.

Karnataka & Maharashtra

While Holi is mostly celebrated in Northern India, the rest of the country also joins in the celebrations in its own way. For example, in the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra, celebrations begin a week before Holi, when kids collect money and firewood for the ceremonial bonfire. Of course, the ritual of smearing one another in coloured powder is common to every state.

Goa

India’s party destination has the best Holi celebrations. Called Shigmo in Goa, Holi involves colourful parades, processions, dramas and more. Of course, psychedelic beach parties are also a norm during Holi in Goa.

India is a colourful country, more so during Holi. Enjoy the best of Holi celebrations with Luxury Escapes’ fantastic offers across Rajasthan, Goa, Karnataka and more. Now is the perfect time to experience the land called India, a country filled with so much colour and culture.

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