India has been called the nation of colors and cultures for a reason – there are 1.5 billion people, speaking 22 different languages and celebrating over 22 major religious festivals throughout the year! Holi, commonly called the festival of colors, is right on top of the list of the most fun and colorful festivals.
Holi is one of the most vibrantly celebrated festivals in India. To most outsiders, Holi would look like a strange combination of the Tomatina festival from Spain, with a mix of colors instead of tomatoes. India, being a vast country, has its versions and shades of Holi.
So, here are the best places to visit in India during Holi, if you want to experience all the shade of this colorful festival:
- Varanasi, aka Benares:
One of the Holi’s major backdrops has been the stories and legacies of Lord Krishna when he celebrated Holi with the gopis in his early adolescence. Benares has been the home to several such stories and folklores about Lord Krishna.
As Holi onsets, the entire city converts into a playground of colors, dance, music, and celebration. The town first celebrates the Vasant Panchami festival, which is the Indian version of Valentine’s Day and commemorates the onset of Spring. A key variant of Holi is observed in the city called the Phoolon waali Holi, where flowers replace the colors of Holi.
The aarti or evening prayer by the banks of Ganga have had their charm of engrossing travelers into a sincere and charismatic feel. This feel only enhances during the Holi celebrations when the entire town gathers for the evening prayer after having celebrated through days and nights.
- Barsana (Near Mathura):
There is no way one can talk about Holi celebration without mentioning Barsana. Barsana became popular mostly because of its association with the folklore related to Lord Krishna but it got the attention of not just foreign media but of several otherwise aloof Indians when its unique way of celebrating came into limelight.
Barsana has a tradition of the Latth Maar Holi where wives take a stick and hit their husbands, who defend themselves with a shield. The sticks and shields are made of Bamboo. This ritualistic way of Holi celebration is based on the legend of the women from Barsana who would chase away Lord Krishna when he would come to tease Radha, who lived in Barsana.
- Anandpur Sahib, Punjab:
Punjab has usually associated with the celebrations of Lohri and the dance form Bhangra. Only a few people know about the magnanimous celebrations of Holi in Punjab.
Anandpur Sahib brings out a visual treat for people who visit the place during the month of Holi. The entire gathering gets its name Hola Mohalla, where ‘Hola’ is the male counterpart to ‘Holi’ and ‘Mohalla’ represents a residential setting. Hola Mohalla is a gathering organized in the Anandpur Sahib region, where Holi is a celebration of valor and glory. Several turbaned Punjabi men come here and perform martial arts, showcase fighting techniques and arrange a show of antique weaponry and cavalry.
- Shanti Niketan:
Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore initiated the celebration of Holi here at the Vishwa Bharti University in Shanti Niketan. Entire country remembers Holi for either the cheers, the colors or the public holiday in India. The celebration in Shanti Niketan is here to commemorate the Bengali culture and the arrival of Spring after a cold Winter. Here, students and folk dancers dress up in orange and yellow attires and perform several folk dances for the people to watch.
These celebrations have garnered tremendous attention in recent times as Shanti Niketan, which translates into the place of peace, has become famous for giving alternate takes on the Indian culture.
It is a fact that if one wants to understand the nerves of young India, one should visit New Delhi.
Of all the places to visit in India, Delhi hits all the right places – whether it is food, cultural heritage, architecture or the modern-day marvels of India. Delhi undoubtedly stands out as the classic representation of a modern India.
The celebrations in Delhi may seem reasonable to anyone visiting it during the Holi festival. Delhi has given a twist to the way India celebrates Holi today. In several places in Delhi, Holi is celebrated at a scale equally grand and modern like the Tomorrowland music festivals. There are EDM parties, rain dance celebrations and obviously – colors.
If you plan to experience a true-blue version of culture during a holiday in India 2019, you should visit one of the regions mentioned above during the celebrations of Holi. Happy Travelling!