19 March, 2019
Holi is almost upon us, expected to be celebrated across the country tomorrow 20th March 2019 and the day after. Holi is known as the festival of color, and people celebrate it in different parts of the country in different ways. However, colors are an integral part of Holi, everywhere. Of course, there are also a variety of sweets and savories, that is also so very much a part of Holi. Dishes like Jalebi, gujiya, dahi vada, thandai, bhang ke pakode, puran poli, malpua, and more are made and relished by people who come together to celebrate Holi.
The best part of Holi celebrations in this country is the diversity with which it is celebrated. So, what are the various rituals that are associated with Holi, across this vast country? Here is a rundown and check out, which now you knew about.
This kind of Holi is famous in Mathura, Barsana and the parts around, wherein the whole village celebrates what is called as Lath Maar Holi. In this ritual, the women beat the menfolk with a danda or sticks, and the men defend themselves. It is more a ritual celebrated in zest, and the men prod the women into ‘beating’ them! The tradition is kept alive, every year, with the village women, dressing up and beating the men, and then there is a lot of fun and dance, and the whole community celebrates Holi with gaiety and fun.
Bhaang is nothing but cannabis, and the sale and consumption of this are actually banned in the country. However, traditionally, preparing bhang based dishes like pakode, or thandaai, were part of the Holi celebrations in many parts of the North. Men and women alike would have the thandaai and dance with fervor. This scene is depicted in many Bollywood movies, and the most famous one that is so often sung for Holi is the “Rang Barse Bheege Chunariwali” in Amitabh Bachchan’s movie Silsila, where he sang and danced with another legendary actress, Rekha.
In the ancient city of Varanasi, there is a very unique traditional ritual associated with Holi, which may appear to be rather weird to many. Here, the people first offer prayers to the deity at the MahaShamshaan Nath temple, and then smear each other with the ashes from the burnt pyres at the Manikarnika Ghat, along with the gulal color (red) of Holi. This is an indication and offering to Lord Shiva, who is supposed to be playing Holi in this way along with his ganas, and the belief is that playing Holi like this, provides Moksha (salvation). The practice is said to be immemorial and finds a mention in the Puranas as well.
The legendary stories of Holi mention how Holika, the sister of HiranyaKashyapa, sat on a pyre with Prahlada, as her brother, the King, wanted to kill his son, who was a staunch worshipper of Lord Vishnu. There are many variations of this story; one suggests that Holika was evil and Vishnu saved Prahlada, and hence the symbolic Holika Dahan, is done by the people by lighting a bonfire to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.
A few versions suggest that Holika had a boon wherein she would not get burnt, and was supposed to use it only for good. It is said in the pyre, she transferred this to Prahlad and saved him and burnt herself. Few versions say that this is done to honor Holika for the good deed as well. In any case, in many parts across India, the day before Holi, a bonfire is lit and people, pray around it, worship, and dance.
West Bengal, is another place you can see Holi being celebrated with a lot of fervor and activities. A lot of merriment happens, people take out processions, smear each other with colors, and also in few parts of Bengal, the Dol Yatra is also taken out. In this procession, people carry Lord Krishna and Radha in a palanquin with love, and people vie for a chance to carry the Lord with love and devotion.
In the world famous Shanti Niketan, founded by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, a cultural Holi is celebrated during this time, called Basant Utsav. Here, a lot of songs, dance, and cultural activities mark the celebration.
True to the adaptive culture of Indians, Holi was adapted by the Sikhs as well, and in Punjab, as per what Guru Gobind Singh suggested, they use this occasion to display their military prowess and martial arts. This is what is called as Holla Mohalla, where the Sikhs across Punjab conduct such events, and the same is held at Anandpur Sahib, in Amritsar also.
The women of Haryana get a special delight during Holi, as there is a tradition celebrated here called Dulandi Holi. In this, the married women get to beat their ‘devar’ or husband’s brother, as a revenge for all the pranks that the devars have played on them!
In parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat, the traditional pot of buttermilk (Dahi) is hung high up, as in the stories of Little Krishna. People then form groups and pyramids to climb up and break the pot. All the while, they will be splashed with water and colors to deter them. This tradition is to celebrate the life of Little Krishna, who used to steal the butter from the pots hung high, by the women.
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