Holi commemorates the victory of good over evil. The festival came into existence after the Hindu god of preservation, Lord Vishnu killed the demon Holika. Holi, Festival of Colors was named by Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colors.The festival marks the end of winter and the abundance of the upcoming spring harvest season. The holi celebrations vary from region to region in the country, here we list the best places to celebrate Holi in India. The festivities range from traditional temple rituals to modern parties with DJs, bhang, and plenty of colors.
- Lathmar holi – Barsana: The women of Barsana village near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh symbolically beat men from neighboring Nandgaon village with sticks, to term this celebration as Lathmar Holi. Lathmar Holi takes place around a week before the main day of Holi. In 2016, it will happen on March 23.
- Traditional holi – Vrindavan and Mathura: Holi celebrations begin on Vasant Panchami (which marks the end of winter), approximately 40 days before the day of Holi, in the temple towns of Mathura and Vrindavan. Mathura is where Lord Krishna was born, while Vrindavan was where he spent his childhood. The festivities and celebrations continue throughout this period across the cities, on the closing day people play with colors with eachothers.
- Basanta utsav – West Bengal: The celebration of Holi as Basanta Utsav (Spring Festival) in Shantiniketan was started by famous Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Inspired by spring and the colors of Holi, he introduced the occasion as an annual event in his Vishva Bharati University. Students put up a cultural program for visitors, including dances to Tagore’s songs. Followed by the people playing colors with each other.
- Warrior Holi – Punjab: Hola Mohalla is an annual fair that dates back to 1701. It was first organized by Sikh Guru Gobind Singh to celebrate Holi. However, instead of throwing colors, expect to see a demonstration of physical agility, wrestling, martial arts, mock sword fights, acrobatic military exercises, and turban tying.
- Royal Holi – Udaipur: On the eve of Holi people light bonfires to mark the occasion and ward of evil spirits in a ritual called “holika dahan” (the traditional sacred fire will be lit to burn an effigy of Holika the demon). The main attraction of the celebration will be the magnificent palace procession from the royal residence to Manek Chowk at the City Palace, including bedecked horses and royal band.
- Holi with elephants – Jaipur: An elephant festival marks the beginning of Holi celebrations in Jaipur. Elephant parades, elephant beauty contests, folk dances, and tug-of-war between elephants, locals and foreigners are all regular events. (This event is not been held since 2012 due to the opposition by the animal rights groups travelers are requested to gather information before proceeding)
- Modern day Holi – Delhi: The spirit of Holi in Delhi has changed to a rowdy affair now, be prepared to be soaked in color by shopkeepers and children alike if you step outside on the day of Holi. If you can, try and get tickets to the Holi Cow festival. A festival of color, music and madness, it’s is held a short distance outside the city. The environment is safe, and non-toxic colors are provided, along with bhang, lassis, street food, and sprinklers to get everyone in the mood. Both DJs and bands perform. Plenty of expats, as well as locals, attend.
- Peaceful Holi – Hampi: Holi is primarily a north Indian festival. However, Hampi in Karnataka is an exception! The whole town turns out to play Holi in the morning (perhaps for the benefit of the many western travelers there), amid drumming, dancing, and the evocative ruins of the grand Vijayanagar empire.