Winter is almost over; the days are gradually getting hotter and the grays are slowly being replaced with a spray of colors all around. Yes, it is time for Holi, the festival of colors that heralds the arrival of spring in India. While there are just some pockets in Kerala where it is celebrated, it is very colorful in these five places. Try and be there.
Mathura and Vrindavan
This is the land where Lord Krishna spent his childhood. Lord Krishna, they say, was jealous that his playmate Radha was fairer than him. And one day, his mother playfully told him that he could apply color on her face and change her complexion to any color he wanted. He did, and that, was the beginning of the festival. In Mathura and Vrindavan, the festivities last for more than a week. Be ready to be smeared with colors and sandal paste if you are in the street. There is music in the air, rituals to follow and great food to indulge in. And it is the time when Bhaang, a cannabis-based drink flows free even at the temples.
The Holi celebrations in Barsana is fun to watch and starts six days before the big day. It is a friendly exchange between the people of two neighboring villages - Nandgaon and Barsana. The men wear huge turbans decorated with leaves and women dress up in beautiful sarees and arm themselves with sticks. This is the beginning of Lathmar Holi. The women from Barsana beat up the men from Nandgaon for teasing women and breaking their pots. Colorful? Yes. Fun? Yes. Do you need more reasons to be there?
If you are keen on celebrating Holi in South India, head to Hampi, the old seat of power of the Vijayanagara empire. The celebrations last two days and wash off the colors in the Thungabdhra river that flows nearby.
In Udaipur, Holi marks the end of evil. And Holika Dahan is the most important ritual. The story dates back to the myth of Hiranyakashipu and his son Prahalad. Hiranyakashipu was the king of demons and had received the boon of immortality from Lord Brahma. As his power grew, he became arrogant and stopped his people from worshiping gods. He wanted them to worship him instead. However, his son, Prahalad believed in the gods. This irritated the father and the king ordered his sister Holika to sit on a pyre with young Prahalad. Prahalad happily obeyed his father and prayed to the gods to save him. Lord Vishnu saved Prahalad's life and Holika was burned to death. The Holi celebrations in Udaipur starts off with the custodian of the Mewar dynasty lighting the pyre. And what follows is two days of playing with colors.
Holi is Basant Utsav or Spring Festival at Shantiniketan, where the students of the Vishwa Bharati Institute put on various performances. If you are interested in the rich culture and vibrant art forms of Bengal, this is one celebration you should not miss.
Holi falls on 13 March, 2017