Holi is one of the most important festivals celebrated in the Indian subcontinent. Full of fun and frolic, this festival is known for colours, gujiya and bhaang. The festival itself has undergone several changes over the years; in olden times people just played with dry colours but nowadays water-colours, balloons, pichkaaris and water guns are the order of the day.
From a quiet festival celebrated with a handful of people, Holi has evolved into a summer-party scale where all families in the colony take turns every year to host a Holi party with food, music, colours and what-not!
In this post we talk about Holi is celebrated differently in different parts of India.
Holi is celebrated with much fervor and excitement in the North. However, contrary to popular belief, the rituals vary across different regions in the North too.
In Himachal Pradesh, thousands gather at the holy shrine of Ponta Sahib in Sirmour district on the banks of Yamuna to seek blessings. People indulge in Kullu Holi by mixing snow with colours- making it an ‘Ice-Holi’. Celebrations are also held at the world famous Slang Pass, which is known for the heaviest snowfall in the country.
In Bihar, people put dung cakes, Araad or Redi tree, tree and grains from the harvest in the bonfire; post which they clean their homes. Children and youngsters play with colours or even mud. Dancing occurs at the beat of dholak; thandai and pakoras are served to enhance the mood of the celebrations.
In Uttar Pradesh, Mathura and Vrindavan celebrate Holi with zest, and the other cities are not be forgotten, especially Varanasi. People consume Bhaang heavily and gorge on good food.
In Delhi, people celebrate in several residential colonies with a feast, loud music and dancing. People hug each other and apply abeer as tilak. Even the President House and Prime Minister residence bears witness to the Holi celebrations in full swing.
In Punjab, Holi is called ‘Hola Mohalla’. People shout with joy and exhibit their martial arts especially ‘kushti‘ during the day. Evenings are marked with colours and feasting on halwas, puris, gujias, a preparation of raw jack fruit and malpuas. However, unlike other states, Sikhs do not light a bonfire.
Even though the celebrations in the South are not as grand as they are in the North of India, the spirit of communal harmony is palpable.
In Andhra Pradesh, people indulge in merry making. In the evening, youngsters play with dry colours and seek blessings from elders by putting gulaal and abeer on their feet. The Banjara tribe of the region performs graceful dances to celebrate this festival.
On the other hand, in Tamil Nadu, Holi is celebrated as a festival of Love. Legend has it that Kamadeva (the God of love) was beseeched by the Gods to disrupt Shiva in his state of meditation so that he could reward Parvati for her love for him. However, when the arrow hit Lord Shiva it infuriated him and he annihilated Kamadeva. When lord Shiva looked at Parvati he rewarded her penance and married her.
Kamadeva’s wife, Rati, pleaded for mercy for her husband, and Lord Shiva relented and partly restored Kamadeva to Rati. However, he is without physical form and she is unable to touch him. The songs sung in the south are Rati’s lamentations. In another legend, it is believed that Shiva breathed life into Kamadeva and that day is celebrated as Holi.
The traditions around Holi have evolved drastically over time. While some traditions pervade with a twist, others seem to have been completely forgotten or replaced by new ones. A rather newer tradition is that of handing out Holi return gifts or Holi gifts when the guests are parting.
A form of Holi Thank-you gift, these gifts are gaining in popularity as we move rapidly towards urbanization. Often a great way to say thank-you for coming to your guests, these gifts is appreciated by one and all. Return gifts are also now presented on other occasions such as weddings, housewarming functions and corporate events.