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Holi, the festival of colours, is one of the most awaited festivals of the year and marks the beginning of spring and the new farming season. The other prominent reason for celebrating the festival is the legend based on King Hiranyakashipu and his sister Holika. After a lot of earnest meditation and praying, Hiranyakashipu was granted a boon of never being killed, during the day or night, on land or water, indoors or outdoors, making him immortal. Also Read - Holi celebration in Vrindavan: How Holi is celebrated in Vrindavan's Banke Bihari Temple
The king wanted his people to pray to him alone and his own son, Prahlad refused to follow the diktat. You see, Prahlad was an ardent devotee of Vishnu. Infuriated by this, Hiranyakashipu and his devious sister Holika conspired to kill Prahlad. Holika too was no ordinary woman. She was blessed to never be hurt by fire. So she stepped into a bonfire with Prahlad on her lap, hoping that he’d burn to death. However, it so turned out that her boon would work only if she’d step into the fire alone. As soon as Holika stepped into the fire with Prahlad on her lap, he started chanting Vishu’s name. Also Read - How Holi is celebrated in India
Though nothing happened to Prahlad, Holika immediately turned to ashes. Angered by this, Hiranyakashipu was just about to attack Prahlad when Vishnu in the form of Narasimha killed Hiranyakashipu, before night turned into day, in mid-air, at the doorway of his palace. Hence, this day is celebrated as Holika Dahan when a bonfire is lit to mark the victory of good over evil and the following day is called dhulandi or rangpanchami which symbolized togetherness and a fresh beginning, the colors signify the blooming season of spring. Various places around the country put up a massive show during the festival that is lucrative enough to travel the distance for playing Holi.
Following are the 7 unique places where Holi is played in a more traditional way:
Mathura is the town where Krishna was born. Preparations for Holi commence close to a month before the festival. In fact, the Sri Krishna Janmastham organizes an amazing show a day prior to the festival which is worth witnessing. On dhulandi, temple priests prepare bhang, a marijuana milkshake by the Vishram Ghat during sunrise. The Dwarkadeesh Temple is where you want to play an unforgettable Holi, trust us!
And while in most places around the world, guys use bura na maano Holi hai as an excuse to smear color on girls, the scene in Uttar Pradesh’s Barsana is quite the other way round. Here, women don’t want to throw color on you, instead, the entire town gathers at the Banke Bihari Temple, women with lathis meaning sticks are ready to hit any man who approaches to throw colour on her, who on the other hand protect themselves with shields!
Nandgaon is another place in Uttar Pradesh where you can enjoy a strong glass of marijuana (bhang) and play Holi in one of the more unique ways, by throwing sweets at each other. It’s locally called Ladoo Holi.
Photograph courtesy: Kuntal Gupta/Creative Commons
Rabindranath Tagore introduced the idea of welcoming spring in Santiniketan, at the Vishwa Bharti University. People dress up in elaborate costumes, perform folk dance and music, and play with colors to celebrate the new season of Basanta.
The royal family of Mewar hosts one of the most elegant Holi celebrations in India. A magnificent procession is carried out from the royal residence all the way to Manek Chowk. There is an elaborate band performance which is followed by the royal family offering prayers and lighting the bonfire.
6. Anandpur Sahib
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Hola Mohalla is one of the most important Sikh festivals celebrated in Anandpur Sahib. The three-day festival takes place at the Anandpur Sahib Gurudwara, in Rupnagar. A martial arts festival, it was spearheaded by the Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh, as an attempt to make every Sikh self-reliant. The festival starts with a reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, followed by chantings and kirtans, prasad is then distributed among all the people present as a blessing to start the performances which include Gatka, sword fighting, archery, horse racing among others. There is langar on every day of the festival. On the third and last day, there is a procession carried out that is lead by the Panj Pyares.
Though Holi is primarily a north Indian festival, Hampi is one of the few places that celebrates the festival with enthusiasm. The old ruined capital of the Vijayanagara Dynasty probably throws the fanciest Holi party in south India. Though a bonfire is not lit, people in Hampi are all set to play Holi with colours and eventually end the day by bathing in the Tungabhadra river.
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