A boisterous, colourful celebration of myths, legends, traditions, music and dance. Or “Holi.” The mention of the word “Holi” brings back the memories of gujiyas, mathris, ladoos, and gulals. The festival includes some bizarre tradition, mouth-watering food, a Dj party, and bhaang.
Holi festival in India marks the victory of good over evil. It is known as the “Festival of Colours” and celebrated differently in different states of India. Although it is mainly a Hindu festival, it is also popular among non-Hindu communities as well. It is considered as a day of spreading happiness and love. In some parts of India, it is also celebrated as a thanksgiving for good harvest as Holi heralds the arrival of spring after winter.
History of Holi Celebrations in India
The festival starts a night before Holi with Holika Dahan. According to the legends, King Hiranyakashipu, an evil king of asuras, grew arrogant when he was granted a wish that no man or animal could kill him.
He wanted everybody to worship him as their god but his son, Prahlada, disagreed and remained devoted to Vishnu. This infuriated the king and he subjected his son to cruel punishments. As a part of his punishments, the king’s sister, Holika tricked Prahlada to sit with her on a pyre.
Holika was cunning and protected herself with a cloak and kept Prahlada exposed to the fire. When the fire blazed, the cloak flew from Holika’s body to encase Prahlada and saved him. Holika burned in the fire signifying the end of evil. On Holika Dahan, people perform a bonfire and pray for the destruction of their inner evils.
In 2020, Holi is on March 10 and why not spend this Holi-day away from home? The best places to celebrate Holi in India will depend on what kind of experience you want to have. This blog will help you decide the right place to travel for a crazy Holi festival in India.
1. Lathmar Holi, Barsana and Nandgaon
Lathmar Holi is popular for its unique way of celebration which starts 4-5 days before the festivities of other states. The celebration takes place in Nandgaon and Barsana towns of Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. The natives of the town have a peculiar tradition of playing Holi with sticks along with colours.
According to the legends, Lord Krishna came to visit Radha in Barsana from Nandgaon. Being playful, he applied colour on Radha’s face to which the elder females of the town took offence. They drove him out of the town with bamboo sticks.
The tradition is alive with the celebration of Lathmar Holi. The festivity lasts for a week in Nandgaon and Barsana to indulge in colours, dances, songs, and lathis. The men come from Nandgaon to Barsana to annoy the women of Barsana who hurl sticks at them with the tunes of music. It is a playful act and the men can protect themselves with shields.
Lathmar Holi is on March 3 in Barsana and March 4 in Nandgaon. The festivities will continue till March 10. If you are planning to attend the Lathmar Holi festival, you need to reach Radha Rani Temple at Barsana on March 3. The celebration commences with a ceremony at the temple.
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How to Reach Radha Rani Temple?
- By Air: The nearest airport is Kheria Airport, Agra which is 110 km away from the temple. There are private cabs available at the airport or state transport buses for the tourists to travel from the airport to Radha Rani Temple.
- By Train: The nearest railway stations to Radha Rani Temple are Goverdhan Railway Station (18.5 km) and Chata Railway Station (18.2 km).
- By Bus: There are state transport buses from Mathura to Barsana. The nearest bus stop from the temple is Dhilawati Bus Stop (9.7 km) and Kaman Bus Stop (11.8 km).
Radha Rani Temple timings: The temple will be open from 5:00 am – 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm every day. The timings may vary for Holi celebration.
After the ceremony at Radha Rani Temple, the festivities will move to Rangeeli Mahal which is 1.2 km away. It is better to stay for a day or two to enjoy the celebration. As the festivals will take place in different cities, you can book your stays to find Treebo hotels in Mathura.
Also read about: The 11 Most Captivating Places to Visit in Mathura
2. Phoolon Ki Holi, Gulal Kund and Banke Bihari Temple
The next stop would be for Phoolon ki Holi at Gulal Kund. It is 46 km away from Rangeeli Mahal where you can witness the Raas-Leela at the time of Holi. The local people who double up as Krishna and Radha enact the scenes of Holi for the visitors.
Even though Phoolon ki Holi is also celebrated in many parts of the country, it is famous in Gulal Kund. According to the word of mouth, Radha and Krishna played their first Holi with flowers.
Around 35 km away from Gulal Kund, Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan also celebrates Holi with flowers. After the gates of the temple are open, the priests throw flowers at the devotees. As Banke Bihari Temple takes 1 hour to reach by car from Gulal Kund, you can decide where you want to celebrate your Holi with flowers.
How to Reach Banke Bihari Temple?
- By Air: The nearest airport is Kheria Airport, Agra which is 78 km away from the temple. There are private cabs available at the airport or state transport buses for the tourists to travel from the airport to Banke Bihari Temple, Vrindavan.
- By Train: The tourists can take the train to Vrindavan Junction Railway Station which is 950 m from Banke Bihari Temple.
- By Bus: Mathura Bus Stop is 11.3 km from Banke Bihari Temple for the tourists who are taking buses from other parts of the state. There are public transports available for the tourists to reach Banke Bihari Temple.
As darshan timings at Banke Bihari Temple are from 08:45 am to 1:00 pm. It is better to stay in a place that is nearby to the temple. Gulal Kund is 35.1 km from Banke Bihari Temple which will be an hour ride in a car.
You can find some of the best Treebo hotels in Vrindavan. After the Shringar Aarti at 9 am, you can start your journey to Gulal Kund.
3. Basanta Utsav, Shantiniketan
Spring is the season of love and poetry. Shantiniketan, the cultural breeding ground, welcomes the season in their style. With the onset of the spring season, Bishwabharati University at Shantiniketan gears up for Basanta Utsav.
Rabindranath Tagore started the festival to celebrate on Holi or Dol Purnima. The students dress-up in colourful traditional attire with yellow colour taking the centre stage. The serenity of the place and the chance to meet and greet the artsy community adds charm to this festival.
The look of the place changes with Palash flowers everywhere and women dress up in yellow saris singing and dancing to the tunes of Rabindra Sangeet. The ingrain beauty of Basanta Utsav will lift your mood. There is something in the air of the place that helps you to see the beauty of life. Shantiniketan is one of the best places to celebrate Holi in India if you are looking for inner peace.
How to Reach Shantiniketan?
- By Air: The nearest airport is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport which is 163 km or 3 hours 40 minutes to Shantiniketan.
- By Train: The nearest railway station Bolpur, Shantiniketan Railway Station is 2.9 km from the ashram. There are public transportations like auto and rickshaws available for people to travel.
- By Bus: If you are taking the intercity bus, you need to reach Bolpur Bus Station which is 1.8 km from the ashram.
You can also take a road trip from Kolkata to Shantiniketan. Ideally, you should stay in Shantiniketan for a day or two to enjoy the festival. Basanta Utsav will be celebrated from March 9 to March 10, 2020. You can extend it for another day to visit the Ballavpur Wildlife Sanctuary (2.7 km).
Find out: 15 Other Places to Visit Near Kolkata
4. Folk Holi, Purulia
Basanta Utsav takes another form at Purulia district of West Bengal. The folk festival organised by the local villagers continues for three days. The festival will begin with Holika Dahan on March 8 and end with Holi celebration on March 10.
The festival amalgamates folk art, Baul songs, and dance performances. The villagers perform a combination of Darbari, Jhumur, Chau and Natua dance for the tourists. It is only a five to six-hour drive from Kolkata to Purulia and once in a lifetime experience for all.
How to Reach Purulia?
- By Air: The nearest airport is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport which is 291 km or 5 hours 43 minutes to Purulia.
- By Train: There are trains available from Howrah Station to Purulia Junction.
- By Bus:The state and private bus services are available from various parts of West Bengal to Purulia Bus Stand.
Purulia is one of the popular districts of West Bengal. If you are planning the trip by car, it will take 6 hours to reach the destination which is 292 km from Kolkata. If you are staying in Kolkata, it can also be a splendid weekend gateway.
5. Yaoshang Festival, Manipur
Yaoshang is one of the major festivals of Northeastern parts of India. As the festival is a lot like Holi, it is also known as the “Holi of Manipur.” The celebration goes on for 6 days which starts on the full moon day in Phalguna (February-March).
There are singing, dancing, and other traditional performances by the residents of Manipur. The main highlight of the festival is Thabal Chongba dance or “Moonlight dance.” The participants perform the dance with songs on the rhythm of Dholakar (drum) at night.
You can visit the main cities, Imphal, Chandel, Thoubal, Ukhrul, and so on to enjoy the Holi festival in Manipur.
How to Reach Imphal?
- By Air: Imphal International Airport is connected to all the main airports of the world. The inauguration of the festival takes place at Kangla Fort which is 7.3 km from the airport.
- By Bus: The fort is 1.8 km from Imphal Guwahati Bus Stop and 1 km from Imphal Silchar Bus Stop.
If you are travelling from any parts of the world, it is easier to visit Imphal for the festival. From Imphal, Chandel is 64.1 km, Thoubal is 23.9 km, and Ukhrul is 81 km. To enjoy the best of the festival and also visit the nearby tourist places, you can plan a trip for 5-6 days in Manipur.
6. Royal Holi, Udaipur (The Royal City Palace)
Holi at Udaipur, Rajasthan is a royal affair and it is celebrated most grandly. The royal family takes active participation at all the functions. You can expect a royal enchanting experience if you are planning to celebrate Holi in Udaipur.
The festival will be for two days starting from Holika Dahan which is known as Mewar Holika Dahan. It takes place on the grounds of City Palace. The Mewar King and his family grace the occasion with their presence. The festival starts with the king lighting up the Holi pyre.
Then, it continues with folk dance, “Gair ”, around the bonfire. The king, then, meets the royal dignitaries and VIPs. There is a rally where the royal family members sit on ornate camels, elephants, and horses. The first day of the celebration ends with fireworks. On the second day, the tourists can rejoice Holi throughout the city.
If you are planning to attend the Holi festival in Udaipur, don’t miss out on attending Mewar Holika Dahan at Udaipur City Palace.
How to Reach Udaipur City Palace?
- By Air: The palace is 23 km from Maharana Pratap Airport, Udaipur.
- By Train: The City Palace of Udaipur is 2.4 km from Udaipur City Railway Station.
- By Bus: It is 7.8 km from Udaipur Bus Stop.
Entry Fee: Rs. 5,800
Timing of the Celebration: 7 pm
For the next day, every hotel and resort arrange Holi celebration for the guests with DJ music, colours and refreshments. You can find Treebo hotels in Udaipur for a comfortable stay.
Also read: 16 Best Places to See in Udaipur in One Day
7. Holi in South India, Hampi
There is a notion that Holi is not celebrated in the southern states of India. Hampi makes up for it as it is famous for the Holi festival in Karnataka. There are many temples in Hampi where people from around the world come to celebrate the Holi Festival in India.
Located on the banks of river Tungabhadra, Hampi is famous for Virupaksha Temple from the 7th century. Here, Holi is celebrated for two days starting with Holika Dahan and people apply colour on each other and enjoy this festival.
The speciality of Holi celebration at Hampi is that the people dip in the river after playing with colours to wash away all the sin. The main celebration takes place at Virupaksha Temple.
How to Reach Virupaksha Temple, Hampi?
- By Air: The temple is 351 km from Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru. You can take a private cab from the airport or avail the intercity bus service to reach Hampi.
- By Train: If you are planning to visit by train, get down at Hosapete Junction Railway Station which is 14 km from the temple. There will be various public transport available at the railway station for the tourists.
- By Bus: It’s an overnight journey by bus to Hampi (Hospet) bus stop. The temple is 4.6 km from the bus stop.
Plan a trip to Hampi for a minimum of 3-4 days to enjoy the Holi celebration and explore the city.
Must Read: The 12 Most Stunning Monuments in at Hampi
8. Hola Mohalla, Anandpur Sahib, Punjab
Anandpur Sahib, Punjab is one of the best places to celebrate the Holi Festival in India, if you are looking to witness the warrior’s Holi. Holi gets a joyful name in Punjab and is known as Hola Mohalla. It is celebrated differently by the Sikh community.
There is an annual fair at Anandpur Sahib, Punjab on the day following Holi. The fair started to strengthen the community by holding mock battles and military exercise. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru, initiated the practice.
The fair goes on for three days where the members will display their physical strength. There are poetry and music competitions at the end to light up the mood of the visitors. Along with this, there will be kirtans and religious lectures.
On the last day, there will be a long procession from Takth Keshgarh Sahib which will pass through various important gurudwaras. There will be langars (community service) by the local people. The women volunteer to cook traditional cuisines and serve to the pilgrims.
How to Reach Anandpur Sahib, Punjab?
- By Air: Chandigarh International Airport is 88.6 km from Anandpur Sahib, Punjab. The tourists can find public transportation or private cabs to travel from the airport.
- By Train: If you are planning to travel by train, you can reach Anandpur Sahib Railway Station
- By Bus: You can take an intercity bus to Anandpur Bus stop.
It is better to stay in Anandpur and visit Sri Guru Tej Bahadur Sikh Museum (160 m), Virasat-E-Khalsa Anandpur Sahib (1.8 km), and Gurudwara Kila (1.2 km).
Where would you like to plan your Holi celebrations this year? Do let us know in the comments section below.
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