The best places to celebrate Holi in India depend on what type of experience you want to have. You’ll find events taking place almost all over India, but they vary from traditional temple rituals to modern parties with DJs, bhang, and lots of colours. See which of these places, with completely different Holi festival celebrations, attract you the most.
Want to know the significance of Holi and find out when it’s held each year? The responses are in this Holi Festival Guide, involving important safety information and tips.
Barsana, Uttar Pradesh: Holi with Sticks
Indian men don’t forever rule the roost! The women of Barsana and Nandgaon villages near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh beat up men with sticks, in what’s recognized as Lathmar Holi celebrations. Sadly, this event isn’t suggested for solo female travellers due to the horrible behaviour of men, who continue to go around assaulting women.
Dates: Lathmar Holi takes place in the week prior to the main day of Holi. In 2020, it will take place on March 4 in Barsana and March 5 in Nandgaon. It’s worth getting to Barsana a couple of days before Lathmar Holi so that you can also go through Laddoo Holi festivities there at Shriji Temple on March 3. Sweets are thrown around and religious songs related to Radha and Krishna are sung.
Mathura and Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh: Traditional Holi
Holi celebrations get started on Vasant Panchami (end of winter), 40 days before the main Holi day, in the temple towns of Mathura and Vrindavan, four hours from Delhi. Mathura is where Lord Krishna was born, while Vrindavan was where he spent his early years.
Dates: Sri Krishna Janmasthan temple in Mathura holds a prominent show in the week before Holi. The weeklong celebrations at Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan are also famous and end with the throwing of colours in the morning on the day before Holi (March 9, 2020). The celebrations begin with the throwing of flowers (Phoolon Wali Holi) at 4 p.m. on March 6, 2020. In the afternoon on March 9, head to Mathura for the colourful Holi procession that begins at around 3. p.m. from Vishram Ghat and ends near Holi Gate. On Holi (March 10, 2020), the finest place to catch the tossing of colours is Dwarkadheesh Temple in Mathura. Start the day early (at around 7 a.m) at Vishram Ghat to see priests creating bhang.
Purulia, West Bengal: Folk Holi
A three-day Basanta Utsav folk event takes place in West Bengal, at Nimdih in the Purulia district and Tepantar in Birbhum district. It runs in the lead up to Holi and on a real day. You’ll get to sing and play Holi with the natives, as well as relish a wide variety of exclusive folk art. This involves the astonishing Chau dance, Darbari Jhumur, Natua dance, and songs of West Bengal’s wandering Baul musicians. What makes the festival unique is that it’s managed by villagers as a way of helping maintain themselves. The site is around five to six hours by train from Kolkata, or transportation in private vehicles can be arranged. Accommodation is provided in cottages and tents, and there are portable toilets as well.
Dates: March 8-10, 2020
Anandpur Sahib, Punjab: Warrior Holi
Experience Holi the Sikh way at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab! Hola Mohalla is a yearly fair that dates all the way back to 1701. It was first established by Sikh Guru Gobind Singh to celebrate Holi. Though, instead of throwing colours, expect to see a display of physical agility. There’s wrestling, martial arts, mock sword fights, acrobatic military exercises, and turban tying.
Dates: March 10-12, 2020
Udaipur, Rajasthan: Royal Holi
On the eve of Holi people light bonfires to celebrate the occasion and ward off evil spirits in a ritual called holika dahan. For a memorable royal experience, join in the celebration of Udaipur’s Mewar royal family. There will be a splendid palace parade from the royal residence to Manek Chowk at the City Palace, involving adorned horses and royal band. Later On, the traditional sacred fire will be lit and an effigy of Holika burnt.
Date: March 9, 2020
Mumbai: Community Holi with Slum Children
Dharavi, Mumbai’s largest slum, is not the miserable place that you may expect it to be — and particularly so on Holi. Reality Tours and Travel will take you on an interesting (and inspiring) tour of the slum, and then to a Holi party that they will be throwing for the community at Dharavi.
Date: March 7, 2020
Delhi: Musical Holi
Holi tends to be a noisy affair in Delhi. If you’re residing anywhere near Paharganj, be ready to be covered in colour by shopkeepers and children alike if you step outside. If you can, go and get tickets to the Holi Moo Festival (previously the renowned Holi Cow Festival). This festival of colour, moozik and madness has more than 40 Indian and international artists spread over four stages. The environment is safe, and non-toxic colours are supplied, along with bhang lassi, street food, and sprinklers to get everybody in the atmosphere. Plenty of ex-pats, as well as locals, join.
Date: March 10, 2020
Hampi, Karnataka: Holi in South India
If you’re looking for an energetic Holi, South India is usually best avoided. As Holi is largely a North Indian festival, it’s very calm down at most places in the south. The emphasis is mainly on religious aspects and temple rites. However, Hampi in Karnataka is a notable exception! The entire town turns out to play Holi in the morning (possibly for the advantage of the many western travellers there), along with drumming, dancing, and the evocative ruins of the grand Vijayanagar empire. Then, the crowd slowly moves towards the river to wash all the colour off.
Date: March 10, 2020
Shantiniketan, West Bengal: Cultural Holi
The celebration of Holi as Basanta Utsav (Spring Festival) in Shantiniketan was commenced by renowned Bengali poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Encouraged by spring and the colors of Holi, he announced the occasion as an annual event in his Vishva Bharati University there. Pupils dress up in spring colors and put on a massive cultural program for tourists, comprising dances to Tagore’s songs. This is supported by the usual throwing of colors. Basanta Utsav has become a treasured part of Bengali history and culture, and it invites numerous foreign tourists.
Date: Note that festivities happen on March 9, a day earlier than the given date for Holi in other parts of India.
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