In India, wherever you work, you get at least two days of leaves for Holi. And why not? After all, Holi is one of the biggest festivals of India. Sometimes, when Holi falls on Thursday or Friday, you get a long holiday weekend. The same is the case when the festival of colours falls on Monday or Tuesday. Why not use these holidays to witness the famous Holi in India! Even if you get only two days of holidays, you can always manage to go on a short trip to the famous Holi destination close to your city.
But where to go to see and feel the different flavours of Holi? Take some clues from the below descriptions of famous Holi places in India near Delhi. If you stay in Delhi, you can visit these places where Holi is played differently!
Go see Lathmar Holi of Barsana if you are in Delhi
Yes, the Lathmar Holi of Barsana is perhaps the most unique of the Holi destinations in India. You ask why? Because, here women not only play Holi with colors but also use sticks to beat men! Yes, this is absolutely true. The women of Barsana beat the men of Nandgaon with sticks who come here on the occasion of Holi.
The legend goes that Krishna came to meet Radha who lived in Barsana. Here he playfully teased Radha and her other friends. These women then chased Krishna away by running after him with sticks in their hands. Since then, it has been the tradition that men from Krishna’s village, Nandgaon, come to Barsana in groups on Holi and play Holi with women of Barsana. These women beat them with sticks and the men try to defend themselves.
You will love the hysterical environment of Barsana during Holi when men provoke the women and attract their attention. Women then beat these men with ‘Lathis’ or sticks. Onlookers go hysterical and sing Holi songs and shout Holi slogans. The whole environment is colorful and playfully aggressive. Just remember that Holi in Barsana is played seven days before the actual Holi day.
Barsana is just about 125 km from Delhi and thus you can start early in the morning and reach there by noon to witness the arrival of men from Nandgaon, their welcome by local people who offer them sweets, bhang, thandai and play Holi with gulal. In the evening, you can be the part of famous lathmar Holi of Barsana and see how women beat men!
Next day, you can go to Nandgaon where again Holi is played, this time women of Barsana go to Nandgaon and play Holi but no beating here!
Go to Mathura Vrindavan and see the famous Braj ki Holi
Braj is the region of Krishna. It has Mathura and Vrindavan. Mathura is the birthplace of Krishna and Vrindavan is where Krishna was brought up by Nand and Yashoda. Tourists from all over the world love to come to Mathura- Vrindavan during Holi to witness the grandeur of the festival of colours!
Here Holi is a week-long celebration which starts seven days before the Holi date when rest of India plays Holi. Both Mathura and Vrindavan have innumerous temples of Krishna. And each temple can be seen immersed in colours on Holi. It all begins in the preceding week of Holi date when the idols of Krishna in the temples are adorned with colourful dresses. Priests and other staff of temples can be seen making organic colours from flowers and other natural ingredients.
The Holi celebration at Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan is something to experience. The idol of Krishna is brought closer to people so that they can play Holi with their Lord. Priests can be seen sprinkling coloured water over the devotee crowd using buckets and ‘Pichkari’. They also throw ‘Gulal’, the dry Holi color made with Tesu flowers and other organic ingredients. Garlands of Marigold flowers are also thrown at the public. In the background, soulful Krishna Bhajans and Holi songs are played. People become so ecstatic that they can be seen dancing and singing in blissful manner.
You can also visit Gulal-Kund near Vrindavan. It is a small lake close to Govardhan hill where locals enact plays called Krishna-Lila.
Mathura is about 160 km from Delhi and Vrindavan is just 10-12 km from Mathura. You can just plan to go on a short trip of one or two days on Holi or decide to stay for all the seven days from the beginning of Holi celebration in Braj till Holi date. You won’t be disappointed by watching and participating in the ‘Braj ki Holi’!
Go to Jaipur on Holi for Phag Mahotsava
Jaipur is always a beautiful place to visit and more so on Holi. Till few years back, to be precise, till 2012, the annual Elephant Festival of Jaipur was the main attraction when it came to Holi. But since 2012, this festival is not being organized due to the objections raised by animal rights activists. However, even then you spend time with elephants in Jaipur in the area around Amber fort where elephants are employed to carry people to and from the Amber fort situated at a height in the mountainous region.
If you dare a little more, you can find some elephant sanctuary in the area. These private elephant sanctuaries organize certain events on Holi where you can play colours with the elephants and enjoy elephant rides and do a lot more activities with them. You, however, need to pay for tickets to do all these unlike the free of charge event called ‘Jaipur Elephant Festival’ of yester-years.
One more attraction in Jaipur during Holi is the Holi celebration in the famous Govind Dev ji temple situated near Jantar Mantar in Jaipur. Here, like the Krishna temples of Mathura and Vrindavan, Holi is played with the devotees. The priests first worship the idol of Krishna and Radha. A whole lot of colours and gulal etc. are placed in front of the idols during ‘Puja’. Once the puja is done, the priests throw these colours on the crowd. They also sprinkle wet colours with big ‘Pichkaris’. Crowd there becomes ecstatic and performs dances and sing holi songs in groups.
Fag Mahotsava is also performed in the temple a few days before Holi. During this festival, various artists perform in front of the deity. Dance and music programmes are held and artists play Holi with flower petals.
Jaipur is about 250 km away from Delhi. You can catch the early morning Shatabdi express train and reach Jaipur by 10 in the morning or opt to take a bus that frequently ply between Delhi Jaipur daily. You can even drive to Jaipur as it only takes about 4-5 hours to reach there.
See Hola Mohalla in Anandpur Sahib
Hola Mohalla is an annual Sikh festival, celebrated over three days, culminating on the day after Holi. It is mainly celebrated at the Anandpur Sahib Gurudwara in Punjab. Started by the 10th Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, Hola Mohalla can be called a fair devoted to martial arts. He started this new tradition for conducting mock battles and poetry contests to keep the warrior devotees motivated and prepared against the enemies.
The celebration of Hola Mohalla in Anandpur Sahib includes visits to the gurudwaras and early morning prayers along with kirtans and religious sermons. Durbars are held in Gurudwaras where Guru Granth Sahib is read. In the evening, Nihang Sikhs display their art of bravery. They show their physical strength through mock-battles known as Gatka. Other acts include sword-fighting, archery and performances on speeding horses. Because Hola Mohalla is celebrated during and one day after Holi, it doesn’t remain untouched by the spirit of colours. Nihang sikhs while performing the martial arts in the streets of Anandpur Sahib also throw colours on the spectators.
Martial art show is then followed by cultural performances like music, dance and poetry competitions. On the day after Holi, which is the final day of Hola Mohalla, a procession is organized where the Panj Pyaras lead the procession and cross all the main gurudwaras in the city. area.
You can witness the spirit of community service of Sikhs in the Gurudwaras and also get amazed by their fine martial arts.
Anandpur Sahib is only about 300 km away from Delhi and you can definitely think of paying a visit to this holy place of Sikhs to witness an altogether different form of Holi in India.