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6 Unique Ways India Celebrates Holi

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By Digant Raj Kapoor:

Holi is the most popular Indian festival and has wide international appeal. It is an amalgamation of hundreds of happy people, great weather, and vibrant colors; what’s not to like? Young people around the world are personally exposed to Holi as Indian Student associations organize celebrations at their Universities. While those celebrations are largely standardized — one day of color powder, water guns, and Indian food — Holi celebrations across India are extremely diverse in their intensity and length. Urban centers feature music festivals, the South focuses on religious rituals, and the Braj region (birth place of Lord Krishna includes Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandagaon, and Barsana) is famous for celebrating Holi for over two weeks. Given the diverse culture and multitude languages in India, Holi has different names and cultural history throughout the nation. Here are some examples from around the country.

ELEPHANT_Holi
Grand Elephant Festival at Chaugan Stadium, Jaipur.

Until 2012, Jaipur celebrated Holi with a grand Elephant Festival at Chaugan Stadium every year on Holi. The festival begins with a traditional procession of decorated elephants that walk towards the stadium through the streets of the Pink City. The spectacular elephant parade in the city is followed by beauty contests, tug-of-war between elephants and stunning folk dances. The origins of the elephant component remain unclear, but it was canceled in 2013 year due to pressure from animal rights groups. A cultural program was held in its place, without the elephants. It’s been confirmed that elephants will again be absent from the celebrations in 2014 and a similar cultural program will occur instead.

The Lathmar Holi of Barsana, near Mathura
The Lathmar Holi of Barsana, near Mathura

The women of Barsana village near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh beat up men from neighboring Nandgaon village with sticks, in what’s known as Lathmar Holi celebrations. Lathmar Holi takes place around a week before the main day of Holi. The following day, the celebrations move to Nandgaon village. Another local twist is Laddoo Holi durng which Sweets are thrown around and spiritual songs related to Radha and Krishna are sung.

Holi tends to be a rowdy affair in Delhi. If you’re staying anywhere near Paharganj, be prepared to be covered in color by shopkeepers and children alike if you step outside. The Holi Cow, a festival of color, music and madness, is held a short distance outside the city. The environment is safe, and non-toxic colors are provided, along with bhang lassis, street food, and sprinklers to get everyone in the mood. Both DJs and bands perform.

Folk Holi in Purulia
Folk Holi in Purulia

A three-day Basanta Utsav folk festival takes place in the Purulia district of West Bengal. It runs in the lead up to Holi and on the actual day. Tourists participate by singing and playing Holi with the locals, and enjoy a wide variety of unique folk art. This includes the remarkable Chau dance, Darbari Jhumur, Natua dance, and songs of West Bengal’s wandering Baul musicians. Vilagers organize the festival as a way of helping sustain themselves.

Hola Mohalla in Anandpur Sahib
Hola Mohalla in Anandpur Sahib

Experience Holi the Sikh way at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. Hola Mohalla is an annual fair that dates all the way back to 1701. It was first organized by Sikh Guru Gobind Singh to celebrate Holi. However, instead of throwing colors, expect to see a demonstration of physical agility. There’s wrestling, martial arts, mock sword fights, acrobatic military exercises, and turban tying.

Holi in Ahmedabad
Holi in Ahmedabad

In Maharashtra and Gujarat, a grand procession of men soaked with coloured water walk through the streets with a mock alert call that asks to take care of pots of butter and milk as Krishna comes in. There is also a tradition of hanging a pot of buttermilk high up in the street. Men forming a human staircase try to break this pot, and whoever succeeds is crowned the Holi king of the locality for that year. All these traditions come as a mock show to relive the acts if Krishna, who popularised Holi in its present forms.

For a country that is notorious for being divided, Holi is a day that brings the country together. During Holi, anyone and everyone are fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. Although the style and rituals of celebrating vary from State to State, the spirit of the festival is constant throughout the world: to spread and enjoy happiness.

You must be to comment.
  1. Supriya Mehra

    Very nice my India is best love my country and all festivals –Amen

  2. Journalist at heart

    “In Maharashtra and Gujarat, a grand procession of men soaked with coloured water walk through the streets with a mock alert call that asks to take care of pots of butter and milk as Krishna comes in. There is also a tradition of hanging a pot of buttermilk high up in the street. Men forming a human staircase try to break this pot, and whoever succeeds is crowned the Holi king of the locality for that year. ”

    As much as I know, this is called Dahi Handi and has no relation with holi whatsoever. Also, I was wondering what the source of this information as it would be interesting to know more about this tradition if it does exist in Maharashtra. Unless you posted it from a website where I found something similar: http://www.holifestival.org/holi-in-maharashtra.html which does not mention you as the content writer.

  3. Akshay Jain

    The “wild color toss” at the Grove of Gaia fest is very like the festival of Holi, in India:

    The colorful festival of Holi is celebrated on Phalgun Purnima which comes in February end or early March [in 2015, it was the 6th of March]. Holi festival has an ancient origin and celebrates the triumph of ‘good’ over ‘bad’. The colorful festival bridges the social gap and renew sweet relationships. On this day, people hug and wish each other ‘Happy Holi’.

    More informaiton is available at http://www.happyholi.online

  4. Happy Holi

    Even the young generation of Hinduism and India doesn’t know about the cultural appropriation and observances of Holi. Celebration of Holi: However, everyone, most of the time, knows how to celebrate Holi. Here I found this to know about holi 2020

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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