10 Best Places to Observe Holi Celebrations in India
Holi, the ‘festival of colors’, is easily one of the most popular celebrations in the country. The best places to observe Holi celebrations in India depend on what interests you and the kind of experience you would want to have. The festival is full of myriad activities taking place almost all over India. These range from old-age traditions, unique customs, to modern parties with music, dance and food. Many a places are visited by scores of foreign travelers and journalists to observe Holi celebrations in India due to the merrymaking and photo ops. From the abundant options, we list the 10 best places to celebrate Holi in India:
Mathura, Uttar Pradesh
Drenched in traditions and in the love of Lord Krishna, Mathura is definitely one of the top places to celebrate Holi in India. According to legends, the custom of playing colors on Holi originated from the play of Radha and Krishna.
The divine city of Mathura, the birth place of the Lord, is at its best during the festival of Holi. A colorful and musical procession takes place from the temples to river ghats then to the Holi Gate. The celebrations start almost a week before the festival. Temples are decorated, songs, and chants create a devotional ambiance. On the day of the festival, the best place to visit in Mathura is the Dwarkadheesh Temple.
Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
The favorite among travelers from India, overseas as well as journalists and one of the best places to photograph Holi in India, Vrindavan’s Banke Bihari Temple’s Holi celebrations is one of its kind. The town echoes with tales of Radha-Krishna and celebrates the festival with traditions, devotion and serenity. The extremely popular Banke Bihari temple in the town hosts a week long Holi celebrations attend by visitors from all over the world.
The Holi customs in the temple are unique, as there is not play of conventional dry or wet colors, but flowers, and hence the name Phoolon wali holi (Flowers’ Holi). The temple priests’ shower the pilgrims with flowers in a way showering the blessings of the Lord. Arrive quite before the gate opens to get a close up position.
Barsana, Uttar Pradesh
Barsana celebrates Holi in a very interesting way. The women of Barsana beat up men from Nandgaon with sticks, in what is known as Lath mar Holi. Barsana was the home of Radha where Lord Krishna teased the ladies and they reacted with friendly banter. Get to the Ladliji temple, dedicated to Sri Radha Rani to witness the bizarre and super fun tradition.
Sweets, Thandai, spiritual songs related to Radha and Krishna and play of color make it a fun place to enjoy the festival. Arrive to the town a week before the festival as the celebrations start quite early.
The capital city of India is not far behind on the list of best places to celebrate Holi. The multi-ethnic city rejoices the festival with a twist of modernity. On the eve of Holi, bonfires or Holika are lit where people celebrate the victory of good over evil. Next day people play with bright colors. Amazing parties, music, DJs, dance, Bhang etc. spice up the revelries.
There are many parties organized to add to the fun. The Holi Moo Festival is one of the popular event. Rejoice with colors, music and madness with more than 40 Indian and international performers. Party with non-toxic colors, drinks, street food, and sprinklers.
Shantiniketan, West Bengal
Holi in Shantiniketan has a unique flavor. The festival is known as the Basanta Utsav (Spring Festival). Inspired by spring and the colors of Holi, famous Bengali poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore introduced the occasion as an annual event in his Vishva Bharati University.
Shantiniketan celebrates the festival with a profusion of colors, flowers, cultural events, dance performances, folk music, Tagore’’ songs, food and other fun activities. All attendees dress up in spring colors and flowers. Be a part of the cherished portion of Bengali history and culture. This event is celebrated a day before Holi is marked on calendars all over India.
Anandpur Sahib, Punjab
Different from the way the rest of India celebrates Holi, Anandpur Sahib in Punjab follows the traditional way of Sikh warriors. Known as Hola Mohalla, the annual fair dates all the way back to 1701 when it was started by Guru Gobind Singh ji as protest to rising Mughal intolerance.
The festivities at the Anandpur Sahib, one of the holy Sikh pilgrimages is worth your time. Instead of a play of colors, it is a demonstration of Sikh warriors known as blue clothed Nihangs. These fierce warrior monks present physical agility and the traditional art of gathka, a form of martial art. There is wrestling, mock sword fights, acrobatic military exercises, turban tying and other forms of celebrating Sikh military prowess. Attend the extravagant presentation, it is truly one of the unique ways to enjoy the festival.
Though South India is not truly popular for the boisterous festival, Holi in Hampi is a rare sight. Held for 2 days, Hampi celebrates Holi with a play of colors. Welcome spring with pleasant colors, amid drumming, dancing, against the backdrop of ruins of the grand Vijayanagar empire. Vibrant colors mark faces and everything you see. Later the crowd is seen frolicking in the waters of the Tungabhadra River.
For a simpler Holi, Hampi is one of the places to celebrate the festival in India. Rejoice in the simple pleasure of the festival of colors.
Purulia, West Bengal
Holi in Purulia district of West Bengal is celebrated with a 3-day Basanta Utsav folk festival. For a flavor of tribal and folk pleasures in addition to colors of spring, this is one of the best places to celebrate Holi in India.
The Basant Ustav is an occasion celebrating a wide variety of unique folk art, dance and music. The popular attractions of the festival includes the remarkable Chau dance, Darbari Jhumur, Natua dance, and songs of West Bengal’s traveling Baul musicians. The special delight of the festival is the acrobatic stunts, the rhythmic beating of drums and the carnival like ambiance. Experience Holi like never before.
The advent of spring is marked with the festival of Holi and Jaipur celebrates the festival in royal style. The play of colors is the main highlight. The Pink City, Jaipur used to celebrate the festival of colors extravagantly with the elephant festival. Elephant parades, elephant beauty contests, folk dances, and tug-of-war between elephants, were the popular lures. This event hasn’t been held since 2012 due to pressure from animal rights groups.
If you are interested in Holi festival celebration with elephants, try Eleholi. There are also a bunch of private parties and events which you can join for a dose of fun.
Amchi Mumbai is without doubt one of the best places to celebrate Holi in India. The megacity celebrates the festival extravagantly merging the customs with equal dose of modern fun. Every year during Holi, a spectacular ‘matki phod’ event is celebrated. It is inspired from the naughty gimmicks of Lord Krishna stealing maakhan in his childhood. Pots of milk, butter or colored water are strung on high points. Huge number of people, especially young boys, gather in the streets to conquer these pots. These groups form massive human pyramids to reach the matka while crowds throw water and colors to distract them.
The exciting spectacle is followed by play of colors, Bollywood music, dance, food and inhibited fun.