Punjab: Hola Mohalla, Anandpur Sahib
What Is It: If you believe Holi is all about throwing colours at people, then head to Anandpur Sahib in Punjab for a very different kind of celebration. Processions with Nihang warriors dressed in their traditional blue attire and wielding weapons, people riding elephants and horses, mock battles and display of martial prowess with swords and knives are the key features of the Hola Mohalla festival that is held at the same time as Holi. Hola is the masculine form of Holi while Mohalla refers to the army column-style procession. The singing of kirtans and poetry recitations are also part of the celebration.
How To Do It: Although Hola Mohalla is observed across the globe wherever Sikh communities live, Anandpur Sahib is special because this is where the 10th Sikh Guru, Govind Singh, began the festival. Do not miss the delicious food at the communal langar. Punjab Tourism (www.punjabtourism.gov.in) organises a 4-day Hola Mohalla package from Chandigarh.
West Bengal: Basanta Utsav, Shantiniketan
What Is It: Colours and cultural presentations take precedence at this celebration of Doljatra (as Holi is known is West Bengal) at Viswa Bharati University in Shantiniketan, founded by poet Rabindranath Tagore, where the day is celebrated for the onset spring. This gives the festival its name: Basanta Utsav. Tagore had wanted the institute’s festivals to be guided by the seasons and not religion. So the teachers and students begin the day early with processions going around the campus, singing Tagore’s songs. Usually, the men dress in white clothes with colourful sashes, while the women dress in red and yellow saris with floral ornaments. As the day progresses, everyone gets smeared with colour, with younger people first applying colour to the feet of their elders as a mark of respect. This is followed by yet more music and dance performances. The neighbouring villages have their own celebrations, often along with performances by itinerant Baul singers.
How To Do It: You could just head to Shantiniketan to enjoy the festival. West Bengal Tourism (www.wbtdc.gov.in) organises 3-day long Basanta Utsav package tours to and from Kolkata.
Maharashtra: Community Holi, Dharavi
What Is It: Festivals are all about spreading happiness aren’t they? But while we celebrate them with great pomp and show, there are some who are not privileged enough to do so. Wouldn’t it feel wonderful to bring a smile to some of their faces this Holi? The Holi festivities in Dharavi have become something of a landmark in Mumbai’s annual cultural calendar. Don’t miss out on a festival of colours with a difference! Join Reality Tours for their Holi Party & Dharavi Tour on March 16 and 20, 2019 for a 4-hour-tour of Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi. With almost 1 million inhabitants, the slum is a hub of motley activities from plastic recycling, pottery and soap-making to leather tanning. The tour begins with a visit to the plastic recycling area where you can see the entire process from start to finish. They will even take you to a factory rooftop for an amazing bird’s-eye view of the area. The tour also includes a visit to the community centre where inhabitants work on developing soft skills. The party begins at the end of the tour where people from the community will join you for some good music and a fun-filled Holi with 100% natural colours and a heart full of happiness.
How To Do It: Log on to http://realitytoursandtravel.com/tour/holi-party-dharavi-tour/ and sign up. Make sure you dress modestly; plain white clothes are your best option. Check out the website for specific details. 80% of what you pay goes towards the community’s development.
Uttarakhand: Kumaoni Holi
What Is It: Kumaon has a blend of different cultural traditions, and the region celebrates the festival of colours in a very unique and peaceful way. It is the perfect place to be for those who are looking forward to a soulful and musical Holi experience. This festival holds a lot of importance for the Kumaonis as it celebrates the victory of good over evil and beginning of the sowing season. It usually starts around the end of January and continues till the day of Holi, a two-month-long musical affair where the locals immerse themselves in the beautiful melodies of classical ragas.
How To Do It: You can avail of an initiative taken by Rural Odyssey (www.ruralodyssey.com/odysseys/odyssey-to-kumaon/ ) is giving people an opportunity to get out of their urban lives and explore the vibrant villages in Gori Ganga Valley and also get a chance to interact with the locals. For more information on the Itinerary and registration check out their website and their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/RuralOdyssey.
What Is It: Goa stands for colour, music, dance and float parades. On March 21, 2019, Goa will celebrate Shigmo—one of the state's major festival. Themes from Hindu mythology is performed by locals who dance and sing to mark the onset of spring. Much like the Goa Carnival, Shigmotsav or Shigmo witnesses temple yatras, the Ghode-morni or the horse dance, and the Fugdi, a Goan folk dance, as well as the signature Goan float parade.
How To Do It: The float parades are going to be there at different places in the city. If you are in Panjim, you can witness the parade on 18 June Road. Do check www.goa-tourism.com, www.goatourism.gov.in and www.facebook.com/officialgoatourism for updates on the other venues.
Uttar Pradesh: Braj Tour, Mathura
What Is It: Nowhere in north India is Holi celebrated with more gusto than around Mathura and Vrindavan, to commemorate the playful and erotic myths that have grown up around Krishna. This region, called Brajbhumi, where Krishna was supposed to have grown up, celebrates Holi over two days, ranging between Vrindavan, Nandgaon and Barsana. Nandgaon and Barsana are, of course, famous for the Lath Maar Holi, where the women of the village literally beat up the men, in an enactment of a mythic event where the gopis (shepherdesses) literally kicked out Krishna for harassing them. So, on the first day of Holi, gops (shepherds) from Nandgaon go to Barsana to get colourfully beaten up. On the second day, the gops from Barsana go to Nandgaon for a repeat. On the 21st, Holi celebrations light up the streets and temples of Vrindavan.
How To Do It: Lath Maar Holi will be celebrated in Barsana and at Nandgaon. Holi festivities take place at Mathura and Vrindavan across the following week. Finally, on the main day of Holi, a riot of colours will engulf the entire region.