Holi colours have gently made their way onto every general store and roadside stall. Malpua and Gujiya recipes are doing rounds in every household. Holi is the amalgamation of old-age traditions, unique customs and modern parties, dance, and food. To be celebrated from March 20-21 in 2019, this free-for-all festival sees people smear each other with dry colours, drench one another using water guns and water balloons, and celebrate like there's no tomorrow. This chaotically elegant battle of colours happens on streets, open parks and temples among other places. Holi experiences are so extraordinary that they differ from city to city. So, for those of you looking to make Holi special, here are cities around India which celebrate the festival in the most remarkable way:
Mathura & Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
It's quite impossible to tell you about Holi and not bring up Mathura and Vrindavan. The former is the birth place of Lord Krishna while the latter is where he spent his childhood. Holi celebrations here get underway 40 days before the actual festival. In the week before the festival, a renowned show at the Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan is legendary. Phoolon waali Holi (Holi with flowers) is a particular highlight at this historical landmark. Mathura also starts its celebrations a week before with a colourful, musical procession starting from the temples to the river banks and then to the Holi Gate.
Getting there: Mathura is about 4 hours away by road from Delhi. Vrindavan is close to Mathura and is only a half-an-hour ride away.
Barsana, Uttar Pradesh
Unconventional, sensational, phenomenal, I might as well run out of adjective while describing Barsana's Holi celebrations. In an astounding ceremony called the Lathmar Holi, the women of Barsana beat up the men from Nandgaon with a stick (don't worry, men are allowed to protect themselves with a shield). Barsana was believed to be the home of Radha. It was here that Krishna would come to meet Radha but would be chased away by her friends. Hence, the basis of Barsana's unique tradition.
Getting there: From Delhi, Barsana is about 4 hours away by road. Vrindavan and Mathura are about an hour’s ride away. If you do plan a trip to Barsana, it would be recommended to include the other two towns as well.
Step up the Holi celebrations with a regal experience. Join Udaipur's Mewar royal family on the eve of Holi in a ritual known as the Holika Dahan. A bonfire is light up to ward off evil spirits to symbol the oncoming of Holi. A palace procession, including horses and a band, goes from the royal residence to the City Palace to mark an important juncture in the pre-Holi festivities. On the day of the festival, people take to the streets to celebrate with colours.
Getting there: The Rajasthani city is about a 12-hour car ride from Delhi. One can also take a flight (Jet Airways, Air India, IndiGO, and SpiceJet) if a roadtrip isn't on one's mind.
Shantiniketan, West Bengal
Called the Basanta Utsav in Shantiniketan, the festival was started by the great Rabindranath Tagore in the Vishva Bharti University. Seeking inspiration from the colours of this historical festival, Tagore introduced traditions which attract visitors from around the country and the world. Students, dressed up in shades of spring colours, put on mesmerising performances consisting of traditional folk dances among others, followed by a more conventional game of Holi. It is important to keep in mind that this occasion takes places a day earlier than the actual given date of Holi.
Getting there: To get to Shantiniketan, you'll have to get to Kolkata first. From Delhi, there are daily flights to Kolkata. Shantiniketan is either 4 hours away by road or a local train ride away.
Anandpur Sahib, Punjab
Celebrate Holi like a warrior in Anandpur Sahib. Following the traditions of a Sikh warrior, the Hola Mohalla, started by Guru Gobind Singh in 1701, is the showcasing of physical agility and martial art skills. Started as a form of protest against the Mughals, the three-day long events witness mock battles, weapon exhibitions, poetry followed by kirtan. Participate in mock battles, sword fights, and wrestling if you aren't a fan of celebrating with colours this Holi.
Getting there: The journey from Delhi to Anandpur Sahib will take upto 6 hours by car. There are several trains that also cover the distance in about the same time as well.
Holi in South India tends to be a sombre affair unless you are in Hampi that is. The focus in the South remains on the rituals and religious aspects, but in Hampi, crowds take to the street to indulge in the free-for-all-colour fest. Even the foreigners join in with the backdrop of the ruins of the VIjayanagar Kingdom providing for the perfect setting for the celebrations. By evening, the crowd usually moves to the river bank to wash off all their colours.
Getting there: Hampi is a popular tourist destination. Flights from Delhi go on regular intervals with numerous airlines providing service (Air India, IndiGO, Jet Airways, etc.)