Holi is celebrated with much pomp and splendor in Maharashtra. Lasting for five days to a week, this festival of colors is popularly known as Shimga or Rangpanchami. The festival is celebrated in cities, villages and tribal communities across the State, each with its own peculiarity and flair.
In Maharashtra, the tribals such as Andh, Arakh, Gond, Kathodi, Bhaniya, Dhodia constitute 8.61% of the total population. Even though they are a marginal community, they are deeply rooted in their heritage and culture, and have retained many of their native customs. The traditions and customs of every tribe is different from each other but the significance of Holi is paramount for all the tribes. The festival lasts from the full moon to the new moon, in some areas until the next full moon. The festival has many facets and uniqueness, for some groups it is associated with worship of nature, for others it is associated with fertility or agriculture or prosperity or forging new relationships.
Pavara, Kathi and Korku tribes have special ways of celebrating Holi.
Holi is celebrated for a month at Yaval village, located near Jalgaon. During the month-long festival, the tribal community plays with natural colours (gulal) made from herbal ingredients. The young boys of the Pavara community wear ornaments and walk around the village in search of their future bride and marry the girl, chosen by her. Young and old gather to witness this spectacle as they parade around the village with a small two-headed drum tied around their waists.
The Tribals of Kathi in Satpuda range, a small village in Akkalkuwa of Nandurbar District, has a 750-year-old unique tradition of playing ‘Rajwadi’ Holi ( Holika Dahan ). Rajwadi Holi is the oldest Holi celebration in tribal communities in the country. More than 1.5 lakhs tribals from nearby states gather together to celebrate India’s largest Tribal Holi. The preparations of this festival starts 15 days before the actual festive day. During the period of preparation, people walk 350 to 400 km deep in the forest to collect 70 to 80 ft bamboo for Holi fire. After finding the appropriate bamboos, they do not cut it down.
First they worship it with traditional prayer and then dig it up from the Ground. At the end of fifteenth day, the residents of Kathi erect 40 to 50 ft bamboo at the center of the village which an ancient pit of at least 5ft in the ground. The fixing is done with the help of hand without using any equipment. It’s their ancient style they strictly follow practices which doesn’t cause any harm to the nature. They consider nature as a God and worship it first. It is believed that if the bamboo falls towards the eastern direction, the year ahead will bring prosperity.
The devotees dress up in a traditional outfit like men dress up as women and wild animals, wearing waist chain consisting bells, colorful headgear made out of paper and Peacock feather, with weapons in hand. On the Festive Day, the men perform various traditional dance forms and sing folk music all night and burn Holi early in the morning.
In Dharani near Amravati, the community living in the city come together for Holi and ask for donations for Phagwa (Holi); they play special traditional instruments and perform a traditional dance called Susun-Gaduli.
In Konkan, wood of Savri tree is used for Holi. The bigger the firewood, the grander Holi festival is for them. The tribe performs dance, holding firewood in their hands before they lit a massive bonfire. The chief of every tribe has the first honor of offering puja.
The native deities hold more importance to the tribal communities on this festival. During this time, the tribals drench each other with brilliant colours, eat hearty meals, perform folk dance, wear their favorite costumes and immerse themselves in the spirit of carefree merrymaking. The celebration arrives after a long period of toil in the fields and hence they also spend this time hoping for a good produce and making plans for the next year.
Maharashtra rural tourism offers a chance to revel in this festival. Visiting a farm stay or agri-tourism center in regions is a great way to experience the authentic celebrations of Holi and the native culture of each region.