Bright colours, water balloon fights, delicious food, and a cheery day spent with family and friends - Holi is probably one of the most fun-filled festivals in India. Like most Indian festivals, Holi is as much about religion as it is about gaiety, music, and free-spirited celebrations. Even within India, there are places where this colourful festival is observed in unique, not-to-be-missed ways. Why not give your usual home-based Holi a miss this year and travel someplace new? Here are our suggestions for 5 places to celebrate Holi in a unique way this year!
Mathura - Vrindavan
The land of Krishna is one of the best places to celebrate Holi, with the festivities lasting for nearly a week. Holi is believed to have originated with Krishna and Radha, so celebrations here are particularly intense. Start with the Lathmaar Holi in Barsana and Nandgaon, where men throw colourful gulaal and defend themselves against the sticks wielded by the local women! These famous celebrations attract tourists from all over.
At Krishna’s childhood home, Vrindavan, the revered Banke Bihari Temple hosts Holi celebrations a day before Holi. The temple gates are opened in the morning for Holi with the Lord; join the chanting crowd as priests throw gulaal and coloured water on visitors. The atmosphere promises to be electric! Follow up this one-of-a-kind experience by joining the colourful Holi procession at nearby Mathura - prepare to get drenched! If you still haven’t had your fill of colours, the place to be the next day i.e. Holi day is Mathura. Enjoy the vibrant Holi celebration at Dwarkadheesh Temple, accompanied by the sound of beating drums and the chants of joyful crowds.
Pushkar, the tiny temple town near Ajmer, is known for its serene lake and laid-back vibes. Come Holi time though, the town is completely transformed! Expect to see large crowds of people gathered in the central Chowk, swaying to the trance music playing on loudspeakers. Holi in Pushkar is boisterous, livened up by music, bright colours and the essential bhaang and thandai. You’ll enjoy this place even better if you travel with a group of friends and family members. Holi in Pushkar is extremely popular with visiting tourists from across the world. After a day of riotous Holi celebrations, relax at one of the charming resorts in town.
The historic town of Hampi in Karnataka may not be the first to come to mind when you consider places to celebrate Holi. Hampi is known primarily for its strikingly beautiful Vijayanagar ruins and temples, and the unique rocky landscape. However, Holi celebrations in this tiny town are worth seeing and being a part of. The entire town turns out in vibrant Holi processions, complete with drummers, free-flowing colours and spirits. Tourists and locals get together in a fun-filled celebration, which ends with most people heading to the river for a dip!
After a frenzied day spent dancing, singing and splashing around, spend the evening stargazing with a cool drink at your side!
To see Holi being celebrated in an entirely different way, head to Punjab! The joyful Hola Mohalla festival held at Anandpur Sahib puts a completely unique spin on Holi, and has been doing so since the days of Guru Gobind Singh. Watch sword-fighting competitions, horse-riding contests, music and poetry competitions, and various acts of dare-devilry. Join the groups of vibrantly-dressed people as they throw colour on each other and stroll through the fairgrounds. Don’t leave without eating at the Langar organised entirely by volunteers, as is the Sikh tradition. Hola Mohalla is a beautiful occasion to experience the Sikh culture and a unique Holi celebration, together.
The charming city of Indore counts amongst the places to celebrate Holi in a different way. Here, the festival is celebrated in the form of Rangpanchami, a few days after Dhulendi. This is a tradition kept alive from the time the Holkars ruled over Indore. Colourful water is sprinkled on the streets of the old town, and people play with wet and dry colours. Head to the Rajwada, where the largest crowd gathers to celebrate the festival together. You’ll be dancing to the latest Bollywood tunes as trucks spray you with gulaal and coloured water. Rangpanchami - or the Holi of Indore - has to be experienced at least once in a lifetime!
Interested in learning more about great places to celebrate Holi?