Holi in India is a grand affair and is celebrated with great fervor and gusto. The festival marks the beginning of the spring season and is celebrated differently in the different parts of the country. However, the magnitude of celebrations is pretty much the same everywhere. Such is the appeal of the festival that even the mention of the word Holi brings a smile on people`s faces.
Children and adults alike eagerly await the festival and enjoy getting drenched and applying colours on each other. Getting high on Bhang, a traditional Indian beverage prepared from the female cannabis plant, is the norm in many regions of India, especially in the northern states. Special bhang Ladoos and sweets such as Gujiyas are prepared during the festival.
Known as `Dol Yatra` in Bengal, Bengalis celebrate Holi rather peacefully. Women and men dress up in yellow attire and spray colour called Abeer. A procession of people carrying Idols of lord Krishna and Radha is carried out to the streets and people rejoice and sing devotional songs.
Possibly the wildest Holi is celebrated in Uttar Pradesh. Here Holi is not about splashing colours but hitting with sticks or laths. `Lathmaar` Holi, as the name suggests is played with sticks. The women carry sticks and hit men who have to defend themselves. Nobody is offended as it is all done in the spirit of the festival. In Mathura, Vrindavan and Barsana people throng temples and play Holi with flowers.
In Maharashtra and Gujarat, young boys team up to break an earthen pot containing buttermilk that is hung up at a height. Whichever team does it first wins the prize.
In the Southern part of India people celebrate Holi to pay homage to Kamadeva-the Love God, who had to face the wrath of lord Shiva, when he hit him with his arrow in order to divert Shiva`s attention to Parvati, who would go on to become his wife. Kamadeva was burned to ashes and his distraught wife Rati pleaded lord Shiva to bring her husband back to life. Holi here is known as `Kamavilas` and people express sadness over the demise of Kamadeva by singing traditional folk songs detailing the grief of Rati when she gets to know about the death of her beloved.
Holi in East India is celebrated with an interesting twist. The festivities begin 6 days prior to the festival. Here Holi is celebrated together with another traditional festival called `Yaosang`. Young girls allow boys to play Holi with them in exchange for some money. On the last day, devotees dressed up in traditional yellow and white attire march over to the famous Krishna temple and sing songs dedicated to lord Krishna. Thabal Chongba, a traditional Manipuri dance form is performed during the festival.
It`s time to get drenched in the spirit of the colourful festival.