One of India’s most colourful, vibrant, energetic and widely loved festivals is Holi. The chants of ‘Holi hai’ ring in the hallways of boarding schools and galis of India. People are their loving, charming and playful best during this season.
Not only is the message of love and brotherhood prevalent due to traditional customs of gift giving but the festival always draws huge crowds simply because of its fun element. Who doesn’t love going out in all white and coming back a rainbow mess? That’s the real happy Holi.
But I have noticed one thing. We mostly only talk about North Indian Holi. Most blogs and people that I come across talk about Holi in Delhi, Holi in Pushkar, Holi in Udaipur – even Holi in Punjab. I have hardly ever come across someone talking about Holi in Himachal Pradesh.
That felt quite strange to me. My friends and I have been planning a Holi getaway for Himachal this year and I was more than curious to know what exactly ‘Holi Hai’ means to Himachalis and how do they manage to turn it into a happy Holi?
I was quite pleasantly surprised to find out the Himachali Holi is quite widespread and eclectic. This made me even more enthusiastic about my upcoming trip. Wanna know what I found out? Keep on reading.
MAINTAINING THE RELIGIOUS CUSTOMS:
We Indians love our age-old customs. Maybe that is something that makes us a curiosity to many. Many parts of Himachal make their Holi a happy Holi by devoting the time to their gods. People gather in the hundreds to their place of worship, chant prayers, offer food and money to the gods, circle the temple and touch their heads to the holy ground.
On this day, the priest blesses everyone with prosperity and positivity in their future. Guru Gobind Singh, Lord Raghunath and Madho Rao are the deities that resonate with ‘Holi hai’ in Himachal.
Where can you see this: Paonta Sahib, Kullu and Mandi.
Fun fact: Holi celebrations in Kullu Manali start 40 days prior to Holi (wow).
This tradition is not really unique to Himachal. Every Holi starts with a Holika Dahan. On the eve of Holi, people gather wood and build it into a huge pyre. In Himachal, everyone contributes a piece or two from their home to make the collection big. At night, this pyre is burnt and people chant songs and distribute sweetmeats around it.
Families, friends and neighbours alike come together to perform this age-old tradition. This is done in reverence to Lord Vishnu killing the demon Holika to save his devotee, Prahlad. The burning of the fire symbolizes the victory of good over evil and the defeat or ill-willing demons.
Where can you see this: All around Himachal (and India).
Fun fact: In Himachal, some people even keep a piece of the charred wood after the burning. This is thought to be a protector from evil.
ICE ICE HOLI:
Holi hai to rang to lagana hi hain. Hain na? Correct. But certain parts of Himachal Pradesh have their own little twist on this. Local children and youth come out of their houses to play Ice-Holi. They mix loads of dry powdered colours and even wet ones into the snow and….you guessed it – play Holi with it.
Unfortunately for us plainsmen, this kind of happy Holi is not possible each year. That is why I am more than excited to try to go to Manali this year, and lucky for me – I know the perfect spot to stay. Ah, snowball Holi fight – zindagi me aur kya chahiye?
Where can you see this: Manali, Solang Valley, Shimla.
Fun fact: Some local schools also hold ice-Holi contests.
HOLI HAI TO MELA HAI:
Himachal seems to be big fans of Holi fairs. The entire state holds many melas and small fairs to celebrate Holi. There are processions with drummers, local bands, several dancing crews and of course a lot of colours and water balloons. Kinnaur is famous for serving its local wine called ‘phasur’ during their fairs.
The Hamirpur district also holds a Holi mela that is quite popular in the region. It starts with a special prayer and contribution to the gods and moves on to a full-fledged affair in the open field. Stalls of local cuisine, fast food, Holi games, amusement rides for children and musical stages dominate the event and are cause for a very happy holi.
Where can you see this: Sujanpur, Shimla, Kinnaur.
Fun fact: Locals love relaxing in the Sangla Meadows (Kinnaur) after a long Holi-day.
FULL ON DANCE PARTIES:
If you were one to think that only Delhi and Goa have dance parties for Holi – then you could not be more wrong! Holi hai to dance to banta hai. Shimla, Manali and Mandi are famous for their Holi dance parties where almost the entire town gathers in a open ground or town square to celebrate Holi in the most fun way!
Street food vendors sure do make a lot of money that day. Whether old or young, rich or pour, student or working mothers – everyone comes together during Holi to dance all day. Huge DJ sets are also set up for some Holi remixes. Happy Holi indeed!
Where can you see this: Mandi, Shimla Ridge, Manali.
Fun fact: S.D. Senior Secondary School organizes some Holi themed mythological skits for the audience in Shimla.
Now that you and I are both richly aware of all the customs and traditions of Holi, why don’t you join me and my friends and plan a happy Holi trip to Himachal of your own? Trust me – it is going to be a bit different but it is going to be super fun. After all – Holi hai!