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Holi and its diverse celebrations across India…

India is a land of diversity and each festival in this country are celebrated following diverse rituals. Holi is one such festival which is celebrated with pomp, joy and unique customs but these vary from region to region. The festival also celebrates the beginning of a good spring harvest season. Before Holi, the ritual of Holika Dahan is followed to celebrate good over evil. Holi basically is celebrated in Phalguna month on Purnima Tithi. On this special occasion, people pray in front of the fire which symbolizes the burning of negativity. 

Let’s take a walk through the distinctive celebration of holi in Indian States

1. Hola Mohalla, Punjab 

Hola Mohalla is a 3-day grand festival celebrated in Punjab. Hola is a masculine sounding word used for Holi and Mohalla is taken from Arabic dictionary which implies procession in the form of army column.  Together this word implies Mock Fight as Hola Mohalla is an occasion of Sikhs to showcase the Martial skills. 

Tenth Guru of Sikh GURU GOBIND SINGH JI established this tradition that follows Hindu festival Holi. The first mock fight was held in February 1701 at Anandpur Saheb town. Since then, Sikhs have been playing Hola Mohalla every year on the occasion of Holi. 

On this three-day unique festival, mock battles, exhibitions, displays of weapons are held with Kirtan and music. The participants perform daring feats, such as mock encounters with real weapons which is named as Gatka, tent pegging, bareback horse-riding, standing erect on two speeding horses and various other feats of bravery.

Langars are also held in Gurdwaras by Sikhs for the people. 

It is the most awaited day for Sikhs. Spectacular events and colorful procession make it unique. 

2. Dol Jatra 

Land of Rosogulla , West Bengal has its own uniqueness of celebrating Holi. Here Holi is named as Dol Jatra or Basant Utsav. Holi is the prestigious harvest festival and it marks the beginning of spring season. Basant implies beginning of Spring season and Utsav means Festival hence West Bengal celebrates it with the name of Basant Utsav. This festival is also celebrated in Assam and Odisha with the name of Dol Purnima. On the auspicious day of Dol Jatra, women wear yellow color Sari or clothes as yellow color signifies abundance. Color powder plays a key role in this festival just as Holi and in west bengal color powder is named as Phag. 

It is celebrated in the remembrance of  love of Radha and Krishna. 

On the occassion of Dol Jatra a grand procession of Lord Krishna is taken through West Bengal Streets followed by the music and bhajan kirtan. Women sing the Bhajan or song while the men spray coloured powder at the idols. 

The best place to witness Dol Jatra is Shanti Niketan at Bolpur. This little place is the epicentre of everything that depicts the rich Bengali culture. 

3. Yaosang  

If we travel towards the Manipur which is north-eastern Gem, we will see another unique version of Holi. Yaosang is a six-day festival celebrated in Manipur with enthusiasm. The festival of Yaoshang is considered one of the major festivals of Manipur. Celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Lamta, Yaosang begins with the burning of a small thatch or bamboo straw. 

The highlight of the festival is the Thabal Chongba which means a moonlight dance or a traditional Manipuri folk dance where boys and girls hold hands and sing and dance in a circle. The festival is celebrated with singing, dancing and many other traditional performances. It is celebrated with high spirits by the young and the old. Colour is one of the significant aspects of this festival, people apply colours on the faces of each other. But this festival is gone far beyond just colors. 

4. Dola  

Dola is another form of holi celebration in the magnificent Odisha state of India. Holi celebrations here are quite similar to those in West Bengal. This festival is celebrated on a grand level in Odisha. Another name of this festival is Melana or Milan which usually means get together. Here get together signifies the meeting of Lord Gopinath and Lord Bhagabat. On this day the deities of village, especially that of Krishna, are carried to all the homes in the villages. People carrying the idols and those following them are smeared with Abira, a violet color powder. Till four days, daily round of deity continues and is known as chacheery. On this festival, there is keen competition between villagers is decorating ‘viman’ in which they carry deities. 

There is another myth of burning fire on holi as we perform Holika Dahan. The myth is associated with killing of Mesha who was the terror on earth and got killed by Krishna. This celebration is named as Meshapodi.

5. Lathmar Holi 

In the largest state of India, Holi is celebrated with an interesting ritual. In UP, women perform this ritual with lathis. It is the most interesting way of celebrating Holi and people enjoy a lot. Here women armed with lathis and men take thalis as their shield to protect themselves. If a man got hit with lathi, he has to dress up himself with female attire and dance on the streets. All of this is done primarily in jest and not aggressively. 

Lathmar is a Hindi word comprises of Lath and Mar. Lath means stick and Mar means beat.  Lathmar holi is unique. It is said that Lord Krishna tried to tease Radha to play holi in Barsana. Some women caught him teasing Radha and got angry and chased him with lathis. 

Lathmar Holi hence is celebrated in tune with this tale. 

Lathmar Holi is celebrated 4-5 days prior to the Holi festivities of other states. Nandgaon and Barsana which are mythologically related with Lord Krishna are famous for this particular kind of Holi celebration. The natives of this village are known for their unique way of playing Holi with not only colours but also sticks. 

Radha Rani temple which is the only temple of Radha is the main point of Lathmar Holi Celebration. The Holi celebrations also continue in Vrindavan in the Banke Bihari Temple with color and flowers.

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