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How is Holi Celebrated?

Holi celebrations start on the night before Holi with a Holika Dahan. During Holika Dahan, people gather and perform religious rituals in front of the bonfire. Furthermore, they pray that their internal evil may be destroyed in the same way as Holika who is the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu was killed in the fire. On the next morning, people celebrate the Holi where people smear each other with all sorts of colors. Water guns and water-filled balloons are also thrown at each other to drench them with colors.

On Holi, everyone plays with each other, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children, and elders. The play with colors occurs in the open streets, parks, outside temples, and buildings. Groups carry drums and other musical instruments, go from place to place, sing and dance. Furthermore, friends and foes come together to throw colored powders (Gulal) on each other, laugh and gossip, then share Holi delicacies, food, and drinks. In the evening, people dress up and visit friends and family.

Holi Celebrations in Various Regions of India

The name of the Holi festival as well as the celebration varies from region to region in India.

Assam

Holi is also called Phakuwa/ Doul in Assamese. It is associated with Satras of Barpeta, Holi is celebrated over two days. On the first day, the burning of clay huts is seen in Barpeta and lower Assam which signifies the legends of Holika. On the second day, Holi is celebrated with colors. The Holi songs in chorus devoted to Lord Krishna are also sung in the regions of Barpeta.

Bihar/Jharkhand

Holi is known as Phaguwa in the local Bhojpuri dialect. On the eve of Phalgun Poornima, people light bonfires. They put dried cow dung cakes, wood of the Araad or Redi tree and Holika tree, grains from the fresh harvest, and unwanted wood leaves in the bonfire. At the time of Holika people assemble near the pyre. The eldest member of the gathering or a purohit initiates the lighting. He then smears others with color as a mark of greeting. The next day the festival is celebrated with colors. Traditionally, people also clean their houses to mark the festival.

Holi Milan is also observed in Bihar, where family members and well-wishers visit each other's family, apply colors on each other's faces, and on feet if that person is an elder. Children and youths take extreme delight in the festival. The festival is usually celebrated with colors. Whereas in some places, people also enjoy celebrating Holi with water solutions of mud or clay. Folk songs are sung at high pitch and people dance to the sound of the dholak.

Goa

Holi is locally called Ukkuli in Konkani. It is celebrated around the Konkani temple called Gosripuram temple. It is a part of the Goan or Konkani spring festival known as Sigmo in Konkani or Sisirotsava, which lasts for about a month. The color festival of Holi is a part of longer, more extensive spring festival celebrations. Holi celebrations include Holika Puja and Dahan, Dhulvad or Dhuli vandan, Haldune or offering yellow and saffron color or Gulal to the deity.

Gujarat

In Gujarat, Holi is a two-day festival. On the evening of the first day, people light the bonfire. People offer raw coconut and corn to the fire. The second day is the festival of color or Dhuleti. It is celebrated by sprinkling colored water and applying colors to each other. Dwarka, a coastal city of Gujarat, celebrates Holi at the Dwarkadheesh temple and with citywide comedy and music festivities. Falling in the Hindu month of Phalguna, Holi marks the agricultural season of the Rabi crop. In some places, there is a custom that the woman beats her brother-in-law with a sari rolled up into a rope in a mock rage and tries to drench him with colors. In turn, the brother-in-law brings sweets to her in the evening.

Jammu and Kashmir

In Jammu and Kashmir, Holi celebrations are much in line with the general definition of Holi celebrations. A high-spirited festival to mark the beginning of the harvesting of the summer crop, with the throwing of colored water and powder and singing and dancing.

Karnataka

In rural Karnataka, children traditionally collect money and wood in the weeks prior to Holi. Then, on "Kamadahana" night, all the wood is put together and lit. The festival is celebrated for two days. People in northern parts of Karnataka prepare special food on this day. In Sirsi, Karnataka, Holi is celebrated with a unique folk dance called Bedara Vesha. It is performed daily during the night beginning five days before the actual festival day. The festival is celebrated every alternate year in the town, which attracts a large number of tourists from different parts of India.

Maharashtra

In Maharashtra, Holi Purnima is also celebrated as Shimga which lasts five to seven days. A week before the festival, youngsters go around the community, collecting firewood and money. On the day of Shimga, the firewood is heaped into a huge pile in each neighborhood. In the evening, the fire is lit. Every household brings a meal and dessert in honor of the fire god. Puran Poli is the main delicacy and children shout "Holi re Holi puranachi poli". Shimga celebrates the elimination of all evil. The color celebrations here take place on the day of Rang Panchami, five days after Shimga.

Manipur

Manipuris celebrate Holi for 6 days. Here, this holiday merges with the festival of Yaosang. Traditionally, the festival commences with the burning of a thatched hut of hay and twigs. Young children go from house to house to collect money as gifts on the first two days. The youths perform a group folk dance called Thabal Chongba on the full moon night of Phalgun. The folk dance is traditionally accompanied by folk songs and rhythmic beats of the indigenous drum. In Krishna temples, devotees sing devotional songs, perform dances, and celebrate with gulal wearing traditional white and yellow turbans. On the last day of the festival, large processions are taken out to the main Krishna temple near Imphal where several cultural activities are held.

Odisha

The people of Odisha celebrate "Dola" on the day of Holi where the icons of Jagannath replace the icons of Krishna and Radha. Dola Melana, processions of the deities are celebrated in villages and Bhog is offered to the deities.

Punjab

The night before Holi, Holika Dahan is celebrated when a fire is lit. On the day of Holi, people engage in throwing colors at each other. Furthermore, in Punjab, Holi marks the end of winter. Punjabis say Phaggan phal laggan which means Phagun is the month for fructifying. During Holi, walls and courtyards of rural houses are enhanced with drawings and paintings. This art is known as chowk-poorana or chowkpurana in Punjab and is given shape by the peasant women of the state. In courtyards, this art is drawn using a piece of cloth. The art includes drawing tree motifs, flowers, ferns, creepers, plants, peacocks, palanquins, geometric patterns along with vertical, horizontal, and oblique lines.

Telangana

Holi is called Kamuni Punnami/ Kama Purnima or Jajiri in Telugu. It is a 10 day festival in Telangana in which the last two days are of great importance. The 9 days preceding Holi, children celebrate Kamuda by playing Kolata sticks along with singing folk songs called jajiri and collect money, rice, corn, and wood. On the 9th night i.e Holy eve, all the wood is put together and set on fire representing Kama Dahanam. The next morning i.e 10th day is celebrated as Holi with colors traditionally extracted from Moduga/Gogu Flowers.

Uttar Pradesh

The Braj region of Uttar Pradesh celebrates Lath mar Holi. Thousands of people gather to witness the Lath Mar Holi when women beat up men with sticks, sing Holi songs, and shout "Sri Radhe Radhe" or "Sri Radhe Krishna". In Mathura and Vrindavan, Holi is celebrated with special puja and the traditional custom of worshipping Lord Radha Krishna. Here the festival lasts for sixteen days. A traditional Holi celebration includes Matki Phod. This is a historic tradition of the Braj region as well as the western region of India. An earthen pot filled with butter or other milk products is hung high by a rope. Groups of boys and men climb on each other's shoulders to form pyramids to reach and break it, while girls and women sing songs and throw colored water on the pyramid to distract them and make their job harder.

Uttarakhand

Kumaoni Holi in Uttarakhand includes a musical affair. It takes different forms such as the Baithki Holi, the Khari Holi, and the Mahila Holi. In Baithki Holi and Khari Holi, people sing songs with a touch of melody, fun, and spiritualism. In the Kumaon region, the Holika pyre is known as Cheer. It is ceremonially built in a ceremony known as Cheer Bandhan fifteen days before Dulhendi. The Cheer is a bonfire with a green Paiya tree branch in the middle. The Cheer of every village and neighborhood is rigorously guarded as rival mohallas try to playfully steal each other's cheer. The colors used on Holi are derived from natural sources. Dulhendi, known as Charadi, is made from flower extracts, ash, and water. In Uttarakhand, Holi is celebrated with great fun in the same way all across North India.

West Bengal

In West Bengal, Holi is known as Dol Jatra, Dol Purnima, or the Swing Festival. On the Dol Purnima day in the early morning, students in Shantiniketan dress up in saffron-colored or pure white clothes and wear garlands of fragrant flowers. They sing and dance to the accompaniment of musical instruments, such as the ektara, dubri, and Veena. The devotees take turns to swing them while women dance around the swing and sing songs. During these activities, the people keep throwing colored water and gulal at them.

Tamil Nadu

Holi is celebrated as the Panguni Uthiram festival in Tamil Nadu that signifies the blossoming of love and marriage. Rathi and Kamadeva are worshipped in many parts. Temples celebrate the marriages of Parvati and Parameswara, Murugan and Deivanai, Kodhai Aandaal and Rangamannar, Lord Narayana marries Komalavalli Naachiyar and gives Kalyana Kola Seva to his Bhaktas. Devotees throng to temples to witness the divine wedding ceremonies. Furthermore, many engagements and weddings also start to finalize during this time.

Apart from India, Holi is also celebrated in various other regions outside India by the Hindu diaspora. These regions include Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Fiji, Mauritius, United States, and Indonesia.