Colours, sandalwood and martial arts: How India celebrates Holi

Say Holi and the first thing that comes to mind is colour, lots and lots of colour! Gulal smeared on your face and clothes dyed in a medley of colours: there’s really no better way to celebrate this festival. Or is there? What’s great about Holi is the different forms it takes across India and how people celebrate it. So what are some of these?

1. Manjal Kuli (Kerala)

Not colours, but turmeric water is what people from the Kudumbi and Konkani communities drench each other with. Manjal kuli literally means turmeric bath and the festival is celebrated over four days.

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2. Basanta Utsav (West Bengal)

An event started by Rabindranth Tagore at the Santiniketan University has now become a tradition and a crowd-puller. Rabindra sangeet, dancers dressed in yellow and people playing with coloured powders — there’s lots to enjoy at this celebration.

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3. Kaman Pandigai (Tamil Nadu)

Kaman Pandigai (as Holi is called in Tamil Nadu) is dedicated to Kamadeva.  People offer sandalwood and processions are held to celebrate the God of love and passion.

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4. Yaosang (Manipur)

Yaosang is celebrated for almost a week and is a beautiful combination of Hindu and indigenous traditions. Thabal Chongba — a Manipuri folk dance performed under the moonlight — is the highlight of the festival. 

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5. Baithaki Holi (Uttarakhand)

Uttarakhand celebrates Holi in a musical way! People wear traditional attire, form groups or tolis and go around town singing traditional songs. 

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Amar Ujala
6. Hola Mohalla (Punjab)

Bareback horse riding, martial arts, wrestling — all this and much more is what you can expect from Hola Mohalla. The Sikhs celebrate it a day after Holi and the festivities are a fine display of their physical agility and stamina. 

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7. Lathmar Holi (Uttar Pradesh)

In Nandgaon and Barsana, Holi is celebrated not just with colours, but sticks as well. Yes, you read that right. Women use lathis or sticks to chase away men who try to drench them with colours. 

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Sid The Wanderer