“We’ve come another full circle around the sun.”, says my mind every time the sun warms up a spring morning while the nights try hard to emerge from those chilly winters bygone. Before we know it, comes the time for Holi. What a way we Indians have devised to celebrate this yearly homecoming of spring. No one in the world (I'd like to believe) does it better than us and we do it in the most amazingly diverse ways possible. Let’s see how...
The Dilli Holi
In Delhi, my home town, the fun begins early morning itself (for children, a few days earlier than that). With bhang playing silly with our heads, we love to walk around the whole neighbourhood in tolis (groups), spraying paint on almost every familiar face. The city is a melting pot of cultures from around India. So the scene of Holi at Nizamuddin is very different from what happens in Najafgarh, or so to say in Gurgaon, and South Delhi. But there are three things synonymous with all Indian Holis. It’s the food, and the colours, and the water-pichkaaris (guns). While no one plays Holi without these, almost all of North India celebrates Holi in the same way, i.e. by lighting up the Holika on the eve of the festival, distributing gujia throughout the neighbourhood, and drying out their coloured wet selves under the sun.
Down towards the west in Maharashtra, it's called Rang Panchami. It’s mainly popular among fishermen and in the rural areas. Well-trained tolis of young fishermen enjoy the festival with the traditional breaking-the-pot ceremony, wherein an earthen pot full of buttermilk is hung high above the street, and is then broken by climbing up a human pyramid.
The basics of Dulandi Holi aren't any different from the one that happens in Delhi. But as it progresses, it’s goes a bit raw. Herein, the ladies of rural Haryana get together with dandas (sticks)and give the men a good beating, while they spray water and colours over them. In the evening, it's customary for men to get sweets for the ladies. In return for a beating? I don’t quite understand the logic here, but so it is.
The Goan Connection
In Goa, the return-of-spring celebration synonymous to Holi is called Shigmo, and it stretches for close to five days at times. Drumbeats, fanfare, performances, gulal (red powder), and a lot of other things come together to mark an end of winters (as if there are any!) in Goa.
The Colours of Manipur
Six days of festivals, colours and pure fun, the Holi in Manipur is no less than the one in North India. While the first few days are usually marked by dances and festivals, and creating fires out of thatched huts, the next few involve the special Manipuri dance called the Thabal Chongba, meaning moonlight dance. The dance is a perfect reason for girls and boys to meet and play with colours together, and a perfect chance for girls to extract money out of boys in return for playing with them.
Well, these are just a few. Do you know how it is celebrated in Rajasthan? Or in Himachal, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu? Write in and tell us!