For city slickers, Holi invariably means a concoction of bhang, DJs, rain dance, mithai and plenty of colours. However, in some parts of the country, Rangpanchami, or the festival of colours, is still celebrated like it was in the days of our ancestors.
According to Karan Anand, head-relationships, Cox & Kings Ltd, "The festival of Holi is ideally celebrated with family and friends. So, we have combined the festival with a holiday at locations across the country." Thomas Cook’s sales teams have found that travellers have expressed a strong interest in the festivities at the famous Banke-Bihari Temple at Vrindavan. The temple is popular with both international and local tourists, with thousands flocking the premises to play Holi the traditional way — just like Lord Krishna did with his followers.
"Tourists and devotees alike are spellbound with the spirit of devotion there," says Surinder Singh Sodhi, senior vice president and head, leisure travel (Inbound), Thomas Cook (India) Ltd. "Another top spot is Gulal-Kund in Braj. It is a beautiful lake near Govardhan Mountain, where pilgrims and tourists enjoy the vibrant re-enactment of Holi by local Krishna-Lila drama troupes." So, take a trip to any of these spots this year and enjoy a traditional Holi.
Mathura and Vrindavan
The former is the birthplace of Lord Krishna, while the latter is where he spent his childhood. Both venues are famous for their traditional celebrations and attract tourists from across the world. The temple towns of Vrindavan and Mathura celebrate Holi for a period of 40 days. While dance troupes from around the country gather here and put up performances that showcase flirtations of Lord Krishna with the village belles, singing troupes perform Holi folk songs. The celebrations that take place at Vrindavan’s Shri Banke Bihari Mandir are also renowned.
Barsana, Uttar Pradesh
This town has an unusual way of bringing in the festival. Local women beat up men with sticks as part of the Holi celebrations. Legend has it that the ritual has been on since the time of Radha and Krishna. Apparently, Krishna visited Radha in her hometown and playfully teased her. Women in the village then got together and chased him away. Since then, men from Krishna's village, Nandgaon, visit Barsana to play Holi and the beatings continue till date.
Shantiniketan and Purulia, West Bengal
Famous poet Rabindranath Tagore started this tradition and the celebrations here seek inspiration from the spring season, as well as the myriad colours of Holi. The occasion was introduced in the form of a yearly event at Vishwa Bharati University. Students deck themselves in bright clothes and host large-scale cultural events for visitors, which are followed by the traditional playing with colours.
Similarly, a folk festival that lasts for three days goes on in the Purulia district. It is organised by the locals and you can indulge in some unique folk art and learn the Chhau, Darbari Jhumur, Natua dances and songs of West Bengal’s wandering Baul musicians.
Jaipur and Banswara, Rajasthan
In Jaipur, an elephant festival that kicks off Holi celebrations and visitors throng the city to see the elephant parades, beauty contests, and tug-of-war games between the beasts on one side, and locals and foreigners gathered on the other. On the other hand, Rang Panchami is celebrated with gusto by the tribals of the Banswara district. Catch them perform the Gair dance and sport their traditional attire during the festival.