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Holee Celebrations in Different States of India

BIHAAR - Holee in Bihaar is celebrated with the same enthusiasm like the rest of the country. Here, people clean their houses, a week before Holee and start collecting twigs, unnecessary furniture, chopped wood of Araad, Redee and Holikaa tree and pile it up at some place for lighting the Holee fire. Preparation of natural Holee colors starts one month before. On the first day of Holee, Thaalee of color and a pot of liquid color are arranged. In early days, a priest was invited to begin the celebrations. But now, the elders of the family do this practice. The elder member of the family applies some color on the forehead of each member in the family. Each family member repeats the same. Youngsters apply colors to the feet of their elders. People gather together for the Holikaa fire. At some places mud baths are prepared. This is something that is fun to do and creates a jovial atmosphere. High-pitched folk songs, use of Dholak (a kind of drum skin framed on both sides of the wooden cylinder frame) along with Bhaang (drink made from marijuana) is taken.

UP - In Uttar Pradesh effigies of Holikaa are burnt. On the night of the Holee (on Phaalgun Poornimaa) it is lit with the chanting of Raksogna Mantra from Rig Ved and so on. People offer Holaa (prayer) to the fire and pray for a good harvest. They offer green gram and barley stalks from the harvest along with coconuts and flowers to render gratitude. It is believed that Holee is named after fried cereals or parched grains called, as Holaa in Sanskrit. It is also a tradition to offer roasted wheat, baley and oat. People in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh they throw cow-dung and shout insults at Holikaa. Embers of this fire are carried home and they light fire at home too. It is said that, to keep away the evil, Vibhooti obtained from this ritual is applied to the forehead. The Vibhooti is called Bhoomi Hari.

Latthmaar Holee is another name of Holee as is called in Brij. It's a two-week long festival enjoyed with Holee and Raasleelaa. The preparations start a week before than the rest of India. It is really a severe form of Holi played in honor of Raadhaa and Krishn. Role-reversal is the spirit of Holee here. The men-folk of Nand Gaaon go to Barsaanaa to tease and play Holee with the women-folk. They also have to pull up their flag at the famous Shree Raadhikaa Jee temple. The women strike back with long sticks and men have to save themselves; hence the name Latthmaar. They have to make way to the temple to hoist their flag. They are well padded and are trained not to retaliate. But, they shouldn't get caught at the hands of women. The ones who are caught are made to wear women's attire and make-up and made to dance.

The next day, it is the turn of men of Barsaanaa. They visit Nandgaon showering colors of reds. These are natural colors made from flowers of Kesudo (Kesoo). They are similarly beaten up by the women-folk of Nand Gaaon. It is also celebrated in Vrindaa Van, Gokul, Nand Gaaon, Barsaanaa. At Daaoo Jee in Nand Gaaon, people beat men with whips made from old clothes. It starts from Shukla Chaturdashee of Phaalgun. Here, it is celebrated for three to five days. It is essentially a religious celebration venerating Lord Krishna and Agni. The fire lit on the first day is be kept burning till the 21st day.

HIMAACHAL PRADESH - In Himachal Pradesh thousands of people gather at Pontaa-Saahib, a holy shrine in the Sirmour district on the banks of river Yamunaa. People here are more enthusiastic about playing colors. Fascinating Ice Holee is played in Kullu. People gather at the Slang Pass and make colorful snowballs by mixing colors and snow. Holaa Mohalla is an annual festival in Punjaab's Sikh community and was started by Guru Gobind Singh. It is a fair starting on second day of Holee at Anadpur Saahib in Punjaab. It is a three-day festival and it incorporates events such as standing on two running horses, bareback horse riding, mock fights and tent pegging. Keertan and religious lectures are also arranged in durbars in the presence of Shree Guru Granth Saahib. On the last day a procession is led by Panj Pyaaras from Takht Keshgarh Saahib. This procession passes through several important Gurudwaaraa like Qilaa Anadgarh, Lohgarh Saahib, Maataa Jeetojee and terminates at the Takht. For people visiting Aanandpur Saahib, Langars are organized as a part of Sevaa. Villagers living nearby provide wheat flour, rice, milk, sugar and vegetables. Women help with cooking and other people help with the cleaning of utensils. A pilgrim sits on ground in a row and is served a traditional cuisine.

RAAJASTHAAN - In Raajasthaan and North India, especially Kankaria and Jamaalpur in Ahmadaabaad, Holee atmosphere is lively. The people here play with colors and use Pichkaaree and perform folk dances. The celebration is more enthusiastic than most of the country. In Jayapur, an exciting celebration of Holee is seen. They arrange royal elephant sports and also play Holee. Madhya Pradesh celebrates Holee for five days, usually in Indore. Maraathaa and the Holkar who conquered the state, started the festival. They brought the Maraathee tradition of playing colors on the fifth day, Rang Panchamee. Thus, the last day here is called Pancham Holee.

GUJARAAT - The colorful Holee in Gujaraat is also significant for tribal people of Garasia and Bheel Aadivaasee. They get together at Darbaargarh and also arrange fairs at Chhotaa Udayapur and the Raajpieepalaa hills. Dangs Darbar, Satpudaa and north Gujaraat are full of fairs even after Holee. Holee in Gujaraat is also known as Hulosaanee. They light Holikaa with the fire brought from the temple of Maataa. People offer, raw mangoes, coconut, corn, toys made of sugar, Khoyaa (very condensed milk) to the Holikaa. The ash from the pyre of Holikaa is used in the preparation of idols of goddess Ambaa. Young women wishing for a handsome groom decorate these idols with flowers.

MAHAARAASHTRA - A colorful Holee in Mahaaraashtra is known as Shimga. It is significant in fisherman community. The folksongs, folk dances, colors are the essence of Holee here. People let out their repressed feelings through this dance. People also make an unusual sound by striking their mouth with the back of their hands. Pooranpolee is a sweet exclusively prepared in Mahaaraashtra on this occasion. People drink sugarcane juice and eat watermelon. Rowdiness during Holee is observed in many parts of Mahaaraashtra. It was on this day that Jeejaabaaee, splashed colored water on young Shaah Jee, since their engagement was announced that day.

GOA - In Goa a procession is carried which plays religious and mythological stories. Here too, Holee is called Shigmotsav or Shigmo. People of Goa perform Naman from the 9th moon day to the full-moon day and avoid non-vegetarian food and alcohol. From the 11th day of Holee, people decorate their doorframes with Toran (green leaves tied in a thin string at some distance). Some village groups wear most colorful dresses and gather at the village temples at the beat of drums and the sound of flutes. They dance and sing in the temple courtyards. The 5th day is the day of fun and is called Rang Panchamee. Celebrations are different at various places. Usually Gulaal (dry color) and Neel (dry blue color to make white cloth whiter) is used.

SOUTH INDIA - In South India Holee is known as Kaaman Pandigai, Kaamvilaas, Kaam-dahanam. Here, there are no enormous and loud celebrations but rather there are religious ceremonies. It is generally celebrated to honor Kaam Dev. People offer sandalwood powder mixed with Abeer (flakes of ...) and Chandan (sandalwood paste) to Holikaa. Such an act is performed traditionally to honor Kaam Dev's sacrifice and as an act to relieve Kaam Dev of his burns. The next day people apply this mixture to their forehead and eat it after mixing it with young leaves and flowers of Mango tree. In Tamil Naadu, songs of the stories of grief at the loss of Kaama Dev are sung.

BANGAAL - In Bangaal, Holee is known as Dol Jatra or Dol Poornimaa. Here, people put on yellow clothes and attend Jatra, which is a peaceful ceremony. It is celebrated as the birthday of Mahaaprabhu Chaitanya. People decorate the idol of Lord Krishn and Raadhaa and carry it on the streets in a beautifully decorated palanquin. The elder member of the family observes fast and performs Poojaa. They offer prayers to Lord Krishn and Agni Dev.

UDEESAA - People of Udeesa also celebrate Holee by worship God Jagannaath and visiting the Puree temple in Udeesaa on this day. Idol of Lord Jagannaath is placed in the decorated palanquin and a procession is taken out in the main streets. People take turns to swing the palanquin and women dance around the palanquin singing devotional songs. The men spray colored water and colored powder at them. Gwaalaa carry the palanquin on their shoulders as Krishn belonged to their clan. They play games such as Dandee Khel and they set up special tents, Jhoolan Mandap, to place the idol of Lord Jagannaath at night. Next morning people apply Gulaal to the idol and enjoy the whole day by having sweets like Pethaa, Laddoo of puffed rice and sesame seed. They play with colors and towards evening they take the idols for a dip in a pond. Then, the idols are taken back to the temple. Like other places, Holikaa fire is lit in the evening. The next morning, newly married women carefully sweep the ashes and mark that place with drawings made of powdered sun-dried rice and water.

MANIPUR - Initiated in the 18th century with Vaishnavism, Holee is celebrated for 6 days in Manipur. An amalgamation of Holee and another very old festival called Yaosang is observed, when Holee is played here. A thatched hut of mud and clay is burnt, in the evening. Then the youths perform Thaabal Chongba for all the 6 days of Holee, since it gives the boys and girls a chance to meet. In Manipur, boys have to pay the girls to play Holee with them. Dances, devotional songs, cultural programs are organized at temples. Devotees gather in white dresses and yellow turbans and play with colors in front of the temple. Large procession is taken to the Krishn temple near Imphaal on the last day.

The other tribes of Northwest India have their own ways celebrating this spring festival. They light fire on the eve of Holee and these tribes worship the goddess. They have preserved some of the Hindu customs. Tribesmen offer Kesudo (Kesoo flowers) and mango spring flowers and grains to the Holikaa. The young men and women are able to make contacts, which further give way to marriages. Thus, these young people look forward to this festival with great interest.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 09/29/13