Each spring, Hindus around the world gather to celebrate Holi, a festival signifying the victory of good over evil and the arrival of spring. Holi is celebrated in different ways across the globe, often with local customs incorporated into the celebrations.
But by far the best place to celebrate it is India, where the flinging of coloured powder and dancing in the streets takes the party to the next level. And here are some of the very best Indian destinations to head in order to revel in this vibrant festival.
Mathura and Vrindavan's connection to Lord Krishna makes it a must-visit for Holi celebrations
In Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, and Vrindavan, the town where he is said to have spent his childhood, a few different variations of Holi are celebrated. On the Ekadashi (eleventh lunar day) before Holi, the citizens of Vrindavan celebrate Phoolon wali holi (Flower’s Holi). This involves colourful wet and dry powders being replaced with flowers and thrown into the crowds at the Banke Bihari temple. During the traditional Holi festival, the flowers are swapped for coloured powders and paints. The festivities continue in both cities for up to 16 days.
The town of Nandgaon gets a headstart on Holi with celebrations starting a few days early
Nandgaon, Uttar Pradesh, India
In the town of Nandgaon, the festivities start a few days early. Lathmar Holi is the town’s own interpretation of the traditional spring festival. In honour of a Hindu legend where Lord Krishna was chased out of Nandgaon by the local womenfolk, every year the women arm themselves with sticks and symbolically try to ‘capture’ the men. Having hurled sticks at them, the women then make the men dress in feminine attire and dance in public. With some colourful powder thrown in there too.
The celebratory spirit of Holi has roots in the town of Gujarat
Holi has a special connection to Gujarat, as it is believed that the celebratory spirit of the festival has roots in the region. The music, food, and coloured powder that has become synonymous with Holi parallels Gujarat’s autumn festival, Navratri. Here, the first day of Holi is celebrated by lighting a bonfire and offering raw coconut and corn to the fire. On the second day, people head to the streets for the coloured-powder-throwing segment.
In Santiniketan, Holi is celebrated by students putting on a show for visitors
In the university town of santiniketan, the poet Rabindranath Tagore introduced Basant Utsav, a spring festival that is celebrated at the same time of year as Holi. During Basanta Utsav, students dress in yellow clothes and put on a show for visitors. Elaborate song and dance is followed by the an explosion of coloured powder in the streets.
India isn't the only country that celebrates Holi - neighbouring Nepal also joins the festivities
The long-standing celebration of Holi isn’t limited to India – neighbouring Nepal has a history of joining in the festivities. The beginning of festival is marked by numerous bonfires lit right in the middle of Kathmandu’s streets, and the following day involves throwing coloured powders and exchanging sweets with family and friends.