How Is Holi Celebrated?

Holi is the most colorful Indian festival that is celebrated all over the country with great enthusiasm. Every region of India has its own culture of Holi celebration. But in general, the play of colors remains the same. So, the shops start to sell the colors or gulaals 10 to 7 days before Holi. A couple of days before the Holi, people gather twigs, woods, and other combustible materials for burning effigies. This incident is known as Holika Dahan which is a symbol of the destruction of evil and emergence of good. This Holika Dahan is held at nearby community centers, open ground, or near temples. People also gather around the fire and indulge in song & dance.

Salient Features Of Indian Holi Celebration:

In North & West India, the Holi celebration starts with a puja and then people wear white clothes to play with colors. Children and adults both take part in this play of colors. Dry colors, colors mixed in water, and balloons filled with colorful water are used profusely to enjoy the day in pure fun and excitement.

Some people prefer to use natural colors that are traditionally derived from turmeric, neem, dhak, and kumkum. While some use artificial colors. The famous food of Holi is gujiya, mathri, malpua, and other sweet items, and regional delicacies. In short, people prefer to spend the day playing with colors and then enjoy a lavish lunch with friends and relatives. Some also prefer to enjoy Bhaang during the color play.

In Braj (North India), Lath Mar is a famous ritual that occurs during Holi. On this day, women have the right to hit men and they are expected to accept whatever the women dish out on them. The Holi celebration here may even last for a week.

In India, Braj, Vrindavan, Nandgaon, Barsanam Mathura, & many other places of Uttar Pradesh becomes a major tourist attraction.

Regional Variation of Holi:

Holi is known with different names in different regions. It is known as Phagwah or Phakuwa in Assam, Dola Jatra in Odisha, and Basanta Utsav in West Bengal.

Punjab & Himachal Pradesh:

Holika Dahan takes place in Punjab & Himachal Pradesh on the eve of Holi. In Punjab, Holi marks the permanent end of winter season and they say “Phaggan Phal Laggan” which means Phagun is the month of fructifying. In rural Punjab, new paintings and drawings are done on the walls and courtyards which is quite similar to the Rangoli that is seen in South India. Nautankis or Swang or folk theater also takes place during the Holi festival.

Uttar Pradesh:

The whole of Uttar Pradesh becomes vibrant during this Holi. From the Lath Mar ritual to the song, dance, and bhang – everything about Holi in UP is amazing – just like shown in the movies. Lath Mar ritual attracts various tourists. In Mathura and Vrindavan, this day sees a special puja of Lord Krishna and this madness lasts for 16 days. Friends and relatives return home and spend time with loved ones. Matki Phod or Dahi Handi is also witnessed here. In Kanpur, Holi is celebrated for 7 days and fairs are also held.


In Uttarakhand, Holi is quite a musical affair. You will find three kinds of Holi here – Baithki Holi, Khari Holi, & Mahila Holi. Baithki Holi sees the melodious songs with elements of fun and spiritualism and these songs are based on classical ragas. Baithi Holi takes place at the temple premises. The Khari Holi is celebrated on the rural side of Kumaon and the singers of Khari Holi wear traditional white churidar, pajama, and kurta. They dance in groups to ethnical musical instruments. In the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, the Holika Dahan pyre is known as Cheer. The colors used during the Holi festival are derived naturally.


Holi is a 2-day festival in Gujarat. Bonfire is lit up on the 1st day of Holi in the evening and people offer raw coconut 7 corn to the fire. The following day, i.e., on the 2nd day, “Dhuleti” or holi is played with colored water and dry colors. Dwarkadheesh Temple in Dwarka region of Gujarat witnesses a massive crowd of people who enjoy Holi with a music festival. The famous “Dahi-Haandi” ritual is famous in Ahmedabad. A pot of buttermilk is hung high over the streets or open space inside the society or community. Now, children, teenagers, and adults and make a human pyramid to reach up to that dahi handi. The boy who breaks the Haandi or pot is declared as the Holi King. A great teamwork is reflected in this activity. Post this activity, men go out in a large parade to warn people of Krishna’s possible arrival to steal butter from their home.

In some places where the Hindu undivided family resides, the married women beat their brother-in-law in a mock rage and try to apply colors on them. In return, the brother-in-law brings sweets to her in the evening.


Here, Holi is known as Phaguwa and the legend of Holika is prevalent here too. On the eve of Holi or Phalgun Poornima, people here lit up bonfires where they use dried cow dung cakes, Redi tree, grains from the fresh crop, and all the unnecessary wooden twigs and logs. Everyone in the family gathers near the pyre and the eldest in the family or the pandit himself lits up the pyre. Post this Gulaal is smeared on people as a Happy Holi greeting. On the day of Holi, some people in Bihar & Jharkhand also go to each other’s house to apply Holi colors. The younger ones put Holi colors on the feet of the elders.


In Odisha, Holi or Dola Jatra is a very big affair. The deities of Jagannath Temple of Puri replace the deities of Radha & Krishna. Bhog is offered to God and people spend the day in great joy playing Holi and gorging on lovely sweets.

West Bengal:

“Dol Jatra” or “Dol Purnima” are the local names of Holi here in West Bengal. Like most parts of India, Radha & Krishna are worshipped here. Holi in West Bengal is filled with song and dance programs. Students are seen all dressed up in white and saffron color with calendula flower garlands on their head and wrists participate in song and dance events. This generally takes place early in the morning. From mid-morning, people start to play with colors and that continues till lunch time. Post that the usual amazing Bengali dish of 12-13 items are eaten with friends and family. But on this day, only vegetables are eaten.


Holi Poornima in Maharashtra is known as Shimga and it is celebrated for 5-7 days. The children of the society gather firewood & dry twigs from the neighborhood and on the eve of Holi Holika Dahan takes place. Every family of society brings meals and desserts in the honor of the god of Fire. This festival marks the end of evil. Puran Poli is prepared with desi ghee and people enjoy it with their loved ones.


The children in rural Karnataka start collecting wood and money from people in the neighborhood. Holika Dahan is known as “Kamadahana”. Just like other parts of India, these woods collected by the kids are set on fire symbolizing the victory of good over evil. In Sirsi region of Karnataka, special folk dance is performed called Bedara Vesha five days before Holi.

Apart from India, the Indians residing in various parts of the world also celebrate Holi with the same enthusiasm as in India. The most notable places where Holi is celebrated are – Nepal, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Fiji, Mauritius, United States of America, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.