Holi is one of the most celebrated festivals in India, and it is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the holy city of Varanasi. The city comes alive with vibrant colors, music, and dance during the festival, making it an unforgettable experience for locals and tourists alike. In this article, we will explore how to celebrate Holi in Varanasi, the significance of the festival, and the cultural traditions associated with it.
The Significance of Holi
Holi is a Hindu festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil. It is believed to have originated in ancient India and has been celebrated for thousands of years. The festival is celebrated on the full moon day in the Hindu month of Phalguna, which usually falls in February or March.
The festival is associated with several mythological stories, the most famous of which is the story of Prahlad and Holika. According to the legend, Prahlad was a devout follower of Lord Vishnu, but his father, the demon king Hiranyakashipu, wanted him to worship him instead. When Prahlad refused to do so, Hiranyakashipu ordered his sister, Holika, to burn Prahlad alive. However, Holika was burned to ashes while Prahlad emerged unscathed, thanks to Lord Vishnu’s protection. Thus, Holi celebrates the triumph of good over evil and the victory of Prahlad over Holika.
Celebrating Holi in Varanasi
Varanasi is one of the oldest and holiest cities in India and is known for its rich cultural heritage. The city is home to numerous temples, ghats, and narrow alleys that are steeped in history and tradition. During Holi, the city transforms into a kaleidoscope of colors as locals and tourists alike come together to celebrate the festival.
The celebrations in Varanasi usually start a day before the main day of Holi with the Holika Dahan. This is a ritual where a bonfire is lit, and people gather around it to offer prayers and seek blessings from the gods. The bonfire symbolizes the burning of Holika, the demon king’s sister, and the triumph of good over evil.
The main day of Holi is called Rangwali Holi or Phagwah. On this day, people smear each other with colored powder and throw water balloons and water guns at each other. The streets of Varanasi are filled with people dancing to the beats of dhol and other musical instruments. The atmosphere is one of joy and merriment as people forget their differences and come together to celebrate the festival.
One of the best places to experience Holi in Varanasi is the ghats of the River Ganges. The ghats are the steps that lead down to the river, and they are an integral part of Varanasi’s cultural heritage. During Holi, the ghats come alive with colors as people smear each other with gulal (colored powder) and throw water balloons at each other. The scene is one of chaos and frenzy as people dance and sing to the tunes of folk music.
Another popular place to celebrate Holi in Varanasi is the Banaras Hindu University (BHU). The university hosts a grand Holi celebration every year, which is attended by thousands of people. The celebrations at BHU include cultural programs, food stalls, and music performances, making it a great place to experience the festive spirit of Holi.
Cultural Traditions Associated with Holi in Varanasi
Holi is not just about colors and music; it is also a time for cultural traditions and rituals. One such tradition is the Lathmar Holi, which is celebrated in the nearby town of Barsana.