9 Interesting and Unique Traditions of Holi Celebration Across India

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Unique Holi Celebration in India

Holi, the Festival of Colors, is a dazzling joy explosion sweeping India. It’s a time to shed inhibitions, embrace vibrant colors, and celebrate the triumph of good over evil. But beneath the universal themes of spring and renewal, each region of India paints Holi with its unique brushstrokes. Journey with us as we delve into the vibrant tapestry of Holi celebrations across the country. From playful paint battles to devotional processions, and age-old traditions to vibrant displays of artistry, we’ll explore the lesser-known customs and the kaleidoscopic ways Indians play with color during this unforgettable festival.

9 Unique Holi Celebrations in India

North India

Lathmar Holi: A Playful Battle Steeped in Love

Lathmar Holi, literally translating to “Holi of sticks,” is a unique and vibrant celebration observed in the towns of Barsana and Nandgaon, Uttar Pradesh. This festival, unlike the typical Holi with colors, revolves around a playful mock battle between women and men, creating a joyous atmosphere steeped in the legendary love story of Radha and Krishna.

The Legend Behind Lathmar Holi

Legend has it that Lord Krishna, residing in Nandgaon, would playfully tease Radha and her friends in Barsana during Holi. He’d often arrive with his friends to drench them in colors, much to their amusement. However, the women of Barsana, known for their feisty spirit, wouldn’t take this lightly. They’d playfully chase Krishna and his companions away with lathis (wooden sticks), a tradition that continues till now.

The Festivities: A Celebration of Love and Play

The Lathmar Holi celebrations begin days before the main event. The atmosphere crackles with anticipation as women prepare special songs and witty taunts to exchange with the men from Nandgaon. On the designated day, men from Nandgaon, considered sons-in-law of Barsana, arrive with shields and prepare to be playfully attacked.

The women of Barsana, dressed in their colorful best, wield decorated lathis and chase the men through the streets. The men, dodging playfully, sing songs and try to shield themselves. The air fills with laughter, playful banter, and vibrant colors thrown by both sides. This mock battle, though lighthearted, showcases the playful love between Radha and Krishna.

Also Read: Top 10 Tips to Celebrate the Festival of Colors Safely This Year

Hola Mohalla: A Celebration of Martial Spirit and Sikh History

Hola Mohalla, also simply called Hola, is a vibrant three-day Sikh festival that takes place a day after the Hindu festival of Holi, typically falling in March. Unlike the playful colors of Holi, Hola Mohalla celebrates the martial spirit and rich history of Sikhism. Here’s a deep dive into this unique festival:

Origins and Significance:

Established by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, in the late 17th century, Hola Mohalla served a dual purpose. It provided an opportunity for Sikhs to:

Display Martial Prowess: Mock battles, displays of weaponry, and feats of horsemanship showcased the Sikh community’s readiness to defend their faith.

Community Building: The festive atmosphere fostered camaraderie and a sense of unity among Sikhs.

The Grand Celebrations at Anandpur Sahib:

The most prominent celebrations for Hola Mohalla take place at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, a holy city for Sikhs. The three-day extravaganza features a variety of events, including:

Military Processions: Nihang Sikhs, a Sikh warrior order known for their distinctive blue attire and decorated weaponry, lead impressive marches showcasing their military discipline.

Gatka Demonstrations: Gatka is a traditional Sikh martial art form that emphasizes agility, swordsmanship, and use of other weapons. Skilled Gatka practitioners perform mesmerizing displays of their skills.

Martial Arts Exhibitions: Akhadas (wrestling arenas) come alive with displays of traditional wrestling and other martial arts, showcasing strength and prowess.

Religious Kirtan: Amidst the displays of valor, devotional hymns (kirtan) are sung, reminding participants of the spiritual core of Sikhism.

Langar: As with all Sikh festivals, langar, the community kitchen, serves delicious free meals to all visitors, fostering a sense of equality and community.

Beyond Anandpur Sahib:

While the celebrations at Anandpur Sahib are the grandest, Hola Mohalla is observed by Sikhs worldwide. Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) hold special prayers, organize cultural programs, and sometimes even organize smaller-scale martial arts demonstrations, keeping the festival spirit alive.

West India

Dahi Handi: A Sweet Celebration Reaching New Heights

Dahi Handi, literally translated to “curd pot,” is a vibrant and energetic festival celebrated across India, particularly in Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, and parts of South India. Closely associated with Krishna Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna, Dahi Handi is a visual spectacle that blends devotion, teamwork, and a touch of playful competition.

The Story Behind the Tradition:

The festival draws inspiration from Lord Krishna’s childhood pranks. According to legend, the mischievous young Krishna, along with his friends, the Gopas, would steal butter and curd from pots hung high by Gopis (milkmaids). Dahi Handi reenacts this playful act, symbolizing Krishna’s love for butter and curd.

The Thrill of the Climb:

The centerpiece of the Dahi Handi celebrations is a decorated earthen pot (handi) filled with dahi (curd), sometimes with other ingredients like butter, fruits, or even prize money. This pot is hung high above the ground, often on ropes or scaffolding.

Here’s where the excitement truly begins! Teams of young men, usually from local communities, form human pyramids to reach the pot. The participants, known as Govindas (inspired by another name for Krishna), wear colorful attire and chant devotional songs like “Govinda Aala Re!” (Krishna has come!) as they climb.

The climber at the top then breaks the pot, showering himself and his team with the contents. The crowd erupts in cheers as the Govindas scramble to collect the goodies and claim victory. The winning team might even receive a cash prize or recognition from the community.

Beyond the Spectacle: Symbolism and Significance

Dahi Handi holds a deeper meaning than just a playful competition. Here’s what it signifies:

Devotion to Krishna: The act of reaching the pot symbolizes overcoming challenges and achieving one’s goals, mirroring Krishna’s playful yet determined spirit.

Teamwork and Unity: Forming the human pyramid requires immense teamwork, trust, and coordination, fostering a sense of community among the Govindas.

Celebrating Youth: The festival provides a platform for young people to showcase their physical strength, agility, and devotion.

Safety Measures and Modern Adaptations:

Dahi Handi celebrations have sometimes faced criticism due to safety concerns related to the height of the pot and potential injuries during the climb. In recent years, there’s been a growing emphasis on safety measures, with height restrictions and the use of safety nets becoming more prevalent.

Additionally, some communities have adopted alternative practices, such as using lower-hanging pots or having Govindas climb on sturdy structures instead of forming human pyramids.

Rangpanchami: The Vibrant Finale to Holi Festivities

While Holi itself is a joyous explosion of colors across India, Maharashtra takes the celebrations a step further with Rangpanchami, literally translating to “fifth day of colors.” Celebrated five days after Holi, Rangpanchami extends the revelry, offering a unique Maharashtrian twist to the festival.

A Week-Long Extravaganza:

Unlike the one-day burst of Holi, Rangpanchami marks the culmination of a week-long celebration that begins with Holika Dahan, the burning of the symbolic effigy of Holika, sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu. The following days are filled with anticipation as people prepare for the grand finale of Rangpanchami.

The Colors of Celebration:

On the day of Rangpanchami, Maharashtra comes alive with a vibrant display of colors. People gather in streets, parks, and temples, armed with dry colors (gulal) and pichkaris (water guns filled with colored water). The atmosphere is electric as friends, families, and even strangers playfully drench each other in a kaleidoscope of hues.

Beyond the Usual Colors:

Unlike the typical Holi colors, Rangpanchami in Maharashtra often features the use of “gulal” made from natural ingredients like sandalwood paste, turmeric, and flower petals. This not only adds an eco-friendly touch but also lends a unique fragrance to the celebrations.

Local Traditions: Rahad and Beyond:

Nashik, in particular, boasts a unique tradition called “Rahad.” Here, temporary structures called “Rahad” are built using bricks or stones. These structures are then filled with colored water and natural pigments. People gather around the Rahad, throwing colored water and gulal on each other, creating a scene of joyous chaos.

Beyond the Play of Colors:

Rangpanchami isn’t just about colors. It’s a time for social gatherings and indulging in traditional Maharashtrian sweets like Puran Poli (a flatbread stuffed with lentil paste and jaggery) and Shrikhand (a sweet yogurt dish). Traditional folk songs and dances like “Lavani” add to the festive spirit.

The Significance of Rangpanchami:

Rangpanchami holds cultural significance beyond the revelry. It marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring, symbolizing new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil. It’s also a time for strengthening social bonds and fostering community spirit.

East India

Yaosang’s Thamkhulla Dance in Manipur

Yaosang, Manipur’s vibrant spring festival, isn’t just about colors and merriment; it’s also a platform for the captivating “Thamkhulla Dance.” This unique folk dance form, intricately linked to Yaosang celebrations, is a mesmerizing spectacle that blends graceful movements with colorful costumes, creating a visual tapestry steeped in cultural significance.

The Origins and Significance of Thamkhulla:

The origins of Thamkhulla remain shrouded in some mystery, but it’s believed to have evolved from ancient Manipuri rituals associated with spring. The dance is performed to appease the rain gods for a bountiful harvest and celebrate Yaosang’s joyous spirit.

The Dance Performance:

Thamkhulla is a group dance, typically performed by young women in open spaces like community courtyards or temples during Yaosang festivities. The dancers, adorned in vibrant silk attire adorned with intricate embroidery and shell jewelry, form a circle with their arms linked.

The dance movements themselves are characterized by gentle swaying, synchronized steps, and elegant hand gestures. The swaying motion resembles the rippling waves of a lake, while the hand gestures depict the blooming of flowers in spring, reflecting the festival’s connection to nature.

The Enthralling Accompaniment:

The Thamkhulla dance isn’t t performed in silence. The rhythmic beats of the “pung” (a barrel drum) and the melodious tunes of the “Pena” (a string instrument) provide the perfect accompaniment. Folk songs with lyrics about love, spring, and the joy of Yaosang fill the air, further enhancing the cultural experience.

Beyond the Steps: Symbolism and Allure

Thamkhulla is more than just a beautiful dance; it’s imbued with symbolism:

Circle of Unity: The dancers forming a circle represent the interconnectedness of nature and community.

Blooming Flowers: The hand gestures mimicking blooming flowers signify the arrival of spring and new beginnings.

Harmony with Nature: The swaying movements reflect the dancers’ connection to the natural world.

Dol Jatra in West Bengal – A Vibrant Celebration of Love and Colors

Dol Jatra, also known as Dol Purnima, literally translates to “Swing Festival” and is a vibrant celebration observed in West Bengal. Coinciding with the full moon day in the Bengali month of Falgun (usually falling in March), Dol Jatra is a joyous occasion dedicated to the divine love between Lord Krishna and Radha. Here’s a deeper dive into this colorful festival:

The Mythological Tale:

According to Hindu mythology, Dol Jatra commemorates the playful love story of Krishna and Radha. Legend has it that on this day, Krishna, known for his mischievous nature, playfully smeared Radha and her friends with colored powder (abir). This playful act of drenching each other in colors is what Dol Jatra celebrates.

A Celebration of Colors and Devotion:

The heart of Dol Jatra revolves around colorful processions that snake through the streets. Devotees carry decorated idols of Radha and Krishna, often placed on a beautifully adorned swing (dol). The idols are adorned with vibrant flowers, colorful fabrics, and of course, generous amounts of abir (pink-colored powder).

The Thrill of Dhols and Chants:

As the processions move forward, the rhythmic beats of dhol (double-headed drum) fill the air, creating a vibrant soundscape. Devotees sing devotional songs and bhajans (hymns) in praise of Krishna and Radha, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Beyond the Processions: The Play of Colors

The highlight of Dol Jatra for many is the playful exchange of colors. People playfully throw abir on each other, smearing it on clothes and faces. Laughter and joy fill the air as strangers and loved ones alike participate in this colorful tradition. The vibrant hues of abir symbolize love, spring, and the renewal of life.

Unique Traditions in West Bengal:

While the core traditions remain similar across West Bengal, some regional variations add a unique touch:

Shantiniketan: In Shantiniketan, the famed university town, Dol Jatra is celebrated with a touch of sophistication. Cultural programs featuring traditional Bengali dance forms like Rabindra Sangeet and poetry recitals are held alongside the colorful processions.

Birbhum District: In Birbhum district, particularly in Santiniketan, Dol Jatra features a unique tradition called “Dol Yatra.” Here, young girls dressed in colorful attire carry small decorated swings with clay idols of Radha and Krishna, singing devotional songs as they visit houses in their neighborhood.

More than Just Colors: The Significance of Dol Jatra

Dol Jatra holds a deeper significance beyond the joyous play of colors:

Celebrating Love: The festival serves as a celebration of the eternal and playful love between Radha and Krishna.

Welcoming Spring: Dol Jatra coincides with the arrival of spring, symbolizing new beginnings and the renewal of life.

Social Harmony: The festival transcends social barriers. People from all walks of life come together to celebrate, fostering a sense of community and equality.

Dola Purnima In Odisha: A Vibrant Swing Festival Marking the End of Holi

Dola Purnima, also known as Dola Jatra, is a vibrant and colorful festival celebrated in Odisha, marking the culmination of the six-day Holi festivities. While Holi across India is associated with throwing colors, Dola Purnima in Odisha offers a unique twist, focusing on playful processions, swings, and the celebration of divine love. Here’s a deep dive into this captivating Odia tradition:

The Culmination of Holi Celebrations:

Dola Purnima falls on the full moon day (Purnima) in the Hindu month of Falguna, usually coinciding with March. It signifies the grand finale of the six-day-long Dola Jatra, which begins on Falguna Dashami (the tenth day). During these six days, the festive spirit builds as Odia communities prepare for the grand celebration on Dola Purnima.

A Celebration of Divine Love:

Dola Purnima is dedicated to the eternal love story of Lord Krishna and Radha. Legend has it that Krishna, known for his playful ways, would swing with Radha and his Gopis (cowherd maidens) during spring. Dola Purnima celebrates this playful love, using swings and vibrant colors to create a joyous atmosphere.

The Enchanting Dola Jatra Procession:

The heart of Dola Purnima lies in the vibrant Dola Jatra procession. Here’s what you might witness:

Decorated Vimanas: Idols of Lord Krishna, often accompanied by Radha, are placed on beautifully decorated palanquins called “Vimanas.” These Vimanas are adorned with vibrant flowers, colorful fabrics, and flags, creating a visual spectacle.

Village Deities: In some villages, idols of other deities are also carried in the procession, reflecting the diverse Hindu pantheon.

Drumbeats and Chants: The rhythmic beats of dhol (drums) and the melodious sounds of cymbals fill the air as devotees sing devotional songs and hymns, creating a festive soundscape.

The Shower of Abira: As the procession winds its way through the streets, devotees playfully throw “Abira” (dry-colored powder) on the deities and each other. The air becomes a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors, reflecting the joy of the occasion.

From Homes to Melana Padia: The Gathering of Swings:

One unique aspect of Dola Purnima in Odisha is the tradition of “Melana Padia,” literally translating to “Meeting Ground of Swings.” Here’s how it unfolds:

Household Offerings: Throughout the six days of Dola Jatra, each household welcomes the Vimana carrying the idols of Krishna and Radha, offering them prayers and bhog (food offerings).

The Gathering: On Dola Purnima, after the procession winds its way through the village, all the Vimanas converge at a designated open space called the Melana Padia.

Swinging Deities: The idols of Krishna and Radha are then carefully transferred from the Vimanas to swings specially erected at the Melana Padia. These swings are decorated with flowers and colorful fabrics, creating a charming sight.

The Swing Festival: Devotees then gather around the swings and sing devotional songs and bhajans (hymns) as the idols of Krishna and Radha gently sway on the swings. This playful swinging ritual is believed to bring good fortune and blessings.

More than Colors: The Significance of Dola Purnima

Dola Purnima holds a deeper meaning beyond the vibrant colors and playful swinging:

Celebrating Spring: The festival coincides with spring, symbolizing new beginnings, fertility, and the renewal of life.

Social Harmony: The Dola Jatra procession brings people from all walks of life together, fostering a sense of community and social harmony.

Strengthening Faith: The devotion to Lord Krishna and Radha is at the heart of the festival, reaffirming the importance of faith in Odia culture.

Also Read: Top 5 Bhojpuri Holi Songs to Gear up Your Celebration of Colors

South India

Manjal Kuzhambu in Kerala – A Fragrant Offering During Holi Celebrations

While Holi, the festival of colors, is a vibrant explosion across most of India, Kerala celebrates a more subdued version focused on traditions and rituals. One such unique tradition is the preparation and offering of “Manjal Kuzhambu,” a specially made turmeric concoction, during the festival.

The Significance of Manjal Kuzhambu:

Manjal Kuzhambu translates to “turmeric paste” or “turmeric soup” in Malayalam, the language of Kerala. Unlike the vibrant colors associated with Holi in other parts of India, Manjal Kuzhambu reflects a more subtle approach. Here’s why it holds significance:

Auspicious Offering: Turmeric (manjal) is considered an auspicious element in Kerala. Manjal Kuzhambu is prepared and offered to ancestors during the pre-holi period, seeking their blessings for the coming year.

Ayuvedic Properties: Turmeric is known for its medicinal properties in Ayurveda, a traditional Indian system of medicine. Manjal Kuzhambu might be seen as a way to invoke good health and well-being during the festival.

A Symbol of Purity: The bright yellow color of turmeric symbolizes purity and warding off evil spirits. Manjal Kuzhambu, in this sense, might be seen as a way to usher in a positive and auspicious start to the year.

Preparation and Variations:

Manjal Kuzhambu is a simple yet flavorful concoction. The base is turmeric paste, often made by grinding fresh turmeric with water. This paste is then cooked with other ingredients like coconut milk, ghee (clarified butter), jaggery (unrefined cane sugar), and sometimes curry leaves or a pinch of cumin. The resulting concoction has a warm, earthy flavor with a distinct turmeric aroma.

Variations exist across Kerala. Some families might add chopped vegetables like yam or plantains for a richer texture. The sweetness level can also vary depending on the amount of jaggery used.

Beyond Manjal Kuzhambu: Kerala’s Holi Traditions

While Manjal Kuzhambu is a unique aspect of Kerala’s Holi, other traditions are observed:

Cleaning and Rangoli: Houses are thoroughly cleaned, and colorful rangolis (decorative patterns) made with rice flour or colored powders might be created at the entrance.

Prayers and Offerings: Prayers might be offered to ancestors and deities for prosperity and well-being. Special dishes like pulav (a rice dish) and vegetarian curries might be prepared for the family.

Playing with Flowers: In some parts of Kerala, children might playfully throw flowers at each other, creating a gentler and fragrant version of the color throwing seen in other parts of India.

Ukuli in Tamil Nadu – A Night of Bonfires and Ancestral Remembrance

While Holi, the festival of colors, explodes with vibrancy across most of India, Tamil Nadu celebrates a more subdued observance focused on rituals and ancestral remembrance. This unique tradition is called Ukuli, observed on the night before the Tamil New Year, which typically falls in mid-April.

The Significance of Ukuli:

Ukuli translates to “inner fire” in Tamil. Here’s why it holds significance:

Warding off Evil Spirits: The bonfires lit during Ukuli are believed to ward off evil spirits and negative energies, symbolically cleansing the environment for the upcoming New Year.

Honoring Ancestors: The fires are also seen as a way to remember and honor deceased ancestors. Offerings like food, flowers, and betel leaves might be placed near the fire as a mark of respect.

Promoting Renewal and Growth: Ukuli signifies the burning away of negativity and past troubles, paving the way for a fresh start and prosperity in the coming year.

The Ritual of Ukuli:

The Ukuli rituals are relatively simple yet hold deep meaning:

Gathering Firewood: In the days leading up to Ukuli, people gather firewood, typically twigs and branches, to prepare for the bonfires.

Lighting the Fire: On the night of Ukuli, bonfires are lit in courtyards, streets, or designated open spaces. Families might gather around the fire, sharing stories, prayers, and offerings.

Offering Prayers: Prayers might be offered to ancestors, seeking their blessings for the New Year.

Popping Paddy: In some parts of Tamil Nadu, a unique tradition involves putting uncooked paddy (rice grains) into the fire. As the grains pop due to the heat, it’s seen as a symbol of prosperity and abundance in the coming year.

Beyond the Bonfires: Traditions Associated with Ukuli

Ukuli is often observed alongside other pre-New Year rituals in Tamil Nadu:

Cleaning and Rangoli: Homes are thoroughly cleaned, and colorful kolams (decorative patterns) are drawn at the entrance using rice flour or colored powders.

New Clothes and Shopping: People might purchase new clothes and other items in preparation for the New Year, signifying a fresh start.

Preparing Special Dishes: Special dishes like ven pongal (a savory rice dish) and vadai (savory lentil fritters) might be prepared for the family feast on New Year’s Day.


Holi’s magic lies in its ability to transcend regions and social barriers. While the colors may differ, the underlying spirit of joy, unity, and a fresh start unites the nation. So, as India dances to the vibrant rhythm of Holi, it’s a reminder that celebration can be a powerful unifier. Perhaps this spirit of playful abandon and joyous camaraderie is the truest essence of Holi, a message that resonates far beyond the borders of India.

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Reshma Banerjee
Reshma Banerjee works as a content writer. Drawn to stories since childhood, reading is her favorite pastime. She loves admiring nature’s beauty and thinking about the mysteries of the cosmos. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter