The festival of Holi – the biggest colour festival in the world, may be known by different names in different places, but it is celebrated with the same zest and enthusiasm by all. Everyone celebrates their tradition in their own ways- some people might want to swoon to the high of bhang while some might want to keep the traditional element intact. There are some who want to avoid getting a rainbow coloured skin for few days and choose to get splashed with herbal colours only, while there are others who want to be drenched in ‘pakka’ colours and show the world what an amazing time they had in just a few hours. Whatever the choice may be, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty, to be a happy mess and reverberate with immense euphoria. After all, this is probably the only day when we are allowed to get dirty and roam about in our filthiest grandeur. So, good luck recognizing your peeps the day after Holi. That might seem a task in itself.
While the usual ‘holi ka dahan’ and the reason behind it is known to most of us, there are some special ways in which Bengal celebrates the festival of colours. Ours, as you know, is a state full of ‘culture’ so how can we have a festival that does not stand out.
Here are some fascinating facts about our version of Holi celebrations:
In Bengal, Holi is celebrated as ‘Dol Purnima’ or ‘Dol Jatra’ in a grand way by placing the idols of Krishna and Radha on a bedecked palanquin.
How is this different from Holi?
Well, the essence is the same but the mythology behind the traditional festivity is different. It is essentially a festival of colours, just as Holi is but what makes Dol Jatra so special in West Bengal is the fact that it is the last festival of the Bengali Year. It celebrates the legend of Radha and Krishna which says that Lord Krishna expressed his love to his beloved Radha on the day of Dol Jatra. So this festival celebrates love through the use of myriad colours.
How is it celebrated?
Dol Jatra is celebrated by placing the idols of Krishna and Radha on a picturesquely decorated palanquin which is then taken round the main streets of the city. The devotees take turns to swing them while women dance around the swing and sing devotional songs. All this while, men keep spraying coloured water and colour on them. Once the ceremony gets over, people indulge in playing with colours. Here, the coloured powder is popularly known as ‘phag’.
Shantiniketan’s Vishwa Bharati University celebrates a cultural Basant Utsav (spring festival).
When is it celebrated?
It is celebrated a day earlier than the given date for Holi in other parts of India.
How is it celebrated?
Shantiniketan, a place quite apt to its name, retains a charm in its Basant Utsav celebrations that was started as an annual ritual by none other than our very own Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore in his Vishwa Bharati University. This is a spring festival that is celebrated through the use of colours. After the customary Prabhat Pheri, the students dressed in saffron coloured clothes and adorned with floral ornaments take to the roads in a procession, singing and dancing, playing the dhol and throwing colours in the air or smearing it on each other. Rabindra sangeet and even baul songs form a part of their melodious tunes. The festival finally comes to an end when they smear the auspicious black abir and dry gulal powder on everyone’s forehead. Liquid colours are forbidden here.
Purulia district celebrates a folk Holi.
A three day Basanta Utsav folk festival takes place in the Purulia district of West Bengal. It runs in the lead up to Holi. You’ll get to sing and play Holi with the locals, as well as enjoy a wide variety of unique folk art. This includes the remarkable Chau dance, Darbari Jhumur, Natua dance, and songs of West Bengal’s wandering Baul musicians. What makes the festival special is that it’s organized by villagers as a way of helping sustain themselves.
The students of Rabindra Bharati University celebrate holi at the Jorasanko Thakur Bari campus of the university in Kolkata with much elan and in quite a similar way to that of Shantiniketan celebrations.
Whatever be the reason or way of celebration, the festival of colour is celebrated with much gaiety and fervour in Bengal. Colleges in Kolkata start celebrating a day in advance by smearing abir on each other after class hours. The festival is not only about colours, it is about food too. There is a Holi-specific platter of sweets, especially Gujiya, Kheer and Thandai. So how can Kolkata not revel in the exuberance? What more could we ask for!