In India, festivals and celebrations are an important part of the culture. The celebrations embody instilling values in humans deepening the bond of love and unity. Holi is one such festival, synonymous with the spring season. Holi celebrations in Jaipur are legendary and attract travelers from around the world. The residents of Jaipur celebrate this festival of colors with enthusiasm. Jaipur is one of the most distinguished and worthiest places to celebrate Holi in India. While many of the traditions and rituals followed in Jaipur are similar to the ones in other cities, there are many unique aspects specific to Jaipur.
Holi Celebrations in Jaipur
The atmosphere begins building up a day prior to Dhulandi’s day with the burning of Holika in the evening. Dhulandi is the day when people apply color on each other. Everyone return to their home town and villages to celebrate this festival with friends and relatives. Here is a picture of a makeshift of a seller of Holi colors in Jaipur.
There is a mythological story associated with Holika Dahan. Holika represents an ancient practice of burning wood and twigs. It is a symbolic ritual to celebrate the killing of Holika, a wicked character in Hindu mythology by Lord Vishnu. This takes place on the eve of Dhulandi on Holi. Holika is burned in almost every neighborhood. People from the community or locality gather for this event. Usually, it takes place around dusk. Here is a picture of Holika preparation near City Palace Jaipur, seen here in the background is Naqqar Khana Gate.
Jaipur City Palace
Holi celebrations by the princely family in Jaipur were legendary. Even now the erstwhile royal family celebrates Holi in Jaipur City Palace, and tourists are invited to join in. It is true that the grandeur of yesteryear is missing; the Holi celebration in Jaipur City Palace is symbolic.
Holi Celebrations in Govind Dev Ji Temple
Holi celebrations in Jaipur are closely tied with the most revered deity of the city, Lord Govind Dev Ji. It is called Phag Utsav and the celebrations in the Govind Dev Ji Temple takes place over a couple of weeks.
This celebration is named after a month called Phalgun as per the Hindu calendar. It consists of singing devotional Holi songs, dances and drama by artists; these are centered on Lord Krishna & Radha.
Every day these celebrations take place during the afternoon and singing Bhajan is part of the event. The atmosphere in the temple during these days is boisterous. Here is a picture of the Govind Dev Ji Temple during the Phag Utsav Holi celebrations in Jaipur.
There are specific days when the Holi is celebrated using only flowers or Gulal. The famous Lathmar Holi of Barsana is also enacted at Govind Dev Ji temple Jaipur on a specified day.
Check out this video of devotees singing and dancing in Phag Utsav at Govind Devji Temple, Jaipur.
Holi celebration at other Temples in Jaipur
Almost all notable temples in Jaipur celebrate the month of “Phag.”The term Phag Utsav is used to denote the Holi celebration in Jaipur. Most prominent are temples like Brijnidhi Temple, Galta Ji Temple, Moti Dungari Ganesh Ji Temple to name a few. Special devotional Holi songs and Bhajans mark the celebrations.
Temples are adorned with flowers. Here is a picture of the celebration in the Brijnidhi Temple.
Chang and Dhap Songs
Chang and Dhuff/Dhap have traditionally been associated more with the Shekhawati region than Jaipur. I’m unsure if it was part of Holi celebrations in Jaipur historically, however, during the last few decades, people would sing and dance using Chang and Dhap. Here is a picture depicting its use in a Jaipur temple during the Holi celebration.
It has vanished completely over the last decade as the Bollywood songs have taken over completely. Until 2005-8, traditional Holi parties would include Chang and Dhap singers and dancers. It is part of folk dance. Chang is nevertheless used during the Holi celebration in many temples but not in the same manner.
Thandai on Holi
Thandai is an essential part of Holi celebrations in Jaipur. It is an Indian drink prepared from Badam or almond and milk. Apart from these two, many other ingredients are combined during its preparation like cardamom, pepper, saffron, Saunf or fennel seeds, sugar among others. It is best served when chilled. It is also consumed during Shivratri. Holi is a pretext for people to get together and meet, a very common practice in Jaipur. These meeting parties start a fortnight prior to the Holi, some refer to these as “Thandai party.”
In one of the versions of Thandai, Cannabis or Bhang is used. It is termed Bhang Thandai. As such consuming cannabis is prohibited but the government has authorized shops that sell Bhang that is usually mixed with Thandai on the Holi. Bhang consumption remains an acceptable practice during festivals like Holi in Indian society. Here is a painting from Jaipur with the depiction of people processing and consuming Bhang or cannabis. This is a painting from Jaipur from the 1800s and is on display in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Bhang is closely associated with Lord Shiva and is additionally used in alleviating ailments. Many people consume cannabis in the form of small balls routinely called Bhang Ki Goli. Its consumption can be quite a heady or euphoric experience. Among foreigners, even Bhang Lassi is famous. Pushkar is famous for the same. It is considered perfectly acceptable to trick the unsuspecting victims to a Thandai laden with Bhang for some extra fun because they act in a comical way.
Gulal Gota is one of the unique craft of Jaipur. It refers to a very thin wax casing filled with Gulal which breaks on impact. Gulal Gota was extensively used by the Jaipur royalty.
Gulal Gota is prepared by the artisans who produce Lac bangles. Many artisan families are perpetuating this tradition patronized by the Jaipur royalty. One can buy this even today. A box of six costs approximately Rs 120.
History of Holi Celebration in Jaipur
As per local historians, the king used Gulal Gota to play Holi with the public. He would ride on an elephant through the streets of Jaipur in a procession and throw Gulal Gota on the crowd gathered on either side of the road. The Gulal Gota is akin to the color bomb, it would explode on the impact causing the public “colored.” Also, famous are the water guns used by the king. His entourage would consist of a colored water tank used for these water guns. Some of these are on display in the city museum and were made of brass.
As per prevalent practice, the Holika Dahan in the city would take place first in the royal residence- Jaipur City Palace. It was a grand affair. The public would use the fire from this Holika to set alight in their locality. The Holi celebration in the City Palace was a noteworthy event; the king would play Holi with queens of Janani Deodi, and some say it was a full-day event. The grandeur of yesteryear’s certainly gone, but it has left a rich legacy. Jaipur is one of the best places to celebrate Holi in India.
Among the city residents, the Holi festival was a pretext to make fun of friends and family. Funny poems and mockery in social gatherings were the norms and so was pranking. Over the last few years, with the advent of globalization and the influence of Bollywood, Holi is just another occasion for creating “Insta-moments” and glitzy parties. The true essence of Jaipur Holi is lost.
Dhulandi & Holi Parties in Jaipur
There are many Holi celebration parties in Jaipur. Some of the Holi parties are ticketed, and travelers can also take part in these parties. A few of these are held in places like Hotel Narain Niwas and Clarks Amer. And then there are private invite-only Holi parties. Routinely, it is for friends and family. Over here are a few pictures from one such Holi celebration party in Jaipur where people are applying Gulal and color on each other.
How to celebrate Holi?
Friends and family get together playing Holi and color everyone using synthetic colors and organic Abeer/Gulal. Gulal is a powder-like substance produced from natural substances like flowers, leaves, etc. For centuries, Gulal has been an integral part of the Holi. Synthetic colors contain chemicals and are harmful to the skin and should be avoided for Holi.
How to prepare an organic color or Gulal?
In the past, the flowering of Tesu tree was an indicator of Holi being around the corner. These days finding this tree in Jaipur is a herculean task. The Tesu flowers have been used for centuries to prepare Holi color.
Even now many people make their own Gulal because it is difficult to trust the quality available in the market. Use cornflour, white flour, or arrowroot powder for the base. Arrowroot is one of the most preferred among all. Mix either of the following to get the desired color.
- Dried Tesu or Palash flowers for yellow-orange color
- Henna and Amla powder for green color.
- Turmeric powder or dried marigold flowers for the yellow color.
- Beetroot is often used to get magenta color.
Ideally, one can use a grinder to produce a smooth powder. Some people include essential oil for the soothing fragrance. Sandalwood, lemon, and Eucalyptus oils are routinely used.
Is it safe to walk on the streets during Holi for travelers?
Holi is considered to be a crazy festival because people often take liberties for undertaking unfair things on the pretext of Holi. Drinking, getting intoxicated with cannabis is considered to be normal during the Holi. The streets are mostly deserted as it is a holiday and people tend to stay at home and avoid stepping out. The streets return back to normalcy after 3-4 PM. People apply color on the pedestrians and walkers.
While some do enjoy this atmosphere, most don’t. Things have drastically improved over the last two decades as far as streets are concerned. Personal space and choice of an individual are usually respected, but it is best to be cautious. Very often, women have reported being harassed on the street during Holi celebrations.
Even if you wish to celebrate Holi in Jaipur or elsewhere in India, it is most proper to do so in a select circle. Many hotels and hostels organize private Holi celebrations, often a paid event. This saves one from many hassles. It is best to leave your mobile phones in a locker/room or carry a waterproof transparent bag if you want to capture memories. Water is an integral part of these Holi parties and can ruin your phone.
Why is Holi Celebration in Jaipur one of the best in India?
The Holi festival celebrations in the Braj region are legendary with the Barsana Lathmar Holi and Banke Bihari Temple Holi in Vrindavan being the most sought after Holi experiences in India. Some of the other popular Holi celebrations include Kapda Faad Holi in Pushkar, Basant Utsav in Shantiniketan, and Hola Mohalla in Punjab. Jaipur Holi in a stark contrast doesn’t offer any such unique aspect. On the contrary, it offers an eclectic mix of everything- culture, a strong connection with religion, and an easy-going vibe. As a traveler one can choose what he or she wants. You can immerse in the Bhakti atmosphere of Govind Dev Ji temple which lasts for days, participate in a Bollywood theme party, stroll through the streets and play with locals, or relax and enjoy the superb spring weather in any of the resorts on the outskirts.
Jaipur is well-connected with the rest of India which many of the other locations are not. Unlike the streets of Vrindavan, where playing Holi can be an overwhelming experience, Jaipur offers one many choices. As a travel destination, Jaipur offers many more things and it is very convenient to plan a trip to Jaipur during Holi. As always, the tourism infrastructure in Jaipur is well-developed offering a huge and variety of stay options. It is worth mentioning that one can make a day trip from Jaipur to experience Braj Holi in Bharatpur and Pushkar Holi.
Check out more Jaipur blogs on Festivals in Jaipur.