Holi is among the major festivals celebrated in India, but its most common form is not the only one. There are various facets of this festival, varying with regions and traditions.
In the “Masaan Holi” celebrated in Varanasi (video above), revellers mix ashes retrieved from burning human corpses and the dry Holi colours called “gulaal” and smear it on one another other. This practice is believed to be a way of paying respect to the dead. The practice is largely observed at Manikarnika Ghat on the Ganga, which, in Hinduism, is considered to be one of the holiest river-fronts.
Another unusual form of Holi celebrated in north India is the “Latthmaar Holi” of Barsana in Uttar Pradesh.
Situated some 40 kilometres from Mathura, Barsana is believed to be the birthplace of Radha, the beloved of the Hindu god Krishna. Traditionally, men from Nandgaon (a historical town in Uttar Pradesh believed to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna) come to Barsana to play Holi with the women there, but are greeted with bamboo sticks instead of colours – hence the name “Latthmaar Holi”. People from all over the world flock to Barsana during the Holi season to catch a glimpse of this age-old tradition.