With the onset of spring, Holi fever starts gripping Uttarakhand, especially Kumaon, where the festivities stretch for more than two months.
The vibrant festival of colours holds special significance in different parts of the country. Like Barsana’s ‘Lathmar Holi’, the festivities in Kumaon have their own relevance.
The festivities begin with ‘Holi Gayan’, or singing songs related to the festival, during which people perform pujas for Lord Ganesha and Pashupatinath Shiva. The songs are also based on Radha-Krishna’s ‘Braj Leela’.
Two types of Holi are celebrated in Kumaon — ‘Khadi Holi’ and ‘Baithaki Holi’.
Holi in the region starts with ‘Baithaki Holi’ which is celebrated at homes and temples.
Legend has it that tradition of ‘Baithiki Holi’ dates back to the 15th century. From the Chand dynasty in Champawat, the tradition began. Starting from Kali Kumaon, Gumdesh and Sui, it gradually spread to the entire Kumaon.
In Kumaon, Holi starts from Basant Panchami but in few parts of the region, it is celebrated from the first Sunday of the Pausha month which runs from mid-December to mid-January.
During the Pausha month, the winter season is at its peak and to spend the biting cold nights, gatherings are organised.
On the beats of the tabla, accompanied by the melodious tune of the harmonium, ‘rag’ and ‘ragnis’ are sung.
In the ‘Baithaki Holi’, gatherings of men and women are held separately, but music and dance play important roles in both the celebrations.
Holi songs include the Peelu, Sahana, Bihag, Jaijaiwanti, Jogia, Jhinjhoti, Bhimpalasi, Khyal and Bageshri ragas, but specifically the Dhamar.
In the afternoons and evenings, songs are sung in different ragas.
The songs feature all kinds of expressions of devotion, dispassion, separation, love-affection, beauty, and mockery based on the ‘leelas’ of Lord Krishna and gopis.
Meanwhile, the tradition attire donned during the festivities are white-coloured kurta, churidar, pajama and caps.
Enhancing the festivities, ‘Holiyars’ (professional Holi singers) visit houses across the region during which they are served ‘gujiya’ (a tradition sweet) along with a savoury potato dish called ‘aloo ke gutke’.
Sometimes, women dress up as men and mimic someone in their family and society.
During Holi, a branch of the ‘Paiyya’ tree is put in between a cloth brought from every household and is tied on it.
Rangolis are made around the tree and a day prior to Holi, the branch is set ablaze.
It is also the celebration of the mythical Prahlada’s symbolic victory over his father, demon Hriyanyakashipu.