Scorpions, Cow Dung, Kushti – 6 Surprising Ways in Which Holi Is Celebrated in India

Play with scorpions, throw cow dung, show off martial skills – in some places in India, the tradition of Holi goes beyond just throwing colours.

Holi is played differently across India, with traditions varying slightly from state to state. We’ve heard of the Lathmar Holi in Barsana, Uttar Pradesh, where women hit men with sticks, and the urban variations of Holi across metro cities in India. In some places though, people celebrate Holi by doing a lot more than throwing colours, but it’s spectacular nonetheless.

This Village Plays with Scorpions


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Source: Wikimedia Commons

In Saunthana, a village in Etawah in Uttar Pradesh, the people bring on the festival by beating drums and singing their folk songs. Meanwhile, they catch scorpions, searching under rocks and holding them with their bare hands. Then they play a game of putting the scorpions on different parts of their bodies. Youngsters and elders both take part in this ritual, enthusiastically. And till now, there hasn’t been a case of scorpion bite. According to a legend, the scorpions come out of hiding on their own when they hear drums, known as phaag, being played.

Turmeric Water, not Colours

Holi down south is played mainly by the Kudumbi and Konkan communities, especially the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins at the Konkani temple of Gosripuram Thirumala. They call is ‘manjal kuli’, which literally means turmeric bath. Celebrated over four days, the Kudumbi community dances to traditional Kerala percussion instruments and spray each other with turmeric water.

Human Pyramids

dahi handi

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Like the tradition of Dahi Handi, in Haryana, their Holi celebrations include forming a human pyramid and reaching for a pot of buttermilk. There’s nothing more that brings out the unity of human spirit, competitiveness and teamwork than this human feat.

Cow Dung and Flowers

In Ujjain, the saints of 13 akharas play a unique style of Holi with the intention of spreading awareness about the importance of cows in India. Instead of hurling water balloons or smearing each other with colours, the tradition is to throw cow dung and cow urine during the day. In the evening, they resort to flowers and sandalwood powder on each other. It’s also quite an eco-friendly way – since cow dung has no irritant chemicals like Holi colours, according to the saints.

Show of Strength

nihang singh

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the heartlands of Punjab, Holi is called Hola Mohalla. Here, a fair is held at Anandpur Sahib for a week. The highlights of the festival is the various shows of fighting, martial skills and strength, including kushti. Also prominent during this time are the Nihangs, who are part of the khalsa army. Their traditional blue robes, complete with swords or spears, are a sight to behold.

Elephants and Kings

Play Holi with elephants in Jaipur, at the Elephant Festival, held on the same day. With a game of elephant polo, a stunning elephant dance and a beautiful procession, it’s a festival you can’t miss. It also includes a tug-of-war between a group of men and women against an elephant. Meanwhile, in Udaipur, royal processions start from the Mewar royal palace to Manek Chowk at the City Palace. Decked up horses, the royal band, and hundreds of people adds to the glamour of the festival.

Featured image source: Flickr

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