Holi is one of India’s most awaited festivals. Celebrated every year in March, Holi is a wild, wild festival of colors. And Holi in Varanasi is one of a kind! Contrary to how Varanasi is usually described, this oldest and the holiest city of India turns into a wild teenager during this time of the year. People from different corners of the world flock to this town to be part of something so extraordinarily chaotic yet beautiful.
Undeniably one of the best places in India to celebrate Holi, this should be on every traveler’s bucket list and we are not exaggerating when we say this. Even foreigners love colorful fanfare. You could find yourself at the steps of Ganga ghat, throwing colors and eating some of the choicest sweets and savories.
Holi celebration in 2021
This year, Holi will be celebrated on 28 and 29 March 2021.
On the day of Holi, people gather around the Ganges to play with colors, drink thandai infused with homegrown bhaang and dance like no one is watching. There is color all around – in the air, splashed on cows, dogs and even cats; in the Ganga and wherever your eyes can travel.
The holy Ganga will amaze you with its beauty. She is basically the star attraction of this party. She cleans anyone and everyone and also washes down the remains of this party in a swirl of ruby, emerald and sapphire.
So ditch your usual holi plans and play Holi in Varanasi with a bunch of enthusiastic people and chug down that huge tumbler of bhaang like there is no tomorrow! Totally Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani feels. Book your Varanasi cab now.
The Magical Holi Festival at Varanasi
In Hindu traditions, the festival of Holi is celebrated to signify the end of conflicts – both personal and with others and to let go and forgive. The day before Holi is celebrated as Holika Dahan. The burning of the effigies signifies that the person is getting rid of their past mistakes and sins and starting afresh by playing with colours. The tradition of distributing sweets marks making new friends and forgiving others.
How is Holi in Varanasi different from other Holi celebrations?
On Holi, Varanasi looks playful, bathed in all kinds of colors. Small groups of boys wander along the ghats, covered in vibrant hues of pink, blue and yellow. You will see people wearing funny hats while others have their faces painted in every color you could possibly imagine. Friends are seen chasing each other down the street, sprinkling bright colors on anyone and everyone they meet along the way!
Holi Celebration Video – How to Play Holi
Holika Dahan – The Day Before of the Holi Festival in Varanasi
The celebration in Varanasi starts on Holika Dahan (28 March 2021), when a great bonfire is lit in the evening to celebrate the victory of good over evil, just like in most parts of the country. People also throw ‘uptan’ into the fire, which is a type of paste. This is believed to keep people disease-free for the rest of the year. The Holika ash is later used to mark a tilak on the forehead of all attendees, and then of course prepare for grand celebrations the next day.
Tips to play Holi in Varanasi
Just like you, we can’t wait to celebrate this colorful festival. However, it is crucial to celebrate responsibly. Here are some ways that you can ensure your safety amidst the festival madness.
- Pick places with lesser crowds – It is advisable to play with the colors in areas with not many people around. Make sure you ensure minimal physical contact with others around you.
- Undertake all the safety precautions – Make sure to sanitize yourselves frequently and do not forget to wear your masks! Try to maintain social distancing as much as possible.
- Use organic colors – Make sure the colors you are using don’t have additive chemicals in them.
- Keep a check on the guidelines – Do make sure that you follow the guidelines stated by the local authorities during the festival.
How to Protect Yourself While Playing Holi at Varanasi
- Oil yourself – Holi is all about strangers rubbing colors on you. And you certainly don’t know what kind of colors they have in their hands. So it is better to take your own precautions. Bare skin makes it easier for colors to penetrate into the body. To protect yourself, apply oil (preferably coconut or mustard oil) on your body before you step out to play.
- Don’t forget your sunglasses at home – There is going to be colors everywhere. To protect your eyes, wear a pair of sunglasses throughout the celebration.
- Keep a basic first-aid box handy – In case you get any cuts or wounds, make sure to clean it up and cover it instantly, no matter how small it seems.
- Use herbal and organic colours – Make sure to use organic colors in your party. This will not only protect you but also be good for the environment.
- Don’t stay drenched in wet colours for long – While, having fun is the top-most priority on the day of Holi, it is important to change into dry clothes after the fun. Staying in wet clothes for longer periods of time can make you sick.
Varanasi: The City of Temples and Ghats
Varanasi is an amalgamation of spirituality, religions, art, culture, history, and communities. From its divine temples, ghats to the eclectic quarters of free souls and saints – Varanasi is a delight to the mind, body, and soul. Here are all the major attractions in the city.
Famous temples – Varanasi is known for its temples. Kashi Vishwanath Temple is considered one of the holiest temples not just in Banaras but in the world. A few other famous temples that should be visited are Tridev Temple, Durga Temple, Annapurna Temple, and Sarnath Temple.
Famous ghats – Dashashwamedh Ghat is amongst the holiest ghats on the banks of River Ganga. The Ganga Aarti is performed here. There are about 80 to 90 ghats located in Varanasi, and each one is unique in its own right. Few other ghats that you shouldn’t miss are Chet Singh Ghat, Assi Ghat, and Manikarnika Ghat.
Ramnagar Fort – Another major attraction of Varanasi is Ramnagar Fort. The fort was built for the Maharaja of Banaras in the 18th century. The fort has a museum that displays a variety of ancient and antique traditional items that are worth witnessing.
The food and cuisine of Varanasi is absolutely delicious. From the famous street-style Kachoris and jalebis to delicious sweets and a Banarasi pan to complete the meal – Varanasi is a treat for your taste buds.
Things to do in Varanasi at Night
- Take a boat ride – Visit the ghats of Ganga either during dusk or dawn and enjoy the iconic boat ride.
- Gulp down the delicious street food – The street food in Varanasi is an absolute must-do for any traveler visiting the city. Give your taste buds a treat with the hot Jalebis, Samosas, Kachoris, Ras-malais and the famous Banarasi pan.
Must-do things in Varanasi
- Visit a handloom factory – Want to know the behind the scenes of the making of Banarasi silk sarees? Then visit a handloom factory to witness how thin threads are weaved into beautiful patterns.
- Visit an Akhada – People in Varanasi still indulge in wrestling. To catch a glimpse of this traditional sport visit an Akhada, a place where wrestlers come together to practice the sport.
Famous things to buy in Varanasi
Banarasi Silk Sarees – Varanasi is well-known for its Banarasi sari. Buy the colourful sarees from the Thateri bazaar to gift them to the ladies back at home.
Rudraksha Mala – Banaras is often referred to as the city of Shiva. And how can you return from this city without a Rudraksha Mala. Made from the seeds of the Rudraksha tree, it is a piece of organic and traditional jewellery for Hindu devotees.
Ramnami Cloth – Get a piece of Ramnami cloth like a piece of souvenir for yourself. Ramnami cloth is of importance for Hindu devotees. You will find many pilgrims wearing shirts and scarfs with Ram written on it. Such pieces of clothing with Ram Nam written on it are Ramnami clothes.
How to reach Varanasi
By air: Varanasi is well connected to several airports in Uttar Pradesh. However, the major airports are – Indira Gandhi Delhi International Airport and Lucknow Airport. Other nearby airports are in Varanasi, Allahabad and Gorakhpur.
By train: The nearest railway station is Varanasi. You can take a train from any major city in the country to Varanasi.
By road: Varanasi is well-connected to many cities via road. To ensure a smooth, hassle-free journey, you can simply book a taxi from your city.
Best time to visit Banaras
Winter and spring seasons are ideal for visiting Varanasi. November to February is the best time to visit as summers are usually extremely hot and dry. The scorching heat of the summers makes it difficult for sightseeing. The weather during monsoon is pleasant.
Frequently asked questions
- Is Holi safe for tourists?
Yes, it is safe for tourists if you take the necessary precautions. Make sure that you avoid heavily crowded areas. Play Holi with organic colours. You would need to be careful and aware of pickpocketers. It is also crucial for tourists to carry a small first-aid kit in case of any unfortunate accidents.
- Where is the best place to participate in Holi?
On the day of Holi, you can head straight to the Ghats. Make sure to cover yourself with a layer of oil or moisturiser to protect yourself from the colours. On the streets, kids will most likely hit you with water balloons and drench you in colours with water guns. You can also be a part of private Holi parties organised in the city to stay away from the crowd.
- Is Holi dangerous?
Yes and No. It is a festival of colours where people come together and celebrate it. The sight is beautiful! You will get to eat the best delicacies in town and celebrate it with strangers making you feel at home. However, the danger concerns with effect of synthetic colours on your skin or the behaviour of few drunk men on streets. But you can still enjoy a very safe Holi in Banaras if you take the necessary precautions.
- How safe is it for a woman to play Holi in Varanasi?
The answer again is very similar to the last question. The morning and afternoon on Holi is when everyone on the streets goes crazy with the celebrations. There have been a few instances where women have been harassed by drunk men. But there are police constables everywhere in the city to ensure women’s safety. The evenings are more peaceful as everyone reaches the ghat to take part in the Ganga Aarti.