Holi, the festival of colours, marks the last full moon in the month of Phalguna in the lunar calendar. With Gulal in your hair and the aroma of homemade dishes, the exuberance of Holi is hard to miss. Holi is a time when people from all backgrounds come together to chase each other with water guns, splash colour on each other, and dance on the streets. It is a festival of joy and merriment, where people are free to express themselves and have fun, without the worry of judgment or prejudice. Even though the festival originated in India, it has been adopted around the world as a religious festival.
… and here’s to the colours: Love and fertility are symbolized by red, blue are Krishna’s colour, yellow is turmeric, and green is new beginnings and spring.
Holi is celebrated all over Himachal Pradesh, but not the way it is in Sangla. Sangla is a small village in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. Being a magical land that has everything our hearts could ever want, from the snow-capped mountains to the picturesque views, and much more! It is a land of myriad cultures and traditions as well. One such tradition is the Holi festival, a colourful celebration of fertility, colours, love, and victory of good over evil.
Holi in Sangla is a way of inviting blessings and announcing the arrival of spring. While summer hues weave over this town’s cloudless skies, the bright colours of Holi are colouring mountains red and grass pink. Here Holi is not merely celebrated, but revered too. They have some unique, mind-blasting traditions which include lots of booze, dancing, along with nautanki (drama).
Sangla celebrates Holi as part of the Faguli festival which is a four-day festival and Holi is celebrated on the third day of the festival with dry colours. To begin with, a dish called Totu is made. Totu is prepared using roasted barley flour and buttermilk and served as prasad. During Faguli, oil lamps are lit, just like you do on Diwali. Faguli is in some ways a blend of two of the most popular Hindu festivals i.e. Diwali and Holi thereby making Sangla valley the best place to celebrate Holi.
Everyone is sticky in red, blue, yellow, green, and pink on the day of Holi. In the morning everyone gathers at Nag Mandir to take part in Holi celebrations as per local traditions. Men are chosen to get dressed as the characters from the epic Ramayana. On the beats of drums and trumpets, the parade starts moving from one village to the other. During these parades, the characters perform fight scenes from the Ramayana while women perform local dances in a circle. People in the processions stop at restings points to have locally made Chilta (a bread made out of locally grown buckwheat) and sabzi which is cooked in the open air. And as part of this procession, special wine called Phasur is given out for free. In short, Holi here is celebrated with a joyful spirit that springs up from the oldest mountain to the newest blade of grass.
On Faguli’s second night, people gather around the pyre, dress in traditional apparel, and dance and sing to celebrate Holika Dahan, to mark good over evil. Here, Holi is more than just a festival; it is a celebration of the people’s culture and tradition, celebrated in the most joyous manner possible.
On the last day, people get decked up in their traditional. They dance with the local deities in palanquins and then perform Kinnauri Nati throughout the night. They just paint the whole valley with traditions and customs.