Nainital: Kumaoni Holi is the historical and cultural celebration of the Holi festival in the region of Kumaon in Uttarakhand. It is one of the most important festivals for the people of the region as it signifies not only the victory of good over evil but also end of the winter season and the start of the new sowing season which holds great importance for agricultural community of the North India. It is a combination of the cultural traditions of North India and the local traditions of Kumaon.
The uniqueness of the Kumaoni Holi lies in its being a musical affair, whichever may be its form, be it the Baithki Holi, the Khari Holi and the Mahila Holi (Women Holi). The celebrations start from Basant Panchami and last nearly two months. The quality of Baithki Holi and Khari Holi lie in the songs as they are based on classical ragas and touch melody, fun and spiritualism. Baithki Holi ( Sitting Holi) is a form of musical gathering starting from the day of Basant Panchmi held all across Kumaon till the Chharadi, the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna. In some areas of Kumaon it starts even earlier.
The Baithaki Holi songs are based on the classical traditions of Indian Classical music but have great influence of Kumaoni folk music traditions.The songs are based on ragas. For instance, at noon the songs based on Pilu, Bhimpalasi and Sarang ragas are sung while evening is reserved for the songs based on the ragas like Kalyan, Shyamkalyan and Yaman. The sittings are held in the local community centres and even at local homes. The Baithki Holi begins from the premises of temples, where Holiyars (the singers of Holi songs) as also the people gather to sing songs to the accompaniment of classical music like harmonium and tabla. Khadi Holi ( Standing Holi) usually starts along with but sometimes a little later than Baithaki Holi. It is widely celebrated in the rural areas of Kumaon. The songs of the Khari Holi are sung by men, sporting traditional white traditional attire, dance in groups to the tune of ethnic musical instruments namely ; Dhol and Hurka.
Men in groups singing Khadi holi songs which are much more Kumaoni in flavour than the classical renditions of the Baithaki holi visit different homes and greet the members of that house and chant hymns praying for prosperity of the householder.
The Holika bonfire in Kumaun is known as Cheer which is ceremonically made in a ceremony known as Cheer Bandhan fifteen days Holi. The Cheer of every village and mohalla is rigorously guarded as rival mohallas try to steal the other's cheer, a kind of competition takes place. The cheer is the centre of the festivities. The Cheer is burnt on the night before Holi and is known as Cheer Dahan which symbolizes the victory of the pious Prahlad over his demon father Hiranyakashyap.
Dulhendi known as Chharadi in Kumaon. Main ingredients of the celebration are Abeer and Gulal(dry colours) and squirting of coloured water using pichkaris,balloons, buckets but as of now many more ways have been evolved to colour people and put a question mark on this celebration . Even prohibited colours mixed with greese and mobile oil were being used and as a result many people prefer not to venture out of their homes until the festivity is over. Untill mid seventy natural colours made from flower extracts, ash and water were used. Apart from its symbolic significance of victory of pious Prahlad over his evil father Hiranyakashyap's plans,it also signifies the end of the long Himalayan winter and the beginning of a new sowing season. It also means a break from the rigorous life of hard agricultural labour for the peasants.