More than just colours: India’s festival of color also also has women ‘beating men’ and cannabis milkshakes


India’s Holi festival is famous for smearing colored powder on friends and family, bonfire parties, and ‘bhaang’, the traditional cannabis-laced milkshake.

And while the colour festival, which marks the beginning of spring, is also played and celebrated with a lot of merry making with just colours and food, India has its own diversity when it comes to celebrating Holi traditions in the country.

Here’s a look at the unusual celebrations that follow:
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‘Lathmaar’ - the ritual of women beating men

‘Lathmaar’ - the ritual of women beating men

While water cannons and colored powder dominate most parts of India, but Barsana, a town in Uttar Pradesh in North India, follows the bizarre festive tradition involving women picking up big bamboo sticks to beat men. In fact, men often try to tease women to gain their attention and later protect themselves with shield if women beat them up. Although it sounds rather violent, locals claim that it’s all supposed to be in the spirit of the playfulness of the festival.

The only time when serving a milk-based drink with cannabis is perfectly acceptable as a long-standing tradition

The only time when serving a milk-based drink with cannabis is perfectly acceptable as a long-standing tradition

The festival of colours also brings a chance to drink Thandai- a milk-based drink prepared with bhaang, a derivative of cannabis. Although laws in India prohibit cannabis, bhaang is an exception. The cannabis plant is considered to be among important herbs with healing powers, according to ancient Indian texts. And the traditional recipes can also include flavourful ingredients like saffron, cardamoms, peppercorns, and almonds.

The not-so-common ritual of using ashes

The not-so-common ritual of using ashes

Aside from colours and even flowers, in Varanasi, considered one of the holy cities, has an ancient tradition of using ash from cremation pyres. People are known to mix colour and ash and the local tradition reminds people that death is not something to fear.

Bonfires turn dangerous

Bonfires turn dangerous

While many parts of Northern India usually see the ritual bonfire, Holika Dahan, on the eve of Holi featuring dances and chanting of hymns, the festivities can get a little dangerous in some parts of Rajasthan. The state is known to have had traditional bonfires that had people walk barefoot on the burning embers.

Extended Holi

Extended Holi

This truly bizarre tradition in the Baldeo town of Uttar Pradesh in North India witnesses extended celebrations held a day after the festival ends where men throw coloured water at women and the women in return can tear off their clothes — all in good humour.

‘Hola Mohalla’ with martial art displays

‘Hola Mohalla’ with martial art displays

The Hola Mohalla tradition in Punjab has been going on since the 1700s. The Sikhs during this tradition showcase feats of physical endurance through martial arts, wrestling, mock sword fight among others.

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