Known as Holi in the rest of India, Dol Jatra—the festival of colors—is predominantly celebrated in the states of West Bengal, Odisha, and Assam with much pomp and gusto. Dol Jatra or Dol Purnima is celebrated on a full moon day and is dedicated to Lord Krishna. The day also marks the last festival of the year as per the Bengali calendar. This year, Dol Jatra will be celebrated on the 18th of March.
How celebrations take place in Dol Jatra?
To celebrate this day, milk items are prepared which includes home-made butter, cream, and panchamrit, and are offered to people belonging to every class of the society. For Bengalis, the festival is more important because it marks the birthday of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu—the popular and revered Vaishnavi Saint who brought modern “sankartina” to Odisha and Bengal.
The first day of Dol Jatra is known as “gondh”. According to the mythological texts, on this day, Lord Krishna prepares to visit Ghunucha’s place (one of the wives of Krishna). Devotees indulge in a bonfire in front of the “kirtan ghar” or prayer house. The idol of Krishna is then carried around the bonfire. Customary rituals are performed in the prayer house.
The second day is known as Bhor-Deul or Dol. It’s like Holi where people indulge in smearing colours on each other. Throwing water balloons, smearing Abir”, or using “pichkaris” to spray colored water is common. However, this day is best known for championing the spirit of unity. Though it’s predominantly a Hindu festival, people belonging from other religions too can participate in Dol. Sweets, especially Rasgullas are prepared in most households. Visiting relatives’ or friends’ house is a customary tradition that’s followed on this day. The younger lot pay respect to the elders by placing a pinch of “abir” or colored powder in front of their feet. In return, elders bless them with prosperity and happiness.
The third day of Dol Jatra is like that of the second day. The fourth day of Dol is called Sueri. It’s believed that on this day, Lord Krishna goes back to his house from Ghunucha’s place. A procession marking the return of Lord Krishna is arranged with hundreds of devotees participating in what marks the end of the festival. People throw colored powders on one another s celebrations galore.
The festival is seen as a symbol of unity and happiness. Celebrated in the eastern and north-eastern states of India, Dol Jatra remains as a popular festival among Bengalis.