Dolyatra celebrated with great pomp and splendour in the state of West Bengal is a lot like Holi, the festival of colours. Holi is celebrated in the northern parts of India to celebrate the onset of spring and mark the end of chilly winters. Holi and Dol Yatra may seem to be celebrated in a similar manner because of the smearing of colours. However, the celebrations of Dolyatra in West Bengal are very different from the celebration of Holi witnessed in other parts of India.

Dolyatra marks the last festival of the Bengali year calendar. It has been celebrated since ancient times and is celebrated to revel in the everlasting bond of love between Lord Krishna and his favourite Gopi, Radha. It is believed that Dolyatra was the day when Lord Krishna expressed his love for his beloved Radha.

Origin, History, Significance and Traditions of Dolyatra

Dolyatra is also known as Doljatra is a regional holiday in the state of West Bengal. It is also known as Dol Purnima in the states of Assam and Odisha. Dolyatra falls on the same day as Holi. The last full moon in the Hindu Calendar is celebrated as Holi. The legend that Dolyatra is based on is different from the legend believed in celebrating Holi. Holi is celebrated to welcome spring and also mark the death of Holika, the evil sister of Hiranyakashyap who tried to kill his own devout son Prahlad.

Dolyatra is based on the legend that it was this day when Lord Krishna expressed his undying love to Radha. Just like in Holi, the coloured powder is an integral part of the festivities. It is known as “phag” in West Bengal.

Phag is applied by following a ritual. It is applied first as a reverence to the pictures of the deceased family members. Then it is applied to the feet of elders as a mark of respect. It is only after this that it becomes an open season to smear faces with coloured powder.

Dolyatra is also known as the “Swing Festival”. The idols of Lord Krishna and Radha are decorated and adorned. They are then placed on decorated chariots or palanquins (which are also decorated) and swung from one end to the other. Women sing songs and bhajans, and the menfolk spray coloured powder at the idols.

Dolyatra has another added significance to West Bengal and Bengalis as it marks the birthday of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a 16th century Vaishnava saint. He was also a poet and was regarded as an incarnation of Lord Krishna.


When is Dolyatra Celebrated

In 2021, Dolyatra will be celebrated on 28th March. Dolyatra falls on the same day as Holi in the Hindu calendar. Holi falls on the last full moon day of the Hindu calendar. It generally falls in March but sometimes does fall during the end of February. Dolyatra is celebrated on the same day in West Bengal. Dol yatra 2020 was celebrated on 9th March 2020.

How is Dolyatra Celebrated and Where To Go

Dairy products including home-made butter, cream and prasad like panchamrit are prepared and distributed to all in the society.

The first day of Dolyatra is called “Gondh”. It is believed that on this day, Lord Krishna decided to visit Ghunucha ( one of his wives). A bonfire is lit in front of the prayer house, and Lord Krishna’s idol is taken around it as a customary practice. People also worship Radha and Krishna on this day by singing bhajans and performing pujas. The chariot with the idols of Radha and Krishna are taken around in West Bengal with chants of “Hari Bol” reverberating in the air.

The second day is Bhor-Deul or Dol. Coloured powder is known as “phag” in Bengal, and “Abir” in Assam and Bihar is applied to the photo of the deceased family members. Coloured powder is then used to the feet of elders to seek their blessings. Once the blessings of elders are received, the tradition of applying and smearing other people with colours begins. Rasgullas are prepared and distributed, and people visit the houses of their near and dear ones.

The third day is also celebrated in the same fashion as people playing with colour. The fourth day is called “Sueri” when Lord Krishna returns from Ghunucha’s home. A procession is taken with hundreds of devotees participating in marking the end of the festival. People continue to throw colours on the idol and on each other.

Dolyatra celebrates the love of Lord Krishna and Radha and is also seen as a symbol of unity and happiness. In addition to this you can visit the following places to be a part of Dolyatra celebrations:

  • Kolkata, West Bengal: Dol Yatra is celebrated across several households and communal spaces in Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal.
  • Shantiniketan, West Bengal: Thousands of people congregate from India and abroad at Shantiniketan, Bolpur at Birbhum district of West Bengal where Rabindranath Tagore had re-introduced the festival of Dol Yatra.

You can now be a part of the celebrations of Dolyatra by travelling to any of the states by booking your tickets on redBus. redBus lets you book tickets online via their website or their app. You can log on or download the app and book your tickets to your desired destination. 

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