Also known by the name Dol Yatra, this is a major religious festival taking place in West Bengal and Orissa. Hindus celebrate this festival in honor of Lord Shri Krishna.
All the devotees of Lord Krishna celebrate this festival with much pomp and splendor. Yet another significant feature of this festival for the Bengalis is that it’s the birthday of a great Vaishnava Saint, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1485 – 1533).
He was the one who had instilled the devotion and passion for Radha Krishna in the people and believed that devotion lies in the essence of love. His followers believe that he was a manifestation of Lord Krishna.
Today, there are elaborate customs and traditions associated with this festival and devotees take part in them every year. The dates for this festival changes every year but generally falls in the month of March.
Customs And Celebrations
In the span of the Bengali year, this festival serves as the last of the celebrations and generally takes place for two days. However, in places like Mathura and Vrindavan, the birth places of Lord Krishna, this festival continues for 16 days straight.
This day is mainly divided into two things – worshipping Radha Krishna and later on playing with colors. In West Bengal, dry powdered color is commonly called ‘Abir’ and all shops are kept closed on this day as everybody takes part in the playful festivities. Families have certain traditions like the smaller members of the family put “Abir” on the feet of the elders as a token of respect while the elders smear the youngster’s cheeks with color to show their love.
In Bengal, on this auspicious occasion, children dress up in saffron colored clothes and with garlands around their necks dance and sing to melodious songs welcoming spring. This day is also known as Holi or he festival of colors during which people spray each other with water and colors and drink the popular beverage ‘Bhaang’. The ceremonious aspect of this festival witnesses images of Lord Krishna being richly decorated and adorned with colorful “Abir”.
After that Lord Krishna sometimes along with Radha is placed in an elaborately decorated swinging palanquin and taken out on a procession through the streets of the city. The palanquin is decorated picturesquely with the help of fragrant flowers and leaves while Lord Krishna sits there in beautiful clothes and jewelry.
When the procession is led, devotees dance and sing to devotional tunes praising Lord Krishna and his eternal love story with Radha. Women dance around the palanquin and take turns to swing Lord Krishna. The procession is accompanied by devotional music, blowing of trumpets, blaring of conch shells and shouting of victory hails.
As the procession is taken around the city, devotees also engage in spraying each other with colored water and smearing powdered colors on each other. The name “Swing Festival” owes to this tradition of swinging Lord Krishna on this day.