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Holi Festival in India

Holi is a Hindu festival that marks the arrival of spring. Known widely as the Festival of Colour, it takes place over two days, and is a celebration of fertility, colour, and love.

Holi is an important Hindu festival, celebrated over two days in the month of March. It is popularly referred to as the ‘festival of colors’ as people will smear each other with colors, throw water-filled balloons, and use water guns to spray water. It is also called the ‘festival of love’ as according to Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna used to play Holi with Radha. Holi celebrates fertility, the arrival of spring, and the victory of good over evil.

Holi is celebrated throughout the country and outside as well, within the Indian community. It is popular with people of other religions in India as well. People from all backgrounds and of all ages, play Holi and have fun on the day. It breaks down all social and economic barriers. The exact date is different each year, as the festival is held on the day of the full moon.

Holi has its root in Hindu religion and mythology, but in modern Indian culture, it is more of a fun event, an occasion to enjoy, play games, and be happy. Colors are applied, water is sprayed, there is music and dancing, songs, sweets are distributed, and gifts are given away.

  • Holi is the festival of color.
  • It is held in the month of March every year.
  • A happy ceremony where people throw colors and water on each other.
  • There is loud music.
  • Lots of food, sweets, and drinks.
  • The festival also signifies the triumph of good over evil.
  • In some communities, Holi is seen as a festival for farmers, seeking the blessing for a fertile land and a good harvest.
  • There are many Holi feasts and parties in Goa and elsewhere in India.
  • There are traditions similar to Holi also in the Christian and European festive calendar.

Holi Highlights

When Is Holi Celebrated?

Holi is celebrated in March every year. But the exact date is different each year, as it is held on the first full moon day in the Indian month of Phalguna. Usually, this is in March.

  • In 2018, the Holi festival was held on March 2, Holika Dahan a day before, on March 1.
  • In 2019, Holi will be on March 21, Holika Dahan on March 20.
Where Is Holi Celebrated?

Holi is celebrated throughout India and by all Indians around the world. Goa is mostly Christian, but Holi is popular here as well.

  • In some regions, there is a different name for Holi. For example, in Goa, it is the Shigmo festival. The day before Holi is called the Dhakto Shigmo, or the little Shigmo.
  • In eastern India, it is known as the Dol Purnima or Dol Jatra. Here, the festival is held a day before the rest of the country. Holika Dahan is not that popular here.
  • Holi is especially popular in north India, places related to Lord Krishna.
  • An Elephant Festival is held in Jaipur with Holi. Activities include an elephant parade, a beauty contest for elephants, dances for rhythmic music, tug-of-war between elephants, locals and foreigners.
Significance Of Holi

It signifies the end of the winter season, and the arrival of spring. Holi also signifies the victory of good over evil. In the farming communities, they will offer prayers for a good crop.

The Two Days Of Holi

The festival starts on the evening of the full moon, called Holika Dahan, and carries on to the next day. Holika Dahan is also referred to as Chhoti Holi or small Holi.

Bonfires are lit up in the evening to burn away evil spirits. Dahan refers to this burning. Many families will also offer prayers to protect them against evil spirits. In some communities mothers will take five rounds around the bonfire in clockwise direction with their babies to seek the blessing of the fire God.

The next day is called Rangwali Holi, or simply Holi.

The Colors Of Holi

There are colors everywhere. Colored powders in many shades of red, maroon, green, blue, orange, yellow, and pink are applied. Sometimes, the colors are mixed with water. These colors used to be made from the flowers of palash or tesu trees, and were called ‘gulal’. No chemicals were used, and so the material was very good for the skin.

Now, the colors are not so pure, which is why some people develop skin rashes, particularly those who have allergic skins.

Parades

Parades are brought out where people are seen singing and dancing. Dholaks (Indian traditional drum) is played. Everyone applies colors and sprays water. A big parade is brought out in the city of Panaji in Goa as well.

Food and Drinks

A huge feast is often held on the main Holi day, sometimes in the daytime, and sometimes in the night. There are a lot of foods, drinks, including alcoholic beverages, the traditional Indian thandai and bhang (made from cannabis), and sweets and cookies including gudzhi, malpua, mahri, and papri.

Music and Dancing

There is a lot of singing and dancing, both in private parties and on the streets. Popular Hindi and Bollywood (Bombay film industry) songs are sung. Dholaks are played. There are often cultural shows and plays in the evening.

Countries Where Holi Is Popular

India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Fiji, Mauritius, Kenya, Tanzania, United States, Pakistan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa, Uganda, Malaysia, Jamaica, and everywhere with a large Hindu population.

Holi Gallery

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The History Of Holi

The history of Holi goes back a long time. It started many centuries back, probably before the birth of Christ, making this one of the oldest Hindu festivals. Even the ancient Hindu religious books, such as Kathaka-Grhya-Sutra and Jaimini’s Purvamimamsa-Sutras mention Holi.

You will see sculptures depicting Holi on the walls of ancient Indian temples, like for instance the 16th century temples of Hampi, which was the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. Princes and princesses are depicted playing Holi with their maids, squirting water and applying colors. There are many medieval paintings too, like the Mewar paintings of circa 1755, the 16th century Ahmednagar paintings, the Bundi miniatures, and the Mewar paintings of Rajasthan.

Holi In Indian Mythology

The celebration of Holi goes back deep into Hindu history and mythology. Depending on the region, there are different legends about the origin of Holi, but mostly they boil down to the following:

Holika And Prahlad

The story of Holika and Prahlad comes from the sacred Hindu text ‘Narada Purana’. The story is of the King Hiranyakashipu, who was blessed so he could not be killed. But his power turned him evil, so his son Prahlad, a follower of the god Vishnu, decided to kill him. The king found out, and king planned to kill Prahlad with the help of his sister Holika. Covering herself with a magic veil, she persuaded Prahlad to go with her to the fire. But the cloak flew away and covered him. Holika burned down, and Prahlad was saved. Lord Vishnu had to himself kill the King, taking the form of Narasimha.

According to other versions of the legend, Holika could not be harmed by fire if only she ascends alone. The flame consumed her as she was accompanied by Prahlad, and the prince was left unscathed. Later, he learned that this had happened at the will of Narayana (one of the forms of Vishnu), who rewarded the prince for his devotion.

Radha And Krishna

In his youth, Lord Krishna was very playful, but his skin was dark blue in color, because when he was born, an evil demon had tried to poison him. Thus, Krishna was very envious of the radiant skin of his beloved Radha.

The mother of young Krishna, to calm him, suggested that he paint the face of Radha with any color. Krishna embraced the idea and joked with a spray of color on Radha and her friends. But the girls drove him away with sticks and also began to spray water. Later, Krishna and Radha became a couple.

The pranks of Krishna, Radha and their playing with colored jets are recreated in paintings and frescoes. Over time, it has gained recognition and popularity. This turned into a tradition, and later into a full-fledged festival of colors, Holi.

Kamadeva

In South India, the Holi festival is associated with the god of love, Kamadev. According to legend, Lord Shiva became angry and stripped Kamadeva of his body. But Shiva's wife managed to convince him so that Kamadeva can have his body for three months every year. And to this day, when this happens, the whole of nature blossoms and people become kinder and love each other.

Top 10 Interesting Holi Facts

  1. Holi is the ‘festival of colors’. It is also held to celebrate the victory of good over evil. It marks the arrival of spring.
  2. The name comes from Holika, sister of Hiranyakashipu, the demon king.
  3. Lord Krishna used to play Holi with Radha.
  4. The exact date always varies each year. Holi is celebrated after the full moon day on the Phalguna month of the Indian calendar, which is either in February or March.
  5. It is celebrated over 2 days. But the celebrations in Mathura, where Krishna was born can last up to 2 weeks.
  6. Colored powders and water is sprayed on everyone, even strangers with everyone screaming “Happy Holi”.
  7. Music and dancing.
  8. Food, alcoholic drinks, cannabis, and Holi parties.
  9. Holi parades are held at several places.
  10. It is one of the most popular festivals in India. Holi is also celebrated throughout the world by the Hindu communities.

Celebrating Holi

Celebrating Holi

Top 3 Holi Rituals

Holika Dahan

Also called Choti Holi, this is observed on the evening before the Holi day. A stuffed figure of Holika is prepared, and the effigy is burned. This is called the Holika Dahan. Holika is seen as the devil who tried to kill prince Prahlad. This ritual symbolizes the victory of good over evil, and also the triumph of the true devotee.

  • Firewood is set on fire to burn the effigy, but the fires must be started at the right time, called the muhurta, which is after the sunset of the full moon evening or the Purnima Tithi.
  • Special prayers are conducted before the fire is lit, asking the Gods to bless.
  • Mothers walk around the fire with their kids in clockwise direction.
  • Religious songs are sung.
  • People shout insults about Holika.
  • Fruits and grains are thrown into the fire.
  • A branch is placed at the center of the fire as it goes out. This branch symbolizes Prahlad.
  • Many will take the ash home as the blessing of Gods.

Dhuleti

This is held the next morning, and is the actual playing with colors. Dhuleti is the main day of Holi. Most Indians would just have this one day of Holi celebration because of its fun elements. There are no prayers or puja on this day. This is for pure fun and enjoyment.

  • Almost everyone plays with colors – seniors, kids, and women.
  • The tradition of playing with colors is most popular in North India.
  • A mixture of different colors and waters are sprayed even on people in the street whom they don’t know, all in good spirit.
  • Buckets and pichkaris are used.
  • People visit the houses of their friends and neighbors to apply color and play.
  • Gifts are distributed.
  • There are loud music and Bollywood Hindi songs.
  • Dholak (Indian drum) is played as people dance.
  • All kinds of sweets are distributed.
  • Thandai (Indian drink) laced with bhang (flower tops and leaves of cannabis), and alcoholic drinks are distributed.

Matka

Matka refers to a pot that is filled with butter-milk. The pot is hung from a great height with ropes. Men and boys form a human pyramid to reach the pot and break it. Women try to prevent this by throwing buckets of water on the boys. This Holi ritual is popular mostly in north and west India.

Holi In Mathura

One of the legends of Holi has associated the festival with Lord Krishna, who was born in Mathura in North India. So Holi is huge in Matura, the biggest festival here. People from all over the country come to Mathura to celebrate Holi. Many foreigners are seen here as well, playing with the colors.

In Mathura, prayers are offered to Lord Krishna, but Holi is mostly a fun festival. Huge processions are brought out, and people apply colors and waters on each other, in the spirit of the childhood days of the Lord.

  • Holi is celebrated in Mathura for more than a week.
  • Prayers are offered at different temples on each day.
  • It is also celebrated at Vrindavan, close to Mathura, where Lord Krishna grew up and played with Radha and her friends. The festival at Bakai-Vihari Temple in Vrindavan is particularly important.
  • Events are held at the Gulal-Kund, a small lake close to the Govardhan Hill.

You can read more about the various holidays in Goa here.

Holi In Goa

Celebrating Holi In Goa

Holi In Goa

Holi is a big festival in Goa as well. People from all communities, Hindus, Christians, and others are seen playing and applying colors, in the cities, the beach tourist areas, and in the interior villages.

Goa is the party capital of India, and Holi is the biggest fun festival. Goa has brought these two together very well, making the celebrations unique in the country. Of course, there are those brilliant colors, music, and dancing, but in Goa, many parties are also organized to enjoy the celebrations. There are pool parties, and DJ nights. The festivals and parties are held at Anjuna, Baga, Calangute, Arambol, Candolim, Fatorda, Ponda, Vagator, Mapusa and other places.

There is also the traditional type of Holi festival in Goa, which is known as the Shigmo festival. This is held mostly in the villages. Parades are brought out. Cultural dramas are organized. Huge effigies are also burned.

There is a big parade in the city of Panaji too, organized by the Panaji Shigmotsav Samiti. Hindus visit the many temples in Goa to offer their prayers.

How To Stay Safe During Holi

The festival will often break down social norms, as everyone is seen playing together. There is physical touching too. The use of cannabis (bhang) and alcoholic drinks means people are sometimes intoxicated. So it is best to stay safe.

Here’s what you can expect in Holi. Also remember to take these basic precautions and everything should be good –

  1. Expect water and colored powder everywhere on your skin, hair and clothes.
  2. Expect neighbors and friends to come uninvited for the games and merrymaking. Even strangers may apply color and water.
  3. Some paints do not wash away easily. It may take several days.
  4. Your clothes will get spoiled, with no chance of repair. So wear wisely.
  5. Apply some coconut oil on your skin and hair lotion.
  6. Try to protect your mouth and eyes as much as possible.
  7. Do not ingest the colors. It can be harmful.
  8. Try to stay in a group if you venture outside.
  9. Do not let people you do not know into your house.
  10. Girls should avoid going alone to the streets.



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