Explorer’s Log : Holi in India

Holi, also known as the Festival of colours or the Festival of Sharing Love, is a Hindu spring festival in India and Nepal. Holi is one of the oldest festivals of India is celebrated with extreme enthusiasm and joy. In the ensuing battle of colours, everybody is drowned not just in colours but also in love and mirth.

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The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter. It can be seen as a thanksgiving for a good harvest too. The festival is also a festive day for many to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships.

There are many interesting stories associated with the festival’s origin, and mythology plays a very important part in narrating the festival of Holi.

On the eve of Holi, typically at or after sunset, there is the tradition of Holika Dahan, which bonfires will be lit. The ritual is symbolic of victory of good over evil. In the legend of Holika, the arrogant demon king Hiranyakashipu proclaimed himself as god and demanded people to worship only him. His blessed son, Prahlada disagreed, so he asked his sister Holika to end his life. In the end, Holika’s plan backfired and was burnt to death while Prahlada was protected by her cloak. This is why bonfire becomes a symbol of the festival.

 

Holi frolic and celebrations begin the morning after the Holika bonfire, which is related to the legend of Radha and Krishna. Young Krishna, who had dark blue skin, was conscious about his own complexion. In a mischievous mood, he applied colour on his beloved Radha’s face so that her fair complexion would become like his, and eventually they became a couple. Following this ancient legend, the tradition of playfully colouring lover’s face developed, and lovers today still perfrom Holi on their beloved as an expression of love.

 

After a day of play with colours, people clean up, wash and bathe, sober up and dress up in the evening and greet friends and relatives by visiting them and exchanging sweets. Holi is also a festival of forgiveness and new starts, which ritually aims to generate harmony in the society.

 

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When is Holi Celebrated?

Holi is celebrated in the spring, on the last full moon day of the month Phalguna in the lunar calendar (usually falling between February and March). In 2017, Holi will be celebrated on March 13.

Where is Holi Celebrated?

You’ll find Holi festivities taking place in most areas of India. However, they’re more exuberant in some places than others. Traditional Holi celebrations are the biggest at Mathura and Vrindavan, four hours from Delhi.

What to Expect During the Celebrations

Holi is a very carefree festival that’s great fun to participate in if you don’t mind getting wet and dirty. You’ll end up saturated in water, with colour all over your skin and clothes. Some of it doesn’t wash out easily, so be sure to wear old clothes. It’s also a good idea to rub hair oil or coconut oil into your skin beforehand, to prevent the colour from staining.

Holi Safety Information

As Holi provides an opportunity to disregard social norms and generally “let loose”, young males may it too far and act disrespectfully. Therefore, women should avoid going out alone in public places during Holi, for drunk young Indian guys may pose a safety threat. Incidents of rape also do occur, which makes it important to take proper care during Holi. If you plan on going out into the streets on Holi, do so early in the morning. Be back to your accommodation by mid-day before the men get too drunk.

Expect to have coloured powder and water rubbed and thrown onto your face, mouth and ears. Keep your mouth shut and protect your eyes as much as possible. And have fun 🙂

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